St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on August 21, 1988 · Page 75
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 75

St. Louis, Missouri
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 21, 1988
Page 75
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.SPORTS . ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH . . SUNDAY, AUGUST 21, 1988 7H r: ' . BASEBALL - J M -- Prospects From page one Reason. "That's about what all organizations have, four ,' or five guys." What else does the organization have? Its seven teams ' offer some hot prospects, some cold ones and some guys still too raw to serve. Here's a look at the menu: WHO'S HOT Todd Zeile is the show at Arkansas: The Catcher, a rising star. He is a good receiver and a great thrower. At the plate, he is high wattage 30 doubles, 18 homers and 66 RBIs after 114 games. The organization has set his can-do date as April 1990. "Everything that could be said about him has already been said," said Riggleman, who was managing Zeile at (Arkansas before replacing Lee Thomas in the front office. "He's the best prospect in the organization. He hits ;for power, he throws out runners, he blocks pitches." After a fair start, Luis Alicea began flailing at pitches during his recent Cardinals trial. But he re-established jhis offense at Louisville, where he was supposed to work !all along. After 34 Class AAA games, he was hitting .277. "He went on a 14-game hitting streak when he came back," Louisville manager Mike Jorgensen said. "He's jhitting the ball pretty good. Most of the time when play-'ers come back, they have their confidence down. He's I made the adjustment." I When Cris Carpenter returned to Louisville after a brief run in the majors, he brought a sore arm with him. He pitched three or four times, but it didn t get any better," Jorgensen said. "You could see he wasn't as strong. He wasn't popping the ball." Before becoming still another Redbird with an injured wing, Carpenter was 6-2 with a 2.87 earned-run average with one shutout in 13 starts. If he gets healthy and learns to set up his good fastball, he will be the real thing. But Carpenter has not thrown a baseball in nearly a. month because of an arm problem that Cardinals team physician Dr. Stan London says probably is tendinitis in his right biceps. Carpenter plans to consult Dr. James Andrews, a nationally respected orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham, Ala., to make sure the problem doesn't involve the rotator cuff. Pitcher Scott Arnold jumped from Class AA to the big leagues and fell back again, all in a blur. Once parked with the Travelers, he settled down and recorded a 9-3 record, a 2.58 ERA, three complete games and two shutouts in his first 18 starts. , "He gives his manager an ulcer," Pitts said. "He throws a lot of pitches and gets behind hitters. He gets out of trouble when he has to. He has to shorten up his delivery or they will run him to death. I think he needs a solid year at Triple A before you can say he's ready to return to the major leagues.'.' Was Riggleman surprised Arnold fell back into Class AA ball? "It didn't surprise me at all," he said. "I managed Scott in 1987 and I felt he needed to come back to Arkansas in 1988. That was my feeling from the beginning. He didn't pitch much in the big leagues, so by the time he got to Triple A this season he was starting all over again. For . him, it was like spring training and the hitters were in 4 midseason. The balk rule affected him and he was wild. It's just a matter of polishing a few things. He has to work '! a little faster and hold runners. As far as him throwing the ball, there's nothing wrong." ! One of Arnold's Arkansas teammates, lefthander Jeff Fassero, thrust himself into sleeper status by rising-and-1 shining in the bullpen. He had 16 saves, a 5-3 mark and a 3.56 ERA after 65 appearances. I Among the kids, speedy Springfield outfielder Ray Lankford has made the most happen. He has been one of Pos. Could Help Soon Down The Road Comment 1B Mike Fitzgerald, Louisville John Sellick, Savannah Fitzgerald could succeed Guerrero Rod Brewer, Springfield for the 90s. The rest? Who knows? Joe Federico, Hamilton, Ont. 2B Luis Alicea, Louisville Geronimo Pena, St. Petersburg Alicea is the real thing, Booker a Rod Booker, Louisville sub. Pena lacks only commitment. r i , .,- .. . , , .... SS None , Greg Carmona, Savannah Jose Oquendo is set to succeed Ozzie Smith. Tim Jones is just in case. 3B None ( None Louisville's Craig Wilson is a converted second baseman. C Todd Zeile, Arkansas None 1 With Tony Pena, Zeile, Steve Lake Carl Stephens, Louisville and Tom Pagnozzi, Cards are set. u OF Jim Lindeman, Louisville Ray Lankford, Springfield Most prospects are long, long Alex Cole, Louisville range. Will Lindeman ever play? Mike Senne, St.Petersburg Can Cole hit? Charlie White, Johnson City SP Cris Carpenter, Louisville Kenny Hill, Arkansas With Danny Cox, Joe Magrane, Greg Scott Arnold, Arkansas Jeremy Hernandez, Springfield Mathews, et al , the Cards win Brad Duvall, Hamilton, Ont. the arms race. John Ericks, Johnson City RP Steve Peters, Louisville Jeff Fassero, Arkansas Peters is critical to balancing an Mike Perez, St. Petersburg above average bullpen. Howard Hilton, Arkansas the top players in the Class A Midwest League, hitting .280 with 23 doubles, 15 triples, 11 homers and 62 RBIs in 124 games. Lankford, a third-round draft choice last season, has enough muscle to drive the ball to the gaps. He has stolen 31 bases, but has been caught 15 times. "Right now he's having trouble stealing bases," Springfield manager Mark DeJohn said. "He needs to relax a little more. He doesn't get a good jump. ,"His bat speed is as good as anybody's in the organization. He struggled a bit in the first half, but he really came on. He's above average defensively' WHO'S COLD Poor Jim Lindeman. The Guerrero deal, compounded by his own balky back and his prolonged hitting woes, nave all but plowed Lindeman under. In his first 210 at bats for Louisville he had one homer. His .233 average was also turning heads the wrong way. "The thing with power hitters is, they go in streaks where they carry the whole team on their backs," Jorgensen said. "He hasn't had one of those since his rehabilitation. People in the organization have felt he can do a good job. He started to get it back on track, but then he fell off again. He still has time to put together some good numbers here." Pity Mike Fitzgerald. Labeled the "best hitting prospect in the organization" by Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog, Fitzgerald struggled to find his stroke in Louisville. During a premature promotion to the Cardinals, he struggled. Then he returned to the American Association and, guess what, struggled some more. He was hitting .23? with eight homers and 42 RBIs after 90 games. Last season at Arkansas he was a force, hitting .286 with 36 doubles, 27 homers and 108 RBIs. "He had one seven-RBI game," Jorgensen said. "Other than that, he's been struggling. He got his playing time in up there; it's not like he was rusty. The big thing holding him back is swinging at bad pitches. He's only had 10 walks all season. You see that he has the tools to be a good hitter. He must be more selective if he's going to make it to the big leagues." After getting keelhauled in the big leagues, reliever Steve Peters returned to Louisville and compiled OK numbers a 1-0 record, two saves and a 3.12 ERA after 15 appearances. But he hasn't had his exceptional curve-ball this season, which baffles everyone who knows him. Last season he booked 1.57, 0.95 and 1.80 ERAs while roaring through Arkansas, Louisville and St. Louis. "When he came back down, his confidence was blown," Jorgensen said. "He wasn't throwing his curve-ball very well. He's still not throwing it like he did last season and he's not throwing it enough for strikes. "But he's an extremely aggressive kid. He'll never give up. He wants to do it, he has a big heart. I've seen him for three years and this is the only time I've seen him struggle with the breaking ball. I don't know why he can't do it." Louisville outfielder Alex Cole can run fast and play the outfield, but his hitting is missing and he's been a lousy base thief. After 106 games, he was hitting .227 and had been thrown out 13 times in 50 stolen base attempts. In the previous two seasons, Cole stole 148 bases while hitting .343 at St. Petersburg, .250 at Louisville and .256 at Arkansas. Minor-league hitting instructor Steve Braun will try to rebuild his swing in the Instructional League. "He's doing a little better than earlier in the season," Jorgensen said. "With his style, to help the team he has to be a leadoff hitter. He doesn't have the power or bat control to hit somewhere else. Batting eighth, he wasn't doing us any good. "He's only 22. The big thing going for him is his age. He doesn't have an aggressive-type personality like a Lance Johnson, whom we had here last year. He's more of a Willie McGee type. That really shouldn't stop him, but he has to be aggressive on the field." Geronimo Pena is supposed to be the future at second base, but lackadaisical play has cast doubt on that. His .256 batting average, 32 extra base hits and 29 steals weren't bad after 114 games ... but he should do better at St. Petersburg. "He has a little work to do offensively," manager Dave Bialas said. "His defense has been good. He turns the double play well. He stole 80 bases last year, but he has trouble reading pitchers. He gets picked off quite a few times. He's a strong kid but strikes out a little too much 84 times so far this year. He needs to drive the ball, hit more line drives." Louisville's Carl Ray Stephens, a fine defensive catcher, must learn to hit period. After 104 games he was batting .198. In previous Class AAA tests, Stephens hit .194 and .133. "If he could learn to hit .235 to .260, he would be a very good major-leaguer," Riggleman said. TOO RAW TO SERVE Reliever Mike Perez set a minor-league record with 41 saves at Springfield last season, and his 6-2 record and 0.85 ERA stood out too. But he nearly drowned in Class : AA ball and washed ashore in St. Petersburg where he has been unsteady despite his 1.64 ERA and 13 saves. "He's off and on," Bialas said. "At times he throws very well. At times he can dominate." Other times, you know on the first hitter that he doesn't have it. He doesn't have overpowering stuff. His velocity fluctuates. At times he's up to 87 miles an hour, other times he's 83 or 84. He does have a nice riding fastball. He's going to get another shot at Double A and it'll dictate his future." The Cardinals own many hard throwers still learning to pitch. At the top is Kenny Hill, a Detroit Tigers draftee who arrived in the Mike Heath trade. At Arkansas, Hill started 0-6 but rallied to 7-8 with a 5.27 ERA. "My experience with Kenny is that he pitches better when there are pitching coaches there to monitor him," Riggleman said. "He seems to get in a good groove and dominate hitters. He pitches good when Hub Kittle is there. When Darold Knowles was there, he helped him with his changeup. He's got a great body for pitching. When you see him throw, you can't understand how guys get good cuts on him." Jeremy Hernandez, the second choice in last year's draft, was 10-6 with a 3.61 ERA after 22 starts at Springfield. "In the second half, he's throwing the ball much better," DeJohn said. "He has an above-average fastball but everybody is concerned about his makeup. He's not really that aggressive on the mound. He's not as intense as he should be." This summer's No. 1 selections, John Ericks and Brad Duvall, are hurling at Johnson City and Hamilton, respectively. Both throw hard but neither really knows how to pitch, so they are wandering through Class A rookie ball. Ericks was 1-1 with a 5.09 ERA after six starts, and Duvall was at 2-1 and 4.86 after nine appearances. Shortstop Greg Carmona intrigues Riggleman. He hit .268 while splitting his time between Johnson City and Savannah. "He has good range, a real good arm," Riggleman said. "He's very raw. He really has to learn how to play the game." First basemen John Sellick at Savannah and Joe Federico at Hamilton can both hack the ball over the fence. Sellick, a 28th round choice last June, had 14 homers in 409 at-bats but struck out 102 times. Federico had nine in 202 at bats. "Sellick has the power to hit it out of Busch Stadium," Riggleman said. "It remains to be seen if he can make enough contact to use that power, with Steve Braun helping him." First baseman Rod Brewer is hitting well, but not far at Springfield. The former football All-American at Florida must start driving the ball. Bernard Gilkey, an outfielder signed out of University City High School, has stolen 50 bases at Springfield and could get a look at Class AA next season. Outfielder Mike Senne, who was the MVP of the 1986 College World Series for Arizona, failed a Class AA test and Was dropped to St. Petersburg where he was hitting .292 with 22 doubles and 17 steals after 93 games. He is an excellent glove man. 1988, The Washington Post . It's a glamorous job, being a bat boy. What boy hasn't wanted to be one? The pay is modest, but the perks are sensational. A bat boy can be on a first-name basis with an idol. He wears the same uniform as the players. He knows clubhouse secrets. A bat boy may do the laundry, take out the trash, shine shoes and run little errands. He'll scoot out toward home plate to pick up the bat after a player has hit. He keeps track of things like the pine tar rag, the weighted bat, the resin bag. But what other of life's menial tasks offer such prestige? Bat boys get to take a trip now and then with the team. A bat boy gets to kneel near the on-deck circle. A bat boy joins in with a congratulatory handshake for a player who has hit a home run. Bat boys sometimes sit front and center in official team photographs. Bat boys can be the envy of their neighborhood. To be a bat boy, one often has to work his way up. Say, from ball boy. Or bat boy in the visitors' clubhouse. Being bat bov for the visitors means jsometimes having to pretend you're jBorry, or happy, depending on the sit uation, because a bat boy's heart is usually with the home team. An advantage in trying to become a bat boy is who you know for example, Pete Rose Jr. But another plus is where you live. The closer to the sta dium, the better. Providing your transportation, like with your own two feet, is a help. Teams are inun dated with inquiries from would-be bat boys. "We try to use all neighborhood kids," said Jimmy Tyler, Ori oles' clubhouse man who is in charge of bat boys. He was once a neighbor hood kid and bat boy himself. These days, a boy can make about $20 a day, plus occasional tips, but bat boys value more, than anything their ov: A Job That Makes Dreams Gome True association with the players. Bat boy jobs don't come open that often; a team will be happy to have a good boy stay on for several seasons. A few even go on to play major-league ball Steve Garvey, Johnny Pesky, Ken Reitz. Some become teachers, lawyers. No matter what, they never forget the sweetest days of their boyhood world. ONE WHO DIDN'T QUTf" Jay Mazzone was no ordinary bat boy. His hands were so severely burned in an accident when he was 2 years old that they had to be amputated. He did his job as Orioles' bat boy with what he called his hooks. Mazzone was bat boy in Baltimore from 1967 through 1972. Frank Robinson played there then. The two were good friends. Several players didn't know how to treat Mazzone when he first appeared in the Orioles' clubhouse. "Frank Robinson broke the ice," Mazzone said recently. He is 35, still living near Baltimore. "Frank was running his 'kangaroo court' and he was calling a vote among the players, whether to fine somebody or not. It was either thumbs up or thumbs down. After the vote he said, 'Jay, you're fined for not voting.' Everybody laughed. After that, I was treated just like everybody else." Somebody even made a big cardboard hand with a thumb, said Mazzone, so he could take part in future votes. He had been included in a baseball team's clubhouse high jinks. One thing he remembers about the bat boy's job itself was never having interfered with a play while retrieving a bat. That's the mark of a good bat boy. "I've always been kind of sure of myself," he said. "I've always liked a challenge, to see what I can do and what I can't do." flW V at r L Ken Reitz ' Steve Garvey Taking the road from bat boys to the major leagues. The Orioles liked his attitude. He had played on a Little League team, a feat in itself. In 1965, his team made an apperance at Memorial Stadium. There, he decided he wanted to be a bat boy "It's every kid's dream." He wrote the Orioles. They hired him for the next season and, as teams often do with new bat boys, assigned him to the visitors' clubhouse. In 1967, he was promoted to the Orioles' clubhouse. He was good, and he stuck. As bat boy, he received his share of publicity. Good Housekeeping magazine profiled him as "The Boy Who Wouldn't Give Up." Some of his memories: being tat boy for the American League All-Star team in 1966, meeting Hubert Humphrey, receiving a letter from Richard Nixon. At 19, he retired. He started at $4 a day, he recalled, and when he left seven years later he was making $5 a day. "It's kind of an unwritten rule," he said, "that when you graduate from high school, that's it. You can't make much money being a bat boy, and after high school it's time to get a real job. Besides, you wouldn't want to be older than some of the prospects coming up." Today, Mazzone operates heavy construction equipment. He is married, with two daughters and a son. Sometimes he takes Jay Jr., 9, to see the Orioles. "If we get there early enough," he said, "we'll walk down to the fence and talk to some of the players. Recently, I introduced him to Elrod Hendricks." ONE WHO PLAYED It happened in 1952 in the Georgia State League. Statesboro took a 13-0 lead over Fitzgerald. Fans began shouting, "Put in the bat boy! Put in the bat boy!" Not a bad idea, thought the Fitzgerald player-manager, Charlie Ridgeway, a native of Takoma Park, Md., and a pre-World War II four-sport star who played eight years in the minor leagues. "I asked the umpire what would happen if I put him in," said Ridgeway, now part owner, president and sports director of a radio station in Fitzgerald. "He said he didn't know, except that we would probably have to forfeit if we won. I said, heck, let's put him in." Ridgeway turned and shouted, "Joe, go hit." Joe Reliford, the 12-year-old bat boy, was stunned. "His eyes got as big as saucers," Ridgeway said. It was the top of the eighth inning. "I think the pitcher let up a little bit on him," Ridgeway said. "But he was a good athlete as well as a good kid. He used to bat with us before games and shag balls whenever we wanted." The bat boy made contact, hitting a grounder to third. He was thrown out at first. Then, the manager sent him in to play right field. In the bottom of the inning, a Statesboro player needing a hit to extend a 21-game hitting streak came to the plate. "He was a righthanded hitter and he intentionally hit the ball to right because the kid was out there," Ridgeway said. It was a sinking line drive toward the foul line, a tough chance for anybody. Reliford went for it and, sticking his glove out at the last moment, made a great catch. The Statesboro fans stood and applauded. Reliford thus became the first black to play in the Georgia State League. But history hadn't been on Ridgeway's mind he just wanted to give the youngster a thrill in what was a lost game. For his actions, Ridgeway said he was fined $50, suspended five days and fired as manager. ONE WHO WAS EJECTED A bat boy must have allegiance to his team, but even that is superseded by an umpire's order. During a 1984 game in the Pacific Coast League, one Sam Morris, 14-year-old bat boy for the Portland Beavers, was ejected by an umpire. The boy needed a lot of consolation and received it from the Beavers' manager, Lee Elia. When Morris reached the Beavers' clubhouse, Elia said he told him "not to worry about it, that it happens to everybody in baseball sooner or later." Elia was in the clubhouse because he, too, had been ejected. As Elia was leaving the field, he threw a folding metal chair into right field. The bat boy was ejected when he refused an order from the first base umpire to remove the chair from the field. The boy didn't really know what to do because several Beavers' players told him to stay put. So he told the umpire he couldn't get the chair. "I thought I'd seen everything in my 26 years in baseball," said Elia, "until that poor kid came into the lodker room and said, 'Skip, I've been tossed out, too.' " (Actually, a few bat boys have been ejected over the years). BAT BOYS IN ART The bat boy in baseball paintings is the little innocent who makes his heroes look ever larger. "The Dugout," a 1948 Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell, featuring a dejected collection of Chicago Cubs, has a bat boy. In film, the bat boy is usually depicted as a squire to a knight. In "The Natural," Roy Hobbs-Robert Redford says to the attentive bat boy, "Go pick me out a winner, Bobby," after Hobbs breaks his bat. Bobby gets to say a word: "Okay." Then he chooses a "Savoy Special." As flashbulbs pop, Bobby hands over the bat, and he and Roy exhange knowing glances. The Hollywood ending is not far behind. ; -RMlMl hJkft ililJ MBs1

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