MLB

Whitney just keeps playing, waiting for his shot

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PHOENIX (AP)

Matt Whitney was a big shot in high school, an All-American third baseman and a can't-miss prospect. These days the former first-round draft pick is with his third big-league organization and remains a prospect, though perhaps it's not such a sure thing.

No matter. Whitney, who was assigned Barry Zito's number 75 this spring after signing a minor-league deal with the Oakland Athletics last November, loves the game and says he'll play until teams stop calling.

He reached Triple-A for the first time last year and all indications point to him starting there this year.

``Being able to get the chance to make a team every year is all I can ask for,'' Whitney said Tuesday. ``I want to go out, play my game, and show them what I can do and hope for an opportunity at some point.''

He doesn't surf or dabble in eastern philosophies like Zito. Heck, he's not even left-handed. But he shares a passion for the game, and a determination to reach the highest level.

Whitney, who also plays first base, has been dealing with high expectations, disappointments and setbacks since the Cleveland Indians made him their compensation pick after the first round in the 2002 first-year player draft.

``I'm pretty relaxed,'' Whitney said. ``Whether I strikeout or hit a home run I stay even-keeled. I try to stay low-key. I figure we all have some little quirks that makes us crazy. I relax and have fun. I try not to get caught up in what might happen; I try to stay day to day and do as much as I can.''

Whitney just turned 26 and is starting his ninth professional season - he missed 2003 with a broken left leg - and remains optimistic despite a series of injuries that limited his development.

``I always like the persevering type stories,'' A's manager Bob Geren said. ``With 30 teams the opportunities are greater that you can break in at a later age. A guy like (Jack) Cust kept fighting to get a chance and he's put together a pretty good major-league career.''

Whitney has plenty of competition. The A's also signed former Anaheim Angels corner infielder Dallas McPherson and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and traded for infielder Jake Fox.

``It can be hard because I know who the guys are in front of me,'' Whitney said. ``I can't even remember when I first started playing. Baseball has been my life for so long I can't see myself shutting it down and going into the real world.''

Notes: IF Kevin Kouzmanoff was hit in the shin by a line drive during Monday's batting practice and may need another day before getting back into full swing. ... OF Coco Crisp will not play in the outfield the first week of spring games but will hit as a DH.

Tagged: Athletics, Giants, Barry Zito, Jack Cust, Dallas McPherson, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jake Fox

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