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PRO BASEBALL / MIKE HISERMAN : Nothing Trivial About Reed’s Performance Against Dodgers

Quiz time: Name the pitcher who holds the minor league record of 43 saves in a season.

Answer: Steve Reed, who last season saved 23 games for double-A Shreveport (La.) and 20 more after a promotion to triple-A Phoenix.

Now, a trivia question:

Name the pitcher who allowed Mike Piazza’s first major league home run.

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Again, the answer is Reed, a former Chatsworth High standout.

After a September call-up to the San Francisco Giants last season, Piazza took Reed deep in the pitcher’s first appearance at Dodger Stadium.

This week, Piazza’s blast became a distant memory.

In his second and third tries on the Dodger Stadium mound, Reed, a side-arming right-hander, was instrumental in the Colorado Rockies’ four-game sweep of the Dodgers.

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He won one game and saved another, pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings.

“That first day, to come in and get a win was big,” Reed said. “Just to contribute was great and since I had about 40 or 50 people here rooting for me, it was extra special for that too.”

Reed, the Rockies’ 60th pick of the expansion draft last November, has a record of 6-4 with a 4.64 earned-run average. But lately he has been pitching far better than those numbers indicate.

Since he was recalled from triple-A Colorado Springs on June 14, Reed’s ERA is just over 2.00. On a staff with a combined ERA of 5.74, that is particularly impressive.

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Reed, 27, started the season with the Rockies, but was demoted five weeks later after getting racked on several occasions.

“It seemed like the harder I tried, the worse things were getting,” Reed said. “I was pressing and my ball wasn’t sinking.”

Going back to triple A, where he went a month without giving up a run in 12 1/3 innings, helped Reed refine his mechanics and regain confidence.

“Looking back now, struggling like I did probably made me a better player,” Reed said. “I’d worked so hard to get (to the big leagues), I wasn’t having any fun. Now, if I get hit, I get hit. If I lose, I lose. I just do the best I can every time I’m given an opportunity.”

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In his first 30 innings after rejoining the Rockies, Reed gave up three earned runs. He always expects to get better as the season wears on.

“I like to have a tired arm,” he said. “If I’m too strong, the ball tends to stay up.”

Reed describes his rather unorthodox delivery as a “happy medium” between three-quarters and the submarine offerings made famous by relief pitchers Kent Tekulve and Dan Quisenberry.

The higher his arm motion, the harder he throws--but with less motion.

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“Actually, the lower I am, the better my stuff is,” Reed said.

The niche Reed has found in his last six outings has been just right. In 8 1/3 innings, he has not given up a run.

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Jeff Tackett gave up one hit and a walk on Wednesday in a one-inning pitching performance notable for two reasons:

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First, Tackett, a Camarillo High graduate, is a reserve catcher. Second, he was the only one of the 10 pitchers the Baltimore Orioles tried against the Detroit Tigers in three games this week who did not give up a run.

In those games, the Tigers hit three grand slams and scored 47 runs and had 48 hits.

If nothing else, Tackett’s performance provides him with some ammunition if Oriole pitchers give him any lip in the bullpen.

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Gregg Zaun, who could push Tackett for a big-league roster berth with Baltimore next season, has fast become a fan favorite in triple-A Rochester, N.Y.

Since his promotion from double-A Bowie (Md.) on Aug. 3, Zaun has been the Red Wings’ starting catcher in 10 of 11 games and is batting .270 with a home run and four runs batted in. The former St. Francis High standout also has gained a reputation as a hard-nosed, gritty player.

“This is a club that has been decimated by injuries and call-ups,” said Glen Geffner, a club official. “He’s the one guy who has been entertaining lately.”

That Zaun was directly responsible for the Red Wings’ winning back-to-back games this week has only added to his popularity.

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Last Sunday, his leadoff home run in the top of the 12th inning beat Syracuse. The following evening, Zaun’s one-out single in the bottom of the ninth was the game-winning blow against Pawtucket.

Zaun, who batted .303 and won a magazine poll as the best defensive catcher in the double-A Eastern League, carried a five-game hitting streak into action Friday night against Ottawa.

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Greg Shockey has spent an eventful first full season in the minor leagues.

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Shockey, a top hitter for four seasons at Cal State Northridge, signed a free-agent contract with Seattle in June of last year.

After a solid short season in Bellingham, Wash., Shockey was promoted this spring to the Mariners’ Class-A affiliate in Riverside.

For the Pilots, he was a starter in left field and the third-place hitter in the batting order, playing with such proficiency that he won a position as a starter in the California League all-star game.

On Monday, Shockey received yet another indication that he has earned respect and attention: He was traded for a major league pitcher. Seattle sent Shockey to the Minnesota Twins for right-hander Steve Ontiveros.

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Ontiveros, who had a 7-6 record and 2.87 earned-run average for the triple-A Portland Beavers, was immediately placed on the Mariners’ active roster.

Shockey was sent to Fort Myers of the Class-A Florida State League where Bill Smith, the Twins’ assistant general manager, said, “We are going to take a look at him and see how he fits into our plans for next season.

“Greg had an excellent year at Riverside and left-handed hitting outfielders are always in demand,” Smith added. “We need some outfield depth and he fits that profile.”

For Riverside, Shockey batted .311 and scored 61 runs with six homers and 63 runs batted in. His batting average, runs scored and RBIs were second-best on the team.

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Gary Mota is not in midseason form.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Texas League is.

After spending 3 1/2 months on the disabled list, Mota was activated by the double-A Jackson Generals on July 23. He has been struggling ever since.

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The 22-year old outfielder from La Crescenta has 14 strikeouts in 49 at-bats and only five hits--all singles--since his return.

Mota, whose father, Manny, is a former Dodger player and coach, suffered a broken wrist when he was hit by a pitch in Jackson’s second game this season. His injury required surgery to repair tendon and ligament damage.

Last season, Mota was most valuable player in the Class-A South Atlantic League. Playing for the Houston Astros’ affiliate in Asheville, N.C., he batted .291, hit 24 home runs, drove in 90 runs and stole 22 bases.

His 242 total bases, his home runs and RBIs all were highs in the Astros’ organization.

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Short hops: A promotion to the Huntsville (Ala.) Stars of the double-A Southern League has only slightly slowed Joel Wolfe.

The former Chatsworth High and UCLA standout is batting .327 with five doubles, three home runs and 17 RBIs in his first 27 games since being called up from Oakland’s Class-A affiliate in Modesto.

Wolfe, an outfielder, batted .350 for Modesto and was a starter in the California League all-star game. . . .

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Ernie Banks may be Mr. Cub in Chicago, but Matt Franco is the Cub organization’s Mr. Double.

Franco, a Westlake High graduate, has averaged a double every 11 at-bats this season.

For double-A Orlando, Franco batted .316 with 20 doubles, a triple and seven home runs among his 75 hits. Since his promotion to triple-A Iowa in June, the right-handed hitting first baseman is batting .301 with 14 doubles, two triples and five home runs among his 44 hits.

Franco has never carried the reputation of a power hitter, yet 49 of his 119 hits have been for extra bases. His slugging percentage is .509. . . .

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Jeff Cirillo, third baseman and part-time designated hitter for the triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs, was on the disabled list from July 19 to Aug. 6 with a sprained right ankle.

Since returning to action, he has six hits in 25 at-bats. Cirillo, a former Providence High and USC standout, is batting .294 with seven doubles, two triples, two homers and 19 RBIs in 33 games since his promotion from the Milwaukee Brewers’ double-A affiliate in El Paso, Tex. . . .

Ryan McGuire, another former UCLA star, is tearing up the Class-A Florida State League in his debut for the Boston Red Sox’s affiliate in Fort Lauderdale.

McGuire, an El Camino Real High graduate, is batting a team-high .361 with 10 doubles, a triple and four home runs among his 52 hits. He has 17 multiple-hit games, 18 runs and 28 RBIs in 39 starts at first base. . . .

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Scott Richardson is batting .276 and leads the Brewers’ affiliate in Beloit, Wis., of the Class-A Midwest League with 21 doubles, seven triples and 36 stolen bases. His 58 RBIs is second on the team.

Richardson, who played three seasons at Northridge, has been starting in left field for the past week instead of his usual spot at second base. In 100 games as an infielder, Richardson made 23 errors. . . .

David Eggert, who played at Ventura High, Ventura College and Northridge, is picking up where he left off last season. Pitching for the Burlington (Iowa) Bees in the Class-A Midwest League, Eggert is striking out batters at a rate far better than one per inning.

In 42 games and 47 1/3 innings, Eggert has 67 strikeouts and opponents are batting .240 against him. As his club’s left-handed closer, Eggert has a record of 4-4 with a 2.66 ERA and six saves.

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