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PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:36 am 
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Joined: Sat Nov 14, 2015 11:48 pm
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Move to Closer Completes Transformation

Do you remember the old days? You know, the dire days before David Cantu came to the Yellow Springs Nine and anchored the bullpen? Remember how Cesar Martinez stumbled around on the mound in those early days of 9th inning massacres? Remember how Jose Marroquin and Jose Souza tried to tag team it? Remember the club thinking about ripping Cesar Sandoval out of a role he’s totally killing to try to solve the problem? Can you believe there was a moment when manager Bret Richards thought Randall Thomas might be able to close?

Yes, it’s only a month ago that David Cantu (32, home: Santa Domingo) (10/8/9 Talents) came to the team and was planted in the closer role, but you can be forgiven for having blotted the old days out so hard that you can’t remember them. It’s called basic self-care. Psychologists recommend it. At least, all the psychologists who actually care to make people feel better.

Since July 28th, Cantu has saved 13 baseball games for the Yellow Springs Nine. It’s a total that puts him at #46 on the all-time franchise list. At this rate he’ll be 32nd by the end of the season. That’s in two months of work.

“It helps that the team’s winning,” Cantu deadpanned. “It’s hard to save a game you’re not winning.”

A Journey of Several Steps

Cantu’s career started as a teen ager when he signed a minor league contract. As a starting pitcher he moved through the organization before appearing with the Kraken at age 23. A season later he was traded to Greenville, where he suffered on losing teams that included a dreadful 8-21, 5.74 season in 2025. Another trade rejuvenated his career, however, this time to Las Vegas, where he pitched three seasons, went 32-15, and won a Landis.

“That was a good time,” he said. “I felt like I was in the right place at the right time.”

His time with the Hustlers finished up in 2028, however, with a torn rotator cuff. It hurt in more ways than one because the Vegas folks just pretty much discarded him. “It was clear they didn’t care about what happened to me, so I looked other directions. It’s okay, though. Just business.”

That business took him to Atlantic City, who pushed him to the pen.

Today, Cantu calls that move “Phase II of my career.” He was coming off the rotator cuff surgery, and figuring out how to throw from the pen. Call it what you will, however, as long as you call it successful. Cantu went 6-3 with a save last year, dropping a 1.91 ERA in 85 innings of work.

“It took a while to get comfortable with the flow of the game out there. But it’s interesting. Very different. You have this idea that you might get a call, but you’re watching the game and always analyzing whether that call is coming or not—then, when you get the call you know the other guy is looking at you with that “don’t screw this up,” expression. It’s weird.”

This season started in a similar fashion.3-3, 2.91. Solid pitching. Atlantic City wasn’t doing a lot in the standings, though, so the games weren’t as meaningful. Cantu had to pump himself up. The game became more personal, less team.

Then the phone rang.

Traded again. This time Yellow Springs. Time for:

“It’s different again being asked to close,” Cantu said. “You start off knowing that you’re not getting the call in the sixth or seventh. Ever. Even the eighth means it’s probably not coming. So you’re just getting your mind in gear around that last inning.”

When he was informed he was going to close, Cantu picked up the phone again this time calling a few of the guys around the league just to get his mind around the role. “The problem with closing isn’t physical,” he said. “At least I don’t think it is. The problem is mental. You have to be able to jump into the burning building and get to work at your best right away. No shitting around with setting guys up for later. No fiddling around. You just need to get guys out now. I find that kind of fun.”

What the Nine are finding fun is counting up his saves. His 13 have some in 17 appearances. His one loss as a Nine did not come in a save situation.

“It’s a great group of players,” Cantu said of his new teammates. “They can go get runs when we need them, and the pitchers here are amazing. I don’t think I’ve been around a better set of guys. They can really throw. I’m learning something new every day.”

The Future?
At 32, Cantu is riding high. His contract calls for three more seasons, and the team seems pretty pleased with his efforts. Both Cantu and the Nine front office hope he’s solved the team’s deep-seated need for a closer for the foreseeable future.

“We like David a lot,” said pitching coach Robert LaLoosh. “He throws hard and he doesn’t walk guys. I think he could still get more out of that sinker, too. We’ll work on that.”

Cantu seems to like Yellow Springs a lot, too. And he has his eyes set on that all-time saves list, noting that Pablo Romero sits on top of it with 190. “I could make a run at that, don’t you think? Wouldn’t that be fun?”

Yes, fans, wouldn’t that be fun? Perhaps it would obliterate the memory of what came before so heavily that we could totally forget it, eh? Wouldn’t that be fun?

Yellow Springs Nine
Playoff Regular, Landis Averse

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:18 pm 
League Advisor
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Joined: Thu Jun 04, 2015 2:50 pm
Posts: 3191
Nice to see a guy who had "bust" written all over him develop into a useful player.

Ted Schmidt
California Crusaders (2021-present)

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