Tuesday, November 24, 2009


The dust is just beginning to settle as major league organizations do a shakedown of their minor league rosters, and I can tell you I have not seen any certain winners so far from within the ranks of players who either started in or have played in Independent leagues.

The promotion of players to the coveted 40-man rosters has taken place over the last few days with what appears to be an average of four to five players per organization getting the good news. Indy players have been shut out although 22 of them still have 40-man holdover slots.

If there has been a winner so far it would appear to be Chris Jakubauskas, who Pittsburgh claimed off waivers from Seattle. The 30-year-old right-hander had a solid major league debut with the Mariners in '09, going 6-7 with a 5.32 ERA over 35 appearances, including eight starts.

The Pirates have said Jakubauskas will be given a chance of winning a spot in the bullpen where they seem to see him as a parallel to Jeff Karstens, who has been designated for assignment. Karstens was out of options and Jakubauskas has options, which means he could be sent to the minors without being lost to the club if he does not measure up in spring training.

Jakubauskas is one of eight pitchers on major league rosters who got their start in an Independent league. The onetime Oklahoma Sooner broke in with Florence, KY of the Frontier League in 2003-04, moved on to Ohio Valley in that league in 2005, then really put it together while with Fullerton, CA (now Orange County) of the Golden League in '06 and Lincoln, NE of the American Association two years ago. He needed only a year and a half in the Seattle system to win a major league job.

Dozens of former Indy players annually become six-year free agents at this time of year, and this season is no exception, although we know of four who already have been re-signed to Triple-A deals, an indication of some strength for those individuals.

Philadelphia has kept Jason Anderson, who played Indy baseball for Somerset, NJ of the Atlantic League, and another right-hander, Steve Bray (Bridgeport, CT, Atlantic), is back with Seattle. Catcher Jose Yepez (Pensacola, FL, American Association, and Gary, IN, Northern League) also signed once again with Seattle, and southpaw R. J. Swindle, who has gotten a little major league experience, inked with Tampa Bay, who had his rights for all of a day in mid-season. Swindle's Indy experience was with Schaumburg, IL of the Northern League and Newark, NJ of the Atlantic League.

It seems a safe bet at least some of the quartet will get an invitation to major league spring training.

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Friday, November 13, 2009


Anyone who follows my offerings in this space and in my more extensive subscription-only Independent Baseball Insider knows how much I believe in tracking players from the Independent leagues who make it all the way to the majors. It is even more enjoyable if the players started their career in an Indy league.

I have been wanting for some time to follow up about those who debuted in the big time in 2008 when a whopping 12 players made it for the first time (half of them had come all the way up from an Independent beginning) but were not in the majors for even a brief time (except for spring training) this past season.

Five players fall into this category: Mike Cervenak, Justin Christian, Scott Patterson and Charlie Zink were in the group who played their very first pro game in an Independent league while Jason Perry had re-cycled from affiliated to Independent and back to affiliated. In fact, he had only trained with an Indy team early in 2008 when Atlanta signed him before he played a regular-season game.

PERRY: The outfielder was in camp with Lancaster, PA of the Atlantic League when Atlanta purchased his contract early in '08. He was in the major leagues for a few days in mid-season, collecting a single, triple and one RBI in 17 at-bats covering four games. Perry found himself actually playing nine games for Lancaster this season, but Tampa Bay lured the 29-year-old away as minor league insurance. Most of his time was at Double-A Montgomery (5-15-.204).

CERVENAK: Mike, now 33, had another stellar Triple-A season, hitting .305-9-77 at Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia's top club. Cervenak got into 10 major league games in '08 (2-for-13), but also got the thrill of staying with the Phillies (although not active) during their magical postseason run. He played in the Frontier League (Chillicothe, OH) in 1999-2000.

CHRISTIAN: Speed and defense allowed the centerfielder to appear in 24 games with the parent Yankees (10-for-40, six RBI, seven steals) one year ago. But he was in Triple-A for Baltimore this season, stealing 26 bases in 88 games and hitting .270 for Norfolk. His pro journey started with two seasons ('03-04) with River City, the Frontier League team in O'Fallon, MO.

PATTERSON: Started with four plus seasons in Indy baseball (Gateway, Sauget, IL of the Frontier League and Lancaster), and once he moved from starting to relieving climbed rapidly through the Yankees' system. He was in one game with the Bombers and three more with San Diego one year ago (0-0, 1.93), but did not make it out of spring training this time around. His season was split between Portland, OR (San Diego) and Oakland's top club, Sacramento, but his razor-sharp control was not a good as in the past.

ZINK: His Independent time was spent at Yuma, AZ when that city was in the Western League. (It is in the Golden League now.) He now has logged eight years in the Boston system. A knuckleball pitcher, he got to make one start for the Red Sox in '08 (a bumpy outing, at that) and was back at Triple-A Pawtucket, RI this season, sliding to 6-15, 5.59, mostly as a starter. One other contribution to the Red Sox is that he has given some of their up-and-comers the opportunity to catch the knuckler and be more prepared for the veteran Tim Wakefield when they reach Fenway Park.

I will bet all five have some great memories of their time in the major leagues, short though it may have been to this point.

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Friday, November 06, 2009


Have I ever been negligent. Sorry. Now that this week's Independent Baseball Insider has gone out I can find more time. There certainly is not a lack of subjects to touch on in this space. For example:

**While it was disappointing to see Houston take Chris Coste off its 40-man roster and move him to Triple-A Round Rock, I cannot imagine that this Independent one-of-a-kind is finished in the major leagues. There is too much need for a competent catcher, even if it is in a backup role. It helps that Coste can play first base; maybe even third, and can pinch hit. He has done mighty well for someone who did not break into the majors until he was 33, playing in 299 regular season games so far with a .272 batting average. Being with the Phillies during their World Championship run one year ago had to be the opportunity of a lifetime. The BA did slip to .224 this year with only two home runs in 205 at-bats. His Independent days were spent with two in Minneapolis followed by a sterling career with hometown Fargo, ND of the Northern League.

**It seems a safe prediction that young women will want to gather near the first base stands at Sioux Falls Canaries games next season now that Patrick Reilly has been named South Dakota's hottest bachelor by Cosmopolitan magazine. He is remembered in Sioux Falls for one other reason, too. The onetime University of Arizona lefty drove in the winning run in the 2008 American Association championship game.

**I have been trying to confirm that onetime pitching star Bobby Madritsch, who came up to Seattle with longtime Indy teammate George Sherrill, has turned to boxing. Madritsch's baseball career went south because of injuries, but I recall well when I interviewed him before a Long Island (NY) Ducks (Atlantic League) game that he had the type of physique frequently found in the ring.

**Fans itching to follow Independent players this winter should check out the new Florida Winter League (www.FWBL.com). More than 30 Indy players are on the four rosters.

**Two sluggers this typist has been hoping might get a major league shot for some time now are in the Mexican-Pacific League this offseason. John Lindsey is with Mazatlan and Sandy Madera with Mochis. Both played Independent Baseball in Little Falls for the New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am League).

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