Monday, March 10, 2008

This is another in our continuing Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogs to keep you up to date on the more than 50 former Independent Baseball players getting exposure in major league spring training camps. Baseball websites are welcome to reproduce today's entry as long as credit is given to

Disappointments Begin as Some Get Sent

To Minor League Camps

Mike Cervenak told us this winter how much he had gotten out of his baseball career, which includes starring at the University of Michigan and playing in Holland, Alaska, Korea and Venezuela in addition to nine minor league seasons.

I can only imagine how the 31-year-old infielder, who started as a pro in 1999 and part of 2000 at Chillicothe, OH in the Frontier League, must be struggling to keep that positive outlook today after he was sent to Philadelphia's minor league camp, especially with three weeks remaining in spring training.

The Phillies aggressively pursued Cervenak when he was a free agent this winter, but from watching the box scores he got only limited at-bats this spring before getting the minor league assignment. Cervenak had lifted his career average to .295 with a solid '07 season at Triple-A Norfolk, VA when he led the International League with hits (157), games (140) and at-bats (554). Even his 15 home runs--138 for his career--and 78 runs batted in did not seem to carry much weight.

So Cervenak continues looking for his first regular season major league game, as does southpaw Brian Mazone, who was in the same round of cuts made by Philadelphia. Righthander Brad Ziegler was an early cut from Oakland. Mazone is a graduate of Joliet, IL (Northern League) and Zion, UT (Western League) while Ziegler played Indy baseball for Schaumburg, IL (Northern).

HERNANDEZ ON BRIGHTER SIDE--Michel Hernandez continues to put up good numbers for Pittsburgh, getting a hit against Minnesota Saturday to lift his spring average to .500. Hernandez, who has only five major league games to his credit thus far (1-for-4 for the New York Yankees in 2003), had a remarkable 2007 in that the catcher handled every one of his 573 defensive chances without being charged with a single error. Hernandez, who turns 30 in August, started with the Atlantic League's Somerset (NJ) Patriots, hitting .342 in 76 at-bats for Sparky Lyle's crew, then hit .276 in 51 games for Tampa Bay's Durham, NC Class AAA farm club.

PIEDRA RELEASED WITH .400 AVERAGE--Another 2007 Atlantic League player who was continuing to put up good numbers was Florida outfielder Jorge Piedra. After hitting .336 for the Long Island (NY) Ducks last season, Piedra raised his spring training average to .400 (4-for-10) with his first home run against Boston on Saturday. The left-handed hitter, who turns 29 next month, was released on Sunday. He had been in seven games, and had a .455 on-base percentage. Another Marlins hopeful, first baseman Tagg Bozied, whose Independent Baseball was with Sioux Falls, SD, was 0-for-1 Sunday, but still is hitting .308 (4-for-13) with a double and three RBI.

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FORT WORTH GRADS HIGHLY RANKED--Kansas City's Luke Hochevar, who played in the American Association in 2006, and Arizona's Max Scherzer, who was with the Cats for a time last season, are ranked 63rd and 66th, respectively, on Baseball America's chart of the 100 best prospects in all of baseball.

FIELD, BROWNLIE REMAIN PERFECT--Veteran Nate Field and newcomers Bobby Brownlie and Scott Patterson are among several former Independent players compiling impressive earned run averages in spring games. Field, who was at Sioux City, IA (now in the American Association) in 2000 and still is trying to become steadily employed in the majors, has not been scored on in five appearances for the New York Mets. Bobby Brownlie, with Newark, NJ (Atlantic League) when 2007 started, has a 0.00 ERA for Washington. Patterson, a longtime Indy player (Gateway, Frontier League; Lancaster, PA, Atlantic), got a last-out save for the Yankees against Minnesota Sunday to keep his ERA at 0.00. Other hurlers with stingy ERAs include Matt Wilhite (1.29 for the Angels), Adam Pettyjohn (2.45 for Cincinnati) and Craig Breslow (2.70 for Boston). Wilhite pitched for Kenosha, WI in the Frontier League, Pettyjohn was with Long Beach, CA in the Golden League and Breslow with the New Jersey Jackals, now in the Can-Am League.

SPIVEY GETS A LOOK--Junior Spivey, who has considerable major league experience but has not played there since 2006, has gotten one look so far from the Boston Red Sox. The 33-year-old, who spent a good chunk of '07 at Bridgeport, CT in the Atlantic League (.333, 18 doubles) before signing with Boston, went 1-for-2 while playing leftfield against Minnesota Friday.

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