Las Vegas Has to Shore Up the Middle

Matt Kemp and James Loney are in Los Angeles. Mitch Jones is on his way to Japan. Larry Bigbie is presumably at home, waiting for the phone to ring. And suddenly the big bang that was the middle of the Las Vegas batting order might look like a little fizzle.

The above-named quartet provided the bulk of the offense for the 51's but all three have gone elsewhere. Kemp was hitting .329 with four homers and 20 runs batted in. The Dodgers, as we all know, are desperate for somebody- anybody-to provide some punch so they've recalled Matt.

Bigbie was doing very nicely as well. He had a .349 average and had hit three homers. Still, his quest to interest the Dodgers in a call-up or some other big league team in his services didn't materialize. Having no further desire to play in the minors, he informed management that he would exercise his June 1 escape clause so they obliged him by handing him his release.

So far nobody has picked him up, thus he's a free agent. Barring a call from a major league team, he'd entertain offers from Japan.

That's the part of the world that Jones is headed for. He was the biggest bopper of them all for Vegas. His 19 home runs and 60 runs batted in acquired in just 52 games lead the league but didn't stir L.A. to bring him up. He's 29 and has the reputation of being a good enough minor league hitter but one big league pitchers could exploit. So, when Japan came calling,the Dodgers sold his contract to those wonderfully named Nippon Ham Fighters, made a few bucks, and allowed Jones the opportunity to make a lot more out on the Pacific rim.

Loney, who has hit .300+ since mid-May had 19 doubles and

This leaves Vegas with a huge void, of course. It's one that is partially being filled by the presence of Marlon Anderson but he's down on a rehab assignment so when he tunes his game up sufficiently, he'll return to Los Angeles.

Also, they've summoned veteran Wilkin Ruan from Jacksonville but he's a line drive hitter, not a big bopper. He was hitting .289 with no homers for the Suns when he got the summons.

What is needed for the 51's is for Andy LaRoche to start raking in the manner he's capable of.

In the meantime, the recall of Kemp meant others get a chance to move higher. James Tomlin was brought from Inland Empire to replace Ruan at Jacksonville. He's a 24-year-old formerly in the Twins and Royals' organizations who was signed as a minor league free agent. He was hitting .288 with one homer for the 66ers.

His place in California was taken by Bridger Hunt, who had compiled a .296 mark with one homer for Great Lakes. Tommy Giles is moving up to Michigan to replace him. Giles hit .291 with five home runs for Ogden last year and has spent the spring in the extended camp at Dodgertown where he generally was hitting the ball quite well.

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