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Manager, Timberjacks prepared for debut

Southern Oregon opens play tonight against Boise Hawks

John Kuehl will make his professional baseball managerial debut tonightat 7 p.m. when the Southern Oregon Timberjacks meet the Boise Hawks at MilesField in the Northwest League opener for both teams.

Kuehl, 29, son of former Oakland Athletics director of player developmentKarl Kuehl, will send right-handed pitcher Luis Vizcaino to the mound forthe Timberjacks.

We're going primily with pitchers who have been pitching in ourextended program for the first week, says Kuehl, an Oakland scoutand instructor who's looking forward to trying his hand at managing.

I'm grateful for the opportunity, says Kuehl. Managinggives me the best of both worlds in the game. I like our team, and I'm excitedabout it.

Vizcaino was the Dominican summer league pitcher of the year, accordingto Kuehl.

He's had a lot more experience than most of our pitchers,says Kuehl. He's prepared to go 60 to 65 pitches in this first game.

Vizcaino will be on a 65-pitch limit in tonight's opener. He's expectedto be relieved by left-hander Rico Lagattuta, who returns from the 1996team.

I hope to get five innings out of Vizcaino, says Kuehl. Beyondthat, it becomes a matter of what happens and what the situations mightbe.

Kuehl is expected to go with either Brad Blumenstock or Randy Glaze onthe mound in the second game of the series Wednesday night. Blumenstockand Glaze are both returning from the 1996 Timberjacks team.

Kuehl says all Timberjacks' position players will get a chance to startat least one of Southern Oregon's first three games against Boise. The seriesagainst Boise runs through Saturday before the Timberjacks travel to Everettfor a four-game series. Southern

Oregon returns home June 27-29 to play the Portland Rockies.

Kuehl says there will be several strong hitters in the middle of theTimberjacks' opening-night lineup. Leading the way are third baseman RonTegland, designated hitter Ed Farris and first baseman Nick Sosa.

Farris, who hit 18 home runs and drove in 69 runs for Ball State Universityin 1997, was named the Mid-American Conference most valuable player.

Farris is confident as he approaches his first professional game.

I'm a little older than most of these guys, says Farris,23. This is probably about the level we played at in college. Or maybea little lower.

I'm kind of like a senior playing with a bunch of freshmen. Thatshould give me a little edge.

The Timberjacks will rotate two catchers in their lineup at the startof the season, according to Kuehl. Tonight's starter is Javier Flores, 22,who hit .386 for the University of Oklahoma with 53 RBIs, and was a 10th-rounddraft pick.

I'm pretty new as a catcher, says Flores, a converted shortstop.I'm not real fast and that's the main reason I moved.

The other Timberjacks catcher is Jose Figueroa, a free agent from theDominican Republic capital of Santo Domingo.

He has a cannon for an arm, says Flores. I'm prettyquick, but his arm is stronger. I can move around back there pretty well,and I'm probably using some infield techniques back there.

They will both be exciting catchers, says Kuehl. Theyare very quick behind the plate and both of them receive really well. Andthey both have very strong arms.

Sosa, Southern Oregon's starting first baseman tonight, was a sixth-roundselection by Oakland in 1996. He was named most valuable player of the Scottsdalewinter league last year.

He has tremendous power potential, says Kuehl. He'sone of our top prospects who is still in the developing process. He's very,very strong.

Southern Oregon will go with Adam Robinson at shortstop and Eddie Laraat second base.

Lara made the Arizona rookie-league all-star team last year,Kuehl says. He has smooth hands and quick feet. He probably has thebest chance of anyone on our team to hit .300.

Robinson will stabilize our infield, says Kuehl. Hehas quick feet and a good arm. He has very good work ethic and a chanceto hit for a high average.

The Timberjacks will go with Victor Hernandez in left field, Rodney Cliftonin center and Hipolito Martinez in right field. All three outfielders cancover a lot of ground, according to Kuehl.

Clifton is very fast and has good actions in the outfield,says Kuehl. I look for good things from him out of the top of ourlineup.

Glaze had a 2-1 record for the Timberjacks last season. I learneda lot, he says. I need to try to stay more consistent and throwmore strikes.

Timberjack players receive instruction on running the bases as they gather around home plate during a recent workout. - Photo by Jim Craven</P