Former Rule 5 draftee ruling AFL
By Jack Magruder
Plucked from the Pirates during the 1999 Winter Meetings, DeHaan had to stay on the Padres' big league roster or be returned to Pittsburgh. He hit .204 in 103 at-bats with San Diego and seemed to lose his swing after being squeezed into a pinch-hitting role that season, but has found it again in the Arizona Fall League.
DeHaan was hitting .346-4-36 entering the final week of the AFL regular season, leading the league in RBIs while ranking sixth in batting average. He went 11 for 24 with nine RBIs in the week ending Nov. 4, and he followed that with a three-run home run over the batter's eye in Peoria on Nov. 6.
"You lose your rhythm. You lose your everyday feeling of being in the lineup," DeHaan said of his major league time in 2000. "It took me almost all this year to finally get it back. Towards the end of this year it felt great, and in the Fall League it has really clicked for me.
"I was glad to have the experience up there, and to see that I could play up there. And after having a Fall League like this, I am confident going into spring training."
After keeping him in the majors for the whole year, the Padres were able to return DeHaan to the minor leagues in 2001. He hit a combined .268-11-51 between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Portland in 463 at-bats, adding 24 stolen bases. His walk/strikeout ratio declined with his promotion (22/27 with Mobile, 20/71 with Portland), but he said he felt more comfortable as the season progressed.
"The confidence comes back, and it makes you feel more aggressive," DeHaan said.
DeHaan's hitting approach is to hit the ball hard up the middle, similar to a pair of Padres' outfielders who will not be back in San Diego in 2002, retiring legend Tony Gwynn and major league stolen base and runs leader Rickey Henderson.
"I feel like I've done my part here, and now the next step is to be back in the big leagues," DeHaan said. "That's really what I had to do, though, if I wanted to get back up there. I had to come here and show them I could play. It's a great situation for me now. I just want to make the most of it."
DeHaan also leads the AFL in doubles (13) and runs (28), and is tied with teammate Hank Blalock (Rangers) with a league-high 18 extra-base hits.
"He has done nothing here except excel," said Peoria manager Duane Espy, the Padres' hitting coach. "He's playing smart baseball. He's swinging the bat well. He's done well against lefties. He's made much better adjustments on breaking balls. He's driven the ball to all fields. There isn't anything about this experience down here that hasn't been successful for him this year.
"He came in here relaxed and has taken it one day at a time. His work has been terrific. His game stuff has been terrific. It's going to set him up for a nice spring training."
The Pirates drafted DeHaan out of Morningside (Iowa) College in the seventh round in 1997. DeHaan was progressing nicely, hitting .314 with 33 steals at Class A Augusta in 1998 and a combined .303-10-66 between Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona in '99. That was before the Rule 5 draft interrupted his progress, but he seems to be back on track now.
"I like what Kory is doing right now, because he is taking care of what he can do," Espy said. "He's making sure he's prepared every day. He's doing what he needs to do to project himself in a positive manner, and that's all anybody can do."
Peoria outfielder Bill Ortega (Cardinals) took over the league lead in batting average (.387) and on-base percentage (.482) from Scottsdale's Orlando Hudson (Blue Jays), who led both categories before leaving to play with Team USA in the World Cup.
Peoria righthander Bobby Jenks (Angels) threw a fastball clocked at 100 mph during a late-season start. Jenks, 20, leads the league with 43 strikeouts. A fifth-round draft choice in 2000, Jenks was 1-1, 6.67 in his first 27 innings.
The AFL named its 10th anniversary team: C Mike Piazza (Sun Cities, 1992); 1B Jason Giambi (Peoria, 1994); 2B Mark Grudzielanek (Mesa, 1994); 3B Albert Pujols, (Scottsdale, 2000); SS Nomar Garciaparra (Scottsdale, 1994); OF Shawn Green (Scottsdale, 1993); OF Brian Giles (Scottsdale, 1994); OF J.D. Drew (Peoria, 1998); SP Chan Ho Park (Peoria, 1995); SP Shawn Estes (Scottsdale, 1995); RP Troy Percival (Scottsdale, 1992); manager Dusty Baker (Scottsdale, 1992)
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