Adenhart worth wait for Angels

ON BASEBALL

Baseball

A Look Inside

August 01, 2004|By Roch Kubatko

Curiosity made Nick Adenhart keep track of the amateur baseball draft in June. Why else would a high school pitcher about to undergo ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow have any interest in it?

Why else would Adenhart, offered a full scholarship by the University of North Carolina, care about the selection process?

Because he's a smart kid.

The Anaheim Angels chose Adenhart, once rated the No. 1 high school prospect in the country by Baseball America, in the 14th round and signed him last week for $710,000.

The surgery was a success. And once he's healthy, Adenhart will have a chance to be the same as a professional.

The Angels gave Adenhart, who graduated this spring from Washington County's Williamsport High, second-round money because he would have gone in the first if not for the injury. They regarded him as a steal.

But it was more than the cash that swayed Adenhart, who seemed ready to spend three years in Chapel Hill before reentering the draft. The Angels arranged for him to attend Arizona State University, a short distance from the facility where he'll undergo physical therapy on his arm. He's also close to the organization's training complex in Mesa, where he'll probably be assigned next summer to the Angels' rookie-level team. He's expected to begin pitching again by July 2005.

And Adenhart will be in good hands with Dr. Lewis Yocum serving as Anaheim's team orthopedist.

"The biggest deciding factor was they had a very creative plan for what he would do this year while he was rehabbing, and how to occupy his time the 20 hours a day he wasn't rehabbing," said Adenhart's stepfather, Duane Gigeous. "They're allowing Nick to experience both worlds, to be a full-time college student for at least the next year, and to be around the club and their spring training."

Adenhart left a May 11 game at South Hagerstown because of pain in the elbow. Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery in Birmingham, Ala., after Adenhart graduated.

Scouts flocked to all of his games, and Adenhart was projected as a Top 10 pick after going 5-1 with a 0.91 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings this year.

"Obviously the Angels wouldn't have signed him if the surgery hadn't gone off without a hitch," Gigeous said.

Adenhart took his physical after the Angels flew him to Anaheim, signed his contract and attended a game last week. "They treated him like a first-round pick," Gigeous said, "which was very appreciated."

"The Angels are professionals and they do this every day," Adenhart said. "They have the best people in the country working with them. All of their rehabs have been very successful. I have a lot of confidence in the organization."

Pre-game hostilities

It's one thing to charge the mound or tackle the catcher after a tight pitch, but how many brawls start during batting practice?

We count at least one.

A scrum broke out behind the cage before Tuesday's game between the Texas Rangers and Anaheim Angels. No punches were thrown, but there was lots of pushing and shoving.

Rangers catcher Gerald Laird took exception the night before when Anaheim's Adam Kennedy leaned into a pitch with the bases loaded. Laird told him to swing the bat, and Kennedy responded with a few choice words of his own.

As the Rangers were stretching in front of their dugout the next day, Laird noticed that Kennedy was glaring at him and shouted, "What's your problem?" He soon found out.

"He tried to forearm sucker-punch me," Laird said.

"He kind of saw I was making eye contact at him," Kennedy said, "and I expected a different kind of response and a more cordial conversation than I got. It was a little misunderstanding that probably got out of control. I don't know what's on his agenda but as far as I'm concerned, it's over."

It took a while to end. The melee spread from the cage to the backstop, and without any security or umpires on the scene, the players were left to stop it themselves.

"If Adam takes issue with what's going on," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "he's going to try and correct it."

Snake-bitten

How much worse can the Arizona Diamondbacks get? The possibilities are endless, just like the defeats.

World champions three years ago, the Diamondbacks lost a team-record 14 games in a row last month. No National League team had dropped 15 straight since the 1982 New York Mets.

By beating the Houston Astros on Monday, Arizona avoided becoming the first NL club to go through a 4-31 stretch since the 1935 Boston Braves.

"It's been stressful on all of us," said outfielder Luis Gonzalez, who will undergo season-ending ligament-reconstructive surgery tomorrow. "This is the big leagues. You don't want to get embarrassed out there every day."

Arizona's 0-11 homestand was the worst in major league history. The 1969 Seattle Pilots went 0-10, including games against the Orioles.

Piling on

Former Orioles closer Armando Benitez, who was 33-for-36 in save situations before the weekend, is feeling the effects of a heavy workload with the Florida Marlins.

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