June 4, 2010
By David Driver
For the Statesman Journal
Used with permission
When some members of the Texas Rangers got off to a slow start early this season, they were sent to Oklahoma City, the Triple-A affiliate of the American League club.
About the same time, South Salem High School graduate Andy Jenkins, in his first season in the Texas farm system, was sent from Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League to Double-A Frisco of the Texas League.
"It has a trickle-down effect," said Jenkins, who was picked up by the Rangers in the Rule V draft in December.
But after playing in 29 games with Frisco he was elevated back to Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
"Nelson Cruz of the Rangers went on the disabled list," Jenkins said, explaining the up-and-down nature of life in the minor leagues.
Texas called up Craig Gentry from Oklahoma City after putting Cruz, an outfielder, on the DL, thus opening up a spot for Jenkins at Oklahoma City.
Jenkins, drafted in the 11th round out of Oregon State in 2005 by Florida, spent five seasons in the Marlins' farm system.
He is trying to impress the Rangers' front office as a versatile performer who can play third base, first base, left field and right field, and even catch.
The low-budget Marlins relied heavily on their farm system to fill the big-league roster.
"It seems like with the Rangers, whether you are a high-money guy or not, they go off performance a little more," Jenkins said. "Both organizations are run pretty good."
Jenkins, 26, who has never played in the big leagues, went to spring training as a catcher with the Rangers but has played mostly third base and left field with Frisco.
He played left field for Oklahoma City in an exhibition game against Frisco at the end of spring training at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the home of the big-league club. It was the first time he played in a major league stadium, and he had one hit on a windy day.
He was hitless in two at- bats in spring training with the Rangers in Arizona, with appearances against big-league pitchers from the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.
A right-handed hitter, Jenkins is batting .327 in 12 games with Oklahoma City. He hit .239 in first 29 games with Frisco, hitting anywhere from third to seventh in the Frisco lineup.
Frisco hitting coach Brant Brown said Jenkins is a gap-to-gap hitter with some power.
"The ball can go far enough when he hits it correctly," said Brown, who played for the Cubs, Pirates and Marlins during his big league career from 1996-2000.
"He has a very good attitude. He has a very good makeup and is a low-maintenance hitter. He doesn't acquire a lot of attention. He figures things out on his own. He is old enough that he realizes he will be in charge of his own destiny. Those are the fun guys to work with."
Brown said that if Jenkins makes the majors, it most likely will be as a utility player.
"He is a luxury, when you have a guy who is as athletic as he is," Brown said. "He moves very fluidly at third base, at first base. We have him in left. We have had him in right. He catches. That increases his value.
"Utility players play a long time in the big leagues. We are really glad to have him here. We began the season with a young team, and his experience helps."
Jenkins, a Florida State League all-star in 2007, hit .266 in 256 at bats with Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League last season in the Marlins' system. He advanced to the Triple-A level for the first time in his career in 2009, with 13 at-bats in five games with New Orleans in the PCL.
"I strung together some pretty good years early," Jenkins said of his pro career. "When you to get to pro ball, scouts (from other clubs) are still watching you. I was happy for the change (to Texas). I am getting to play every day."
Frisco is about 40 minutes from the Rangers' home in Arlington, and several front-office personnel were on hand for a weekend series in late May, including director of player development Scott Servais and Mike Boulanger, the minor league hitting coordinator.
Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, the Rangers' president of baseball operations, makes regular trips to Frisco. The Frisco manager is Steve Buechele, a former Texas third baseman.
"He is awesome. All he asks of us is to play hard and get your work in," Jenkins said.
Jenkins came up through the Marlins system with several players who now are in the majors with Florida, including Brett Hayes, Gaby Sanchez, Cameron Maybin and Chris Coghlan.
"I think they had a good scouting report on me," he said of the Rangers. "I kind of felt like I was opening eyes and meeting new people. I am playing really solid defense. I am happy with that right now.
"Just because you play a lot of positions doesn't mean you don't have a natural one."
Jenkins played at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham before transferring to OSU and appeared in the 2005 College World Series. He hit .388 with six homers and 56 RBIs in 209 at-bats for the Beavers in 2005 before the Marlins drafted him.
The 6-footer turns 27 in July and is in his sixth pro season. So how long does he plan to play?
"I think I am willing to chase that dream as long as I know I have that ability to play there. I know I am capable of playing at the Triple-A level," said Jenkins, who graduated from OSU in 2006 with a degree in psychology.
"The way the system works, I am not able to be there now. It is a breakthrough month or two" away.