Anyone who follows my offerings in this space and in my more extensive subscription-only Independent Baseball Insider knows how much I believe in tracking players from the Independent leagues who make it all the way to the majors. It is even more enjoyable if the players started their career in an Indy league.
I have been wanting for some time to follow up about those who debuted in the big time in 2008 when a whopping 12 players made it for the first time (half of them had come all the way up from an Independent beginning) but were not in the majors for even a brief time (except for spring training) this past season.
Five players fall into this category: Mike Cervenak, Justin Christian, Scott Patterson and Charlie Zink were in the group who played their very first pro game in an Independent league while Jason Perry had re-cycled from affiliated to Independent and back to affiliated. In fact, he had only trained with an Indy team early in 2008 when Atlanta signed him before he played a regular-season game.
PERRY: The outfielder was in camp with Lancaster, PA of the Atlantic League when Atlanta purchased his contract early in '08. He was in the major leagues for a few days in mid-season, collecting a single, triple and one RBI in 17 at-bats covering four games. Perry found himself actually playing nine games for Lancaster this season, but Tampa Bay lured the 29-year-old away as minor league insurance. Most of his time was at Double-A Montgomery (5-15-.204).
CERVENAK: Mike, now 33, had another stellar Triple-A season, hitting .305-9-77 at Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia's top club. Cervenak got into 10 major league games in '08 (2-for-13), but also got the thrill of staying with the Phillies (although not active) during their magical postseason run. He played in the Frontier League (Chillicothe, OH) in 1999-2000.
CHRISTIAN: Speed and defense allowed the centerfielder to appear in 24 games with the parent Yankees (10-for-40, six RBI, seven steals) one year ago. But he was in Triple-A for Baltimore this season, stealing 26 bases in 88 games and hitting .270 for Norfolk. His pro journey started with two seasons ('03-04) with River City, the Frontier League team in O'Fallon, MO.
PATTERSON: Started with four plus seasons in Indy baseball (Gateway, Sauget, IL of the Frontier League and Lancaster), and once he moved from starting to relieving climbed rapidly through the Yankees' system. He was in one game with the Bombers and three more with San Diego one year ago (0-0, 1.93), but did not make it out of spring training this time around. His season was split between Portland, OR (San Diego) and Oakland's top club, Sacramento, but his razor-sharp control was not a good as in the past.
ZINK: His Independent time was spent at Yuma, AZ when that city was in the Western League. (It is in the Golden League now.) He now has logged eight years in the Boston system. A knuckleball pitcher, he got to make one start for the Red Sox in '08 (a bumpy outing, at that) and was back at Triple-A Pawtucket, RI this season, sliding to 6-15, 5.59, mostly as a starter. One other contribution to the Red Sox is that he has given some of their up-and-comers the opportunity to catch the knuckler and be more prepared for the veteran Tim Wakefield when they reach Fenway Park.
I will bet all five have some great memories of their time in the major leagues, short though it may have been to this point.