Four Teams Won’t Field Instructional Teams

By Jack Magruder

September 14, 2001

PHOENIX–The Diamondbacks will not field an instructional league team this fall, in part because they want to give their live young arms some downtime.

Instead of a fall program, the Diamondbacks plan to bring a group of their top young players to the minor league complex in Tucson several weeks before spring training.

Arizona’s decision to take the fall off stems in part from last year, when top pitching prospects such as Mike Schultz, Bill White and Scott Barber–all taken in the first six rounds of the 2000 draft–were shut down and could not pitch in instructional league.

“The guys we would normally bring in September we are going to bring early to spring training in February,” farm director Tommy Jones said. “When you look at the 40 guys you bring to instructional league, there are truly about five or 10 that need the at-bats or the innings.”

For those players, the Diamondbacks plan to send three to the International Baseball League Australia and several more to Mexico and Latin America.

Pioneer League triple-crown winner Jesus Cota, Rookie-level Missoula teammate Scott Hairston and Class A South Bend outfielder Josh Kroeger are scheduled to go to Australia.

“We feel they will have more capacity to learn when they’re not tired and beat up after a long season,” scouting director Mike Rizzo said. “In postseason instructional league, a lot of times your pitchers have thrown 140 or 160 innings and can’t get much done.

“We won’t be teaching them new things only to have them sit for four or five months when they come back in March. Hopefully this way they can implement what we taught them in that upcoming season.”

Three other organizations–the Cubs, Expos and Yankees–also do not plan to have traditional instructional league programs this fall. Expos assistant scouting director Gregg Leonard said the club wasn’t planning anything in its place.

Cubs assistant general manager Jim Hendry said the organization had several young players on injury rehab at its Mesa, Ariz., complex, and planned to send other players to winter leagues in Latin America and Australia.

The Yankees planned a mini-camp for 40-55 players, scheduled for Sept. 17-Oct. 4, but travel concerns in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington could delay many players’ arrival.