He hardly pitched at Reno’s Galena High School, but Henry Bonilla has developed into a solid starter in Triple A.
The 29-year-old right-hander gave up two runs on eight hits in six innings Friday in the Salt Lake Bees’ 3-2 loss to the 51s at Cashman Field and is 7-5 with a 5.52 ERA.
“He pitched good enough to win,” Bees manager Brian Harper said. “He really battles when he pitches. He gives you everything he’s got, and you like to see guys that enjoy playing and competing.”
Bonilla spent his first seven pro seasons with the Minnesota Twins, who selected him out of Tulane in the eighth round of the 2000 draft.
After going 10-16 in his last three Triple-A seasons, Bonilla signed with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent for what he hopes is a better chance at the big leagues.
“Minnesota had their guys, and if you weren’t on their roster or had significant time in the big leagues, they really didn’t call you up,” Bonilla said. “Here, they said if you’re pitching well or hitting well they’re going to call you up.”
Although the Angels are loaded with starting pitchers, Harper said Bonilla could emerge as a solid reliever.
“Henry’s best option with us is to pitch in the bullpen,” Harper said. “I think he can pitch in the bullpen with a lot of teams in the big leagues. He’s real aggressive on the mound, and he’s got a good, live, strong arm.”
Bonilla, who throws in the low 90s with a good sinker, slider and curve, said he also was offered a contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers, parent club of the 51s, but they wouldn’t guarantee him a spot in Triple A.
Bonilla, who still lives in Reno, played primarily in the infield at Galena and pitched less than 20 innings. He was converted into a pitcher at Lassen Community College in Susanville, Calif., and went on to earn Conference USA All-Star honors at Tulane.
He said he has steadily improved in the minors and is confident he can pitch in the majors.
“It’s just a matter of being there at the right place at the right time,” he said. “I still have time to prove (myself) down here and maybe get my numbers a little better.
“In September, if they do call guys up, hopefully I’ve opened some eyes and proven that I’m a major league-quality pitcher.”
• NOTES — Bees third baseman Brandon Wood was recalled by the Angels, who placed infielder Howie Kendrick on the disabled list with a fractured finger. Wood, 22, hit the 100th home run of his minor league career Friday against the 51s and is batting .262 with 16 homers and 55 RBIs in 80 games with Salt Lake. The 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pounder produced one of the best seasons in minor league history in 2005 — batting .321 with 43 homers, 53 doubles and 115 RBIs at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. Last season, Wood hit .276 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs for Double-A Arkansas, and Harper said he has the potential to be a big league All-Star. … The Dodgers named 51s outfielder Delwyn Young the organization’s player of the month for June. Young, 25, led all Dodgers minor leaguers with a .400 average (46-for-115), seven homers, 13 doubles and 26 runs.Las Vegas 51s
LAS VEGAS – 10
SALT LAKE – 5
KEY: The 51s hit a season-high five home runs, including three solo shots in the seventh inning, en route to their season-high fifth straight victory.
NEXT: Bees (Joe Saunders) at 51s (Eric Cyr), 12:05 p.m. today