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More than 30 professional
baseball players
have ties to Hawaii

By Al Chase

Thirty-five baseball players with Hawaii connections went to spring training this year. Through yesterday, thirty-two still had jobs in the professional ranks.

Rosters are pretty much set from top to bottom in the 30 major league organizations, although a last-minute change at the top often has a trickle-down effect on rosters all the way to the Class A level.

Benny Agbayani, Dusty Bergman, Jerome Williams, Dane Sardinha, Justin Wayne, Tyler Yates, Mike Fetters, Chris Truby, Shane Victorino and Brandon Villafuerte began the spring in big league camps, either on a club's 40-man roster or as nonroster invitees.

Agbayani, an outfielder from Saint Louis School and Hawaii Pacific, has been with three teams this spring. He was released by the Boston Red Sox, signed by Cincinnati, then sold to the Kansas City Royals on March 25. He starts the season with the Omaha Royals in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.

Bergman was a nonroster invitee to the Anaheim Angels camp and pitched well in nine short relief appearances. He threw 6 1/3 innings, allowed two earned runs, walked three, fanned four and had a 2.84 earned run average.

The Angels retained almost all their pitchers from the World Series championship team, making it a longshot for Bergman to land a spot as a left-handed setup man on the Angels roster. The former Hawaii Rainbow will start the season with the Salt Lake City Stingers in the PCL.

The San Francisco Giants optioned right-hander Jerome Williams to the Fresno Grizzlies of the PCL to start the season. The former Waipahu standout pitched just two innings for the Giants during the spring.

Dane Sardinha, a catcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization, was optioned to the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Class AA Southern League, the same team he played for in 2002. He is rehabbing a partially torn ligament in his left knee suffered in a collision at home plate in an intrasquad game.

Jeff Martin (Kailua), a right-handed pitcher, is also on the Lookouts roster.

Tyler Yates has been designated for assignment by the New York Mets. He is rehabilitating his right arm after undergoing Tommy John surgery June 17 last summer. Except for three weeks back home on Kauai at Christmas, the Kauai High School and Hawaii-Hilo product has lived in Port St. Lucie, Fla., where his progress is monitored by the Mets physicians and trainers.

Originally told it would be 12 to 18 months of rehab because the tendon was totally torn, Yates is ahead of schedule. Mets assistant general manager Jim Duquette told Yates to keep getting stronger and healthy and hopefully he would see him in New York at the end of the season.

"I've thrown in two games, but right now I have no idea where the fastball is going and I have no breaking pitch," Yates said.

Big-Island born right-hander Brandon Villafuerte and St. Anthony graduate Shane Victorino were on the San Diego roster when the Padres broke camp Thursday for an exhibition game in Portland, Ore., against their Class AAA affiliate in the PCL.

Villafuerte is a setup man in the San Diego bullpen, a role in which he flourished in the last half of the 2002 season.

Victorino, 22, beat out veterans Roberto Kelly, 38, (released Thursday) and Brady Anderson, 39 (sent to the minors Thursday) for the final outfield spot after hitting .304 in the spring. Victorino also brings excellent speed, hustle and great defense.

Mike Fetters, the 38-year-old reliever from Iolani and Pepperdine, won the lone spot available in the Minnesota bullpen. The Twins sent his competition, Jose Cabrera, to their minor league camp for assignment Wednesday. Fetters posted a 2.70 ERA in nine spring appearances.

Justin Wayne (Punahou, Stanford) has struggled this spring with a 22.85 earned run average in four appearances. He starts the season on the Florida Marlins' 15-day disabled list after being hit in the right ankle with a ball.

His brother, Hawkeye, is in extended spring training with the Marlins and shortstop Rex Rundgren (Mid-Pacific) is on the Greensboro Bats roster in the Class A South Atlantic League.

Mark Johnson, a right-hander, will begin the season with the Toledo Mud Hens of the Class AAA International League, the same team the former 'Bow ended up with last season.

The Padres were to decide today whether Darren Blakely, who played center field for UH, begins the season with the PCL's Portland Beavers or goes back to the Southern League's Mobile (Ala.) BayBears.

Jay Spurgeon, a right-hander and former Rainbow, is scheduled to begin the season with the Bowie (Md.) Baysox in the Class AA Eastern League.

Keoni DeRenne should break camp with the Southern League's Greenville (S.C.) Braves. The former Iolani and Arizona infielder spent 2002 at Greenville.

Infielder Keith Luuloa (Molokai) returns to the Huntsville Stars, Milwaukee's Class AA team in the Southern League.

Also opening the season at the Class AA level in the Texas League are Houston right-hander Patrick McNair (UH) at Round Rock (Texas), and Colorado catcher Michael Tejada (Kamehameha) at Tulsa.

Brandon Chaves moves from low Class A to high Class A to start his fourth year of pro ball. The Pittsburgh Pirates have assigned the former Vulcans shortstop to the Lynchburg (Va.) Hillcats of the Carolina League.

The Oakland Athletics have assigned right-hander Shane Komine (Kalani, Nebraska) to the Kane County (Geneva, Ill.) Cougars of the Midwest League and Jeff Coleman (UH) to the Modesto A's of the California League, both Class A circuits.

Catcher Grady Symonds (UH) has been assigned to the Lancaster (Calif.) JetHawks in the California League.

Kaulana Kuhaulua (Waianae, Long Beach State) has played several infield positions this spring. He has performed well and has his confidence back after being hit in the face with a pitch last summer and missing half the season, according to Minnesota Twins officials. He will be back with the Midwest League's Quad City River Bandits.

Outfielder Bronson Sardinha (Kamehameha) starts the season with the Tampa Yankees in the Class A Florida State League.

Duke Sardinha (Kamehameha, Pepperdine) just received clearance to start throwing last week after battling tendinitis in his right shoulder. The infieldercatcher is in extended spring training with the Colorado Rockies.

Hubert Pruett, a right-hander from Kamehameha in the Milwaukee Brewers system, starts the season with the Ogden (Utah) Raptors in the Pioneer League, which is classified as rookie advanced.

Infielder Rodney Choy Foo (Kailua) is with Cleveland's Class A team in the South Atlantic League, the Lake County (Eastlake, Ohio) Captains.

Kansas City has assigned first baseman Chad Santos to the Wichita Wranglers in the Class AA Texas League, while right-hander Jason Kaanoi and first baseman Kila Ka'aihue begin the season with the Burlington (Iowa) Bees in the Midwest League.

Right-hander Brandon League (St. Louis) will be the opening-day pitcher later this week for the Charleston (W.Va.) Alley Cats of the South Atlantic League. He is in the Toronto organization.

Truby, a 10-year veteran from Damien who has played in the majors with three teams, was let go by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on March 17.

Thomas Ford, the former Hawaii-Hilo left-hander, was released by the Baltimore Orioles on March 23 after three seasons of pro ball at the Class A level.

Former UH third baseman Pat Scalabrini received a quick look by the Chicago Cubs before being released.

Major League Baseball

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