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Joe Zeller takes his lumps in debut with RailCats

Scott M Bort/Post-Tribune Gary RailCats  MediDay Mugs RC TAGERT GREG 2 050610.jpg  PTSPT

Scott M Bort/Post-Tribune Gary RailCats Media Day Mugs RC TAGERT GREG 2 050610.jpg PTSPT

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Updated: September 23, 2013 2:50PM



GARY — A homer, a double, a walk, two wild pitches, a passed ball.

And that was in the first inning alone.

No, just-acquired knuckleballer Joe Zeller’s RailCats debut did not begin particularly well. Thereafter, it didn’t get much better for him, if at all. And it got worse for the team, as Wichita rolled to an 18-5 win on Wednesday night at the Steel Yard, Gary’s most lopsided loss of the season.

Zeller departed after 31/3 innings, tagged for eight runs (six earned) on seven hits. He walked three, hit a batter, threw two wild pitches and struck out four. Zeller’s new team made several mistakes — including committing two errors, losing a fly ball in the lights, and not making at least two other makeable plays — but he did not help his cause.

It was an adventure as Craig Maddox attempted to corral the knuckleball of Zeller, who provides a mitt for his catchers. Zeller, who spent three seasons in the Cubs organization, went 8-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 18 games (16 starts) for the Greys, a Frontier League traveling team, before the RailCats (50-38) traded for him.

“Joe, the personality seems pretty quiet,” manager Greg Tagert said before the game. “He goes about his business. He’s a pro. When we decided to get a guy in here for Alain (Quijano), it had to be somebody that could handle the environment as much as the game.”

In the first inning, Wichita first baseman CJ Ziegler hit his 27th homer of the season, tying the American Association record set in 2010 by Brandon Sing with Sioux Falls. He went on to record the first cycle in franchise history (the triple was the first of his career).

In all, the Wingnuts (59-30) collected 23 hits, with 11 players having at least one. They had nine doubles.

With the game out of reach for the RailCats, Taylor Sewitt took one for the team, throwing 113 pitches in 32/3 innings, allowing nine runs on 12 hits with six walks and two strikeouts.

Notes: To clear a roster spot for Zeller, the RailCats placed Quijano (hand) on the disabled list retroactive to Saturday, and shifted closer Marco Gonzalez (elbow) from the DL to the inactive list. Quijano is scheduled to start on Sunday at St. Paul, and Gonzalez will be eligible to be activated on Sept. 4, which would be the start of the playoffs. … Second baseman Danny Pulfer (broken right index finger) participated in a simulated game on Wednesday, and could be nearing a return. He has been on the disabled list since July 27. … Billy Spottiswood (5-3, 3.55 ERA) is scheduled to start Thursday’s series finale against Wichita left-hander Anthony Capra (6-2, 3.84).



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