Zapp Waits For His Moment

When your last name begins with "Z", you get used to standing toward the end of the line but this is hardly the position that A.J. Zapp figured he'd be in. Yet, here he is, a role player on a AA team.

After all, this is a guy who hit .291 with 29 homers and 101 ribbies in Triple A as recently as two seasons ago, for goodness sakes. Okay, so that was for Tacoma which is in the Pacific Coast League where figures do tend to get inflated. But, hey, put that together with 2003 at San Antonio and he totaled 55 dingers and 193 RBI for two seasons. This guy can rake!

Not that his figures for Jacksonville this season reflect much of the past glory. Right now, he's .240-5-15. Not bad for a guy who doesn't get in all that much but hardly what A. J. (that's for Anthony Joseph) expects of himself.

Still, he's had a yo-yo career. The top draft choice of the Braves back in 1996, he managed only a .149 mark in the Gulf Coast League without a solitary knock out of the park that initial season. But he rose and in 1999 while with Macon in the South Atlantic League, drove 22 out of the yard. That's more like it.

Yet, his production tailed off so much that in 2002 the Braves let him go to free agency. The Mariners promptly snapped him up and he produced those two big seasons for them. Not Godzilla-sized, maybe, but in the monster range. They let him go anyway.

So, the Reds were next but they were to be disappointed for he managed only .243-6-40 for them at Louisville. Thus he was in the unemployment line again before the Dodgers offered a contract early this year.

So, what's the problem? Part of it has been injuries for he hasn't always been able to stay healthy. Most of it, though, is that inability to stay locked in the kind of groove that gets you called up to the bigtime. Just as he looks able to do it, he tails off.

He's always had a quick bat, he's 6-3, 190 with the pop to match that size. But he just tuned 28 so time is fleeting.

This year he's been sharing first base with Craig Brazell although lately Brazell, who is very much a similar study, is getting more time on the field. A. J. will D.H. now and then, pinch -hit a bit some of the other times.

And hope he can heat that bat up like he has in the past. Then, maybe, he'll finally deliver on all that early promise.