Horton & Carignan: Still Brothers In Arms

Stockton Ports' teammates Josh Horton and Andrew Carignan have a long history of playing together. Horton and Carignan were important members of some of the most successful North Carolina squads in school history. Then they helped the Kane County Cougars put together a strong second half of the 2007 season. This year, they are looking to extend their winning ways in Stockton.

Josh Horton and Andrew Carignan arrived on the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina in 2005, and to say that the UNC program was better for their arrivals would be an understatement. The Tar Heels did a lot of winning during the pair's three seasons in the blue and white. In 2006 and 2007, UNC advanced all of the way to the finals of the College World Series with Horton and Carignan leading the way.

The winning continued for Horton and Carignan when they arrived at the pro level. The collegiate teammates were both first-day draft picks by the Oakland A's. Horton was taken in the second round, while Carignan was selected in the fifth round. After signing relatively quickly, Horton was assigned to short-season Vancouver. He spent a little more than two weeks with the Canadians before being promoted to Low-A Kane County.

Carignan didn't report to the A's quite as quickly as Horton did, but he was sent directly to Low-A Kane County when he did make his professional debut. With both Horton and Carignan aboard, the Cougars' fortunes changed dramatically. Kane County struggled much of the first half of the season, but boosted by the contributions of a handful of the A's new draft picks, the Cougars almost earned a second half post-season spot. Horton, a shortstop, hit .279 with a .417 OBP in 38 games for the Cougars, while Carignan, a late-inning reliever, saved four games and struck-out 19 batters in 13.1 innings of work.

Horton and Carignan were happy that they were able to continue being teammates in the pros.

"We were both pretty excited when we saw that we were going to the same team. That was neat to be able to play with him again [with Kane County] last year," Horton said.

The UNC pair had a lengthy 2007 season. It began in Chapel Hill when practices started on January 10 and ended at the conclusion of the A's Instructional League in mid-October.

"It was a long grind," Carignan said of last year.

"This season, I'm just going to have a regular length season like everybody else, so it should be good."

For Horton, the biggest transition he has had to make in the pros has been to adjust to the schedule.

"The only real difference [between college and the pros] is just playing every day. That was different. In college, we had a couple of days off during the week," Horton said.

However, Horton said he felt the adjustment was a smooth one.

"Everything transitioned pretty good. I had a good group of guys around me [at Kane County]."

Horton said the key to this season will be successfully keeping up with that rigorous schedule over the course of a full season.

"Making it through my first full season, that would be an accomplishment in and of itself. It's a long year and we are just getting started, so hopefully I can make it through healthy and improve in all aspects of my game."

Horton was a key cog for North Carolina during his collegiate days. He never posted a batting average lower than .335 in any of his three seasons for the Tar Heels. He was a three-time all-ACC selection and he earned a reputation for being a big-game performer with his standout play in the post-season for the Tar Heels. In his pro debut season, Horton hit .276 with a .419 OBP in 52 games for Vancouver and Kane County.

While with UNC, Carignan set an NCAA record for the most saves in College World Series games. The Connecticut native has been a reliever since he arrived at Chapel Hill and he is embracing the opportunity to be a late-inning reliever in the pros.

"I really like having the pressure on me and the adrenaline flowing. It also gives me a chance to pitch three or four times a week, which is more like a position player," Carignan said.

"Starters, they know that they are going to come to the park four times a week and not have a chance to play."

During the Instructional League season, Carignan had a chance to experience what it is like being a starter, as the A's moved him into a starting role to give him more time to work on the pitches he throws to compliment his upper-90s fastball.

"I was just really working on my slider and my change-up [as a starter] during instructs. I'm back in the bullpen now and I am strictly a reliever. I definitely like the bullpen more," Carignan said.

Horton spent a lot of time working on his defense at shortstop while at the Instructional League.

"We had a lot of defensive drills. I think that the staple of going to the Instructional League was working on defense. You also have a lot of individual offensive stuff that you work on. It was a lot of hands-on work, basically," Horton said.

Horton and Carignan are among a group of players on the current Stockton Ports' roster who are considered to be among the A's top prospects. There has been a buzz surrounding the Ports since their roster was announced. Both Horton and Carignan came out of spring training feeling good about the Ports' chances this season.

"I feel like we have a good squad and a really good pitching staff. This team should win a lot of games," Carignan said.

Horton hasn't read the press clips, but, like Carignan, he was impressed with the talent on the Ports' roster this spring.

"I hadn't really heard much about [the buzz surrounding the Ports]. I think that is something that gets blown-up more on the media-side of it," Horton said.

"We know coming out of spring training that we have a good team, but spring training doesn't really count, so you've got to come out and prove it. As much as it is built up, nothing really matters until you win the ballgames."

If their history is any indication, Horton and Carignan will find a way to help the Ports win a lot of games when it counts.

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