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Mustangs in the Pros: Zehner Returns to Triple-A, Howard in Rehab

Mustangs in the Pros: Zehner Returns to Triple-A, Howard in Rehab


SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Zack Zehner is back in Triple-A, giving Cal Poly five former baseball players one step from the Major Leagues.

The former Mustang outfielder is hitting .250 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 4-for-15 with two doubles and a home run in his first four games back in Triple-A. Zehner (pictured at right) is with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the second time this season after playing 41 games at Trenton.

Cal Poly's other Triple-A players are outfielder Nick Torres (Puebla, Mexican League), designated hitter Brian Mundell (Albuquerque, Pacific Coast League), middle infielder Mike Miller (Pawtucket, International League) and infielder Mark Mathias (Columbus, International League).

Torres is hitting .308 for the Pericos and is fifth in the Mexican League in both home runs (22) and RBIs (70). He also has 22 doubles and has produced 24 multiple-hit games this season.

Mundell sports a .338 average for the Isotopes while Mathias is hitting .281 for the Clippers. Miller is on the injured list after hitting .269 in his first 50 games this season for the Red Sox.

Cal Poly's lone Major Leaguer is Mitch Haniger, who was placed on the injury list June 6 after undergoing surgery for a ruptured testicle. His baseball activities have been limited to basic workouts as he continues to experience some pain and is not expected back in the lineup until late July at the earliest. Read a story on Haniger from the Tacoma News Tribune by clicking here.

Right-handed pitcher Spencer Howard, on the injured list the last 10 weeks, made a rehab start June 27 for Phillies West in the Gulf Coast League and tossed three scoreless innings with five strikeouts against the Blue Jays. Twenty of his 24 pitches were strikes and he was hitting 94-96 mph on the speed gun.

Baseball America lists Howard No. 91 on its July list of Major League prospects. "After splitting his time in college between relieving and starting, Howard's tremendous arsenal has been everything evaluators projected and then some. With a little more consistency, Howard has the potential to land toward the middle of a rotation," Baseball America said.

Chase Johnson, another right-hander, has allowed just one earned run in his last 10 appearances on the mound (18 innings) for the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels, lowering his ERA from 9.00 to 4.62.

A third right-hander, Erich Uelmen, picked up his second win June 27 at Fayetteville, allowing two runs and five hits over six innings with seven strikeouts, and also tossed 5 2/3 innings with no earned runs and four strikeouts versus Carolina on July 3.

Outfielder Alex McKenna is hitting .301 at Quad Cities while shortstop Peter Van Gansen (click here for GIF) has a .267 average at Amarillo. Another infielder, Kyle Marinconz, is hitting .264 for Hagerstown.

Right-hander Bobby Ay (pictured at left), Cal Poly's lone draft pick last month, signed a contract for $100,000 with the Arizona Diamondbacks in late June. A ninth-round selection, Ay has yet to be assigned to a team.

Said Diamondbacks Director of Amateur Scouting Deric Ladnier, Ay has a "good fastball, good slider. Beginning of the year, just OK reports but as the year progressed, his stuff got better. Velocity got better, slider got better. You feel like he's one of those college kids that's not finished yet. He's at 185 pounds at 6-3. We felt like physically there's more development for him and we still feel like an arrow up for a starter, so you take the risk there."

Baseball America ranked Ay as the No. 77 draft prospect in Southern California a few days prior to the MLB Draft. "Ay starts his three-pitch mix with an 88-91 mph fastball that touches 93. His best pitch is a 76-78 mph curveball and he completes his arsenal with an average changeup. He throws all his pitches for strikes but occasionally struggles with his command," said Baseball America.

Ay compiled a 9-1 win-loss record and 3.27 ERA, finishing third in the Big West in wins, 10th in ERA and seventh with his 74 strikeouts over 85 1/3 innings en route to first-team All-Big West honors. A graduate of El Toro High School, the same high school that produced Nolan Arenado of Colorado, Matt Chapman of Oakland and Austin Romine of the New York Yankees, Ay was Cal Poly's starter all 15 weekends of the regular season.

His best two performances of the year were at Long Beach State when he struck out a career-high 10 Dirtbags over eight innings, his longest appearance on the mound in his Mustang career, in a 7-1 victory, and at UC Santa Barbara on the final weekend of the season as he struck out eight over seven scoreless innings and allowed just two hits in a 3-0 shutout.

Ay also earned wins over Baylor, Saint Mary's, Cal State Fullerton, UC Davis, USC, Hawai'i, UC Irvine and UC Riverside. He was 6-1 with a 2.66 ERA in Big West games. All nine wins for the season were in the final 11 weeks of the campaign.

The fourth-year junior started his career 2-8 with one save and a 5.13 ERA over three seasons, missing most of the 2018 campaign due to injury and receiving a medical redshirt.

Follow all the former Mustangs in the professional ranks by clicking the link at the top of the page.