Isle players at Class A
find varying success

By Al Chase

Two former Hawaii prep standouts advanced a notch in the Kansas City Royals farm system, while two other players with local connections played at the same level for other organizations as they did a year ago.

Chad Santos moved up a step on the minor-league ladder, playing the whole season for the Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks in the Class-A Advanced Carolina League. Kahi Kaanoi experienced his first full season of Class-A ball.

Former Hawaii-Hilo left-hander Thomas Ford and Mike Tejada, a catcher who attended Kamehameha as a youngster but played high school ball on the mainland, did not advance.

All four had to deal with disappointments during the season, ranging from slow starts to injuries to a second-half fade.

"I didn't do too well, but the season was all right. I looked at it as a learning experience," said Santos who battled a sore right wrist throughout the year but refuses to use the injury as an excuse.

"I'm not sure how I got hurt, but I think it was when I caught a ball up the line and a guy ran into my wrist during spring training," the St. Louis graduate said. "They took X-rays, but they didn't show anything."

Kansas City Royals officials told Santos to rest the wrist, but if it doesn't feel better soon, they want him to get an MRI.

The left-handed hitting first baseman finished with a .240 batting average. His power numbers dropped a bit, with 21 doubles and nine home runs vs. 32 and 16 in 2001.

"There were only eight teams in this league. We played everyone a lot and this is the first time I've been where they keep charts on you," said Santos. "They discovered I had trouble with the change-up. I think I knew it was coming, but I'm the kind of hitter who is aggressive and I wasn't patient. I did get better in the second half."

Kaanoi (Kamehameha) more than doubled his career appearances (29) and innings pitched (120 2/3) with a full season at Burlington, Iowa, in the Class-A Midwest League. He was named to the West squad for the league all-star game at midseason despite a 1-4 record at that point.

Then, the 20-year-old experienced a downturn and lost his spot in the Bees' starting rotation.

"I did really well the first half of the season, made the all-star team and that might have gone to my head," said Kaanoi. "After that I did really terrible and they sent me to the bullpen. I thought the coaches had lost confidence in me and I lost confidence in myself."

Finally, the Burlington coaches had a little heart-to-heart talk with Kaanoi, made it known they had not lost confidence in him and it served as a wake-up call. The last month of the season turned out much better.

There was no problem with his arm, although he pitched the most innings of his three seasons in pro ball. Kaanoi went through a stretch where he would give up a couple of hits, get mad, lose focus and more hits followed.

"I have to be more mature out there," he said.

Ford spent his third season in pro ball with Frederick (Md.), also in the Carolina League, where he was used exclusively in short relief.

"He hasn't demonstrated that he can be a starting pitcher, so we used him against left-handed hitters for maybe one or two innings," said Baltimore Orioles director of player development Don Buford.

Ford made 46 appearances, worked 65 innings and finished with 55 strikeouts, 32 walks, a 2-3 record and a 4.85 earned run average.

"This was a rough year with ups and downs all season. I never could put it together," said Ford.

"I think it was because I became really unmotivated being sent back to the same level where I felt I had a good season the year before. I didn't think the coaching staff was player friendly. So, a bad team, a bad managing situation and a bad attitude just made for a bad season."

The third-year pro says he has already put 2002 behind him. The Orioles suggested Ford lose 15 pounds, and he is working with a personal trainer with the goal of losing 20 pounds.

"I've started training for next year and want to improve my conditioning, my mechanics and become more consistent. As for the mechanics, I know what I need to do and I'll get some outside advice."

The Colorado Rockies again assigned Tejada to Asheville, N.C., in the Class-A South Atlantic League.

He upped his batting average from .204 in 2001 to .228 and remained consistent with his power, hitting 17 doubles and 10 round-trippers while driving in 40 runs.

Midway through the season he was hitting .250, but he could only manage a .208 average the rest of the way.

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