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Notes: Dillon rising through system


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MIAMI -- Because of their budgetary restraints, the Marlins are limited when it comes to trade possibilities.

So instead of searching outside the organization for a productive hitter, strong indications have the Marlins leaning toward promoting from within.


The player rapidly rising through the system is Joe Dillon.


If Dillon is indeed called up -- possibily within a week or even a few days -- his story will be something straight out of the movie The Rookie.


The 29-year-old Dillon literally came out of nowhere and is tearing up the Pacific Coast League for Triple-A Albuquerque.


Called up from Double-A Carolina on May 21, in one month in Triple-A, he is batting .380 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs.


The numbers are even more impressive considering he was originally promoted to Albuquerque on May 1, but struggled over five games and was sent back to Double-A.


But since May 21, when he became a fixture in the heart of the Isotopes lineup, Dillon is on a scorching pace, adding eight doubles, four triples and five stolen bases. He has an .852 slugging percentage and .438 on-base percentage.


A few days ago, the Marlins asked the Isotopes to try Dillon in left field, where he could be a candidate to unseat struggling veteran Jeff Conine. Conine could then be used in a platoon situation at first base with Hee Seop Choi.


Conine has been bothered by a right shoulder ailment since Spring Training, and his production has dropped off. The 37-year-old is hitting .167 (9-for-54) with runners in scoring position, and has one home run and 15 RBIs.


Dillon made his first start in left field on Sunday, when the Isotopes were in Nashville, and made one put-out. Dillon is a natural third baseman who has played second base and some first base. Left field is new, but it could be his path to the Major Leagues.


If Dillon is called up, he will have overcome long odds to achieve his big-league dream.


Originally part of the Royals' organization, Dillon spent 2002 in the Twins' minor league system. Seeing little chance for upward movement, he retired in 2003 and became a coach at Texas Tech. Then, while coaching at the college level, he underwent back surgery.


Through a couple of contacts in the Marlins system, he was advised to give pro ball another try.


Brandon Hyde, the hitting coach at the Marlins' low Class-A Greensboro team, and Tim Cossins, manager of the Marlins' Gulf Coast League squad -- both of whom were junior college teammates of Dillon -- recommended him.


If Dillon makes it, it would be the second time in a year that the Marlins sent a minor league third baseman to left field. On June 20, 2003, Miguel Cabrera made the switch and became a major factor in the team's World Series victory.




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