Who are these guys? Long shots who made it
Blake DeWitt, 3B, Dodgers
Remember how Shea Stadium used to be known as a revolving door for third basemen? Now it's Chavez Ravine. Over the past five seasons, Adrian Beltre, Bill Mueller, Jose Valentin, Wilson Betemit and DeWitt have started on Opening Day for the Dodgers.
Rico Washington, 3B, Cardinals
Until this spring, Washington had two claims to fame: (1) He's a product of the same Georgia high school that produced Rondell White and (2) he was once the honored guest at a Rico Washington Bobblehead Night in Altoona, Pa. But the truck carrying the merchandise failed to arrive on time, and the event had to be postponed.
Billy Traber, LHP, Yankees
The common assumption that left-handed relievers have jobs for life is being tested this spring. Steve Kline, Mike Myers and Mike Stanton all were released recently and are still searching for employment. Yet here's Traber, a career journeyman, ready to go as the only lefty in manager Joe Girardi's bullpen.
Traber, 28, was once considered a hot commodity. The Mets picked him in the first round of the 2000 draft and offered him a signing bonus of $1.7 million. When an MRI uncovered elbow trouble, Traber settled for $400,000. He drifted from the Mets to Cleveland to Washington, and has 76 career appearances in his portfolio at age 28.At 6-foot-5, Traber has some deception in his motion, and he's shown flashes of being well-suited for the role the Yankees have carved out for him. Left-handed hitters have a .210 batting average and 53 strikeouts in 200 plate appearances against Traber.
The Yankees will get an idea of what Traber is made of shortly, when the big lefty is summoned to face David Ortiz in a tight spot. Provided he sticks around, Traber also will be seeing lots of Travis Hafner, Jim Thome, Carlos Pena, Grady Sizemore, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, to name a few.
Brian Bocock, SS, Giants
When Omar Vizquel suffered a knee injury early in spring training, the Giants planned to hand over the shortstop position to Kevin Frandsen. Then Frandsen went through a rough stretch defensively and suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.
Clete Thomas, OF, Tigers
Yes, there are now two "Cletes" in the Baseball Encyclopedia. The first, Cletis Leroy Boyer, was part of a baseball brother act and spent 16 seasons in the majors with the Yankees, Kansas City and Atlanta.
The second, Michael Clete Thomas, ranks with Matt Joyce as one of the best outfield prospects in the Detroit chain now that Cameron Maybin is a Florida Marlin. Thomas hit .280 with a .359 on-base percentage for Double-A Erie last year and began this season as Baseball America's 12th-rated Tigers prospect.
The Tigers sent Thomas to minor league camp with the first cuts in the Grapefruit League, then recalled him when center fielder Curtis Granderson suffered a broken finger. Thomas showed enough speed, versatility and baseball savvy to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster.
All he needed was a wardrobe enhancement. Thomas didn't own a sport coat, so his mother-in-law bought him one during a family junket to a Lakeland, Fla., Men's Wearhouse.In Detroit's season-opening loss to Kansas City, Thomas appeared as a defensive replacement and doubled off Joakim Soria in his first at-bat. Twelve years after playing for Panama City, Fla., in the 1996 Little League World Series, Thomas had officially arrived.
Charlton Jimerson, OF, Mariners
Jimerson's tale of perseverance has earned him lots of admirers in baseball circles. His mother was a drug addict, his father left home when he was a youth, and he was raised by his sister in a rough section of Oakland. Jimerson made himself into an honor-roll student, walked onto the University of Miami baseball team, and led the Hurricanes to a College World Series victory in 2001.
Coats grew up in Valdosta, Ga., birthplace of the famous gunfighter and gambler Doc Holliday -- who is not to be confused with Toronto ace and former Cy Young Award winner Roy "Doc" Halladay. After stops with the Cubs and Reds, Coats arrived from Cincinnati in December in a trade for pitcher Justin James. He clinched a spot on Toronto's season-opening roster when Scott Rolen suffered a broken finger in a fielding drill. Until Rolen's return, Coats will provide value to the Jays for his versatility and speed. He can play all three outfield positions and has 138 stolen bases in the minors. "He's the kind of guy who can sit for four or five days, and then get in there and help you," said general manager J.P. Ricciardi. "He's not one of those young guys who's never had to be in that role."
Luis Rivas, 2B, Pirates
The 2001 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Rivas as the fourth-best prospect in the Minnesota system -- right behind Michael Cuddyer and Michael Restovich, and one spot in front of Justin Morneau.
Elliot Johnson, 2B, Rays
Johnson set off a spring training firestorm when he broke catcher Francisco Cervelli's wrist with a hard slide and raised the ire of Yankees manager Joe Girardi. A few days later, New York's Shelley Duncan touched off a brawl with a spikes-first slide that Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon labeled "borderline criminal."
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