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Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, November 8, 2000

P R O _ B A S E B A L L

learn the ropes in
minor leagues

Keoni DeRenne tops list
of baseball players trying to
make it to the major leagues

By Al Chase
Star Bulletin

None of Hawaii's 11 position players toiling in the minor leagues experienced exceptional seasons, but there were some solid performances in 2000.

First-year pro Keoni DeRenne was the only one to earn a promotion during the season.

Chad Santos and Jandin Thornton-Murray improved over their rookie seasons in 1999.

The Atlanta Braves sent Jason Ross (Hawaii) to the Arizona Fall League to sharpen his hitting skills after he fanned 91 times in 251 at-bats for Greenville in the Class AA Southern league.

Ross only played in 73 games after tearing a ligament in his right hand during spring training, but still equaled his season-best home run total (12).

The Braves like Ross' defensive skills, his strong arm and his base running abilities. He played all three outfield positions for Greenville, where he hit .251.

Darren Blakely (Hawaii) advanced to the Class AA Eastern League, but his batting average dipped lower for the third consecutive season. Blakely also led the league with 136 strikeouts.

"Darren struggled this year, but that's part of the maturation process," said Tony Reagins of the Anaheim Angels player development office.

"I think Double A was a little tough for him, but we still think he is going to be OK. Darren was solid defensively. That part of his game didn't change."

Blakely was successful in 13 of 17 stolen base attempts.

Keith Luuloa (Molokai, Laney) played just four games for the Iowa Cubs after being traded by Anaheim when he fractured the trapezoid bone in his left wrist Aug. 2, ending the season.

He hopes he showed enough at Iowa for the Cubs to be interested in retaining him in 2001.

Luuloa is one of 612 minor-league free agents who can seek employment with another team.

Brandon Chaves (Hawaii-Hilo) struggled with the switch from aluminum to wood bats, going two weeks before he got his first hit for Pittsburgh's farm team in the Class A New-York Penn League.

He had an excellent season defensively at shortstop, but needs to get stronger if he is to hit.

DeRenne (Iolani, Arizona) started in the NYP at Jamestown, moved up to Macon in the full-season South Atlantic League and finished at Atlanta's Class AA team (Greenville, S.C.) in the Southern League playoffs.

In 20 games at Jamestown, he played four positions without committing an error.

DeRenne had a combined .275 batting average and singled in his only at-bat for Greenville, a pinch- hit role in the final playoff game

Miles Luuloa (Molokai, Laney), with Oneonta, N.Y., Detroit's team in the NYP, also found the switch to a wood bat, which is heavier, rough in the beginning.

"I had to make adjustments hitting. Everybody spots their pitches better," Luuloa said. "Defensively I did pretty good. I made plays I didn't even know I would make."

Chad Santos (St. Louis) began the season at Charleston, W.Va., in the South Atlantic League where he struggled at the plate.

Sent to Spokane, Wash., in the short-season Northwest League, the first baseman responded by leading the league in home runs (14), extra base hits (32) and strikeouts (103).

He tied for third in doubles (18) and runs batted in (47).

Chris Small (Punahou, Princeton) was the everyday catcher for Medicine Hat, Alberta, in the rookie advanced Pioneer League after moving from Queens, N.Y., in the New York-Penn League.

With the change his batting average went from .133 to .221.

Scott Suraci (Hawaii Pacific) was a designated hitter and outfielder for Minnesota's rookie team (Elizabethtom, Tenn.) in the Appalachian League.

He hit .223, but displayed some power with four home runs and 26 RBIs.

Jandin Thornton-Murray (St. Louis) enjoyed a much more productive second season with the Chicago Cubs' team in the rookie level Arizona League.

He raised his average from .205 to .279 and led the league with nine triples.

"I felt more comfortable. I just knew the system better, knew what to expect from the pitchers and had more confidence," said Thornton-Murray, who played second, short and third.

Shane Victorino (St. Anthony) saw his average drop (.280 to .246) in his second pro season, but the Los Angeles Dodgers had the speedy outfielder switch hitting for the first time.

He stole 21 bases for Yakima, Wash., in the Northwest League.

The St. Louis Cardinals purchased Key Voshell's contract from Richmond (Ind.) of the independent Frontier League after drafting his brother, Chase, in the third round.

Unfortunately, in his 12th game with Peoria, Ill., in the Class A Midwest League, Voshell (Hawaii, Louisville), suffered a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and was sidelined for the rest of the season.

He was hitting .300 at that point.

Chaves, DeRenne, Santos and Thornton-Murray spent the fall improving their skills in instructional league.

Late summer signees Rodney Choy Foo and Dane Sardinha, also were sent to instructional league by the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, respectively.

Kenn Wakakuwa (Hawaii) retired in July.

A review of the pitchers will run in tomorrow's Star-Bulletin.

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