Sturdy, Scanlon showing upward progress in AA

By Allen LaMountain
Assistant Sports Editor
alamountain@starhq.com

   Several more names which should be familiar to fans of the Elizabethton Twins were found on the roster of the Minnesota Twins AA affiliate New Britain when I visited there June 10-17.
   Tim Sturdy, a native of Albuquerque, N.M. and pitched for 'Betsy in 1998-99, has made the climb to the AA level, as has third baseman Matt Scanlon -- a 1999 E-Twins alum -- and Jonathan Pridie, also a 1999 'Betsy hurler.
   In 1998 Sturdy was 5-1 with the E-Twins, and went to Quad City to open the 1999 season. He was sent down to 'Betsy in a numbers crunch and had a solid season, leading the club with a 6-1 record while posting a fine 3.31 ERA.
   Elbow problems stunted Sturdy's progress, but he says those problems are over with now.
   "The arm troubles are behind me, and I'm just waiting for my opportunity here," he explained. "I'm still young and I'm happy to be here, and whatever the Twins organization has planned for me, we'll have to wait and see."
   Already in possession of two minor league no-hitters and twice leading or tying for the lead in wins at different minor league stops, Sturdy continues his climb toward his ultimate goal of pitching for the big club in Minnesota.
   Married in 2001 to wife Nora - a Burlington, La. native - Sturdy's life and career are both moving forward, and right now he is happy and content. Although he hasn't seen the kind of playing time he had been accustomed to seeing at the lower levels so far, he knows that will come soon enough.
   In 2002 Sturdy has seen limited action - hurling just 13 innings thus far - but manager Stan Cliburn sees a productive future for Sturdy, saying, "His innings will come. Sturdy has tremendous stuff and I expect him to be a big contributor to this team. He has been a winner at every level he has pitched at and I expect he will continue to do those kinds of things."
   Scanlon, who hit .354 in his one season in Elizabethton, is in a platoon system at third base in New Britain, sharing playing time with Joe Dillon.
   Scanlon -- from Richfield, Minn.. -- went to Quad City in 2000, but was demoted to Ft. Myers after hitting just .189 for the River Bandits. Scanlon got his stroke back at Ft. Myers but has struggled in the Eastern League with a .175 batting average in 43 at-bats.
   Cliburn thinks that Scanlon's hitting ability will shine through eventually, and said that it was Scanlon's commitment to improving defensively that has seen him rise to this level.
   "Scanlon was here for a bit in 2000, but needed to work on his defensive skills," offered Cliburn. "I have always thought he could hit, and I think he will, but he has really worked hard to make himself a better third baseman on defense."
   Pridie (from Prescott, Ariz..), who struggled with his hits-to-innings ratio in 'Betsy, actually improved at the higher level Quad City, going 6-3 with a 3.40 ERA.
   Pridie was pitching well at Quad City this season and was called up to the New Britain club in recent weeks, going 1-0 with a 7.04 ERA in one start with the Cats.
   'Betsy fans still talk about Ruben Salazar, whose one season in Elizabethton nearly brought him the Appalachian League triple crown. He is back down in New Britain after a promotion to Edmonton.
   Last season Salazar was 10th in the Eastern League with a .298 batting average, prompting the club to move him to AAA with the Trappers.
   Twins GM Terry Ryan brought Salazar to the major league training camp, where he got 45 at-bats as a non-roster player, but Ryan felt that he wasn't ready for the big leagues yet and optioned to New Britain, where he would get in the lineup every day.
   "For a non-roster player, getting that many at-bats is phenomenal," said Cliburn. "The club just felt that he wasn't quite ready yet to make the jump. He went to Triple-A and kind of went through the motions there, and it showed, so they sent him back here.
   "He was upset about that at first, but he's turning it around and in fact had a 15-game hitting streak early in the season. He has all the physical tools and his talent is obvious -- he just has to get the mental aspects down."
   Another familiar name playing in New Britain is catcher Gabriel "Gabby" Torres, who hit .308 in 41 games for the Rock Cats last season and has a .243 mark this season.
   Also on hand are Juan Lorenzo, who played for 'Betsy in 1997-98, and Justin Morneau, who had a cup of coffee in 'Betsy during an injury-wracked 2000 season.
   Continued success is my wish for these fine young men as they continue to chase their big league dreams.