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Taste of the Big Leagues Just Whets Joe Redmond's Appetite for More

August 07, 1988|STUART MATTHEWS

It may sound curious, but Joe Redfield is looking for a little more bad news--sort of like the bad news he received two months ago.

At that time, early in June, Redfield, a Rancho Palos Verdes boy who has slung his spikes around a variety of minor league outposts, was playing for the Edmonton Trappers, a California Angels farm team in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

The team had just split a double-header with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, and Edmonton Manager Tom Kotchman summoned third baseman Redfield, who was hitting .281 without a home run, into his office. Kotchman slammed the door, and this conversation followed:

Kotchman: "Sit down, Joe."

Redfield: "What's up, Skip? Is it bad news?"

Kotchman: "Yeah. Are you sure you can handle this?"

Redfield: "Sure."

Kotchman: "OK. Here it is. You're going to the major leagues tomorrow."

"I didn't hear too much he said after that," Redfield said.

What Kotchman said was that Angels infielder Gus Polidor, on the mend from a muscle pull, was going down to Edmonton, and Redfield was taking his place. The next day, June 4, Redfield hooked up with the parent club in Milwaukee for a Saturday night game against the Brewers. A set of Angels road grays was hanging in his locker with a red No. 6 and his name stitched across the back.

Redfield was up for the proverbial cup of coffee in the big leagues.

Ten days and two at-bats later, Redfield was back in Edmonton, walking into a hailstorm of questions from his fellow Trappers about what things were like in "The Show"--questions about everything from major league pitching to major league meal money.

He could have hung his head or hung up his spikes when he was sent back down. Instead, Redfield started splattering the alleys of Edmonton's John Ducey Park with line drives. He put together a 16-game hitting streak that was finally snapped July 4 in Portland. As of Friday, he was hitting .308 and had an 8-game hitting streak. And he's looking for a little more bad news.

If Redfield could find a way to get past second base (32 of his 34 extra-base hits this year have been doubles), Kotchman might deliver some.

Kotchman feels that a Triple-A manager almost has to be a psychiatrist to handle the moods of players moving up, down and out of baseball.

"It's fun to put on a game face and act serious or upset when you're telling a player he's going up to the big leagues," Kotchman said. "But I couldn't mess with Joe too much because he's a little high-strung to begin with. He might have had a coronary right there in his chair. As it was, I thought his eyes were going to pop right out of his head anyway."

Redfield's eyes were still as big as baseballs when he stepped onto the field at Milwaukee County Stadium for his major league debut.

"I got there early just to look at the field," Redfield said. "It was so big there that it was easy to get nervous."

Angels Manager Cookie Rojas penciled Redfield into the ninth spot in the batting order to give starting third baseman Jack Howell a night off against Milwaukee southpaw Ted Higuera. The Angels didn't take batting or infield practice, so Redfield had plenty of time to settle his nerves before the game. In the clubhouse, he tried to relax by playing a card game called "pluck" with Howell, reliever Greg Minton and bullpen catcher Rick Ragazzo.

Then Redfield got a big league briefing from veterans Chili Davis, Bob Boone and George Hendrick. They told him expect fastballs down and away from Higuera, a winner of 38 games over the last two years.

"Those are some of the saltiest veterans in the big leagues," Redfield said. "With their help, it felt like just another ballgame. I knew what was coming."

Redfield chased Higuera's first pitch, a fastball, and drove it the opposite way, but Brewer right fielder Glenn Braggs caught it in his tracks. On his second at-bat, Redfield went after the first pitch again, with the same result: a pop-up to Braggs. Redfield's two major league at-bats were over with two pitches.

In the fourth inning, with Milwaukee's Paul Molitor on first, Robin Yount smashed a belt-high chopper to Redfield at third. Redfield gloved the ball and fired to second baseman Johnny Ray, who whipped it to Wally Joyner for an inning-ending, around-the-horn double play.

In the dugout, former Edmonton teammate Jim Eppard gave Redfield a "thataboy" and a pat on the back.

"Yount gave me the most perfect first ground ball you could ever ask for," Redfield said. "I just made sure I caught it first and didn't throw it into right field. Thankfully, Johnny Ray got it and turned it for me."

For Redfield, the 5-4-3 twin killing turned out to be the highlight of the game. Angel right-hander Dan Petry pitched a marvelous game, but Higuera threw a 3-hitter. The Angels lost, 1-0.

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