In an era when complete games are rare in the majors -- and even more uncommon in the minors, where strict pitch counts rule -- Savannah left-hander Mark Cohoon performed an extraordinary feat.
The 6-foot-2 Texan, who was drafted in the 12th round in 2008, threw consecutive nine-inning shutouts. Only one other pitcher in minor league baseball has thrown two shutouts this season: Triple-A Tacoma left-hander Chris Seddon. Cohoon, 22, was recognized with consecutive South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week honors.
“It was an accomplishment to get the first one,” Cohoon said. “I just tried my best to carry what I had finished in the first one into my second outing. I guess the approach is working for me for now.”
Cohoon also tossed nine scoreless innings earlier this season, but the Gnats needed 12 innings for a 1-0 win on May 5 at Delmarva and he received a no-decision.
“It’s just the way I pitch,” said Cohoon, who leads the South Atlantic League with a 1.44 ERA and 81 1/3 innings pitched. “I pitch to contact. I’m not a power pitcher by any means. I just try to get ground balls. I feel like that’s what I do best. That keeps my pitch count low. If my pitch count stays low, I can go further into games.”
“The main thing is his competitiveness,” minor league pitching coordinator Rick Waits said. “He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t want to come out of the game. He wants the whole game to himself. But I think he’s really gotten stronger over the years. His preparation in the four days is as good as can be. And he’s throwing all four pitches (fastball, curveball, slider and changeup) for strikes. I think the big difference between last year and this year is how well he pitches inside.”
Professional success is nothing new for the North Central Texas Community College product, whose fastball ranges between 87-90 mph. Cohoon went 9-2 with a 2.15 ERA at Brooklyn last season and was honored as that level’s Sterling Award winner by the organization. The nine wins matched the Cyclones record for a single season, tying Ross Peeples (2001), Harold Eckert (’01) and Dylan Owen (’07).
Even back in high school, Cohoon had plenty of scouts watching his games. That, however, had plenty to do with classmate Jordan Walden. Cohoon’s high school teammate was considered the top Texas high school pitcher in the draft, ahead of Clayton Kershaw and Kyle Drabek.
Walden, however, suffered a groin injury in a game late in high school and fell from being a top-10 pick as scouts could not identify why his velocity waned. Although he slipped to the 12th round in 2006, he nonetheless received a $1 million signing bonus from the Los Angeles Angels and is currently pitching at Double-A Arkansas.
“He was still probably the biggest name of all the high school pitchers that I had known. Me and him and Kershaw played together on the same summer-league team in high school,” Cohoon recalled. “He was a pretty big prospect when we were in high school. It gave me a little bit of exposure luckily being around him. … They came to see him, and they’d also stick around and watch me pitch. I didn’t get a whole lot of looks in high school. I wasn’t quite the pitcher I was after I finished pitching in college.”
Cohoon, who grew up in Mansfield, Texas -- just south of Arlington and east of Fort Worth -- attended junior college for two years at North Central Texas College before being drafted by the Mets in 2008.
Average: Jesus Feliciano, Buffalo, .385; Eric Campbell, Binghamton, .329; Josh Satin, Binghamton, .308; Stefan Welch, St. Lucie, .300; Juan Lagares, Savannah, .300; Ruben Tejada, Buffalo, .294; Mike Hessman, Buffalo, .287; Wilmer Flores, Savannah, .286; Lucas Duda, Buffalo, .284; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Binghamton, .282.
Homers: Mike Hessman, Buffalo, 18; Nick Evans, Binghamton, 12; Reese Havens, Binghamton, 9; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Binghamton, 9.
RBIs: Mike Hessman, Buffalo, 57; Wilmer Flores, Savannah, 43; Stefan Welch, St. Lucie, 43; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Binghamton, 40.
Steals: Cesar Puello, Savannah, 21; Pedro Zapata, Savannah, 20; Emmanuel Garcia, St. Lucie, 17; Juan Lagares, Savannah, 15; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Binghamton, 11.
ERA: Mark Cohoon, Savannah, 1.44; Jimmy Fuller, Savannah, 1.95; R.A. Dickey, Buffalo, 2.23; Brandon Moore, Savannah, 2.25; Josh Stinson, Binghamton, 2.83; Armando Rodriguez, Savannah, 3.26; Pat Misch, Buffalo, 3.58; Collin McHugh, Savannah, 3.79; Chris Schwinden, Binghamton, 4.05; Dylan Owen, Buffalo, 4.16.
Wins: Dillon Gee, Buffalo, 6; Manuel Alvarez, Binghamton, 6; Mark Cohoon, Savannah, 6.
Saves: Manuel Alvarez, Binghamton, 9; Michael Powers, Savannah, 7; Elmer Dessens, Buffalo, 6; John Lujan, Buffalo, 6; Roy Merritt, Buffalo, 6.
Strikeouts: Brandon Moore, Savannah, 91; Jimmy Fuller, Savannah, 77; Dillon Gee, Buffalo, 68; Mark Cohoon, Savannah, 68; Dylan Owen, Buffalo, 58.
Outfielder Fernando Martinez and catcher Josh Thole have enjoyed resoundingly positive returns from injuries with Triple-A Buffalo. Martinez, who now primarily is manning center field, produced seven hits in his first four games upon returning after missing 23 Bisons games with a strained left hamstring. Two of the hits were homers, including a walk-off grand slam Monday that snapped Buffalo’s season-high seven-game losing streak. Thole, who missed a week after getting clocked in the head with a backswing against Syracuse, is 25-for-56 with nine multi-hit performances in his last 18 games. He has raised his average 99 points since May 17, to .283. … Infielder Justin Turner, who was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles, has reached base in each of the first 18 games with Buffalo. He is hitting .319 (23-for-72) since joining the organization. … Mike Hessman, who leads the International League with 18 homers and 57 RBIs, landed on the disabled list with a right hand injury after being hit with a pitch at Norfolk on June 6. Doctors discovered Hessman had a benign tumor that broke off the bone with the jolt. The issue will be treated like a stress fracture, so Hessman will not be allowed to throw or hit for three to four weeks. Mike Cervenak should handle the bulk of the third base duties in the interim. … The Bisons received a slew of promotions from Double-A Binghamton to offset injury losses: first baseman/left fielder Lucas Duda, infielder Jonathan Malo and reliever Roy Merritt. Duda, who had missed three weeks last month with Binghamton because of a hamstring injury, was hitting .286 with six homers and 34 RBIs in 45 games with the B-Mets. He had a triple and two RBIs on Tuesday for the Bisons, in his second Triple-A game. Merritt (1-3, 3.98 ERA) led Eastern League relievers with 28 appearances. Meanwhile, DH Marshall Hubbard returned from the Bisons to Binghamton and center fielder Emmanuel Garcia returned to Class St. Lucie. … John Maine’s next rehab start is scheduled for Friday with Buffalo. Maine hopes that appearance will be his final minor league outing before being activated from the disabled list, although manager Jerry Manuel suggested one additional rehab start may be required. … Binghamton center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ shoulder ended up in a sling Sunday, a day after he made a stellar diving catch in left-center at Trenton. A Mets official said Nieuwenhuis suffered a shoulder strain and should miss two weeks. … Second baseman Reese Havens again suffered an oblique injury. Officially, he’s day-to-day. But Havens opened the season on the disabled list as a result of spring-training oblique issues, so conservatism would appear prudent. … B-Mets outfielder Carlos Guzman suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee. … Binghamton received a pair of Pac-10 products from St. Lucie: center fielder Sean Ratiff and second baseman Josh Satin. Satin, a sixth-round pick in 2008 out of Cal-Berkeley, committed a seventh-inning error in the Florida State League All-Star game that allowed the North to take a two-run lead. But he responded with a two-run homer the next inning and won the game for the South in the 10th with a go-ahead RBI single. Ratliff, a fourth-round pick in ’08 from Stanford, hit .275 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 222 at-bats with St. Lucie. Satin hit .316 with five homers and 35 RBIs in 209 at-bats with the high-A club. … Right-hander Josh Stinson (3-1, 2.83 ERA) and left-hander Mike Antonini (4-5, 4.26 ERA) continue to form a solid one-two combo atop the B-Mets’ rotation. The duo combined to limit Bowie to one run on six hits in 12 innings in a doubleheader sweep Thursday. Antonini did suffer a blemish in his next start, however. On Tuesday, the southpaw failed to complete five innings for the first time since his first start of the season, on April 11. He allowed four runs and walked a season-high three batters in 4 2/3 innings in the B-Mets’ 5-2 loss at Richmond. … Brad Holt, the 33rd overall pick in 2008, continues to struggle with the B-Mets. Piggybacking Maine’s start at Trenton on Sunday, Holt was charged with six runs in 1 1/3 innings. He is 1-5 with a 10.20 ERA in nine Double-A starts this season and has walked 23 batters in 30 innings. … St. Lucie outfielder Brahiam Maldonado is hitting .333 with five homers and 10 RBIs since May 29. … First baseman Michael Fisher, who was released by the Atlanta Braves organization, is hitting .386 with two homers and eight RBIs in 12 games since joining Savannah. Fisher, 25, hit .238 with two homers and 31 RBIs in 113 games with Class A Myrtle Beach last season. … Savannah right-hander Brandon Moore leads the South Atlantic League with 91 strikeouts, ahead of teammate Jimmy Fuller’s 77, which rank second. Moore ranks fourth in fewest walks per nine innings at 1.25 and ninth in ERA at 2.25. … Right fielder Cesar Puello has a seven-game hitting streak, during which he’s batted .417 (10-for-24) with three doubles, three RBIs and eight runs scored for the Gnats. … The Gnats are in the thick of the playoff race as the first half winds down. They pulled even with Augusta for first place Tuesday with five games remaining. The two teams wrap up the first half with a four-game head-to-head series in Augusta, where Savannah has gone 3-5 in 2010. … Short-season Brooklyn opens Friday at Staten Island, with Wally Backman managing for a major league-affiliated team for the first time since 2004 with Lancaster, an Arizona Diamondbacks high-A affiliate, which he led to an 86-54 record. The Cyclones’ roster likely will not include first-round pick Matt Harvey at any point this season. While Mets officials believe they ultimately will sign the UNC right-hander, they expect the negotiations will take all the way until the Aug. 16 deadline. At that point, Harvey will have been idle for the summer and is unlikely to pitch for a minor league team this season. Fourth-round pick Cory Vaughn, the son of former major leaguer Greg Vaughn, should be with the Cyclones. … Kingsport, managed by ex-Mets catcher Mike DiFelice, opens next Tuesday.
Adam Rubin’s farm report appears Wednesdays during the season