HUNTINGTON – Can a Major League ticket come sooner than a September call-up for Dan Straily?
Good question, because so far in Class AAA, the former Marshall right-hander has had all of the answers on the mound.
He’s still pitching like he was earlier this season in the Class AA Texas League, before his promotion a month ago.
Meanwhile, Thundering Herd junior right-hander Aaron Blair continues to make crab cakes out of Cape Cod League hitters.
Friday the 13th was anything but unlucky for those two Marshall men.
Let’s take Straily first, making his first appearance after the Class AAA All-Star break.
In his fifth start for Oakland’s Pacific Coast League farm team, the Sacramento River Cats, Straily lost ... but allowed only one hit — an Eric Thames first-pitch homer in the fifth — and struck out 13 in seven innings in a 1-0 setback to Las Vegas.
In the five Triple A outings, Straily — a 24th-round draft pick from Coach Jeff Waggoner’s Herd program by the Athletics in 2009 — is 3-2 with a 1.09 ERA.
He has 46 strikeouts in 33 innings, allowing 15 hits and 11 walks.
In the Friday night loss to Vegas, he threw 104 pitches with his fastball, slider and change, 70 for strikes.
In his fourth minor league season climbing the Oakland ladder, Straily has 523 strikeouts in 486 innings.
He already has a pro baseball-leading 154 whiffs this season in 118.1 innings (19 starts), matching his strikeout total in 2011 in 160.2 innings at Stockton of the high Class A California League.
Overall stats, including stops at Sacramento and with the Midland team in the Texas League (AA), he is 6-6 on the year, with a 2.74 ERA and has just 34 walks to those 154 strikeouts, has 19 starts, allowed 85 hits in 118.1 innings and 40 runs (36 earned runs) and only eight home runs allowed.
Straily told MiLB.com reporter Sam Dykstra after his latest dominating performance, he went back to a two-seam grip similar to the one he used during his days at Marshall and has continued to introduce his improved change up to hitters.
Gil Patterson, the A’s minor league pitching coordinator, has refined Straily’s stuff and motion, too.
"It's really been a product of developing my pitches," Straily told MiLB.com.
“I didn't do anything too much, just worked with the A's to try to hone everything. It's crazy that I've already hit last season's (strikeout) mark and there's still nine more starts to go or so. “(The two-seamer) started cutting a lot all of a sudden last year. It was just almost impossible to throw. The batter was missing it, the catcher was missing it; everybody was missing it.
“Patterson, he just kind of tweaked it and it's really starting to come straight down to arm side more instead of moving around."
His next scheduled starts is Wednesday, July 18, at Tacoma.
As for Blair, he’s destined for a spot – maybe even a start – in the Cape Cod League All-Star Game on July 28.
On Friday night, the 6-foot-5 right-hander had his worst outing of the wooden-bat league’s season for Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, but still got the win in a 7-5 decision over Bourne. Blair, who is now 5-0, went six innings, allowing three hits and three runs (all earned), fanning six with one walk (93 pitches, 58 for strikes).
His ERA rose … that’s right, rose to the Cape leading 1.19.
He leads the Cape league in wins and ERA and ranks third in strikeouts, with 35 (in 30.1 innings).
Blair has allowed only 20 hits and nine walks, and opposing hitters are batting only .189 against him.
But Blair and Straily were hardly the only Herd-related arms who continued to ring up the strikeouts on Friday the 13th.
In a 7-4 short-season Northwest League win for the Vancouver Canadians over Boise, former Herd right-handers Ian Kadish and Arik Sikula worked in relief.
Kadish got his fifth “hold” of the NWL season.
He’s 1-1 with a 1.76 ERA and has 26 strikeouts in 16.1 innings, with two saves.
Sikula has fanned 14 in 14.1 innings and is 0-0 with a 3.77 ERA. Teams are hitting only .222 against Sikula (look up Andrew Sikula if you want more at www.milb.com).
Also last week, the Herd’s 2012 closer, Jesse Fernandez, signed with the Baltimore Orioles.
Fernandez was assigned to the Aberdeen IronBirds in the Class A short-season New York-Penn League.
Fernandez was 1-1 with four saves and a 2.96 era for the Herd in the 2012 season.
He is the 25th player to play at Marshall for Head Coach Jeff Waggoner to move on to the professional ranks.
These Herd guys are armed and dangerous, it seems.
Other Herd players in the pro ranks, from milb.com:
Joe Church, Eugene Emeralds (San Diego Padres) — 3-1, 7.15 earned run average, nine games, 11.1 innings pitched, 15 strikeouts, six walks, 13 hits and nine runs (all earned) / Church also pitched in the Prospect League, a college summer bat league, for the West Virginia Miners, who recently clinched its second-straight first half divisional title, and was 0-0 in one game, 2.1 IP, one hit, no runs, five Ks and no walks;
Mike Mason, Grand Junction Rockies, Pioneer League (rookie league, Colorado Rockies) — 1-0, 9.95 ERA, six games, 6.1 IP, three Ks, five BBs, nine hits and nine runs (just seven earned);
Ryan Kiel, Bakersfield Blaze (Class A, Cincinnati Reds) — 0-0, 1.17 ERA, eight Ks, 2 BBs, five hits, one run (earned)/combined stats from Bakersfield and Dayton of Midwest League, currently on 7-day disabled list;
Shane Ferrell, GCL Blue Jays (rookie league, Toronto Blue Jays) — extended spring training.
Kevin Shackelford, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class A, Milwaukee Brewers) — 2-4, 5.31 ERA, 26 Ks, 16 BBs, 42.1 IP, 54 hits, 26 runs (25 earned);
Greg Williams, AZL Rangers (rookie league, Texas Rangers) — 0-0, 3 games, 0.00 ERA, 4.0 IP, 3 Ks, 2 BBs, 2 hits, 0 runs (rehab assignment / with Hickory Crawdads of Class A South Atlantic League, 2-0, 4.37 ERA, 22.2 IP, 21 Ks, 7 BBs, 24 hits, 13 runs (11 earned);
Rhett Stafford, OF, Vermont Lake Monsters (Class A, Oakland As) — .200 batting average, 13 games, 45 at-bats, nine hits, nine runs, double, home run, five runs batted in, 8 walks, 14 strikeouts;
Victor Gomez, C, signed this weekend with the Florence (Ky.) Freedom in the Frontier League, an independent (no major league affiliations) league in the midwest. Gomez played on game with the GLC Braves after signing as a free agent, but was cut.
Kenny Soccoro, Peoria Chiefs (Class A, Chicago Cubs) — Player/Coach, pitched two innings in relief.
Other Herd players in summer wooden bat leagues:
Josh King, P, Orleans (Mass.) Firebirds, Cape Cod League — 0-0 in four games, with a 4.50 ERA, four hits, three runs (two earned), struck out four and walked two / King was released by the team on July 1.
Gray Stafford, OF, West Virginia (Beckley) Miners, Prospect League — .323 BA, 28 Gms, 96 ABs, 18 runs, 31 hits, nine doubles, eight HR, 28 RBI, 28 Ks, 189 BBs, three SF, two SH, 5-6 SB/SBA and three errors. Stafford was named to the Prospect League All-Star teaming a game played on July 11.
Sergio Leon, SS, West Virginia Miners, Prospect League — .188 BA, 34 games, 112 ABs, 13 runs, 21 hits, eight doubles, eight RBIs, 5 BBs, 25 Ks, SF, five SH, 3-3 SB/SBA and six errors;
Kolin Stanley, P, West Virginia Miners, Prospect League — 2-1, 4.67 ERA, five games, one start, 17.1 IP, seven Ks, seven BBs, 16 hits, ten runs (nine earned);
Wayland Moore, Mankato (Minn.) MoonDogs, Northwest League — 3-1, 4.57 ERA, eight games/starts, 41.1 IP, 40 Ks, 25 BBs, 42 hits, 26 runs (21 earned), seven DBLs, two TRPs;
Louie Helmburg, C, East (Kilgore) Texas PumpJacks, Texas Collegiate League — .217 BA, 19 games, 46 ABs, nine Rs, ten Hs, 3 DBLs, 10 BBs and 15 Ks.
Additional stats by Woody Woodrum, HI Sr. Editor.