SHU prod­ucts Short, Fo­ley take dif­fer­ent paths

New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT) - - SPORTS - By David Borges david.borges @hearst­medi­act.com

Zack Short and Ja­son Fo­ley, close friends who talk by phone nearly ev­ery day, fin­ished their re­spec­tive base­ball ca­reers at Sa­cred Heart Uni­ver­sity af­ter their ju­nior sea­sons in 2016 and turned pro.

Both are both mov­ing up the prospect rank­ings in their re­spec­tive or­ga­ni­za­tions — Short with the Cubs, Fo­ley with the Tigers — and are among a trio of Sa­cred Heart prod­ucts cur­rently in the mi­nor leagues, join­ing Troy Scrib­ner, who made his big-league de­but last year with the An­gels and is cur­rently re­hab­bing in the Di­a­mondbacks’ or­ga­ni­za­tion.

That’s about where the sim­i­lar­i­ties end be­tween Short and Fo­ley, who have taken very dif­fer­ent roads to where they are now.

Short is, aptly, a short­stop cur­rently with the Ten­nessee Smok­ies, the Cubs’ Dou­ble-A af­fil­i­ate. En­ter­ing the week­end, Short’s 13 homers, 49 RBIs and 24 dou­bles were tops among short­stops in the South­ern League. He’s been par­tic­u­larly hot lately, rais­ing his av­er­age nearly 40 points in the past cou­ple of months, from .198 on June 8 to its cur­rent .237.

And when MLB.com un­veiled its Top 30 prospects for each or­ga­ni­za­tion re­cently, Short popped up at No. 22 in the Cubs’ ranks.

“You hear a lit­tle bit of rum­blings about that, but you try not to look into it too much,” Short said by phone this week. “It doesn’t mat­ter where they put you, you’ve still got to play.”

Still, not bad for a kid who hit just .241 as a ju­nior at Sa­cred Heart be­fore be­ing taken in the 17th round of the 2016 draft.

At least Short was drafted. Fo­ley went un­drafted af­ter his ju­nior year at Sa­cred Heart. He fig­ured he’d re­turn for his se­nior sea­son and was pitch­ing for the Mys­tic Schooners in the New Eng­land Col­le­giate Base­ball League that sum­mer when he caught the eye of a Tigers’ scout.

A week later, Fo­ley was signed by the Tigers and un­der­went a phys­i­cal at their spring train­ing com­plex in Lake­land, Florida. Not long af­ter that, he was pitch­ing for the Class A short-sea­son Con­necti­cut Tigers at Dodd Sta­dium in Nor­wich — about a halfhour up the road from where the Schooners played.

“It was kind of neat,” Fo­ley ad­mit­ted.

Fo­ley un­der­went Tommy John surgery on his right el­bow in July, 2017, and will miss the en­tire 2018 sea­son. But that hasn’t stopped him from be­ing named the No. 29 prospect in the Tigers’ or­ga­ni­za­tion, based mainly off the num­bers he posted last sea­son as a back-end of the bullpen guy at High-A Lake­land, be­fore his in­jury.

“I’m def­i­nitely aware of that, a lot of fam­ily and friends tell you,” Fo­ley said. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool. But ul­ti­mately it comes down to how you play. You try not to let it get to your head too much.”

Short, 23, has al­ways been a slick-field­ing short­stop with dy­na­mite in his bat, ac­cord­ing to Sa­cred Heart coach Nick Res­taino.

“He’s elec­tric,” the coach said. “He’s a kid who prob­a­bly could have played on any team in the coun­try in col­lege. Out of high school, he wasn’t a big kid — still isn’t a big kid (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) — but he’s got a lot of fast-twitch in him. He’s a base­ball player, through and through. He was born to play base­ball, that kid.”

Short split last sea­son be­tween Class A South Bend, where he led Mid­west League in walks, and High-A Myr­tle Beach, and com­bined to hit 13 homers be­tween the two spots. That earned him a spot to start this sea­son in Dou­ble-A, and de­spite some early-sea­son strug­gles (.187 in April), Short has stuck around all sea­son.

“They’ll ex­ploit your weak­nesses here be­fore you even know what your weak­nesses are,” he noted. “That’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween here and other lev­els. They see it one game and keep at­tack­ing it un­til you prove you can change.”

It’s been a roller-coaster sea­son or Short, but he wants to fin­ish it out with a lit­tle more con­sis­tency.

“They like to think about August as the big­gest month for us,” he said. “It just shows you’re not cashing in, that your mind is still there for the whole month. That could go a long way for next year, where they place you.”

For Fo­ley, whose surgery was per­formed by Dr. James An­drews, it’s been a long, hot sum­mer of re­hab down in Lake­land. He just started throw­ing bullpen ses­sions a few weeks ago and will con­tinue do­ing that through the end of the month be­fore head­ing back north.

The Long Is­land prod­uct has found a place in Stam­ford and will train there while also fin­ish­ing up his fi­nal se­mes­ter of classes at Sa­cred Heart this fall. He’ll re­turn to Lake­land in Jan­uary to con­tinue his jour­ney and try to fol­low the path of All-Star Joe Jimenez, a Tiger re­liever who also was un­drafted.

“I al­ways thought, when I saw him throw, that he could be at the next level,” said Res­taino. “I’ve had a lot of pro­fes­sion­als, guys that have pitched in the mi­nor leagues, the big leagues, from the time I coached at Ford­ham. He’s so free and easy, he could get it into the mid-90’s, you knew he could put it all to­gether.”

Fo­ley, Short and Scrib­ner will con­tinue to make a good name for Sa­cred Heart base­ball, as well.

“It’s nice,” said Res­taino. “Those kids are all hard­work­ers, de­serv­ing. It’s good for us. We’re happy to see them do well.”

CON­GRAT­U­LA­TIONS

1 For­mer Housatonic Re­gional and UConn stand­out Willy Yahn has been named to the New York Penn League All-Star Game, which will be played on Tues­day in State Col­lege, Penn­syl­va­nia. Yahn, a third base­men at Aberdeen, will play for the South All-Stars.

1 Also, Lakeville’s Wills Mont­gomerie, a six­thround draft pick out of UConn last year by the Dodgers, has been pro­moted to High-A Ran­cho Cu­ca­monga.

Fo­ley

Short

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