Benjamin Hill is a contributor to]]> Pitching wins ballgames, whether we're talking about the Majors, the Minors, Little League or backyard wiffle ball. With that in mind, this week's "Futures Exchange" will focus primarily on pitching.

That's enough justification, right? Let's get to this.

In the bigs

On Sunday, Tyler Clippard became the seventh rookie pitcher to start for the Yankees this season, taking the hill at Shea Stadium in the nationally televised finale of the year's first Subway Series. As most of us know by now, the lanky righty performed brilliantly, allowing a run on three hits over six innings of work as the Yanks avoided the sweep. An outing like that has earned Clippard at least one more go-round in the Bombers' rotation -- and maybe more. Even with the imminent re-re-re-return of Roger Clemens, the Yankees don't have enough healthy arms to avoid having to put at least one rookie in the rotation. And it may as well be Clippard, right? That way, the Big Apple media can continue to have a field day with "Yankee Clippard" references, which will never get old.

After completely dominating the Double-A Eastern League over six starts (5-0, 0.96 ERA), Jesse Litsch made his big-league debut with the Blue Jays on Tuesday, coming one out shy of a complete game in a win over the Orioles. He fell back to earth against the Phillies on Sunday but still figures to get an extended look with the Jays, whose injury-decimated rotation could use a boost from an aggressive youngster such as Litsch (sure beats having Tomo Ohka as a fifth starter).

Because good things come in threes, let's look at one more American League starter who got a callup this week: Minnesota's Scott Baker. The 25-year-old is not technically a rookie, having made 27 largely underwhelming big-league appearances over the past two seasons, but perhaps his time is now. Baker pitched into the ninth inning in his season debut on Saturday and will be given every opportunity to solidify himself in the Twins rotation this time around. He compiled a 3.16 ERA over 42 2/3 innings with Triple-A Rochester, allowing 34 hits and only four walks over that span.

Phone call away

After just singing Baker's praises, now let's assume he starts to unravel. The Twins have an extremely capable duo waiting in the wings at Rochester: Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey. Although Slowey has the better numbers now (5-2, 1.76 ERA), Garza, a 2005 first-rounder, has the higher ceiling. The Fresno State product got a look last September, and it's only a matter of time before he's up in the bigs again. A 2009 Minnesota rotation featuring Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, Garza and Slowey projects as one of the best in baseball. The rest of the AL Central gets chills just thinking about it.

While we're on the topic of dominating Triple-A starters, it's time for the near-obligatory Yovani Gallardo mention. The 21-year-old native of Mexico was just named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week on the strength of his six-inning outing on Thursday, in which he allowed one measly hit (amazingly, it was the third time this season he's yielded only one hit over six innings or more). Gallardo fanned 11 in his latest masterful effort, increasing his Minor League-leading strikeout total to 66 -- in just 48 2/3 innings. Those who were chomping at the bit to see Gallardo finally get called up to Milwaukee are now chomping even harder. Relax, guys, he'll get his chance. The Brewers' current starting five has held up well so far, but it's a long season.

A year away

The way the Yankees season has gone so far, it seems as if every prospect in their organization is a mere "phone call away." Perhaps in August, Matt Desalvo and Clippard will be the stable veterans of a rotation that also includes 2006 first-rounders and current Florida State League standouts Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain. Kennedy is the reigning FSL Pitcher of the Week after hurling 13 2/3 scoreless innings over his last two starts to reduce his ERA to a league-leading 1.24. A former University of Nebraska standout (and, for trivia buffs, the highest-drafted Native American in baseball history), Chamberlain is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA over his first three professional starts. Both pitchers reportedly received tutorials from Clemens when he made his Class A cameo in Tampa over the weekend.

Down the road

OK, let's finally change the pace and talk about hitters. And if we're talking about hitters, we may as well focus in on what just happened over the weekend in the most hitter-friendly of circuits: the Class A Advanced California League. The Lake Elsinore Storm took on the host Lancaster JetHawks in a three-game set, and pandemonium ensued. The Storm (a Padres affiliate) won the first game of the series by the tidy score of 30-0. The JetHawks (Red Sox affiliate) rallied for a 14-12 win on Saturday, but the Storm, uh, stormed back on Sunday for a 21-8 victory. Let's look at some of the star performers from the series:

Kyle Blanks, Lake Elsinore 1B/DH: Went 11-for-18 over the three games, with three home runs, four doubles, 11 RBIs and four runs scored. A 6-foot-6, 270-pound power hitter who signed with the Padres out of high school in 2004, Blanks is hitting .340 and has an OPS of 1.027 for the Storm.

Aaron Bates, Lancaster, 1B: Bates made history on Saturday by becoming the first player in the history of the California League to hit four home runs in one game. The North Carolina State product and 2006 third-round pick has a 1.083 OPS and is now tied with Lancaster teammate Bubba Bell for the league lead with 13 home runs.

Yordany Ramirez, Lake Elsinore, CF: Ramirez entered the series with 10 RBIs over 130 at-bats. Then he knocked in seven on Friday and bettered that on Sunday by collecting eight RBIs in addition to hitting for the cycle. Prior to his otherworldly weekend, the 22-year-old had gained more attention for his defense than for his bat. ]]>