On your marc 5/15: Traded, without baggage

T ry as I might, I can’t feel sorry for former Reds catcher Devon Mesoraco, and not because he had so many injuries and was being paid so far beyond his production he had to be traded. He’s with the Mets now, after about as clean a break a team can make with a player. […]

Minor league players can get lost in the shuffle

By Marc Katz

Try as I might, I can’t feel sorry for former Reds catcher Devon Mesoraco, and not because he had so many injuries and was being paid so far beyond his production he had to be traded.

He’s with the Mets now, after about as clean a break a team can make with a player. The Mets were in town. Mesoraco, a former Dayton Dragon, only had to change dugouts. He could get all his stuff together for the Mets’ next road trip and not have to detour later to pick up the toothpaste he forgot in his locker.

It doesn’t always happen that way, even at the minor league level.

I was reminded of that a couple times over while talking with a current Dragons’ catcher, Curaçao native Hendrik Clementina.

Clementina was in his fourth season of rookie ball last summer with the Dodgers and on his way to the Pioneer League All-Star game with a sparking .370 batting average when he learned he was traded.

While he was telling me his story, I remembered back in 2006 when Dragons pitcher Zach Ward, who was 7-0 at the time with a 2.29 ERA, was traded on the last day of July to the Twins organization for Kyle Lohse, who was foundering along in mid-career.

Ward not only was flourishing, he was a third-round draft choice in 2005 and considered a hard-throwing prospect.

At the time of the trade, the Dragons were finishing a series in Peoria and were bussing to Beloit—a Twins affiliate. It was decided the parent Reds not only would trade Ward, but deliver him, kind of an early Amazon package.

As a going away present, his former Dragons teammates took up a collection and bought Ward a Minnesota cap.

Alas, he never made it to the Twins, or any other major league destination. He reached as high as Class AA when the Twins released him. The Reds re-signed him, but released him as well.

As for Lohse, he was 9-17 with an ERA approaching 5.00 in parts of two seasons with the Reds, numbers that would qualify him for this year’s rotation. But that’s another story. He’s still pitching, by the way, for Kansas City’s Class AAA team in Omaha.

Travis Thompson was Clinton’s top pitcher in 2000, the founding year of the Dragons, which was a transfer franchise from Rockford.

That gave the Reds two teams in the league, against rules, which was allowed for one season. Although the Midwest League is for “low” A teams, Dayton served that season as the Reds’ “high” A affiliate, meaning Austin Kearns, Adam Dunn and others would stay in a low A league but be considered high A players.

So when it came time to promote Thompson (with his 5-1 record and league-leading 1.77 ERA), all the Reds had to do was tell him to walk across the diamond. Clinton was in town to play the Dragons.

Not only that, Thompson was asked to pitch against his old teammates that night. He was rocked, 17-6.

Thompson’s walk across the diamond came without baggage, though. He pitched in two games at Class AA Chattanooga, returning to the Clinton team starting a long road trip, in Dayton, changed teams and was on his way with the Dragons getting ready for a road trip. Thompson went with virtually no clothes.

He made it though, although not to the majors.

That’s a long way to go to get back to Clementina, but he has a similar story.

Playing for Ogden, Utah, Clementina landed in Hillsboro, Oregon, for the All-Star game. While deplaning, he noticed some news on his phone.

“The last thing I expected was that I was going to be traded,” Clementina said. “The first thing that popped up on my phone was MLB.com, ‘Tony Cingrani got traded for Scott Van Slyke and Hendrik Clementina.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, what’s my name
doing there?’”

It was there because he was traded. He hadn’t been informed because he was in the air, but was quickly informed of protocol.

“I couldn’t play in the All-Star game because the Reds didn’t want me to get hurt,” Clementina said. “Then I flew to Arizona for a Reds’ physical, returned to Ogden to pick up my stuff, then went to Billings, where the Reds played.

“The (Ogden) guys were actually getting ready to go to Billings. It was kind of sad at the moment, saying goodbye to my friends. But I knew most of the Reds because we trained in Arizona.

“I just wanted to play baseball and show what I could do. I’m just glad the Reds gave me this opportunity to play a full season.”

He’s playing, hitting, and he has all his clothes, just like Mesoraco.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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