Southpaw Support Comes to Long Island
One week ago, two former teammates were reunited when they signed with the Ducks for the 2015 season. That pair, second baseman Cody Puckett and pitcher Kevin Vance, both earned championship rings with the Birmingham Barons in 2013. On Monday, another pair of former teammates joined the Ducks for the upcoming season, albeit without the memory of a championship earned together. Both are hoping to create that memory this year.
“I’m just ready to start off the way I ended last year,” said Tommy Organ, a left-handed relief pitcher who will begin his second season with the Ducks, in an interview on Monday. “Hopefully, we can go out and win a championship this time around.”
Patrick Crider, who will make his Ducks debut and is also a lefty reliever, added “I just want to win. That’s all I ever really cared about. Especially after my first three seasons with the [Evansville] Otters doing nothing but losing. It’s going to be fun. I know that the Ducks have a long history of winning.”
Organ and Crider were signed by the Ducks on Monday, increasing the roster to eight players thus far. The two have some familiarity with each other, serving as teammates with the River City Rascals of the Frontier League last year. When they were each asked about the other, all of the reviews were positive.
“He did really well and threw a lot of strikes when he was in River City,” Crider noted of Organ. “I saw that he went to a better league and did even better. That was awesome to see for him! It’s going to be great to go up there and actually know somebody.”
As for Crider, Organ commented, “I think he’s a great addition to the pitching staff this year. He’s a little bit of an older guy, and he kind of took the younger guys and helped them out when he needed to. He was our big left-hander out of the ‘pen.”
Organ spent time as both a starter and reliever in River City, handling multiple roles in his first year of professional baseball. The University of North Florida alum went 3-1 with a 4.97 ERA and 26 strikeouts in nine games (five starts). His strong debut and versatility enabled him to eventually come to the Atlantic League, and specifically the Ducks, in a trade that also brought Evan Crawford to Long Island in exchange for Jon Myers. Upon learning of his new home, Organ’s mind was racing a mile a minute.
“There were a whole lot of different emotions in a short few seconds,” he recalled. “I was happy. I was nervous. I was excited to see a new place and get to play with guys who have been to the ‘big dance’ and performed at that level. It was a feeling like you’re getting called up to maybe right before the ‘big dance.’ It’s like you’re in Triple A and right there on the cusp.”
After joining the Ducks, the 23-year-old’s numbers only got better. He appeared in 20 games with Long Island and posted a miniscule 2.20 ERA as well as 18 strikeouts to just five walks. His first seven appearances resulted in no runs allowed, and he followed that up with 10 and two-thirds consecutive scoreless innings from August 27 to September 19. Facing stiffer competition did not seem to faze Organ, and he was able to find success thanks to the help of a pair of former big leaguers.
“‘Fookie’[Pitching coach Steve Foucault] was a big help,” he said. “I had two bad outings last year, and both times he communicated to me that the team trusted me and believed in me”
Organ also noted, “[Relief pitcher] Jon Meloan was the guy that I went to. He was a closer in the big leagues for a little bit, and he was the guy that took me under his wing for the first month I was there before he left. He would just tell me to relax out there and said ‘you can only be as good you are. Don’t try and do too much. Just be the person that you came here to be.’”
Crider was strictly a reliever with River City and set a Frontier League record in 2014 by appearing in 65 games. In fact, he is the league’s all-time leader in games pitched with 237 over his five-year career. Why so many? His dominance probably has something to do with it. In 2014, the southpaw went 7-0 with a 1.43 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 50 and one-third innings of work, all career best totals. For his career, the 27-year-old is 17-7 with a 3.00 ERA and 212 strikeouts to 95 walks. Despite his success on the mound, Crider attributes his numbers to factors other than his actual pitching.
“My coach just put me in the right situations at the right time, and I had a good defense to back me up,” he asserted. “Most of my wins came at weird times. I think I got five wins last year, and I threw like 14 pitches. Timing just seemed to have everything to do with it. I just got in the right place at the right time, threw strikes, had guys get themselves out and I had a really good defense to back me up.”
His strong season in 2014 and run to the Frontier League Championship Series have made Crider hungrier than ever for the opportunity for more success. He has spent his entire career in the Frontier League, but he’ll now have the opportunity to showcase his talents in the country’s top independent league. The Ducks offered Crider the opportunity to join the pitching staff for 2015, and he could not be more eager to join his new team.
“It’s a new experience,” he said. “It’s good to move up from the Frontier League. It’s a new challenge playing with better and more experienced players, and it gives me a chance to get better and continue improving.”
Not to be outdone, Organ is just as excited to be back with the Flock. “It’s a great feeling to get asked back,” he exclaimed. “To see some of the guys that I played with last year coming back, it’s going to be nice to have the familiar faces around. I loved it up there. The fan base was probably the biggest thing for me. Walking into the stadium the first night and you see 6,000 people sitting there ready for a game, that’s a big deal to have that kind of fan base.”
Entering 2015, both players seem to be looking to make a strong impact on the team and showcase what they can bring to the table. The level of competition has increased compared to what they faced in the Frontier League, and the leash can often be a bit shorter. Both left-handers have been able to handle a variety of roles in the bullpen, and they seem ready and willing to take whatever the Ducks throw their way.
“I can’t say that I want to have a set role,” noted Organ. “I’m ready to come into the game at any time. If they need me for a full inning or if they need me to get a left-hander out, that’s what I want to be able to do. I want to be able to pitch in any position they need me to go for.”
Crider added, “I just need to make sure that I limit the mistakes. At each competition level you go to, the more mistakes you make, the more you’re going to get hit. If I can just limit the mistakes, then I think I’ll be good.”
In terms of personal goals this year, the southpaw duo wants to keep things as simple as possible.
“I’m just really looking to prove that I’m a guy that can pitch at that level and throw in as many games as they need me to come in for,” Organ said. “You always have one or two set goals for the year. Mine is to have at least one strikeout per inning pitched and keep the ERA low, between 2.00 and 3.00.”
As for Crider, he stated, “Like everybody else, [the goal] is to get there, do what you can and hopefully get picked up by an affiliated team. If that happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. As long as we’re winning and I’m doing what I can to help us win, nothing’s really going to bother me.”
If both pitchers are able to carry over their success from 2014, securing wins will become an easier task for the Ducks in 2015.
(River City photos are courtesy of Ricky-Rick Photography)
Posted on February 24, 2015, in Player Signings and tagged 2014, 2015, Atlantic League, Frontier League, Long Island Ducks, Patrick Crider, River City Rascals, Tommy Organ. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.