Sports

Ishikawa starts season in San Jose

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

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 it’s 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.

“It’s been going real good,” Ishikawa said from the Giants’ spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz. last week. “I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s just great to play baseball every day. But it definitely gets tough with the long bus rides. But it’s 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 America’s annual report, which was released Feb. 22. He was ranked seventh in the magazine’s 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 isn’t afraid to hit behind in the count. He’s a fine defender at first base with soft hands and he’s 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 didn’t 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, Ishikawa’s 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 Oakland’s 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. It’s still uncertain where Piper-Jordan will start the season. The lower levels of the minor leagues don’t start their regular seasons until June.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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