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BEIJING 2008

U.S. beats Taiwan, 4-2, and clinches spot in medal round

Tiffee, a minor leaguer for Dodgers, keeps up strong performance in Games, and he hopes it leads to call-up.

August 20, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- Terry Tiffee moved a step closer to a gold medal Tuesday. And he's hoping that brings him a step closer to his goal as well.

With a 4-2 win over Taiwan, Tiffee and the U.S. baseball team clinched a spot in Friday's medal round, moving them nearer to an Olympic title.

And after going one for three, Tiffee leads the Olympic tournament in batting percentage (.478) and hits (11), which could move him nearer to baseball's brass ring, the major leagues, as well.

"I'm just trying to put together good at-bats and I've been getting hits," said Tiffee, a minor leaguer in the Dodgers system who spent two weeks in the big leagues this season. "Hopefully they're paying attention back in L.A."

They are.

"We're very proud of Terry," Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said. "He has had a very good season in triple A and has carried it over to Beijing and the Olympics."

Beyond that, however, the Dodgers remain vague on their plans, leaving it iffy whether Tiffee will be called up for the pennant run next month.

"We'll see what September brings," Colletti said.

Tiffee has made a strong case with his play here, tying a U.S. Olympic record with six doubles heading into tonight's final first-round game against Japan, which will join the U.S., Korea and Cuba in the final four.

And that performance had U.S. Manager Davey Johnson, a former Dodgers skipper, offering his old team some advice.

"He's played very well for us," Johnson said of Tiffee. "And hopefully we'll win the gold medal and the Dodgers will be smart enough to call him up."

The knock against the 29-year-old switch-hitting third baseman is that he's proved he can handle minor league pitching, but the major leagues are a different story.

In the minors, he has hit better than .300 four times in nine seasons, including a .375 mark for Las Vegas this summer. In the majors, Tiffee's a career .226 hitter.

"The Dodgers are going to make their mind up what's best for their club," Tiffee said. "I can't really control that. I know I can definitely help them off the bench, pinch-hitting or doing something. But that's their decision. I can't really worry about that."

The same goes for relievers Mike Koplove and Kevin Jepsen, who combined for 2 2/3 innings of perfect relief Tuesday, saving the win for starter Brandon Knight.

"I am not even thinking about it," said Koplove, a Dodgers farmhand who hasn't allowed a baserunner in 4 1/3 innings here. "Obviously I want to be in the big leagues, but this is the only thing I am focused on right now."

Added Jepsen, an Angels prospect who has a save in three scoreless appearances at the Games: "That's the ultimate goal. Everybody here is trying to get up to the major leagues.

"[But] that's something that we'll take care over there. Right now I think everybody is concerned about what's going on here, which is trying to win a gold medal."

--

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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