Wizards Where R They?: Michael Restovich

In late 1998, a young Michael Restovich joined the Fort Wayne Wizards. He batted .444 in 11 games. Had the Wizards remained an affiliate of the Twins in 1999, Fort Wayne would have seen him back at the Castle, where he probably would have posted a great extended encore.

That year, Baseball America ranked Restovich highly among top prospects – an honor he claimed through 2003. As the Padres moved into Fort Wayne, the Twins shifted to Quad Cities. The outfielder opened the season with a 10-game hitting streak and ended it ranked second in the Midwest League in RBIs, fourth in homers, fifth in on-base percentage (.412) and total bases (253) and seventh in average. Along the way, he was named Midwest League Player of the Week for April 8-17, put together another 10-game hitting streak in June, and drove in seven runs in one game on May 25th. Following that season’s performance, Baseball America said he was the fourth-best prospect in the Midwest League.

By 2002, Michael Restovich had made it to Minnesota to play for the Twins, who had drafted him in the second round of the 1997 Draft (number 61 overall). He saw eight games of MLB action that year.

Restovich saw a combined 55 games of Big League action over the next two seasons as the Twins continued to develop their prospect at the Triple-A level. Indeed, he had the power stroke, hitting 16 and 20 home runs while at Triple-A Rochester in 2003 and 2004 respectively.

Since that time, he’s also played for Colorado, Pittsburgh, the Cubs, Washington and even played the 2008 season in Japan for Fukuoka in the Japanese Pacific League.

His peculiar sojourn began in 2005 following an off-season injury, breaking his collar bone after slipping on ice. Not only did it slow his progress and development, the packed outfield in Minnesota at the time made things difficult for the former Wizard.

He attended Spring Training with the Twins, but found himself placed on waivers and claimed by Tampa Bay. He was in that organization for all of a week before he was again a waiver claim – this time by the Colorado Rockies. He saw 14 big leage games with them, hitting .290 with a home run in that span.

He was then traded to Pittsburgh for a player to be named (which I believe turned out to be cash considerations). He appeared in 52 games with the Pirates, but his offensive production didn’t seem to come with him. He hit just .214 with 24 strikeouts in 84 at-bats. They released him following the season. The Cubs signed him to a Minor League deal, though he did see 10 games of Big League action. However, despite putting up respectable numbers at Triple-A Iowa, his offense remained AWOL, hitting .167 with no runs and one RBI.

Restovich signed with the Nationals for the 2007 season. Much like 2006, most of the year was spent at Triple-A. In his 15 big league games, he hit .143. Again, no runs and one lone RBI. 2008 was spent in Japan despite an opportunity to play in the Phillies organization, before returning in 2009 with the White Sox as a non-roster invitee. He spent all of 2009 with Triple-A Charlotte, but his offense seemed to return. He hit .290 with 21 home runs and 61 RBI.

In January of this year, Restoivich signed a Minor League deal with the Dodgers and was assigned to Triple-A Albuquerque. He’s batting .278 with 4 home runs and 16 RBI over 38 games. Somewhat intersting is the fact that he is a teammate of Jon Link (2006) – another former Wizard. The fact that they are both former Wizards is not all that interesting.Former Wizards end up as teammates – even outside the parent club – quite often.

Here’s the interesting part…

On the one hand, you have Link… an up and coming hurler who traces his Fort Wayne roots to a Single-A Padres affiliate. And then there is Restovich. He cut his Single-A teeth with 11 brief games as part of a team that was the last of the Minnesta era in Fort Wayne.

On the one hand, you have Link… a guy that was traded to bring Rob Mackowiak to San Diego in 2007. About that same time, Restovich looked to be playing the part of a talented slugger who had an unfortunate injury that might end his Major League hopes.

On the one hand, you have Link… a former Wizard brought to the Dodgers in a trade for Juan Pierre. Shortly after, he makes his Major League debut but still spends most of his time in the minors. And on the other hand, you have Restovich… a talented former up and comer who has refused to give up.

It’s an interesting crossroad that makes baseball great. Two men sharing a common bond of Fort Wayne baseball roots – but at different points in their careers. The dream is the same for each. The path from here is the same for each. And the opportunity is there for them both.

Here’s to hoping they get what they’re pursuing.

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