2012 Revs recap: Bullpen, catchers

Here it is, the fourth and final recap of the 2012 York Revolution squad, this time on the bullpen and catchers (sorry catchers, no separate post for perhaps the toughest position in baseball). My apologies on getting around to this late, been a little busy covering high school sports as we get into the time of the year for league titles, playoffs, districts and beyond, as well as catching up on reading all the Sports Illustrateds that have been laying around the house for weeks (seriously, who can read those things front to back each week?) and breaking my ankles jumping on and off the Baltimore Orioles’ bandwagon (don’t act like you weren’t doing the same). Anyway, before we get to that, wanted to point out a couple newsworthy items worth checking out:

- Atlantic League expansion…to the Caribbean?: YDR Revs’ beat writer Jim Seip did a good job reporting on Peter Kirk’s intentions of possibly expanding the Atlantic League to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Cuba (yes, really, Cuba). This would make sense, considering at least a fifth of most Atlantic League rosters are made up of players from the Caribbean. A roster could easily be filled should the league want to travel far down south. And if it can be any kind of draw like Sugar Land, why not give it a shot? The only question mark would be travel costs. It makes no sense to do it if the league loses money.

- Camden front office: The Riversharks sent out a press release Monday announcing longtime general manager Adam Lorber is being promoted to general manager AND team president. Lorber has served as the team’s GM since 2003. In addition, Lindsay Rosenberg, who has spent the last four seasons in group sales has been promoted to the position of assistant general manager. Rosenberg earned a bachelor’s degree in Sports, Entertainment and Event Management from Johnson and Wales (Rhode Island) University in 2009. While attending school, she had opportunities to work at both Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA and at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Now on to the recap….

 

As far as publicity goes, the guys in the bullpen have it tough. Position players and starting pitchers normally get most of the attention. On the rare occasion a reliever gets anything said about him, it’s normally because he’s been lights-out as a closer or a set-up man or he made an impressive spot start. So, if a reliever doesn’t fit that category, he’s probably left out on the street with the rest of the guys who don’t get much attention, even if they might have an interesting back-story. So, lets just say this blog post is my attempt at making up for all of that….

Righty Adam Thomas collected an 8-2 record and 3.65 ERA in 67 appearances. File photo.

At the start: At the start of the year, York’s bullpen consisted of right-handers Dumas Garcia, Ricardo Gomez, Omar Javier, Santo Luis, Stephen Penney, R.J. Rodriguez, Shaun Garceau and Adam Thomas and left-handers James Houser, Yunior Novoa and Ian Thomas. By the end Gomez, Novoa, Penney, Rodriguez and Thomas were all that were left of the original bunch. Newcomers on York’s year-end roster included right-handers Mike Benacka and Kris Regas and left-hander Wade Korpi.

Come and go: Garcia (1-0, 6.00 ERA, 27 games), Garceau (0-0, 7-71 ERA, 3 games), Houser (2-1, 5.50 ERA, 33 games), Javier (1-6, 5.66 ERA, 22 games) and Luis (0-0, 4-50 ERA, 3 games) were all released at some point in the season, while right-hander Andy Wells (0-0, 16.61 ERA, 3 games) and left-handers Matt Chico (1-3, 7.50 ERA, six starts) and Victor Garate (0-0, 5.40 ERA, 1 game) were on the short list of pitchers who joined York mid-season but would be released before the end of the year.

Picked up: Thomas the only York reliever and one of three Revs’ players to earn a big league contract this season (all three were pitchers)  in 2012. The 25-year-old earned his first affiliated contract after putting together a 0.96 ERA in 9.1 innings of relief for York. He had spent his first three pro seasons with independent club Winnipeg (Northern League/American Association) before coming to York. In 26 relief appearances for Rome, the lefty went 5-0 with a 3.15 ERA, striking out 58 and walking 15 over 45.2 innings pitched.

8th/9th inning guys: Right-hander R.J. Rodriguez started off the year as the Revs’ closer but lost the job to Ricardo Gomez when he left for the Mexican League mid-season. Adam Thomas served as the Revs’ set-up man the majority of the first-half and then split the duties with Rodriguez when he returned. Rodriguez did fill in as the ninth-inning guy occasionally in the final couple months. Rodriguez went 2-3 with a 2.02 ERA and 13 saves over 55 appearances. Thomas had a 8-2 record and 3.65 ERA in 67 appearances (64 innings), striking out 42 and walking 15. Gomez collected 17 saves, 2.66 ERA and 4-1 record in 46 games (47.1 innings).

LHP Yunior Novoa

Middle relief: Left-handers Yunior Novoa (2-6, 4.71 ERA, five starts, 38 games), Kris Regas (3-2, 2.78 ERA, 44 games) and Wade Korpi (4-0, 2.26 ERA, 3 starts, 18 games) and right-hander Stephen Penney (2-1, 3.13 ERA, 62 games) had good seasons in the ‘pen.

Novoa went back-and-forth between the bullpen and starting rotation at the start of the year before serving mainly as a reliever in the final few months. Korpi ended up being a good mid-season pick-up for the Revs. The lefty was lights-out in his three spot starts, putting up a stellar 1.93 ERA in 9.1 innings.

One other middle reliever, Mike Benacka, joined York in the final month of the season and had a 1-0 record, 3.00 ERA and one save in six relief appearances. But he took the loss after giving up four runs on one hit and two walks in 2/3 of an inning in Game Two of the Freedom Division Championship Series against Lancaster. The Revs didn’t like what they saw, either, sending him back to the Laredo Lemurs (American Association) after the season.

C Travis Scott

Catchers: Instead of dedicating a whole blog post to the catchers, it’ll be included here as more an honorable mention (sorry Travis Scott and Salomon Manriquez). York started off the year with Scott and Salvador Paniagua behind the dish. Etch’ used the left-handed hitting Scott and right-handed hitting Paniagua as a platoon. York released Paniagua on July 19 and signed Manriquez the next day. It’s tough in the Atlantic League to find a solid defensive catcher who can also hit well. And when that rare guy comes along, he’s normally picked up right away by a big league club since that’s so rare. That’s why it’s tough to be hard on Atlantic League clubs about not finding a solid-hitting catcher. Plus, it has to be hard on catchers to have a good batting average considering they’re not playing every game for obvious reasons.

With all that being said, Scott had a .228 average with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 81 games while Manriquez finished with a .287 average, two homers and 16 RBIs in 32 games. Manriquez upped his batting average in his final 18 games, during which he went he hit .387. Paniagua departed mid-season with a .227 average over 40 games.

(Note*The following stats are through Game 2 of the FDCS) As far as how they performed behind the plate, Paniagua caught in 40 games (38 starts) and caught a total of 328.2 innings. York pitchers had a 4.11 ERA with Paniagua catching. Revs’ pitchers were about the same in the 601.1 innings with Scott behind the dish with a 4.12 ERA. Manriquez, meanwhile, made 32 starts to help Revs’ pitchers get a 3.63 ERA in his 275.1 innings catching. However, all three had trouble throwing out runners at second and third. Paniagua caught 5 of the 40 guys who stole on him, while Scott gunned 12 of 48 and Manriquez nailed down just three of 25 base-stealers. That’s a combined percentage of 17.7 (20 caught of 113 base-stealers).

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Chico looks to turn fortunes around with fresh start in York

LHP Matt Chico

His numbers haven’t been great this year, certainly no where near what he’s done throughout his career.

Yet, there is reason for optimism for Matt Chico. The newly acquired starting pitcher made his debut for the York Revolution on Monday night, but he gave up five runs on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts in just four innings of work.

It was a continuation of the struggles he’s had this season.Chicocame over toYorkafter being released from the New Jersey Jackals (independent Can-Am League) late last week.

In five starts forNew Jersey, the 29-year-old lefty posted an 0-4 record and 9.39 ERA. He struck out 13 and walked 11 in 23 innings of work.

In need of starting pitching, Revs’ pitching coach Mark Mason had Chico travel to Somerset over the weekend (York was in the middle of a four-game series at Somerset) to throw a bullpen session. And Mason liked what he saw.

“He had good movement on his pitches,” Mason said ofChico. “I thought his arm strength is good enough. He probably wasn’t at his best there (New Jersey).”

Bullpen:Chico’s fastball topped out at 88 miles per hour on Monday. He said that’s the normal speed he’s been at most of his career, mainly relying on off-speed pitches. And that’s probably why he feels more comfortable as a starter than a reliever.

Just a year ago, the Washington Nationals tried movingChicointo the bullpen for the first time in his career.

The 5-foot, 11-inch, 190-pound southpaw bounced between Class AA Harrisburg, Class AAA Syracuse and GCL Nationals, combining for a 5.87 ERA in 27 games (two starts).

“I’ve never been in the bullpen before. I didn’t know how to just get ready. I’m used to throwing 40 pitches before a game trying to get hot. I struggled out of the bullpen,”Chicosaid. “I feel like I’m better as a starter just stuff-wise. I’m more of an off-speed pitcher. A bullpen guy…most guys are throwing 90 to 95 (miles an hour).”

Chico is trying to work his way back into a role where he’s found the most success in his now 10-year pro career.

A former third-round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2003, Chico would be traded along with right-hander Garrett Mock to the Nationals August 7, 2006 in exchange for righty Livan Hernandez.

The following season, the Florida resident made the Nats’ starting rotation out of spring training. He would make 31 starts that year in his rookie season, going 7-9 with a 4.63 ERA. Having never previously pitched above Class AA,Chicothat year led the Nats’ staff in starts, innings, strikeouts and wins while ranking No. 2 in the majors in starts by a rookie behind Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka (32).

Chico would be the Nats’ No. 2 starter coming out of spring training in 2008, but went 0-6 with a 6.19 ERA in 11 games (eight starts) and was optioned to Class AAA Columbus. He made just one appearance for Columbus before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

He made it back to action in 2009 and reached the majors again with the Nats’ in 2010, starting in just one game.Chicohas totaled 43 games (40 startes) in the majors with Washington, going 7-15 with a 4.95 ERA from 2007 through 2010.

Reclamation project: Mason has proven before he can help pitchers turn things around. The most recent example is probably York’s left-hander Chris Cody, who had a 9.92 ERA in his first four starts this year. After Cody worked on some of his mechanics with Mason, Cody has a 1.80 ERA in his last six starts.

So, maybe Mason can help out Chico, too. After all, Chico has enough velocity to succeed in the Atlantic League, but it’s his control that needs to be fixed.

“He kind of lost his rhythm after the first two innings. I don’t know if it was because runners were on base and he was trying to be perfect,” Mason said. “He has a tendency to get fast. We’re going to work on some stuff in the ‘pen. He threw the ball good enough except for that one inning (on Monday).”

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Revs’ RHP Shawn Hill signed by Blue Jays

RHP Shawn Hill will report to Class AAA Las Vegas

The York Revolution announced Monday that right-handed starter Shawn Hill has been picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays and assigned to Class AAA Las Vegas.

After what he did with the Revs in his five starts, it was just a matter of time before a big league club came calling for Hill. The righty did not allow a run in his five starts, setting a club record 27.2 consecutive innings scoreless streak (snapped Corey Thurman’s previous 24-inning mark set over four starts back in June 2008).

Hill becomes the third York pitcher to have their contracts purchased by major league clubs this season, joining lefty reliever Ian Thomas (Braves) and lefty starter Ryan Feierabend (Reds).

The signing seems to be a good fit for Hill, too, as he’ll be attempting a comeback to the big leagues with the same team he pitched for in the majors near the end of the 2010 season.

Vascular surgery: Hill’s time with the Blue Jays in 2010 marked the sixth time in his career he reached the big leagues. During an interview in early May, Hill had said he pretty much pitched through the entire 2010 season despite experiencing severe pain after games. The following spring training, the then Florida Marlins released Hill because the pain returned in his elbow.

RHP Shawn Hill

Hill went on to pitch for Team Canada in the 2011 Pan-Am Games in October, all the while still looking around for answer to fix his arm. The Florida resident ended up talking to the team doctor of the Tampa Bay Rays, who suggested seeing a vascular surgeon in Dallas.

The 31-year-old Hill eventually underwent vascular surgery in February to remove a rib under his right clavicle.

“It’s a small rib. You would never even know it’s there,” Hill had said. “So, they removed that and the part of the muscle that goes through the area.”

Comeback: While in York, Hill had said it’s the healthiest he’s felt in four years. But despite his dominance on the mound, he had said after a couple of his starts that he still didn’t feel like he had his best stuff.

So, one has to imagine he’s only going to get better as the season progresses. And given what he did with York already this season, his future looks bright.

In 44 combined starts spanning from 2004 to 2010, Hill has a career 9-18 record and 4.47 ERA at the big league level.

LHP Matt Chico

York signs Chico: With Hill’s departure, York signed left-handed starter Matt Chico to fill his spot in the rotation.

Chico and Hill were teammates with the Nationals back in 2008. And knowing that Chico had recently been released by the New Jersey Jackals (independent Can-Am League), Hill recommended the Revs take a look at him.

Chico is coming off possibly his worst consecutive starts in his now 10-year pro career. In five starts for New Jersey, the 29-year-old lefty posted an 0-4 record and 9.39 ERA. He struck out 13 and walked 11 in 23 innings of work. New Jersey released him on June 13.

Despite his poor numbers with New Jersey, there is reason to believe Chico does have some upside.

A former third-round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2003,Chico would be traded along with right-hander Garrett Mock to the Nationals August 7, 2006 in exchange for righty Livan Hernandez.

The following season, Chico made the Nats’ starting rotation out of spring training. He would make 31 starts that year in his rookie season, going 7-9 with a 4.63 ERA. Having never previously pitched above Class AA, Chico that year led the Nats’ staff in starts, innings, strikeouts and wins while ranking No. 2 in the majors in starts by a rookie behind Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka (32).

The following season Chico was the Nats’ No. 2 starter coming out of spring training but went 0-6 with a 6.19 ERA in 11 games (eight starts) and was optioned to Class AAA Columbus. He made just one appearance for Columbus before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

He made it back to action in 2009 and reached the majors again with the Nats’ in 2010, starting in just one game. Chico has totaled 43 games (40 startes) in the majors with Washington, going 7-15 with a 4.95 ERA from 2007 through 2010.

Last year Chico bounced between Class AA Harrisburg, Class AAA Syracuse and GCL Nationals, combining for a 5.87 ERA in 27 games (two starts).

Pitching search continues: Chico’s woes continued on Monday night. In his first start in a Revs’ uniform, the lefty allowed five runs on six hits in four innings of work, walking four and striking out three. He threw 47 of his 81 pitches for strikes. That likely means York’s search for quality starting pitching is likely still ongoing, like it has pretty much been ongoing since Feierabend was picked up in early June. Hill, Thurman and Chris Cody have been York’s most reliable starters, while Yunior Novoa and Omar Javier have been inconsistent.

LHP Chris Waters

The Revs signed former Baltimore Orioles’ starter Chris Waters last week, but he came to York not having seen live action since the 2010 season. He started Saturday’s game at Somerset, tossing two scoreless innings (allowed two hits, struck out three, no walks). So, he’s probably still a couple starts away from going at least five innings in a start.

For now, York’s starting rotation looks like this: RHP Corey Thurman (5-1, 4.24 ERA), Waters (0-0, 0.00), Javier (0-5, 6.61 ERA), LHP Chris Cody (4-5, 4.15 ERA).

However, there should be some optimism about York’s pitching. Prior to Chico’s start on Monday, Revs pitching had allowed just 10 earned runs in its last 60.1 IP (1.49 ERA) since June 11, and just eight runs combined over the previous six games.

OF Scott Grimes (above) is recovering from a sprained thumb. John A. Pavoncello file photo.

Outfield injuries: York is also likely still looking for another outfielder. Last week, outfielder Bobby Kielty opted to retire, leaving the Revs with four outfielders. On Saturday, outfielder Scott Grimes sustained a sprained thumb while diving for a fly ball and has been out of action since then.

As a result, York is down to three outfielders: Brandon Haveman, Michael Hernandez and James Shanks. And Shanks sat out five games last week to rest up his left leg. Shanks said earlier this season he is battling tendonitis in the left knee and it’s just something he’ll have to play through. York skipper Andy Etchebarren has put Shanks at the designated hitter spot several times this season to give him rest from manning the outfield. But he’s been playing the outfield with Grimes out.

 

 

 

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