Soldotna product Chris Mabeus, 25, got a taste of the major leagues this season while playing for the Texas Rangers in spring training.
After not making the roster for the Rangers, Mabeus is hungry for a bigger bite of the big leagues.
Last season in the Oakland Athletics organization, Mabeus combined to go 3-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 62 innings and 42 relief appearances with Single-A Modesto of the California League and Double-A Midland of the Texas League.
That effort was enough to induce the Rangers to select Mabeus in the Rule 5 draft in December 2003 when the pitching-rich Athletics left Mabeus unprotected.
According to the rules of the Rule 5 draft, the Rangers paid the Athletics $50,000 for Mabeus.
Mabeus had to make the Rangers' 25-man roster or the Rangers had to offer him back to the A's for the price of $25,000.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Mabeus said the Rangers had a spot for him on their big league roster at the time of the Rule 5 draft. By the time spring training started, however, the Rangers had invested in pitching and that spot no longer existed.
"I needed a couple of guys to do really bad, and I would have had a spot," Mabeus said.
Mabeus said he threw well in spring training, but a spot never opened up for him.
In late March, the Rangers sent Mabeus back to the A's. The Rangers tried to work out a trade to bring Mabeus back, but the two sides were not able to work out a deal.
Mabeus will now start the season in Midland.
While Mabeus would rather be pitching in the big leagues right now, he said the whole experience has been good for him.
"This isn't a step down," Mabeus said. "I could have made a leap from Double-A to the big leagues, but not very many people get to do that."
Mabeus now goes back to the minor leagues with a taste of what the majors are like.
"I saw the stuff that major league pitchers have first-hand, and I learned it's not that much better than my stuff," Mabeus said. "They just have more confidence in their stuff, and they throw it with more consistency.
"I have a big boost in confidence in my pitches now. I just have a couple of things I need to tweak, and that's what the minors are for."
By the time Mabeus was sent back to Oakland, the A's no longer had a spot on their Triple-A roster. Mabeus is hoping he doesn't spend much time in Midland. He hopes to be at the Triple-A level knocking on the door of the big leagues soon.
In the meantime, he can relish the experience of having had a locker next to Alfonso Soriano and having been coached by Orel Hershiser, whom Mabeus looked up to as a kid.
"It was unbelievable to have guys in the big leagues actually be your teammates and call you by your first name," Mabeus said.
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