Tom Redington is learning plenty about professional baseball this summer with the Sumter (S.C.) Braves in the Class-A South Atlantic League. And it hasn't been easy.
He is learning how to play every day instead of twice a week, as he did at Esperanza High School last spring; he is learning how to play third base after being an all-star shortstop in high school.
And he is doing something he rarely did in high school: He is struggling at the plate and in the field. But he seems to be learning how to deal with that, too.
Redington hit .399 with 22 home runs and 90 runs batted in during three high school seasons but now is having trouble hitting more than .200.
In 67 games with Sumter, Redington is hitting .202 with 10 doubles and 4 home runs. Despite his low average, he is third in the batting order and has a team-leading 31 RBIs. He also has 45 walks but has struck out 35 times.
"I know I'm a better hitter than my average," Redington said from Sumter Wednesday. "I really have to work at it here. I guess I'm just running in rough waters right now. But I know my average will climb in the second half. I've hit the ball hard a lot, and it just hasn't fallen in too much."
The switch to third base also has caused some problems for Redington, who was a third-round pick of the Atlanta Braves last June and signed a bonus and incentive package worth $100,000 in August. He has made a team-leading 21 errors.
"We are working hard to try and correct his defensive problems," said Ed Holtz, the Sumter general manager. "He's still rated high among our prospects; there's no question about that. He just is at a new level, and there are adjustments to be made.
"We know he can be successful on this level. He proved that last season."
Redington had originally signed a national letter of intent to attend the University of Arizona after high school. He played with the U.S. Junior Olympic team in July, then changed his mind about college and signed with the Braves. He reported to Sumter in August and hit .318 in the final month of the season.
"It's not being new at third that is giving me problems," Redington said. "I can make the tough play in the hole or diving toward the line, but the slow rollers just give me problems. Also, some of the fields here are like playing on asphalt, and that doesn't help."
Redington's troubles have driven him to take extra batting and fielding practice each day. He arrives at the park at 2 p.m., two hours ahead of the required time, for 7 p.m. games.
Holtz said the Braves are using an unusual technique to help Redington get more accustomed to playing third without losing his confidence. The coaches are slamming tennis balls at him with tennis rackets so that he can work on his fielding without any fear of being hurt.
"It's a lot different than high school," Redington said. "There we played two games a week and really looked forward to playing because there were so few games. Here, you play and practice every day, and it's been hot a lot, so you have to be careful not to get too tired.
"As long as I keep a good outlook and keep trying, I should be OK. You can't get down about things. There's always a game the next day."
Dave Cochrane is becoming a man of many positions with the Calgary Cannons, the Seattle Mariners' triple-A team in the Pacific Coast League.
Cochrane, a 1981 graduate of Troy High, has played everywhere except second base, center field and pitcher this season.
He is hitting .268 with 11 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs and 27 RBIs and is on a 12-game hitting streak (15 for 43).
"He hasn't hit with the power we thought he would yet," Calgary General Manager John Dittrich said. "But he is coming along. We've asked him to play a lot of different places, and he's performed well each time."
Cochrane has moved around since being drafted by the New York Mets in 1981. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Tom Paciorek in July, 1985, hit .194 in 19 games after being called up by the White Sox at the end of the 1986 season, then spent 1987 at Hawaii, Chicago's triple-A team. He was traded to the Kansas City Royals last December, and about a month later was sent to the Mariners.
Catcher Jamie Nelson continues to struggle in his effort to get back to the major leagues.
Nelson, from Bolsa Grande High School, reached the majors in 1983 with Seattle and hit .219 in 40 games.
He was sent down during the 1984 season, then missed most of the next two seasons with injured tendons in his right elbow. Nelson played at Omaha, the Royals' triple-A team, in 1987, hit .222 and was released at the end of the season.
Nelson signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles this spring but was released before the regular season started, then signed with the New York Yankees, who assigned him to triple-A Columbus in April.
Nelson became the starting catcher at Columbus when Bob Green was called up by the Yankees in early May, but a sore back has sidelined him for the last two weeks. Nelson is hitting only .150.
Doug Linton, who was a standout for the Toronto Blue Jays' Class-A team at Myrtle Beach, S.C., last season, is sitting this season out while he recovers from shoulder surgery.
Linton, who signed with the Blue Jays out of UC Irvine, is traveling with Toronto's double-A team at Knoxville.
Linton, a right-hander with a sharp breaking slider, was 14-2 with a 1.55 earned-run average, had 154 strikeouts and allowed only 94 hits and 25 walks at Myrtle Beach.
He was twice the Blue Jays' minor league player of the month.
He was promoted to Knoxville in late August and made one start but didn't pitch again because of a sore shoulder. He had arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder during the winter.