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June 21. 2014 10:33PM

Just getting started for area ballplayers working through minors, majors

WHILE fellow Yankees farmhand Jordan Cote of Sanbornton and other professional baseball players are nearing the midway point of the season, Bedford's Joey Maher is still waiting for his season to begin.

Maher, 21, had elbow surgery in April and hasn't pitched since the first day of spring training. He is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session two weeks from tomorrow.

"I should be good for the last month of the season, then the instructional league and possibly winter ball," Maher said. "This has been the longest two-and-a-half months of my life."

A 6-foot, 5-inch righthander, Maher said he felt extreme pain during his two innings on the mound during the first day of spring training. He had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur the following month.

"My surgeon compared it to a pebble in your shoe," Maher said. "If the pebble is between your toes, you may be able to walk. It all depends on where the pebble is.

"My arm had been hurting a lot previous to that outing, but I figured it was tendinitis. The level of pain was so bad that day that I brought it to the attention of the trainers."

The Yankees selected Maher out of Bedford High School in the 38th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He spent most of last season in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League but did pitch one game for the Tampa Yankees in the Class-A Florida State League.

Maher said it's possible he could be pitching for one of the Yankees minor-league affiliates as early as late July.

"I had such high expectations for myself this year," he said. "I have to look at the big picture and trust the program."

If Maher does make it onto an active roster before the end of the season, he could find himself on the same team as Cote.

Selected in the third round of the same draft as Maher's, Cote - also 21 and also 6-5 but left-handed - made his first 12 appearances this year out of the bullpen for Charleston of the lower-tier Class-A South Atlantic League. After going 1-1 with a 5.32 ERA with Charleston, he's now in the starting rotation for the Staten Island of the Class-A Short Season New York-Penn League (NYPL).

Cote made his first start June 16 and gave up one run on four hits and a walk over four innings against Mets affiliate Brooklyn. He was scheduled to start Saturday night against Hudson Valley, a Rays affiliate.

Staten Island visits Lowell, Mass., to the play the Red Sox-affiliated Spinners July 9-11.

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WHAT WAS the first thing Daniel Norris bought after he signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 that was worth $2 million? A 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia camper van.

Norris, a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher out of Tennessee, calls his vehicle "Shaggy" after the character in the Scooby-Doo cartoon. He uses the vehicle for more than transportation; sometimes it's his living quarters.

"It's something I wanted all my life," said Norris, who made his first start with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Wednesday night. "When the opportunity came to get my own I jumped at it. I would feel weird driving around in a super-nice car. This was something closer to my heart.

"I grew up in the mountains, and we were always hiking and camping, so I'm accustomed to camping and living like that. I went down to spring training over a month early, and I'd rather not pay rent. That's one of the reasons I bought the van. It very functional. It's got two beds in there, and I can live out of it. That was the whole idea. Whenever I have to, I can live out of this thing."

Baseball America ranked Norris as Toronto's No. 6 prospect when the season began. He was promoted to New Hampshire after posting a 6-0 record and a league-leading 1.22 ERA in 13 starts with upper-tier Class-A Dunedin of the Florida State League.

The Blue Jays selected Norris in the second round of the 2011 draft out of Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn.

According to Norris, "Shaggy" has two beds, a sink, a portable stove and a refrigerator.

"The fridge doesn't work, so I have a cooler in there," he said.

Norris said he will live in an apartment while he's with the Fisher Cats because he prefers to get "good rest" during the season. At the moment, Shaggy is not in Manchester.

"It's in Tennessee right now," Norris said. "Maybe it'll make it's way up here."

CONWAY'S Jeff Locke has made three quality starts with Pittsburgh since he was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on June 8, but he has nothing to show for it. Locke allowed no more than two runs and pitched at least six innings in each of those starts but didn't collect the win in any of the three games. He left with the lead in two of the three starts.

Locke's most recent outing was Thursday, when Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati 4-3 in 12 innings. The Pirates had a 3-2 lead , but Locke lost the victory when Jason Grilli allowed a ninth-inning home run for the second consecutive game.

FORMER Portsmouth High School shortstop Mike Fransoso entered the weekend batting .235 (4 for 17) with a .381 on-base percentage in five games since being assigned to the Jamestown (N.Y.) Jammers, Pittsburgh's Class-A affiliate in the NYPL.

Fransoso, who played at the University of Maine, was an all-star with Jamestown last year, when he hit .253 with two home runs, 25 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 67 games. He had been playing for the Class-A West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League before being assigned to Jamestown.Goffstown's Riley Palmer had one hit (a double) in his first five at-bats with the Aberdeen Ironbirds, Baltimore's affiliate in in the NYPL. Baltimore selected Palmer in the 31st round of this year's draft. He recently completed his senior season at Southern New Hampshire University.Jamestown does not travel to Lowell during the regular season this year, but Aberdeen is scheduled to visit the Spinners Aug. 28-30.

Email staff reporter Roger Brown at rbrown@unionleader.com. Follow him on Twitter @603sportsmedia.


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