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Sledge Hammer

Outfielder From Kennedy High and Northridge Is Having a Big Season for the JetHawks

May 21, 2000|DAVE DESMOND

Terrmel Sledge is tearing up the California League and himself.

The former Kennedy High and Cal State Northridge outfielder is among the league leaders in batting average, on-base percentage and ice bags.

In his first full professional season, Sledge is batting a league-best .381 for the Lancaster JetHawks while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.

"I didn't set any offensive goals," he said. "My main goal this season was just to stay healthy."

Until this week, he has been successful. Sledge sat out the JetHawks' games against San Bernardino on Thursday and Friday with a sore left shoulder and jammed left wrist.

Sledge usually plays consecutive games in right field and serves as designated hitter every third game.

The Seattle Mariners' eighth-round selection out of Long Beach State last June, Sledge has shown he has one of the healthiest cuts in the organization.

Last season, he batted .318 for short-season Everett and was named the club's co-most valuable player.

He had a 12-game hitting streak and set a Northwest League record by hitting safely in nine consecutive at-bats.

Sledge has been even more impressive since being promoted from Wisconsin about six weeks ago.

He received Cal League honors as player of the week two weeks ago, and Manager Mark Parent has told JetHawk officials he believes the left-handed hitting Sledge will walk away with the league batting title if the Mariners allow him to stay in Lancaster through the season.

"He's a natural hitter," Parent said. "He has the good fortune and ability to get the bat head on the ball, and he's so consistent.

"The thing that's really good about him is that he's a good hitter against left-handed pitching. That's not very common."

The scary thing is, Sledge is traditionally, a slow starter.

At Long Beach, he started seven for 60, but rallied to finish at .392 and lead the 49ers to the College World Series.

At Wisconsin, Sledge was batting .217 before his promotion.

With such a torrid start at Lancaster, there's no telling where he might finish.

"It's kind of nice to start quick for a change," said Sledge, who grew up an hour away in Granada Hills and nightly has a cheering section that has included family, friends and former Kennedy coaches and teammates.

The support is important to Sledge.

When Northridge folded its baseball program temporarily in 1998, Sledge selected Long Beach over Texas, Texas A&M and Memphis so he could be close to his family.

"It's great playing so close to home," said Sledge, who bats third for a Lancaster team that is ranked No. 1 among Class-A teams in Baseball America's power rankings. "It's also great to be playing on such a great team and knowing you have a chance to win every night."


Jon Garland, former Kennedy High ace, could make his major league debut this week.

The Chicago White Sox are expected to call up a pitcher from triple-A Charlotte for a start Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, and minor league director Kenny Williams was impressed with Garland (4-1) after watching him in a victory at Indianapolis on Wednesday.

"He's making a pretty good argument for himself," Williams told Chicago reporters.

The Chicago Sun-Times speculated last week that the White Sox might be tempted to have Garland up in time for an interleague series with the cross-town rival Cubs beginning June 9.

Garland, 20, was the Cubs' first-round selection in 1997, but was dealt across town for reliever Matt Karchner in 1998.

Garland, third in the International League with a 2.70 earned-run average, isn't waiting by a phone.

"I'm here at triple-A having fun," he told the Sun-Times. "I just want to pitch well. I'm in no hurry. When the time is right, the time is right."


One day, you're hitting the ball over fences. The next, you're hitting them overseas.

That's the case with Brent Cookson.

The former Santa Paula High and Ventura College outfielder, who was leading the Pacific Coast League with 33 RBIs for the Albuquerque Dukes, was granted his release by the Dodgers last week so he could sign a lucrative contract with the LG Twins of the Korean Baseball League.

LG Twin scouts reportedly attended Albuquerque's game Monday night at Nashville, when Cookson, 30, hit his 10th and 11th home runs and drove in seven runs.

By Wednesday, he was back in Albuquerque packing his bags.


Scott Richardson, another former Dodger farmhand, also is experiencing a drastic career change.

The former Cal State Northridge infielder retired recently to become general manager of the Solano Steelheads of the independent Western League.

Owner Bruce Portner interviewed several candidates before turning to Richardson, who played for the organization last season when it was located in Sacramento.

"He said he thought I'd be capable of meeting the challenge and asked if I would be interested," Richardson said. "I told him I was. I was tired of all the travel, and having just had our second child, it was the right decision."

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