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Suns show good signs with start

April 13, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

If you are looking for someone to read the future, Mike Ramsey can't help you.

But if you are looking for anyone to take a flyer on how the Hagerstown Suns might fare this season, he is probably the man.

That's because Ramsey deals in baseball, not crystal balls.

But after the Suns opened the 2004 season with a 2-2 roadtrip at Lexington, Ky., the Suns' third-year manager has a good feeling about his team.

"I really wish I could crystal ball it, but I pretty much try to wait three weeks to a month before I can say how things can play out," Ramsey said. "I feel that we can score five to six runs a game and I like the way our bullpen has been pitching. But you have to wait and see because we are only four games into the season and a number of these guys are playing 140 games for the first time."

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The city of Hagerstown had to wait an extra day before getting its first look at the Suns. The home opener was rained out Monday and was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader for today, beginning at 5:35 p.m.

Bryan Millikan, who was scheduled to go Monday, and Sean Martin are scheduled to pitch for the Suns against the Hickory Crawdads (3-1), who will start Matt Capps and Wardell Starling, a pair of right-handers.

The fireworks display, which was scheduled to follow Monday's game, will be rescheduled for later in the season.

If early indications mean anything, the Suns have given the indication to be a strong hitting team - something Ramsey hasn't had during his first two stints here. Hagerstown is only hitting .226 after four games, but has shown some power and the ability to score runs in bunches.

"The way things are shaping up, it looks like we could score some runs," Ramsey said. "We had a couple of games where we hit real well, but then we had a couple of games where the pitching threw some real nice pitches low in the zone. We lost our aggressiveness and took too many pitches."

Hagerstown scored 19 runs in the first two games, their wins, but were held to three runs in the two losses.

Thus far, third baseman Nate Schierholtz, catcher Dayton Buller and Hagerstown's outfield quartet have carried the lineup.

Schierholtz, San Francisco's second pick in the 2003 draft, leads the team with six RBI, despite a .235 batting average. Outfielder Jesse Schmidt is hitting .400 in four games while Buller is hitting .364, including one of the team's four home runs.

Mike Wagner is hitting .294 while Jon Coutlangus has scored five runs and Jon Armitage has three extra base hits so far.

Meanwhile, the bullpen continues to be a steady force for the Suns.

"The best thing I saw on this trip, the offense aside, was the bullpen," Ramsey said. "We only got one good start and given that scenario, each guy came out of the bullpen came out and did the job."

The bullpen has made 12 appearances in the four games, allowing eight runs in 22 1/3 innings, good for a 3.22 ERA. The starters have struggled to a 6.86 ERA, magnifying the bullpen's performance.

"Right now, all those guys are interchangeable," Ramsey said. "We just have to see what they can do because I want to get them into the circumstances where they will have the most success."

Martin joins Joe Bateman and Jesse Floyd in the long relief roles when he isn't making a spot start. Mike Musgrave, Travis Nesmith and Christopher George will handle the middle and setup duties while Tim Alvarez will start out as the closer.

"I still have to learn about all these guys," Ramsey said. "We got to learn as we go."

And then, Ramsey won't have a need for any crystal balls.

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