Hot bat gets outfielder into everyday lineup
Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen
By Marc Katz
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Every season there's one, maybe two.
It's the guy who isn't a high-profile prospect. It's the guy who isn't even starting on Opening Day. Suddenly, he's the guy the Dayton Dragons can't get out of the lineup.
I'm thinking in the past of players such as Rainer Olmedo, Gary Patchett and Eric Eymann. Guys who improved their hitting and did well enough in the field to warrant becoming everyday players.
This season, so far, it's left fielder Keltavious Jones.
When the season began, Jones was the fourth outfielder behind Denis Phipps, Justin Reed and Brandon Menchaca.
"He came in one day and asked what was going on," Dragons manager Donnie Scott said. "I told him, at the moment, he was the No. 4 outfielder."
Phipps was a 22-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic who had been a basketball player until he entered high school. His brother interested him in baseball, and Phipps was signed by the Reds in 2004 because he showed strength in all phases of the game. He just needed consistency.
Phipps played with the Dragons last season and returned this year. He's hitting .310 with four homers and 26 RBIs. He was going to play.
Reed is just 20 and was a fourth-round draft choice out of high school in 2006. Despite a proclivity to strike out, he was going to play. He's hitting .260 with three homers and 10 RBIs.
Menchaca turned 23 last month, and was the most vulnerable of the starters. He was a 13th-round draft choice out of the University of Delaware, meaning he was a mind-range draft choice who was given some bonus money to sign, but not so much that he couldn't be benched, or even released. Earlier this week, he was sent back to extended spring training with a .132 batting average.
Jones? Who was Jones? A 27th-round draft choice in 2006 who is undersized at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds.
"You've got to play like you know you can play," Jones said. "Size doesn't matter. I just went to Donnie and said I thought I should be playing. Everybody wants to play. I wasn't crazy about his (fourth outfielder) answer, but a lot of stuff happens during the course of a season."
Menchaca started the first three games of the season, going 2-for-13 (.154). Jones started the fourth game and went 2-for-4. After seven games, Menchaca was 3-for-26 (.115).
April 14 proved to be a turning point. Both outfielders started, Jones as the DH. He went 3-for-5 and Menchaca went 0-for-4. Two days later, Menchaca went 0-for-4 again, lowering his average to .105. Jones was hitting .424 (14-for-33) at the time.
For the season, Jones is batting .320 with three homers and 11 RBIs. His on-base percentage is a healthy .407. His slugging percentage is .515.
He has worked his way into the lineup, and he's going to play.