Because they tumbled out of contention early, the Angels have been able to focus on prospects who should help them next season. Catcher Ben Molina has been solid since his call-up on Aug. 3 and will get most of the starts down the stretch. Rookie righthander Ramon Ortiz (1-1, 4.68 in four starts) has made a strong bid to be part of the rotation in 2000. Several veterans may also be playing to prove they deserve to stick around under the new manager. Said Bavasi last week, "We're in the middle of some intense evaluations, and we're seeing how people react in adverse conditions."
Reds Hot Prospect
Since being picked by the Reds in the second round of the June draft, former McNeese State first baseman Ben Broussard has gone from the Billings (Mont.) Mustangs of the rookie-level Pioneer League to Class A Clinton (Iowa) to Double A Chattanooga, where he has been playing first base and leftfield for the Lookouts. Lookout, indeed. The 22-year-old Broussard, dubbed Hobbs (as in Roy Hobbs of The Natural) by his Billings teammates, is clearly worth keeping an eye on. On July 12, less than a month after his pro debut, the left-handed-hitting Broussard went 5 for 5 against Great Falls. His output included three home runs—a two-run homer, a three-run shot and a grand slam—two doubles and 11 RBIs. Broussard had a sixth trip to the plate with the bases empty but was intentionally walked.
Two weeks later, with his Billings numbers reading like the stats of Ted Williams on andro (.407, with 48 RBIs in 38 games), he was promoted to Clinton. In five games there he hit .550 with seven extra-base hits and six RBIs. "I'd just found an apartment in Clinton, started meeting some of the guys, and then I was gone," says Broussard. "Golly, I barely knew the [Clinton] manager's name when I was called up to Chattanooga."
That promotion came on July 31. Two days later he crushed a home run for his first Double A hit. "Everything that's happened, I just couldn't imagine it," says Broussard, who hit a school-and Southland Conference-record 27 home runs for McNeese last year after going undrafted following his junior season. "Here in Chattanooga it's like a different world. They have a big ol' spread of food after the game, and you don't even have to carry your own luggage."
Though Broussard's magical mystery tour seems certain to continue with an invitation to the Reds' spring training camp next February, he did finally hit a bump in the road: Through Sunday he was batting just .218 for Chattanooga, with eight home runs and 21 RBIs in 34 games. "I had a little rough spell," he says. "But, golly, who would've even thought I'd be here?"
Stretch Run Slump
Shawn Green's Hitting Blues
Blue Jays hitting coach Gary Matthews is very diplomatic when asked about the current state-at-the-plate of Toronto's All-Star rightfielder, Shawn Green. "I wouldn't say Shawn's in a slump," says Matthews, "but he's slightly off on pitches that earlier this season he was firmly hitting."
Call Green's drop-off what you will, after a spectacular start this year he is struggling at a very inopportune time. Since the All-Star break, when his numbers (.327, 25 homers, 70 RBIs) made him an MVP candidate, Green had only 11 homers and 38 RBIs through Sunday. In August he batted just .248 with three homers while the Jays went 12-16 and dropped as far as five games behind the Red Sox in the wildcard chase.
Green, 26, isn't the only young star to wobble in a race this season. The Reds' second-year first baseman, Sean Casey, who was batting as high as .373 in late July, went through a horrific 19-for-104 swoon in August that dropped his average to a season-low .330 on Aug. 24. Cincinnati manager Jack McKeon, sensing that Casey was wearing down, sat him for two straight starts. "He just got in a rut," says McKeon. "He made some adjustments, and he's been more selective." Casey returned to the starting lineup on Aug. 27 and through Sunday had gone 17 for 38, lifting his average back to .341. "Sean is too good of a hitter to not hit for too long," says McKeon.