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Clubhouse Chatter - No mistake, errors have hurt Suns

July 01, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

The Hagerstown Suns used to have a margin for error.

But now, the margin is gone. All that's left are the errors themselves.

The Suns have paid dearly for nearly every mistake they make defensively as they have given up extra at-bats and extra bases, resulting in extra runs.

The safety net was the offense. The Suns were among the South Atlantic League leaders in home runs. Quick offense was able to erase many defensive sins.

Now, because of mass promotions by the Washington Nationals, the net is gone and those sins are more apparent, especially in a 0-7 start in the second half.

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"We aren't hitting great right now. We aren't scoring a lot of runs. And we aren't making the plays defensively," said Suns manager Tommy Herr after Thursday's 10-4 lost to Lake County. "That all goes together for losing."

The Suns have struggled to be consistent winners this season. Their saving grace in the first half was their offense - specifically because of their ability to hit home runs. They had 54 home runs in the first half, but 68 percent of them left with the promotion of five hitters near the end of the first half.

But still, even with that, Hagerstown finished with a 29-38 record and in seventh place in the Northern Division.

The problems early on were pitching and defense. Hagerstown starters had trouble getting past the fifth inning because of pitch counts, handing a constant stream of work to the bullpen. Part of the pitch count problems were created by the errors, which forced pitchers to throw extra in innings.

The home run power of the first half made it all less apparent than it does now.

"We are a different team now," Herr said. "We are going to have to score runs in a different way, like using more hit-and-runs to move runners. When you don't have the same home run power, you have less room to work with."

The Suns have committed at least one error in 22 of their last 23 games, which has added strain to the pitchers and a scramble to the offense to overcome the runs they could erase before with one-swing offense.

The Suns have committed 132 errors through Friday, including 15 in the first seven games of the second half and a total of 21 in the 11 games since the promotions on June 12. The Suns have been outscored 37-16 in the first seven games of the second half and 56-36 since the promotions. They are 2-9 in those 11 games.

Why it all crops up on one team is anyone's guess.

"We are not very good right now," Herr said. "I don't know why. If I did, we would fix it. There is such a thing as a defensive slump. When things go bad, players pressure themselves to make the perfect play and don't execute on the routine plays.

"It's just one of those things."

New faces at this place

The Suns have been playing rent-a-catcher for the last week - all because of unfortunate circumstances.

The Suns lost Erick San Pedro for the season when he was forced to have surgery to remove a blood clot from above the rib cage under his throwing arm last week. The injury and surgery is similar to the one performed on Detroit pitcher Kenny Rogers.

When San Pedro was lost, the Suns received Devin Ivany from the Gulf Coast League to fill in. Ivany played in four games during Hagerstown's second-half opening road trip, hitting .167. But Ivany never saw Hagerstown.

On Thursday, Ivany was promoted to Potomac. In return, the Suns received Brett Logan from Harrisburg.

Logan hit .120 in 20 games for the Senators. He is considered to have the strongest throwing arm in the Nationals' system.

Last week, Suns outfielder Sheldon Fulse was promoted to Harrisburg, opening a spot for a new pitcher.

Jeff Mandel was sent to Hagerstown from Vermont in the New York-Penn League. Mandel was Washington's 19th-round pick in the 2007 draft out of Baylor, the same school that produced pitcher Cory VanAllen.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander pitched one game for the Lake Monsters before coming to Hagerstown. He pitched 1 2/3 innings Monday at Lake County, allowing a run on three hits.

Also on Thursday, the Nationals released Hagerstown pitcher Juan De Los Santos, who was on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. De Los Santos was 1-0 in 11 appearances for the Suns, but had a 13.86 ERA in 12 1/3 innings work.

The Nationals also released former Suns infielder Alex Nunez, who was playing for Potomac.

Suns spots

·Close games continue to plague the Suns. They are 13-17 in one-run games and 3-7 in two-run games. That means 40 of 75 games (54.7 percent) through Friday have been decided by two runs or less.

·Of the 132 errors Suns have committed, three-quarters of the Suns infield - third baseman Leonard Davis, shortstop Mike Martinez and second baseman Marcos Cabral - have combined for 45 of those miscues.

·Pick your side - Some players prefer right- or left-handed pitching when they hit.

Cabral is hitting .311 against righties and .290 vs. lefties.

Martinez is hitting .267 against left-handers, but only .207 vs. righties.

Joe Napoli handles right-handers at a .252 clip while only connecting for a .205 average against the left-handers.

Overall, the Suns are hitting .262 against right handers and .249 against lefties.

·Davis has been the hottest of the Suns hitters in the last 10 games, carrying a .444 average with two home runs and eight RBI.

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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