2012 Revs recap: Infield

Chris Nowak became the club leader in homers (59) this season as well as sitting several other club marks. Bill Kalina file photo.

At the start: York’s infield at the start of the year had Chris Nowak at first base, Andres Perez at second, Danny Gonzalez at short stop and Ramon Castro at third with depth coming from back-ups in utlity man Joe Spiers and player-coach Liu Rodriguez.

With so many infielders, York soon shipped Spiers to Lincoln (American Association) on May 21 for a player to be named later – opting to give him an opportunity to play more often with the Salt Dogs instead of sitting on the bench in York. Spiers, who York acquired from Lancaster in an off-season trade for a player to be named later,  played in just three games for the Revs, batting 2-for-7 at the plate (.286) with a double, RBI and one run scored. He went on to bat a collective .305 with two homers, 29 RBIs 53 runs scored and 33 stolen bases in 86 games split between Lincoln St. Paul (American Association).

In the middle: York took a big blow to its lineup when Nowak got picked up June 22 by the Mexican League’s Mexico City club. Outfielder Michael Hernandez would end up playing first during Nowak’s brief absence. The Revs also signed Kyle Haines to provide some depth in the infield. However, Nowak soon returned July 2 after being cut by Mexico City – the team apparently needed to trim its roster for the playoffs and decided between Nowak and Johan Limonta (more on him later).

York released Haines a couple weeks later. He held a .217 average with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored in the eight games he played for the Revs. Haines soon found work with Lancaster and finished the year batting .239 with a homer, eight RBIs and 12 runs scored 42 games for the Barnstormers. He also had two at-bats in the Freedom Division Championship Series against York.

Anyway, the Revs ended up making a huge upgrade at short stop (and no, I’m not talking about the size of the players involved) by signing Joe Thurston and trading away Danny Gonzalez to Lancaster.

Gonzalez hit a disappointing .249 in 75 games for York. For what it’s worth, he also had three homers, 20 RBIs  and 39 runs scored. He didn’t have a great glove, either. Perhaps that’s why Thurston looked so good at short. Or perhaps it’s because he’s arguably the best short stop York has had at the position. Outside of four games at Class AA Reading in 2007, Thurston hasn’t played below the Class AAA level since 2001. The former big leaguer – mainly with the St. Louis Cardinals -  owns a career .291 average in more than 1,100 games at the Class AAA level. He went on to collect a .314 average, eight homers, 28 RBIs and 46 runs scored in 58 games for the Revs. In addition, consider that he put up those numbers after sitting out the previous couple months since the Minnesota Twins released him from Class AAA Rochester in mid-May.

The Revs also added infielder Johan Limonta (remember him?) in early August. He came up from the Mexican League’s Mexico City ballclub, where he batted an astounding .384 in 27 games. The Cuban defector wound up .277 with one homer and 15 RBIs in 39 games for the Revs.

The Revs cut ties with infielder Ramon Castro in September after an on-the-field incident. Bil Bowden file photo.

Saying goodbye: Ramon Castro entered the 2012 season on thin ice with Andy Etchebarren. Sure, the infielder had put up good numbers since coming to York in 2010 and helping the ball club win back-to-back league titles. But at times during those two seasons, Etch’ would have appreciated a little more hustle from Castro. So, Castro was already on a short leash when he did something Etch’ didn’t approve of during a game Aug. 29 at Southern Maryland. Etch’ soon suspended Castro for what he called an “on-the-field incident.” The team would cut release him just a few days later. There could have been other factors into his release as well, like his 10 errors at third base or his .288 average in 105 games (a good average, but off from the .323 average he had in 2011 and .339 average he had in 2010).

Andres Perez had career-highs in homers (23) and RBIs (86) this season. Bill Kalina file photo.

In the end: By the of the end of the year, York’s infield consisted of Thurston at short stop and Perez at second base. With the departure of Castro, Limonta moved to first base while Nowak moved from first to third.

Nowak and Perez clearly had the the best seasons of any Revs players in 2012. Nowak became the club’s all-time leader in homers (59) and set York’s single-season home run mark with  34 dingers, which led the league. A clear candidate for the league’s MVP honor, Nowak was also the league’s highest home run total since 2005. His 107 RBIs were also tops in the league and the most since 2005. Twenty-one of his 34 homers came at Sovereign Bank Stadium, which set a club record for homers hit by a Revs’ player at home in a single season. He also holds the all-time stadium record (30). Though Nowak fnished with a .285 average, he did bat an impressive .320 in the final 67 games.

Perez, meanwhile, just had career-highs in homers (23) and RBIs (85). He ranked fourth in the league in homers and fifth in RBIs. He scored 86 times. In addition, Perez made quite an improvement moving from the outfield, a position he had played most of his career, to second base. Player-coach Liu Rodriguez can be credited with a nice job teaching Perez the tricks of the trade at second base.

Who should stay/go: I guess I should always preface this by saying if the team can afford the player then he should return. It’s recommended Atlantic League clubs pay out a maximum to a player of $3,000 a month. And after the years Nowak and Perez had, one can imagine they’ll be asking for raises.

With that being said, Nowak and Perez should be brought back. As should Thurston.  Nowak and Perez and still young enough to draw interest from major league clubs in the future (remember, that’s what the Atlantic League is here for, to send guys to the bigs). I hesitated on Thurston a little bit considering his age (32). I get the fact that he’s put up good numbers and consistently made dazzling plays at short. But there comes a point when Atlantic League clubs should cut ties with a player when he becomes older and not just keep him around because he puts up good numbers while scouts have very little interest of him because of his age. However, Thurston was last in the majors in 2011 at the age of 31. And he’s put up good numbers everywhere he’s been. So, I imagine there are still some scouts out there who are still interested in his services.

Limonta, meanwhile, is a different story. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy. He seemed like he is good for the clubhouse and he was always respectful with the media. This is moreso because of the defense. Should Nowak return, I’d rather see him back at his normal position at first base. As much as Nowak improved through the season at third, he did end the year with a team-high 18 errors, which  tied for seventh in the league. So, put Nowak at first and find a solid defender at third who can match or do better than Limonta’s .277 average.

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Revs release Castro

Roger Clemens signs autographs for fans outside Sovereign Bank Stadium on Monday. John A. Pavoncello photo.

Before we get to the news on Ramon Castro, just wanted to point a few other newsworthy items:

- Click here to get the full details on Clemens’ arrival in York on Monday.

-Tuesday: Clemens is scheduled to hold a 2 p.m. press conference at Sovereign Bank Stadium on Tuesday. Later, he’ll throw a public bullpen session for about 15 minutes beginning around 5 p.m. Fans with tickets to the game will be able to watch the session. Gates will open at 4:45 p.m.

- Results from Monday: York fell to Sugar Land on Monday night by a final score of 7-2 in the first of a four-game series against the Skeeters (Click here for full game details). The Revs will host Sugar Land in Game Two on Tuesday, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m. York left-hander Ryan Feierabend (7-3, 2.16 ERA) will face left-hander Scott Kazmir (1-6, 6.39). The Revs are now 5.5 games back of Lancaster for first place in the Atlantic League Freedom Division second-half race. York still leads the wildcard by 5.5 games over Somerset.

Now on to Castro…

 

Ramon Castro left York over the weekend, but he leaves behind several numerical marks and memories during his time in a Revs’ uniform. John A. Pavoncello file photo.

Well, York Revolution manager Andy Etchebarren didn’t wait long to make a decision regarding the future of Ramon Castro with the club.

Just a few days after Etch’ said the longtime Revs’ infielder was suspended, the Revs released Castro on Sunday. It brings an end to some patchy days – and years – between the player and manager. It also caps off an impressive stint Castro has had with York since 2010, although he likely didn’t want it to end in this fashion.

Etchebarren had said last week that he suspended Castro for undisclosed reasons.

“That’s between Mr. Castro, myself and the team,” Etchebarren said.

Etch’ revealed more info regarding Castro when chatting about him following Monday’s game.

“I could’ve left him on the roster. I made a mistake. I couldn’t suspend him without pay for the rest of the season. I could suspend him 10 days without pay,” Etch’ said. “So, I’m not gonna do that, if he’s gonna play somewhere else, I’ll just release him.”

Etch’ said the original suspension stemmed from an on-the-field incident Aug. 29 at Southern Maryland.

“Listen, over the last three years I have given him more chances to show people that he can hustle,” Etchebarren said Monday. “I tried and I’m so tired of it. The last offer (straw) was in Southern Maryland. I’m sure somebody told you what happened. I can’t let my players do that and not do nothing about it. They’re gonna say ‘We can all do that, then.’ I can’t do that.”

Etch’ said it’s the first time he’s had a player do something like Castro did under his watch in all of his years in baseball.

“He put himself ahead of the ball club. That can’t happen. I don’t care how good they are. That cannot happen,” he said.

Castro left for his home in Venezuela over the weekend (for those wondering why he didn’t look for a job with other Atlantic League clubs, York was basically responsible for paying for Castro’s work visa, so I doubt the club would continue to do that while he plays for another team. Castro could still join another Atlantic League club if that club is willing to deal with his visa, which is easier said than done considering his delayed arrivals to York the last couple years because of visa issues).

It’s been an atypical season for Castro. Before the start of the year, Etch’ had said numerous times Castro is the best hitter in the Atlantic League. In his previous two seasons with the Revs, Castro hit .339 in 2010 and .323 in 2011, respectively.

But he’s had an up and down season in 2012, batting .288 through 105 games. The Revs’ all-time leader in RBIs (214) and doubles (81), Castro sat out the Atlantic League All-Star game in Camden in July for undisclosed personal reasons.

Filling the void: Etch’ said Monday the club is close to signing a utility infielder who is a former big leaguer. But the player won’t take the place of anyone in the current lineup.

“Nowak will be at third. Thurston will be at short stop. Perez at second,” Etch’ said. “And Limonta at first. If we clinch a playoff spot, then he (the new player) will play all the time while the regular guys get some rest.”

Given Castro’s defensive abilities (or liabilities depending on how you look at it), Nowak is pretty much on par defensively with Castro. Plus, both Nowak hits for average and has plenty of power. So, it might actually be an upgrade to the Revs’ lineup with Castro gone. Still, it’s tough to see a guy leave who has accomplished so much during his time in York.

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Revs’ wrap up first half, just in time to heal injuries

OF James Shanks (above) missed Sunday's game after injuring his left hamstring against Camden on Saturday.

The Revs dropped a 4-1 decision to the Camden Riversharks in front of 2,762 fans at Sovereign Bank Stadium on a muggy Sunday evening. It marked the final game of the first half for York (36-34), who officially finished in second place in the Atlantic League Freedom Division behind Lancaster (45-25) by nine games.

(To check out the full game story, click here).

And chatting with Revs’ skipper Andy Etchebarren after the loss, things don’t sound good on the health front for York. Outfielder James Shanks and third baseman Ramon Castro were out of the lineup on Sunday. Shanks, who has been battling tendonitis in his left knee all season, tweaked his hamstring at Camden on Saturday. Etchebarren said Castro is dealing with a health issue, too, but didn’t disclose further details. And he said the pair could be out of action when York begins the second half on Friday at home with the first of a three-game set against Lancaster.

“If you got to start the second half against Lancaster without those two guys, then you’re hurting a little bit. Do I gotta bring somebody else in? Probably,” Etchebarren said.

Outfielder Brandon Haveman will also miss time at start the second half. Haveman’s wife, Sarah, was recently named the new head women’s cross country and assistant track coach at Dayton (Ohio) University. Brandon Haveman said he needs to help his wife move from their old home in Indiana to their new home near Dayton. He still plans on playing in the 2012 Atlantic League All-Star game on Wednesday, but he’ll be out a total of six games for the Revs to start the second half, returning on July 19.

It’s unclear if Shanks or Castro will play in the All-Star game.

York’s poor start to the first half of the season (they began 3-10 and 8-16) made it even more difficult to catch Lancaster in the Atlantic League Freedom Division. And it sounds like the second half could off to a bumpy start as well.

Castro (.298 batting average, league-leading 50 RBIs), Shanks (.255, eight homers, 35 RBIs), and Haveman (.319, 31 runs, eight stolen bases) are three of York’s top hitters. Etchebarren said he might make a roster move in the coming days to make up for the possible absence of the three position players. He is also looking to improve the starting rotation.

“We got to try to improve the starting pitching somehow,” he said. “As for right now there’s nobody out there. Hopefully we can survive the first couple of weeks of the second half and we’ll have some pitchers the first week of August.”

Gomez named closer: On a lighter note, Etch’ said righty reliever Ricardo Gomez is officially the team’s closer. With a scoreless ninth inning on Sunday, Gomez has gone 13 scoreless innings in his last 12 games since returning from the disabled list on June 8.

“And he’s the closer when R.J. comes back, too,” said Etch’, referring to reliever R.J. Rodriguez, who had a 2.36 ERA and 11 saves when he was picked up on June 25 by Campeche (Mexican League). Rodriguez will likely return to York when the Mexican League wraps up its season in August.

“When R.J. left and went to Mexico, this guy (Gomez) has done a good job,” Etch’ said.

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Six Revs’ make 2012 Atlantic League All-Star roster

Revs' pitcher Corey Thurman cools down during his six-inning, two-run, eight-hit performance against Somerset on Wednesday night at Sovereign Bank Stadium. Bil Bowden file photo.

York will send six players to Camden’s Campbell’s Field next Wednesday for the 2012 Atlantic League All-Star game. The league announced the all-star rosters on Thursday afternoon.

Among the Revs’ players selected are starting pitching Corey Thurman, closer Adam Thomas, third baseman Ramon Castro, second baseman Andres Perez and outfielders Brandon Haveman and Michael Hernandez.

York is tied for third for the most players selected to the All-Star game, behind Lancaster (8) and Long Island (7).

For the full breakdown and numbers on what the Revs’ all-stars have done so far this season, click here.

For the full list of Atlantic League All-Star rosters, click here.

Haveman: The University of Dayton announced earlier this week that it has hired the wife of Brandon Haveman, Sarah, to be the school’s new cross country coach and assistant track (distance) coach. Sarah comes to Dayton from Purdue University, where she was an assistant in track and cross country since the winter of 2011. Brandon and Sarah met at Purdue while going to school there a few years ago. As you might have guessed, both were stellar athletes – Brandon in baseball and Sarah in cross country and track & field. I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing a race between the two. I have a feeling Brandon might win a 100-meter dash, and Sarah would sweep in a long-distance race.

Shea Hillenbrand (above) played six weeks for York back in 2008 before leaving the team in the midst of a chase for the playoffs. York Dispatch file photo.

Hillenbrand returnsThe Bridgeport Bluefish on Thursday announced the signing of infielder Shea Hillenbrand. He joins the Bluefish for his second season in the Atlantic League and 14th of professional baseball. The former Major League last played professionally in 2008 as a member of the York Revolution. In 36 games for York, he batted .340 with 11 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, and 22 runs scored. It’ll be interesting see if Hillenbrand has changed his ways since his infamous departure from York four years ago. For the Revs’ fans wondering when they will get a chance to see Hillenbrand  in action at Sovereign Bank Stadium, the Bluefish next visit York following the All-Star break for a four-game set July 16-July 19.

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Revs announce first player signings of 2012

Salvador Paniagua (Bill Bowden photo)

When Salvador Paniagua arrived in York for spring training a year ago, Revolution manager Andy Etchebarren knew he needed some work.

Sure, the young catcher from the Dominican Republic had some power with a bat in his hands. But Paniagua needed to make quite a few improvements behind the plate before Etchebarren trusted him as an everyday player.

Paniagua played sporadically through the first four months of the season as he worked to get better. By September, though, it appeared he had progressed enough to earn Etchebarren’s trust.

After he edged out Octavio Martinez for the everyday catching duties in the final month or so of the season, Paniagua went on to provide a pair of clutch hits in a Game 2 victory over the Lancaster Barnstormers in the Freedom Division Series, including a seventh-inning tiebreaking homer.

Paniagua will bring those skills back to York in 2012.

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Nowak, Castro honored by national publication

Revs' 1b Chris Nowak (above) and SS Ramon Castro were both named to Baseball America's All-Independent Team. Bill Kalina photo.

Two York Revolution players have garnered some more postseason honors.

Chris Nowak and Ramon Castro were both been named to Baseball America’s All-Independent Team, it was announced Tuesday. It marks the second consecutive season that at least one Revs’ player has been recognized by the national publication.

Nowak was honored as the All-Independent Team’s designated hitter, after blasting 25 home runs in just 84 games played this season, while driving in 66 runs and batting .330 after joining the Revs in mid-June. Had he been with the Revs the entire season and maintained that pace, his projected final numbers for last season’s 126-game schedule would have been 38 home runs and 99 RBIs. As it stands, Nowak’s 25 homers established a new club record for a single season, surpassing Jason Aspito’s total of 24 in 2008. His batting average ranked second highest in the league, while his home run total finished tied for third most in the league. Nowak also led the league with a Revs’ record .646 slugging percentage.

Castro batted .323 with 14 home runs and 62 RBIs in 80 games with the Revs this season, and ranked second in the league in on-base percentage at .427. Castro is a career .341 hitter in the Atlantic League.

Last season, York center fielder Scott Grimes became the first player in Revs’ history to be selected to the All-Independent Team.

The national recognition adds to the postseason honors for both Nowak and Castro, who were among five Revs selected Atlantic League All-Stars for the 2011 season.

Also selected to the Baseball America team from the Atlantic League was Long Island Ducks’ right-handed pitcher Mike Loree, the Atlantic League’s Pitcher of the Year for the 2011 season.

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