09/02/2003 11:45 PM ET
Callups excited to join pennant race
CHICAGO -- When the rosters expand to the 40-man limit in September, most callups either provide the manager a little veteran experience in a pinch or reward a young and promising player with a one-month trip to the Major Leagues.
But a few of the White Sox's six additions during the past three days provide their own interesting tale with an instant trip from the minor leagues to the pennant race.
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Reserve catcher Jamie Burke was called up Sunday night, replacing left-handed pitcher Neal Cotts on the roster.
On Tuesday, after Triple-A Charlotte fell one game short of the International league playoffs, the White Sox recalled right-handed pitcher Jon Adkins and purchased the contracts of infielder Aaron Miles, right-handed pitcher Jose Paniagua and outfielder Armando Rios from the Knights. To clear room on the 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher Mike Porzio was designated for assignment.
Rios, 31, started the season as part of the 25-man active roster for the White Sox. He grounded out as a pinch-hitter on Tuesday night and is hitting .220 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 100 at-bats this season. The one-time outfielder for the Giants and Pirates started for Jerry Manuel in center field early in the season against right-handers, but he was designated for assignment the day after the White Sox acquired Carl Everett in early July.
After accepting an assignment to Charlotte, Rios hit from almost the first day he arrived. The left-hander finished with a .323 average in 45 games, with six home runs and 30 RBIs.
"Getting designated was one of the best things that could have happened," Rios said prior to Tuesday's game. "You want to be in the big leagues, of course, but I went down there and got to play baseball. We were in the race until the last day and I got to play and show people I'm healthy and get my rhythm back.
"At first it kind of hurt. But, hey, I was in the lineup. Now, I'm going to enjoy this. I love to watch Robbie [Alomar] and Carl and watch this team take off."
Paniagua, who recently turned 30, has spent time in the Major Leagues with Montreal, Seattle and Detroit. He was pitching for the Dominican Republic in the PanAm Games in early August when Denny Gonzalez, who runs the White Sox baseball academy in the region, told the White Sox to take a look at the right-hander.
After being released by pitching-poor Tampa Bay during Spring Training, Paniagua got a new chance to prove himself in basically one week's time when he pitched for country.
"I waited for my visa and then went to Triple-A for a week," Paniagua said. "I threw the ball very well and now I'm here.
"There's a little more velocity [since Spring Training]. Last year, my back bothered me all year. Now I feel better, almost 100 percent. The fastball is coming back."
Miles emerged in the White Sox organization during the 2002 season, hitting .322 for Double-A Birmingham with a league-high 171 hits and 39 doubles. He was a favorite of Manuel's during Spring Training when he hit .297 in 62 at-bats, and continued his success at Charlotte this season.
The diminutive 5-foot-8 second baseman packs a wallop offensively, hitting .304 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs for the Knights. Miles, 26, was selected by Houston in the 19th round of the June 1995 First-Year Player draft, but Tuesday marked his first trip to the big leagues.
"I signed in 1995 and I've been grinding from then on," said Miles, who has 3,309 minor-league at-bats over nine seasons. "It's been a long time coming. I'm happy to be here right now.
"With my ability, I know that I'm going to be in the big leagues. It's awesome to be here for a pennant race, with this being the first time I've ever been here."
Miles got the news from Charlotte manager Nick Capra on Monday, but didn't believe him at first. He heard rumors that a callup could be possible, but much like Rios' situation, knew it was far from a certainty.
Once Miles was asked about the time he wanted to fly out to Chicago during the second inning of Monday's season finale, he realized the dream was becoming a reality. Miles celebrated by hitting a home run in his next at-bat.
There won't be many chances for at-bats or innings for these callups. But holding down a roster spot in the Major Leagues is good enough, at this point.
"If they need me, I'll be there," said Rios, who has 74 career home runs. "I'm a very realistic person. They made a great trade and the team is perfect, so I just had to do my thing. It is humbling because I'm used to being in the big leagues.
"When you have to wake up at 5 and go to the airport and go through security, it's like, 'Hey, man, you've been spoiled.' But I was in the lineup, and when you're in the lineup, days go faster.
"It was the best thing that could have happened to me," Rios added. "Now the best thing that could have happened was being back in the big leagues, and it did happen."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.