New bat equals more hits for Bozied
By Jack Magruder
San Diego prospect Bozied, a first baseman with Peoria, had five home runs in 16 games with his hybrid bat, hitting three during the third week of the AFL season as the Javelinas opened up a four-game lead in the Western Division.
At Bozied's request, the engineers at Carolina Club grafted a T141 model head to a 219 model handle in time for the AFL season. The new handle is a little thicker than the one commonly used on the standard T141, with which Bozied hit .260-24-92 while splitting time between Class A Lake Elsinore and Double-A Mobile.
"Maybe it's just the stick in my hand that makes me feel a little more comfortable,'' said Bozied, the Padres' third-round pick in 2001 after spurning an offer from Minnesota in 2000.
"You know how that is, hitters are such freakin' mental weirdos.''
He might have started a cottage industry. Bozied hit a leadoff homer in the 10th inning of an 8-7 victory over Mesa on Oct. 19, his third homer of the week, after hitting two-run homers Oct. 15-16, the second as part of a three-run eighth inning in a 10-7 victory over Grand Canyon.
Bozied, 22, was .214-9-32 in 60 games at Mobile in the second half, but he began swinging the bat well down the stretch, and it has carried over.
"One thing I learned when I got to Double-A was, you really have to have a refined approach to hitting in order to have success over a period of time,'' said Bozied, who hit 30 homers in his sophomore season at the University of San Francisco in 1999 before losing time to a knee injury in 2000.
"So I kind of wanted to get a better understanding of how pitchers pitch when they have really good stuff and they know how to pitch. I think I kind of started to figure it out the last two weeks in Mobile. Now, coming here playing against the best the minor leagues have to offer, I'm just trying to pay attention and learn to how different hitters and getting pitched to and the way I'm getting pitched to.
"I just kind of hit a rut in there for a while (at Mobile), where it didn't feel like I was getting any better. But I kept working through it, trying to work on some physical things and some mental things. Sometimes, things just click. I don't know if things just clicked. I just know that in my mind, I am not fighting myself. I'm just relaxed and playing. You don't why it happened when it did, but you just keep going with it.''
Bozied, 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, played almost exclusively at first base this summer, a position occupied by both Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko at times during the 2002 season in San Diego. But Bozied, a third baseman in college who played a bit of outfield this spring at Lake Elsinore, has been counseled not to concern himself with a future over which he has little control.
"They've had talks with me about it,'' said Bozied, who signed for a $750,000 bonus after playing most of the 2001 summer season at independent Sioux Falls (Northern)his home town while negotiations between agent Scott Boras and the Padres lengthened.
"Trades can happen. People can get hurt. Those are things I can't worry about, especially as a young player trying to prove himself,'' Bozied said.
"I can't sit and worry about what is going on at the big league level, or what they are trying to do with me, position-wise, because that's just going to affect my performance, not necessarily in a positive way. I look at it as, I'm trying to develop myself into a major league player. And if I'm successful in doing that, someone is going to see that.
"I'm just looking for a major league job. Of course, I'd love it to be with the Padres, but I'm also smart enough to know that it doesn't always happen that way. I'm just trying to develop myself to become the best baseball player I can be and hope that is for San Diego.''
Scottsdale first baseman Ken Harvey (Royals) had a nine-game hitting streak through Oct. 21, during which he had 19 hits in 33 at-bats. He hit two home runs in a 7-5 victory over Grand Canyon on Oct. 18, hitting a tie-breaking homer with the bases empty in the last of the seventh inning. Harvey reached base in each of his first 12 games. Teammate Nathan Haynes (Angels) had an eight-game hitting streak earlier in the season.
With most starting pitchers on pitch-count limits, only two had victories in the first three weeks of the season. Peoria lefthander Dave Sanders (White Sox) lead the league with four victories, all in relief, after going 3-1, 1.84 with Double-A Birmingham in 47 appearances in the regular season. Grand Canyon outfielder Shawn Fagan (Blue Jays) was a triple short of the cycle in a 13-7 victory over Phoenix on Oct. 20, his three hits including a two-run double and a two-run homer.
World Series rivals Dusty Baker and Mike Scioscia received their managerial indoctrinations in the AFL, Baker guiding Scottsdale in 1992, the league's first season, and Scioscia leading Peoria to the league title in 1997. Angels closer Troy Percival was on Baker's team in 1992. Eighteen players from the two World Series teams played in the Fall League. And students of the AFL could have seen Francisco Rodriguez coming. Rodrgiuez struck out 22 batters in 13 1/3 innings as a 19-year old while pitching for both Scottsdale and Peoria in 2001.
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