Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Big Country

One way to know if a ballplayer has promise is the nickname test. We usually don't hear the nickname unless the club likes the player. Wilton Lopez, for example, wasn't widely considered a good pitching prospect. But once Greg Maddux starting calling him the Spanish word for "Ugly," I figured Lopez had a chance. Look at Lopez now, having a pretty season with the Astros, who claimed him from the Padres. I guess the Padres didn't know Maddux gave him a nickname.

I figure the Padres must like pitcher Matt Lollis, a 19-year-old right-hander. Because I'm hearing about his nickname.

"We call him Big Country," said farm director Randy Smith. "He is a big guy who is athletic. Think Rick Reuschel or Charlie Kerfeld. Pitches more like Kerfeld."

The Padres list Lollis as 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds. Smith said the weight may be closer to 280. Whatever the scales register today, Big Country is bigger than either Reuschel or Kerfeld, the latter a former Padres scout. Back when he was just Lollis, the pitcher went to Riverside Community College. The Padres drafted him in the 15th round last year. After rising this summer to the Ft. Wayne TinCaps, a team in the low-A Midwest League, he's at 5-1 with a 1.62 ERA in eight starts. That's sort of like Kerfeld's 11-2/2.59 season with the Astros in 1986.

"This guy has been really good,"Smith said. "Fastball's 90-95. Good slider. Changeup and curveball."

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