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Kapler's Numbers May Add Up to Promotion

June 21, 1998|DAVE DESMOND

When the Detroit Tigers placed Gabe Kapler on their 40-man roster this year, they listed the former Taft High and Moorpark College outfielder at 190 pounds.

He actually weighs 208 pounds.

The Tigers also incorrectly listed Kapler's birthday as August 31. It's really July 31, 1975.

But if you want to see some really unbelievable statistics, just look at the kind of year Kapler is having for double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League.

He is batting .312 with 15 home runs and is the only player in minor league baseball this season to be chosen his league's player of the week three times.

He was minor league baseball's player of the month in May and will start Monday night in the Southern League all-star game in Mobile, Ala.

But the most eye-popping statistic of all is his 84 runs batted in through 68 games.

No other minor leaguer has more than Kapler, who is on pace to drive in 173 during a 140-game season. If they can keep him down on the farm.

"He's a sure-fire major leaguer," said David Miller, the Tigers' director of minor league operations. "All the outfielders ahead of him in our organization are already in the major leagues."

Kapler has spent little time reveling in his lofty accomplishments.

"I don't get caught up in what's going on," said the Tigers' 57th-round pick in 1995. "Sometimes, I wish I did. You know, take some time to enjoy everything.

"But there's no guarantee I'm going to make it to the major leagues. The only way to get there is to keep working hard and to stay focused.

"I have a dream schedule and a realistic schedule. My dream would be to have a chance to play in the majors in September. My realistic schedule has me playing in triple A next year before moving up."

Miller suggests Kapler hold onto his dream.

"It's conceivable that he could go up," Miller said. "He's becoming the complete player you hope for, a true success story. If he keeps going the way he is right now, he'll be there."

A September promotion would be the perfect prelude to another big event in Kapler's life.

In January of 1999, he is scheduled to marry Lisa Jansen, his high school sweetheart. Jansen was a member of the drill team at Taft while Kapler was earning All-City honors on the baseball field.

"This could be a very big year all the way around," he said.

You better believe it.

*

Former JetHawks Sean Spencer of Orlando (Mariners) and Carlos Villalobos of Jacksonville also were selected to the Southern League all-star game.

Members of the all-star team will face Southern League affiliate Mobile.

First baseman Mike Mitchell (Rio Mesa High) was chosen to the all-star team but will play for Mobile.

*

Another Taft graduate is beginning to make a name for himself in pro baseball.

Adam Fox was recently hired by the Modesto A's to work as the team's radio play-by-play commentator.

Fox, 21, will make his debut Thursday during a California League game at Lancaster.

Fox, who was scheduled to graduate from Northwestern University this weekend, will also serve as Modesto's media relations assistant.

*

During four seasons as minor league pitching coordinator for the Montreal Expos, Jim Benedict occasionally has had to fill in for his organization's pitching coaches.

But not until this season had he substituted at the major league level.

Benedict, a former pitcher at Chatsworth High and Valley College, served as the Expos' pitching coach for six days in May.

Bobby Cuellar, the regular pitching coach, left the team to be with his family after his 41-year-old brother died of a heart attack.

"When I initially got the call from [General Manager] Jim Beattie, I couldn't believe it," Benedict said. "First, because of the tragedy, but also because I was going up."

Benedict served in a similar capacity for eight days during spring training, when Cuellar's father died.

Benedict said he didn't have time to be nervous during his most-recent promotion.

"You get so locked into your pitchers," said the former reliever in the Kansas City Royals' organization. "It was a hurry-up-and-acclimate-yourself type of situation."

Benedict has since resumed his regular duties, which involve roving between Montreal's minor league teams and working with the organization's promising pitchers.

*

The San Francisco Giants recalled former Montclair Prep pitcher Russ Ortiz on Saturday and sent former Channel Islands High infielder Jacob Cruz to triple-A Fresno.

It's hardly the first time the two have bounced back and forth between triple-A and the majors.

Ortiz was promoted for the third time this season, while Cruz was sent down for the fifth time since 1996.

Ortiz, who was 3-0 with a 1.02 earned-run average this season at Fresno, was effective during his previous stints with the Giants. In seven innings, he struck out nine, allowed four hits and did not yield a run.

Cruz has not been nearly as fortunate during his major league experience.

The 1997 Pacific Coast League batting champion was batting .300 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs when he was promoted Tuesday. He struck out twice in three at-bats with the Giants and has hit only .210 in 105 at-bats in the major leagues.

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