Pitchers testify to Dragons' pop

Third baseman Brandon Waring hit 47 homers last year two in college off of his new teammates.

By Marc Katz

Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

DAYTON Pitcher Jeff Jeffords chose to reveal an odd highlight from his past while speaking at a media introduction event Tuesday, April 1, at Fifth Third Field.

Each of the 2008 Dayton Dragons were asked to stand and say something about themselves. Jeffords, who pitched for South Carolina's baseball team last spring the Gamecocks were ranked No. 1 for awhile said, "I was a closer at South Carolina, and I gave up a homer to Brandon Waring."

Jeffords wasn't alone.

"I also gave up a homer to Brandon Waring," said fellow Dragons pitcher Matt Klinker, the West Chester lad who played at Furman.

They won't give up any Waring homers this season. All are teammates on the Dragons, who open their Class A Midwest League season Thursday at Midland, Mich., against the Great Lakes Loons.

While Jeffords and Klinker are on the Dragons' pitching staff, Waring who played at Wofford College is scheduled to be the team's third baseman.

Waring should be a fitting replacement for Juan Francisco, who boomed 25 homers for the Dragons last season to earn a promotion to Sarasota (Fla.).

"I just try to make solid contact," Waring said. "I elevate a lot of balls."

Waring also says he was a "late bloomer," a guy who grew six inches entering the 10th grade and wasn't much of a hitter until his senior year of high school in Columbia, S.C., when he hit "about .560 with 12 homers."

The 21-year-old stands 6-foot-4 now, weighing a solid 195 pounds. After three years at Wofford, he was selected last summer in the seventh round of the first-year player draft by the Reds.

At Wofford, Waring hit 27 homers, second in the nation. He added 20 in 68 games at rookie-level Billings before being called to Dayton in time to appear in the final game of the regular season for the Dragons as a pinch hitter, knocking in two runs with a hit.

"Pro ball was an adjustment," said Waring, mindful it looked like he adjusted well with 20 homers in his first 268 pro at-bats. "I never really used a wooden bat until last year, but if you hit the ball square, it will go just as far as with an aluminum bat."

Dragons manager Donnie Scott says Waring is just one of several players who can hit homers, including center fielder Brandon Menchaca, shortstop Todd Frazier, first baseman Mike McKennon and right fielder Denis Phipps.

"I think we've got some pop in the middle of our lineup," Scott said. "This is reminiscent of the Wily Mo Pena days."