Time will tell for River Cats slugger

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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This is not the first time that Chris Carter and Darren Bush have crossed paths. With all due respect to Bush, the new manager of the Sacramento River Cats, Carter would prefer it be the last. Bush earned a Triple-A promotion by the Oakland A’s after being the skipper at Double-A Midland (Texas) the past two years. He was also the manager at Single-A Stockton in 2007 and 2008. Carter played for Bush at Stockton in 2008 and at Midland in 2009. This is Bush’s first season in Sacramento, but it is Carter’s second because the A’s have no use for him –at least for now. The A’s have no doubts about Carter’s bat, which produced 31 homers in 2010, but his defense remains a concern. Carter is moving to left field after playing primarily at first base last season. Bush also has no doubts about Carter’s offense, but learning to play in the outfield will take time. Carter will play in left and right field, but Bush did not rule out an occasional start in center. “He’s here to expand his opportunities,” Bush explained. “You need to be as versatile as you can.” There is no chance of Carter pouting because he was demoted, Bush said, because “he’s a true professional. We’ve worked together for two years, so I can watch him and tell how he’s doing.” Lacking outfield experience, Carter was the odd man out when the A’s set their 25-man roster. The news did not come as a surprise to Carter, who has already learned patience can be a virtue. “I was disappointed not to make the team, but I kind of expected that,” the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Carter said. “All I can do is focus on why I’m here. I’m going to be working more in the outfield.” Carter made his major-league debut last September, when the A’s expanded their roster to 40 players, but it was a dubious occasion. He set a team record by going hitless in his first 33 at-bats. Once he settled down, he batted .342 (13-for-38) with three homers and nine RBI in the A’s final 13 games. A slow start this season has left Carter with a .156 average through the River Cats’ first 12 games. Bush is confident Carter will make the most of his second season with the River Cats, as long as it lasts. “He’s one phone call away (from the major leagues),” Bush said. “His life could change in a minute.” Carter has time on his side. This is his fourth season in the A’s organization after being one of six players acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2007 trade for pitcher Dan Haren. In 2008, Carter announced his presence with authority by belting 39 homers and driving in 104 runs. He followed in 2009 with 24 homers at Midland and four in a brief stint with Sacramento. His climb through the minor leagues continued in 2010 when he joined the River Cats. The 24-year-old Carter ranked fourth in the Pacific Coast League in homers (31) and fifth in RBI (94). Bush expects more of the same this season because Carter has proved he can “put up numbers.” The manager laughed when asked how Carter has changed since the two were last together. “He talks to me now,” Bush said. “He didn’t talk to me at all back then.” Carter prefers to speak with his bat.