Wednesday, March 31, 1999

Fordyce wows White Sox with power

Ex-Red has more homers than Thomas

The Associated Press

        TUCSON, Ariz. — When the Chicago White Sox traded for Brook Fordyce last week, they were expecting a solid defensive catcher who was OK at the plate. Then this guy shows up who hits ho mers like Mike Piazza.

        So who's the real Brook Fordyce?

        Wait and see.

        “I can hit. It's just I haven't had the opportunity,” he said. “I don't know how good I am over 400 at-bats. I don't know what kind of numbers I'm going to put up. But it's not like I was an automatic out.”

        Fordyce, who spent the last three years with Cincinnati, served notice as he got off the plane Friday that there was more to his game than defense. Delayed when his flight had to turn around because of a sick passenger, he arrived late and didn't get in on the White Sox win against Milwaukee until the eighth inning.

        His one official at-bat shows he was hit by a pitch. But when the Brewers asked to play the bottom of the ninth so reliever Al Reyes could get some extra work, Fordyce homered.

        He got his first official home run the next day against the Chicago Cubs, and hit two more Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. That's one more than Frank Thomas has.

        Granted, it's only spring training, but in three games with the White Sox, the career .239 hitter is hitting .571 with five RBIs.

        “I am surprised, pleasantly surprised, he's swinging the bat that well,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “Even looking back at his history didn't indicate he would have had three homers in two games.

        “Maybe it's Albert's num ber.”

        That's Albert as in Albert Belle, the surly slugger who left behind his No. 8 when he signed with Baltimore in the offseason. Fordyce, who wore No. 6 with the Reds, chuckled when he heard Manuel's number theory.

        “It could be that. It could be that,” he said. “Like I said, I'm just having quality at-bats and making great contact. I'm just relaxed and I'm seeing the ball, trying to get my at-bats in now and get ready for the season, because I wasn't getting them over with Cincinnati.”

        Fordyce, 28, was drafted by the New York Mets in 1989, but didn't make it to the majors until 1995. He was on the Mets' opening day roster, only to be placed on waivers after appearing in four games.

        For the past two years, he's been a backup in Cincinnati. The Reds carried him on their major league roster in 1997 as a seldom-used third catcher because they were afraid they'd lose him if they tried to send him to the minors. He batted .253 with three homers in 57 games last season as Eddie Taubensee's backup.

        But when the Reds decided to carry Taubensee and Brian Johnson as their two catchers this year, Fordyce became the odd man out. Enter the White Sox. The Sox brought three young catchers to spring training, but none was impressive enough to win the starting job.

        Fordyce had the defensive skills the White Sox wanted — he got 36 percent of the runners who challenged his arm last season, and the Reds pitchers had a combined 3.78 ERA when he was behind the plate — so the White Sox figured they could start him right away.

        “Just hearing the trade rumors, it gave me something to look forward to,” he said. “Then when it happened, I was ecstatic because it's a good opportunity — a great opportunity — for me.”

- Fordyce wows White Sox with power
Dolan pursuing deal through Lindner
Parris in the springtime: off to minors Tim Sullivan column
Center field up in the air
Dunn another Thome, Klesko?
Reds 4, Yankees 2

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