Jorge Piedra has suffered professional disappointment in the past year, but it doesn’t compare to the tragedy that afflicted his family. The Colorado Springs Sky Sox outfielder and his wife, Vanessa, watched their second daughter, Eva, die four hours into New Year’s Day. Eva was 3 months old. “It really hurts me emotionally,” Piedra said. “I’ve always felt all our lives are fickle. Things can change at any point.” Eva had a heart deficiency and spent her first six weeks in the intensive care unit at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. The Piedras live in suburban Frisco. “That was very hard on us but the little bit of time we had was great,” Piedra said. “I’ll never forget her.” Jorge and Vanessa underwent some counseling through their church. “It’s reality,” Jorge said. “You have to move on.” The Piedras have another daughter, Olivia, who turned 4 on Friday. Jorge celebrated by slugging two home runs at Portland. “I couldn’t be there with her, so I wanted to make it a special day somehow,” Piedra said. Piedra hasn’t had many good days in 2006. He started the season on the disabled list with an injured right heel, was optioned to the Sky Sox by the Colorado Rockies and had an uncharacteristic slump. “It’s been a little frustrating,” Piedra said. “I thought I had gotten over losing my little baby. It’s been a lot for me. Not to say my life (stinks), it’s just a lot of things bleeding together. There are all kinds of obstacles.” Piedra, 27, thought he’d earned a spot with the Rockies after he led majorleague pinch-hitters with a .455 average in 2005. That was the highest qualifying pinch-hit average in eight years, and the second-highest in 19 seasons. “I thought I’d performed well enough to stay in the big leagues,” Piedra said. “I was hoping they’d look past the fact that I was injured and just say, ‘Hey, you’re a bench guy.’ It took me some weeks to realize they were going to leave me here. Not hitting was more mental than physical. I felt uninspired here.” It showed. Piedra was hitting .207 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 35 games before Olivia’s birthday. In five games since, his average has jumped to .234 with three more homers and five RBIs. “Jorge has squared up a lot of balls the last few days,” said Sky Sox manager Tom Runnells. “He would give us another big bat behind (Jeff) Baker and (Ryan) Shealy. We could have some fun. . . . “Jorge has had a lot of adversity, but we all know Jorge can hit. His history tells us that he will. He really works hard.” Piedra hit .312 with 20 doubles, six homers and 45 RBIs in 47 games with the Sky Sox last season. He was promoted to the Rockies on June 10 and in 61 games he hit .313. Over the past two seasons, he has a .305 average in 99 games with the Rockies. “He knows what it takes to hit at the major-league level,” Runnells said. “And he’s a great guy to have around. Jorgie’s not afraid to make fun of himself. He keeps guys loose. Jorgie has a huge heart. He’s a wonderful young man. I really love him.” Piedra had a slow start last season for another reason: He was suspended April 11, 2005, for 10 games for violating baseball’s steroid policy. Piedra said it resulted from medicine prescribed by a personal physician. “I messed up and I learned from it,” Piedra said. “A professional doctor prescribed it and I trusted that. Everybody has tribulations and I’ve had a lot lately. You deal with it and move on.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0250 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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