Komine gets ring in minors
Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of five stories on Hawaii's minor league players
The four Hawaii players who finished the season at Class AA were on teams that qualified for league playoffs.
Only Shane Komine ended the year on a championship team when the Midland Rockhounds won the Texas League title. He pitched and won the opener of the championship showdown.
Komine (Kalani, Nebraska) had Tommy John surgery July 23, 2004, and did not get back into action until the end of June this year.
The Oakland Athletics assigned the right-hander to the Arizona League, where he got four starts under his belt.
"It was about the third week in Arizona that I started to feel good," Komine said.
"I spent some time with (Iolani alum) Mike Fetters and he suggested some minor changes in my mechanics (arm angle and keeping things simple).
"In the beginning, my elbow would let me know if everything was all right. It was a good sign when I didn't have any pain after making a slight change in my mechanics."
Komine moved up to the Stockton Ports in the California League for two starts, then finished the season with Midland, the team he was with last year when injured. He was 2-1 with a 3.16 earned-run average, walked seven and fanned 33.
"It was a lot of fun to get back out there. We had a good team in Midland. Everybody did their job," said Komine, who is pitching in the Arizona Fall League for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. His catcher is Baldwin product Kurt Suzuki.
Darren Blakely had his best season since turning pro in 1998 after three years with the Hawaii Rainbows. He avoided a late-summer statistical slide, something he had to deal with last year.
Playing for Birmingham (Ala.) in the Southern League, Blakely was the designated hitter for the Barons.
"That is the first time I've ever done that," Blakely said.
"We had a good season. We made the playoffs and I was able to help the young guys by keeping my poise and showing some leadership. It was the first time a lot of them had been at that level."
He credits his consistency with finding an easy swing and sticking with it.
"Last year, I figured out a swing that I was comfortable with. I wasn't changing it every other week. This year I kept everything the same," Blakely said.
He led the league with 89 runs batted in and led the Barons with eight sacrifice fly balls and a .478 slugging percentage. His .283 batting average was the best of his career.
"Blake has matured as a player. I think he was more committed to an organization where he fits in. He feels comfortable and when you have that feeling you play better," said Mike Lum, Chicago's minor league roving hitting instructor.
"He had a hitting coach (Gregg Ritchie) who is not only a mechanical guy but a mental guy. Gregg gives everyone an idea of how he is going to be pitched. It gives hitters a little advantage."
Blakely has signed for 2006 and is getting married to Jessica Harczak next month.
"The White Sox came to me just before the playoffs and asked if I wanted to re-sign. I thought about seeing what was out there, but this is my fourth organization and I don't want to keep starting over," Blakely said.
"Obviously, I'm doing something right and I'm around the right people, people that I am comfortable with."
Bronson Sardinha changed positions again, playing right field for the Trenton (N.J.) Thunder of the Eastern League.
A year ago the Kamehameha graduate was a third baseman. He started his pro career at shortstop and has played left and center field in the New York Yankees farm system.
"I thought it went real good. I was relaxed out there and got comfortable with the position," said Sardinha.
"I wish my average (.258) had been better, but the other numbers are decent."
Sardinha led the Thunder with 130 hits and 30 doubles and tied for first with 11 stolen bases.
He hit 12 home runs and had 68 runs batted in.
"I started slow, was pressing a lot and it was freezing up here. When the weather warmed up, things got better," he said.
Sardinha is playing in the Arizona Fall League for the Grand Canyon Rafters and was hitting .286 before yesterday's games.
Rex Rundgren (Mid-Pacific, Sacramento City College) spent his first full season at the AA level with the Carolina (Zebulon, N.C.) Mudcats in the Southern League.
The Florida Marlins farmhand kept his batting average in the .250 to .265 range much of the year, but tailed off the last two months of the season to finish at .231 in his fifth season of pro ball.