Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Two of the best stories of the spring centering around former Independent Baseball players came to a disappointing end. We will be discussing the situation more in this week's Independent Baseball Insider column, but both Kevin Millar, the Indy game's most successful player, and hit-machine Jon Weber found out they will not make opening day rosters with the Cubs and Yankees, respectively.
Millar may catch on elsewhere after his release from Chicago, of course, with Weber departing for minor league camp with the knowledge his .483 average was not good enough to crack the Yankees' roster. The 32-year-old without a single day in the major leagues was hitting .560 until an 0-for-4 in his final game.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Of the four players I have seen who have had the "one-day pass" in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, the most interesting may be Oakland farmhand Mike Benacka.
Benacka's stock has been climbing from the day the Athletics purchased his contract midway in 2008, which was his second season as a professional. The right-hander was about to turn 25 when River City (O'Fallon, MO) inked the onetime Lindenwood University product to a Frontier League contract. Lindenwood is in St. Charles, MO, a neighbor to O'Fallon.
The 6-foot-2 Benacka's rookie numbers were not outstanding (2-5, 5.01) although he did save 20 games for the Rascals, who already have produced relievers Josh Kinney and Joe Thatcher, both of whom have made it to the majors. Thatcher still is with San Diego.
Benacka was lights out at the start of 2008, with wins in all three decisions, 13 saves and an eye-popping 0.35 ERA (one run in 26 innings spread over 22 games). That is when Oakland stepped in right after the Frontier League All-Star Game. Benacka has not been closing games on a regular basis for the Athletics, but he has progressed from Class A Stockton, CA to Double-A Midland, TX and Triple-A Sacramento in a year and a half, limiting Pacific Coast League hitters to a .133 average while posting a 1.98 ERA in 10 appearances late last season. He struck out 18 hitters in his 13.2 innings, and allowed a mere six hits. He has fanned 238 hitters in only 173pro innings.
It is no wonder A's brass wanted to see Benacka in a Cactus League game. He faced Cincinnati for a scoreless inning of work, giving up one hit, a walk and striking out one hitter.
To say Benacka bears watching this season seems like an understatement.
WHO WILL MAKE IT TO OPENING DAY
The latest projection from this corner is that no less than 15 former Indy players will be wearing major league uniforms when the regular season starts Sunday and Monday, with at least half a dozen others still trying to nail down jobs.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Jon Weber's spring batting average is continuing to drop. That is what happens when someone starts out above the .700 level. Poor guy!
The non-roster outfielder with the World Champion New York Yankees "only" went 1-for-3 Saturday, and his average dropped from .588 to .550. This veteran of the Independent Baseball world, who still is looking for that elusive first regular-season at-bat, has gone an impressive 11-for-20 for the Tampa-based Yankees while playing largely in rightfield or DHing. The 11 hits have him one safety behind team leader Robinson Cano.
Weber, whose Independent experience came in the Northern League (Fargo, ND) and Frontier League (Canton, OH), has five runs, five RBI and three doubles.
It seems impossible the Yankees' decision-makers could be overlooking the veteran's bat and hustle, whether he makes the Opening Day roster or is merely kept in mind when there is a need later in the American League season.
A FAMILIAR NAME SHOWS UP
Gabe DeHoyos was a spring training invitee of the San Diego Padres one year ago. I must admit I lost track after last season until the 29-year-old showed up in a box score with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim a couple of days ago. The right-hander, who once played for the Schaumburg (IL) Flyers in the Northern League, was touched for two hits and two runs in his inning of work.
Meanwhile, the positive results continue to pile up for former Atlantic Leaguers Michael Ryan (Somerset, NJ) and Cory Aldridge (Newark, NJ) as they bid for an outfield job--most likely one spot is open, at most--with the Angels. Ryan carried a .381 average (8-for-21) into Sunday with Aldridge at .364 (8-for-22). They have terrific on-base percentages, with Ryan at .462 and Aldridge at .440.
HOW MUCH DOES A .750 AVERAGE HELP?
It seems like a very long shot for minor league catching veteran Cody Clark to break camp with the Kansas City Royals because of his limited Triple-A time and the presence of Jason Kendall and backup Brayan Pena on the 40-man roster, but the 28-year-old Arkansas lad should carry some great memories if his time with the big league club ends.
Clark, the No. 1 backstop with the San Diego Surf Dawgs (Golden League) in 2005, has three hits in four official at-bats spread over five spring training games. He has scored three runs and driven in two.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Eric Gagne says he is not about to give up, but for now the onetime National League Cy Young Award winner also is a former non-roster invitee to the Los Angeles Dodgers' major league spring training camp.
Gagne, who started his way back by pitching in rotation every five days in the Can-Am League (Quebec) last summer, was reassigned to the minor league camp Monday after three Cactus League outings in which he was roughed up for six runs and eight hits in 2.2 innings (20.25 earned run average).
"I'm on my way back (to the majors)," Gagne told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "I knew it wasn't gonna be easy. But I'm gonna go down there and work my butt off and be ready if they need help. (It is a) long season."
JOHN LINDSEY OUT, JAY GIBBONS IN
Former New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am League) first baseman John Lindsey went to Taiwan with the Dodgers--as he did to China two springs ago--so it was surprising to see his name in the first round of cuts from the major league camp Monday. It hardly seems fair that the non-roster player only got back to Arizona Sunday night, and the 33-year-old is out of camp only hours later. Lindsey's only appearance at the plate in the Cactus League this spring resulted in a walk. He had 26 official at-bat with LA two springs ago.
Longtime major leaguer Jay Gibbons, who has not been listed as an official non-roster player with the Dodgers, has already been in one game (0-for-1) and the former Atlantic League outfielder (Long Island, NY and Newark, NJ) was among those named to travel to meet the Angels Monday afternoon.
Other Independent players sent packing from major league camps so far include pitchers Vince Perkins (Camden, NJ) by the Cubs and Charlie Zink (Yuma, AZ, Western League) by the Cardinals.
Monday, March 08, 2010
The last thing anyone wants to have happen when a new season is starting is to come up with a significant injury, but that is precisely what has happened to one of last season's bright new faces making the jump all the way from Independent Baseball to the major leagues. A second player also has been shelved, at least temporarily.
Toronto's Scott Richmond, who was hoping to solidify his starting rotation job even more than the 8-11, 5.52 he posted in his first virtually full American League campaign in '09 (27 appearances, 24 starts), has gone out the window for the time being because of a shoulder impingement. Richmond, 30, has been placed on the 60-day disabled list which means the best he can hope for would be an early May return. The initial injury occurred during pre-spring training workouts.
Richmond is a true Independent find since his first three seasons after college baseball at Oklahoma State were with Edmonton when that team was the Cracker Cats of the Northern League. Edmonton has since moved to the Golden League and become the Capitals.
SWINDLE ALSO SHELVED
R. J. Swindle, the 26-year-old southpaw who has had considerable Independent experience (Schaumburg, IL, Northern League, and Newark, NJ, Atlantic League), has had his efforts to win a bullpen job with Tampa Bay at least slowed by an oblique injury suffered in his first Grapefruit League outing against the Yankees Friday.
The Rays have been cautious with their daily medical news on Swindle, but it doesn't sound great after Manager Joe Maddon told Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times on Sunday "he's not going to play for a while".
Swindle, a Boston draftee in 2004, is with his third major league team in as many years. He got into three major league games with Philadelphia in 2008 and six more with Milwaukee last season.