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Conrad looks for fresh start with G-Braves

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Brooks Conrad finally got the long-awaited call-up last July. His stay in the majors didn't last long, though.

The former Arizona State standout got into six games with the Oakland A's and had 19 at-bats. Soon, he was headed back to Class AAA Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League.

"You always hope to get a little more of a shot," said Conrad, who managed just three hits with Oakland.

The California native has always put up impressive slugging numbers in the minors, especially for someone who is primarily a second baseman. But he didn't get a major league call with Houston and just a brief one with the A's.

The Atlanta organization is the switch-hitter's latest stop, after signing as a minor league free agent over the winter. At 29, he is looking for yet another fresh start.

"It's like night and day being over here with the Braves," Conrad said. "This is a first-class organization, one of the best there is."

Conrad got the game-winning double in the 10th inning Monday as Atlanta beat Boston 4-3, but he is realistic about his chances of sticking with the major league club. He knows he is likely heading to Gwinnett, where he should be one of the key hitters in the G-Braves' lineup as they enter play in the International League.

Having the same power success during his one year in the Oakland organization as he did with Houston, Conrad had 29 doubles, five triples, 28 homers and 91 RBIs in 117 games with Sacramento.

Conrad led all the minors with 79 extra-base hits in 2006, smashing 40 doubles, 15 triples and 24 homers for Class AAA Round Rock. He has 20 homers in each of the past four seasons.

The IL isn't the hitters' league that the PCL is, but Conrad should still be able to put up good numbers with the G-Braves. He has stung the ball wherever he has played, although his average isn't usually a high one.

"I didn't care for him at all when I had to play against him," said Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage, who faced him in both the PCL and Class AA Texas League. "He's a tough hitter."

Although a natural second baseman, Conrad played four of his six games in the majors at third base and his versatility is a plus.

"I know that the organization likes him being able to play more than one spot," Brundage said.

The Braves were the first team that contacted Conrad after last season and he was quick to sign.

"I was flattered to have a team like the Braves interested," he said.

Conrad has received a lot of opportunities with Atlanta this spring, but he still convinced that his decision was a good one.

"I'm prepared to go to AAA and it is a good situation to be so close to Atlanta," Conrad said. "Having a new stadium is a big plus, too. Some of the ballparks in the PCL weren't all that nice."

Conrad definitely has a booster in the Gwinnett manager, who has seen what he can do first hand.

"He can help a team in a lot of ways," Brundage said. "Any manager would like to have him."

SideBar: Gwinnett Braves

First game: April 9 at Charlotte, 11:15 a.m.

Home opener: April 17 vs. Norfolk, 7 p.m.

COMING SUNDAY

The Gwinnett Daily Post publishes its Gwinnett Braves preview section, a 24-page guide to the minor league baseball team's inaugural season.