Sunday, April 30, 2006


When I saw that Tampa Bay had designated Jason Childers for assignment I couldn't help but reflect back to our search earlier this spring to learn about the righthander's time in the Frontier League. That's what we do when a former Independent Baseball product gets to the majors.

The Frontier said he was with the Richmond (IN) Roosters in 1996, but he didn't show up in The History of Independent Baseball Leagues which tracks every player in a non-affiliated league between 1993 and 2002. It did show a Jason Childress pitching in one game in 1997. So we went to the source.

The Devil Rays' public relations department went to Childers. He confirmed he was at Richmond for all of one day in 1997, and he pitched in the game that day. Mystery solved.

The 31-year-old got into five games with Tampa Bay (0-1, 4.70) in his first major league opportunity. Childers should be back with the Devil Rays or some major league team before long because 46 Triple-A saves the last three years prove this Kennesaw State product has the ability to get key outs.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Fans of Independent Baseball may want to consider an August 8-9-10 junket to Reading, PA. It has been pointed out that when Eastern League foes Bowie and Reading met a few days ago in Bowie at least 10 onetime Independent players were on the two rosters. That's pretty impressive.

The only other meeting of the two teams this season will be on those August dates at FirstEnergy Park.

Reading had former major league outfielders Peter Bergeron and Jim Rushford plus pitchers Evan Fahrner, Nick Mattioni, Brian Mazone and Tim McClaskey. Bowie had catcher Sandy Madera and outfielder Noah Hall plus hurlers Craig Anderson and James Johnson.

It would be fun hearing about any minor league matchup with more than 10 Indy players.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I was sitting at my desk catching up on some dreaded paperwork Saturday afternoon when the phone rang and this upbeat voice introduced himself.

Baltimore reliever Tim Byrdak, about whom I had just written in this week's Independent Baseball Insider column, was returning my call. It was the first time we had spoken.

Even though he confirmed his happiness for his first major league victory eight days earlier, I wouldn't have been surprised if Tim was downcast. After all, he had just gone on the 60-day disabled list to have bone chips removed from his left (pitching) elbow.

He sounded anything but down, and explained why. It turns out Tim nearly got that first win last July at Minnesota only to see the Twins pull out the game in the bottom of the ninth. But after Byrdak and his Dad had walked back to the hotel Tim had a phone call that set him back. A friend from his Double-A days in Wichita had been seriously injured. This husband and father of two was paralyzed from the neck down. It probably would be a permanent condition.

"There were other things more important than a win in the major leagues," Byrdak told me.

He also is upbeat about the future. "They (Orioles) put me on the 60 because they needed the roster spot", but this 32-year-old veteran of 13 pro seasons, including an Independent Baseball campaign with Gary, IN and Joliet, IL in the Northern League in 2003 when he was coming off Tommy John (elbow) surgery, is hopeful of being back in an Orioles uniform by July 1.

I will be pulling for Tim, as well as for his friend.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


If you love statistical oddities as I do, consider the last three outings by Orioles lefty reliever Tim Byrdak. In two of the appearances he was charged with six earned runs combined while only recording two outs. Ouch! But in between, the 32-year-old picked up his first major league victory with a one-out appearance against the Angels.

The win came in his 93rd major league appearance, in a big-league career that stretches back to 1998. Byrdak split 2003 pitching in the Northern League for Joliet, IL and Gary, IN. The story gets so juicy I will be writing about it in more detail in this Thursday's Independent Baseball Insider.

Monday, April 17, 2006


It is Patriots Day in Boston, and I cannot help but think about what a happy day it must be for two former Independent Baseball faces who are new to Red Sox Nation. John Blake, who was the Northern League's Chief Operating Officer for a couple of years, was recently named Boston's Vice President of Media Relations. The move gets the able Blake back to the northeast where he grew up.

The other new face is sitting out in the Red Sox bullpen waiting for his first American League appearance. Righthander Jermaine Van Buren, who pitched for Fort Worth (now in the American Association) when it was in the Central League (2003) got the call from Pawtucket over the weekend. We told you in our February 16 Independent Baseball Insider column some people were saying the Red Sox considered Van Buren a "sleeper". He got into his first six major league games last season (Chicago Cubs, 0-2, 3.00). At 25, let's hope this is his time.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Let's hope it is only temporary, but former Quebec Capitales (Can-Am League) right-handed reliever Jeff Harris was optioned by the Seattle Mariners' to AAA Tacoma Wednesday night.

Harris, who made the Mariners' opening day roster, had appeared in three games before being sent down. He pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out one.

The California native played for Quebec in 2004 and 2003. He also played for Chico, CA when it was in the Western League from 2001 through 2002. His best Independent season, statistically speaking, came in 2003 when he won nine games (three complete games), struck out 119, and yielded a 2.51 earned run average for the Capitales de Quebec.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Last week's Independent Baseball Insider column was barely out the door last week when I learned Independent veteran Ken Ray was back in the major leagues for the first time since 1999, this time with the Atlanta Braves. The column (prospective subscribers may read it later today at ( was about the former Independent players who opened the season in the major leagues, plus the heart-breaking tale of Chris Coste, who did not stick with Philadelphia despite a brilliant spring.

Less than a year ago the 31-year-old righthander was pitching in the Can-Am League, making three starts for the North Shore Spirit (2-0, 2.75, with opponents hitting .143). He also had pitched in the Western League and the Atlantic League (Long Island) in 2002.

What a splash Ray has made. He made his Braves debut Thursday with two scoreless innings at San Francisco, including striking out his first batter. Some guy named Barry Bonds. He was Bobby Cox's eighth inning guy Monday night, working a scoreless eighth inning to protect a 4-3 lead before 47,332 in Atlanta's home opener. The Braves won, 5-3.

Cox has called on Ray four times in the five days he has been with the team. He has two "holds" and in four innings has allowed one hit, walked two and struck out four.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Check out this entertaining story about a writer from the Courier News trying to make an Atlantic League team.

(Click on the title link above)