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Ishikawa starts season in San Jose
By CASEY OLSON
Travis Ishikawa is on his way to San Jose.
The 2002 Federal Way High School graduate started his third season in professional baseball Thursday as the San Jose Giants starting first baseman. San Jose is the Long A California League affiliate of the San Francisco Giants meaning its the fourth rung on the six-rung ladder to a spot in the Major Leagues. Ishikawa was drafted in the 21st round in the 2002 MLB Draft and signed for $955,000. He was considered to be potential second-round talent, but teams passed because they thought he was going to honor his scholarship to Oregon State University.
Its been going real good, Ishikawa said from the Giants spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz. last week. I wouldnt change it for anything. Its just great to play baseball every day. But it definitely gets tough with the long bus rides. But its been a great experience.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder spent much of the spring with the AA group, but received word Friday that he would be sent to San Jose.
I did alright and I thought maybe I had a shot, Ishikawa said about possibly being assigned to the AA Norwich (Conn.) Navigators. But I kind of expected to go to the California League.
The sweet-swinging left-hander spent a bulk of the 2004 season with the single-A Hagerstown (Md.) Suns and hit .257 in 98 games, including a team-leading 15 home runs. He was called up to San Jose late in the season and hit .232 in 16 games with a home run.
I started out real slow, the 20-year-old said. I was hitting like .180 in May. But I finished pretty good and I hit decent while I was in San Jose.
Ishikawa has been listed as the Giants No. 10 prospect in Baseball Americas annual report, which was released Feb. 22. He was ranked seventh in the magazines 2004 edition.
The Giants have been patient with Ishikawa, the Baseball America story quoted. His power started to blossom in 2004 with his 16 home runs. His consistent swing and good bat speed give him above-average power potential. He crushes the ball in the lower half of the zone. He knows the value of a walk and isnt afraid to hit behind in the count. Hes a fine defender at first base with soft hands and hes athletic enough to play left field as well.
Ishikawa did get to experience a little bit of the Big League lifestyle during spring training.
He suited up for four Major League games with the San Francisco Giants in the Arizona Cactus League. He made three pinch-hit appearances and walked, struck out and flew out to right field.
I didnt get to face anybody big-time, he said about opposing pitchers. My at-bats came in the eighth and ninth innings when all the big leaguers were done throwing. But I did get to sit in the clubhouse with them. They were actually real nice guys. I got to talk to (Giants starting centerfielder) Marquis Grissom about hitting. But I kind of let them do their own thing and stayed away from them.
Andre Piper-Jordan, Ishikawas teammate at Federal Way High School, is starting his second season in the Oakland Athletics minor-league system. The centerfielder and 2003 grad, ended the 2004 season with Oaklands Rookie League team in Arizona with a .237 average in 156 at bats. He had eight doubles, two triples, one home run and 14 stolen bases.
He was drafted in the 28th round last year out of Everett Community College. Its still uncertain where Piper-Jordan will start the season. The lower levels of the minor leagues dont start their regular seasons until June.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com