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JETHAWKS NOTEBOOK: ARE AMIGOS HEADED TO PLAY FOR EL PASO?

Byline: Gideon Rubin Staff Writer

RANCHO CUCAMONGA - The ``Three Amigos'' have the JetHawks on the brink of winning a first-half title. But whether they're going to be around much longer to celebrate is doubtful.

The business of clinching the title is just a formality, as the JetHawks have a three-game lead with six remaining. With this success comes speculation that the JetHawks' high-profile trio - outfielders Conor Jackson (El Camino Real of Woodland Hills) and Carlos Quentin and third baseman Jamie D'Antona - could earn promotions.

Although Tommy Jones, farm director for the JetHawks' parent Arizona Diamondbacks, said Sunday that no decisions have been made, he acknowledged that the promotions are a possibility.

According to Jones, the most important reason to promote a player is to ensure that they're being adequately challenged for development purposes. Based on the numbers - the three have combined for 38 homers, 154 RBI and 224 hits - the California League's advanced Single-A pitching no longer seems to be presenting that challenge, if it ever did.

Necessity is also a factor. The Diamondbacks' underachieving Double-A El Paso (24-39) affiliate is in last place in the Texas League's Western Division, trailing first-place Round Rock by 17 games.

``Everyone realizes that the El Paso club has underperformed, so there's a lot of speculation,'' said Jones, citing Baseball America among several publications that have inquired about the Amigos' future in Lancaster.

Jones said player movement was going to be the primary topic in a meeting with the JetHawks' staff Sunday night, but he stressed ``no decision will be made until we get through the first half.''

The JetHawks conclude the half Sunday at Bakersfield.

Other factors that likely will influence player movement in the coming weeks include injuries at the major-league level and need at the organization's Triple-A Tucson (Ariz.) affiliate.

Jones said other potential promotion candidates include staff ace Clint Goocher, closer Jason Bulger and second baseman Neb Brown.

But most of the speculation revolves around the Three Amigos, who the organization has openly said are on the fast track to Bank One Ballpark and could be wearing Diamondbacks uniforms within two years.

``You can make the case to keep them together because they're going to go to Double-A next year, but if they're able to do what everyone would want them to show now, then they could start the next year in Triple-A,'' Jones said.

Advancing some or all of the JetHawks' high-profile talents would also clear the way for their eligibility for the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League, where five of the six players an organization sends must be at the Double-A level or higher. That issue figured in shortstop Sergio Santos' promotion last season, but players don't need to be in Double-A until Aug. 1 to be eligible for Fall League play.

Another holdup could be the June 29 California/Carolina League All-Star Game, for which teams could be announced as early as today.

``If there was going to be movement, I wouldn't want to deny anybody the opportunity to play in an all-star game,'' Jones said. ``It's a high-profile event, and it would have to be a very special situation to bypass that opportunity.''

Gideon Rubin (818)713-3607

gideon.rubin(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Jun 15, 2004
Words:535
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