Dust Devils' Tauchman eyes return for opener

June 9, 2014 

Injuries are a part of baseball.

How they’re handled, however, can make a big difference in the future of a player or team.

Fortunately, the Tri-City Dust Devils have always had capable hands to treat the dings and dents that go with the demanding life of a professional baseball player.

Mike Tauchman made the Northwest League All-Star team and led the Dust Devils in hits (70), runs (38), steals (20) and batting (.297) as a rookie in 2013. This season, he’s struggled with a hamstring injury that so far has kept him off the field.

With the help of Dust Devils trainer Casey Pappas, Tauchman is working toward a return for Tri-City’s NWL opener at 6:15 p.m. Friday in Boise.

“Me and Casey have been trying to get after treatment every day. We’ve put a lot of work in it,” said Tauchman, a 10th-round draft pick out of Bradley in 2013. “I’m looking forward to Opening Day.”

Pappas is also working hard to get Francisco Sosa, a 2012 NWL All-Star, back to full health after he was hit in the helmet with a pitch just five days into the season while playing with the Modesto Nuts, the Colorado Rockies’ advanced Class A affiliate in California. He suffered a concussion but fortunately no fractures.

Still, the mental scars are something that have to be considered, said Pappas.

“Our job is to protect the player as much as possible and to make sure the player can get back on the field with no doubt in their mind that they’re 100 percent healthy,” he said. “They have to pass certain tests before we even get them on the field for running. Everything is done on the side of caution.”

Getting Sosa back to full health and confidence would be good news for all. The 24-year-old outfielder hit .325 at Asheville last season, including 20 home runs, 25 doubles and 30 stolen bases.

But Dust Devils manager Drew Saylor knows it can be tough coming back after a beaning.

“It’s scary. I got hit in the shoulder blade and head in the same game,” said Saylor, a former All-American second baseman at Kent State. “It took me a week to 10 days before I felt comfortable getting back in the box.”

Both Saylor and Pappas agreed that Sosa is looking comfortable during batting practice.

“He got some at-bats in extended (spring training), but the first couple at-bats in Boise will be the big challenge,” Saylor said.

Strong bloodlines: Two members of the 2014 Dust Devils have fathers who played in the major leagues. One is OF Ryan Garvey, whose father Steve was a 10-time National League All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

The other is OF/3B Miguel Dilone Jr., whose father Miguel Sr. played outfield for nine teams in 12 major league seasons, hitting .341 and scoring 82 runs in his best season with the Cleveland Indians in 1980.

Catcher Jairo Rosario’s older brother, Wil, also is a catcher with the Colorado Rockies.

Bryant won’t stay: Saylor said that Kennewick native Tony Bryant and Marc Magliaro, two pitchers who played with the Dust Devils last season, will eventually be sent to Grand Junction, the Rockies’ rookie-level affiliate.

Both players had solid professional debuts in 2013. Bryant, signed as an undrafted free agent midway through the season, posted a 1.93 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings, while Magliaro went 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA in 27 games.

Bryant will start one game for Tri-City during the team’s first road trip in Boise before being sent to Colorado.

“It’s just to challenge him with a little altitude and see how he does,” Saylor said.

w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; jmillikin@tricityherald.com

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