MINOR LEAGUE NOTEBOOK / SCOTT MILLER : Forecast of Snow Prompted Angels’ Barbara to Leave Vancouver
He was in Calgary last week when he decided he just couldn’t take it any more. So he obtained his release from the Angels’ organization.
Don Barbara, the Angels’ triple-A first baseman in Edmonton last summer, was crushed when the club acquired J.T. Snow in the Jim Abbott trade last December.
He swallowed his pride when the Angels didn’t invite him to big league camp this spring, and again when they told him Ty Van Burkleo would open the season as first baseman in Vancouver.
So Barbara was placed on the disabled list with a bruised shin and, like everyone else, watched as Snow began hitting baseballs out of stadiums like the second coming of Wally Joyner.
And last Thursday, Barbara decided his future was not with the Angels. He asked for his release from the organization and on Friday, the club granted it.
“I felt I had no place to go in this organization,” said Barbara, who is watching Snow’s heroics from his home in Huntington Beach. “By them (starting Van Burkleo) and putting me on the disabled list, they showed me they have no plans for me.”
Barbara said the plan was to activate him last Saturday. When asked if the bruise was bad enough to have him placed on the disabled list in the first place, Barbara hesitated.
“I don’t want to cause trouble between the Angels and I,” he said.
In 118 games and 396 at-bats in Edmonton last season, the 24-year-old from Cal State Long Beach batted .298 with four homers and 68 runs batted in. It was his third year in the organization and his first year at the triple-A level.
He figured he was on his way. But that small number in the home-run category was a problem.
And then Snow arrived.
“I don’t think they were short on first basemen,” Barbara said. “When they went and got another first baseman, I knew something was going on.
“I had a good year last year but I didn’t show enough power for them. They told me it doesn’t matter if I hit .320, I’ve got to hit home runs.”
Barbara hit .362 at double-A Midland in 63 games in 1991--with 10 home runs-- and thought he may get invited to big league camp after that. The frustration started building when he wasn’t invited to big-league camp this spring.
“When I didn’t get invited to big-league camp this year, I knew it would be a strange year,” Barbara admitted.
Barbara intends to wait while his New York-based agent, Tony Abitini, searches for openings.
“I just hope to find a place to play,” Barbara said.
Now, for some real home run power in the Angel organization, we take you to double-A Midland, Tex., and infielder Brian Grebeck.
Grebeck--whose brother, Craig, is the guy who supplanted Steve Sax at second base for the Chicago White Sox before injuring a hand--hit home runs on three consecutive days last week.
And the last two came on consecutive pitches--the last one he saw Tuesday and the first one he saw Wednesday.
The catch: Grebeck, from Cerritos, had only one career home run in three minor-league seasons. Now, he’s already got three this month.
“The wind’s blowing out, and I hit a few fly balls,” he explained. “I started out 0 for 12 this year. I felt I was sort of messed up from spring training. I figured it out and now I feel good.”
Apparently so. He hit .336 at single-A Palm Springs last season but is only hitting around .200 at Midland. He has divided time among shortstop, third base and second base.
“I started the season as a non-starter,” Grebeck said. “I’d just like to get a lot of at-bats.”
The jump to double-A hasn’t been too difficult for him.
“The pitchers up here are not that much better in their arms or their stuff,” he said. “They’re just a little smarter. They’re always around the plate.”
Brotherly advice: Grebeck said his brother has been supportive during his three-year, minor-league career.
“He’s helped me out a lot,” Grebeck said. “More or less what to expect, how to go about certain situations, things like that.”
Craig Grebeck played three full seasons in the minors and another 12 games at Vancouver in 1990 before being recalled by the White Sox. He and Brian have swapped dozens of minor league stories. Brian would like to be able to match his brother in major league stories.
Paul Abbott, from Sunny Hills High in Fullerton, was picked up by pitching-poor Cleveland after Minnesota released him last month.
Abbott is suffering a reoccurrence of pain in his right--pitching--shoulder and is at the Indians’ extended spring training in Winter Haven, Fla.
Abbott suffered a partially dislocated right shoulder last March and spent time on the disabled list before going 4-1 with a 2.33 earned-run average at triple-A Portland last season and 0-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings with Minnesota.
“He was a prospect at one time,” said Gordy Gutowsky, an Indian administrative assistant for baseball administration. “He still could be, if he gets healthy. Our scouts have always liked him.”
Gutowsky said the Indians expect Abbott to remain in Florida for two to four weeks before probably joining the Indians’ triple-A club in Charlotte, S.C.
Although no statistics are kept at extended spring training, Gutowsky said the Indians are pleased with Abbott’s progress.