Like a Ping-Pong ball in a state lottery game, Brad Bierley has bounced around in the minor leagues for five years, waiting for his number to be called.
Though the odds are stacked against him, Bierley, the former Rolling Hills High School baseball standout now playing for the Chicago Cubs’ triple-A team in Des Moines, Iowa, may finally win a trip to the majors.
“I think I might get a chance to play before September,” Bierley said. “The Cubs have a lot of outfielders. There are rumors they might trade away one of their (outfield) starters for a top-notch pitcher. That would create an opening for one of us to be promoted.”
Bierley’s fortunes in the minor leagues changed after an off-season trade from the Minnesota Twins’ farm system.
Buried among several other outfield prospects, Bierley asked the Twins to be traded. He was sent to the Cubs, and Des Moines, for a player to be named.
At Des Moines, however, Bierley discovered that the Cubs had an even longer line of outfielders playing ahead of him.
“I’m friends with the Twins’ minor league director, and I thought he was doing me a favor by trading me to the Cubs,” Bierley said. “Little did I know they had seven outfielders in the bigs.”
In Bierley, the Cubs, who needed another player to fill out their triple-A roster, got one of the top power hitters in the International League.
After 80 games, Bierley is tied for second in the league in home runs (14) and is fifth in runs batted in (46) and 10th in batting average (.292).
“Everyone thinks I’m a home-run hitter,” Bierley said. “I had a couple seasons where I hit 20 or more home runs. But I’m not a Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire. I like to think I’m a spray hitter. I hit a lot of line drives.”
After playing three seasons at Pepperdine, Bierley was drafted by the Twins in the fifth round of the 1985 amateur draft.
Bierley became the Twins’ top outfield prospect in 1988 after playing two seasons of double-A ball in Orlando, Fla. In each of those years, he hit 22 home runs and averaged .280 or better with 60 to 70 RBIs.
Bierley was frustrated that he hadn’t been promoted after his first season at Orlando.
“I thought I would be invited to big-league camp,” Bierley said. “For sure, I would be promoted to triple-A. But the Twins signed a couple of free-agent outfielders and I was sent back to Orlando.
“I got caught in a numbers game.”
In 1988 Bierley was promoted to the triple-A team in Portland, Ore., but suffered a bad break. He was hit by a pitch and six weeks later discovered that he had a broken bone in his left leg.
“I got hit by someone from the Dodgers at Albuquerque,” Bierley said. “I can’t remember who it was.
“I couldn’t pivot or run on (the leg).”
Bierley finished with only four home runs, 37 RBIs and a .246 batting average. He lost his status as the Twins’ top outfield prospect and was removed from the team’s 40-man roster. He also was no longer guaranteed a starting job.
Last season at Portland, Bierley played every fourth day and managed to hit .281.
But the Twins were not impressed, and that prompted Bierley’s request for a trade.
“I don’t know what happened,” Bierley said. “The Twins got the notion that I lost my power. Portland isn’t exactly a home-run park for left-handed hitters.”
Bierley hasn’t had any problems demonstrating his power at Des Moines. One of his season’s highlights was hitting a home run before 50 family members and friends against the Toledo Mud Hens.
“They got a big kick out of that,” said Bierley, the son of former North Torrance High basketball Coach Russ Bierley. “I knew I would put up big numbers again if I got a chance to play every day.”
Now Bierley waits to see if has hit the right numbers to make the big leagues.
Once an all-star, always an all-star--For the fourth consecutive year, catcher Jorge Pedre (Harbor College) was selected to play in a minor league all-star game. Wednesday, Pedre played in the Southern League All-Star Game in Chattanooga, Tenn. He was hitless in his only at-bat. During the first half of the season, Pedre had a .287 batting average with five home runs and 33 RBIs while playing for the Memphis Chicks. He made four errors while sharing the catching duties with Brent Mayne. Since returning from the 15-day disabled list--he injured his right wrist--Pedre has been moved to first base.
More notes--How difficult can the jump be from double-A to triple-A? Kelly Mann, who lives in Redondo Beach, had five home runs and 12 RBIs in a one-week stretch for the Atlanta Braves’ double-A affiliate in Greenville, S.C. Since being promoted, Mann has only one home run and seven RBIs in 24 games at Richmond, Va. . . .