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Article:Minor Matters: Torrid Torres

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Should Felix Pie continue to struggle and Reed Johnson remain, well… Reed Johnson, the Cubbies might want to explore the option of promoting Andres Torres. Torres is on a serious roll for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, running his hitting streak to 22 games Wednesday – the fourth-longest in team history. Only Roosevelt Brown (26 games, 1999), Steve Staggs (33, 1977) and Mike Squires (33, 1978) have rung up longer batting streaks as Iowa Cubs. Torres, a fourth-round pick for the Detroit Tigers back in 1997, is now in his fifth organization, having appeared in 89 MLB games with Detroit and Texas, but none since 2005. The 30-year-old outfielder was batting .263 when the streak began last month, no big surprise considering in ten minor league seasons his lifetime BA is .268. However, a 31-for-82 run since has him up to .353 for the year. He’s not a power hitter, but with a .525 SLG, Torres is showing more pop than ever before. And I’m impressed with his much improved strike zone judgment (16 BB/19 K). Torres enjoyed his finest Triple-A season in 2007, and appears to have taken the next step so far in 2008. Could we be witnessing a late bloomer?

R.A. Dickey, who was called up last month to fill in for Erik Bedard and predictably took a beating in his couple of appearances with the Seattle Mariners, has struggled since his demotion back to Triple-A. He’s lost his last three starts, surrendering 32 hits in 21 innings. Still, his season ERA of 3.25 is impressive, so Dickey could get another look as an injury-fill in, assuming he stops getting tattooed in the minors.

Another pitcher who’s doing pretty well is Iowa starter Randy Keisler. He earned the win Wednesday for his six-inning, six-hit, one-earned run effort that included four Ks against two walks. Keisler wasn’t exactly the tonic the Cardinals needed last year with Chris Carpenter out, and he wasn’t long for the job. But this season his hit rates haven’t been awful, his command has been good, and he’s averaging almost a strikeout per inning with a fine 3.50 ERA for the Cubs. Given Jon Lieber’s rather horrific debut in the rotation, perhaps Keisler, the former Yankee prospect, will get another look in a major league rotation. Of course, he’s never done much with the opportunities that have been presented to him, so maybe this isn’t as juicy a prospect as you think. Still, you never know when lightning will strike, and Keisler’s peripherals do suggest that his improvement may be real, especially given a much higher groundball rate to date.

Should the Cubbies require bullpen help, Jose Ascanio is worth a look. The former Brave farmhand just turned 23, so there’s plenty of upside here. And he’s done a superb job as the Iowa closer, with just 14 hits allowed and 16 strikeouts in 17 1/3 IP. Ascanio, with a 1-0 mark, 2.60 ERA and seven saves, will get another chance in the majors very soon, and he’s got future closer written all over him, although Carlos Marmol looks quite qualified to step up should Kerry Wood falter.

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