Apr 04, 2012 Neil Benjamin Jr. Uncategorized
If you were at Media Day at Alliance Bank Stadium for the Syracuse Chiefs on Wednesday afternoon, you would have thought Bryce Harper was the only member of the 2012 squad.
Swarms of reporters — print, television and radio — showed up seemingly to compile generic reports on the No. 1 overall prospect in all of baseball.
Overlooked in the hoopla was the fact that on Thursday at 2 p.m., another season of high-level baseball begins in Syracuse. And the roster is composed of much more than the former catcher who’s learning the outfield.
Mitch Atkins will start on the mound. Last season, he started a total of 26 games with four different squads, compiling a 4-10 record. And he won’t place much in the way of expectations on the team because he hasn’t spent enough time with them all.
“It’s still really early in the season, but it’s always nice to get off to a good start,” Atkins said when asked if he’s nervous about starting the season.
Earlier on Wednesday the Washington Nationals announced John Lannan, who spent the last few years as a starting pitcher with the club, was optioned down to the AAA squad. Lannan was 10-13 with a 3.70 earned run average, and people inside the organization either didn’t know why he was sent down, or wouldn’t comment.
That could bode well for the Chiefs’ pitching staff, as they have someone with an extended big league stay to learn from, a guy to look up to.
“I haven’t talked to him yet,” Atkins said of Lannan, who wasn’t in Syracuse as of 3 p.m. on Wednesday. “I know he was here last year. I’m a visual learner, so I’ll watch him pitch and see how he handles batters and then talk to him about that. That’s probably the easiest thing for me to do.”
Tony Beasley is the team’s new manager. In 2006, among many stops throughout baseball, he was the Nationals’ third base coach under Manager Frank Robinson. He spoke about Lannan being sent down, and what it means to the club.
“Well, I haven’t had the opportunity to talk with John yet but I’m sure he’s disappointed,” Beasley said. “So, you know, I’m hoping that being the professional that he is, he’ll come with the right attitude and do his job and that’s all I can ask out of him. We have some guys some guys in our starting rotation that have been around. Mitch Atkins, he’s pitched at the Major League level. Zach Duke, he’s pitched at the Major League level, so it’s not a lot of young guys for [Lannan] to help in that sense. He’s a guy that’s probably going to be a leader by example, how he goes about his work, how he prepares, how he attacks hitters in-game, and so that’s all I can ask out of John. I don’t want to put too much on him, because I’m sure he’s carrying enough weight right now, you know, being frustrated getting sent down after having success at the Major League level.”
Alas, the talk couldn’t stay away from Harper forever. There were so many members of the media in attendance, the Chiefs had to break down interviews with the phenom to five minutes per reporter.
Harper, for a lot of the negative press he receives, seems like a sincere guy. He said he doesn’t really read much of what is written about him, but when he does, he uses that to his advantage.
“You guys have a job to do,” he said. “I try not to read all that negative stuff.”
Check The Eagle’s website Thursday prior to the 2 p.m. game for an in-depth look at Harper, and for other notes preceding the game.
Neil Benjamin Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.