New Faces Abound as Spring Training Begins
Prior to the 2010 season, the Atlantic League began having its teams host Spring Training at their own ballparks, rather than traveling to warmer climates. In the first five seasons of the new arrangement, it seemed as though the weather was never ideal at Bethpage Ballpark. Whether it was chilly or rainy or a combination of the two, the conditions were rarely similar to those down in Florida or Texas. However, on this Monday, the Ducks received a nice little treat to kick off 2015 Spring Training.
Long Island’s hometown team took the field for the first time this year on Monday under wall-to-wall sunshine and temperatures exceeding 60 degrees. Their 11-day tune up before the regular season begins has now officially begun. For some of the 23 players on the Ducks roster and four Spring Training invitees, it was the start of a fast-paced preparation leading up to the first pitch on April 24. For others, they are already close to ready after spending time with a Major League organization during the spring. Regardless of the player’s situation, it is an important time for everyone to get to know one another and develop a unified mindset prior to Opening Night.
CLICK HERE to view a Facebook Photo Album from the first day of workouts
— Long Island Ducks (@LIDucks) April 13, 2015
— Long Island Ducks (@LIDucks) April 13, 2015
Here are a couple of key takeaways from the first day of workouts:
The Returners: This year’s Ducks roster features a total of eight players returning from the 2014 squad. However, only five of those eight were members of the Flock at this time last year: Lew Ford, John Brownell, Dan Lyons, Cody Puckett and Eric Niesen. The other three were Tommy Organ, Sergio Perez and Evan Crawford, each of whom joined the team in early August and have a combined 55 games of experience with Long Island. The amount of experience and leadership from Ducks veterans will be somewhat limited, but the vets that are on the squad have been a part of some important games in franchise history and have won several prestigious awards. Lew Ford is a two-time Atlantic League champion and was the league’s Player of the Year in 2014. John Brownell and Dan Lyons each have also won two titles and were Championship Series MVPs. Niesen was part of the back-to-back championship teams as well and has been a key reliever late in games. There is a strong veteran core still intact, and Kevin Baez will surely rely on them to lead the way in 2015.
The Newcomers: The 15 new members of the Ducks active roster will have Ducks fans looking at Media Guides, Yearbooks and baseball stats websites a lot more in 2015. The coaching staff will also likely need to do the same. The Ducks had 13 returning players at this time last year, so most fans and coaches knew a great deal about the roster and what they brought to the field. That won’t be the case this season. It will take some time for everyone on Long Island to get accustomed to the new faces and see what roles they will fill. However, among the newcomers are five former big leaguers (Mark Rogers, Jose Morales, Blake Davis, Erik Komatsu and Trayvon Robinson), three others who reached Triple-A (Amalio Diaz, Ryan Kussmaul and Reegie Corona) and five who have previous Atlantic League experience (Mickey Jannis, Ian Marshall, Bryan Sabatella, Rogers and Morales). It should be exciting to see how they all fare in the first season with the Flock.
Spring Invitees: Four players were invited to camp as Spring Training invitees, looking to earn a spot on the roster. They are Bruce Kern, Matt Soren, Frank DeJiulio and Anthony Vega. Three of the four are Long Island natives, with Kern hailing from Stony Brook, Soren coming from Roslyn and Vega calling Patchogue his hometown. Three of the four are pitchers, with Vega being the only exception (outfielder). Technically, all four could carry a spot on the active roster, as teams are permitted to carry 27 players until June 1. However, that will be the decision of the coaching staff and the front office. Kern has advanced the highest (AA) and has the most professional experience (five seasons).
In the Spotlight: A few pitchers were thrown into the spotlight right from the get-go. After the team took batting and fielding practice, four different pitchers took turns on the mound throwing live to hitters. Brownell went first and also threw the most pitches of anyone. Marshall, who will join Brownell in the starting rotation, went second and threw approximately 30 pitches. They were followed by Organ, who was strong out of the bullpen for the Ducks at the end of 2014 and will serve as a reliever again this year. Finally, DeJiulio faced a round of hitters to give the coaching staff an initial viewing opportunity. Tuesday will see another group of hurlers take the mound on Long Island for the first time this year.
For more from Monday’s workout, including the entire Spring Training game schedule, please CLICK HERE.
Before we wrap things up, we caught up with Baez and Brownell to get their thoughts from Day 1: