Pino files away his predictions

April 07, 1999|By BOB PARASILITI

If the Hagerstown Suns competed in a filing cabinet, you'd probably find them under "F" for formidable, "E" for explosive or possibly "C" for champion.

According to manager Rolando Pino, the 1999 Suns have it all - but file that under "S" for speculation, because the only place the team's talents are on display are on paper.

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"This is going to be an exciting team," Pino said. "It has speed, power, good arms in the infield and pitching. Last year's pitching staff, they had good live arms. I hope this one will be as good."

When it comes to finding out how good this team is, that will be reserved for Thursday at 7:05 p.m. when the Suns open the season at Columbus, Ga. And while the next 142 games will gauge how good this Suns team will be, the measuring stick of achievement might be how it stacks up against 1998's Hagerstown team.


Last year, the Suns fielded one of the most competitive teams Hagerstown has ever hosted in the South Atlantic League. The pitching was dominant and its power and defense gave the Suns a first-half championship and a trip to the playoffs.

On paper, the 1999 team has similar qualities - strong pitching, Toronto's No. 1 draft pick, experienced players and a Triple Crown winner - the results are yet to be seen.

Even before the season started, Hagerstown's roster has been adjusted, adding some experience in the field and depth to the starting rotation.

The Suns received Jeff Maloney, who will probably start in left field. Maloney is returning after spending 1997 with Hagerstown when he hit .258 while battling through a number of quirky injuries. He replaces Luis Morillo, who played part time here last year, on the roster.

Hagerstown also picked up a sixth starting pitcher in Pat Lynch, who was 7-3 with a 2.32 ERA at Medicine Hat last season. He will share the No. 5 starting spot with Marcos Sandoval.

The Suns starting rotation will be Taylor Smith, Scott Cassidy, Pascual Coco and Joe Casey to go with the Lynch-Sandoval tandem. All six pitchers are right-handed.

"They all throw in the 90s (mph)," Pino said. "Cassidy was the pitcher of the year in the Pioneer League and is a power guy with a good slider. Smith throws in the upper 90s and Coco is a power guy."

Cassidy was 8-1 at Medicine Hat with a 2.43 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 81 innings.

Jarod Kingrey, who was promoted last year in time for the playoffs, will be the Suns' closer.

Pino has a pleasant dilemma at hand in the infield, where Jay Gibbons and Matt Logan will share time at first base and designated hitter. Both are left-handed hitters - putting Municipal Stadium's short right-field fence in danger. Gibbons won the Pioneer League's Triple Crown last year, hitting .397 with 19 home runs and 98 RBIs in 73 games.

Rounding out the infield will be Jorge Nunez at second, Felipe Lopez at short and Orlando Hudson at third. Lopez was Toronto's top draft pick in 1998 and hit a .375 at St. Catharines and Dunedin.

Hagerstown also has three catchers, led by Ryan Bundy.

"We are going to be aggressive," Pino said. "If we can get guys on base, we are definitely going to score runs. We have good hitters who will be batting 4-5-6. It's going to be exciting."

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