- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

Three bidding groups seeking to buy the Washington Nationals met with Major League Baseball executives yesterday in Chicago.

Galarraga, in only his second year with a full-season team, has been handling Carolina League hitters with ease. Armed with a fastball that sits in the low 90s but can be revved up to 94 mph when needed, the 6-foot-4 Galarraga is having arguably the best season by any starting pitcher in the Nationals organization.

“The main concern for him was proving he was healthy, having back-to-back years being healthy,” Potomac pitching coach Ricky Bones said. “The consistently of his pitches and using more than one pitch — we know he has a good fastball. He has a very powerful arm, but we want him to get a breaking ball and a changeup, and he’s proving that this year.”

He has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 14 starts. His 2.48 ERA is easily tops among starters, and his 79 strikeouts are third in the organization. Galarraga has earned the right to be mentioned among a group of high-profile pitching prospects in the Carolina League, including Kinston’s Jeremy Sowers, Frederick’s Adam Loewen and Wilmington’s Anibal Sanchez.

He will be one of four players from Potomac in the Carolina-California League All-Star Game tonight at Frederick. In an organization short on dynamic prospects, Galarraga’s emergence has been a welcome surprise.

“Armando has put together the season everyone hoped he could have,” Washington director of player development Adam Wogan said. “He’s always had the stuff. He’s always had the great fastball. He is more poised now, more experienced.”

Galarraga grew up in Venezuela and was signed by the Expos in 1998 when he was 16 years old. He signed for $3,000, much less than what many of the top Latin American players are given. He speaks English but is shy about it. Bones doubles as his interpreter.

“I take English classes during the spring training, but during the season you just go and communicate with your teammates,” Galarraga said through Bones, who added: “I think he speaks good English, but he is just afraid of that fear of making mistakes.”

Galarraga missed almost all of the 2002 and 2003 seasons because of elbow surgery. He logged a total of 182/3 innings with the Gulf Coast League Expos those years before moving up to Class A Savannah last season.

While he stayed healthy, the results (4.65 ERA in 110 innings) weren’t great. It is not uncommon for a pitcher to struggle in the first healthy year after major surgery. Those struggles look far behind him now.

“The biggest thing was the learning process. I had to learn how to adjust to playing baseball every day and staying healthy,” Galarraga said. “The main thing at this point in my career is learn every day so I can stay strong and put together back-to-back good years.”

Farm notes — Clint Everts, the organization’s top prospect before elbow surgery last season, made his season debut Friday for the GCL Nationals. Everts pitched two innings, and there is no set timetable for extended outings or promotions, Wogan said.

“It’s all about [Everts] staying healthy and building some momentum for next spring so he can come in and compete,” Wogan said. …

Daryl Thompson missed several starts for Class A Savannah with shoulder discomfort but he returned to the mound last Tuesday for three innings and threw four more Sunday. Thompson’s teammate, outfielder Marvin Lowrance, will begin a rehab assignment today with the GCL Nationals. Lowrance was tabbed by Baseball America as the best pure hitter in the organization’s 2004 draft class and was hitting .346 before hurting his knee April18. …

A pair of talented pitchers were promoted recently. Greg Bunn, a fifth-round pick in the 2004 draft, was promoted to Class A Potomac from Savannah. Reliever Jason Bergmann was dominant at Class AA Harrisburg (1.22 ERA, 37 strikeouts in 37 innings) and hasn’t stopped since joining Class AAA New Orleans. Bergmann has yet to allow a run in 62/3 innings for the Zephyrs. …

While top selection Ryan Zimmerman is off to a hot start, the rest of the newest members of the organization are playing at short season Class A Vermont and in the Rookie League with the GCL Nationals (see chart).

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