FSL notes: Kjeldgaard keeps rolling

Former pitcher on pace to smash Manatees' home run record

Brock Kjeldgaard leads the league with 18 home runs. (Scott Jontes/Four Seam Images)

By Guy Curtright / Special to MLB.com | June 22, 2011 6:39 AM ET

The telephone call four years ago caught Brock Kjeldgaard by surprise. The Brewers wanted him to switch from the mound to first base, meaning a third season in the Rookie-level Pioneer League and starting all over.

It's taken a while, but it looks like the move just might pay off for Kjeldgaard and Milwaukee. There hasn't been a more productive power hitter in the Minors over the past month or so.

Kjeldgaard (pronounced kill-guard) has belted 15 home runs since May 17 and taken over the Florida State League lead with 18 -- already tying the Brevard County team record for a single season.

"I've never had a stretch like this," the native of Canada said. "Not in high school or anywhere."

Kjeldgaard, who has played the outfield for the Manatees as well as seeing time at first base and DH, was named FSL Player of the Week three straight times, claiming the award the final week in May and the first two weeks in June.

The only thing missing for Kjeldgaard was a spot in the All-Star Game last Saturday in Clearwater. Probably as a result of a so-so start to the season, he wasn't picked for the North team and, therefore, also missed a shot at the Home Run Derby.

"It would've been nice," Kjeldgaard said of being an All-Star. "It was a little disappointing."

The votes were just cast a little too early. It has been impossible to miss what the 25-year-old slugger has done since mid-May.

The 6-foot-5 Kjeldgaard has hit nearly .350 during the span, raising his average to .281. He is first in the league in slugging at .590 and tied for fourth with 47 RBIs. His 18 homers are one more than he hit all last season, when he was fourth in the Florida State League. He has even stolen 13 bases.

Lefties just haven't been able to get the right-handed hitter out. He is batting .400 against them with five homers and 15 RBIs in 60 at-bats.

Not bad for someone the Brewers thought of as a pitcher when he was signed in 2006, a year after being taken in the 34th round following his first of two seasons at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa.

"I still thought I could make it as a pitcher, so I was surprised when they asked me to switch," Kjeldgaard said. "Then I looked at it as a fresh start."

Kjeldgaard made it to Brevard County last year after a full season in the Midwest League, but fell from 20 homers to 17 and saw his average dip to .245 as his strikeouts went from 172 to a league-worst 175.

Strikeouts are great for a pitcher, not so good for a hitter.

Making better contact, Kjeldgaard has fanned 69 times in 217 at-bats this season and has drawn 23 walks.

"He's done a good job shrinking the strike zone, making sure he's getting his pitches," Manatees manager Jeff Isom said. "If they elevate pitches, he makes them pay."

"Power is something I'm fortunate to have," Kjeldgaard said. "But you can't go up there trying to hit home runs. If you put a good swing on, they'll come."

No one hit more than 21 homers in the Florida State League a year ago. He is just three off that and involved in his own personal long-ball derby with Daytona's Justin Bour and Dunedin's Brad Glenn, who both have 16.

Bour edged Glenn, 9-8, in the final round of the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game. It would have likely been a three-way battle if Kjeldgaard had received an invitation.

In brief

Tough-luck champ: Jupiter left-hander Chad James fell to 0-10 despite allowing two earned runs or fewer for the 10th time in 14 starts. The Hammerheads have scored more than three runs just three times in his starts. James, 20, had a 3.16 ERA and 64 strikeouts to 24 walks, but opponents were batting .308.

Savery promoted: Joe Savery, making the switch from pitcher to first baseman, was promoted from Clearwater to Double-A Reading after hitting .307 in 54 games. He batted .450 in April, but hit .175 in 10 games during June. Savery, 25, was taken in the first round by Philadelphia in 2007 after a dual career at Rice University and reached Triple-A as a pitcher.

Heredia streaking: Tampa right-hander Jairo Heredia hadn't lost as a starter and was 7-1 with a 3.36 ERA after his sixth straight victory. He had allowed just four runs over 32 innings in his past five starts, winning them all. Heredia, 21, had 59 strikeouts to 10 walks in 56 1/3 innings overall.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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