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JETHAWKS NOTEBOOK: ALDRETE HAS TITLE IN MIND FOR 2ND HALF.

Byline: Gideon Rubin Staff Writer

LAKE ELSINORE - JetHawks manager Mike Aldrete believes it's too soon to give up on anything.

But if the JetHawks are to contend for a second-half title, they'll need help, and for the past two weeks, they've been giving the upper levels of the parent Arizona Diamondbacks system a lot more help than they've received in return from the lower levels.

Just a week after coming within a game of winning the first-half title, the JetHawks already have lost all-star catcher Chris Snyder, Matt Henrie, their best starting pitcher, and Carlton Wells, their best reliever, to promotions.

Staff ace Lance Cormier made a spot start for Triple-A Tucson (Ariz.), but will return to Lancaster this week.

But the promotions, combined with injuries to outfielders Jaime Jones (lacerated foot) and Marland Williams (hamate bone) have made one of the California League's best teams mediocre.

So far, the Diamondbacks have sent a parade of players who've either struggled at the lower levels of their system or have no professional experience to the JetHawks.

Reliever Josh Kranawetter, their most recent addition, comes from Single-A South Bend (Ind.), where he was 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in 23 appearances. Utilityman Jason Gorman (Palmdale High) came to the JetHawks from extended spring training after batting .128 (12 for 94) at short-season Yakima (Wash.).

Outfielder Travis McAndrews, a 23rd round draft pick out of USC, had no professional experience before coming to Lancaster last week.

Winning a second-half title remains the goal, but Aldrete said circumstances might demand a shift in priorities.

``You have to have something to dangle in front of (the players), so from this moment on we're going to play for a second-half title,'' Aldrete said. ``But if at some point that's not a reality, then you say, `let's get that (wild-card) berth,' and if that's not a reality, then you say, `we still have to get guys ready to play at the next level.' That's how we're going to try to go about it.''

The California League's playoff structure rewards the first-half champion with a first-round bye and home-field advantage for the division championship series. The second-half champion gets home-field advantage in a three-game division miniseries against the wild-card team.

--Rotational shuffle: JetHawks pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. has juggled the starting rotation to give some a rest but not giving others too much time off between starts.

Justin Wechsler will pitch for the JetHawks when they play at Inland Empire on Thursday following the California League/Carolina League All-Star Game that was played Tuesday. Following him is Doug Slaten, Scott Barber, Lance Cormier and Jon Castellanos, who took Henrie's spot in the rotation.

Because the JetHawks have an off-day Monday, Castellanos' next start won't come until Tuesday, nearly two weeks after his most recent start June 18. But Stottlemyre said he'll use him out of the bullpen, either Thursday or Friday.

``That should help us because we are a little thin,'' Stottlemyre said.

Gideon Rubin (818)713-3607

gideon.rubin(at)dailynews.com

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(color) MIKE ALDRETE

JetHawks manager not ready to give up on hopes of a second-half title after team missed out on first-half title by one game.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 25, 2003
Words:536
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