Mariner Farm Report -- Franklin Escapes Bullpen, Makes Dazzling Chick Start

Ryan Franklin turned a spot start into a highlight performance for the Memphis Chicks.

Franklin, a 6-foot-3 right-hander who had been working out of the bullpen, drew a starting assignment against the visiting Chattanooga Lookouts last week because left-hander Osvaldo Fernandez had a sore arm.

Franklin pitched six no-hit innings in the Class AA Southern League game. Then he turned the ball over to left-hander Scott Simmons, who worked 1 2/3 innings, and David Holdridge, who wrapped up a no-hit, 4-0 victory.

Franklin (1-0, 2.19 earned-run average), the winner, struck out six. Simmons fanned three and Holdridge two. Each issued one walk.

Franklin "was very strong," Dave Brundage, Memphis manager, said. "But he was running out of luck so I thought I'd get another guy in."

Actually, Franklin was working on a 65-pitch limit in his first start of the season. "We were hopeful that he'd go four or five innings," Brundage said.

Franklin exceeded his limit by a few pitches, but "I didn't dare take him out in the middle of the inning," Brundage said. "They would have booed me right off the field."

Franklin, 24, Seattle's 23rd-round draft choice in 1992, has been a starter most of his pro career.

Cruz hitting .340

Jose Cruz Jr., Seattle's No. 1 draft pick in 1995, came into the weekend with a .340 batting average, five doubles, two home runs and five runs batted in after 13 Pacific Coast League games with the

Tacoma Rainiers. He had drawn 11 walks, struck out nine times.

"I think he's done everything everyone expected," Tacoma Manager Dave Myers said. "He looks better, looks more comfortable in left field. His routes, his angles are much better."

-- Right-hander Derek Lowe (1-1, 2.21 ERA), who finished strong for Tacoma last season, has been impressive in his first three 1997 starts for the Rainiers. He has improved his "arm strength, velocity and the quality of his pitches," Myers said. "And we've seen the re-emergence of his curve ball, which had taken a couple years off."

-- Steve Decker, 31, a catcher-first baseman who has played in the major leagues with San Francisco, Colorado and Florida, joined Tacoma last week. He was signed as a free agent after his release by Colorado.

-- Tacoma right-hander Alex Pacheco (shoulder) and infielder Todd Haney are on the disabled list.

-- James Bonnici, first baseman-designated hitter who hit 26 homers for the 1996 Rainiers, is on the inactive list. The Mariners are in the process of selling his contract to a Japanese team.

Around the farms

-- Memphis outfielder Shane Monahan (.275) has hit two home runs - both grand slams, one a game-winner with two out in the 10th inning in a 6-2 victory over Carolina a couple of weeks ago.

-- Outfielder Yuni Kim, a newcomer to the Seattle farm system, is batting .346 with a team-leading four homers and 15 RBI in 14 games for the Lancaster JetHawks of the Class A California League. Kim, a Korean, was signed out of a Japanese nonpro league by Jim Colborn, director of the Mariners' Pacific Rim scouting operation.

-- Jim Horner, ex-Washington State catcher, got off to a hot start with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Class A Midwest League, hitting .341 with a team-leading 11 RBI in his first 12 games.

-- Floods forced Wisconsin to play a four-game series with Quad City in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The floodwaters turned the Quad City park into an island. "You couldn't get to the field," Gary Varsho, Wisconsin manager, said.