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SL notes: Pollock proves clutch07/19/2011 10:00 AM ET
By Guy Curtright / Special to MLB.com
A freak elbow injury cost A.J. Pollock all of the 2010 season, but the Mobile center fielder is making up for the lost time in a big way this year.
The Arizona Diamondbacks prospect is hitting .304, his recent 20-game hitting streak falling just one short of the BayBears' record. Along with that has come 38 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases, to say nothing of 55 RBIs.
"To me, he's been the best clutch hitter we have," Mobile manager Turner Ward said.
That's high praise indeed. After all, BayBears first baseman Paul Goldschmidt leads the Southern League in RBIs (82) as well as home runs (27). But Pollock is hitting .343 with runners in scoring position, even better than Goldschmidt's .320.
"He's come through time after time with a runner on second base and two outs or a runner on third with one out," Ward said of Pollock, taken by the Diamondbacks with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 Draft.
Ward doesn't limit his praise of the right-handed hitting Pollock to just his offensive contributions, either.
"He gets good jumps and makes strong, accurate throws," the manager said. "He plays a solid center field."
Last season, Pollock couldn't play at all.
"It was very frustrating," Pollock said.
The former Notre Dame player was hurt during Spring Training. Battling the sun, he put his right arm down to brace himself as he reached for a fly ball and heard something pop.
"It was a very, very innocent play," Pollock said. "But I knew something was wrong."
Pollock had fractured the growth plate in his throwing elbow. It was a potential problem that an MRI had revealed when Pollock signed with the Diamondbacks, receiving a bonus of $1.4 million.
Pollock thought he would be out for three months. Instead, it stretched across the entire Minor League season. Finally, he was cleared to play in the Arizona Fall League.
"I think I would have gone crazy if I'd had to wait until this spring to play again," he said. "I was really champing at the bit to get back out there."
Pollock, 23, got 64 at-bats as he eased back into things, batting .313. Then he hit .413 in 46 at-bats in Cactus League play this year with the Diamondbacks.
"There's no doubt in my mind he's going to be a good big league player," Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said this spring.
"Solid" was the assessment by Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson.
Pollock has been just that and more with Mobile, which used an 11-game winning streak to take control of first place in the Southern League's South Division with an 18-6 start to the second half.
Pollock's hitting streak ended Friday night in Chattanooga, just like the BayBears' winning streak. Given a rest in the second game of a doubleheader after the Lookouts won the opener, he failed to get a hit as an extra-inning pinch hitter.
That's a tough way to have a hitting streak end, but Pollock was hardly complaining. He is too happy just to be playing again.
"It really changes your perspective," Pollock said of sitting out a season. "You appreciate baseball even more."
All in the family: When second baseman Jake Oester and outfielder Jose Martinez joined Birmingham from Winston-Salem in the Carolina League, it gave the Barons three sons of former Major Leaguers. Birmingham already had Ken Williams Jr., the son of the Chicago White Sox general manager. Oester's father is former infielder Ron Oester and Martinez is the son of the late Carlos Martinez, a Major League outfielder.
Back for more: Southern League batting leader Tyler Kuhn returned to Birmingham and had two hits in each of his first four games with the Barons, raising his average to .371. Kuhn didn't have anything like that kind of success in Triple-A, going 3-for-24 in seven games with Charlotte. After winning the South Division title in the first half, Birmingham started the second half 11-13.
Smokies flame out: Tennessee, which won the first-half title in the North Division with a league-best 43-27 record, got off to a 10-13 start in the second half. Promotions, as well as injuries, hit the Smokies hard. Ryan Flaherty, third in the SL with 66 RBIs, and Brett Jackson, who led the team with 15 stolen bases, are the latest to go to Triple-A Iowa.