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MINORS / SEAN WATERS : They Are Struggling to Make It to the Top

July 05, 1992|SEAN WATERS

In the past two weeks, three San Francisco Giant farmhands have received a lesson in the ups and downs of baseball.

Former St. Bernard High standout Royce Clayton was demoted to triple-A Phoenix June 20 after opening the season as the Giant shortstop. Clayton was batting .207.

Former El Camino College standout Dan Lewis was reassigned Thursday to the Giants' double-A team in Shreveport, La. after playing 70 games in triple-A Phoenix. Lewis was Phoenix's top power hitter, but the Giants needed to make room for first baseman Rob Nelson.

Outfielder Steve Hosey, 23, who was born in Inglewood and spends his off-season there with his mother and younger brother, has been stationed all season at Phoenix.

Hosey, who is a friend of Lewis, is uncertain about his baseball future.

"I don't know what to expect," he said. "It all depends on the organization you play for and who is in front of you. I don't think too much about when I will play in the major (leagues) because I don't have any control."

Said Firebird Manager Bill Evers: "(Steve) has a bright future and will play in the big leagues some day. He's really adapted well to the triple-A situation and he's doing a good job.

"He knows he has to refine and improve every facet of his game."

After a slow start, Hosey improved his batting average to .299 and leads the Firebirds in hits (83), doubles (17), runs batted in (41), is tied for first in home runs (six) and is second in stolen bases (10).

He also leads the team in strikeouts (54) and errors (eight).

When he hits the ball, Hosey is among the best power hitters in the minor leagues. He is capable of driving in a lot of runs, not just at Scottsdale Stadium, but at Candlestick Park.

Hosey, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-handed batter, has twice been named Pacific Coast League player of the week by Howe Sportsdata International. He had 14 hits in 25 at-bats for a .550 batting average with three doubles, a triple and five RBIs to win weekly honors during the first week in June.

He currently has a seven-game hitting streak and has not gone more than one game without a hit since May 26. Thursday night, Hosey hit one of the Firebirds' three home runs in a 6-3 victory over Colorado Springs at Phoenix.

"He has really cut down his strikeout totals since last year," Evers said. "Basically, he's handling the breaking ball better and putting the bat on the ball. When things are not going well, some guys press too hard to make things happen. Hosey finds a way to get out of slump without overextending himself."

After his family moved to the Bay Area, Hosey played basketball and baseball at Oakland Fremont High. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 19th round of the draft, but opted to play at Fresno State. Hosey, Dodger prospect Tom Goodwin and Toronto Blue Jay prospect Eddie Zosky helped lead the Bulldogs to the 1988 College World Series.

Hosey decided to play college baseball because the Indians did not offer him enough money.

"I always wanted to play college baseball," Hosey said. "But if the Indians had given me the money I wanted, I would have signed with them."

For two consecutive years, the Giants' first-round selection had ties to the South Bay. In 1988 they selected Clayton and in 1989 they picked Hosey.

After signing with the Giants, Hosey played rookie ball at Everett, Wash., where he batted .288 with 13 home runs and 59 runs batted in. Hosey struggled at Class A San Jose in the California League in 1990. He had 16 home runs and 78 RBIs, but his average dropped to .232 and he struck out 139 times. Last season at Shreveport, he batted .293 with 17 home runs and 74 RBIs.

"I think I've matured as a ballplayer," Hosey said. "I come to the park early because I have work to do. I want to be in the big leagues and I'm not there yet.

"It will take more work for me to get there."

Although Evers was able to pinpoint Hosey's weaknesses, he still left the door open for that element of surprise.

"Steve needs to cut down his errors and keep hitting the ball and there's no telling where he'll be," Evers said.

Sent down--Clayton was shipped to Phoenix and replaced on the Giant roster by Mike Benjamin. He had three home runs, 16 runs batted in and six stolen bases during his first extended stay in the majors.

"Royce and I are friends and it's fun to go out and watch him play," Hosey said. "It's good to have a shortstop of his caliber on the team."

Through Friday, Clayton had nine hits in 41 at-bats for a .220 average with seven runs scored. He has made three errors, two in the first two games.

Clayton played for double-A Shreveport last season and was called up by the Giants for 18 days when rosters were expanded to 40 players in September.

Sent down part II--Nelson has played 76 games in the majors despite being a professional for nine years. He signed with the Giants after being released a month ago by Portland, the Minnesota Twins' triple-A team.

To make room for Nelson, the Giants chose to demote Lewis, who led Phoenix in home runs (10) and RBIs (41). Lewis also batted .270 with 15 doubles and two triples.

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