Olympia graduate impresses

mwochnick@theolympian.comAugust 12, 2013 

It’s good to be a young player in the Miami baseball organization.

Seven prospects from the farm for the Marlins have debuted in the big leagues this season for a club that’s struggling.

Adam Conley, the Marlins’ No. 6 overall prospect, ranked by milb.com, could be next in line.

Conley, a 2008 Olympia High School graduate and owner of multiple school records while leading the Bears to a third-place state finish as a senior, is on the fast track with the Marlins.

Pitching for the Double-A Jacksonville (Fla). Suns, the 23-year-old left-hander is a minor-league All-Star, tied for first in the Southern League in wins (11) and fifth in strikeouts (109) to go with a 3.38 earned-run average. Opponents are hitting .242 against him.

Conley (11-5) calls the

league “a great learning experience” with a bunch of good teammates, making the long trips on a bus a lot easier. Their closest opponent is the Pensacola (Fla.) Blue Wahoos, a 360-mile one-way journey.

“I’ve learned a lot, and I think I’m in the right place to do that,” he said. “This is a winning group of guys who get along really well. It makes the bus rides easier.”

Conley was assigned to Jacksonville out of spring training after making a big leap in his first full year in the organization. He went 7-3 with a 2.78 ERA in the first half of last season at Single-A Greensboro (N.C.), but tailed off slightly after his promotion to Single-A Advanced Jupiter (Fla.) with a 4-2 mark and 4.44 ERA.

Conley has improved each month this season. After an 0-1 record and 5.14 ERA in April, he’s lowered his ERA each month, including a career-best 1.23 ERA in five starts in July. His first-half performance earned him a spot in the Double-A All-Star Game, and he pitched an inning in front of Suns fans at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

“It was a great experience,” said Conley, who was also a Single-A All-Star in 2012. “Having that same experience in the city that’s my home city. It’s a good indicator of where I am going.”

Conley has a strong pitching arsenal, with command of a fastball reaching 97 mph, but he’s been emphasizing his slider. The Marlins have yet to decide if they project Conley as a starter or reliever, but Conley said he’s comfortable in either role.

“A lot could have to do with team necessity and greater need,” he said. “There’s a lot of young arms in the starting rotation and they’re all right-handed. I put my trust with the Marlins and whatever decision they make, I’ll embrace it.”

Over a recent span of four starts (26 innings), he did not allow an earned run, including an emotional start July 28 – the day after the death of his high school coach, Todd McDougall – when he pitched six innings, allowed eight hits and struck out six in a win over Chattanooga.

“He was in my thoughts,” Conley said of McDougall.

Conley has shared the minor-league experience with his wife, Kendall, a former Washington State University pole vaulter. She documents the daily life of a minor-league player’s wife through her blog, “A Life in Flight 365.” They were married in September 2011, a month after Conley received a $625,000 signing bonus as the No. 72 overall pick following his junior season at WSU.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “It’s a blessing to have her with me and supporting me and to have her through the good times and the bad times. It’s been beneficial.”

PETERSON’S HIT

Four days after making his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals, Brock Peterson earned his first big-league hit in an 11-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on July 24 after failing in his first five plate appearances.

Appearing as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, Peterson hit an infield single off reliever Jake Diekman.

The 29-year-old W.F. West High School graduate earned his first big-league call-up July 20 after 11 seasons in the minor leagues. He was the Pacific Coast League’s home run leader prior to his call-up.

Peterson was sent down to Memphis on July 27 but recalled four days later. He is hitting .154 (2-for-13) in 11 games with the Cardinals.

DUNNINGTON UPDATE

Shelton High grad Jacob Dunnington, who made his Triple-A debut in May with the Fresno Grizzlies, an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, has been sent to advanced Single-A Augusta (Ga.).

In eight relief appearances since returning from the disabled list, he has struck out 16 in 12 innings. Dunnington, who recorded his first save of the season Aug. 7 at the Rome (Ga.) Braves, was an undrafted free agent signee in 2009.

Editor’s note: The Minor League Notebook, updating South Sound people in the minor leagues, will appear occasionally throughout the summer. Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 mwochnick@theolympian.com theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick

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