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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:10 pm 
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Spring Training Battles

The Calgary Pioneers invited more players to Spring Training than ever before. The locker room was pretty crowded with 55 newbies and vets jockeying for space and a position on the team’s 27 man roster. Some were guaranteed jobs and viewed the Spring as simply a way to get ready for the season. Some were youngsters that the team invited to get a taste of the big league environment, but knowing the whole time they would be going back down to the farm. The final group were the players fighting for jobs. Fighting for a starting position, a spot on the bench or the bullpen, or maybe their last shot at a big league career. Let’s look at some of the main battles this year.

Right Field - With the trade of Mario Balderas the team had to find a new right fielder. From the farm the team brought up Santiago Sanchez, Mauro Garcia and Jose Gonzales. Free agency brought in Mark Sturdivant. The competition wasn’t close with Santiago and Sturdivant hitting much better than the other two and winning the job with a platoon. Garcia was particularly disappointing considering the excitement in the front office when they found out he was really 2 years younger than they thought he was.

Bench outfielders - The team planned on carrying 2 bench outfielders. Jose Cota had an inside shot on one position due to his skills as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. The other would be one of the losers of the right field competition. Well Sturdivant won one spot so it came down to whether or not to keep Cota or a better bat. Garcia played awful and will go to AAA. Gonzales will join him, Cota got the job.

Shortstop and Utility - The infield was all sorted out with the exception of who would start at shortstop and who would be the second utility infielder. Zachary Becker was slotted to come back as one utility man, but the other would be one of the losers of the shortstop competition. Bilbo Baggins, who has started for the past 7 seasons, was on the hot seat challenged by a trio of youngsters. Newcomers Jaime Fernandez, Kageshisa Echi and prospect Winston Abernathy were in the fight for one spot. If Baggins lost his job he would move to the bench. If he kept it, one of them would go to the bench. Well Baggins hit .343 this Spring and won the job outright. Abernathy played well, but will go down to AAA where he can play every day. The team could keep Echi and and send Fernandez down or send the youngster down and keep the guy on the 40 man. They wanted to keep Echi and his lefthanded bat, but with a crowded 40 man already, Fernandez got the job.

Bench Bat - So keep another hitter like Miguel Saurez or keep another pitcher. Saurez earned his spot, but it was a numbers game and the team had too many pitchers they didn’t want to lose, so the bench bat lost out to the bullpen. Saurez will probably be called up as soon as an opening develops.

#4 and #5 Starting Pitchers - Juan Perez, Jose Torres, Rio Underhill, Jose Rodriguez and Erhard Linder were competing for the 2 final spots in the Calgary rotation. Underhill took himself out of the running with an injury and will start the year on the DL, which was a shame as he probably had won the #5 spot. Linder once again proved that he may never be a big league starter and will once again go to AAA, Free agency pickup Juan Perez won the #4 spot, but wasn’t as strong as the team had hoped. Two remained, with one spot to fight for. In the end the spot went to Torres, giving him another shot to stick in the rotation.

Setup man - Jesus Arce had one of the spots locked up, but the competition for the other was tough. Paul Farrell, Hector Perez, Jesus Casas, Carlos Lujan and Juan Onelas were all considered for the role. Lujan’s season ending injury took him out of the race. Unlike the starter competition, all of these guys pitched well. In the end the team decided to go with Farrell, but the others made a good claim on a bullpen position. An injury late in camp to Jason Morris opened up a temporary opening at the back of the pen so the team is putting Hector Perez there, while Arce moves to closer until Morris comes back.

Bullpen - Four spots were left, maybe 5. The team had to determine how many specialists to keep and if they could squeeze that 5th guy in. The ageless Esteban Ortiz will come back once again as a specialist and Curro Madrid will be a second lefty in the pen. Carlos Rodriguez was sent down to work on his control. Omar Ayala pitched well but he had options left. Mike Manning filled a vital role last year, but there was too much talent this year so he was put on waivers. Michail Nagibin won a spot because he is a Rule 5. Oswald Brenner was outstanding and won one of the final spots. With Casas and Onelas both on 30 day contracts, the team flipped a coin and kept Onelas and sent Casas down.


Calgary Pioneers 2004- Present
MBWBA Landis Memorial Cup Champs 2018, 2021
FL Champs 2018, 2021
FL Pacific Champs: 2016, 2019, 2021, 2034
FL Wildcard 2018, 2026-29, 2031-32
FL Manager of the Year 2019

Email: khdickson5@gmail.com

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