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Baseball / Gary Klein : Aude Discovers Plenty to Dislike in New Surroundings of Pirate City

Pirate City is the pits.

That is Rich Aude’s opinion of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league complex, which is home to the Bradenton (Fla.) Pirates, the organization’s affiliate in the Gulf Coast Rookie League.

Aude, who signed a bonus package worth a reported $87,500 after the Pirates selected him in the second round of the June draft, has not exactly taken to his surroundings.

Aude said he hates the humid weather, dislikes the food and could do without a living arrangement that has players from the Pittsburgh, Montreal and Atlanta organizations sharing the same dormitory complex.

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“It’s all guys, the nearest city is a mile away and only three guys have cars,” Aude said. “There’s always fights and guys getting uptight all the time.”

Aude, however, has remained laid back. So much so, in fact, that hitting instructor Hal McRae has nicknamed him “Cool Breeze.”

Aude was batting .152 in 13 games with two doubles and two runs batted in before missing seven games after injuring an ankle while running out a ground ball two weeks ago. He says he hopes to finish on a hot streak to avoid having to return to Bradenton next season.

In the meantime, he is assured of making at least two more extended visits to Pirate City. When the season ends Aug. 28, Aude will fly home to Chatsworth before returning to Florida in October for Instructional League play. Then there’s spring training in March when Aude will . . . well, as he says, “be back to this dump.”

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Talented trio: The Valley area was well represented in the most recent issue of Baseball America magazine, which featured a list of top prospects in each minor league as selected by field managers.

Former Hart High and UCLA catcher Todd Zeile was selected as the Triple-A Alliance’s best hitting and catching prospect. Zeile is batting .297 with 18 homers and 71 RBIs for Louisville.

Former Simi Valley High left-hander Scott Radinsky was selected best relief pitcher in the Class-A Midwest League, where he has compiled 25 saves, a 6-3 record and a 1.34 earned-run average for the Chicago White Sox affiliate in South Bend, Ind.

Matt Franco, who played at Westlake High, was named best defensive third baseman in the Class-A South Atlantic League. Franco, who has committed 15 errors in 91 games, is batting .267 with two home runs and 38 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs affiliate at Charleston, W. V.

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Thanks, buddy: Pete Kuld met up with former Pepperdine teammate Doug Simons last week but didn’t show much kindness to his former battery-mate.

Kuld, playing for the Huntsville (Ala.) Stars, the Oakland Athletics’ Double-A affiliate in the Southern League, hammered a fifth-inning home run off Simons as Huntsville defeated Orlando, 6-4.

A few weeks earlier, Kuld had broken up a Simons no-hitter in the sixth inning with a double off the wall.

“I’ve caught Doug going all the way back to when we were 12 years old,” said Kuld, who played at Chatsworth High, College of the Canyons and Pepperdine. “Because I caught him for all those years, I almost called every pitch when my teammates were at the plate.

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“But when he came to me, he didn’t pitch me like the other guys.”

Kuld was traded to Oakland last month in a three-team deal. Oakland sent infielder Jose Mota to San Diego, San Diego sent Cleveland a player to be named later and Cleveland sent Kuld to Oakland.

Kuld said he could not have asked for a better gift when the trade was announced June 4, which happened to be his 23rd birthday.

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Kuld, who has hit 12 home runs this season. “I was happy to get an opportunity to go somewhere and play and get a fresh start. I wanted to play more than I did with Cleveland.”

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Kuld began the season with the Miami Miracle, a co-op team in the Class-A Florida State League, then was moved to Kinston, N. C. in the Class-A Carolina League to fill in for an injured catcher.

When that player returned, Kuld was out of a job--until he was traded and moved to Double-A Huntsville. The only downside to the turn of events has been Kuld’s average, which is currently .194.

“It’s a new experience to hit under .200,” Kuld said. “But I’ve had some clutch hits and I think I’ll finish out strong.”

Mental game: John LaRosa figured things would be tougher when the Philadelphia Phillies promoted him from Spartanburg (S. C.) of the Class-A South Atlantic League to Clearwater (Fla.) of the Class-A Florida State League last May.

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But LaRosa did not anticipate that his toughest opponent would be himself. “I’m finding I put more pressure on myself--I’m making it tough on myself,” LaRosa said. “The league isn’t that tough, but I’m making it seem that way.”

LaRosa, a left-handed pitcher who played at Cleveland High and was drafted by the Phillies out of Cal State Northridge in 1987, has made 12 relief appearances and is 0-1 with one save and a 3.46 ERA.

Last season, LaRosa started and pitched long and short relief. He was 1-2 with one save and a 1.78 ERA for Spartanburg, which won the South Atlantic League title.

LaRosa worked out with Clearwater during spring training, but fell victim to the domino effect three days before the teams broke and found himself in Spartanburg.

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He surrendered just a run in 15 innings at Spartanburg before being promoted to Clearwater.

“I’m about where I thought I would be,” LaRosa said. “Every year about this time, I stand in the outfield shagging during batting practice thinking, ‘Where am I going to be next year.’

“I wouldn’t mind starting next season here again and moving up at mid-season.”


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