After impressing the Dodger front office, Zak Shinall was mentioned as a possible candidate to bolster L.A.'s faltering bullpen, but promotion of the former El Segundo High standout does not appear imminent.
The bullpen--specifically Jim Gott, Kevin Gross and Mike Hartley--struggled during the absence of injured closer Jay Howell and the Dodgers were rumored to be shopping for another reliever. One trade had L.A. sending three pitching prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers for Dan Plesac.
Now that Howell has returned, the Dodger front office appears to be content to wait while Shinall and John Wetteland, who has thrived in his new role as a closer, continue to develop at triple-A Albuquerque, N.M. Both are right-handers.
“Zak has been progressing well in our system, but there has been no discussion about when he’ll be called up,” said Charlie Blaney, the Dodgers’ director of minor league operations. “He has the one pitch that can make him a closer in the majors. He has an outstanding sinker ball.
“He’s proved himself at double-A ball and now we’re giving him an opportunity to see what he can do at triple-A.”
Shinall, likewise, does not want to be hurried.
“I feel if they need someone right now, it would be Wetteland,” Shinall said. “I would be ready for the job if they promoted me. All that I can do now is get people out. Once I prove I can do that on a consistent basis and start dominating this league, I’ll get my chance in the majors. They’ll have to make a move.”
Shinall, who throws a sinker 80% of the time, is best known for a fastball he threw during spring training. Pitching to Atlanta outfielder David Justice with a full count, Shinall threw a fastball that the 1990 National League rookie of the year drove more than 450 feet for a three-run homer.
“I learned that no matter what the count is, you can’t put the ball straight over the plate,” Shinall said. “At other levels, sometimes you can get away with it, but not here in the majors.”
Those were the only runs Shinall gave up during his second trip to spring training. And he hasn’t given up too many runs in minors, either.
Farmed out to the Dodgers’ double-A team in San Antonio, Shinall had a 2-4 record, nine saves, a 2.80 earned-run average and 15 consecutive scoreless innings as the Missions’ closer.
Since being promoted to Albuquerque, Shinall is 2-0 with no saves and a 1.40 ERA.
Shinall believes he may be called up in September when major league teams can expand their roster to 40 players. The Dodgers expect to be in a pennant race and Shinall would be home and close to his second love--surfing.
“I really miss my friends and the beach life I had before I signed with the Dodgers,” Shinall said. “This (baseball) is my job now and I have to concentrate on it. The beach will always be there. But I will take advantage of it when I get a chance.”
Don’t be surprised if Shinall is part of the next wave of prospects to reach Los Angeles.
The first cut is the deepest--Jim Hudson, a teammate of Shinall’s at El Segundo in 1985, hasn’t fared as well in the minor leagues.
Hudson has survived a car accident and major reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder, but he’s been slow to recover from another setback.
The Kansas City Royals released Hudson on the last day of spring training.
“I was pitching better than ever,” said Hudson, who missed the first five weeks of last season because of rehabilitation. “I was the first starter on the spring training team and team leader. Then out of the blue, I got released.”
Last season, Hudson had a 9-5 record and a 3.16 ERA at Class-A Baseball City, Fla. and a 1-3 record and a 6.48 ERA with double-A Memphis Chicks.
“All they want is guys that throw 90 miles per hour,” he said. “If you don’t throw 90, you’re in trouble.”
Hudson, who now pitches for the El Segundo Giants in a semiprofessional league, is trying to arrange a tryout before San Francisco Giant scout George Genovese.
“I’m not giving up,” Hudson said. “I want to stay in baseball.”
Making the right move--With Shinall and Hudson as teammates, Dennis Reed never got a chance to pitch because El Segundo needed a catcher.
At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, it was a different story. The Mustangs needed a pitcher and Reed made the switch during his senior year.
The Houston Astros liked Reed as a pitcher and made him their 22nd-round pick in the 1990 June Amateur draft.
In his second year of professional ball, Reed has become a dependable middle reliever in Class-A. He has a 4-2 record, 2.32 ERA, and 43 strikeouts in 50 innings with the Asheville (N.C.) Tourists of the South Atlantic League.
Staying focused--While his mentor Rod Carew was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., first baseman Tate Seefried was busy playing in St. Catharines, Ontario.
“I wanted to attend, but I had a game that same day,” said Seefried, whose father attended the ceremonies. “We talked about a week and a half before he came to New York and I congratulated him.”
Seefried, who has been struggling at the plate, also sought some hitting advice from Carew. He has a .196 batting average with the New York Yankees Class-A team at Oneonta, N.Y.
“I haven’t found the holes yet,” Seefried said. “I’m hitting the ball hard and that’s what matters the most.
“I need to be more patient. I need to pick out better pitches to hit.”
Royce Clayton (St. Bernard High) was the only South Bay-area player selected in Baseball America magazine’s “Tools of the Trade” survey. Clayton was selected best defensive shortstop and most exciting player in the Texas League. . . . Pitcher Mike Busby (Banning High) recently was selected the pitcher of the week in the Arizona rookie league. . . . Chris Haslock (Cal State Dominguez Hills) was released by the double-A Wichita Wranglers after four seasons in the San Diego Padre organization.