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Minor League Notebook : Holdridge Is Back on Hill, Back in Form

Pitching is fun again for David Holdridge of the Quad Cities Angels. Mainly because he’s pitching again.

A dislocated right shoulder--his pitching shoulder--robbed Holdridge of his senior season at Ocean View High School. After he went 7-0 as a junior, he did not throw one pitch during the 1987 season.

He could still hit, though; he batted .341 with nine home runs and 36 RBI. Those numbers were good enough to keep the scouts interested.

The Angels drafted Holdridge in the first round--as a pitcher. A year later, the Angels appear to have made the right decision.

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After a poor start this season, Holdridge, 19, has won three of his last four decisions and has lowered his earned-run average by nearly a run. He is 5-10 with a 3.80 ERA in his first season on the mound since 1986.

“It (the injury) has completely healed. There have been no repercussions,” said Holdridge in a telephone interview. “I just made up my mind during my senior year that I was going to pitch again. If the arm didn’t work, it didn’t work, but I was going to try.”

Holdridge, the 32nd player selected in the 1987 professional draft, signed late (Aug. 21), so he missed playing in the Rookie League last year.

The Angels sent Holdridge to the Instructional League, where he began pitching again. During his six weeks in Mesa, Ariz., Holdridge began to regain the rhythm of his delivery, pitching three or four innings each outing.

“I had control problems; it had been so long,” Holdridge said. “I basically just threw the fastball. It was such a short season that there wasn’t much teaching involved.”

Holdridge was impressive enough at Mesa that the Angels assigned him to their Class A franchise at Quad Cities in Davenport, Iowa, instead of the Rookie League. But after 10 starts, Holdridge was 1-7 with a 4.75 ERA.

“At first I thought all I had to do was come out and throw the ball like in high school,” he said.

Said Mike Tatoian, Quad Cities assistant general manager: “Dave would just get himself into trouble. He was trying to blow the ball by people, and you can’t do that at this level all the time.”

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Holdridge had trouble not only pitching, but fielding. In a game against Springfield in May, he made three throwing errors to first base.

“It was like Steve Sax a few years ago. I just couldn’t throw the ball to first base,” Holdridge said. “It was a mental block.”

After his record dropped to 2-9, Holdridge turned things around. He won back-to-back games against Waterloo and Clinton, pitching into the seventh inning both times. After a loss to Beloit, he beat Wausau, giving up just four hits in seven innings.

“I just had to learn how to pitch, instead of just throwing,” Holdridge said. “There wasn’t any point where it all of a sudden turned around. It just took me a little time to adjust.”

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Add Holdridge: At Ocean View, Holdridge was considered as good a hitter as pitcher. In fact, as a junior, he was named all-county as a designated hitter, even though he was 7-0 with a 1.45 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 57 innings.

But his hitting days are over now. The Angels want him to be a pitcher, period.

“I kidded around with people, saying I could hit if they need me, or if this guy gets hurt, I could play in the field,” Holdridge said. “I’ve been told that would never even be considered. They want me to pitch. I miss hitting. I miss the outfield. But they are paying me to pitch and don’t want to risk it.”

In 1986, Glenn Hoffman was the starting shortstop for the Boston Red Sox, who were one of the favorites to win the American League East. The Red Sox did win the division and went on to the the World Series. Without Hoffman.

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In May of that year, doctors discovered a problem with Hoffman’s heart, a flutter that sidelined him for the rest of the season. Hoffman watched Spike Owen play shortstop for the Red Sox in the World Series.

Hoffman, a graduate of Western High School, was subsequently traded to the Dodgers, who released him last December.

This season, Hoffman, 30, is trying to get back into a Red Sox pennant race. While Boston battles with Detroit and New York for the division lead, Hoffman waits in Pawtucket, the Red Sox triple-A affiliate, hoping for another chance.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I guess I’ll find out come September (when the rosters are expanded,” Hoffman said. “I still feel I can play. I hope the Red Sox feel the same way.”

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Hoffman is healthy again. The heart flutter was a problem that could be treated with medication.

“It sounds tough, but once you realize that it can be controlled with medication, it’s over with,” Hoffman said. “It’s behind me now. A lot of people have the same thing. It’s easy to deal with.”

Getting back into baseball wasn’t as simple.

Acquired by the Dodgers on Aug. 17 last season, Hoffman hit .220 in 40 games. He was released on Dec. 20.

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Hoffman sat waiting to be picked up by another major league team. When he received no offers, he decided to go back to Boston, where he played from 1980-87.

“I had some triple-A offers, but nothing that interested me,” he said. “The Boston management knew me and offered me a contract with Pawtucket.”

Hoffman is Pawtucket’s starting shortstop and is hitting .236 in 77 games.

Although Hoffman’s heart is fine, his season hasn’t been injury-free. After he was hit by a pitch in June, he missed 2 1/2 weeks with broken ribs.

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“It was the most painful thing I’ve ever had,” Hoffman said.

More painful than waiting to see whether he still has a future with the Red Sox?

“They haven’t said, so I’m just waiting to see what happens,” he said. “They sure are going good right now.”

Clash of the Titans: In Portland’s 5-4 Pacific Coast League victory over Las Vegas last Thursday, outfielder John Christensen had the game-winning RBI with a single in the seventh inning off Todd Simmons.

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Christensen and Simmons are former Cal State Fullerton players. Both also played on national championship teams--Christensen in 1979 and Simmons in 1984.

Home run for the money: Keith Kaub and Bobby Hamelin, the power behind the Cal State Fullerton and Rancho Santiago teams last season, are continuing to do what they do best on the professional level.

Kaub, who hit 20 home runs in helping Fullerton reach the College World Series, has 5 homers in 30 games at Jamestown, the Montreal Expos’ Class A franchise. Hamelin, who set a community college record with 31 homers for state runner-up Rancho Santiago, has 8 in 40 games with Eugene, the Kansas City Royals’ Class A team.

Tim Leiper, a graduate of Brea-Olinda High School who is a first baseman for Glens Falls, the Tigers’ double-A team, went 5 for 5 in Sunday’s 6-3 Eastern League victory over Harrisburg.

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Leiper, who is batting .303, drove in two runs with a single in the second inning and a double in the sixth. He also singled and scored in the first and ninth.

It was not his best performance at the plate as a professional, however. Last season, Leiper had a six-hit game against New Britain.

Head of the class: UC Irvine’s Jeff Oberdank and John Seeburger have made smooth transitions from college to professional baseball.

Oberdank, who hit .344 for the Anteaters last season, is the starting second baseman for Bend, the Angels’ Rookie League team in Oregon. He is hitting .274.

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Seeburger, Irvine’s leading hitter in 1987 with a .351 average, started out at Oneonta, the New York Yankees’ Rookie League team. After hitting .346, he was promoted to the Class A level, Prince William.


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