Tuesday, October 21, 2008


What is it about the catchers?

Two of the four backstops expected to be on World Series rosters have paid their dues in Independent Baseball. Okay, so Philadelphia's Chris Coste and Tampa Bay's Michel Hernandez both enter the fall classic as No. 2 with their respective teams, but they are that familiar "heartbeat away" from taking over fulltime, in the same manner as the politicians like to remind us about Joe Biden and Sarah Palin two weeks ahead of the Presidential election.

But there is much more to the story of catchers coming out of the Independent game and getting into major league baseball's postseason.

We have already had the chapter of Mike Rivera being the No. 2 receiver for Milwaukee's October effort.

Going back three short years, Chris Widger was the backup when the Chicago White Sox won the 2005 World Series. Widger, who had hit 16 home runs in 55 games for Camden, NJ of the Atlantic League the previous season, caught the last five innings of the 14-inning Game 3 marathon, going 0-for-1 but getting an RBI and two walks in the White Sox's 7-5 triumph.

Hernandez, who has been active but has yet to be called upon in the postseason, logged 25 games in the Atlantic League one year ago (Somerset, NJ), joined Tampa Bay in September after spending most of the season in Triple-A for Pittsburgh. An injury to Shawn Riggans put him in the right place at the right time.

"This is a good place to be (when major league teams have a need) if you can catch and throw," Atlantic League Executive Director Joe Klein reminded us Tuesday afternoon.

While Hernandez is backing up Dioner Navarro at Tampa Bay, Coste has been rumored as a possible right-handed designated hitter for games in the American League park as well as available to spell Carlos Ruiz, with whom he alternated for much of the regular season. A right-handed bat will be called on to DH in Game 1 with lefty Scott Kazmir starting for the Rays.

Wouldn't it be great to see Coste's name in the starting lineup because of his five seasons in Independent leagues (as readers will see when they scroll down to our most recent posting)?


While not likely to be activated, another player like Coste who got his start in the Indy ranks, infielder Mike Cervenak, continues to be in uniform daily with the Phillies. Cervenak got into his first 10 major league games this season (2-for-13, 1 RBI), and is on standby should another infielder go down with an injury.

The World Series games are going to be a family affair, as one might expect, for the Cervenaks. Mike Cervenak, Sr. told us Tuesday his son was invited to bring a guest to the first two games in Florida, and had taken his younger brother, Jonathan, who turned 20 today. Jonathan is a junior at Eastern Michigan University. Mr. and Mrs. Cervenak will attend Games 3-4-5 in Philadelphia.

In the small world department, Cervenak and Michel Hernandez were teammates with the New York Yankees' Double-A affiliate when it was in Norwich, CT in 2001 and 2002.

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