Minor League Report: John Shelby
At second base or in outfield, slugger eyes Major Leagues
TUCSON, Ariz. -- During John Shelby's lone Cactus League appearance this spring on March 3 in Surprise, Ariz., he earned the praise of manager Ozzie Guillen and bench coach Joey Cora for a running catch he made down the right-field line that saved a couple of runs from scoring late in the game.
Playing the outfield eventually could be Shelby's ticket to the Major Leagues. But for now, the offensive stalwart has his sights set on getting there as a second baseman. It's the position Shelby will be playing in 2008 for Class A Winston-Salem, and the position he is learning a little bit more about defensively each day during camp.
"I've not had a lot of solid teaching like I'm receiving right now at second, so a lot of the stuff they are saying is foreign to me," said Shelby. "But I'm willing to work."
White Sox Minor League infield instructor Manny Trillo, a three-time National League Gold Glove winner at second base, is just one of the coaches currently imparting words of wisdom to Shelby. Footwork is a big issue of improvement, according to Shelby, who can make up for a few mistakes in that area because he's a talented natural athlete.
"But they are getting on me for every little thing, which I like," Shelby said. "I want to be the best I can."
If baseball lineage counts for anything, then Shelby might have a leg up on other Minor Leaguers. John T. Shelby, nicknamed T-Bone, played for three Major League teams from 1981 to 1991. He played all but one of his big league games in the outfield, with that one exception finding Shelby at second base for Baltimore in 1985.
Although the elder Shelby now works for the Orioles, he still finds plenty of time to talk baseball with his son. There was a lot to talk about concerning the 2007 season turned in by John Shelby III, who hit .301 with 16 home runs, 35 doubles, nine triples and 79 RBIs for Class A Kannapolis. He also threw in 19 stolen bases, 83 runs scored and just 77 strikeouts in 488 at-bats.
"One of the best of my life," said Shelby of what will be his lone season for Kannapolis. "But I know it's not a fluke. I have bigger and better things ahead of me.
"I finished up strong and did that at [the University of Kentucky], too. I don't know what it is, but toward the end of the season, I'm definitely grinding and just don't want the season to be over. I need to take that mentality into the start of the season."
Shelby will carry with him the knowledge that he now appears on the White Sox radar, along with the approval from Guillen and Cora. Their praise came from a play Shelby made in right field, but he's just as confident the same strong impression can be made through his work at second base.
"I'm glad I got to impress them a little bit and show them I could play a little outfield, too," said Shelby in reaction to the praise from Guillen and Cora. "I never played outfield until my freshman year in college and then last year I played a little bit, too.
"To be honest, outfield seems more natural, but I love being in the infield and it's a quicker way to get moved up if you can hit and play second base. There are not a lot of power-hitting second baseman, and to do that, it's definitely very valuable.
"My dad played infield and then outfield, and maybe that transition could be for me," Shelby added. "Right now, I like being in the infield."
Right decision: Jason Bourgeois had quite a few teams to choose from after he became a Minor League free agent at the end of last season. At least 20 teams were interested, by his estimation.
In the end, Bourgeois stayed loyal to the team that gave him a chance when nobody really wanted to two years ago, and remaining with the White Sox appears to be a good call. Bourgeois has a .317 average this spring, and with his versatility in the field, could be one of the first position players called upon from Charlotte if needed.
"That's awesome," Bourgeois said. "I'll be ready to go and want to get off to a good start to show I'm ready."
The White Sox and the Nationals were the only teams which contacted Bourgeois before the 2007 campaign. Upon joining the White Sox, he produced with a .300 average and 38 stolen bases between stops at Triple-A Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham.
A promise to play every day for Charlotte in 2008 and a non-roster invite to camp was enough to bring back Bourgeois to Chicago.
"There were some great offers, but I'm comfortable here, so why not?" said Bourgeois, one of the three non-roster invitees remaining in camp. "I love the guys and the staff, and my relationship was good with the organization."
Remember me? Fans of the Schaumburg Flyers, a Northern League Independent team in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, will recognize the name Jim Rushford. The 33-year-old outfielder went from pizza deliveryman in San Diego to the Flyers' open tryout to Ron Kittle's Opening Day lineup in 1999.
Rushford eventually made it to the Majors with Milwaukee in 2002 and currently is in camp with the White Sox, trying to find a job with Charlotte.
Class of '07: Keep an eye on Henry Mabee, the closer for Great Falls in 2007. The right-hander, chosen in the 19th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, saved 18 games and posted a 1.88 ERA last year and is said to have one of the best curves in the entire system. The native of Victoria, British Columbia is targeted for Winston-Salem this season.
What they're saying: "She's been around my dad and knows more baseball than I do, believe it or not." -- Shelby, on his mom, Trina, having just as big of an influence on his career as his father
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.