Piedra Back In The Swing Of Things

When the Oakland A's lost Hiram Bocachica on waivers to the Padres, it seemed like a big blow for the playoff hopes of the Sacramento River Cats, as Bocachica had been the River Cats' top offensive player over the past two years. However, the A's picked up another veteran outfielder to take Bocachica's place, and Jorge Piedra took over where Bocachica left off, leading the River Cats offensively.

Jorge Piedra was a man in need of a second chance when the Oakland A's plucked him out of the independent leagues in June. Despite a career 816 OPS in 142 major league games, Piedra found himself a man without a team at the start of the 2007 season. In April 2005, Piedra earned the unfortunate distinction of becoming the second major league player to be suspended under baseball's new anti-drug policy while he was with the Colorado Rockies. Despite the suspension, Piedra put together a strong 2005 season in the major leagues, posting a 934 OPS in 112 at-bats for the Rockies. The previous season Piedra posted an 824 OPS in 38 games for Colorado.

The 2006 campaign did not go as well for Piedra statistically. He batted only .169 in 59 major league at-bats and hit only .239 in 138 at-bats for Triple-A Colorado Springs. He was released the following off-season by the Rockies, and when no other team called, Piedra headed to the independent leagues to revive his career. After a strong first two months during which Piedra hit .336 with 20 RBI in 32 games for the Long Island Ducks, Piedra was picked up by the Oakland A's as a minor league free agent.

"Going to independent ball, I didn't have big expectations of being with a team this year. I just thought that I'd try to get back into baseball in general. It just so happened that I did well there and Oakland picked me up," Piedra said.

"That was an exciting thing just to come somewhere and to feel like you are kind of working for something. In independent ball, you are kind of feel like you are out of the scene."

Piedra was immediately assigned to Triple-A Sacramento and his presence in the line-up played quick dividends for the Sacramento River Cats. In 18 June games, Piedra batted .373 with a 1037 OPS. After that, there was no looking back. Piedra never hit lower than .306 in any month with the River Cats and won the team's offensive MVP honors with a .336/.415/.543 line.

Piedra, who has played for four organizations during his professional career (Los Angeles (NL), Chicago (NL), Colorado and Oakland), has enjoyed his time in the A's organization.

"I think they [the A's] do a good job of letting the guys be guys and not, I guess you can call it babysitting, as some other organizations do," Piedra said.

"Now from a business standpoint and a political standpoint, having played for four or five organizations, they are all pretty similar. It's a business. That's the way it goes."

Playing for Sacramento this season has meant a return to his native state of California. Piedra grew up in the San Fernando Valley and went to high school at Notre Dame HS, where he was a two-sport star in football and baseball. One of his high school football teammates was Oakland Raiders running back Justin Fargas.

"The weather here is always great in Cali. Growing up here, it has been cool to come back and I've had some family come and visit," Piedra said.

Despite Piedra's good numbers this season, he hasn't received a call-up to the big leagues and it appears that the A's won't be calling his number in September. Even though he feels that he has a lot to offer a big league team, the unassuming Piedra has taken a philosophical approach to not being called up.

"Obviously still being young and feeling like I can still play up there, I'd like to get another opportunity to prove myself. I think I would do with that, but I can't control who gets called up and who doesn't," Piedra said.

"I'm just happy that I have put up some good numbers here and was able to help the team win a few games. And I'm back on the scene and I have some inclination now that next year, even if I am not an Oakland A, I will at least have a job somewhere."

This off-season, Piedra plans to spend time with his wife Vanessa and his two daughters. He also figures to be wading through a few offers from teams in the US and abroad for his services next season. Piedra indicated that a number of teams in Japan have expressed interest in having him play in Japan and that that is an option that he would strongly consider.

"I might dabble with playing in Japan. I think I'd like to go play over there. I know a lot of guys over there," Piedra said.

"There have been a number of teams in Japan who are interested in me and they have been calling my agent, so that might be something at this point in my career that I'd be interested in doing."

For the next week, however, Piedra's attentions are firmly affixed on helping the River Cats bring home a Pacific Coast League Championship.

"With the exception of A-ball, I have never really been in the playoffs in my pro career, so it has been exciting," Piedra said.

"It's a little bit more nail-biting and the guys are a little more into it because it is for a championship. It has been a lot of fun."

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