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MINOR LEAGUES : Yankee Farm Players See Life After Steinbrenner

While New York Yankee players and fans welcomed the news of George Steinbrenner’s demotion from managing general partner to a lesser role as silent minority owner, players in the team’s farm system say it will have little effect on their careers.

Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent ordered Steinbrenner on Tuesday to resign as general partner of the Yankees by Aug. 20 for paying $40,000 to a known gambler in the Dave Winfield case.

“It hasn’t affected us at all,” said Don Sparks, the former Loyola Marymount standout who plays for the Albany-Colonie Yankees in the double-A Eastern League. “We worry about our game and not who is running the show.

“There are rumors going around,” Sparks said, “but the only thing we hear or see about Steinbrenner is in the papers. I think the Yankees treat us as fairly as possible. I would like to remain in the organization.”

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In the past, minor leaguers’ biggest complaint about the Yankees was that Steinbrenner never gave them a chance to prove themselves in the big leagues. Instead, he would empty his pockets to sign free-agent players or trade his prospects for aging veterans. Last winter, for example, he traded top prospect Hal Morris to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Tim Leary.

The Yankees have five players from the South Bay in their farm system, more than any other major league organization. In addition to Sparks, the list consists of pitcher Royal Clayton (St. Bernard High), former Loyola Marymount shortstop Bobby Dejardin, and first basemen Tate Seefried (El Segundo High) and Hernan Cortes (Leuzinger High).

Clayton says the presence of Steinbrenner will still be felt at the major league level.

“Well, I think with his son taking over, George will still be a little hands-on, but hands-off, if you know what I mean,” Clayton said. “I don’t think they will be changing anything at the lower levels. Those decision have been made by Minor League Director George Bradley.”

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Dejardin heard for two years that the only way a Yankee minor leaguer could make the majors was to be traded. Now, he says, the philosophy has changed.

Dejardin cited the promotions of outfielder Jim Leyritz, first baseman Kevin Maas, outfielder Oscar Azocar, catcher Bob Geren and pitcher Al Mills this season.

“I heard the story that George (Steinbrenner) decided to try a youth movement after attending a Chicago White Sox game,” he said. “They’ve had a little success with their young players.

“When they started calling guys up from Columbus and Albany, that opened some eyes. We know what they can do, and we can compare our talents against theirs. We’re all excited about making it to New York.”

Even if George won’t be there to greet them.

Rising with his fastball: Pitcher Royal Clayton advanced to the triple-A level for the first time when he was promoted to the Columbus (Ohio) Clippers of the International League on July 23.

Clayton earned his first victory for the Yankees’ triple-A affiliate, blanking Richmond, 9-0, on Wednesday. Clayton (1-1) gave up six hits and one walk in seven innings.

In his first appearance after his promotion, Clayton gave up five earned runs on nine hits and three walks to suffer the loss.

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“I had one bad inning (in the first game) and they touched me up for five runs,” Clayton said. “I fell behind on the hitters and they found the holes on me.

“I didn’t change a thing Wednesday,” he said. “I made them hit my pitch.”

At Albany, Clayton had an 8-8 record and a 3.14 earned-run average in 17 starts.

Clayton filled one of the voids left in the Columbus rotation when Kevin Mmahat went on the disabled list and Mark Leiter was promoted to the major league team.

Walking with pride: Third baseman Chris Donnels (South Torrance High, Loyola Marymount) would rather wait for a good pitch to hit than swing at a ball outside the strike zone.

This season, Donnels has proved to be a patient hitter, leading the Texas League with 90 walks.

“No, I’m not frustrated by all the walks,” Donnels said. “I’d rather swing at my pitch than the pitcher’s pitch.

“I keep looking for good pitches to hit, but they’re not coming as often,” he said. “Maybe (the pitchers) would rather face someone other than me.”

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In the Jackson Mets’ 9-1 loss to the Midland Angels on Tuesday, Donnels had two of the three hits given up by Midland pitcher Mike Erb. For the season, Donnels has a .271 batting average with eight home runs and 44 runs batted in.

“I’ve had a couple of slumps this season,” Donnels said. “I developed a hitch in my swing where I would drop my hands and not be able to catch up on fastballs with velocity. It’s something I’ve been working on.”

Donnels hopes another hitch will be more permanent. On Nov. 3, Donnels will walk down the aisle to marry his fiancee, Michele Marasca of Northridge.

Maye has his day: Former Harbor College standout Steve Maye knew he would start winning games, and last week he was rewarded for his patience.

The struggling Maye recorded two victories last week to improve his record with the Salinas Spurs to 6-12. He was selected the California League (Class A) pitcher of the week by Howe Sportsdata International.

Maye gave up only one run and eight hits in 16 innings. He had 11 strikeouts.

“Steve has received some interest from the Milwaukee Brewers and the California Angels, but nothing has happened yet,” Salinas club official Mike Sansone said.

Maye has 10 complete games to lead the California League.

Other California League notes:

* San Jose Giants shortstop Royce Clayton (St. Bernard High) leads the league in putouts (194) and assists (337).

* San Jose outfielder Dan Lewis (El Camino College) is second in the league in RBIs (79).

* San Bernardino second baseman Brian Turang (Loyola Marymount) raised his batting average to .303, sixth best in the league.

* Pitcher Mike Aspray (Gardena High) was recently released by the Visalia Oaks. He had a 2-2 record with three saves and a 3.46 earned-run average.


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