Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This is a continuation of our series of Monday-Wednesday-Friday blog posts about Independent Baseball graduates in major league spring training camps. Websites may reprint the material with credit to

It Is Official: George Sherrill Makes Long Climb

From Independent Baseball to Orioles Closer

While it had been projected virtually from the moment Seattle sent four-year major league veteran George Sherrill to Baltimore in the huge February trade featuring Erik Bedard, Baltimore Manager Dave Trembley has finally made it clear this veteran of nearly five years in Independent Baseball will be the Orioles' closer when the American League season opens.

"I think any short reliever wants to be the closer," the soon-to-be 31-year-old told reporters Tuesday. "I think we're going to have a really special be named the one (closer) , it's pretty special."

The irony is the left-handed Sherrill was a relief pitcher for all but 19 of his 135 appearances in his Independent days, which started with Evansville, IN in the Frontier League (1999-2000) and continued in the Northern League at Sioux Falls, SD and Winnipeg, Canada until the Mariners signed him July 2, 2003 but he seldom was in save situations. Sherrill had two saves at Evansville and three for Winnipeg when he was compiling a 13-18 composite record and striking out 230 hitters in 231 innings.

His biggest closing role was at Triple-A Tacoma, WA (13 saves) in 2004, the same season he first put on a major league uniform, and only one season removed from Winnipeg. The young man from Memphis has four major league saves and a 10-8 won-loss record.

THIS WEEK'S 'INSIDER'--Name any Independent league and chances are very good at least one of its players will get attention in Thursday's Independent Baseball Insider column. Subscriptions to the respected weekly column are available at

37 STILL IN PICTURE WITH 12 DAYS TO GO--Most major league teams open the regular season March 31, but with only 12 days before that big moment, we still show 37 former Independent players competing for jobs. Nineteen of them are on 40-man rosters and 18 in non-roster slots, not counting the veteran Brendan Donnelly, who is injured. Many of the non-roster hopefuls are fairly long shots, but they are getting a decent look this spring. The non-roster players, including major league affiliation, their previous Independent cities and those communities' current or previous league affiliation:

PITCHERS (9)—D.J. Carrasco, Chicago-AL, Johnstown, PA, Frontier League; Kane Davis, Toronto, Somerset and Camden, NJ, Atlantic League; #Brendan Donnelly, Cleveland, Ohio Valley, Frontier, Nashua, NH, Can-Am; Nate Field, New York-NL, Sioux City, IA, American Association; Roberto Giron, Kansas City, Kalamazoo, MI, Frontier, Duluth, MN, Northern League, Rio Grande, TX, United League, Springfield/Ozarks, MO, Texas-Louisiana League; Jeff Harris, Cleveland, Quebec, Can-Am, Chico, CA, Golden League; Gary Knotts, Philadelphia, Newark, NJ, Atlantic; *Matt Wilhite, Los Angeles-AL, Kenosha, WI, Frontier; Brad Ziegler, Oakland, Schaumburg, IL, Northern.
CATCHER (3)—Robinson Cancel, New York-NL, Pennsylvania and Somerset, Atlantic, Edinburg, TX, United; Ben Davis, Baltimore, Camden, Atlantic; Michel Hernandez, Pittsburgh, Somerset, Atlantic.
INFIELDERS (3)—Edgardo Alfonzo, Texas, Long Island and Bridgeport, Atlantic; *Tagg Bozied, Florida, Sioux Falls, SD, American Association; Aaron Herr, Cleveland, Lancaster (DNP), PA, Atlantic.
OUTFIELDERS (4)—*Justin Christian, New York-AL, River City (O’Fallon, MO), Frontier; Juan Gonzalez, St. Louis, Long Island, Atlantic; Chad Hermansen, Los Angeles-AL, Sioux Falls, American Association; Jon Weber, Oakland, Fargo, ND, Northern, Canton, OH, Frontier.

*Started career in Independent Baseball; #Injured, reporting at end of March; DNP—Signed with team, but did not actually play during the season.

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MIKE RIVERA'S BAT IS ALIVE--Milwaukee officially has Mike Rivera listed as a catcher, but playing first base adds to his versatility as he attempts to become a fulltime member of the Brewers. His bat also is playing quite a role. The 31-year-old Rivera, whose Independent time was spent at Atlantic City, NJ before the Surf moved from the Atlantic League to the Can-Am, was at first base two days ago when he collected three singles in five at-bats and drove in a run as a split-squad of Brewers ripped Seattle, 17-3. Tuesday, Rivera was the DH for nine innings, with a single, double and two RBI in an 11-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. His average is up to .308 (8-for-26) with five runs batted in in 13 games.

THIS 'N THAT--The most recent cut of a non-roster player was southpaw pitcher Craig Anderson, an Australian, who played for the Brockton (MA) Rox in the Can-Am League...Jason Deans in the American Association (and Can-Am) office relayed word that outfielder Coby Smith, who had played for the Shreveport (LA) Sports, had gotten into a major league game with the Angels. Sure, enough, one at-bat. Smith also played for St. Paul, MN and for the Aces, a former traveling team in the Northeast League...Juan Gonzalez's comeback hopes with St. Louis have hit at least a temporary snag in that he continues to be bothered by an abdominal strain. While an MRI did come back normal, his .308 spring batting average is on hold for now. The two-time MVP played for the Long Island (NY) Ducks (Atlantic League) in 2006.

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