[ MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ]
COURTESY WILMINGTON BLUE ROCKS
Kamehameha alumnus Kahi Kaanoi was promoted to the Royals' advanced Class A team. He posted a 1.37 ERA.
Isle pitchers solid
for Single-A teams
THIRD OF FIVE PARTS
Seven players with Hawaii connections -- Jeff Coleman, Kahi Kaanoi, Chad Bailey, Will Quaglieri, Reid Santos, Clary Carlsen and Chris George -- pitched for Class A teams last summer.
Six of them turned in solid seasons, although three had to contend with nagging injuries. George battled a hip injury that finally required surgery.
Coleman (Hawaii) will receive a championship ring next spring as a member of the Modesto Athletics, champions of the California League.
He began the season in the Class AA Texas League with the Midland Rockhounds, but experienced some serious mechanical problems with his pitching motion. The Oakland Athletics sent him back to Modesto to fix the problem.
"I wasn't able to figure it out. At Modesto I was back with the pitching coach (Scott Emerson) I had the year before. I even called (former UH pitching coach) Carl Furutani and he looked at some old tapes to see if he could help," said Coleman.
When Coleman got his act together, he became the Athletics' closer and finished runner-up in the league's save department with 23. Coleman's 2.49 earned-run average was his best since the 1.54 mark he posted in rookie ball in 2001.
"It took time to get back to where I needed to be, but I ended up having a good season (at Modesto) even though I feel I'm past that level," said Coleman. "I enjoyed being the closer. There always is a lot of big things on the line when you come in.
"I definitely want to move up next year, but I have nothing else to prove in this (Cal) league."
Kaanoi had control this year. His four-year earned-run average was 5.14. In 54 innings for the Burlington (Iowa) Bees of the Midwest League his ERA was 2.83 with three times as many strikeouts as walks. The Kansas City Royals promoted the Kamehameha graduate to the Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks in the Class A advanced Carolina League, where he fashioned a 1.37 ERA.
"I improved a lot this year. My control was 100 percent better. I learned how to pitch, to get more ground balls," said Kaanoi.
He throws a two-seam fastball that sinks and he developed a split-finger fastball that acts like a changeup, a pitch he does not throw.
"The split-finger was my out pitch. I was happy to get promoted and glad to get back in the starting rotation at Wilmington," said Kaanoi. "My arm was fine, although it got a little tired at the end because I doubled my innings from the year before."
Bailey, in his second pro year, thought his season was a good one once the muscle tightness in his left shoulder was eliminated through a month-long rehab process.
The shoulder problem caused his velocity to drop from 95-96 miles per hour to 82-83 and the Los Angeles Dodgers told the Campbell graduate to shut down until the tightness was gone.
"I learned a lot more stuff this year, mostly with my mechanics. I worked on staying back more (in the delivery motion) and worked on improving my changeup," said Bailey. "Things went better after I came back."
Bailey was scheduled to participate in the instructional league, but the Dodgers canceled it due to the active hurricane season.
Quaglieri (Hawaii, Loyola Marymount) signed as a free agent with the New York Mets before the draft and began the season with the Brooklyn Cyclones in the New York-Penn league.
The right-hander was sidetracked for a time in the middle of the season and finished with the Kingsport (Tenn.) Mets in the Appalachian League.
"I had a good time. It was nice not to pitch to metal bats," said Quaglieri. "You still have to hit your spots and move your ball around. I started off well and wished I could have stayed strong the whole year."
His combined win-loss record was 1-2 with a 3.46 ERA.
Santos enjoyed his first healthy season since 2000 and put together solid numbers for the Burlington (N.C.) Indians in the Appalachian League. The left-hander from Castle had a 3.07 ERA, fourth best in the league, and walked just 17 while striking out 60, better than one per inning, and had a 3-5 record.
With two weeks to go in the season, he was promoted to the Lake County (Eastlake, Ohio) Captains in the South Atlantic League. He is attending the Cleveland Indians fall instructional league.
"I'll be concentrating on the strength and conditioning program, not throwing too much. I just want to continue my development," said Santos.
"I pitched well this summer. I worked on my changeup in the spring and was really confident going into the season. My velocity was up and it was good to get promoted."
Carlsen (Hawaii) was pretty satisfied with his first pro season after being a 33rd round pick by Philadelphia in June.
"I was worried going in because my shoulder was sore after the UH season, but I worked with the trainers, did the right stretches and the pitching turned out OK," said Carlsen.
The right-hander spent all but two weeks with the Phillies in the Gulf Coast League, a rookie circuit in Florida. He was 3-0 with a 2.86 ERA, allowed 18 hits in 22 innings, fanned 24 and walked four. Carlsen did have a brief stint with the Clearwater Threshers in the Florida State League.
"I would have liked to go to short-season A, but it was better than nothing. The competition was good," said Carlsen. "I worked on my velocity because I didn't want to rely on my slider and changeup so much."
George said he tweaked his left hip during spring training, but that it did not seem like a big deal. He was fine walking and only felt the pain when he pitched. The first diagnosis was bursitis. Treatment brought no relief from the pain and George tried to pitch through it.
"Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was tough. My stats were horrible and after three horrible outings, I stopped pitching," said the former UH Rainbow right-hander.
"I had an MRI. It showed an impingement in the femoral socket, an extra knuckle bone or something," said George.
He had arthroscopic surgery in August and hopes to be ready for spring training.
"The rehab is going to take time. All I want to do is get better and perform better next year," said George.