Clubhouse Chatter - Nats add by subtracting from Suns

June 17, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

Minor league baseball - especially on the Single-A level - is a paradox.

Every move a team makes is both good and bad. Promotions bat .500 with only one swing of the bat.

That's because when a player gets promoted, it is a good news, bad news situation.

The bad news is for the fans, who see the talents they grew to love going to play elsewhere.

It's good news for the players (for obvious reasons), the manager (because getting players promoted is part of his job) and for the organization (because it moves a player closer to the majors).

But one group who is forgotten in the whole promotion game is the players who stay behind. They benefit with more playing time.


That is the case for the Hagerstown Suns now after a week in which five position players and two pitchers were promoted to Single-A Potomac.

Much of the Suns' offense headed south as the entire outfield of Mike Daniel, Chris Marrero and Justin Maxwell along with infielders Brett McMillan and Alex Nunez were bumped up.

"They did what they needed to move and what everyone hoped for them to do," Suns manager Tommy Herr said. "They will all be a success and were of the age where they had to step up, with the exception of Marrero (who's 18). Age indicated they had to move on."

Those promotions will provide a wide range of opportunities for players like Joe Napoli, Francisco Guzman and Leonard Davis, all who were in bit roles.

"This will give guys like Guzman more time," said Herr. "If you are here, I play everybody, but Maxwell, Daniel and Marrero were guys who had to play every day. This will make it easier to give everyone time."

Despite their first-half record, the Suns had some strong offensive numbers, particularly from Marrero and Maxwell, who were two of the top three home run hitters in the South Atlantic League at the time of their promotions.

Now, with the new trio moving to the forefront along with the aquistions of outfielders Sheldon Fulse, Marvin Lowrance and Francisco Plasencia and infielders Jonathan Castro and Robert Jacobsen, the Suns will be looking for a new offensive identity.

"I'll get more of a feel for this team when it plays," Herr said Tuesday after the promotions. "But in this park, everyone can hit home runs here with that fence in right field. We added two left-handed hitters (Lowrance and Plasencia) and they could be dangerous in this park."

Time will tell, but the new crew have some huge spikes from the missing six-pack to fill if you consider that heading into Thursday's game with Lexington:

· They were a combined 277-for-977 (.286). That's 47 percent of the Suns' at-bats and 51 percent of their hits. Hagerstown was hitting .265 with the six and is hitting .252 without them.

· They scored 180 of the Suns' 332 runs (54 percent).

· They hit 46 of the team's 68 home runs (68 percent).

· And they drove in 174 of Hagerstown's 307 runs (57 percent).

The new Suns will probably have a different script to follow for success.

"We lost a lot of our home run potetntial, so we will have to score in different ways," Herr said. "With the new players, we have improved our team speed. Napoli runs better and two of the new guys can both run. I still think we are going to be an effective offensive club."

Too much of a good thing

Days off during the baseball season are golden.

The grind of travel and playing games make the few days when players don't have to go to the ballpark something to cherish. Even rainouts give a respite.

But too many days off in a row, well, that isn't always the best of situations.

It happened to the Suns this week. Hagerstown lost two games against Lakewood when the rain won out on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday's washout was welcomed. With all the roster moves, it gave the newest edition of the Suns the chance to get acclimated to their new surroundings.

But Wednesday's rainout wasn't as welcomed. Suddenly, time off was taking time off the Suns' timing. Hagerstown had exhibited some rhythm problems while hitting in Thursday's 3-2 loss to Lexington.

"The first day off was a blessing," Herr said. "But two in a row affects the timing. We were a little off. We had some good swings out there today, but we were swinging at pitches out of the strike zone too much. It takes time to get the timing as precise as it should be. We had chances tonight, but we couldn't cash in."

Star struck

Leonard Davis has probably become a firm believer that it's better late than never.

Davis, who spent most of the season looking for a defensive home in the Suns lineup, was named Friday to the Northern Division team for Tuesday's South Atlantic League All-Star Game.

With many teams going through the promotions, a number of all-star players have moved up after the first half, leaving holes on the all-star teams.

Davis has become the Suns' only representative to the Northern team. Marrero, Daniel and pitcher Cory VanAllen were selected to the team earlier this month but none will be playing in Rome, Ga., because of their promotions.

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