Others eager to move up
Within the last two years, both Jeff Barry and Andy Larkin have gottenbrief glimpses of their common goal: playing in the major leagues.
Barry, a 28-year-old outfielder from Medford playing with Class AAA ColoradoSprings in the Colorado Rockies organization, played 15 games with the NewYork Mets in 1995.
Larkin, a 23-year-old former South Medford High pitcher now with theClass AAA Charlotte (N.C.) Knights in the Florida Marlins chain, startedthe final game of the season for the Marlins last year.
Having had that experience, it would be easy for both men to groan througha season of Class AAA ball pining for another shot at the big leagues.
But so far this year, neither has had that luxury. Both have had a moreimportant goal in mind: turn their seasons around.
Barry, in his first year with Colorado, began the season with the Rockies'Class AA club in New Haven, Conn. In 40 games there, he hit a disappointing.216.
I was struggling for the whole five or six weeks I was there,Barry says. It was kind of frustrating. I knew I could hit, I justwasn't doing it.
Despite his poor start, Barry got a chance to move up to Colorado Springsin late May because of injuries to other players. It was a fresh start hewas determined not to waste.
For the first few weeks I was here I was still struggling,he says, but the last few weeks I've been hitting the ball real well.
Through Sunday, Barry who has been starting in left and centerfield was hitting a solid .290 for the Sky Sox and had driven in 29runs. He also had three homers and 11 extra-base hits in 107 at-bats.
It just kind of clicked, Barry says in explaining his turnaround.The more swings I got the more comfortable I became. The big key isto be comfortable at the plate.
Early on, opposing hitters were very comfortable at the plate againstLarkin, who spent most of last season in Class AA before getting the late-seasoncall to the majors.
It's been kind of a rough season, says Larkin, who was 4-7with a 6.27 ERA through Sunday. I was kind of getting my teeth kickedin early on.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander says he was falling behind in the count andwalking a lot of batters early in the year. He's walked 51 batters in 94innings with 65 strikeouts.
Guys take advantage of that up here, he says. It'sbeen a big difference being at AAA instead of AA. The hitters recognizemore stuff.
Fortunately for Larkin, things have turned around somewhat in recentweeks. He threw a seven-inning complete game in the nightcap of a doubleheaderon Saturday, yielding just one earned run.
The last three games I have been throwing better, he says.The pitching coach has been making adjustments on my mechanics allseason and something just clicked about three weeks ago.
After a back injury limited his pitching last season and resurfaced someduring winter league ball, Larkin says he has been healthy throughout theseason something that has helped keep him optimistic.
Even through my stats look bad, I'm trying not to dwell on it,he says. I still look forward to every start.
While Larkin and Barry await a chance to return to the major leagues,two other players from Southern Oregon are playing for major league teams.
Although he's been sent down to Class AAA Tacoma twice this year, Medford'sBob Wolcott made his 13th start of the season with the Seattle Marinerson Monday night.
Meanwhile, Rogue River's Darrell May was called up from Class AAA bythe Anaheim Angels last week. May pitched in seven games with the Angelsearly in the season but has not seen action in his latest stint with theclub.
Here's a look at other professional baseball players from Southern Oregon:
JEFF PATZKE, a Klamath Union graduate, has turned in a solid season sofar with the Toronto Blue Jays' Class AAA club, the Syracuse (N.Y.) SkyChiefs.
The 23-year-old second baseman was hitting .315 with 18 RBIs throughSunday.
Despite suffering a hamstring injury that forced him to miss four weeks,Patzke has returned and settled back in as the Sky Chiefs' starter and isoptimistic about eventually moving up into the majors.
I'm on schedule, he says. I want to be ready when Iget up there. Everything is going according to plan. I hope to be with theBlue Jays in a year or two.
JAMIE BURKE, a 25-year-old third baseman from Roseburg, was hitting .328with 51 RBIs through Sunday for the Midland (Texas) Angels, an Anaheim Angelsfarm team.
Burke, who was a starting place-kicker for the Oregon State Universityfootball team, has hit four home runs.
P.K. KOEHLER, a South Medford graduate, is having a tough time gettinghis first win as a pitcher for the Macon (Ga.) Braves, a club in the Atlantaorganization.
The 23-year-old left-hander has pitched in 14 games and is 0-4 with a4.62 ERA in 37 innings through Sunday. He has 28 Ks and 13 walks.
RUSS KOEHLER, the younger brother of P.K., is pitching for the WisconsinTimber Rattlers, the Seattle Mariners' club in the Midwest League.
In 10 games, the South Medford graduate is 1-0 with a 4.66 ERA. He hasstruck out 13 and walked 10 in 19 1/3 innings.
MATT SMITH, a Grants Pass High graduate, plays first base and was hitting.257 as of Sunday with three home runs and 13 RBIs for the Lansing (Mich.)Lugnuts, a Kansas City Royals' team in the Midwest League.
SCOTT COMER, out of Mazama in Klamath Falls, is off to scorching startin short-season ball in the New York Mets organization.
Through Sunday, the 21-year-old left-hander was 4-0 with 38 strikeoutsand only four walks for the Pittsfield (Mass.) Mets of the New York-PennLeague. He has allowed only two earned runs in 32 1/3 innings for an 0.56ERA.
KENT ZWEIFEL, a Henley High of Klamath Falls product, has already madea trip back to Southern Oregon this season as a member of the Spokane Indians,the Colorado Rockies' entry in the Class A Northwest League. In 68 at-bats,he is hitting .221 with one homer and 12 RBIs.
BRENT WATTS, from Phoenix, is playing outfield for the Winnipeg (Manitoba)Goldeyes of the Northern League. His statistics were not available.
SCOTT LEWIS, of Medford, is hoping for another chance with a major leagueteam perhaps the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, is pitching in theMexican League, according to his father.
Lewis, 32, pitched in the San Diego Padres organization last season.