Victorino steps into big leagues
Editor's note: This is the last in a series of five stories on Hawaii's minor league players
Shane Victorino, Dusty Bergman, Keoni DeRenne, Dane Sardinha, Chris Truby and Brandon Villafuerte played all or most of the season at the Class AAA level.
Victorino (St. Anthony) was named the International League Player of the Year and was rewarded by the Philadelphia Phillies by spending September in the majors and receiving a major league paycheck.
"That was a little treat for having a good season," Victorino said.
The switch-hitting center fielder had a .294 batting average with two home runs In 21 games with the Phillies. He was used as a pinch hitter, pinch runner and late-inning defensive replacement.
"I learned a lot and saw a lot. It seemed like every day was just another day in the dugout. I asked Jim Thome about this and learned that things don't change just because it is a must-win situation like our last three games," Victorino said.
The Phillies were in the hunt for the National League wild-card spot until the final day of the season.
In 126 games with Scranton Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) in the International League, Victorino led the Red Barons with 153 hits, 93 runs, 13 triples, 51 walks, 17 stolen bases and a .534 slugging percentage.
Chad Santos made a successful jump to the Triple-A ranks after two seasons one step below. He spent a full year with the Omaha Royals in the Pacific Coast League.
Mark Johnson, who signed a free-agent contract with the Detroit Tigers in the offseason, finished at the Triple-A level after beginning the season with the Erie Seawolves in the Class AA Eastern League.
Bergman, DeRenne, Johnson, Truby and Villafuerte were expected to become free agents yesterday. That will give them the option of re-signing with their 2005 team or exploring opportunities with other teams.
Santos, in his seventh pro season in the Kansas City organization, tied his career high with 112 hits that included 28 doubles and 16 home runs. The first baseman from Saint Louis knocked in 64 teammates and finished with a .259 batting average.
Santos also has the option of electing free agency this year.
The six-year free-agent rule for minor league players states: A player is eligible for free agency if he has played all or part of seven seasons in the major or minor leagues and is not placed on a team's 40-man roster by Oct. 15.
Bergman (Hawaii) was traded by Anaheim to San Francisco on Aug. 24 after seven seasons in the Angels organization.
"I was excited (about the trade) at first, but then nothing happened in September as far as being called up, put on the 40-man roster or being told anything (by the Giants)," Bergman said. "I don't even know if they are interested in me for next year. I assume so, but I'll wait to see what happens."
The left-handed reliever spent all but the last two weeks with the Salt Lake Stingers in the Pacific Coast League. His earned-run average was in the low 2s most of the season until August.
"I was happy until August, when I started getting hit around and walking guys," Bergman said.
He finished with a 3.17 earned-run average with Salt Lake and checked in with an 18.00 ERA in three appearances with the Fresno Grizzlies after the trade.
Sardinha had his season cut short Aug. 7 when he tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
"It was just a regular play at the plate. The guy just caught me at a bad angle. When I went into my squat for the next batter and tried to get up, I knew something was wrong," said Sardinha, a five-year pro out of Kamehameha and Pepperdine.
At the time, he was hitting .224 with 10 homers and 36 runs batted in for the Louisville Bats in the International League.
"The season was all right, but it wasn't the way I wanted it to go. I had started to hit better when I was injured, but offensively, I was kind of in a slump all season," said Sardinha, who appeared in one game for the Cincinnati Reds.
He is rehabbing at the Reds' spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., until the end of the month. If possible, the Reds would like to get Sardinha into winter ball when he is cleared to play.
DeRenne started and ended the season with the PCL Tucson Sidewinders, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In between, he was assigned to extended spring training and played 10 games with the Lancaster Jethawks in the California League.
"I don't think I've ever had a normal season. I knew I was capable of playing in the PCL since I played there last year, but I was the odd man out," DeRenne (Iolani, Arizona) said.
I went through a depressed mode, thought baseball was turning against me, but I tried to keep a positive mind-set. Everything fell into place after I went back to Tucson."
DeRenne hit .293 for both teams. He has not heard from the Diamondbacks, but enjoys the organization and would return if it wants him next year.
Villafuerte, who signed with the San Francisco Giants last winter, appeared in most games (57) for a Fresno Grizzlie pitcher and second-most in the PCL.
"Overall, I thought I had a good season. My control (19 walks in his first 36 innings) was a little off to start the season, but after the all-star game things went a lot better," Villafuerte said.
The right-hander shut himself down part-way through the 2004 season when the fun went out of the game after the Arizona Diamondbacks sent him to the minors.
"I took some time off, didn't pitch winter ball and that hurt me in the first half, but it helped mentally," Villafuerte said. "I want to keep what I had going at the end of the season and bring it to spring training next year.
"They used me whenever. They wanted the prospects in the closing role, but I was the closer at the end of the season."
The Big Island-born right-hander did not have a set role. He finished with a 6-3 record, three saves and a 3.91 ERA.
Truby, who missed the first month of the season with a wrist injury suffered in spring training, never got a decent chance to battle for the third base job with the Kansas City Royals. When he came off the disabled list, KC outrighted the Damien graduate to the Omaha Royals in the Pacific Coast League.
He led Omaha with 20 home runs and 66 runs batted in, forming a one-two punch with Santos. Truby, who just completed his 13th pro season, had a .242 batting average, his lowest since 1995.
Johnson (Hawaii) was 4-3 with a 5.06 ERA with Erie when he was promoted to Toledo in late July. At Erie he started seven of 32 games, walked just 15 and struck out 50 in 80 innings.
He did make two starts for the Mud Hens, but was not as effective as opponents had a .316 batting average against the right-hander. His ERA was 8.05 at Toledo.
Brandon League (Saint Louis) spent 11 weeks with the Syracuse SkyChiefs in the International League between starting and finishing the year with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The right-hander was 4-4 with a 5.71 ERA with Syracuse and 1-0 with a 6.56 ERA with Toronto. He struggled at times with his control. That caused him to have a good outing, then a not-so-good outing.