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Notes: Sidewinders still have bite

Notes: Sidewinders still have bite

HOUSTON -- With the recent promotions of top prospects outfielder Carlos Quentin, shortstop Stephen Drew and closer Tony Pena, you would expect the Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders to have cooled off from the torrid pace they set in the season's first half.

Not so much.

The Sidewinders, who had an unreal .644 winning percentage entering play on Friday, have just rolled right along without their former players, going 9-4 since Drew's promotion and 14-4 over the past few weeks. And when you factor in that they lost one of their best pitchers in Enrique Gonzalez in June, you can see why the D-Backs are so excited about their system.

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"The more guys we've taken away the better Tucson's gotten," farm director A.J. Hinch said. "It's a real tribute to them and to [manager] Chip Hale and his staff."

Outfielder Scott Hairston, who is on a rehab assignment with Tucson, essentially took Quentin's place on the roster. All Hairston's done for the Sidewinders this year is hit .323 with 20 homers.

And when Drew got promoted, his spot on the roster was taken by catcher Miguel Montero, who hit .464 in his first nine games for Tucson. And after losing Pena to the big club, the Sidewinders promoted Doug Slaten, who had a 1.88 ERA at Double-A Tennessee.

"It's the beauty of having such a strong system," Hinch said.

Starting Sunday: Miguel Batista, who threw a bullpen session Friday, will make his regular turn Sunday against Roger Clemens.

Batista left the team following his start on Tuesday in Philadelphia to fly home to the Dominican Republic for the funeral of his grandmother, who passed away Monday. The right-hander flew to Houston on Friday morning.

Batista said that he was still trying to deal with his loss, but that he would be ready to pitch Sunday.

"I pitched the night after she died, so yeah, I can pitch [Sunday]," Batista said.

The team gave Batista the option of flying right home after he got the news rather than pitching Tuesday, but Bastita wasn't ready to make the trip on short notice.

"I forgot my passport, so I couldn't go back until the next night anyway."

Swinging: First baseman Tony Clark took batting practice on the field for the first time Friday.

The veteran, who is on the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder, has swung recently in the batting cage behind the dugout but not on the field.

"It doesn't feel like it used to," Clark said, adding that he doesn't expect to be 100 percent right now. "Hopefully, everything can stay on course and I can help contribute down the stretch."

No timetable has been set yet for Clark to begin throwing, but he continues to work on strengthening the shoulder with exercises that simulate the throwing motion.

Good to go: Reliever Luis Vizcaino threw a bullpen session on Friday before batting practice and did not experience any pain in his right elbow, which had given him some problems earlier in the week.

"It feels much better," he said. "It went well. I should be good for [Saturday]."

Scary: There were some nervous moments Thursday night when top outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez was hit in the back of the head with a pitch during Class A Lancaster's game with Inland Empire.

Gonzalez was 3-for-4 in the game with a homer and two RBIs before being plunked by Jose De La Cruz in the ninth inning. The ball hit the lower part of Gonzalez's helmet and hit his neck as well. He lay on the ground for several minutes but did not suffer a concussion.

"I'm a little sore on my neck, but I'm glad everything is OK," said Gonzalez, who leads the Cal League with 86 RBIs and is seventh in hitting at .316.

"I was scared right after I got hit. My whole body stopped for five seconds. I was scared. I'm just glad to be OK and be here."

Gonzalez was held out of Friday's game, but he is expected back in the lineup this weekend.

Lancaster manager Brett Butler said he believed that De La Cruz hit Gonzalez on purpose, because earlier this season Inland third baseman Ronny Prettyman suffered a broken wrist as a result of being hit by a pitch from Lancaster's Kellen Raab.

"He's arguably one of the best prospects in the country," Butler said. "If you're going to do that, miss him low and hit him in the foot or something. Any time you hit someone in the head and see him go down the way he did, it's not good."

In other injury news for Lancaster, third baseman Rusty Ryal suffered a broken thumb Thursday when he was hit by a pitch and he is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

Up next: The D-Backs take on the Astros on Saturday night at 4:05 MST, with Juan Cruz starting for Arizona against Houston's Roy Oswalt.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Reporter Kevin T. Czerwinski contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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