Daniel Webb is becoming more interesting. I ordinarily do not begin to seriously follow relievers until they reach AA or AAA. But I did have an eye on Webb, who came over from the Blue Jays as the secondary piece in the Jason Frasor trade. The right-hander's draft pedigree doesn't immediately suggest he's much of anything (12th round in 2008 and 18th round in 2009) but he made known his bonus expectation of basically second round money and that scared off teams. What initially made him interesting was a fastball that continued to gain velocity. A few years ago he sat low 90s; that's now mid-90s. And he used to just occasionally touch 95/96 MPH; now a couple reports have instances of triple digits.
His story was typical, however, in that he didn't have good command and control. Part of that was the result of him being more of a slinger than a pitcher. In his 2011 book, John Sickels noted that Webb was the type of pitcher who "can take off suddenly." A move to the bullpen has helped that velocity go up and, at least over the first month of the minor league season, the 23 year-old appears to have eliminated some of his wildness. At Winston-Salem, he drastically cut down the hits, made some improvement on walks (which weren't particularly poor previously) and has almost doubled his strikeout rate. It's only 15 innings and he may revert to old ways but he certainly made some good changes. And the White Sox agree, as they promoted him to Birmingham on Saturday, where he struck out the side in an inning of work but also had a hit-by-pitch and wild pitch.
Courtney Hawkins headlines a week of rather significant injury and other transaction news. Hawkins strained his right shoulder diving for a ball and is on the disabled list. Fellow 2012 draftee Keon Barnum, who was in extended spring training after hamate surgery, now has injured his left knee. In his less than a year in the organization, he's had shoulder, hand and now knee problems that have limited him to just 49 competitive plate appearances. For a guy most thought would need more than 2000 plate appearances to develop, his apparently injury-prone nature is not good.
Jake Petricka's short stint on Birmingham's DL ended. Rangel Ravelo came off Kannapolis' DL and was promoted to Winston-Salem - but he left yesterday's game with another injury. Andy Wilkins missed six games with pneumonia but is back playing for the Barons. 2012 sixth-round pick Kyle Hansen arrived in Kannapolis from extended spring training.
John Danks' first rehab start went okay. You can read Jim's take on it here. At the bottom of the comments I linked to an account from Fox Sports' Kiley McDaniel, who was in Birmingham for the start. He noted that Danks "sat 87-90 in the first inning, hitting 91 mph" before losing a few ticks in his middle innings but added some of that back in his seventh and final inning. McDaniel's analysis is that "you can expect Danks to be an effective innings-eating rotation piece once his velocity can consistently be where he started last night’s game." Danks reportedly will be pitching for Charlotte on Tuesday. Robin Ventura's expectation is that he'll have two or three more rehab starts.
Dayan Viciedo is expected to begin his rehab stint at Charlotte as soon as Monday.
Carlos Sanchez has just been completely out of sorts over the first month: .189/.292/.222. While it's nice that the switch-hitter's walk rate is up dramatically and his strikeout rate has remained stable, he's just not making good contact. I've wondered if it was a good idea for a 20 year-old to go to the Arizona Fall League, and then to the Venezuelan Winter League, after a full minor league season. Even young players have physical limits.