RailCats preview: Cats looking to reach American Association playoffs for first time
By Michael Osipoff firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-2485 May 15, 2013 11:32PM
RailCat Players run past a ball cap during the first day of spring training at the U.S. Steel Yard Saturday, May 4, 2013, in Gary, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
RailCats Opening Day Roster
No. Name B/T Ht. Wt. Birthdate Resides
14 Estevan Uriegas L/L 5-9 180 11/18/89 Round Rock, Texas
15 Marco Gonzalez R/R 6-2 205 5/28/84 Golden, Colo.
19 Stephen Hiscock R/R 6-2 165 1/23/88 Naugatuck, Conn.
21 Takahiro Matsuka R/R 6-1 190 7/29/82 Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan
28 Morgan Coombs R/R 6-4 190 5/4/88 West Terre Haute
31 Taylor Sewitt R/R 6-2 195 2/3/90 Highland Mills, N.Y.
34 Ari Ronick L/L 6-5 195 1/31/85 Boulder, Col.
38 Will Krout R/R 6-4 235 9/18/83 Santa Rosa, Calif.
40 Ian Durham R/R 6-4 200 1/31/89 Torrance, Calif.
43 Alain Quijano R/L 5-11 180 7/27/82 Chicago
Clay Zavada * L/L 6-1 195 6/28/84 Streator, Ill.
2 Ryan Babineau R/R 6-2 215 12/13/86 Rancho Cucam., Calif.
24 Craig Maddox L/R 5-11 205 4/10/85 Locust Grove, Ga.
6 Chase Tucker R/R 6-1 195 11/21/89 Poway, Calif.
7 Zac Mitchell L/R 5-9 160 12/5/89 Memphis, Tenn.
9 Aljay Davis R/R 5-9 185 5/17/86 Gilroy, Calif.
20 Steve Liddle L/L 6-1 205 11/24/87 Brentwood, Tenn.
22 Danny Pulfer R/R 5-10 195 2/16/90 Lakewood, Calif.
30 Brian Kolb R/R 6-1 185 11/11/87 Carlsbad, Calif.
3 Mike Massaro L/L 5-11 185 4/15/84 Pueblo, Colo.
5 Drew Martinez L/L 5-10 180 4/4/89 Collierville, Tenn.
32 Cristian Guerrero R/R 6-5 210 7/12/80 Newcastle, Del.
36 Adam Klein L/L 5-11 170 8/21/83 Los Angeles
Matt McSwain R/R 6-1 205 8/15/85 Sophia, N.C.
Updated: June 18, 2013 7:47AM
GARY — Since joining the American Association for the 2011 season, the RailCats have yet to make the playoffs, including last season’s 50-50 record.
They seem confident that they will break through this season.
Alain Quijano will start on Opening Day for the RailCats against Lincoln on Thursday night at the Steel Yard. Ari Ronick, Stephen Hiscock and Will Krout were expected to follow in a rotation that includes two left-handers (Quijano and Ronick) and two righties. Hiscock and Krout could switch to give the former an extra day, depending on the state of his pitching hand, in which he broke a bone in mid-March.
Quijano, Hiscock and Krout all have pitched for the RailCats, with Ronick the lone newcomer. He was signed — on May 7, after a brief stint with Camden in the Atlantic League — essentially as an insurance policy for Matt McSwain and Takahiro Matsuka. And with McSwain on the inactive list and Matsuka slated to come out of the bullpen, Ronick finds himself in the rotation, attempting to convert back to his early-career role. He spent five seasons in the Giants organization — reaching Double-A last season — the first two-plus as a starter before missing most of 2010 with an injury, then returning as a reliever, with one start among his 80 appearances in 2011 and ’12.
“Ari was a nice bonus for us,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said.
The outfield, too, has a lot of experience. Left fielder Adam Klein is expected to lead off, followed by right fielder Mike Massaro. In his return to the RailCats after a one-season absence, Cristian Guerrero should be the team’s primary DH, also playing some right; he is penciled in to hit third in the order, shifting from his usual cleanup spot. Drew Martinez won the center field position in spring training.
The infield shapes up considerably younger, with Chase Tucker at second base and Zac Mitchell at shortstop; both are classified as rookies, though both played part of last season with the RailCats. Brian Kolb, expected to hit sixth, returns at third base; and Steve Liddle, who should hit fifth, won the first base job in camp.
“We think Chase will be as good a second baseman as there is in the league,” Tagert said, also describing Mitchell as having a “veteran presence” despite his youth. “I think he can be a premium player.
“The consensus (from the staff) was he was the best player in camp.”
Ryan Babineau and Craig Maddox should split the catching duties, out of the No. 4 spot in the order.
“Both guys compete — they don’t compete against each other every day, they compete with each other,” Tagert said. “Both guys want to play every day, there’s no doubt about that. Both guys are offering, hey, I can play third, I can play first. I see them during batting practice at different positions. But both will get plenty of time; they’ll get a chance to make a big impact.”
Danny Pulfer and Aljay Davis, too, should get their share of at-bats, bringing versatility as utility players. Pulfer, who spent two seasons in the Diamondbacks organization, can play second and third, as well as shortstop. Davis has been listed as an infielder, but can also play in the outfield, particularly valuable with Guerrero not expected to see as much time in the field as earlier in his career.
Right-hander Marco Gonzalez should reprise his role as the RailCats closer, with left-hander Clay Zavada giving the team another option at the back end of its bullpen.