Jeff Samardzija of Valparaiso, Curtis Granderson of Lynwood and Lloyd McClendon of Chesterton are household names in the majors. John Mallee of Schererville soon will be as Astros hitting coach.
Other Region products are out of the limelight. They’re trying to work their way to the majors. Here is a look at where a quartet of area players are stationed in the minor leagues to start the 2013 season.
Howard returns to Class A Frederick: Hammond’s Trent Howard is returning to the Orioles’ Class A team in Frederick (Md.).
But the left-hander, Baltimore’s seventh-round pick in 2011, has been told a promotion to Double-A Bowie is a possibility. Clark alum Howard was in rhythm even before the season began this week, giving up no runs and one hit with one walk in his first eight innings in spring training.
“The biggest thing was keeping the ball down and hitting spots with my fastball," Howard said. “I was doing it where I could put ball wherever I want. My change-up has been absolutely phenomenal. It’s sharp.”
Loomis attracts Showalter’s attention: Patience has to be a virtue for Crown Point’s Andy Loomis through a long trek through the minors, including three teams in the Orioles’ system in 2012. At one point, lefty reliever Loomis roomed with Howard at Frederick.
But timing and location are everything. Bishop Noll alum Loomis, earmarked for Double-A Bowie, likely caught the eye of Orioles manager Buck Showalter when he pitched in several big-league games in spring training. Included was a competitive performance against the Yankees in the final week of camp.
Loomis is high up enough in the system to warrant a possible callup if the Orioles need a situational lefty in the bullpen.
“We have a lot of pitchers, and we signed Freddy Garcia last day of spring training,” Loomis said. “You’ve got to be patient. Sit back and let it work, and worry about yourself.”
Ely back in Triple-A: Earning Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2012 was no guarantee of a big-league job this year for Homewood’s John Ely.
Although three rotation jobs were wide open with the Astros, to which one-time White Sox farmhand and 2012 Dodger Ely was traded, a 9.90 ERA over 10 innings in camp sealed his fate. Ely is pitching for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
“They just said to go down, make sure you got everything and my fastball location to where it should be,” Ely said. “Hopefully I’ll be back sooner than later.
“Hindsight is 20-20. I’d like to think if I pitched better, I would have made the team.”
Repko tries independent ball: After an injury-plagued season with the Red Sox and Triple-A Pawtucket, East Chicago native Jason Repko got no offers from any big-league organization.
So outfielder Repko followed buddy Brett Tomko to sign in March with the York (Pa.) Revs of the independent Atlantic League.
“It’s still considered a high level of play,” said Repko, 32, who also played for the Dodgers and Twins. “You prove you’re healthy, something opens up, and you can get signed
“I worked my butt off. I feel I’m in the best shape of my life. I want to show I’m healthy.”