JETHAWKS NOTEBOOK: FOR FIRLIT, NOTHING TO LAUGH AT CHICAGO SHORTSTOP GETS SURPRISE CALL TO JOIN JETHAWKS IMMEDIATELY.
SAN JOSE - At first, Dan Firlit thought it was a cruel joke.
While having dinner with his girlfriend at a Chicago restaurant Monday night, he received a phone call from his manager on the Independent Cook County (Ill.) Cheetahs, who told him he'd been signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks and was due to report to the JetHawks in San Jose the next day.
Firlit wasn't in the mood to be teased. Not after coming off a frustrating 2001 season in which he missed most of the year with a broken foot and was eventually released by the St. Louis Cardinals, for whom he'd played parts of two seasons.
A Chicago-area native, he was playing independent ball for a local Frontier League team with the hopes of getting back into organized ball, but he wasn't expecting a call this late in the season.
``I told him he was full of it and he was like, 'No, you're flying out tomorrow,' '' Firlit said.
Firlit knew his manager wasn't kidding when he got another phone call from Diamondbacks farm director Tommy Jones later in the evening confirming the move.
He joined the team just before Tuesday night's 10-9 victory over the San Jose Giants, but he did not play.
He's expected to share the starting shortstop job with Erick Macha.
``I'm kind of shocked just to be here. It's all happened so fast, I haven't even slowed down yet,'' Firlit said. ``I'm excited, but it's kind of weird. I don't know anybody here yet.''
Firlit was batting .261 (59 for 226) with three homers and 26 RBI at Cook County. Last season, he hit .210 (22 for 105) at Single-A Peoria (Ill.) in the Midwest League.
Firlit replaces 17-year-old Joandry Berroa, the JetHawks' everyday shortstop since late April, who was sent to Yakima (Wash.) in the short- season Northwest League to be developed as a second baseman.
Berroa will play alongside former JetHawks shortstop Jerry Gil at Yakima in what could be Lancaster's double-play combination of the future.
Berroa batted .231 (58 for 251) and committed 26 errors in 85 games, but his outstanding range and composure at the advanced Class-A level considering his age impressed many.
``He had a great year for us, especially for a 17-year-old,'' JetHawks manager Bill Plummer said. ``He really solidified our defense up the middle and he got some big hits for us. He played outstanding. It's fun to watch a kid like that come out and have such good instincts.''
His biggest hit came in his final at-bat as a JetHawk on Sunday in a 10-inning 10-9 victory over the Bakersfield Blaze, when he drove in the tying run in the bottom of the 10th inning with a two-out double down the right-field line on an 0-2 count.
--Learning to win: It was just more than a week ago that Plummer told his players in a pep talk that learning how to win would be the difference between being a .500-caliber team and a playoff-caliber team.
The JetHawks have won five of six games since the meeting, including several wild but not especially pretty victories.
In Tuesday night's game, they barely managed to hang on after entering the ninth inning with a 10-3 lead. The Giants scored six runs off JetHawks reliever Matt Henrie and had the potential tying run in scoring position when closer Brandon Medders struck out Dan Trumble to end the game for his 10th save.
``If we're going to have any chance (of making the playoffs), we're going to have to win games like this,'' Plummer said. ``We're a much better club now. We're learning how to handle pressure and handle different situations.''
Plummer said a key part of learning how to win is not letting up, as Lancaster did on Tuesday, scoring in each of the last three innings to extend a 4-2 lead.
``You never know when a club is going to come back on you,'' Plummer said. ``You give them a couple of breaks and all of a sudden, boom, they're right back in the ballgame.''
--Day to day: JetHawks pitcher Bill White lasted just one inning in his Tuesday start after being struck on his left (pitching) wrist by a hard-hit bouncer.
Despite a bruise and some swelling, White is not expected to miss his next turn in the rotation when Lancaster plays host to Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday.
--Best Tools: Catcher Craig Ansman and second baseman Andy Green were recognized as the league's best defensive prospects at their respective positions by Baseball America in its annual ``Best Tools'' report. The selections were voted on by the league's managers.
(1) BILL WHITE
(2) CARLTON WELLS
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Aug 8, 2002|
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