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Gloves may be better 2nd time around

Gloves may be better 2nd time around

June 18, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

The Hagerstown Suns have been on a networking campaign for the last two weeks.

They have been out circulating and meeting challenges and dropping off calling cards in the form of wins and close losses along the way.

It's all a way to serve notice. You see, the Suns have a chance to make a name for themselves in the second half of the South Atlantic League season.

"I'm not going to be arrogant and say we are going to win the second half," said Suns manager Frank Cacciatore. "But I'm cautiously optimistic."

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The Suns were 26-42 heading into Saturday's game with Delmarva, mired in last place in the North Division by 3 1/2 games, 17 overall.

There are two reasons for optimism, though. First, the young Suns have been playing better ball in the last two weeks. Second, the records fall back to 0-0 on Thursday when the second half starts.

Hagerstown is 7-9 in June. Of the nine losses, seven have been by two runs or less. And all the games have been played against the three teams fighting for the North Division's first-half title.

"We took two of three games in Delmarva and three of four last week against West Virginia," Cacciatore said. "That's big because it gave us a chance to play in games that meant something."

To be honest, the first half has been one big Education Day for the Suns. The season started with half of the roster at age 20 or under. Add to the education at the School of Hard Knocks are the injuries and promotions Hagerstown has weathered.

Overall, it has been all for the better.

"There have been things that have hurt us in the first half, but it has given a lot of other guys a chance to step up," Cacciatore said. "Cruz, Holden and Pacheco have all come on for us."

Holden joined the Suns on May 11 while Fernando Martinez nursed a thumb injury and has hit .316 with five home runs in 31 games. Cruz had come through in a number of clutch situations for the Suns while Pacheco has earned a chance to move up in the batting order.

The Suns may have signaled a chance was near when they played a tough four-game series with Lexington, losing three of four games to the first-half champs, all in tight games.

Then, Hagerstown had a hand in eliminating both Delmarva and West Virginia from the race.

"Any time guys compete, things mean something," Cacciatore said. "We hope to be in that spot in the second half. I feel there's been a lot of improvement. ... It has to translate to performance."

Missing in action

The Suns lost what was supposed to be the centerpiece of their roster again.

Martinez, the 17-year-old outfielder who was to become a jewel of the New York Mets farm system, injured his knee last weekend at Delmarva. The news isn't good.

Martinez badly sprained a knee with an awkward head-first slide into second base. He returned to the disabled list Wednesday for what might become a stay of at least six weeks.

It is Martinez's second stint on the DL. He had played just three games after returning from a month-long stint on the shelf in May with a strained thumb ligament.

A look ahead

It's All-Star break time.

The Suns have three days off, except for pitcher Jonathan Niese, who will play for the North in Tuesday's All-Star Game at Lake County.

After the break, the Suns return to action Thursday when they host Lakewood (Phillies) for a four-game weekend set.

Thursday is Thirsty Thursday with One Hit Wonder Night and Friday will feature a post-game fireworks show. Friday and Saturday will feature the annual Little League home run hitting contest. On Sunday, it will be Shoeless Joe Jackson Night.




Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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