tampabay.com

Bay's best bets for baseball

Sunday was a pretty good day for Tampa Bay area baseball players, in case you didn't notice.

By TOM JONES
Published May 23, 2007


BY RODNEY PAGE Times Staff Writer

Sunday was a pretty good day for Tampa Bay area baseball players, in case you didn't notice. Tyler Clippard of Mitchell High School and the New York Yankees got his first win as a major-leaguer against the New York Mets. Nick Masset of Pinellas Park High notched his first win as a starter for the Chicago White Sox. And Toronto's Jesse Litsch, who starred at Dixie Hollins, had his second start as a Blue Jay, even if it was a loss. Also, Minnesota Twins reserve catcher Chris Heintz, who went to Countryside, was 1-for-2 with two RBIs in a loss to Milwaukee. Reserve Detroit catcher Mike Rabelo (Ridgewood) was 2-for-4 with an RBI. That got us thinking. What if you put together a team exclusively made from Tampa Bay-area players currently in the major leagues? They would come from our four-county coverage area (Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties). They were either born here, grew up here or went to high school or college here. Would they be competitive? Who knows. But it's fun to wonder what if.

Reserves

C - Mike Rabelo, Detroit Tigers, Ridgewood; Chris Heintz, Minnesota Twins, Countryside.

1B/OF - Ross Gload, Kansas City Royals, USF.

RHP Chris Ray, Baltimore Orioles, Hillsborough; LHP John Koronka, Texas Rangers, born in Tampa.

Injured Reserve

LHP Kenny Rogers, Detroit Tigers, Plant City; RHP Doug Waechter, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Northeast; LHP Mike Hampton, Atlanta Braves, Crystal River (born in Brooksville); OF Lastings Milledge, New York Mets, Northside Christian.

Manager

Tony La Russa, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa.

We easily could have gone with Lou Piniella, the Tampa native who is as good of a skipper as anyone in the business, but La Russa has two World Series rings as manager to Piniella's one.

Coaching staff

Well, since we can't have Sweet Lou as our manager, we can't think of any better hitting coach than Piniella. We can round out the staff with Tampa native Chuck Hernandez (Tigers) as our pitching coach and Clearwater's Howard Johnson (Mets) as our third-base coach. Over at first, we have Rich Monteleone (Yankees). And Don Zimmer has lived in Treasure Island for like 107 years. That's good enough to make him our bench coach.

Starting rotation

Outfield

Infield

Fast Facts:

The lineup

1 Alfredo Amezaga 2B

2 Chone Figgins 3B

3 Elijah Dukes CF

4 Gary Sheffield SS

5 Luis Gonzalez RF

6 A.J. Pierzynski C

7 Casey Kotchman B

8 Jason Michaels LF

9 Bronson Arroyo P

*Since we couldn't find a capable DH, we decided to be a National League team.

Pos.

Player Pro team Local school Age Fact Comment
RHP Boof Bonser Minnesota Twins Gibbs 25 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 50.2 innings pitched. Great for marketing. Need proof? Watch Boof.
RHP Jesse Litsch Toronto Blue Jays Dixie Hollins 22 Won his debut with a 2-1 win over Baltimore. Currently 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA. Used to be a Devil Rays bat boy, now he's striking out major-leaguers.
RHP Tyler Clippard New York Yankees Mitchell 22 Six strikeouts in MLB debut, six innings, one earned run against the Mets. Anybody who is money in his MLB debut at Shea Stadium is good enough for us.
RHP Nick Masset Chicago White Sox Pinellas Park 25 2-1, 5.73 ERA. Won his first game as a starter on May 20 against Cubs. Anybody who went to Pinellas Park High and St. Petersburg College is all right with us.
RHP Bronson Arroyo Cincinnati Reds Hernando High 30 2-4 with a 2.64 in 2007. Has a career record of 49-48 with a 4.10 in eight seasons. An accomplished musician, he'll keep things loose on the road trips.
1B Casey Kotchman Los Angeles Angels Seminole 24 .267 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 42 games. Has a .239 career average in four seasons. Brings a sweet-swinging left-handed bat to the order.
3B Chone Figgins Los Angeles Angels Brandon 29 Hitting .108 in 18 games. Has a .279 career average in five-plus seasons. The guy can play anywhere, so if Sheffield breaks down he'll have to play shortstop and third base.
2B Alfredo Amezaga Florida Marlins St. Petersburg College 29 .230 with nine RBIs. Has a career .238 average in six seasons. Played two seasons at St. Petersburg College and holds 10 records.
SS Gary Sheffield Detroit Tigers Hillsborough 38 .240 with eight home runs in 41 games. Has a career average of .296 and 463 homers in 19 seasons. Okay, we know he's not a shortstop now, but he was 19 years ago when he broke in with the Brewers. Just need him to play one season until an area minor-leaguer breaks into the bigs.
C A.J. Pierzynski Chicago White Sox Brooksville 30 Hitting .254 with eight homers. Has a .286 career average. Lived in Brooksville before attending Dr. Phillips High in Orlando. Hey, we need the bat, so that counts.
LF Jason Michaels Cleveland Indians Tampa Jesuit 31 Seven years in the big leagues with 31 career homers and a .281 average. A solid hitter and fielder, and he went to the University of Miami so even his college ball was played in state.
CF Elijah Dukes Tampa Bay Devil Rays Hillsborough 22 .222 with eight homers and 13 RBIs in his rookie season. We realize he's not the nicest guy in the world, but it's just about baseball.
RF Luis Gonzalez Los Angeles Dodgers Tampa Jefferson 39 .259 with four homers and 13 RBIs this season. Has a career .284 average in 17-plus seasons. Anybody who had the game-winning hit in the 2001 World Series to beat the Yankees is welcome on our team anytime.