Dust Devils preach patience with rotation

June 26, 2013 

Just as a starting pitcher needs a good warmup to be effective, the Tri-City Dust Devils’ starting rotation may have needed a few turns before getting into a groove.

After nine starts, the Dust Devils starters had a 1-4 record and an ERA of 5.55.

But the next three starts by Konner Wade, Sam Moll and Jayson Aquino yielded an ERA of just 1.35 over 131⁄3 innings.

None of them were able to pick up a win for their efforts — only Aquino reached the minimum five innings because of a 45-pitch limit — but it was certainly an indication of things heading in the right direction.

“(Wade’s) ability to get ground balls is as good as I’ve seen, and Moll had a nice outing,” Tri-City pitching coach Frank Gonzales said of the Colorado Rockies’ two draft picks.

“(The pitch count) is obviously more for protection not to overthrow you,” Moll said. “It kind of trains you to pitch to contact and work down (in the strike zone). In the back of your head, you’re thinking about getting through the game with a low pitch count.”

Gonzales saved his highest praise for Aquino, who allowed just one run on five hits over 61⁄3 innings in a 5-2 loss Tuesday night.

Through the first four innings, he induced 11 groundball outs with the help of a sharp curve.

“Aquino has had a lot of success, and he’s doing it with a confidence and a swagger,” Gonzales said of Aquino, who was rated by Baseball America as the Rockies’ ninth-best prospect. “(Tuesday’s outing) was really fun to watch.”

Aquino didn’t get the win after Everett scored five runs after he left the game, but he took it in stride.

“Overall, I did my job, but I’ve had bad starts and (the bullpen) helped me out. Everybody has their bad days,” Aquino said.

Gonzales has been happy with the overall development of the staff, but he admits it still hasn’t hit its full stride.

“Our bullpen is still trying to take shape. I’m looking for someone to take a leadership role,” Gonzales said.

Trent Daniel, a 17th-round draft pick out of Arkansas, and Eric Nedeljkovic, a 21st-round pick out of Miami, will soon share the closer role.

But Gonzales may be counting on Trent Blank, a second-year pro out of Baylor University, to take charge of the bullpen.

“We don’t have a ton of wins, but he’s still leading the league with four saves,” Gonzales said of Blank, who will likely be moved to the set-up role.

Newest NWL president making the rounds: Mike Ellis has been around baseball for most of his life, but he thinks he’ll especially enjoy being the NWL’s newest president after taking over for Bob Richmond, who stepped aside after 30 seasons last year.

Ellis and his wife Judy remain majority owners of the Missoula Osprey of the Pioneer League, but he expects to learn a lot in his first year as president.

“The best part about being in a new position is finding out what you don’t know,” said Ellis, who was in attendance during the Dust Devils’ 2-0 loss to Everett on Wednesday at Gesa Stadium. “I’ve always felt in order to really know something, you’ve got to do it or teach it.”

Ellis has served in various capacities in minor league baseball, including owner, league director/vice president and as a member of Minor League Baseball’s Board of Trustees. His wife is a former Rawlings Women Executive of the Year in 1984, and his son, Matt, is an executive VP of the Missoula Osprey.

Ellis plans to honor the history of the NWL with all the respect it deserves.

“I love history anyway. What I like about baseball is there is never a pushing aside of history for the future,” he said. “It seems to meld together. I love the idea of people coming to the ballpark and saying, ‘I remember when.’ ”

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