Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Seals sign three former big-league pitchers

The biggest reason why the Victoria Seals stumbled to a 32-50 record in their inaugural season was their anemic pitching, but the team has already taken major strides in addressing that problem for the upcoming year. In addition to the key signing of pitching coach Kip Gross, the team has just inked a trio of hurlers who have major-league experience: Phil Barzilla, Jason Kershner and Brandon Villafuerte. Let's start by taking a closer look at the first pitcher signed (Barzilla) and we'll profile the other two in the coming days.

The 31-year-old Barzilla was a fourth-round selection of the Houston Astros in the 2001 amateur draft out of Rice University.  While at Rice, the 6'0" left-hander served as the team's closer. He went on to notch a 3.91 career ERA in 9 minor-league seasons and spent parts of five years at the AAA level. He was briefly called up by the Astros in June of 2006, but his major-league career amounted to only 1/3 of an inning on the mound. In his lone outing in the show, he gave up a single to Brian Jordan and retired Todd Pratt on a fly ball in the 8th inning of a 14-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Barzilla, who was also born in Houston, played for Italy in the inaugural World Baseball Classic (WBC) in 2006. During the tournament, he pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.  Barzilla was also on the provisional roster for Italy in the 2009 WBC, but he did not see any action. You may remember that Italy eliminated Team Canada from the 2009 WBC in what was one of the lowlights in Canadian baseball history.

Barzilla became a free agent following the 2007 season and he spent a portion of 2008 in the Seattle Mariners organization, appearing in seven games for the Tacoma Rainiers (AAA) and collecting a 6.28 ERA. After being released by the Mariners, he was signed by the Padres later in 2008. Last season, Barzilla only pitched 3 2/3 innings before he went on the DL and was subsequently released by the Padres on July 24th.

While Barzilla has started 62 games in his minor-league career, it's more likely that he'll be used in relief by the Seals. While his strikeout and walk totals were average in the minors, his most impressive statistic is his ability to keep the ball in the park: he has given up an average of only one home run every 22.3 innings. Considering Royal Athletic Park's short porch in left field, that's an attribute that I wish every Victoria pitcher possessed. Barzilla has had a lot of success at the A and AA levels and moderate success in AAA, so if he's able to stay healthy then he'll make a significant contribution to the Seals pitching staff in 2010.