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All in good time for Suns

April 05, 2001

All in good time for Suns



By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

2001 Suns season opener


Hagerstown Suns

Boof Bonser (1-4, 6.00 last season)

at Hickory Crawdads

Sean Burnett (2-1, 4.06)

Time: 6:30

Radio: WHAG 1410



The time has come for the Hagerstown Suns to take a step on the wild side and do some things they have never done before.

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Today is the day the Suns go places they have never gone before for a period of time that is way past what used to be their curfew.

A whole new era of Hagerstown baseball takes the field at 6:30 tonight when the Suns play at the Hickory Crawdads. It's a new team, making the debut for a new franchise, venturing out into a new league.

Sounds like an unprecedented task for manager Bill Hayes and his band of raw Giants prospects.

"It doesn't bother me," Hayes said. "This is the only position we have, we have nothing else. This is just another team that wants to go out and compete. It's time to to out and let them get their feet wet."

This will be the first tour of the South Atlantic League for the Giants organization. A reorganization of minor league baseball required all 30 major league teams to have an advanced and a developmental Single-A team. Toronto left Hagerstown after eight seasons to look for better facilities, leaving the door open for the Giants to come East.

The Suns aren't alone. The Giants are one of four new affiliations in the newly expanded, 16-team South Atlantic League.

Those, however, are organizational problems. Hayes' concerns lie on the field.

"It's time to get going," Hayes said. "We're ready to start the marathon. For a lot of these guys, this is their first year in full-season baseball, so it will be different."

Hayes plans on getting all the Suns feet wet on this six-game, season-opening swing through Hickory and Lexington (Ky.) before the April 12 home opener.

The biggest tests will go to the pitching staff, starting with opening-day starter Boof Bonser, San Francisco's first selection from the 2000 amateur draft.

"We will start the season with all the pitchers on a 60-pitch count that will go up 10 pitches each time out up to 100," Hayes said. "With the pitch count, we are going to be looking for quality strikes that are down in the (strike) zone to get them ready to compete."

With the 60-pitch limit, the bullpen will get much work over the first two weeks of the season. Bonser will be followed to the mound by Bryan Clark, Felix Diaz, Kyle Gross and John Thomas in the starting rotation.

"The only role that is set is that Jackson Markert will be our closer," Hayes said. "After that, we're going to let them go out there and let them pitch."

The Suns offense will be built around leadoff hitter Jason Ellison and two power swingers - first baseman Delvi Santos and designated hitter Dan Trumble. Ellison stole 13 bases, while Santos and Trumble hit better than .300 last season. Most of the Suns played for Salem-Keizer (Ore.), the Giants' Northwest League rookie team.

But Hayes will be guiding the Suns into a bold new world.

"Our job is to take players and get them ready to compete," Hayes said. "But there is a reason why they keep score in games.

"That's to find a winner. We are going to work to develop our players, but do it while trying to win as many games as we can."

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