Monday, March 24, 2008

One week remains until opening day so this starts the final week of our Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogging which concentrates on former Independent Baseball players in major legue spring training camps. Websites are welcome to reprint this material as long as they give credit to

Breslow Moves from Boston to Cleveland;

Eliezer Alfonzo in Better Shape, Even in Slump

Craig Breslow has caught a break. It is up to him to take advantage of it.

The 27-year-old former Yale pre-med school lefthander, who was left home when Boston departed for Japan, was claimed on waivers by Cleveland Sunday and already was in their Winter Haven, FL camp Monday morning.

Breslow, who resurrected his career with the New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls, NJ) after being released by Milwaukee in 2004, is one of only two southpaw relievers in camp with the Tribe, joining the respected Rafael Perez. Cliff Lee has earned a starting job. General Manager Mark Shapiro, according to, confirmed Breslow will get the first opportunity to replace veteran Aaron Fultz, who has been told he will not be part of the team after a poor spring.

Cleveland also sent lefthanders Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey to the minor league camp Monday, further opening the door for Breslow, the Trumbull, CT resident. Breslow spent all of '07 at Triple-A Pawtucket, RI (2-3, one save, 4.06 in 49 appearances) although he has 27 games of major league experience with San Diego (2005) and the Red Sox (2006). He was bothered by wildness with Boston this spring, walking seven (six strikeouts) in 5.1 innings. He had an 0-1 record and a 6.75 ERA. He allowed only four hits in the five appearances.

ELIEZER ALFONZO'S CHIEF COMPETITION REMOVED--When spring training opened, it was widely believed onetime St. Paul (MN) Saints catcher Eliezer Alfonzo and Guillermo Rodriguez would battle it out to see who would back up the starter, Bengie Molina, with San Francisco. Alfonzo also was coming off a winter league season in which he earned Most Valuable Player honors in the Venezuelan League, where he hit 15 home runs and drove in 47 in 53 games and added an exceptional six round-trippers (14 RBI) in the playoffs. It has been a spring of struggle at the plate for the 29-year-old Alfonzo, but Rodriguez was optioned over the weekend. "We need to have someone step up and take this job," Manager Bruce Bochy told "Neither one of them (Alfonzo or Rodriguez) is on track offensively or catching all that great right now." Alfonzo was hitting a meager .093 (.111 on-base percentage) entering play Monday with one homer and four runs batted in although one of them came in a two-out ninth inning, game-winning pinch hit against the White Sox Friday. The only other catcher still in the Giants' camp is Steve Holm, an all-star in the Class AA Eastern League last season.

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MAJOR LEAGUE CAMP 'A WONDERFUL FEELING'--Justin Christian, who started his pro career in the Frontier League and was converted from the infield to the outfield only two years ago, was one of several former Independent players sent back to the minor leagues during the weekend. "It's a wonderful feeling to have someone to believe in you a bit," Christian told me during a visit in the New York Yankees' Tampa clubhouse one week ago. This onetime River City Rascals (O'Fallon, MO) star (2003-2004) seems likely to get other looks from the Yankees. He turns 28 April 3, but Christian has a .296 career average and a speed game that has seen him steal 217 bases in five seasons, including 68 in the Eastern League in 2006. Listed a 6-foot-1, 188 pounds, the right-handed hitting Christian hit .231 (3-for-13) in his 12 spring appearances while scoring four runs and being successful on all three of his stolen base attempts.

HOCHEVAR WILL WORK IN OMAHA--The Kansas City Royals decided they would rather have first-round draftee Luke Hochevar pitching regularly for their Triple-A farm club in Omaha at the start of the season instead of possibly not getting enough work with the parent club. After all, the 24-year-old, who first pitched professionally for the Fort Worth (TX) Cats of the American Association in 2006, only has 14 appearances above Double-A and could be one of the pieces needed by the Royals in the future. The 6-foot-5 Hochevar was anything but a spring bust, holding opponents to a .226 batting average and posting a 2.25 ERA in three outings.

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THIS 'N THAT--Pittsburgh catcher Michel Hernandez, Toronto hurler Kane Davis and comeback-minded Edgardo Alfonzo of Texas were sent to minor league camps over the weekend. All three came out of the Atlantic League. Hernandez played at Somerset, NJ last season, Davis was at Somerset in 2006 and Camden, NJ in 2003 while Alfonzo played for Bridgeport, CT in 2006 and Long Island, NY last season...six other non-roster players remain in major league camps, and a seventh, veteran major leaguer Brendan Donnelly, coming off a major injury, reported to Cleveland to start rehabbing on Monday...Edwar Ramirez struck out three Pirates in order to get out of the seventh inning Sunday, but that was after he had given up a walk and two singles good for a Pittsburgh run. Ramirez has 12 K's in only 7.1 innings...Jon Weber went 1-for-2 Sunday in his continued effort to land an outfield job with Tampa Bay.

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