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Bozied gets bat ready for the bigs

Bevos first baseman earns a trip to the PCL All-Star Game

Given the San Diego Padres' track record for pushing their prospects, Tagg Bozied can't complain about being with the organization.

Still, the hulking Portland Beavers first baseman doesn't count on being with the Padres, next year or ever. It's the nature of being in the minors and being marketable.

'I don't get too caught up with who's in front of me,' Bozied says. 'Trades can happen, with or without me. When I'm ready to hit in the big leagues, I'll be ready to get there. You just have to develop yourself into a major league-caliber player.'

The first two seasons of the reborn Beavers have seen Sean Burroughs and Xavier Nady arrive and depart to San Diego on schedule. Burroughs starts at third base and Nady mostly in right field for the Padres.

Could Bozied be next? Maybe. It depends on whether the Padres want to stick with Phil Nevin, who signed a long-term deal last year, at first base.

Bozied waits and works in Portland, and he played well enough to make this year's Pacific Coast League all-star team. He and teammate Bernie Castro, a speedy leadoff hitter and second baseman, will join manager Rick Sweet, the appointed PCL manager, for the Triple-A All-Star Game against the International League on Wednesday in Memphis, Tenn.

Bozied ranks second on the Beavers in home runs (11) and RBIs (43) and is hitting .280. Sweet usually has Bozied firmly planted in the No. 4 cleanup spot, a show of respect for the slugger. The Beavers, unlike in past years, have their share of capable run-producers: Bozied, Jason Bay, Alex Pelaez, Alex Fernandez, Rich Gomez and Mark Quinn.

Bozied, who turns 24 on July 24, has been on San Diego's radar since the Padres picked him in the third round of the 2001 draft out of the University of San Francisco. He made a brief detour to independent ball before signing.

The native of South Dakota has size (6-3, 210), a nice stroke from the right side and some agility at first base. Baseball America rated him the fourth-best Padre prospect.

He hit a combined 24 home runs with 92 RBIs last year at Class A Lake Elsinore (Calif.) and Class AA Mobile (Ala.). He hit .298 in 71 games at Lake Elsinore and .214 in 60 with Mobile.

He suffered an ankle injury in the second game this season but came off the disabled list April 12 Ñ he tagged his first Triple-A homer in his first game back.

Bozied credits Beaver hitting instructor Rob Deer, who he worked under last year at Mobile, with helping him through his early-season struggles.

'I pressed. I could have buried myself, and Rob helped bring me out of that,' Bozied says. 'That's a tribute to him.'

Since then, Bozied says, 'I haven't got too hot in a stretch, just been real steady, which is something I like.'

Bozied has been working hard on 'controlling' at-bats, the way major league stars such as Edgar Martinez, Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols do: swinging at pitches he likes Ñ rather than ones the pitchers want him to swing at.

'In early years and college, you needed to stay back on the breaking ball or hit an inside fastball. Those were the keys,' he says. 'Here, you're going to get inside fastball, outside fastball, slider. And you have to defend against all of them.'

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