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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