After spending spring training with the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Seminole High graduate Clayton Andrews got the feel of major league baseball.
He was sent to the Jays' Double-A farm team, the Knoxville Smokies in the Southern League, and earned a promotion to the Triple-A Syracuse SkyChiefs two weeks ago after winning four consecutive games with dominating outings.
In two starts for the SkyChiefs, the tall lefty has pitched six innings and given up only three hits each game. The SkyChiefs won the first game 5-4 over Rochester, but he didn't get credit for the win.
In Monday night's 8-6 loss to the Buffalo Bisons, Andrews left leading 6-4, so he didn't get tagged with the loss. In that game, he gave up three earned runs, three hits, four walks and struck out four, leaving him with an earned-run average of 5.25. One of those hits was a three-run homer by American League all-star catcher Sandy Alomar of the Cleveland Indians, who is on rehabilitation assignment.
"I had the count at 1-and-2 and tried to slip a fastball by him," Andrews lamented. "It wasn't a bad pitch but he turned on it."
Andrews, 21, said he hopes to get called up by the Blue Jays when rosters expand to 40 players in September.
"Clayton has a good arm, there's no question about that," said Tom Van Schaack, the SkyChiefs' assistant general manager. "His problem so far has been his control; he's been walking too many and getting into trouble batters at this level are more patient."
With a fastball in the low-90s, Andrews was the Blue Jays' third-round draft selection in 1996, the 74th pick overall. His minor league experience includes stints with the Hagerstown Suns in the Class A South Atlantic League and the Dunedin Blue Jays in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.
MORE BASEBALL: Andrews is one of 21 players in the minors from Pinellas County. Three others are from Seminole High, the high school leader in this category. The other former Warhawks are:
+ Sean McClellan, a product of Florida and Oklahoma State, who is with the Knoxville Smokies after opening the season at Syracuse. He's 1-0 with a 1.84 ERA.
+ Greg Jones, who starred at Pasco-Hernando Community College and is pitching for the Cedar Rapids Kernals, an Anaheim Angels affiliate in the Class A Advanced Midwest League.
In Wednesday night's game at Peoria, Jones had his best outing of the season _ giving up one meaningless hit in three late innings of relief to notch his second win of the season against four losses. He lowered his ERA to 4.25; he has 11 saves this season.
Jones missed the first five weeks of the season due to a severe strain of his medial collateral ligament. Nevertheless, he came on strong, earning a place in the Midwest League All-Star Game played at Lansing, Mich.
Jones has been invited to play in the inaugural season of the California Fall League, which will run from Sept. 23 until Nov. 5. He will pitch for the Lake Elsinore (Calif.) Land Sharks. The league will feature select prospects from both Class A and Double A.
+ Second baseman Kurt Bultmann, a four-year starter at Clemson, who signed this summer with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After batting a lofty .356 with the Hickory Crawdads in the Class A South Atlantic League, he was promoted to the Lynchburg Hillcats in the Advanced A Carolina League, where he's batting .202.
Andrews, Bultmann and Jones played for coach Dave Pano's American Legion Post 273 team from Madeira Beach team that won a state championship.
ALSO: Right-handed relief pitcher B.J. Leach (Osceola) has the second-best record of any pitcher in the Red Sox farm system. Through Thursday, he was 4-1 with the Lowell Spinners of the Class A New York-Penn League. His stat rundown includes an impressive 1.72 ERA while giving up 18 hits, six earned runs and 14 walks over 32 innings with 35 strikeouts.
After leading NCAA Division II national champion Florida Southern with a .418 batting average, with 10 homers and 55 RBI, and posting an 11-2 record and 2.05 ERA, Leach was named the American Baseball Coaches Association Division II player of the year and pitcher of the year. He won the Sunshine State Conference triple crown for pitchers, leading in wins, ERA and strikeouts (145 in 127 innings).
Second baseman Tommy Kidwell (St. Petersburg High/Yale) is in his first year in the St. Louis Cardinals organization with the last-place Peoria Chiefs of the Class A Midwest League. He's batting .248 with 13 RBI.
Dwayne Dodson (Clearwater/USF), a ninth-round pick of the Angels in '97, is a teammate of Jones at Cedar Rapids. His record is 0-6 with a 9.11 ERA.
CROSS COUNTRY: The University of Central Florida will have five former Pinellas runners in its lineup this fall. The three men include likely 1-2 finishers Lou Snelling (Seminole), a former Times runner of the year, and John Hope of Dixie Hollins.
Snelling redshirted last year when Hope finished second for the Golden Knights at the NCAA South Regional Championships and Sean McCabe (East Lake) finished third.
On the women's side, Auburn transfer Brianne Harrington, a three-time state cross country champion at Northside Christian, will battle for the team's No. 1 spot.
Colleen McBride, a transfer from Notre Dame by way of Clearwater Central Catholic, also will be in the lineup when UCF opens its season at home on Sept. 11.
Assistant coach Erik Lipham (Seminole) holds the school 10K record of 30 minutes, 59 seconds.
VOLLEYBALL: Pinellas Park graduate Cassie Kerner, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker who was named to the Pinellas County Athletic Conference first team last year, has signed with UCF. She also earned Times first-team honors after posting 295 kills, 18 aces, 111 digs and 101 blocks in 33 games.
Senior outside hitter Brandi McCollum (East Lake) was a force up front last season, registering 103 kills in 22 matches. She's a transfer from Mississippi University for Women.
FOOTBALL: When Central Florida hosts Purdue in the Citrus Bowl on Sept. 4, five local players will see action, not counting big-time Purdue wide receiver Chris Daniels (Clearwater High), who will be in the starting lineup. Pro prospect Daniels had 47 catches for 480 yards last season, which included the 37-34 upset win over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl.
UCF will feature tailback Terrance Williams (Clearwater/Hinds CC) and Michigan State transfer Willie Comerford (Gibbs), a 6-4, 320-pound tackle, on offense.
On defense, strong safety Vito Golson (Lakewood) will play along with veteran linebacker Tony Hardman (Clearwater).
Mike Hedge (Clearwater) is the Knights long snapper.
SPORTS ADMINISTRATION: Former UCF assistant sports information director Derek Smolik (Clearwater/SPJC/Western Carolina) left Orlando to take the head sports information job at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg.