Concepcion's Hot and the Suns Are Smiling

Over the winter Alberto Concepcion surveyed his chances in the Red Sox system and he didn't like what he saw. At best, he had become a backup at the Double A level so he asked for his release. To show what regard they had for his future, the Sox obliged.

Although Alberto had been a solid catcher in his collegiate days for Southern California, he wasn't exactly coveted, hanging around until the 21st round before the Sox chose him in the 2002 draft. And, although, he'd showed some promise when he hit .281 in the Florida State League in 2004, that appeared to be his peak.

It turns out it wasn't at all. The Dodgers signed him as a free agent and they, too, made him a backup - this time at Jacksonville. But lately, that's all changed. Particularly in two nights earlier this month.

On July 5, Concepcion was in the lineup and banged out four hits. That would have been a great week for him before. But he was just warming up.

On July 6 against Carolina, he doubled in the second, singled in the third, then hit his first triple of the season in the fourth. When he came up again in the sixth, there was only one thing left to do so he did it- hitting a home run.

The cycle, a rare accomplishment for any player. Most go their careers without doing it and this was a guy that seemed doomed to spending most of his time warming up pitchers in the bullpen.

You'll find Concepcion in the Jacksonville lineup most every night now. Not always as a catcher- he splits that job with A. J. Ellis. He is, however, playing a lot of first and even has tried his hand at third. He's also likely to be the designated hitter This for somebody who wasn't considered a hitter, designated or otherwise before.

He's brought his average up to .293 and has eight home runs. They took notice in the Southern League which named him Player of the Week for his splurge.

It would be a stretch to say that Concepcion has reached prospect status. After all, he's 26 years old and never has done this before. But it's been pleasurable for all concerned except, of course, the Red Sox, who might be sorry they let him go.

John Shoemaker and the Suns, though, are glad he's around.