Baseball: Slammers’ Zeller says some guys have heart, other’s don’t
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media August 30, 2012 8:34PM
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:39PM
With only a few games left in the season, Joliet Slammers pitcher Tommy Mendoza took one for the team after another starting pitcher took a different route.
“Steven Maxwell decided he didn’t have it in his heart to play, didn’t want to continue,’’ manager Bart Zeller said of the rookie right-hander from Texas Christian. “I begged him to stick around for one more start because it wasn’t fair to the other 23 members of this team. And he said ‘No.’ ’’
Enter Mendoza, the oldest Slammers pitcher and the only one left with Triple-A experience.
“Tommy had a wedding to go to,’’ Zeller said. “But Tommy calls us and says ‘I’m going to stay and pitch.’ My point in bringing this up is some guys have heart and other guys don’t. This guy has no reason to stay, but he felt the obligation to the team that if he wasn’t there, we’d struggle to find another starting pitcher.’’
Mendoza (4-7) didn’t get any run support Wednesday in a 3-0 road loss to the Washington Wild Things.
Mendoza joined the Slammers in June 2011. He was 6-2 in the regular season and won both his starts in the playoffs with a 1.50 ERA to help Joliet win the 2011 Frontier League title.
Mendoza and Maxwell shared the team lead in starts this year with 18 each going into the final week. Mendoza likely won’t be back with the Slammers next season.
“Tommy needs to pitch in a higher league,’’ Zeller said. “Tommy needs to go into the Atlantic League or the American Association or get into affiliated ball because him pitching here another year won’t help him.’’
Geoff Brown became the fourth Slammers pitcher this season to make it to affiliated ball when his contract was purchased Monday by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Class A team in the Midwest League.
Brown will join former Slammers relievers Amalio Diaz and Daniel Carela, who were acquired Aug. 19 by the Great Lakes Loons. Starter Gaby Hernandez signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization early in the season.
The final home game of the season Sunday was rained out, but the final three games are only 90 minutes away. The Slammers play the Normal CornBelters on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at The Corn Crib in Normal.
The Slammers took two of three from Normal last month at Silver Cross Field, including a 5-3 victory in the series finale before the All-Star break.
Abel Nieves’ batting average had dropped 30 points with a week to go, but was up to .327, second in the league, after the first two games against Washington. Nieves homered Tuesday before getting a single, double and triple Wednesday against the Wild Things. ... Brad Netzel, who raised his average from .220 earlier in the season to .288, was tied for fourth in the league in doubles (23) with a week to go. ... Entering Thursday’s games, East Division champion Traverse City was the only team to clinch a spot in the four-team playoffs that start next week.