Revs announce first player signings of 2012
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.
In an announcement on the Revs’ first signings of the New Year, Etchebarren said Monday that Paniagua and infielder Ramon Castro will rejoin the club. York also purchased the contract of relief pitcher Santo Luis from the independent American Association Lincoln Saltdogs, where Luis posted a 0.83 ERA in 21 appearances last season.
Catching: Etchebarren said Monday he wanted to bring back Martinez as well, but contract negotiations broke down. Martinez ended up being selected by the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters in their expansion draft last week.
“I love Octavio, don’t get me wrong,” Etchebarren said. “But at his price range and other guys’ price ranges, we got to stay at a certain price range in this league. So, I called up Michael (Kirk, former Revs’ Director of Baseball Operations who took over the same position in Sugar Land) and said ‘If you want him, you can have him.’”
Though Etchebarren likes what he saw last season out of Paniagua, he stopped short of naming him the everyday catcher.
“He has to do some certain things behind the plate during spring training (to earn the starting spot),” Etchebarren said.
The 28-year-old Paniagua is a former Boston Red Sox and New York Mets prospect. He hit .254 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 57 games last season for York.
Castro: Castro returns to York for a third season. A lifetime .341 hitter in five Atlantic League seasons, Castro has combined to bat .332 over the last two seasons with the Revs, making him the club’s all-time leader in career batting average. A former major leaguer with the Oakland Athletics in 2004, Castro is a four-time Atlantic League All-Star. Castro, 32, batted .323 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs in 80 games last season, which was good enough to get Baseball America All-Independent Team honors.
Castro will move over from shortstop to third base in 2012, Etchebarren said. Vince Harrison earned the league’s playoff MVP last year as the Revs’ everyday third baseman. But he retired after the season to take a coaching position in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system.
The change won’t be difficult for Castro, though. He started more than 60 games at third for York in 2010, the same season he earned the league’s playoff MVP honors.
Luis: Luis, a Dominican Republic native who turns 28 at the end of the month, should bring plenty of heat out of the bullpen.
“He was rated the No. 1 arm in independent ball last year (by BaseballAmerica.com writer J.J. Cooper),” Revs’ pitching coach Mark Mason said. “We’re excited about having him, but we haven’t seen him pitch in person yet.”
Mason said the Revs tried obtaining Luis near the end of last season around the same time they had acquired starting pitcher Jino Gonzalez from Lincoln.
The 6-foot, 4-inch, 200-pound righty is a former Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox prospect who topped out at Class AAA Pawtucket (Red Sox) in 2010.
Here’s what Cooper had said about the hard throwing right-hander in his assessment after last season:
“You can’t call Luis an unknown quantity. He’s pitched in Triple-A, and he’s already been a minor league Rule 5 pick. But the former Red Sox and White Sox farmhand had maybe the best arm in independent ball.
“Luis has a true plus fastball. It consistently sits at 92-94 mph, and he pairs it with a short slider and a split. His delivery has a lot of effort to it, which explains why he’s had trouble with consistency throughout his affiliated minor league career. But at his best, Luis can be dominating, and he’s struck out 11.3 batters per nine innings for his minor league career.”
The Revs will begin their quest to become the first team in Atlantic League history to win three consecutive league championships on April 26 when they open the season at Sugar Land. York’s home opener at Sovereign Bank Stadium is set for May 1 against the Camden Riversharks. Last year’s championship team will be honored with a pre-game ring ceremony on the field.
Single game tickets for the 2012 Revs’ season go on sale in person at the Apple Chevrolet Box Office and online at YorkRevolution.com on Saturday, Feb. 4.