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Akron-Portland Game 4 Notebook09/16/2006 7:26 PM ET
By Stephanie Storm / Special to MLB.com
PORTLAND, Maine -- Jared Sandberg may never forget the phone call.
The Akron slugger was playing for Portland last year and, buoyed by a good start, had called a member of the Boston front office in May to get a feel for his chances to be promoted to Triple-A.
Sandberg had spent parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from 2001-03, followed by a full season at Triple-A Durham. Though he didn't mind having to start over at Double-A, despite having been five years removed from that level, he expected to move up through the system as his play warranted.
But instead of praise, Sandberg received a crushing blow.
"They told me that even with a good start, I'd be in Portland the whole year,'' said Sandberg, who signed with the Aeros as a Minor League free agent on June 20 after starting the season with a pair of Independent League teams.
Despite his growing frustration, Sandberg went on to play well during the first half of last year, and was selected to participate in the Eastern League All-Star Game, which just happened to be in Portland.
"I have good memories of playing at Hadlock Field,'' said Sandberg, who admitted that being on the "other" side of the field and playing for the opposition just a year later feels a bit odd.
"But that's baseball,'' Sandberg added. "It can be a strange business.''
That's one reason the 28-year-old is uncertain about his future.
"I know I can still play, and I want to keep playing,'' he said. "But there have been too many consecutive years of mediocre play to get a good job. Plus, there's a baby at home now.''
The baby would be Sandberg and wife Julie's first born, an 11-week-old boy named Evan.
"Right now, I just want to focus on the playoffs,'' the new daddy said. "I'll worry about next year in the offseason.''
Though Sandberg led the Aeros with a .417 batting average and eight RBIs against the Sea Dogs in six regular-season games, he was batting just .238 in six games during the playoffs.
Big Papi in the making: They call him "Little Papi", but there's nothing little about 6-foot-4 Luis Jimenez, who is graciously listed on the Sea Dogs' roster at 205 pounds -- numbers that must have been accidentally inverted.
Either way, the nickname is perfect, stemming from Jimenez's striking resemblance to Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, also known as "Big Papi".
Fans seeing Jimenez could easily figure Ortiz is in Portland on a rehab reassignment. But eventually they'd realize the oversized, animated and baggy-clothed Jimenez is simply Ortiz's Minor League duplicate.
The 24-year-old signed with Boston as a Minor League free agent in February, joining his fifth Major League organization.
Friday night at Hadlock Field, Little Papi's lore continued to grow in these parts. With two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and Portland trailing, 6-4, Jimenez sauntered to the plate intent on winning the game and the Eastern League Championship Series.
He nearly did, launching a high drive toward deep center field. In fact, Jimenez was so sure he'd won the game and handed Portland its first title in its 13-year history, he tore off his batting helmet and gleefully skipped towards first base with his hands in the air in celebration.
But Akron center fielder Trevor Crowe raced back to the wall, stopped and turned and made the game-saving catch that forced Saturday's Game 4. Dejected, Jimenez picked up his helmet and slammed it and his bat to the ground, declining to talk about it after the game.
Out of sight, out of mind: It seems like it happened ages ago, not merely last month. Before Portland's playoff dreams were a reality, the Sea Dogs suffered through a demoralizing 10-game losing streak that cost them first place in the division.
"We were playing terrible,'' Sea Dogs right fielder Brandon Moss said. "We were so down, and had absolutely no confidence. We saw our lead slip away, and all of a sudden, were a third-place team.''
What changed the Sea Dogs' fortunes?
"We were in the middle of a series at Trenton [Aug. 18-20], and beat them in extra innings,'' Moss said. "That's the game that changed everything. All of a sudden, we were back.''
Fall League-bound: Several of the Aeros current and former players are headed to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League next month. Leading the group is the most obvious candidate, outfielder Trevor Crowe, who is expected to work on making the transition to second base. Also headed west are left-handed pitchers Tony Sipp and Reid Santos, right-hander Jake Dittler and first baseman Michael Aubrey. Scheduled to participate via the taxi squad are outfielder Brian Barton, right-handed pitcher Kyle Collins and catcher Javi Herrera.
Roster Move: Akron's Travis Foley was placed on the disabled list with a right biceps injury after facing four batters in the seventh inning of Friday's 6-4 win over Portland. Right-hander Nick Pesco was activated to take Foley's roster spot.
Pesco has not seen action in the playoffs, despite being on the roster in the first round. He was 0-0 with a 4.05 ERA.
"He's been sore since the first series in Altoona,'' Aeros manager Tim Bogar said. "We've been trying to be careful to pick the spots in which we use him. But it just seems to keep getting worse.''
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.