Koonce a slugger to remember

Graham Koonce, Retired (River Cats, 2003-2004)

Drafted in the 60th round of the 1993 MLB draft, Koonce was a player who left his imprint on an upstart Minor League franchise but was never able to stick in the Major Leagues. With just eight at-bats in Oakland in 2003, Koonce’s only hit was a double, striking out six of the seven other times he was at the plate.

Koonce was a player who put Sacramento fans on the edge of their seat. His .259 average won’t be found in the top-10 for the River Cats all-time, but it seems everything else can be.

In two seasons for Sacramento, Koonce put up gaudy numbers. In 2003, he had the best year of any Sacramento power hitter, hitting 34 homers and 115 RBIs. He currently ranks first in both home runs (56) and walks (175), third in RBIs (192) and seventh in runs (155).

Soon after the 2004 season, the 29-year-old was granted free agency and bounced from team to team the rest of his career. Koonce was a victim of terrible circumstance. Stuck behind a guy by the name of Cecil Fielder when he was drafted by Detroit in 1993, much of the same would happen throughout his career. Stuck behind Wally Joyner on the San Diego Padres, Jason Giambi, Carlos Pena and Dan Johnson on the A’s, his career would close stuck behind another Fielder in Milwaukee.

Gio Gonzalez, Oakland Athletics (River Cats, 2008-2009)

A teammate of current River Cat Adrian Cardenas at Monsignor Edward Pace High in Miami Gardens, Fla., Gonzalez has gone on to be a star in Oakland.

The first-round pick (38th) by the Chicago White Sox in the 2004 MLB draft, Gonzalez was traded four years later in a deal involving former River Cat Nick Swisher.

Gonzalez soon found himself pitching for a champion in the second year of Sacramento’s back-to-back Triple-A titles. Gonzalez finished the 2008 season with an 8-7 record and 4.24 ERA, but followed that season with a year that would warrant a trip to Oakland. In 2009, Gonzalez was 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 12 games for Sacramento, allowing him to trade his River Cat red for some green and gold.

Although he pitched for Oakland in 2008 and 2009, it was in 2010 that Gonzalez found his groove. A 15-9 record with a 3.23 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 2010, Gonzalez looks to improve on that this season. Through 17 starts in 2011, he is 8-5 with a 2.31 ERA and 106 strikeouts, earning a spot on the American League All-Star team.

Clayton Mortensen, Colorado Rockies (River Cats, 2009-2010)

Mortensen was a PCL All-Star for the River Cats last season, boasting a 13-6 record with a 4.25 ERA while leading the team with 112 strikeouts. Months after the River Cats season came to a close, so did Mortensen’s time with the club, as he was dealt to the Colorado Rockies for Ethan Hollingsworth.

A first-round pick (36th by the St. Louis Cardinals) in 2007, Mortensen has pitched in 16 games for Colorado this year (six starts). The 26-year-old right-hander is currently 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA.

In June, Mortensen went a span of five games (June 6-25) allowing just three earned runs in 13 innings of relief pitching.

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