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07-22-03, 03:09 AM

<b>Yankees' minor problem: Lack of 'W's</b>

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Star-Ledger Staff

When it comes to the minor-league system, it's a different year for the Yankees. Twice since 1998, they were the organization of the year and it seems as if they have had teams in contention for league titles every year.

In 2002, for example, their six minor-league teams were a combined 365-324, a winning percentage of .530. Five of their teams were above .500 and two (Norwich and Staten Island) won league championships.

There's a chance none will do so in 2003. Entering yesterday, four of the six were under .500 and the other two (Tampa and the Gulf Coast League Yankees) were one game over. The overall record was 217-237, a .478 percentage, and it's entirely possible none will qualify for their respective playoffs.

"There's still time," minor-league director Rob Thomson said.

The records entering yesterday: Columbus 48-53; Trenton (the replacement for Norwich) 48-50; Tampa 50-49; Battle Creek 46-51; Staten Island 11-21 and the Gulf Coast League Yankees 14-13.

<b>Hot prospects:</b>

Dioner Navarro, a 19-year-old catcher from Venezuela, was hitting .299 at Class-A Tampa when he was promoted to Trenton, where he's now hitting .303.
The organization raves about his defensive skills and the 5-10, 189-pound switch hitter figures to develop into a power hitter, according to many scouts.

Jose Valdez, 20, a Dominican right-hander, leads the Battle Creek team in victories with a 10-6 record. He has a plus fastball, a changeup and a splitter and his 3.41 ERA is among the best in the Midwest League.


Considered a shortstop to watch when the Yankees signed him in 1999, Deivi Mendez has been injured and has not hit. Missing time this season due to hamstring problems, Mendez, 20, is hitting .212 at Tampa. He spent some time at Columbus, where he was 0-for-13, and at Trenton, where he went 1-for-11.

Jeremy King, a right-handed pitcher who was doing well at Battle Creek, has had trouble adjusting to the Florida State League. In five starts for Tampa, King is 0-4 with a 6.43 ERA.

<b>Player of the week:</b>

Staten Island center fielder Melky Cabrera, 18, had a 5-for-5 game during the week and, from Monday through Sunday, the switch-hitting Cabrera hit .448 (13-for-29) with three RBI and three stolen bases.

<b>Toughest week:</b>

Trenton RHP Edison Reynoso, 27, was hit hard in a 5-0 loss to Bowie last Monday, falling to 8-7 with a 6.35 ERA, and was sent to the bullpen to work on a few things.

<b>On the way up:</b>

Second baseman Robinson Cano, 20, one of the organization's top prospects, was hitting .276 with 50 RBI at Tampa and has been promoted to Double-A Trenton.

<b>On the way out:</b>

Ryan McGuire, 31, a first baseman who spent some time in the majors with Montreal, was hitting .230 at Columbus and has been released.

<b>Best pitching line of the week:</b>

Former Seton Hall RHP Elvys Quezada, 21, had this line in Friday's 4-0 Staten Island victory over Aberdeen: seven innings, one hit, no runs, two walks and seven strikeouts.

<b>Worst pitching line of the week:</b>

Left-hander Brad Halsey, 22, one of the best pitchers in the Florida State League when he went 10-4 for Tampa in the first half of the season, continues to struggle at Trenton and lost a 10-1 game to Harrisburg Thursday with this line: four innings, 10 hits, six runs, all earned, one walk and three strikeouts.

<b>Veteran watch:</b>

Nick Johnson played three games on his rehab assignment at Columbus, going 5-for-10 with two doubles, a home run and three RBI. He went to Trenton last night to continue his rehab and went 1-for-4 with two walks as the designated hitter as the Thunder beat Reading, 9-8, in 10 innings.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we saw him within the next week," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "If things keep going the way they are, it shouldn't be more than maybe a couple or three more (minor-league) games."

Johnson has been out since May 15, when he fractured a bone in his right hand.

<b>Manager's comment:</b>

After a rare 4-3 victory over Aberdeen on Sunday, which gave Staten Island a record of 11-21, manager Andy Stankiewcz said, "Any win is a good win at this point. We really needed that."

<b>The Henson watch:</b>

It hasn't gotten any better for Drew Henson, 23, who entered yesterday hitting .215 for Columbus with decent power numbers: 11 HRs and 47 RBI.

Copyright 2003 The Star-Ledger

07-22-03, 11:00 AM
SI Yankees have not made their adjustments To wooden Bats?
Columbus has improved from last years showing.Tommy Winrow is finally showing a decent avg at Tampa High Class A.Cano is over 300 at Trenton as well as Dioneer Navarro.