I turned on Zach Stewart's game in the bottom of the sixth inning, and I'll be honest: My first response was, "Wow, that's one terrible lineup from the Twins." Trevor Plouffe? Rene Tosoni? Luke Hughes? Jason Repko? Somebody named Brian Dinkelman? The execrable Drew Butera? It sounds like the roll call of Cub Scout Pack 529, not a major league batting order.
But give Stewart credit: It was a major league game and he took a perfect game into the eighth inning, spoiled when Danny Valencia, after fouling off three pitches with two strikes, lined a double down the right-field line. It would be Minnesota's only baserunner of the game, making Stewart the first rookie to throw a shutout in his first 10 major league starts while allowing one or fewer baserunners since Jimmy Jones of the 1986 Padres.
With a big mop of curly hair sticking out from the back of his cap, Stewart resembled a guy like Mark Fidrych, and like Fidrych, he's not overpowering. Stewart was throwing 90, 91 late in this game, but had good movement on his fastball and threw some nice breaking pitches that dove sharply down and away from right-handed hitters. Still, he doesn't register a lot of strikeouts and some think he's a better option for the bullpen.
The White Sox acquired him from the Blue Jays in the Edwin Jackson three-way trade with St. Louis. He spent most of the season repeating Double-A New Hampshire for the Jays, where he posted a 4.26 ERA in 17 starts. In order to succeed he has to throw strikes and keep the ball down. With Mark Buehrle potentially leaving as a free agent, Stewart could be battling a guy like Chris Sale for a rotation spot in 2012.
As for Jones, his near-perfecto came in his major league debut on Sept. 21, against the first-place Astros. The only baserunner he allowed was opposing starter Bob Knepper's third-inning triple over the head of right fielder Kevin McReynolds. Jones had been the third pick of the 1982 draft, out of Jefferson High School in Dallas, taken two picks ahead of Dwight Gooden. The story following his one-hitter reported that his wife wore pink -- apparently the couple's lucky color. "The funny thing about it, I'm color blind," Jones said.
Jones also hinted at why his minor league had been mediocre and why his major league career never took off after that stunning debut. "This is the first year I haven't been hurt. I hope I proved I can pitch on the major-league level today."
Jones' Wikipedia page, if accurate, indicates why he may have battled arm injuries. It says he struck out 28 batters in a 16-inning playoff game in high school, throwing 251 pitches. Jones survived eight seasons in the majors, but he lacked the big fastball he had in high school and finished his career 43-39.