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Though winged by injuries, Angels still aloft

Page 3 of 4 -- Mining the minors

Remember Tony Blanco, who was touted as the Sox third baseman of the future because of his great arm and slugging potential? Blanco injured his right shoulder, then was sent to the Cincinnati Reds in the Todd Walker deal. The Reds are converting him into a first baseman/outfielder with the Single A Potomac Cannons, and Blanco came into the weekend as the leading home run hitter in the Carolina League with 11, along with a .297 batting average . . . Brian Rose of the North Dartmouth Roses is pitching for the Chattanooga Lookouts, Cincinnati's Double A affiliate in the Southern League. Rose was 1-2 with a 3.46 ERA in six games (four starts) and had struck out 23 batters while walking just 3 in 26 innings, against competition unaccustomed to facing pitchers with major league experience. Rose, whose career was short-circuited by elbow problems, is 28, so this almost certainly is his last shot at making it back to the big leagues . . . Bryce Florie, nearly four years removed from the horrific eye injury he sustained when struck by a line drive in Fenway Park, is pitching for the Marlins' Triple A team in Albuquerque, where he is 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA in seven games. Florie was in major league camp with the Marlins this spring, but he cut his chin in a "sleepwalking" accident, pulled a rib cage muscle in his first spring outing, and did not pitch the rest of the month . . . Another former Sox reliever, Bob Howry, who was not re-signed after having more elbow trouble, pitched for the first time this season for Buffalo, Cleveland's Triple A affiliate, and threw a scoreless inning . . . And how about the return of Toby Borland, who lasted just nine days with the Sox in '97 but left an enduring memory: He hit a batter and gave up a grand slam to Darrin Jackson in one outing, then walked four straight batters in another, going to a 3-and-0 count on all four. Borland was called up by the Marlins, with whom he also pitched briefly last season, to assist a bullpen that has lost Chad Fox. Borland's control hasn't improved much in the interim: In the 10 innings he has pitched for the Marlins the last year, he has walked 10 . . . Duty beckoned for Red Sox minor leaguer Matt Kaercher, who last season pitched for the Gulf Coast League Sox, then was promoted in July to Single A Sarasota, where he was 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA in eight appearances, and later to Double A Portland, where he appeared in one game. Kaercher, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, where he was a biology and ecology major, was with the Sox, according to director of player development Ben Cherington, as part of a special "elite athletes" program in which qualified players from service academies can defer their military obligation to pursue a pro career. "We weren't paying him anything," Cherington said. The Sox wanted Kaercher back this spring, but the Air Force had other plans. "He went back to flight school," Cherington said. "We were in touch with him for a while, but I haven't talked to him in a couple of months." The Sox have placed Kaercher on baseball's "military list," which means they retain rights to him when his service obligation ends. Cherington said he knows of no other Sox minor leaguers who have left, to enlist or because they were called up to a reserve unit.   Continued...

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