15th Anniversary Team: Closer
The weather is getting warmer, the birds have migrated back north, and spring, at long last, seems to be in the air. That means one thing, Ducks fans: Baseball! Players officially report to this weekend, and spring training workouts begin on Monday. Then, just 11 days later, the team hits the road to open up the regular season against the Somerset Patriots on Friday, April 25. Two exciting weeks are about to unfold here on Long Island and around the Atlantic League.
With the start of the season now tantalizingly close, there are only a few spots left on the Ducks 15th Anniversary Team. Last week, fans cast their votes for the best reliever (non-closer) in team history. On Opening Night at Bethpage Ballpark (Friday, May 2), fans can see all the winners in a special spread in the 2014 Long Island Ducks Commemorative Yearbook, which will be available beginning on May 2.
This week, we take a look at the best closers in franchise history. Included among the nominees are the a two-time Atlantic League champion, a 2004 ALPB champion, the first closer in Ducks history, a former Yankee and a pitcher affectionately nicknamed, “Bubbie.” Here are the nominees:
Buzachero spent parts of three seasons with the Ducks (2009, 11-12). His debut season saw the right-hander appear in just three games, pitching three and one-third scoreless innings. Before April was finished, he had earned a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Buzachero returned as the closer in 2011, and he put together an outstanding campaign. In 52 appearances, the Tennessee native earned 22 saves and compiled a 7-2 record with a 3.26 ERA and 39 strikeouts. He went on to pitch five postseason games as well, compiling a 1.23 ERA and picking up the win in Long Island’s Liberty Division championship-clinching win over Southern Maryland. After pitching in Australia during the winter and Austria during the first part of 2012, he returned to Long Island for a third season. While his time lasted just four games (one start), the righty’s 2011 campaign makes him worthy of being on this list.
Erdos, a five-year Major League veteran that spent three of those with the Yankees, pitched in parts of three seasons with the Ducks (2005-07). In his first year, the right-hander earned Atlantic League Relief Pitcher of the Year honors. He set a league record with 64 games pitched that season and also led the league in saves with 32 and games finished with 56. Erdos compiled a 3.96 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 61 and one-third innings, earning an Atlantic League All-Star Game selection as well. The Pennsylvania native went on to post a 5-3 record with eight more saves in 25 games during the 2006 season before his contract was purchased by the Brother Elephants in Taiwan during the month of June. Though he struggled during the 2007 campaign over 30 games, Erdos’ standout 2005 season was one of the greatest in franchise history. He retired as the Ducks all-time leader in saves, a record he held until 2009 when another closer on this list (Bill Simas) broke it.
Rosales is the only nominee that is currently on the Ducks active roster and has been a part of back-to-back championship teams on Long Island. He came to the Ducks in a late-season trade during the 2012 season and immediately filled a closer role the team needed. After tossing three scoreless innings in the regular season, he pitched six more games in the postseason, earning saves in all three victories over Southern Maryland in the Liberty Division Championship Series. The righty went on to earn the win in Game Five of the Atlantic League Championship Series to clinch the Ducks first title since 2004. The Los Angeles native returned again in 2013 and put together an All-Star season, going 2-2 with a 2.34 ERA, 18 saves and 45 strikeouts in 38 and one-third innings. He was even better in the playoffs, earning four saves total, three of which came in the ALCS against Somerset. The last of those saves came in Game Five against the Patriots to seal another championship for the Ducks.
Simas, who was chosen for the Ducks All-Time Team during the 10th Anniversary Season in 2009, was the first Ducks closer to receive a championship ring. The righty first joined the Flock in 2004 and posted an impressive 1.95 ERA and 17 saves. Despite signing mid-season with the Seattle Mariners organization, Simas returned to Long Island in September and played a pivotal postseason role in helping the Ducks win their first Atlantic League championship. The California native then spent the next four seasons either playing abroad or out of baseball before returning to the Ducks in 2009. The four-year Atlantic League hiatus did not hurt Simas as he led the league in saves (27) and compiled a 5-4 record with a 2.76 ERA. He returned in 2010 as the pitching coach, but some early season injuries forced the Ducks to activate him early on. Although he hadn’t planned to pitch, the right-hander still put together a 2-1 record, a 3.30 ERA and four saves in 29 appearances. The six-year major league veteran finished his Ducks career as the franchise leader in saves (48) along with a 9-9 record and a 2.59 ERA over 133 appearances.
Wagner was the first closer in Ducks franchise history. Although he only played one season at the Duck Pond during the inaugural 2000 campaign, the former big leaguer wowed everyone with a 2.26 ERA and a league-leading 36 saves. Wagner’s 2.26 ERA was the second lowest in the league for a reliever (Al Sadler, 1.53 ERA) and his 61 appearances tied him for the league lead with Frank Thompson (Newark). In addition, the Iowa native recorded 69 strikeouts compared to just 18 walks over 63 and two-thirds innings of work that year, good for a 9.8 strikeout-per-nine innings ratio. After his time with Long Island, the righty spent three more years in independent baseball, including time in the Atlantic League with the Road Warriors (2002), Newark (2003) and Atlantic City (2003).
While the decision this week might be the toughest among all of the positions to this point, it is also final specific player spot on the 15th Anniversary Team. Following this week, only the Manager spot and the Final Vote position remain. A friendly reminder: if there is a closer that you feel is deserving of a nomination and is not on this list, you can write-in a player by selecting “other” in the poll below and typing in your choice. We’re two weeks away from Atlantic League baseball. Stay tuned all of next week for news, photos and video from spring training at the Duck Pond!
Posted on April 12, 2014, in Weekend Debate and tagged 15th Anniversary Team, 2014, Atlantic League, Bethpage Ballpark, Bill Simas, Bubbie Buzachero, Championship, Flock 15, Leo Rosales, Long Island Ducks, Matt Wagner, Todd Erdos, Voting. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.