JOHNSON GETS BIG-LEAGUE OPPORTUNITY

JOHNSON GETS BIG-LEAGUE OPPORTUNITY

Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz

While those 18 onetime American Association players in major league spring training camps fulltime receive most of the attention, a worthy alternate headline goes to those who are brought up from minor league diamonds for at least one game in uniform for Grapefruit and Cactus League games.

If they were in the American Association as recently as last season it is that much more impressive.

Pitcher of the Year Patrick Johnson (pictured) of Sioux City is the headliner, with champion Laredo’s dominant closer John Brebbia not far behind.

Johnson was signed by Pittsburgh after his brilliant 15-1, 2.08 season with the record-setting Explorers, had an impressive winter league season and ended up wearing a Miami Marlins uniform this spring.  The Marlins obviously are intrigued because they have already worked the righthander into two major league spring training contests.  He has combined for one inning, allowing a hit and two walks without giving up any runs.

Brebbia, also righthanded, had his contract sold shortly after he had saved five of the Lemurs’ six playoff victories, pitching an impressive 13 innings without allowing a single run.  Brebbia, who dazzled with a 0.98 earned run average for his 51 regular-season appearances for Laredo while going 7-2 and saving 19 games, has gotten to experience the thrill of being in a major league uniform although he has not yet been in a game.  That still could happen because the St. Louis Cardinals want to see what he can do after allowing only 34 hits and striking out 79 in 64 innings.  He also has had an impressive ’14 season for Sioux Falls, winning three of five decisions (one save) and striking out more than one batter per inning during 34 appearances.

Five Others Have Been Up for Major League Games

At least five other onetime American Association graduates also have been brought up from minor league camps for major league spring training games.

K.C. Serna (Amarillo ’13), primarily a shortstop and a position not often represented among those making their it all the way to the majors, got into a game for Philadelphia and singled in his only time at bat. He also was credited with two assists in his three innings of play.  The 26-year-old split last season between Double-A Reading, Pa., (94 games) and Triple-A Lehigh Valley in Allentown, Pa. (16 games).  He also saw action at second, third and in the outfield.

Righthander Cody Satterwhite (Sioux City ’13) has already been in three games with his new organization (Los Angeles Angels), allowing only one hit in 2.2 innings.  Derek Eitel (Wichita) picked up a strikeout in his one-third inning for San Diego.

Second baseman Jonathan Johnson (Shreveport ’11), who started his professional career in Independent Baseball, has worn a New York Mets uniform while pitcher Kaohi Downing (Lincoln ’15, Sioux Falls ’14, Winnipeg ’12-’14) has been with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  They have yet to appear in any major league spring training games.  Downing was with Can-Am League champion Trois-Rivieres last season.

Tribe Bring Sioux City’s Toole Back

Former Sioux City (’09) shortstop Justin Toole, another player who started his career in the Independent game, has re-signed with Cleveland after getting into 67 games for the Indians’ top two farm clubs last season.

Previously the chief spokesman for Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003.  He is a frequent contributor to this site as well as writing his own blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com.