Friday, March 21, 2008

Updates on former Independent Baseball players in major league camps will continue in this space every Monday-Wednesday-Friday through the end of spring training. Websites may reproduce the reports as long as they credit .

Ax Takes Its Toll,

Though Kinney Improving and Weber Hot

The ax has fallen hard the last few days, sending seven more Independent Baseball players back to minor league camps. Cleveland dropped Jeff Harris and Aaron Herr, Baltimore cut Ben Davis, Matt Wilhite is no longer with the Los Angeles Angels’ major league team, Tagg Bozied is out of the Florida camp and the New York Mets eliminated Nate Field from opening day consideration. Lefty Craig Breslow, who is on Boston’s 40-man roster, was not among the 28 players who went to Japan, which appears to mean another opener at Triple-A Pawtucket, RI for the reliever. This is where these players were as Independent players:

Bozied—Sioux Falls, SD, Northern League
Breslow—New Jersey, Northeast League
Davis—Camden, NJ, Atlantic League (2007)
Field—Sioux City, IA, Northern
Harris—Quebec, Can-Am League; Chico, CA, Western League
Herr—Lancaster, PA, Atlantic (signed, but did not play)
Wilhite—Kenosha, WI, Frontier League

Our unofficial count of Indy players still hopeful of opening the season in the majors in 10 days (not including the games in Japan) includes 19 roster players and 12 non-roster invitees although at least two of them will not be ready because of injuries.

JOSH KINNEY EDGING CLOSER—Righthander Josh Kinney, who became one of the stars of the 2006 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen before sitting out last season with elbow surgery, threw a bullpen session this week. The Cardinals’ medical report says he is “code green”, which means he is progressing on schedule, but it would be a surprise if the onetime River City (O’Fallon, MO) hurler in the Frontier League is back in the majors before May or June. He does have options remaining, which makes it easier to have him get work over an extended period in the minor leagues.

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COSTE SAYS 'THANKS' TO MIKE CERVENAK--The upbeat attitude of Philadelphia non-roster invitee Mike Cervenak surely will pay off at some point. While admittedly disappointed he was not kept longer in the major league camp this spring, the 31-year-old infielder-outfielder still showed his sunny side this week. "They had a lot of good things to say when they sent me down," he said. "I will hang in there as long as I can. I feel fortunate that I have a job to play baseball." Then last year's International League hits leader (157) shared a story about another Independent Baseball native, who had to wait until he was 33 to break into the majors midway in 2006. "(Backup Phillies catcher) Chris (Coste) came over to me and said 'I want to thank you' ", Cervenak offered. It seems Coste was all set to play in Korea in '06. "He had agreed to terms, and was waiting on the papers (to arrive)," Cervenak explained. Then the Korean job was offered to Cervenak, who played for the Frontier League's Chillicothe (OH) Paint in 1999 and 2000. Cervenak accepted and Coste was bumped, going to Triple-A instead, which made the former Fargo (ND) RedHawks standout available when the Phils needed him. So with Cervenak being the one who went to Korea, Coste got to make his long-awaited major league debut that same season. One can only hope Cervenak will get to the majors soon.

WEBER MAKES ANOTHER STATEMENT WITH RAYS—Jon Weber is continuing to deliver for Tampa Bay as he bids for his first-ever regular season major league duty. Weber has been playing virtually every day of late, and has been used at all three outfield positions. He had a big day Thursday, hitting his second spring home run (off Cleveland’s Paul Byrd) as well as collecting two singles in his five times at bat. He scored twice. Weber, who started his pro career with Canton, OH of the Frontier League in 2001 then was in the Northern League (Fargo, ND) the next two years, is now hitting .222 for Tampa Bay, where the outfield has been thinned by injuries.

DOES ANYONE NEED A TRYOUT--Visit today to learn about some of the tryout opportunities that lie ahead and to see what other bargains from Independent Baseball are available.

JAYS GIVE KANE DAVIS A START--Atlantic League veteran Kane Davis (Camden, NJ, 2003, Somerset, NJ, 2006) made 11 relief appearances for Philadelphia late last season, and his first four outings as a non-roster invitee with Toronto this spring were out of the bullpen. But on Wednesday, the right-handed Davis, 32, started against the New York Yankees. He was charged with four runs in three innings, but with only one earned run against him previously, Davis's ERA only went to 4.82. He has given up 10 hits and struck out nine in his 9.1 innings of spring work as he attempts to stick with the highly-regarded Blue Jays.

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