Tri-City Dust Devils

Dust Devils hold first workout

PASCO -- The Tri-City Dust Devils hit Gesa Stadium for the first time during a light workout Saturday, giving newcomers their first look at their new home park on a beautiful sunny afternoon in Pasco.

"When we got done with extended (spring training), we had three days off, so we haven't done anything since then," Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio said. "Today they got a chance to get their uniforms and get organized, and then get out there and get a little sweat going."

Gesa Stadium's reputation as a pitchers park definitely preceded itself, and players got to see why during batting practice. Line drives rocketed off bats looking like they might clear the fences but instead bounced hard off the base of the outfield walls.

To some players that's not entirely a bad thing.

"It's a graveyard, which I'm really liking. You are able to get away with a few more pitches than usual," said pitcher Tyler Gagnon, who played for the Colorado Rockies' rookie-league affiliate in Casper, Wyo., for the last two seasons.

Gagnon was drafted in 2009 in the 15th round out of Diablo Valley College in San Ramon, Calif., and had a bumpy first season in Casper. But he bounced back with a strong year in 2010, going 5-3 with a 3.89 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 761/3 innings.

"I just tried to get as many ground balls as I can," Gagnon said. "You can string together a few good outings, but one bad outing can blow it up."

Catcher Ryan Casteel also enjoyed a solid year in Casper in 2010, hitting .305 in 43 games. He's looking forward to maybe putting a different spin on Gesa Stadium this season.

"I hear it's not a hitter's park, but we'll see if we can't turn that around this year," said Casteel, a 17th-round pick last season out of Cleveland State Community College.

This year, he wants to continue working on his defense and establish a strong connection with his pitching staff.

"The key for me and (Anthony) Aguilera is getting to know each pitcher's strengths and weaknesses," Casteel said. "We want to give them the best opportunity to be successful. Success for them is success for the ballclub."

Pitching coach Dave Burba also got his first look at Gesa Stadium. Of course, the 15-year major-league veteran had to get there first.

"I had a hard time trying to find the ballpark," said Burba, the Dust Devils' fifth pitching coach in five seasons. "But everything has been great so far."

Burba won 115 games with six teams, including the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers. But in his return to the Northwest League -- he played his first pro game with Bellingham in 1987 -- he hopes to impart some of the lessons he's learned over a long and successful career.

"I learned from (pitching coach) Mike Maddux that if you're going to throw a pitch, make sure you throw it with conviction. From (manager) Dusty Baker, I learned not to worry about what the other guy did. Worry about what I can control," Burba said.

He loves to keep things loose, too, an invaluable characteristic for team about to play 76 games over the next 80 days.

"You can't come in here every day wound up like a seven-year watch," Burba said. "You've got to be relaxed and let things happen."

NOTES: The Rockies assigned catcher Richard Pirkle, a 35th-round draft pick out of Georgia College and State University, to Tri-City. The 6-1 senior right-hander was a three-time All-Peach Belt Conference selection and hit .301 with 37 RBIs in 2011, leading the team with 12 home runs. ... The High-A California League has named its all-star team, and two former Tri-City Dust Devils are on it. First baseman Mike Zuanich (.379, 11 HRs, 44 RBIs, 53 runs) and pitcher Chad Bettis (4-3, 4.56 ERA, 79 Ks) will represent the Modesto Nuts in the June 21 game in Modesto. In the Low-A South Atlantic League, catcher Bryce Massanari (.345, 12 HRs, 38 RBIs) and pitcher Edwar Cabrera (4-1, 3.23 ERA, 103 Ks) -- who played for Tri-City last year -- will represent the Asheville Tourists on June 21 in Delmarva, Md.