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Fontana has strong debut out of pen

Updated: August 7, 2013 11:20PM



GARY — Even before Wednesday night’s game, Morgan Coombs’ spot in the RailCats’ four-man rotation had been solidified.

They released potential candidate James Adkins and signed relief pitcher Chuck Fontana, giving them a second left-hander in the bullpen.

Coombs didn’t factor in the decision in the RailCats’ 9-4 win over Kansas City at the Steel Yard. But Fontana did, picking up the win in an excellent debut with the team, as he allowed a walk in two innings with three strikeouts; he had entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, and recorded a strikeout.

“Certainly a big moment in the game there for Chuck Fontana,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said. “Not a only a big moment, but a big two innings.”

The RailCats (46-31), who won on Wednesday despite leaving 15 runners on base, took two of three in the series against the T-Bones (32-46), who committed four errors. After Thursday off, they have a big six-game road trip to Lincoln (trailing by five games in the wild-card standings entering Wednesday) and Wichita (which has maintained the best record in the American Association).

Coombs, still regaining his strength after suffering from shingles, went 42⁄3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits with four walks and one strikeout.

“I will say this: I always have a good feeling that the team is going to play well behind him when he’s on the mound. … It’s a great trait, his teammates rally around him,” Tagert said.

Before the game, Tagert had said: “We know what Morgan’s capable of … When it was all said and done, we believe we have the best guy for it.”

Adkins went 1-3 with a 4.54 ERA in 15 games with the RailCats, including six starts. He took the loss against the T-Bones on Tuesday, allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits in five innings.

Tagert said Adkins — who reached Triple-A in 2010 and was drafted No. 39 overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007 out of Tennessee — did a “serviceable job” since he signed with the team on June 8. He was making progress after he was released by Grand Prairie, Tagert said, but still was “a ways away.”

“A move to the bullpen was not a possibility,” Tagert said. “It’s not his strength, and it wouldn’t have benefitted the ballclub.”

The 23-year-old Fontana went 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 21 games covering 341⁄3 innings with the Las Vegas (N.M.) Train Robbers in the Pecos League. He pitched at Molloy College, going 3-4 with a 3.58 ERA as a senior in 2012.

Fontana worked out for the RailCats on Sunday, and the plan was for him to throw again on Wednesday, a simulated game involving Reid Fronk and Ryan Brockett. But with the bullpen’s usage on Tuesday, they signed him on Wednesday.

Each team scored two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings, resulting in the RailCats on top 5-4.

With the RailCats on the verge of squandering a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity in the fifth, Mike Massaro came through with a two-out, two-run single.

Kansas City had scored two runs in the fifth to grab a 4-3 lead. After a leadoff walk to Luis Rivera, Kennard Jones tripled into the right-field corner with one out, and Justin Bass followed with a single through the drawn-in infield. With the bases loaded and two outs, just-signed Fontana took over for Coombs, and struck out Felix Molina.

The T-Bones had moved ahead in the fourth with a pair of runs on three hits, including Petey Paramore’s two-run single to center.

The RailCats regained the lead, 3-2, with two runs in a fourth inning that included one hit, two walks and a Kansas City error.

The RailCats had taken a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the second. Brockett and Nick Liles had back-to-back singles with two outs, with the T-Bones committing an error on each play.

Notes: The season is indeed over for Ari Ronick (strained oblique), as the left-hander headed home to Colorado on Wednesday. He saw the doctor earlier in the day, and it was determined he likely would not be able to return until mid-September or even early October. … Adam Klein led off with a single, extending his on-base streak to 32 games.



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