The Tri-City Dust Devils didn’t get off to the best start to open the 2014 Northwest League season, going 1-4 on their road trip to Boise.
But one of the most important lessons in minor league baseball is bouncing back.
That’s why manager Drew Saylor is excited about building on the good things that did happen at Memorial Stadium.
“I’m not worried at all. The things you look for in terms of winning competitive championship baseball are the things we saw,” Saylor said. “The guys never gave up and had really good at-bats. The biggest thing was they stayed aggressive.”
The Dust Devils have never been known for providing much offensive support, but they did well for themselves in Boise, averaging 4.6 runs and 9.0 hits a game. By comparison, only three Dust Devils teams — 2011, 2008 and 2007 — have averaged more runs, and only the 2009 Tri-City squad (8.75 hits/game) came close to nine hits a game.
“We looked sharp. We were definitely very comfortable,” Dust Devils first baseman David Bergin said. “Since spring training, we’ve been coming out as a team and hitting as a team.”
Bergin is off to a good start with seven hits in his first 14 at-bats (.500). The former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand — he was signed by the Colorado Rockies last season — also leads the team with five RBIs and blasted Tri-City’s first home run of the year.
Sam Bumpers, the Rockies’ 22nd-round pick out of Lamar University, hit .400 in his first two games as a pro. Catcher Robert Perkins, a native of Canberra, Australia, threw out seven runners trying to steal during the Boise series.
The Dust Devils are carrying three catchers — Perkins, Jairo Rosario and 20th-round pick Jordan Parris — but Perkins’ arm will make him difficult to ignore when it comes time to make out the lineup.
“He basically threw 2 1/3 innings from behind the plate (by throwing out runners),” Tri-City pitching coach Frank Gonzales said. “That’s 2 1/3 innings my pitchers don’t have to throw. It saves you pitches and saves you runs.”
The pitching staff didn’t have an ideal week, giving up an average of 11.2 hits and eight runs a game. But Gonzales still loves what his pitchers bring to the table.
“When you have bigger horses, which I think we do, you need bigger reins. They need to control what they have and not try to overcompensate,” Gonzales said. “It’s really about hitting targets at the end of the day. With the kind of stuff they have, if they hit targets, they’re going to get outs.”
The Dust Devils pitching staff finished its first series with an ERA of 8.36, with opposing batters hitting .336.
“Our entire philosophy is to stay down in the zone and try not to get into hitters counts,” Saylor said. “We made a couple of mistakes. Plus, (high ERA’s) happen in Boise, especially when you get that jet stream to right center field. Not to say that they didn’t put some good swings on the ball, but they got some help from us.”
Cubs draft pick paying dividends: Kyle Schwarber, the fourth overall selection in this year’s draft by the Chicago Cubs, didn’t waste any time making an impression with the Hawks.
The 6-foot, 235-pound catcher out of Indiana University terrorized Tri-City pitchers, hitting .600 (12-for-20) with four home runs and 10 RBIs.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s going to hit at every level. He’ll allow you to throw it in there because he wants you to miss over the plate eventually,” Gonzales said. “He doesn’t have a hole on the inner half (of the plate), but we were able to get him out there.
“He’s so good at hitting his pitch, if he stays in that mode and stays under control, he’ll be able to hit anywhere he goes.”
w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org.