Slammers notes: Consistency would settle staff
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media June 14, 2012 6:18PM
Updated: July 16, 2012 6:26AM
A month into the Frontier League season, Joliet Slammers pitching coach Carmen Pignatiello has a wish for a starting rotation thus far in flux.
“What I would like to see happen is have five guys and run with it, kind of like we did last year,” Pignatiello said. “Guys get into routines. That means guys have to stay healthy and do well. That’s the most important thing.”
The Slammers are missing two starters from their Opening Day roster. Gaby Hernandez was picked up by the Arizona Diamondbacks a few days after the season started and Jeremy Tietze (0-2, 6.97 ERA) was traded last week.
Two other starters have had injuries: Jake Renshaw recently came off the disabled list and Michael Perconte is on the DL with a sore oblique.
“I’d like (Perconte) to go right back into the rotation when he’s healthy because he’s a solid starter,” Pignatiello said. “It’s going to be a little while for him.”
Tommy Mendoza, who started the season with the team, has been joined in the rotation by Steven Maxwell, Eric Binder and most recently Wander Alvino, a 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic who played in the California League last year.
Alvino had a good outing in his Slammers debut, an 8-0 victory Tuesday over Schaumburg. Alvino issued four walks, two in the first inning, but settled down and yielded only one hit in five innings.
“All the starters have thrown good games for us,” Pignatiello said.
Before Wednesday’s 9-1 loss to Schaumburg, the Slammers’ staff ERA was 3.36 and opponents were hitting only .223, both lowest in the league.
“We haven’t played our best baseball and we’re right in the mix,” Pignatiello said. “We’re pretty confident once we get this thing rolling, we’re going to be where we need to be at the end of the year.”
Not only has Abel Nieves been among the league’s top hitters in the first month of the season, the versatile 26-year-old Venezuelan has played six positions.
Nieves has been used at first, second and third base, shortstop, left field and right field. Pitching likely isn’t in his future, though. Manager Bart Zeller said outfielder Zach Mandelblatt or catcher Ben Hewett probably would be the emergency pitcher in case of a shortage of bullpen arms.
Nieves led the Slammers in several statistics going into Wednesday’s game, including batting average (.397), hits, total bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Plays to remember
Hewett was bowled over in a classic, full-speed collision at home plate last week against Windy City, but he held onto the ball after making the tag to end the inning. It prompted a handshake and pat on the back from Zeller as Hewett returned to the dugout. ... Third baseman Sean Estand has made several diving stops on groundballs this year, including a couple at the bag Monday and Wednesday against Schaumburg.
The Slammers this week traded outfielder Trevor Willis, a Lockport graduate, to the White Sands Pupfish of the Pecos League for a player to be named later. ... During the 13th inning of a 5œ-hour win Sunday over the London Rippers, Slammers radio announcer Aaron Morse received a tongue-in-cheek email from Joliet team president Bill Waliewski asking Morse if he was available to pitch. ... The Slammers handed Windy City its first home loss, 5-3, on June 6 at Standard Bank Stadium.