Thursday, August 28, 2008


This always is an intriguing time for those of us tracking the fortunes of players who have put in time in Independent Baseball because active major league rosters can expand from 25 players (up to 40) starting September 1 (Monday).

Five Indy grads were elevated last September, and the number could go even higher this time around. We will be speculating on some of the possible call-ups in our weekly Independent Baseball Insider column later today.

The New York Mets jumped the gun Wednesday by bringing two players back onto their 25-man roster for the National League East stretch, and USA Today floated Adam Pettyjohn in Thursday's editions as a possible addition for the Cincinnati Reds.

It would be great if it was Pettyjohn who got the call for an emergency start against San Francisco Saturday although I find it unlikely to happen since the southpaw would be working on three days rest after he pitched seven innings Tuesday.

If Pettyjohn surfaces either Saturday or in September we would waive the flag of happiness for two key reasons. First, it would mark the first time a player who has worked in the four-year-old Golden League had played in a regular season major league game. On a personal level, it would climax the comeback of the 31-year-old from Fresno State who had reached the majors with Detroit in 2001 (1-6 in 16 appearances, including nine starts) before a horrible battle with ulcerative colitis threatened not only his career but his life. He pitched for Long Beach, CA in 2005 (10-2, 3.92) and briefly in '06 (1-1) on his way back up the ladder, and is 14-6 (4.63) at Louisville this season.

It looks to me like Ramon Ramirez or Matt Maloney, both better rested, are more likely to get the Saturday start.

In the meantime, the Mets brought both catcher Robinson Cancel and right-hander Nelson Figueroa back to the majors Wednesday. Figueroa, who was 2-3, 5.12 in nine earlier appearances with New York, once played briefly for Long Island, NY in the Atlantic League. Cancel has been in 17 Mets games, hitting .233 with a homer and four RBI. He has played in the Atlantic League (Somerset, NJ and the traveling Road Warriors) and the United League (Edinburg, TX) during his career.

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Monday, August 25, 2008


I had the feeling Independent Baseball had produced more than the trio of four-home run performances I was able to report on in last week's Independent Baseball Insider column.

The Fargo (ND) RedHawks filled me in on Jesse Hoorelbeke's big day for them June 18, 2006, when he pounded four homers and drove in eight runs in the Northern League outing against Edmonton, which now plays in the Golden League.

Hoorelbeke, who currently plays first base for Bridgeport, CT in the Atlantic League, homered in the second, third and fourth innings, then finished with a three-run blast in the sixth. With three round-trippers and eight runs batted in in his last five games for the Bluefish, the big right-handed batsman shares the league RBI lead (95) with Southern Maryland's Pat Osborn and is one home run off the league lead. Somerset, NJ's Josh Pressley has 26 homers while Hoorelbeke and Somerset's Brandon Larson have 25 apiece. Hoorelbeke's previous career best in RBI were his 94 of last season, when he pounded 33 homers.

John Allen of Fort Worth, TX started all the current focus on four-home run games when he recently accomplished the feat in the American Association. Hoorelbeke's barrage was the third such feat in the Northern League, with Harry Berrios (Schaumburg, IL) and Ryan Jones (Winnipeg) both homering four times during a separate contests in 2000.

TWO CHAMPIONS IN TEXAS (SO FAR)--The Bay Area Toros (Texas City) and Amarillo have given the Lone Star State the first two Independent Baseball champions of the season. Bay Area swept two in a row from Texarkana to earn Continental League honors while the Dillas ended Alexandria, LA's two-year run in the United League. Brady Bogart's Amarillo club hit .325 and posted a 3.00 earned run average while winning the semifinal series in two straight over Edinburg, TX, then taking two of three from Alexandria.

American Association postseason play begins tonight (Monday) with two more Texas teams, Grand Prairie and defending champion Fort Worth, squaring off in the South and Sioux City, IA and Sioux Falls, SD going at each other in the North.

WHAT CROWDS IN AMERICAN ASSOCIATION--Weekend regular season finales brought out huge crowds in the third year American Association. Wichita, KS drew crowds of 6,093 and 7,076 to its last two games even though the Wingnuts missed the playoffs in their initial season away from affiliated minor league play and El Paso, TX, which also is sitting out the postseason, did even better at 7,288 and 6,718. Playoff-bound Sioux Falls, SD and Sioux City, IA went well above their season averages in their regular season finales. The Canaries lured 4,805 fans, nearly 1,600 above their season average, while the Explorers' 4,147 was more than double their average crowd.

QUEBEC GETS NO-HITTER--The Can-Am League regular season goes through Labor Day, but playoff-bound Quebec had another reason to celebrate Sunday when Orlando Trias hurled a no-hit, 3-0 victory at Nashua, NH.

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Monday, August 18, 2008


What is going on here?

Some of the late-season performances are really staggering, with none better than Saturday night in the American Association when John Allen belted four home runs and drove in eight runs in a 5-for-5 performance in Fort Worth's 14-0 runaway victory over El Paso. The home-standing Cats report each of the homers travelled more than 400 feet.

Allen, Fort Worth's designated hitter and an occasional first baseman, is having a career year with 20 homers, only four below the number he hit in his first three professional seasons combined. His previous high came in 2005 when he hit 11, and he managed only seven total last season when he played for both Fort Worth and Brockton, MA of the Can-Am League.

What I would like to figure out before Thursday's Independent Baseball Insider column is whether the feat has ever been accomplished--or, how many times--since Independent Baseball resumed in 1993. The American Association media guide shows the record in the first two seasons of that league belonged to Chad Gambill of Shreveport, LA, who homered three times July 28, 2006. I would be grateful for research assistance from any reader.

Allen, a 27-year-old right-handed hitter, is second in round-trippers in the American Association this season, one behind Pensacola, FL strongboy Brandon Sing. Allen's .337 batting average is second to the .372 of Kevin Hooper, the hometown sparkplug Wichita, KS signed for its first season in the league.

CONTINENTAL, UNITED PLAYOFFS STARTING--Corpus Christi is at Texarkana in the best-of-three semifinal playoffs in the all-Texas Continental League starting tonight (Monday) with the winner traveling to Texas City starting Friday. United League playoffs also were scheduled to start Monday.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008


News, notes and thoughts which won't make today's Independent Baseball Insider column:

SOMEONE MUST WANT MIKE RIVERA--With Jason Kendall an ironman behind the plate for the National League wild-card-leading Milwaukee Brewers, backup Mike Rivera seldom can be found in box scores. But when he gets in the lineup, the 31-year-old onetime Atlantic City (NJ) Surf certainly produces. Rivera has been in only eight games since May 25, but the inactivity does not seem to affect him. The right-handed hitter has gone 9-for-26 (.346) in that stretch to lift his season average to .333 (18-54). Wouldn't every manager like to get 14 runs batted in for every 54 at-bats. The Puerto Rican has a .400 on-base percentage.

PLAYING ALL NINE POSITIONS--The United League, one of several Independent leagues winding down the regular season, has already had one player play an inning at each position in a single game with another one to try it tonight (Thursday). Amarillo's Danny Bravo, who regularly plays shortstop and is one of the league's top hitters, went 3-for-5 (homer, double, single) during his nine-position game. "He's been very valuable at SS for us this year in winning the first half and clinching home field advantage (for the playoffs)," Manager Brady Bogart said in an email, while questioning why Bravo has not gotten another chance in affiliated baseball. Ryan Fox of Harlingen, TX, another UL hitting leader, is to try the feat tonight.

MC KINNEY HAS NINE-RBI GAME--The Frontier League has had some tremendous pitching feats of late, but Garth McKinney of Florence, KY struck a note for the hitters. He had a 6-for-6 game with nine runs batted in and four runs scored to pace a 14-2 pasting of the Midwest Sliders. The 6-foot-3 McKinney included a double and home run in his barrage, then came back the next night with another homer and two RBI. A centerfielder, McKinney is hitting .317 with 16 homers and 60 runs batted in plus 22 steals, proving he has more than raw power.

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Monday, August 11, 2008


It is impossible to predict in the crazy world of sports when the opportunity comes along to see a "first".

This one won't rank up with watching the first man walk on the moon, but it was fun anyway.

I was at Shea Stadium Monday afternoon for the Pittsburgh-New York Mets makeup game. What a chance to introduce two of my grandsons, aged eight and six, to their first major league game.

Robinson Cancel does not get many starts for the division-hungry Mets, but wouldn't you know this 32-year-old graduate of the Atlantic League (Somerset, NJ and the Road Warriors) and the United League (Edinburg, TX) was in the lineup today. On his second trip to the plate, he sizzled a single to center, which got the Mets' fourth run home because of a Pittsburgh miscue at home plate.

He did even better the next time when he lined a home run which hit off the foul pole in leftfield, a few feet above the outfield fence. The New Yorkers now had a 5-1 lead. I knew Cancel (pronounced Can-SELL) couldn't have many major league home runs since since only had 44 at-bats in 1999 and another couple dozen this year.

Bingo! This was his first even though the sturdy catcher has had five minor league campaigns with 10 or more round-trippers, including 2003 at Somerset and two summers ago in Edinburg.

Unfortunately for Cancel, the Pirates spoiled the day for the Mets with two late bursts good for a 7-5 victory. Still, he has to have a warm feeling for his initial big-league homer.

CERVENAK PICKS UP HIS FIRST HIT--While we are at it, did you notice that longtime minor leaguer Mike Cervenak picked up his very first major league hit for Philadelphia last week? Mike joins Robinson Cancel in the 32-year-old club next week, and is 10 seasons out from his professional debut at Chillicothe, OH in the Frontier League.

DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE IN NEED OF A PROFESSIONAL TRYOUT? The third annual Arizona Winter League season starting in late January might be it. Check out details on this blog or at

The action comes hot and heavy all summer as we try to keep in reasonable touch with the major developments in all eight Independent leagues involving 62 teams. Throw in the pennant races and record-breaking near the end of the season plus some really creative promotions, is a dizzying pace. Here are a couple of examples:

A SECOND FRONTIER LEAGUE NO-HITTER--We had no more than gotten the mention of Isaac Hess's no-hit game for Windy City of the Frontier League into last week's Independent Baseball Insider column when word came of a second FL gem. Eric Ridener and Zack Gray combined on this no-hitter for the Gateway Grizzlies (Sauget, IL) on the road against Kalamazoo, MI. Ridener was making his first start since 2004, and after being touched for two unearned runs in the first inning he settled in for six added no-hit innings before turning the job over to Gray as the Grizzlies won it, 5-2. I believe these are the only two no-hitters in the Independent world this season.

NORTHERN LEAGUE CAREER RECORD FOR SAVES TUMBLES--Nate Cotton of Fargo, ND now owns the Northern League record for saves by recording his 69th. It came before the RedHawks' largest crowd of the season, 5,168. There always is irony, in this case the fact the victim was Schaumburg, IL, with whom the 29-year-old picked up the first 28 of the saves during 2005 and 2006. The Kennesaw (GA) State right-hander is enjoying his finest Independent season with a win and 19 saves plus a 1.33 earned run average so far in '08.

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Monday, August 04, 2008


I have been somewhat neglectful on this site in recent days, but I presume you will understand when I tell you my Mother passed away. What a dear lady, 100 years, 10 months and 3 days old when her time came up last week. My resulting trip to Nebraska did not allow a great deal of concentration on Independent Baseball although I know so much has taken place.

Aside from what I reported in last week’s Independent Baseball Insider, I have tried to keep up with some of these developments:

Justin Christian continues to make the most of his infrequent appearances for the New York Yankees, helping to keep the Bombers within striking distance in the American League East and the Wild Card chase. He was credited with igniting the Yankees' 14-9 comeback win Sunday over the always-challenging Los Angeles Angels by swiping third as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning, then scrambling home with the tying run when the throw ended up in leftfield. He had a run-scoring single later in the inning, and Manager Joe Girardi told The New York Times he "did an unbelievable job". Christian, who started his pro career with River City (O'Fallon, MO, Frontier League), has had only nine at-bats in the last three weeks, but has contributed four hits, four runs, four RBI and three steals. His season average is up to .296 (8-for-27).

The gesture of the HARLINGEN (TX) WHITE WINGS to help fans disenfranchised by Hurricane Dolly by providing free admission the rest of the United League season. I hope fans respond.

Philadelphia’s second recall of 1B-3B MIKE CERVENAK, the onetime Chillicothe, OH (Frontier League) standout. Now, if only he could get some chances to show how good his bat can be.

TIM DREW decided to give up his pitching career, retiring after a ceremonial one-pitch appearance for Bridgeport, CT in the Atlantic League. Tim had some major league time, but was in the shadow of his celebrated brothers, J.D. of the Red Sox and Stephen of Arizona. J.D. broke into professional baseball with St. Paul, MN, now in the American Association, while Stephen started in the Atlantic League (Camden, NJ).

Signings by MAJOR LEAGUE ORGANIZATIONS off Independent rosters countinue to mount.. The count since the season started is at least 70, with more detail likely in the August 7 Insider.

TOM COCHRAN and BRAD ZIEGLER continue their unbelievable pitching runs. Cochran, a 25-year-old southpaw, has improved his record for Worcester, MA of the Can-Am League to 11-0 plus 2 saves, and has allowed only 16 earned runs in his 11 starts while pitching at least six innings each time out. Ziegler's major league record for most scoreless innings at the start of a career is up to 32. The right-hander, who comes at batters from down under, added seven innings in the last eight days, with three appearances of at least two innings apiece.

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