Monday, March 31, 2008

Last of a series. Today's posting finishes our extended blogging on former Independent Baseball players in major league spring training camps. We will continue blogging, of course, on this general subject as well as writing our more extensive Independent Baseball Insider column, which is delivered to subscribers every Thursday. Bob Wirz

Patterson Sent Down With Girardi's Praise;

Haynes Catches a Break, Weber Does Not

The final weekend of roster shuffling to meet the 25-man Opening Day major league limit predictably affected several onetime Independent Baseball players.

The net result for the busy schedule of Monday openers is that 11 players who have worn Independent uniforms are active in the major leagues, not including St. Louis reliever Josh Kinney, who is on the 15-day disabled list.

The biggest winner in the final days seems to be one of the smallest of players as 5-foot-9 outfielder Nathan Haynes went from the Los Angeles Angels to Tampa Bay in a waiver deal. While Haynes had been in jeopardy all spring because of the Angels' outfield depth, the 28-year-old becomes one of six outfielders for the Rays.

Haynes's addition to the Tampa Bay picture helped spell the end of another Northern League grad's hopes of playing in the majors for the first time. Jon Weber, who was a possibility right up to the end, was reassigned to the Rays' minor league camp. Weber, two years older (30) and an inch taller (5-foot-10) than Haynes, started his time in Independent Baseball at Canton, OH of the Frontier League in 2001, then moved on to Fargo, ND of the Northern League the next two seasons. Haynes got to the majors for the first time last May when his Pacific Coast League-leading .391 average prompted the Angels to bring him up. He hit .267 in 45 at bats spread over his 40 games, then appeared in one postseason game.

Haynes, who hits and throws left-handed, is a feel-good story in that he endured surgery eight times before starting over at Gary, IN of the Northern League in 2006. "Everyone roots for him almost as much as if they got the call (to the major leagues)," Gary Manager Greg Tagert said at the time.

PATTERSON TO "WAIT FOR THE CALL"--On Friday, we said the Yankees would have a difficult time keeping longtime Independent Baseball hurler Scott Patterson off their Opening Day roster because of his brilliant spring in which he allowed only one hit and no walks in 7.2 scoreless innings. Well, he did not make it, with Manager Joe Girardi citing his relative inexperience, in that the 6-foot-6 right-hander had pitched only one time above Class AA.

Girardi told The New York Times his message to Patterson when he delivered the news he was going to open the season in the minor leagues included him stressing that the hardest part is staying focused on the job facing him. "He (Patterson) said, 'All I'm going to do is get people out down there and wait for The Call (to the majors)' ", Girardi told Times reporter Tyler Kepner. "I'm very proud of his attitude and the way he pitched. I told him I believe we'll see him (on the Yankees)."

Patterson is one of the most experienced of Independent grads, having spent more than four years with the Gateway Grizzlies (Sauget, IL) of the Frontier League and Lancaster, PA of the Atlantic League.

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OTHERS FEEL STING OF LAST MINUTE CUTS--Scott Patterson's New York Yankees bullpen mate Edwar Ramirez (Pensacola, FL and Edinburg, TX) also came up short in his effort to retain a major league job despite 13 strikeouts in 8.1 innings and a 4.32 spring training ERA. Baltimore outrighted outfielder Tike Redman, who hit .318 in 40 games late last season, after earlier spending a brief time with York, PA of the Atlantic League. And catcher Eliezer Alfonzo, fresh off an MVP season in the Venezuelan League but in a slump throughout spring training, was optioned by the San Francisco Giants. The onetime St. Paul (MN) Saints catcher will start the year at Triple-A Fresno, CA.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Our series of reports on how Independent Baseball players have been doing in major league spring training camps will wrap up on Monday (March 31). This is the Friday post. Websites may reproduce this story by giving credit to

Patterson Keeping Pressure on Yankees;

Rivera's Bat Hot, Redman Continues in Roster Battle

The only things that can possibly keep Scott Patterson from winning one of the remaining slots in the New York Yankees' bullpen is if someone else is out of options or if reputation comes into play.

Pretty strong statement, right? What else could keep this veteran of more than four season in Independent Baseball from being on the 25-man roster after the 28-year-old right-hander extended his string of scoreless pitching in spring training to 7.2 innings Friday. That tells only a piece of the story in that Patterson has given up only one hit in his eight appearances and has not walked anyone. He has seven strikeouts, the last one in the 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh when Patterson picked up the final out of the fifth inning and worked the entire sixth.

It seems worth repeating the quote we used from Manager Joe Girardi in yesterday's Independent Baseball Insider column: "He's been as good as anybody in camp," the new skipper told Newsday.

Patterson, who started his career pitching for the Gateway Grizzlies at Sauget, IL in the Frontier League and eventually moved on to the Atlantic League's Lancaster (PA) Barnstormers, had only one day in a major league camp coming into this spring. He has not yet debuted in the majors in the regular season.

Edwar Ramirez, the other Indy grad trying to nail down one of the last three spots in New York's bullpen, got into 21 games in the majors in 2007. Ramirez, who did his Independent pitching with Pensacola, FL (now in the American Association) and the United League's Edinburg (TX) Coyotes, has worked 7.1 innings in eight games with an impressive 12 strikeouts and a 4.91 earned run average.

BREWERS' RIVERA AT .317--Maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves, but the way Mike Rivera seems to be swinging the bat perhaps this will be the season when the 31-year-old Puerto Rican gets a full season in the majors. He had two doubles and a single in five at bats, scoring once and driving in two runs in the Brewers' 10-10 tie with the Chicago Cubs Thursday. The catcher-first baseman, who spent part of 2005 with Atlantic City, NJ, when the Surf still were in the Atlantic League (they now are in the Can-Am League), is hitting .317 in a busy spring in which he has been in 20 games (13-for-41) with four doubles and seven RBI. Rivera has 119 major league games to his credit, but only 11 of them came last season.

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REDMAN STILL BATTLING FOR SPOT WITH O'S--Outfielder Tike Redman's effort to retain a job in Baltimore is going right down to the wire, although his chances may have taken a hit Friday with Major League Baseball's announcement that it was staying the drug-related suspension of outfielder Jay Gibbons for 10 days. It had appeared either the 31-year-0ld Redman or 24-year-old infielder Scott Moore would win the last bench job. " comes down to those two guys, I would think," Manager Dave Trembley told this week. Both hit left-handed. Redman, who played briefly at York, PA in the Atlantic League last season, has done about all the Orioles could ask. He hit .318 in 40 games for them the last two months of 2007, and has hit .268 (11-for-41) this spring, including two doubles, a homer and four runs batted in.

THIS 'N THAT--It may be a good thing Cleveland had already decided newly-acquired Craig Breslow would be part of its season-opening bullpen. The lefty, who got his second affiliated opportunity after part of a season with the New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls) in 2004, was touched up for three runs (two hits, two walks) in two innings Thursday. It was his second outing since being picked up on waivers from Boston...veteran major leaguer Tim Byrdak, lost his job in Detroit's bullpen and was released one day after a bad outing this week. Byrdak, who played for both Gary, IN and Joliet, IL in the Northern League, was hit hard this spring, finishing with a 13.50 ERA for 10 innings in which he surrendered 21 hits and nine walks...Another release is that of former major league all-star infielder Edgardo Alfonzo. He was trying to make it back to the majors with Texas after spending last summer in the Atlantic League. He hit .266 with 23 doubles, five homers and 56 RBI in 384 at-bats for the Long Island (NY) Ducks...two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez, continuing to be plagued by injury woes, has been placed on the temporarily inactive list by St. Louis. He showed some renewed ability with the Cardinals, if only he could get healthy. Gonzalez last played with Long Island in 2006.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

These reports on how former Independent Baseball players are doing in major league spring training camps continue every Monday-Wednesday-Friday right up to Opening Day. Websites may reproduce the posts by giving credit to

While Myrow's .586 On-Base Mark Not Enough for Padres,

Breslow Looking Good With Indians

My, how fortunes change.

Brian Myrow and Gary Knotts have been sent back to the minor leagues, Craig Breslow is looking solid with Cleveland and Nathan Haynes and Tike Redman are making the decisions difficult. For Robinson Cancel, a very untimely injury.

These are some of the "headlines" regarding former Independent Baseball players as Opening Day (except for the two games already played in Japan) looms within the next six days.

MYROW'S BAT EXPLOITS NOT ENOUGH--With a bench overloaded with left-handed hitters, Brian Myrow was optioned to Triple-A Portland, OR Tuesday despite a .400 spring batting average and an imposing .586 on-base percentage. He is the defending Pacific Coast League batting champion (.354), but at 31 this isn't the news the onetime Winnipeg Goldeyes (Northern League) star wanted to hear.

KNOTTS'S SPRING EXPERIENCE ENDS--Philadelphia sent right-hander Gary Knotts to its minor league camp one day after his most recent solid outing. Knotts, who had the Atlantic League's top earned run average last summer (2.45) while pitching for eventual champion Newark, NJ, had struck out two Yankees in an inning of work (one walk) Monday.

BRESLOW'S STAR IS RISING--The southpaw, who resurrected his career with the New Jersey Jackals (now in the Can-Am League) in 2004 after the Milwaukee farm system gave up on the Yale graduate, debuted with Cleveland Tuesday with a save in the Indians' 7-5 win over the New York Yankees. He picked up two strikeouts in a hitless ninth after another former Indy hurler, closer Joe Borowski (Newark, Atlantic League), had shut down the Yankees in the eighth. The best news for the 27-year-old Breslow came Wednesday morning when he learned a chief competitor for a spot in the Cleveland bullpen, Tom Mastny, was optioned. Cleveland's roster is at 27, two over the limit, but if the Indians keep 12 pitchers one of the spots belongs to Breslow. Scott Patterson (Gateway, Frontier League, and Lancaster, PA, Atlantic) continued his quest for a spot in the Yankees' bullpen by striking out the only batter he faced in Tuesday's game. Joe Girardi has used the big right-hander to get the final out of an inning on multiple occasions this spring.

REDMAN, HAYNES HANGING TOUGH--Tike Redman and Nathan Haynes are making it tough on decision-makers as they try to keep the jobs they had last summer in crowded outfields with Baltimore and the Los Angeles Angels, respectively. Haynes, who played his Independent baseball at Gary, IN of the Northern League, singled and tripled in four at-bats, scored twice and drove in two runs in Tuesday's 9-8 win over Arizona. Redman, who made a brief appearance at York, PA in the Atlantic League last summer before signing with the Orioles, had a single in his only time at bat in Baltimore's 8-1 spanking of Florida. Indy star Kevin Millar (St. Paul, MN, now in the American Association) is going to start the season as Baltimore's cleanup hitter. Tuesday, he hit one notch higher and had a run-scoring double and a sacrifice fly in his two plate appearances.

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KNEE INJURY SIDELINES CANCEL--Catcher (and part-time first baseman) Robinson Cancel may not have made the New York Mets' opening day roster even though our sources say "he was really ripping the ball", but he suffered a torn meniscus of his left knee. Surgery was planned for this week, and he is not expected back on the diamond before sometime in May. This onetime Atlantic and United League player had two doubles and a homer among his seven spring hits (7-for-28). He scored seven times and drove in five runs. Cancel, 31, whose only major league experience was a 15-game run with Milwaukee in 1999, last appeared in Independent Baseball with Edinburg, TX in the United League in 2006 after earlier stints at Somerset, NJ and with the traveling Road Warriors in the Atlantic League.

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GONZALEZ STILL AILING--Juan Gonzalez's comeback with St. Louis, two summers after he played for the Long Island (NY) Ducks in the Atlantic League, remains stalled because his abdominal strain has not come around. As a non-roster player entering spring training, his future status has not been determined.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

One week remains until opening day so this starts the final week of our Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogging which concentrates on former Independent Baseball players in major legue spring training camps. Websites are welcome to reprint this material as long as they give credit to

Breslow Moves from Boston to Cleveland;

Eliezer Alfonzo in Better Shape, Even in Slump

Craig Breslow has caught a break. It is up to him to take advantage of it.

The 27-year-old former Yale pre-med school lefthander, who was left home when Boston departed for Japan, was claimed on waivers by Cleveland Sunday and already was in their Winter Haven, FL camp Monday morning.

Breslow, who resurrected his career with the New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls, NJ) after being released by Milwaukee in 2004, is one of only two southpaw relievers in camp with the Tribe, joining the respected Rafael Perez. Cliff Lee has earned a starting job. General Manager Mark Shapiro, according to, confirmed Breslow will get the first opportunity to replace veteran Aaron Fultz, who has been told he will not be part of the team after a poor spring.

Cleveland also sent lefthanders Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey to the minor league camp Monday, further opening the door for Breslow, the Trumbull, CT resident. Breslow spent all of '07 at Triple-A Pawtucket, RI (2-3, one save, 4.06 in 49 appearances) although he has 27 games of major league experience with San Diego (2005) and the Red Sox (2006). He was bothered by wildness with Boston this spring, walking seven (six strikeouts) in 5.1 innings. He had an 0-1 record and a 6.75 ERA. He allowed only four hits in the five appearances.

ELIEZER ALFONZO'S CHIEF COMPETITION REMOVED--When spring training opened, it was widely believed onetime St. Paul (MN) Saints catcher Eliezer Alfonzo and Guillermo Rodriguez would battle it out to see who would back up the starter, Bengie Molina, with San Francisco. Alfonzo also was coming off a winter league season in which he earned Most Valuable Player honors in the Venezuelan League, where he hit 15 home runs and drove in 47 in 53 games and added an exceptional six round-trippers (14 RBI) in the playoffs. It has been a spring of struggle at the plate for the 29-year-old Alfonzo, but Rodriguez was optioned over the weekend. "We need to have someone step up and take this job," Manager Bruce Bochy told "Neither one of them (Alfonzo or Rodriguez) is on track offensively or catching all that great right now." Alfonzo was hitting a meager .093 (.111 on-base percentage) entering play Monday with one homer and four runs batted in although one of them came in a two-out ninth inning, game-winning pinch hit against the White Sox Friday. The only other catcher still in the Giants' camp is Steve Holm, an all-star in the Class AA Eastern League last season.

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MAJOR LEAGUE CAMP 'A WONDERFUL FEELING'--Justin Christian, who started his pro career in the Frontier League and was converted from the infield to the outfield only two years ago, was one of several former Independent players sent back to the minor leagues during the weekend. "It's a wonderful feeling to have someone to believe in you a bit," Christian told me during a visit in the New York Yankees' Tampa clubhouse one week ago. This onetime River City Rascals (O'Fallon, MO) star (2003-2004) seems likely to get other looks from the Yankees. He turns 28 April 3, but Christian has a .296 career average and a speed game that has seen him steal 217 bases in five seasons, including 68 in the Eastern League in 2006. Listed a 6-foot-1, 188 pounds, the right-handed hitting Christian hit .231 (3-for-13) in his 12 spring appearances while scoring four runs and being successful on all three of his stolen base attempts.

HOCHEVAR WILL WORK IN OMAHA--The Kansas City Royals decided they would rather have first-round draftee Luke Hochevar pitching regularly for their Triple-A farm club in Omaha at the start of the season instead of possibly not getting enough work with the parent club. After all, the 24-year-old, who first pitched professionally for the Fort Worth (TX) Cats of the American Association in 2006, only has 14 appearances above Double-A and could be one of the pieces needed by the Royals in the future. The 6-foot-5 Hochevar was anything but a spring bust, holding opponents to a .226 batting average and posting a 2.25 ERA in three outings.

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THIS 'N THAT--Pittsburgh catcher Michel Hernandez, Toronto hurler Kane Davis and comeback-minded Edgardo Alfonzo of Texas were sent to minor league camps over the weekend. All three came out of the Atlantic League. Hernandez played at Somerset, NJ last season, Davis was at Somerset in 2006 and Camden, NJ in 2003 while Alfonzo played for Bridgeport, CT in 2006 and Long Island, NY last season...six other non-roster players remain in major league camps, and a seventh, veteran major leaguer Brendan Donnelly, coming off a major injury, reported to Cleveland to start rehabbing on Monday...Edwar Ramirez struck out three Pirates in order to get out of the seventh inning Sunday, but that was after he had given up a walk and two singles good for a Pittsburgh run. Ramirez has 12 K's in only 7.1 innings...Jon Weber went 1-for-2 Sunday in his continued effort to land an outfield job with Tampa Bay.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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Sunday, March 16, 2008

With two weeks remaining in major league spring training, we continue our Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogging to inform fans how former Independent players are doing. We welcome websites reproducing all or part of the blog entries as long as credit is given to

John Lindsey Got First Hit of Historic Trip With Dodgers
But Was Reassigned to Minors Before Leaving China

How odd is this? Other words can be substituted for odd, if you like. Words of a more harsh nature.

The Dodgers and Padres finished their two-game exhibition series in Beijing, China before 4:00 a.m. EDT Sunday. Yet, while checking daily major league transactions late that afternoon, this corner discovered that onetime Can-Am League first baseman John Lindsey and some of the other players on the long junket to promote baseball worldwide had been reassigned to the Dodgers' minor league camp.

With further checking, we found out the players were notified by Manager Joe Torre at his Wukesong Stadium office. Why not wait until they were back in Florida, where Los Angeles has two more games before heading West?

Lindsey, who had played for the New Jersey Jackals in 2005 and 2006, does have this to savor. He collected the very first hit--a single to left--of the historic trip to Wukesong Stadium, where the Olympic baseball competition will take place this summer. This 31-year-old, who homered 30 times and drove in 121 runs in the Dodgers' minor league system last summer while still trying to reach the majors for the first time, went 2-for-3 and walked in another plate appearance while batting fifth in the China opener, then took an 0-for-4 in the second game to finish his major league spring training with a .308 batting average.

Brian Myrow, the former Winnipeg (Northern League) slugger who made the trip with San Diego, went 0-for-3 in China along with two walks, and still is hitting .438.

PATTERSON'S STINGY PITCHING CONTINUES--Six-foot-six righthander Scott Patterson is 6-for-6 in another manner, too, after his latest spring outing for the Yankees Sunday. Six appearances covering exactly 6.0 innings while allowing only one hit and no walks and striking out five. He heaped praise on two former major league pitchers who had helped him on his lengthy journey through the Frontier and Atlantic Leagues when we chatted before the game.

Entering with one out and one on in the fifth before a record crowd at Tampa, he induced the first batter he faced, Cleveland cleanup hitter Victor Martinez, to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play. It took only six pitches for Patterson to dispose of the Tribe in the sixth, ending it with a sweeping curve to leave Franklin Gutierrez watching.

Patterson had strong praise for his Lancaster, PA pitching coach, Rick Wise, and his first year pitching coach-second year manager, Danny Cox, with the Gateway Grizzlies (Sauget, IL). "A lot of good knowledge I got out of him (Cox)," Patterson said. "Never give in to hitters; always challenge them".

"I'm real comfortable here," said Patterson of his first major league spring training (except for one day last year). But he and fellow bullpen hopeful Edwar Ramirez, who we will be reporting on in this week's subscriber-only Independent Baseball Insider column, can only continue doing their job as they await the final cuts which will determine the Yankees' opening day roster.

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CARRASCO'S ERA DOWN TO 1.29--Chicago White Sox hopeful D. J. Carrasco, who signed to play in the Frontier League (Johnstown, PA) but never actually got into a game there, picked up his second Cactus League save of the spring with two shutout innings against the crosstown rival Cubs Saturday. Carrasco lowered his earned run average to 1.29 during the outing in which he allowed three hits but was not scored on.

WEBER HAS A CHANCE TO OPEN WITH RAYS--Jon Weber, who retured to Fargo, ND for a 16-game tuneup last summer (.283-1-10; 5 doubles), is in the running to start the season with Tampa Bay. Although the Rays may acquire someone to take the place of the health-troubled Rocco Baldelli before the March 31 opener at Baltimore, Weber and John Rodriguez are getting solid auditions for the fifth outfield job.

"You have to come out here and try to impress everybody, because in this game you never know what could happen," Weber, a 30-year-old without a single major league at-bat, told The Tampa Tribune's Marc Lancaster. "You always want to impress everybody--not only our coaching staff and front office, but there's 30 other teams (29, actually) that are in the stands as well." Unfortunately, an 0-for-1 Sunday dipped the southpaw's average to .185. Weber had 142 games while playing for Doug Simunic at Fargo in 2002-03 after spending 2001 with Canton, OH in the Frontier League.

THIS 'N THAT--Brendan Donnelly, signed by Cleveland last month and invited to spring training, will not actually report until the end of March to begin his rehab from Tommy John surgery of last August. The veteran major leaguer had two stints with Indy teams, Ohio Valley in the second year of the Frontier League (1994) and Nashua, NH, which at the time was in the Atlantic League, five years later...Edwar Ramirez's latest bullpen appearance for the Yankees was a dandy. This graduate of Pensacola, FL (now in the American Association) and Edinburg, TX of the United League, struck out four of the five Cincinnati hitters he faced Friday. He used a different approach from his normal pattern, which we will write about in Thursday's Independent Baseball Insider column...Two of Baltimore's Independent players, continue to hit well this spring. First baseman Kevin Millar (St. Paul, MN) is at .323, including his first homer Saturday, and outfielder Tike Redman is at .320. We saw Redman hit two ropes against Boston Friday in his continuing bid to stay with the O's, for whom he hit .318 in 40 games after a short stint with York, PA in the Atlantic League earlier in '07...Craig Breslow took a loss for Boston Saturday, but perhaps more troubling for this onetime New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am League) southpaw is his 6.75 ERA...Robinson Cancel, who has played in both the Atlantic (Somerset, NJ and traveling Road Warriors) and United Leagues (Edinburg) has had a solid spring while catching and playing first base for the New York Mets. He is at .292 with sevens runs, five RBI and a homer in 10 apperances.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Welcome to our Monday-Wednesday-Friday postings concentrating on the happenings with some of the Independent Baseball players in major league spring training camps. Websites are invited to reproduce any portion of this offering as long as credit is given to www.

Tampa Bay's Jon Weber and Yankees' Justin Christian

Swinging With Effectiveness

Jon Weber has accumulated 104 minor league home runs the last nine seasons--43 of them while playing Independent Baseball--but chances are very few of them felt as good as the round-tripper he hit against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL Thursday. Sure, it was against the World Champions, but the mere fact it was while wearing a major league uniform probably was the sweetest part.

The left-handed hitter, who turned 30 in January, still is trying to achieve every player's dream of getting into a regular season major league game. Weber is a non-roster invitee for the Rays after splitting 2007 between Fargo, ND in the Northern League, Bakersfield, CA (Texas Rangers) and Durham, NC, Tampa Bay's top farm club. He had two and a half Independent seasons earlier, playing in the Frontier League (Canton, OH) in 2001 and Fargo the next year and a half.

Weber spoiled an otherwise encouraging start for Bartolo Colon with his second inning homer, the Lakewood, CA native's first of spring training. It was the only run Colon gave up in two innings to start the game. Weber has been active in that this was his 11th game for the hot Rays, going 4-for-19 (.211) with six runs and three RBI. Weber has fanned only one time.

CHRISTIAN AND BILLY CRYSTAL IN SAME LINEUP--No matter what happens the rest of his career, New York Yankees rookie outfielder Justin Christian, who started his pro career in 2003-04 with River City (O'Fallon, MO) in the Frontier League, can always tell friends he and comedien Billy Crystal played in the same major league game. Crystal's much-publicized appearance to celebrate his 60th birthday came in the first inning at Tampa, FL Thursday. Christian entered the game later as a pinch-runner for Hideki Matsui, and before the day was over (5-3 Pittsburgh win) the 27-year-old Christian had singled, doubled, scored a run and stolen a base. Since he has only 40 games as high as Triple-A, Christian has to be a long shot to crack the Yankees' roster now, but he is hitting .333 (3-for-9) in seven spring training appearances. Pirates catching hopeful Michel Hernandez, who played in the Atlantic League (Somerset, NJ) last season, was 0-for-1 in the late innings.

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ABDOMINAL STRAIN SLOWS JUAN GONZALEZ--Two-time MVP Juan Gonzalez, a Long Island Duck (Atlantic League) in 2006, is losing some time in his comeback bid with the St. Louis Cardinals because of what is being described as a minor abdominal strain. Often injured in recent years, Cardinals trainer Barry Weinberg told USA Today "it's a short term thing." Gonzalez started the spring as a DH, but he also has been in the outfield of late. The 38-year-old Gonzalez is believed to be one of three players in a battle for the final outfield job. He has helped himself with a .308 average with a homer and five runs batted in in 26 at-bats.

HOCHEVAR STARTS, AGAIN--Luke Hochevar, who the Kansas City Royals have been considering as either a starter or reliever, was allowed to stretch it out a bit with a four-inning start against the Los Angeles Angels Wednesday. The former Fort Worth (TX) Cats star served the American Association well by limiting the Angels to two runs, although he was touched for six hits.

EDGARDO JUMPS TO .350--Comeback-minded Edgardo Alfonzo, one of the players featured in yesterday's Independent Baseball Insider column, helped himself some more with the Texas Rangers Thursday when a single in his only time at bat improved his spring average to .350 (7-for-20). After getting untracked while playing the infield in the Atlantic League (Long Island) last summer, Alfonzo, only 34, has six runs batted in in his 11 spring appearances.

THIS 'N THAT--Squad cuts in the last couple of days have sent catcher Ryan Smith and pitcher Adam Pettyjohn back to minor league camps. Smith, who has extensive Independent experience with seven teams in five different leagues, was in camp with the Chicago White Sox. Pettyjohn, now in the Cincinnati organization, worked his way back from serious illness with Long Beach, CA in the Golden League in 2005-06...Our records still show 20 non-roster Indy grads in major league camps along with another 20 who are on 40-man rosters...Big Scott Patterson (Gateway, Frontier League; Lancaster, PA, Atlantic League) still has not been scored on in five appearances with the Yankees. In fact, he has only allowed one hit in 4.1 innings while continuing his outstanding control (no walks) and strikeing out four...Joe Thatcher has a 4.15 ERA after four appearances with San Diego. He started his pro career with River City in the Frontier League.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

We continue our Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogging to keep everyone abreast of key developments for Independent Baseball players in major league spring training camps. Websites may reproduce any portion of these reports by giving credit to

Myrow, Lindsey Carry Hot Bats and Hopes

On Historic Trip to China

Onetime Independent Baseball stars Brian Myrow of the San Diego Padres and John Lindsey of the Los Angeles Dodgers had to be feeling at the top of their game--and somewhat on top of the world--as they headed to Beijing Wednesday for the historic two-game exhibition series in the new Chinese stadium where Olympic baseball will take center stage this summer.

Not only a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but both carry strong spring training batting averages as they attempt to nail down regular season major league jobs. Onetime Winnipeg Goldeyes (Northern League) star Myrow is hitting .538 (7-for-13) with a .684 on-base percentage in 10 games. The left-handed hitting Myrow had a 5-for-5 string snapped Monday. Lindsey, who played for the New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am League) on two occasions, is hitting .316 (6-for-19) with six runs batted in in nine spring appearances as he attempts to become a first-time major leaguer.

"I don't really know what to expect (in China) and I don't know how the trip is going to affect sleep and that", Myrow told's Corey Brock. Realizing this is the first professional game, "it might be an extraordinary event."

Lindsey, who had not even been a fulltime non-roster invitee to spring training until this year, made no effort to hide his enthusiasm for "the chance to see that part of the world" when we interviewed him for the lead story in last week's Independent Baseball Insider column. The visit to the Great Wall of China on Friday is likely to feel a million miles away from the Jackals' home at Yogi Berra Stadium in Little Falls, NJ.

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FLORIDA OR ALBUQUERQUE FOR BOZIED?--Onetime Sioux Falls, SD (now American Association, then Northern League) slugger Tagg Bozied is making his presence in the Florida Marlins' camp known with both his bat and his words. Sidetracked from a very promising career when he suffered a severely torn left patellar tendon in a freak accident in 2004, Bozied is hitting .286 for nine games (4-for-14) with a .412 on-base percentage, five runs and three runs batted in.

"Worst-case scenario, he's a great fit for (Triple-A) Albuquerque," the Marlins' vice president for player development and scouting, told Jack Etkin of the Rocky Mountain News. "Best-case scenario, he helps our big league team and puts some pressure on the guys that are here."

The 28-year-old, who is in his fifth major league camp but has never played in a regular season major league game, doesn't have any doubt where he belongs. "I believe I'm a major league player," he told Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I don't hesitate to say that. I feel like I'm an impact player and I believe in my ability..."

The story of Bozied's freak injury, which we have told on more than one occasion in our Independent Baseball Insider columns, is such an unusual one it bears repeating. It was suffered when Bozied jumped on home plate in celebration of a walk-off home run while playing for San Diego's top farm club at Portland, OR. The first baseman-outfielder is completely healthy today, even though he likely would have been in the majors long before now had the injury not happened.

KANE DAVIS MAKING STRONG CASE--Kane Davis, who always seems to come back to the Atlantic League between major league stints, is making a strong case for himself with Toronto, which would be his sixth major league team. He allowed four hits and struck out four (one run) in three innings against the Yankees Tuesday. That lowered his spring ERA to 1.42 with eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings during four outings. Davis, 32, pitched for Camden, NJ in 2003 and 2004 and for Somerset, NJ in 2006.

THIS 'N THAT--Bobby Brownlie's transfer to the Washington Nationals' minor league camp two days ago indicates he got less of a look this spring than one might have expected. The onetime Chicago Cubs' first-round draftee had been signed out of Newark, NJ last summer after starting in the Atlantic League All-Star Game, and this writer thought he might get a serious look from the pitching-starved Nationals. He was not scored on in his brief appearances...Nate Field (Sioux City, IA, American Association) has a 0.00 ERA in the New York Mets' camp after several appearances. What's more, this veteran of 89 major league games with three other teams, has only given up two hits...Matt Wilhite, who has been strong in several Angels games, got roughed up (three runs, two walks, one hit) in one-third inning against Oakland Monday. Wilhite, who started his pro career in the Frontier League in 2003, is bidding for his first major league job...Outfielder Chad Hermansen (Sioux Falls) is hitless in four official at-bats for the Angels, though he has walked three times during his five appearances.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

This is another in our continuing Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogs to keep you up to date on the more than 50 former Independent Baseball players getting exposure in major league spring training camps. Baseball websites are welcome to reproduce today's entry as long as credit is given to

Disappointments Begin as Some Get Sent

To Minor League Camps

Mike Cervenak told us this winter how much he had gotten out of his baseball career, which includes starring at the University of Michigan and playing in Holland, Alaska, Korea and Venezuela in addition to nine minor league seasons.

I can only imagine how the 31-year-old infielder, who started as a pro in 1999 and part of 2000 at Chillicothe, OH in the Frontier League, must be struggling to keep that positive outlook today after he was sent to Philadelphia's minor league camp, especially with three weeks remaining in spring training.

The Phillies aggressively pursued Cervenak when he was a free agent this winter, but from watching the box scores he got only limited at-bats this spring before getting the minor league assignment. Cervenak had lifted his career average to .295 with a solid '07 season at Triple-A Norfolk, VA when he led the International League with hits (157), games (140) and at-bats (554). Even his 15 home runs--138 for his career--and 78 runs batted in did not seem to carry much weight.

So Cervenak continues looking for his first regular season major league game, as does southpaw Brian Mazone, who was in the same round of cuts made by Philadelphia. Righthander Brad Ziegler was an early cut from Oakland. Mazone is a graduate of Joliet, IL (Northern League) and Zion, UT (Western League) while Ziegler played Indy baseball for Schaumburg, IL (Northern).

HERNANDEZ ON BRIGHTER SIDE--Michel Hernandez continues to put up good numbers for Pittsburgh, getting a hit against Minnesota Saturday to lift his spring average to .500. Hernandez, who has only five major league games to his credit thus far (1-for-4 for the New York Yankees in 2003), had a remarkable 2007 in that the catcher handled every one of his 573 defensive chances without being charged with a single error. Hernandez, who turns 30 in August, started with the Atlantic League's Somerset (NJ) Patriots, hitting .342 in 76 at-bats for Sparky Lyle's crew, then hit .276 in 51 games for Tampa Bay's Durham, NC Class AAA farm club.

PIEDRA RELEASED WITH .400 AVERAGE--Another 2007 Atlantic League player who was continuing to put up good numbers was Florida outfielder Jorge Piedra. After hitting .336 for the Long Island (NY) Ducks last season, Piedra raised his spring training average to .400 (4-for-10) with his first home run against Boston on Saturday. The left-handed hitter, who turns 29 next month, was released on Sunday. He had been in seven games, and had a .455 on-base percentage. Another Marlins hopeful, first baseman Tagg Bozied, whose Independent Baseball was with Sioux Falls, SD, was 0-for-1 Sunday, but still is hitting .308 (4-for-13) with a double and three RBI.

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FORT WORTH GRADS HIGHLY RANKED--Kansas City's Luke Hochevar, who played in the American Association in 2006, and Arizona's Max Scherzer, who was with the Cats for a time last season, are ranked 63rd and 66th, respectively, on Baseball America's chart of the 100 best prospects in all of baseball.

FIELD, BROWNLIE REMAIN PERFECT--Veteran Nate Field and newcomers Bobby Brownlie and Scott Patterson are among several former Independent players compiling impressive earned run averages in spring games. Field, who was at Sioux City, IA (now in the American Association) in 2000 and still is trying to become steadily employed in the majors, has not been scored on in five appearances for the New York Mets. Bobby Brownlie, with Newark, NJ (Atlantic League) when 2007 started, has a 0.00 ERA for Washington. Patterson, a longtime Indy player (Gateway, Frontier League; Lancaster, PA, Atlantic), got a last-out save for the Yankees against Minnesota Sunday to keep his ERA at 0.00. Other hurlers with stingy ERAs include Matt Wilhite (1.29 for the Angels), Adam Pettyjohn (2.45 for Cincinnati) and Craig Breslow (2.70 for Boston). Wilhite pitched for Kenosha, WI in the Frontier League, Pettyjohn was with Long Beach, CA in the Golden League and Breslow with the New Jersey Jackals, now in the Can-Am League.

SPIVEY GETS A LOOK--Junior Spivey, who has considerable major league experience but has not played there since 2006, has gotten one look so far from the Boston Red Sox. The 33-year-old, who spent a good chunk of '07 at Bridgeport, CT in the Atlantic League (.333, 18 doubles) before signing with Boston, went 1-for-2 while playing leftfield against Minnesota Friday.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

This is our March 7 post in our continuing series of Monday-Wednesday-Friday reports on former Independent Baseball players in major league spring training camps. If any portion of the blog is reproduced credit is to be given to

Hitting Machine Brian Myrow Goes 4-for-4, Average at .500
In Quest to Start Season With Padres

Brian Myrow is a career .305 hitter for nine minor league seasons, highlighted by winning the Pacific Coast League batting title last summer (.354) while at Portland, OR, but in his only two major league trials he has come in at a combined 5-for-30 (.167). Mostly pinch hitting and trying to impress are a difficult combination.

If the last couple of days are any indication, the 31-year-old lefty hitter may be getting into the groove he needs to convince the San Diego Padres he should be on their opening day roster. Myrow, who started his pro career with Winnipeg in the Northern League (1999-2001), went 2-for-2 while playing first base on both Wednesday and Thursday (three singles, one double) and scored a run in each game. He entered play Friday with a lofty .500 average for the spring.

OH, THOSE HOME RUN-HITTING CATCHERS—Led by the budding author and finally-established No. 2 Philadelphia catcher Chris Coste, three Indy grads hit home runs in the last two days. Coste, who played most of his Independent baseball in his hometown of Fargo, ND (Northern League) after a year in the Prairie League, hit a two-run shot in a rain-shortened game Thursday against Tampa Bay. Another catcher, Eliezer Alfonzo, an MVP in winter league play, hit a solo shot the same afternoon for San Francisco. His Independent action had been at St. Paul, MN. Then Robinson Cancel, normally a catcher but at first base for the injury-riddled New York Mets, homered as part of an 8-6 win over Cleveland on national television Friday. Cancel, 31, went 1-for-3, but also walked twice, scored twice and drove in two runs. These feats should bring smiles in Atlantic League (Somerset, NJ) and United League (Edinburg, TX) offices. Cancel also can play the outfield, with the versatility an asset although he probably remains a long shot to go north with the Mets.

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FLUKE SAVE FOR DAMIAN MOSS—Southpaw Damian Moss, who collected all 22 of his major league victories in 2002 and 2004, still is trying, at age 31, to get back in that groove. He apparently did not dazzle in a brief stint with the home-state Atlanta Braves Thursday because he was touched for three hits, a walk and two runs in what turned out to be one inning of work. Moss, who pitched briefly for Macon, GA when the South Coast League debuted last summer, was credited with an unusual save, however, because the game was ended by rain before Detroit could hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Braves would have been protecting a 5-4 lead. Moss also spent time at Long Island, NY in the Atlantic League in 2006.

DAVIS, WILLHITE TOUGH ON HILL—Toronto hopeful Kane Davis and the Los Angeles Angels’ Matt Willhite were two of the former Independent pitchers to turn in solid performances of late. The sidearming Willhite, who started in pro baseball with Kenosha, WI of the Frontier League in 2003 and may be getting closer to his first regular season major league appearance, had another steady two-inning stint against Seattle Wednesday. He gave up only one hit while striking out a pair in the scoreless outing which lowered his spring earned run average to 1.50. Davis, who has pitched for two of the New Jersey-based Atlantic League teams (Somerset and Camden), blanked Pittsburgh while protecting a slim lead in the seventh and eighth innings Thursday. The righthander, who pitched briefly for Philadelphia late last season, did not give up a hit (1 walk) while striking out three Pirates.

THIS ‘N THAT—Scott Patterson, who has gotten into three games in the last few days in his bid to join the Yankees bullpen, restored calm for New York in Thursday’s 12-8 loss at Cincinnati. Chien-Ming Wang was roughed up for six first-inning runs before Patterson came in for the final out of the inning. The onetime Gateway Grizzlies (Frontier League) and Lancaster (PA) Barnstormers (Atlantic League) fireballer also silenced the Reds in the second inning…Lefty Craig Breslow (New Jersey Jackals, Can-Am League) was wild in his one-inning of work for the Red Sox Thursday. He walked three and was charged with one run…Nate Field continued his stingy work in the New York Mets bullpen Thursday. The former Sioux City, IA hurler had a line of zeroes behind his name in working the eighth inning of a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

This is another in our continuing Monday-Wednesday-Friday series covering many of the highlights of former Independent Baseball players in major league spring training camps. Any part of the blog entry may be reproduced as long as is credited.

Same Story, New Verse as Lindsey, Gonzalez

Continue Making Noise With Their Bats

While the count of onetime Independent Baseball players getting exposure in major league camps is up to at least 52, two players seem to these eyes to be at the top when it comes to accomplishments during the first week of exhibition play.

Former Can-Am League first baseman John Lindsey is winning games for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Juan Gonzalez, who last played professionally in the Atlantic League in 2006, is continuing to show the St. Louis Cardinals he may still have some important power in his two-time MVP bat.

Lindsey has had a big hand in the Dodgers' only two Grapefruit League victories. First, it was a game-winning ninth inning single, then Tuesday his two-run sixth inning homer broke a 3-3 tie and gave LA a 5-3 split-squad win against Washington. Lindsey, who we will have much more on in Thursday's Independent Baseball Insider column, also had a run-scoring single in the second and drew a walk during his 2-for-3 day. This former New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls, NJ) first baseman is now hitting .375.

Gonzalez, who spent a good chunk of '06 with the Long Island (NY) Ducks, singled and doubled in three at-bats in the No. 3 slot to jump his spring average to a robust .417. "It's still a once-in-a-generation stroke", Manager Tony LaRussa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bryan Burwell at few days ago.

PATTERSON PERFECT--Scott Patterson's quest to break into the majors for the first time after starting his pro career with four plus seasons in the Frontier and Atlantic Leagues got a shot in the arm Tuesday when he was part of the New York Yankees' perfect game win over Toronto.

The 6-foot-7 Patterson hurled the second inning of the rain-shortened five-inning game, striking out one of the three hitters he faced. That should bring smiles in Sauget, IL, where the 28-year-old righthander started his career with the Gateway Grizzlies, and at Lancaster, PA where he turned into a power closer in 2005-06. The outing probably made the post-game food taste better Tuesday, even though it was a road game in Dunedin, FL. There is a reason for that comment.

Patterson's first time ever in a major league spring training camp was the last day of 2007 when this hard thrower was given a brief invitation to the Yankees' camp in Tampa. "I think I was more amazed by the food (than anything else)," Patterson told me this winter. "I can eat with the best of them."

Patterson vowed not to change anything in his routine this spring even though he is now on the 40-man roster. "I'm not going to be amazed," he said. Let's hope he can stay that way as he bids for a major league bullpen job. is just a click away. Have you visited today to see what is for sale?

HAYNES, CARRASCO FIGHTING THE ODDS--Nathan Haynes and D. J. Carrasco, two players fighting difficult odds to retain major league jobs, were on opposite sides of the diamond at Tucson Tuesday. Haynes, the former Gary, IN outfielder who spent much of last summer as a reserve outfielder with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (.267 in 45 at-bats), went 0-for-2 with a run scored, but the current depth chart shows him no higher than fourth at any one position in the Angels outfield loaded with newcomer Torii Hunter and such holdovers as Garret Anderson, Gary Matthews, Vladimir Guerrero, Reggie Willits and Juan Rivera. The Angels have given the 5-foot-9 Haynes quite a bit of playing time in the early going. He is hitting .300. Carrasco, who did not actually play Independent Baseball even though he once signed a Frontier League contract with Johnstown, PA, got the win Tuesday with a scoreless ninth and a two-run White Sox rally in the bottom of the inning. He now has a 4.50 spring ERA. Baseball America pointed out recently that Carrasco was one of seven righthanders likely to fight for one bullpen job.

THIS 'N THAT--Everyone remembers Tommy Herr, the pesky second baseman on the powerful St. Louis Cardinals teams who later managed hometown Lancaster, PA in the Atlantic League. His son Aaron, who signed with the Barnstormers but got an affiliated job before playing in a game, doubled and drove in a run in two times at bat for Cleveland Tuesday...outfielder Jorge Piedra, who played in the Atlantic League (Long Island) last season, doubled in his one official at bat for Florida to lift his spring average to .429...Jason Shiell, who played his Indy baseball with Somerset, NJ in the Atlantic League and has 24 career major league appearances (2-2), made the most of a brief visit to Milwaukee's camp Monday with two scoreless innings against San Diego. He allowed two hits and struck out two.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Our extensive coverage of former Independent Baseball players in major league spring training camps continues every Monday-Wednesday-Friday in this space through this month while our lengthy Independent Baseball Insider columns are available for subscriptions at

The Year Is Fuzzy, But Not the Details

When Ryan Smith Played His First Exhibition Game

Ryan Smith's first two Cactus League appearances in his first official spring training non-roster invitation season seemingly have been pretty routine, but then how could they top his very first major league exhibition game eight or nine springs ago with the New York Mets.

Now 28 and in camp with the Chicago White Sox at Tucson, Smith was approaching legal voting age back in 1999 or 2000 (he is not certain which year; I believe '99) and was on one of those one-day trips from the minor league camp to the major league team as an extra player. He had been a seventh-round draft choice in '98, but Smith had no expectation of getting into the game against Houston.

He had been warming pitchers up, and before the ninth inning ran from the bullpen to catch Armando Benitez's warmup throws. "I had my hat on backwards, and didn't even have a mask", Smith told me recently. After about five of Benitez's bullet-like throws no one still had shown up to catch so Smith turned and looked toward the dugout.

To his amazement, Manager Bobby Valentine was motioning that he was to stay behind the plate. Mike Piazza had left the game earlier, and Todd Pratt had just finished hitting. Someone eventually brought out Pratt's skull cap and a mask and the young backstop from Mifflinburg, PA was in his first major league exhibition game.

"I was shocked to be in the game," Smith says today, and mighty, mighty happy, especially since his Mom and Dad were at the Grapefruit League contest.

Smith, whose career we profiled recently in one of our Independent Baseball Insider columns, has played in five Independent leagues since that time (Northeast, Northern, Can-Am, Golden and United), spent last summer in Triple-A and twice has spelled regular Chisox catcher A. J. Pierzynski in the young Cactus League season with more opportunities no doubt still ahead.

HOMER OFF SANTANA EARNS MORE AT-BATS--Juan Gonzalez's quest to get back to the majors--he last played professionally with the Long Island (NY) Ducks in the Atlantic League in 2006--is at a point where the St. Louis Cardinals are sufficiently intrigued to give the two-time MVP more plate appearances. One reason was his greeting of new New York Mets hero Johan Santana in his very first inning of work Friday. Gonzalez sent the first pitch his saw over the left-field fence for a three-run homer. Gonzalez had been moved up to fifth in the Cards' batting order Sunday although he went 0-for-3 against Florida pitching. Onetime Sioux Falls (SD) Canaries first baseman Tagg Bozied started that game for the Marlins, going 0-for-2 but collecting an RBI on a bases-loaded walk and later scoring. Bozied had a double and another RBI two days earlier.

LINDSEY ROBBED OF ROUND-TRIPPER--John Lindsey, the rookie first baseman signed away from the New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am League) who we will profile in the Independent Baseball Insider this Thursday, is continuing to find decent playing time with the Dodgers. After winning one game in the bottom of the ninth, Lindsey had a near-certain home run taken away on a leaping catch at the left-field fence against the Mets Saturday.

AN ALL-INDEPENDENT MATCHUP--Hard-throwing New York Yankees rookie Scott Patterson faced Phillies catcher Chris Coste Sunday in a matchup of two players with nearly a decade of Independent Baseball between them. Patterson, who was facing his only batter of the day (and, I believe, his first of spring training) got Coste to bounce out to end a threat. Patterson is a veteran of the Atlantic (Lancaster, PA) and Frontier (Gateway, Sauget, IL) Leagues while Coste started in the long-departed Prairie League, then spent four seasons with his hometown Fargo (ND) RedHawks of the Northern League. Another Frontier Leaguer, Justin Christian, who was playing centerfield for the Yankees, drove in the game-tying run in the eighth inning. The game was called after nine innings as a 7-7 tie. Christian played his Indy baseball for River City (O'Fallon, MO).

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GULIN, WINKELSAS MAKE APPEARANCES--Lindsay Gulin and Joe Winkelsas got at least one-day opportunities with major league teams Sunday, jumping our count of onetime Independent players in camps to 50. The left-handed Gulin, 12-6 at Double-A Huntsville last season, worked a scoreless inning (1 hit, 1 strikeout) in Milwaukee's 4-2 home win over the Angels. He had superb years with Lincoln, NE (2006) and St. Paul, MN (1999). Winkelsas, in Atlanta's farm system last season, gave up a hit, walk and two runs in an inning for the White Sox. Winkelsas's Independent time was with Somerset, NJ in the Atlantic League, Elmira, NY in the Northeast League and the traveling Grays of the Can-Am League.

THE LONG ROAD BACK--Adam Pettyjohn, who first had to overcome a life-threatening illness long before he could even think of getting back to the major leagues (Detroit, 2001), can at least savor hurling in a big-league exhibition again. After toiling for Long Beach, CA, of the Golden League in 2005-06 then signing with Milwaukee, Pettyjohn is an invitee with Cincinnati this spring. He hurled a scoreless inning against Tampa Bay Friday.

THIS 'N THAT--Tike Redman (York, PA, Atlantic) has been slowed by the flu in the Baltimore camp...George Sherrill (Northern and Frontier Leagues) shook off his hamstring problem to pitch an inning for the O's Sunday. Washington got to the potential Baltimore closer for two hits and a run, but it had to feel encouraging to be able to make his first appearance since the big trade that brought him from Seattle...highly-regarded Max Scherzer, less than a year removed from Fort Worth, TX of the American Association, gave up a solo homer to Joe Crede in two innings for Arizona Saturday...Gary Knotts (Atlantic League champion Newark, NJ, 2007), got the win in a two-inning, one-hit outing for Philadelphia Friday...another '07 Atlantic Leaguer, outfielder Jorge Piedra (Long Island) played the full nine innings for Florida Friday, going 2-for-2 and scoring a run. He played briefly, but did not have an official at-bat Sunday...Luke Hochevar (Fort Worth) hurled two scoreless innings in his second appearance for Kansas City on Sunday, striking out two and giving up one hit.

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