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MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL / DAILY REPORT : AROUND THE LEAGUES

Knight Gets Everything Together

May 22, 1997|JEFF FLETCHER

Although he's only 21 and in his second full season of pro baseball, right-hander Brandon Knight has already seen both ends of the spectrum of his pitching ability.

Fortunately, he's at the right end these days. The former Buena High and Ventura College standout is 4-3 with a 1.72 earned-run average--fourth best in the Florida State League--with Class-A Charlotte, Fla. He has struck out 64 batters in 63 innings.

"Basically I'm just happy that it's all kind of come together," Knight said. "Last year was a big struggle for me. I just all of a sudden lost everything that I had ever learned."

Knight, drafted in 1995, started last season with Charlotte, the Texas Rangers' top Class-A team, but he lost his first six decisions and in July was sent down to Hudson Valley, N.Y., a short-season team.

"My fastball was up in the zone, my curve ball was nonexistent, I was behind in the count and I didn't have much of a change-up," Knight said. "Overall, it was horrible. After the first couple games I kept thinking it would get better, but it kept not getting better."

Knight pulled himself together at Hudson Valley, then returned to Charlotte for the end of the season. And in instructional league, he started fooling around with a slider. In spring training, Knight got a tip from a slider expert: Rangers' closer John Wetteland.

"Wetteland changed my grip for the slider the way he's thrown it and that's made it more effective for me," Knight said. "Now I can throw it more like a fastball."

*

Scanning Tuesday box scores: DOUBLE A--Outfielder Jason Evans (Chatsworth) hit his fourth home run for Birmingham. . . . Right-hander Bryan Corey (Thousand Oaks, Pierce) pitched a scoreless ninth inning and got a victory for Jacksonville, Fla. . . . Right-hander Russ Ortiz (Montclair Prep) got his first pro victory as a starter for Shreveport, La. Ortiz gave up two runs in six innings, striking out four. CLASS A--First baseman Jon Tucker (Chatsworth) had three hits, including a double, for Vero Beach, Fla. . . . Right-hander Jeff Howatt (Rio Mesa) pitched three scoreless innings in relief for St. Lucie, Fla. . . . First baseman Robert Fick (Newbury Park, Ventura College, Cal State Northridge), whose 32-game hitting streak ended on Sunday, was not in the lineup for West Michigan.

JETHAWKS

With the recent slump of Luis Molina, Joel Ramirez has been getting more playing time at shortstop, and he's taken advantage of it. Ramirez, who was not in the starting lineup Wednesday, has hit .361 since April 29, while Molina has hit .109 over the same span.

Manager Rick Burleson said Ramirez will continue to start at least three times a week.

"Nobody has stepped up and taken the job," Burleson said. "We'll see what happens when we throw it open."

*

Tonight's Game: Modesto (Scott Rivette, 4-3, 3.11) at JetHawks (Rob Luce, 6-1, 2.54), 7:15.

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