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It's showtime - Suns set to open season on the road

April 03, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Manager Frank Cacciatore is ready to get the show on the road.

That's a good thing because those are the two things the Hagerstown Suns will be all about at the beginning of the 2006 season: The show and the road.

The Suns will be cast as a band of vagabonds to start the new season Thursday with eight of their first 11 games being played away from Municipal Stadium.

"It's going to be a whirlwind for us," Cacciatore said as the Suns are scheduled to report to town today in anticipation of the start of the new season. "We get in and then we get going on some extensive road trips early. It will be a good awakening for some of these guys. I know I can't wait for when the lights come on."

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Act One for the new season starts Thursday in Greensboro. After a four-game series there, the Suns return to Hagerstown for the home opener April 10 to begin a three-game series with Lakewood. Along the way, Cacciatore will be looking to see which players are ready for the primetime.

Hagerstown, which lost to Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League finals last season, will likely feature a young team, including a youthful core of players up the defensive middle. The Suns have every chance to be an exciting - and a little frustrating - team to watch.

"This is going to be a fun team to watch," Cacciatore said. "They have been playing hard and that should carry over to the season. But like young teams, there are going to be times when they will be inconsistent."

The excitement - and maybe the inconsistency - starts in the middle of the field where the Suns will feature three teens.

The whole team will revolve around center fielder Fernando Martinez, a 17-year-old big-ticket player who has the Mets organization buzzing about his capabilities. The middle of the infield will be home for Hector Pellot, an 18-year-old second baseman who was the New York Mets' fourth-round pick in 2005, and Jose Castro, a 19-year-old shortstop and 2005's choice in the 32nd round.

"Martinez is our leadoff guy and has had a good spring," Cacciatore said. "He has hit the ball well. Pellot and Castro are younger guys who the organization has a lot of confidence in to send out there and let them play."

Hagerstown is scheduled to have some older players to help even off the growing experience.

First baseman Nick Evans, New York's fourth pick in 2004, and two-year farmhand and third baseman Leivi Ventura are scheduled to start on the corners along with right fielder Johnathan Sanchez.

"They have had a good spring," Cacciatore said. "Ventura has hit four or five home runs this spring.

"We have a good blend. We have used the running game when we had to, but for most of the spring we have swung the bats pretty well. We don't know what we have for sure, though, until we get out there for real."

Pitching has been shuffled around the system during the spring, but 2005 draft picks Jonathon J. Niese, a left-hander chosen in the seventh round, and Salvador Aguilar, a right-hander chosen in the 29th round, have been impressive in camp and seem to be ticketed for Hagerstown.

The Suns play a dress rehearsal against Hagerstown Community College on Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. at Municipal Stadium in a benefit for the school's scholarship fund.

After that, the Suns take the show on the road.

"They are going to be fun to watch," Cacciatore said. "I'm anxious to get started. I know when they start, they will probably be a little nervous, but I know I still do when the lights come on ... and I'm an old guy."

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