Fields flaunts bat in Futures Game
White Sox top prospect may have position switch in future
PITTSBURGH -- On Sunday afternoon, Josh Fields conquered the World Team Radio during his U.S. Team's 8-5 victory in the XM Satellite All-Star Futures Game at PNC Park.The next challenge to tackle for the standout third baseman at Triple-A Charlotte could be learning to play one of the corner outfield positions. Fields has been nothing short of outstanding during the 2006 campaign, his second season in which the former Oklahoma State quarterback has been completely devoted to baseball. Fields' .329 average leaves him tied for second in hitting among International League players. The White Sox top pick from the 2004 First-Year Player Draft also has 13 home runs, 52 RBIs, a .559 slugging percentage, a .408 on-base percentage and 17 stolen bases thrown in for good measure. His defense at the hot corner has been steady, if not spectacular, but Fields has improved at third base with each and every season. Of course, he presents nothing close to the defensive ability provided at third base by Joe Crede, but then again, not very many Major League infielders can make that particular claim. Crede also has emerged has a bona fide contributor on offense during the current season's first half. So, where does that leave Fields, an individual who White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said improved as much as any player in the organization from Spring Training 2005 to Spring Training 2006? It could mean a move to the outfield, a change Fields believes he can handle but is unsure if it will ever happen. "It's a tough question to answer," said Fields. "Things have been said, and then it goes weeks and nothing else is said. "As far as me answering it now, I'm a third baseman playing behind Joe Crede. He's doing an amazing job, and it's awesome to see that because Joe is a good dude. I'm just trying to get comfortable enough to where I can come close to how he plays." That comfort level appears to be in place offensively for Fields. He finished 2-for-3 on Sunday, as the U.S. Team's designated hitter, doubling to left and singling to right to score a run. Fields also lined out to right field in his final at-bat. More than making adjustments at the plate, Fields has made adjustments mentally after a tough first-half effort in 2005 for Double-A Birmingham. The third baseman even was removed from a game by manager Razor Shines for disciplinary reasons, basically stemming from Fields' inability to put a bad game or even a poor at-bat behind him. Shines, who was a coach for the World Team on Sunday, apparently hasn't held any sort of grudge against Fields. The Charlotte manager heaped praise upon one of his top players, pointing particularly to how he now handles adversity in a positive way. It also wasn't much of a stretch for Shines to see Fields patrolling left field or right field some day soon at U.S. Cellular Field.
"If that situation comes up, without any doubt in my mind, [Fields] can play almost any position on the field," Shines said. "He's that athletic."Josh has grown up so much mentally over the past two years. I've always told Josh that the way you deal with your [setbacks] is going to result in how successful you become. Not only is he a fine baseball player, but he's a tremendous person." Along with pounding the ball all over Tucson Electric Park during Spring Training, Fields also listened closely to sage advice handed down by veterans such as Paul Konerko and Jim Thome. They told him that an 0-for-3 afternoon with a walk or a 1-for-4 showing is not exactly a bad day at the office. In regard to the position switch, Fields played left field as a freshman at Oklahoma State and certainly would try it again. Any move that would get him to the Majors a little quicker, possibly as soon as September, works for Fields. "If I had to move, I would do it," Fields said. "I wouldn't say it would happen easily, because guys in the Major Leagues, who play there every day, are still learning how to play it. "I would like to think I could catch the ball and would be able to throw it back in," added Fields with a smile.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.