Originally created 06/27/99

Farm director looking for improved Jackets



Boston Red Sox farm director Kent Qualls wants to see a different GreenJackets club in the second half.

Of the organization's four full-season farm clubs, only the Jackets have posted a losing record (30-41). Double-A Trenton has the best record in all of professional baseball, while Triple-A Pawtucket is in first place in the International League's Northern Division.

"All our clubs are playing well and have prospects developing, but (Augusta) is the only one with a record under .500," said Qualls, who is in town along with Boston minor league field coordinator Buddy Bailey to evaluate the club.

"It's a bit disappointing, but we're hoping that the changes we made at the end of the first half will help. We'd like to have a more competitive club in the second half and we're working hard at that."

Along with assessing players' progress and development and evaluating the coaching staff, Qualls also will be looking at the Jackets' needs for possible moves to bolster the club.

"We like to see how things are going at the start of the second half and see how guys are coming along," Qualls said. "We get reports every day, but it's nothing like being here in person."

If nothing else, the visit from the top brass means the intensity level will be picked up the next few days, says Jackets manager Billy Gardner.

"There's nothing to prove, really, because the organization already basically knows the players' strengths and weaknesses," Gardner said. "A lot of times, when the farm director is in town, guys are a bit more focused and have a tendency to play a bit better."

Also in town for the next three weeks are two former Korean League players who have been working with the Boston organization since spring training to learn American baseball. They will be helping Gardner and the coaches run pre-game workouts.

FURCAL'S FUTURE:

Macon Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal, who leads the minors in stolen bases and is among the SAL leaders in average, has been selected to play in the inaugural Futures All-Star Game, which will take place at Fenway Park the day before the Major League All-Star Game. The 18-year-old is the only SAL player named to the team.

Unlike conventional all-star games, the Futures game is designed to showcase the top prospects in baseball, not players having exceptional seasons.

Pirates prospect Aramis Ramirez, currently at Triple-A Nashville, is the only former GreenJacket on the Futures roster.

CHANGES COMING:

Expansion and relocation were hot topics at the South Atlantic League's annual meetings at the All-Star Game last week.

Cape Fear likely will move to New Jersey next season due to poor attendance. The franchise, formerly the Albany (Ga.) Polecats, moved to Fayetteville in 1996, but has been near the bottom of the league in attendance the past three seasons.

The SAL also is looking to add two expansion teams in the next two years to bring the total number of clubs to 16 and enable the shift from three unbalanced divisions to two 8-team divisions.

Louisville, Ky., is believed to be one of the cities targeted for expansion, but the SAL likely will wait to see what happens with the struggling Florida State League in the coming months before moving toward expansion. With two major league teams now in Florida, FSL attendance has fallen drastically. The league may fold after this season, and the SAL is believed to be interested in expanding to the Sunshine State.

LOCALS STILL SHINING:

North Augusta's Vic Radcliff was named the most valuable player for the Carolina League in the Carolina League/California League All-Star Game last Tuesday in Lake Elsinore, Calif.

The 22-year-old Radcliff, in his fifth season in the Kansas City organization and second with the Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks, went 2-for-2 with two RBI. His RBI-double down the left-field line in the 10th inning snapped a 6-6 tie to lead the Carolina League to a 10-6 win.

Radcliff is currently third in the Carolina League in hitting with a .316 average to go with six home runs and 36 RBI.

Former Evans High star Tydus Meadows is having an MVP season for the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League.

The 27th-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1998 is now leading the league in hitting with a .351 average. The 21-year-old is fourth in the league in RBI (51), second in hits (88), second in doubles (26), and first in slugging percentage (.610) and extra-base hits (40).

Some other local stars are also off to outstanding starts at the short-season level.

Former Greenbrier-Solomon Christian star James Shanks is batting .321 in his first seven games with Spokane (Wash.), the Royals' short-season affiliate in the Northwest League.

B.J. Hawes, the 19th-round pick of the Reds earlier this month, made his pro debut last week with Sarasota of the Gulf Coast League, and is 3-for-7 with two RBI in his first three games. Hawes is now a teammate of former Greenbrier outfielder Tony Smith, who also debuted with the Reds organization last week, and has two hits in his first 11 at bats.

Rob Mueller covers minor league baseball for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3425 or robm99@hotmail.com.