Pirates Notebook: Phelps' career once was a smash
Share with others:
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There was a time, not too long ago, when Josh Phelps was a power-hitting prodigy.
A glance at his minor-league history in Toronto's system confirms it: He had eight home runs, then 20, 21, 31 and, by the time he hit 24 in half a season with Class AAA Syracuse, he was spending the other half hitting 15 for the Blue Jays as a 24-year-old.
Jim Lett, the Pirates' bench coach, was a roving minor-league instructor for Toronto at the time.
"What you saw from him back then was great contact and power to all fields," Lett recalled. "I mean, it would jump off his bat."
Despite all that and hitting 20 home runs as a rookie in 2003, Phelps has yet to find regular work in Major League Baseball. He bounced from Toronto to Cleveland to Tampa Bay to Detroit's system, where he stayed in Class AAA almost all of last season despite 24 home runs.
The New York Yankees, his most recent employer, cut him last week after two home runs and a .263 average in just 80 at-bats, their explanation being that his defense at first base was inadequate.
Phelps' major-league totals: .268 with 59 home runs and still waiting on a season of 400 at-bats.
"You know what? I've always been humble enough to not expect anything," he said yesterday at Angel Stadium upon joining the Pirates. "I was red hot in 2002 in the minors and carried that into the majors, then again the following year as a rookie. But things didn't work out after that, and I've been traded. ... All I can say is it's not over yet."
The Pirates see Phelps as a bench player, but he also has been told by management there is an opportunity to do more.
"I see it as an opportunity to excel," Phelps said. "For me, it's a new opportunity, too. It's starting over. I don't know anybody here. I don't know the National League. I'm looking at this as a fresh start."
A Big Country cameo
To clear space on the 25-man roster for Phelps, the Pirates optioned Brad Eldred back to Class AAA Indianapolis just one day after he was recalled.
He was the designated hitter Friday against left-hander Joe Saunders and went 0 for 4 while seeing a total of seven pitches.
Wilson: His throw was key
Shortstop Jack Wilson said it was his errant throw -- and not his positioning for a cutoff -- that was responsible for Los Angeles' tying run Friday.
There was one out in the eighth, and Nathan Haynes on first base when Reggie Willits hit a soft liner to left-center. Wilson decided to line up for Jason Bay's cutoff throw behind second base and motioned for Bay to throw there, rather than in a more direct line between Bay and home plate. Seemingly, he was prioritizing keeping Willits at first over preventing the speedy Haynes from tying the score.
The throw by Bay arrived with little oomph on it, Wilson's relay home was well up the third base line, and catcher Ronny Paulino failed to catch it, anyway.
Wilson -- and others with the Pirates -- explained yesterday an apparently universal view that the positioning would not have mattered if the play had been executed properly. To confirm that, Wilson met with the coaching staff and was told to do it the same way again in teh same situation.
"If I make a good throw, we get the guy at home and the other guy probably stays out of scoring position," Wilson said. "Best of both worlds."
McLouth still reeling
Nate McLouth was unavailable last night because of a stiff neck, the result of an excellent catch against the center-field fence in the seventh inning Friday.
More tests will be performed before a further determination is made about his status, manager Jim Tracy said.
"That's got to rank up there as one of the catches of the year, a Web Gem, whatever you want to call it," Tracy said. "He had no regard whatsoever for his body. He was just hellbent on catching the ball, and his face and his glove hit at the same time ... and he stays upright and still gets the ball back to the infield. ... That's special."
Chris Duffy started in center field for the first time since June 15, when his right hamstring tightened.
Nothing about the Angels' aggressive baserunning -- or how to defend it -- should have caught the Pirates off guard. The coaching staff met with all of the players, pitchers included, on Friday afternoon to stress all aspects of the matter.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will attend the game today. He is in Southern California for a national mayors' conference.
Florida's rotation for the next series: Dontrelle Willis, Sergio Mitre and Scott Olsen. Willis was backed up two days because of a tight forearm.
INDIANAPOLIS (43-31) lost at Toledo, 4-3. LHP Sean Burnett (4-4, 4.16) pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings, limited by a pitch count. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out two. RHP Josh Sharpless (3.86) entered in the eighth with a 1-1 tie and allowed two runs and three hits in his only inning. RF Michael Ryan (.253) went 3 for 4 with a double and two RBIs.
ALTOONA (35-36) lost at Reading, 3-1. RHP Dewon Brazelton (0-1, 3.38) allowed three runs in four innings. LHP Dave Davidson (4.66) pitched three scoreless innings of relief. 3B Neil Walker (.316) went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk. CF Andrew McCutchen (.224) went 0 for 4.
LYNCHBURG (31-39) beat Kinston, 10-7. RHP Serguey Linares (1-3, 5.25) allowed four runs in four innings. 1B Jason Delaney (.344) went 2 for 4 with a walk and two RBIs. DH James Boone (.285) went 2 for 4 with three RBIs.
HICKORY (28-42) lost to Greenville, 7-2. RHP Brad Clapp (3-7, 6.61) allowed four runs, three earned, in six innings. RF Jonel Pacheco (.291) hit his 12th home run and went 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
STATE COLLEGE (2-3) beat Jamestown, 9-1. RHP Dionis Rodriguez (1-0, 1.29) allowed one run in seven innings. LF Marcus Davis (.333), the Pirates' 18th-round pick in the draft, hit his first home run and went 2 for 2 with two walks.
BRADENTON (2-2) beat the Reds, 11-10. RHP Kyle McPherson (0-0, 36.00) allowed five runs, four earned, in one inning. 3B Carlos Silva (.250) went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk and an RBI.
First Published June 23, 2007 11:14 pm