The once-promising career of Dodger outfielder Billy Ashley took another downward turn Tuesday when he cleared waivers and was outrighted to triple-A Albuquerque.
Ashley realized he wasn't in the Dodgers' plans before arriving here for spring training, and team officials said they would try to accommodate him with a trade. But a deal couldn't be completed.
"We tried our best," said Fred Claire, executive vice president. "But as much as we thought there would be an opportunity for him elsewhere, we simply weren't able to make a trade.
"To some extent, the lack of interest showed because he cleared waivers. Frankly, I'm surprised."
Ashley could refuse the assignment and become a free agent. But he would forfeit his $450,000 contract.
"I'm so upset right now, I'm not sure what I'm going to do," Ashley said. "I can't even think about it, because I don't have any energy left mentally. This has just been a very difficult spring, and I wouldn't wish anything like this on any other player."
Ashley, 27, was the Dodgers' top prospect in 1994. He won a minor league player-of-the year award after batting .345 with 37 home runs and 105 runs batted in at Albuquerque.
He was expected to become the Dodgers' left fielder in 1995, but he struggled offensively and defensively. In 215 at-bats, Ashley struck out 88 times.
Ashley tied a team record with five pinch-hit homers in 1996, and thought he would compete in left field last season. He made 31 starts but failed to establish himself. He hit .244 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 71 games.
An expected February trade with the Red Sox collapsed because Boston wouldn't part with the lower-level minor leaguer the Dodgers wanted.
And the situation is also discouraging for Ashley considering the team's problems in the outfield. Projected starters Roger Cedeno and Todd Hollandsworth have been sidelined for much of camp because of hamstring injuries.
"I've been passed over for three years in this organization, so that doesn't surprise me," said Ashley, who hit .238 (five for 21) with two homers and eight RBIs here.
Outfielder Thomas Howard, who might start on opening day, signed a $425,000 contract and was added to the 40-man roster. . . . Hollandsworth, recovering from a strained left hamstring, played in a minor league game, going three for six with two doubles.