Jun 14, 2010 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Fresh faces complement graybeards on Chiefs roster
“The California Cannon” may have split the scene here in Syracuse, but the Chiefs boast firepower to spare both on the mound and at the plate.
Pitcher Stephen Strasburg proved a truly rare rookie, baffling batters with flaming fastballs and curling curves. The Washington Nationals called up the Cannon to make his major-league debut June 8 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, of whom he whiffed 14. Now fans in our nation’s capital are as amazed as we were.
But Strasburg isn’t the only talented rookie who performed remarkably well for the first-place Chiefs this season.
Right-handed starters Jeff Mandel and Erik Arnesen, both 25, have helped stabilize the rotation. Over 33 innings, Mandel has allowed just two home runs, has won two and lost two, while walking 12 and striking out 21. Arnesen’s walks-to-strikeouts ratio is equally impressive at five walks and 10 strikeouts over 14 innings of work.
Southpaw reliever Atahualpa Severino, 25, has excelled at this level. He’s 3-0, with one save while walking 11 and whiffing 22 over 32 innings. Severino has served up only one homer and posts an enviable 3.09 ERA.
Other Chiefs’ rookies are making their mark at bat and on the basepaths.
Catcher Sean Rooney, 24, hit his first Triple-A double June 6 against Durham at Alliance Bank Stadium and then showed his versatility by pitching the ninth inning in the next day’s 12-3 loss. (Rooney was demoted to Harrisburg June 11.)
Outfielder Marvin Lowrance, who turns 26 on July 16, has notched 14 hits in 19 games in his first season in the International League. In his first 35 Triple-A games, catcher Devin Ivany, 27, has smacked 23 hits and seven doubles.
In his second year of Triple-A, outfielder Leonard Davis is converting to second base, while maintaining a reliable.250 average.
But best of all is Brandon “Boomer” Whiting, a bold base-stealer and bunter who — after a mere dozen games in the league — is already driving opposing pitchers crazy. The 26-year-old center fielder has swiped seven sacks in nine attempts, while racking up 14 base hits and eight RBI over his first 12 games for the Chiefs.
Last year Whiting played under Chiefs Manager Trent Jewett at Potomac in the Single-A Carolina League, and Boomer’s foot-speed fits Trent’s fast-paced managerial style to a T. It’s a bonus that Boomer’s free-wheeling approach invariably revs up the hometown crowds.
But Triple-A teams can’t win with rookies alone.
Fortunately, the Chiefs’ fresh faces are complemented by a gaggle of gritty graybeards who really know how to play the game.
After spending most of last season in Washington, starter Craig Stammen is back with the Chiefs as is outfield prospect Justin Maxwell.
Stammen, a rugged right-hander, fills out a rotation that also includes veterans Shairon Martis and Matt Chico.
The bullpen overflows with experienced arms such as righties Jason Bergmann, Collin Balester, Josh Wilkie, Mike MacDougal and Joel Peralta and lefties Victor Garate and Ron Villone.
And the Chiefs employ some seasoned hitters as well, including Chris Duncan, Kevin Mench, Pete Orr, Jamie Burke and Chase Lambin. Journeyman switch-hitter Jason Botts, formerly with the Texas Rangers, hired on as a free agent early this month, replacing slugger Josh Whitesell who signed with a Japanese team.
Anyhow, now that Strasburg has come and gone, the Chiefs — veterans and rookies alike — set their sights on staying atop the league’s North Division, rarefied air our ballplayers haven’t breathed for most of the past 25 years.
Knights challenge Chiefs
The Charlotte Knights, the top farm club of the Chicago White Sox, challenge the Chiefs at ABS at 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, June 21-24. The Pawtucket Red Sox roll into town June 25-28.
Alliance Bank Stadium is located on Syracuse’s North Side, just east of the Regional Market, at Tex Simone Drive (First North Street). Tickets cost $11 for field-level seats, $8 for kids and seniors; $8 for second-tier seats, $4 for kids and seniors; and parking costs $4 per vehicle; 474-7833.