Mike McCoy got the assignment to manage the 2018 Tri-City Dust Devils pretty late last spring.
“I went into spring training last year without a role,” he said on Tuesday. “They were talking to me about being a defensive coach in Arizona. But really, any time you move up, it’s a positive.”
This year, fully knowing he’d be the skipper for the Dust Devils from the get-go, McCoy is excited for the Northwest League season to begin on Friday night in Pasco against the Everett AquaSox.
“I’m more prepared this year,” he said.
So are his players, who were introduced to the media on Tuesday at Gesa Stadium before working out.
“This is an all-around close-knit team,” said Dust Devils left-handed reliever Dan Dallas. “Our goal is to win a championship. This is a bunch of team guys. We want to have fun and win games.”
McCoy agrees with that philosophy.
“Winning is the best. It solves a lot of problems,” said McCoy. “But at the end of the day, it’s about developing players.”
As an affiliate of the San Diego Padres, the players on this team are concentrating on being a professional ballplayer more than anything.
Many of them are coming from the Padres’ minor-league complex in Peoria, Ariz.
“The complex in Arizona is totally different from this,” McCoy said. “Everything was planned for them at the Arizona complex. Their schedules were planned. Their meals were planned. The hotel was right across the street from the complex.”
In the Northwest League, these new Dust Devils will have to learn about minor league travel, those long bus trips and staying in budget hotels.
But they’ll also have some veterans to lean on, especially this early part of the season.
At least nine players on the 26-man roster spent all or part of the 2018 season in the Tri-Cities.
That includes 22-year-old outfielder Tre Carter — who has spent the past two seasons playing at Gesa — as well as outfielder Tyler Benson and infielder Luke Becker.
That also includes Dallas, who played in the Northwest League All-Star Game last summer but was hampered recently with some back problems.
“That problem is resolved,” said Dallas, who actually started the season up at Fort Wayne in the Midwest League, going 1-2 with a 5.74 ERA in 15.2 innings pitched in 10 games.
He knows he’ll be expected to be a leader.
“I think for a lot of guys coming into affiliate ball, they don’t know what to expect,” said Dallas. “But McCoy is great. We get our work done, and he gives us room off the field.”
New Dust Devils pitching coach Leo Rosales likes what he sees in Dallas.
“He looks fine,” said Rosales. “The last couple of outings, I saw the Dallas of last year. He’s high energy. I like his intensity.”
Rosales, who once pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks and pitched in the Northwest League in 2003 for Eugene, said he stresses team unity to his entire pitching staff.
“I think this is a good corps, a good group of guys,” said Rosales. “We all need to have each other’s backs. The starters, relievers, end of the game guys – we’re all one unit.”
McCoy said this team looks pretty athletic.
“We have a lot of good athletes whose ceilings are high,” McCoy said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some college bats and arms coming in.”
That’ll happen, as players who were recently drafted by the Padres will sign contracts and be assigned to the Tri-Cities, while others here may get promoted, demoted or released.
It’s all about developing players with the ultimate goal of getting to the major leagues.
“I believe this organization believes that winning is part of development,” said McCoy. “At the same time, the players will need to deal with failure If we struggle. It’s about being an adult.
“I like to win, but at the end of the day you want to see the players get better, to develop, to learn how to be a professional.”
NOTES: First pitch to Friday’s opener is 7:15 p.m. In fact, all Dust Devils home games begin at 7:15 p.m. … Gesa Stadium has added chair seating in the bleachers on the first base side this season. … Pat O’Sullivan is the team’s hitting coach, while Oscar Salazar is the field coach. … The team’s 76-game schedule has been adjusted this year. No longer will the Dust Devils play the Southern Division teams 10 times (five on the road, five at home). Instead, Tri-City will play each of the Southern Division teams – Boise (Rockies), Eugene (Cubs), Hillsboro (Diamondbacks) and Salem-Keizer (Giants) – seven times total. Those remaining games will go against the Dust Devils’ Northern Division rivals: Everett (Mariners), Spokane (Rangers) and Vancouver (Blue Jays).
Dust Devils’ pre-season roster
Top-10 draft picks and previous club noted in parentheses
Tom Colletti (Fort Wayne); Starlin Cordero (AZL Padres); Omar Cruz (Tri-City); Dan Dallas (7th rounder, 2016; Fort Wayne); Cullen Dana (AZL Padres); Dom DiSabatino (Tri-City); Ignacio Feliz (AZL Indians); Mason Fox (AZL Padres); Deivy Mendez (Bradenton); Felix Minjarez (AZL Padres); Jake Sims (AZL Padres); Wen-Hua Sung (Tri-City); Nick Thwaits (AZL Padres).
Michael Cantu (AZL Padres); Alison Quintero (Tri-City).
Jordy Barley (AZL Padres); Luke Becker (9th rounder, 2018; Tri-City); Nick Gatewood (Tri-City); Sean Guilbe (AZL Padres); Jonny Homza (5th rounder, 2017; AZL Padres); Reinaldo Ilarazza (AZL Padres); Carlos Luis (AZL Padres); Jason Pineda (AZL Padres).
Tyler Benson (Tri-City); Tre Carter (Tri-City); Mason House (3rd rounder, 2017; AZL Padres).
Dust Devils 2019 schedule
Home games in CAPS
All home games start at 7:15 p.m.
14-16 – EVERETT; 17-20 – HILLSBORO; 21-22 – at Eugene, 7:05 p.m.; 23 – at Eugene, 5:05 p.m.; 24 – at Eugene, 7:05 p.m.; 25-27 – at Spokane, 6:30 p.m.; 28-30 – EVERETT.
1-3 – EUGENE; 4-6 – at Boise, 6:15 p.m.; 7 – at Spokane, 5:09 p.m.; 8-9 – at Spokane, 6:30 p.m.; 11-13 – SPOKANE; 14 – at Vancouver, 5:05 p.m.; 15-16 – at Vancouver, 7:05 p.m.; 17-19 – EVERETT; 20 – at Vancouver, 7:05 p.m.; 21 – at Vancouver, 1:05 p.m.; 22 – at Vancouver, 7:05 p.m.; 23-25 – SPOKANE; 26-27 at Everett, 7:05 p.m.; 28 – at Everett, 4:05 p.m.; 29-31 – at Salem-Keizer, 6:35 p.m.
1 – at Salem-Keizer, 6:35 p.m.; 2-4 – VANCOUVER; 8-10 – at Spokane, 6:30 p.m.; 11-13 – SALEM-KEIZER; 14-16 – at Everett, 7:05 p.m.; 17 – at Hillsboro, 7:05 p.m.; 18 – at Hillsboro, 4:05 p.m.; 19 – at Hillsboro, 7:05 p.m.; 20-22 – VANCOUVER; 23-26 – BOISE; 28-29 – at Vancouver, 7:05 p.m.; 30 – at Vancouver, 1:05 p.m.; 31 – SPOKANE.
1-2 – SPOKANE.