MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Scott Podsednik has surpassed everybody's expectations but his own.
During spring training, the team's manager and general manager thought Podsednik was headed for a 10th season in the minors.
Instead, he's a leading contender for NL Rookie of the Year.
"I always said it was just a matter of getting an opportunity to play," said Podsednik, who entered the season's final weekend as the league's rookie leader in nine offensive categories, including batting average (.314) and stolen bases (43).
And he ranked among the NL leaders in six offensive categories.
The 27-year-old speedster was claimed off waivers from Seattle last October in Doug Melvin's first move as general manager.
With Geoff Jenkins and Jeffrey Hammonds coming off injuries, Melvin, who knew Podsednik from their time together in the Texas Rangers' organization, looked at Podsednik as insurance "and a fifth outfielder at best."
When new manager Ned Yost arrived at camp in February, Podsednik was in the batting cage.
"They said his name is Scott Podsednik and I said, 'Hi,' and I'm thinking this is a kid that's going to end up in Triple A."
But when Jenkins began the season on the DL, Podsednik stuck with the big club.
He didn't see the field much for the first six weeks of the season, when his highlight was catching a ceremonial first pitch from Tina Panas, who was featured on the ABC-TV series "The Bachelor," where she was known as "Tina Fabulous."
The two became friends and Podsednik (pronounced puh-SED-nik) invited her back to the ballpark.
Yost caught wind of the plan and hatched his own.
"I was like, well, we've got to play the kid sooner or later, right? So, I said, 'If the Bachelor girl shows up, I'm playing you tomorrow,"' Yost recalled. "He plays and he hits a home run. And every time I put him out there he's doing good."
Soon, Yost started to wonder why he was playing Alex Sanchez, his sulking center fielder who tried to get by on talent alone. Eventually, Sanchez was benched and Podsednik cracked the starting lineup for good on May 13.
"I'd rather take a kid with less talent and ability and somebody who works hard and has a desire to win and a desire to play and give him a shot," Yost said. "And that was all he needed, that one shot."
Sanchez was traded to Detroit, and Podsednik became a fan favorite as the Brewers began to shake off the stigma of losing 106 games last year.
Two weeks after entering the lineup, he put together a streak of 47 straight games in which he reached base safely, longest in the majors this season.
He entered play Thursday three runs shy of becoming just the fourth rookie since 1900 to hit .300, score 100 runs and steal 40 bases.
On Wednesday, Podsednik set a franchise rookie record with his 169th hit, a double in the third inning of an 8-4 loss to St. Louis. Pat Listach, the 1992 AL Rookie of the Year, had 168 hits.
Now, the Brewers are hoping Podsednik beats out the likes of Dontrelle Willis, Brandon Webb, Jason Phillips, Ty Wigginton and Marlon Byrd for NL Rookie of the Year honors.
"To me, it's a no-brainer," Yost said. "He has had a fantastic year. It would be very important for all of us if he wins. It would help show some of the progress we're making.
"But if he doesn't win, it should not take anything away from the year he had."
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