Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz

The more one studies it the more convincing it would seem are James Hoyt‘s chances of breaking into the major leagues this season even though his team, Houston, was in the playoffs last season.  Hoyt’s success would give the American Association one more graduate on baseball’s greatest stage.

In less than the last 12 months, the 29-year-old righthander has posted a perfect earned run average in spring training, helped the Astros’ top farm club, Fresno, win the minor league championship, continued to strike out well over a batter per inning and work on perfecting his mound work.

Strikeouts always seem to be music to the ears of major league brass, and the 6-foot-5 Hoyt has averaged nearly 12 whiffs (11.7) for every nine innings since he was at Wichita for a time in 2012.  He was even better last season when he struck out 12.1 Pacific Coast League hitters every nine regular season innings (66 in 49 frames during 47 appearances) while posting a 3.49 ERA with nine saves for the Grizzlies.

And Houston officials have to remember last spring training when the Boise, Idaho, native fanned 14 in 9.2 innings during nine major league appearances in which he did not allow a run and only permitted five hits.

Hoyt, headed to his second consecutive major league camp as a non-roster player, has been working to improve his control and master new pitches since Houston acquired him in a trade from Atlanta one year ago.  “Going down to Venezuela (this offseason) “one of my checkmarks was to work on my split and really mastering it,” he told, since his return.  “I had great success down there with it, as of now, that’s my go-to pitch” in a repertoire which also includes a fastball and slider.

A Hoyt success story would be another great one for Independent Baseball since he was injured his last season of college play and spent nearly two years working on his education and doing part-time work on a sailboat before returning to the mound through the North American League and the American Association.  Then he joined the Braves’ organization for the ’13 season.

Game-Winning Squeeze for Fargo’s Retherford

C.J. Retherford has had a neat collegiate and minor league career with tons of highlights, including three stints with Fargo, still chances are the 30-year-old free agent will never forget a recent experience for the rest of his life.

The Homestead, Fla., native, who has well over 100 home runs and nearly 200 doubles since he turned pro in 2007, ended a Mexican League semifinal playoff series this week a squeeze bunt that came in the bottom of the 16th inning.

Retherford’s bunt gave Mexicali a deciding, seventh game 4-3 victory and advanced the Aguilas into the finals against Mazatlan, a series scheduled to start Wednesday night to determine Mexico’s entrant into the Caribbean Series.

Playing first base and hitting fifth, Retherford had a 1-for-6 performance with a run in the game that saw the teams use 19 pitchers, although he is hitting .318 for the postseason.  He hit an even .300 with 194 RBI in 273 American Association games in the ’11, ’13 and ’14 seasons for the RedHawks.

Righthander Jared Mortensen, who started his professional career at Grand Prairie and now is in the Tampa Bay farm system, also could end up in the Caribbean Series after picking up two wins for Escogido in the round-robin playoffs that determine the host Dominican Republic entry in long-awaited climax to the winter league season.

T-Bones Lefty Would Like to Emulate DiFazio

Southpaw Evan DeLuca, who had some of the scouts singing his praise after he threw for them in the annual Mike DeAngelo Memorial Showcase at Port Chester, NY this week even though he had only been throwing for a few days, may be back in the American Association with the Kansas City T-Bones this season although he would not mind the same fortune of his good workout buddy, the league’s Player of the Year, Vinny DiFazio, who was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers after his standout season at St. Paul.

DeLuca gave this scouting report on the catcher, who was a robust .361-17-82 for the Saints and says will be in the Dodgers’ major league spring training camp:  “Good maturity level, and very difficult out.  Loaded with muscle.  Hits everything hard, uses the entire field, with many of his strongest hits to right-center.  Very smart.”

DeLuca, only 24 and drafted by the New York Yankees out of high school in 2009, was charged with only one earned run (0.71) in his 12.2 innings over eight outings after he was traded to Kansas City last August.

Previously the chief spokesman for Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003.  He is a frequent contributor to this site as well as writing his own blog,


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