Denker's Healthy and Hitting- And Taller, Too

   It's a special moment when a player gets his first baseball card. That's especially true when he's one of the few minor leaguers considered such a prime prospect that he's in there with big leaguers. Travis Denker was honored in that fashion this spring. So, why when he gazed upon it did he let out a moan of dismay?

   "It's my height! he exclaimed. "Why do they keep listing me at 5-9? I'm over 5-10 now!"

     Advised that it was because the card company is undoubtedly using the figures given them when he first signed and not allowing for growth spurts since, he was somewhat mollified. Besides, very shortly he had far more vital matters to concern him for just as he was preparing for the season, he broke his right hand in a spring game so had to be left behind when the teams departed.

  It's a crucial season for Denker- one in which he has to prove he belongs on that prospect's card for a career that began so promisingly had seemed to grind to a halt.

  It had started so well, too for Denker was in the habit of surprising people. He was only a 21st round draft choice back in 2003. That's a spot where a high school player usually gets such small change in a bonus offer that he's off to college. Not Denker, though; he wanted to play right away so signed.

  He impressed from the outset. That was particularly true in 2004 when he smashed 12 homers for Ogden showing that he may be somewhat short but he has the strength and, especially, the bat speed to drive a ball for distance.

   When he followed that with 21 out of the park in just over half a season for Columbus in 2005, he was promoted to Vero Beach. It was there that the doubts crawled back in for he managed only a .185 average the rest of the way.

  It was back to Vero in 2006 but still in the doldrums, he hit only .220 with five homers. That got him sent down to Columbus where he turned it around- sort of- with a .268 mark that featured 11 home runs.

  So was he a guy who could perform well in the lower leagues but who was stymied at high A? That hand injury delayed the chance for him to prove otherwise.

  So far, there's a rainbow in all this for Denker played his way out of the extended camp where he was rehabbing and joined Inland Empire which was in bad need of a second baseman. His response has been just like the Denker who surprised a lot of people in his early years.

  He's ripping the ball for the 66ers with a .375 average, three home runs and 18 RBI in 24 games. Right now, on a team of pretty good hitters, he's leading them all.

  If he keeps this up, he'll certainly show that he belongs on that prospect's card. Now, if they could just get that height matter right.

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