The Chattanooga Lookouts quickly established their most versatile player for the 2012 season.
In their opening series against Tennessee at AT&T Field, Travis Denker made one start each at first base and third base and came off the bench twice on double switches to play second base. It was an ever-changing role for the 26-year-old Californian, and that isn't expected to change.
"It is late in his career now, and the more positions he can play, the more versatile he can become," Lookouts manager Carlos Subero said. "He's played first base for us, which is probably the first time he's done that in his career, and that's going to help him. He can play third base, and he can play some second base. He's got a great bat and proved that last year.
"There are guys a little ahead of him in playing time right now, and it's a matter of where to find him a spot. So we're going to use him in this role, and I definitely think it is something that will help him."
Denker is the only position player for the Lookouts with big-league time, having played in 24 games with the San Francisco Giants in 2008. He understands the value of playing multiple positions and producing off the bench, and he is fine with this year's job description.
"If I were to go to the big leagues, it would be in this same kind of role, so it's kind of good right now that I'm getting this experience," Denker said. "The first time I got called up it was like that, and I didn't think it was going to be like that. I thought I was going to be like an everyday guy, but it didn't work out that way, and my attitude and mindset are a little bit different this year."
A 21st-round pick of the Dodgers in 2003, Denker worked his way to Double-A before getting traded to the Giants for Mark Sweeney in August 2007. The 5-foot-9, 206-pounder hit .243 with four doubles, one triple, one home run and three RBIs during his stint in the majors, but he was placed on waivers after that season.
Denker was signed by the Dodgers a second time in May 2010, and he has found the Southern League to be very challenging.
"There are really good pitchers in this league," he said. "They don't have that big last name, but you could be facing a future Cy Young guy. The difference is there are no mistakes in the big leagues and that the scouting reports are as good as they can be. There are so many scouts at those games.
"The scouting reports here are a little bit limited, but we still find out the knowledge that we can gather."
In 66 games with the Lookouts last season, Denker hit .288 with 15 doubles, 10 homers and 33 RBIs. Entering Thursday night's game in Jacksonville, he was hitting .300.
Making the majors was always Denker's dream, and now his hope is to experience it twice.
"One of the things I try to pass on to these guys is the winning aspect," he said. "Every single pitch and every single play up there is not taken lightly. It's like a football atmosphere, and I really loved that. It's a lot of fun and it's a lot of pressure, but that's what the fun is all about.
"I probably wouldn't have played in as many games if Ray Durham wasn't a little hurt at that time, but I was grateful for whatever."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...
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