Weekend Dish

Dopirak begins on right foot with Double-A West Tenn

See also: Friday's Daily Dish

This past spring was absolutely the best time of Brian Dopirak’s life.

But, after impressing the Cubs’ brass this spring, the best of times quickly turned into the worst of times for the second-round pick out of Dunedin (Fla.) High in 2002.

The 22-year-old first baseman, who was coming off a season in which he battled through the Florida State League last year, hitting .235/.289/.381 with 107 strikeouts in 507 at-bats at Daytona, just wanted to show any kind of sign of getting back on track.

Dopirak batted .307/.363/.593 with a ridiculous 39 homers at low Class A Lansing in 2004, and ranked as the Cubs’ No. 1 prospect in 2005.

But after a major power outage, questions lingered . . . at least until spring training.

Dopirak hit .355 in big league camp, with a couple of home runs and six RBIs in just 31 at-bats before being sent back to Double-A West Tenn where he began the season.

But with expectations again as high as ever, Dopirak broke his foot rounding first base in the Diamond Jaxx’ season opener at Birmingham.

“Oh, I definitely felt it,” Dopirak said. “Usually I deal with any kind of injuries or those kind of things that have happened over my career pretty well. But this was different. I knew right when I heard it, then felt it, that something was wrong.”

Dopirak flew to Chicago and had surgery two days later. After that, he flew back home to Florida before flying again to Phoenix to start his rehab.

“I couldn’t do anything but aquatic therapy for two weeks,” Dopirak said. “I couldn’t put any weight on my legs, but I’d just float there in the pool with a bat in my hands.”

Dopirak then played in a few games at the Cubs’ extended spring training facility in Mesa before joining West Tenn on Friday, making his return to the lineup.

Dopirak didn’t show much rust from missing two months when the only games he got under his belt was against inexperienced pitching in extended—he went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles in the Diamond Jaxx’ 3-0 loss to Tennessee.

“It was an awesome feeling just to get back out there and compete again,” Dopirak said. “I had some major jitters, and I’m sure they’ll be there for a while. Anybody who wants to be in this game absolutely should have them no matter what level they’re playing . . . so that’s a good sign as far as I’m concerned.

“Getting hurt was no doubt a blow to who I was as a person and where I stood confidence-wise after doing pretty well in the spring. It sucked, but there’s nothing else you can really say about it. I look at it as the injury just gave me more time to work on my swing, especially coming off the year I had last year. I just try to learn something from the positives and learn something from the negatives—and that’s not just in the game, but in my life. That’s how I roll.”


• Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester will likely take the mound in the big leagues at some point this season, it just won’t be this Tuesday in injured lefthander David Wells’ spot in the rotation when the Sox visit the Bronx. “It’s in Yankee Stadium,” Red Sox GM Theo Epstein told the Boston Globe. “It might not be the best forum for a player to make his major league debut. That’s just one of the main factors we take into consideration. Jonathan Lester’s at a very crucial part of his development. He’s really in finishing school right now. He’s getting very close to being ready to help us. But I don’t think it will happen by Tuesday.” That tall order instead falls to righthander David Pauley, whom the Sox called up straight from Double-A Portland. Pauley was 2-3, 2.39 in 60 innings for the Sea Dogs. Lester, who struggled early on this season at Triple-A Pawtucket, has gone 3-0, 1.04 over his last five starts and is 3-4, 2.95 in 43 innings overall . . . Triple-A Fresno handed Tucson righthander Dustin Nippert his first loss of the season on Friday, in a 2-0 shutout of the Sidewinders. Nippert allowed two runs on four hits over five innings and is now 7-1, 3.47 in 57 innings . . . Speaking of streaking, Triple-A Sacramento righthander Jason Windsor took over sole possession of the minor league lead in wins on Friday, despite allowing five runs in the River Cats’ 8-7 win against Las Vegas. Since being called up from Double-A Midland, Windsor is 5-0, 2.25 with a 28-7 strikeout-walk ratio in 28 innings. He is 9-1, 2.56 overall . . . Double-A Erie righthander Humberto Sanchez keeps rolling along in the Eastern League. Sanchez didn’t figure in the decision of the Seawolves’ 3-2 win against Akron on Friday, but it was another quality start nonetheless. Sanchez allowed a run on five hits and whiffed nine over eight innings of work, lowering his ERA to 1.76 in 72 innings . . . Double-A Binghamton righthander Mike Pelfrey did it all for the B-Mets on Friday, whiffing 10 over six innings and pitching in at the plate, where he went 3-for-3 with a double. The Mets’ first-round pick last year has been working with Binghamton pitching coach Mark Brewer on a slight kink in his mechanics, keeping his lower half in sync with his upper body. "I'm kind of rushing in my delivery," Pelfrey told the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin. "I know what I need to do, and I can feel when I'm doing things wrong." Pelfrey is now 0-1, 3.41 in 34 innings in Double-A . . . First, the Royals landed Dayton Moore from the Braves as their new GM, and now Kansas City got more good news when righthander Zach Greinke returned to the mound at Double-A Wichita on Friday. Greinke, who left spring training due to personal issues, allowed a run on four hits over five innings in his first time in a Wranglers uniform since 2003. Greinke is expected to make at least two more starts in the minors . . . Keeping on the return tip, Tigers righthander Kyle Sleeth made his first start since Sept. 4, 2004 on Friday at high Class A Lakeland. The Tigers’ first-round pick out of Wake Forest in 2003, missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Sleeth allowed four runs on five hits over just three innings, and was bested by Brevard County righthander Mark Rogers in the Manatees’ 4-3 win. Rogers allowed a run on just two hits over six innings, striking out nine. It was Rogers’ first win of the season, and the fifth-overall pick in 2004’s numbers are now 1-2, 6.20 in 45 innings. Rogers has been overshadowed on the Brevard County staff by righthander Yovani Gallardo, and that trend continued Saturday, when Gallardo whiffed 12 over seven innings in the Manatees’ 3-2 win against the Tigers. On the season, Gallardo is now 5-3, 2.09 with 89 strikeouts in 64 innings . . . Command was an issue for Double-A Birmingham righthander Lance Broadway on Saturday, as the White Sox first-round pick last year walked seven, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch in Huntsville’s 7-3 win. Broadway’s success this season has little to do with his secondary numbers—he has a 46-25 strikeout-walk ratio in 71 innings. Overall, Broadway is now 4-3, 2.52 . . . Angels righthander Nick Green made his Double-A debut for Arkansas on Saturday, allowing three runs on five hits—including a solo shot in the fifth by Midland outfielder Travis Buck—over seven innings. Green, a 35th-round pick in 2004, went 5-3, 4.15 in 65 innings at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga this season . . . Don’t look now, but Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is red-hot. Since returning from a hamstring injury on May 22, Ellsbury is hitting .377 (20-for-53) and three of his four homers have come during that span. He needs to be a little more selective on the bases, however. He’s stolen seven bags and been caught five times since coming off the disabled list.