Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, June 11, 1999

M A J O R _ L E A G U E _ B A S E B A L L

Agbayani’s glad
he got the
chance to play

The Mets' outfielder is one
of a number of minor league
players making an impact
on the next level

By Josh Dubow
Associated Press


The New York Mets are paying Bobby Bonilla $5.9 million, and he can't force career minor leaguer Benny Agbayani out of the lineup.

The Oakland Athletics handed their third base job in spring training to hot prospect Eric Chavez, only to see minor league free agent Olmedo Saenz force his way into the lineup.

After losing Mo Vaughn to free agency, the Red Sox were written off by most experts.

But with contributions from castoffs like Brian Daubach, Boston has hung with the Yankees for two months.

Throughout the majors, players who were released, exposed to the minor league draft or just plain given up on are making big impacts.

"Some guys just need an opportunity to show an organization what type of player they are," Agbayani said. "I'm glad I finally got mine."

Agbayani has sure taken advantage of his. After being drafted in the 30th round by the Mets in 1993, he bounced around for six seasons in the minors. When Bonilla and Rickey Henderson went down with injuries last month, Agbayani got his first real chance in the majors.

Agbayani could have been had for $50,000 by any team this winter.

There are probably a lot of teams regretting not signing a player hitting .409 with eight homers in 66 at-bats.

Agbayani forced his way into the lineup with his performance. The problem for many players is, unless they are high draft picks or expensive free agents, the don't get the opportunity to fail.

"They always get the silver-platter treatment," Agbayani said. "The team has invested a lot of money in those players and they want to prove that it was a good investment."

That is a lesson former Red Roberto Petagine learned the hard way.

After winning back-to-back MVPs in the Triple-A International League, Petagine still wasn't going to get a chance to start in the big leagues. So he left for Japan and hasn't stopped hitting, smacking 20 homers for the Yakult Swallows.

Saenz only got his chance after spending eight years in the White Sox system because Chavez started the season hitting below .200. Saenz is batting .268, nothing great, but third best for the A's.

"I have a chance now and I have to take advantage of it," Saenz said.

Boston spent all winter looking for a replacement for Vaughn.

The guy who eventually forced his way into the spot was Daubach, a minor league free agent who hit .315 with 35 homers in Triple-A last year.

Daubach, who played 10 games in the majors in his first nine seasons of professional baseball, is hitting .324 with six homers in 102 at-bats.

The Red Sox should be particularly aware of the potential gold mines hiding in the bushes of the minor leagues.

They let Matt Stairs go without even giving him 100 at-bats in the majors.

Since then, he's hit 76 homers in the equivalent of two full seasons of playing time.

With expansion creating additional openings and budgets very tight in some cities, minor league free agents and castoffs will become an even bigger part of the game in years to come.

"The last time I looked, there were 30 teams on the big league level," Toronto manager Jim Fregosi said. "And that means that if you can walk and chew gum at the same time, you'll probably get a look sometime. It's what you do when you get that chance that counts."

Agbayani gets
OK to play

Associated Press


NEW YORK -- New York Mets outfielder Benny Agbayani had his bruised right eye examined yesterday and was cleared to return to the lineup today.

The former St. Louis School and Hawaii Pacific star bruised his right eye in batting practice Wednesday when he hit a ball off the cage and it bounced back into his eye.

The Mets said a CT scan was negative and eye specialist Dr. Bruce Zagelbaum said Agbayani can return today when the team starts a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Shea Stadium.

Agbayani has become a fan favorite of Mets fans since being called up last month. He's hitting .409 with eight homers and 15 runs batted in in just 66 at-bats.

The hot hitting of Agbayani may have earned him a spot with the team for the rest of the season.

He's been staying in a hotel since his promotion last month from the minor leagues, but Mets officials have told him to look for a place to live, a sign he's not being sent down anytime soon.

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