Canaries Have Starters to Cage Opposing Bats
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier looks at the starting staff of the Sioux Falls Canaries, a group that may be as impressive as any in franchise history as they look to shutdown opposing players in the hitter friendly Bird Cage.
The Dawning of a New Age?
In the 16-year history of the American Association, a lot of things have changed. Franchises have come and gone. Teams have moved. The names and faces of players and managers has drastically changed as well. However, there has been one constant in the league from its very inception – that runs are going to be scored at the Birdcage, home of the Sioux Falls Canaries.
It is appropriate that the home of the Canaries is known as the Birdcage. Not just because it fits the bird moniker of the club, but also because balls fly out in this park. This is the only stadium in the history of the league where a 10-run lead in the eighth inning is not a sure victory.
For hitters, it is an absolute paradise. For pitchers, it is your worst nightmare. More runs have been scored in the Birdcage over the last 16 seasons than in any other park in the league and that has proven to be the standard nearly every single year since 2006.
However, Manager Mike Meyer has collected a group of veterans ready to change history or, at the very least, to keep more balls in the park and scoresheets looking less like a novel written in Chinese characters. This could be the year that the Birdcage gets tamed.
Let Me Introduce You To…
Meyer will be entering his sixth season as the skipper of the Canaries. He has done a lot to improve the club, helping them to reach the 2020 American Association Championship series. However, one factor that has caused the Skipper issues – trying to find a group of arms he could depend upon to toss six solid innings on the road or at home. A group that can weather a four- or five-run first or second inning, then shut an opponent down for four or five more frames while his team battles back.
Meyer has had some solid arms over the years. Tyler Herron, Grady Wood, Dylan Thompson, and Taylor Hill are a few of the pitchers who put up solid numbers in the American Association’s most hitter friendly park, but only in 2020 did Meyer have a deep enough rotation that he could depend on three or four guys to give his team a chance to win and that was the year the team nearly won it all.
Meyer has understood that his team simply cannot outslug opponents night after night. That may work at Coors Field, but not in this league and so he has made it his mission to find that elusive group of starters who give his team six-innings a night. This may be the year he has finally put it together.
What makes this group different from years past is that all four expected starters are veterans and all have pitched in the Birdcage before. More importantly, they have all had success in Sioux Falls. This changes the dynamic of what 2022 may look like for the team.
Tyler Garkow, RHP
There are legitimately four pitchers who can stake their claim to the No. 1 spot in the rotation, but do not be surprised if Tyler Garkow is the opening day starter on May 13. Garkow has only ever pitched in independent ball but that, to Meyer, is a bonus and not a liability. Garkow joined the Canaries last year and went 6-9 with a 4.97 ERA in 116.0 innings pitched. One thing that likely moves him to the top of the rotation is that he does not hurt himself. The right-hander allowed just 33 walks last season while striking out 114. Plus, he gave up only 16 homers and 115 hits. Those are numbers that breathe success in Sioux Falls.
Ty Culbreth, LHP
The ERA is not pretty for Ty Culbreth, but those numbers are a bit misleading. The lefty was in his second season with Sioux Falls last year, going 7-9 with a 5.54 ERA in 20 starts. Culbreth gave up 69 earned runs in 112.0 innings pitched, but what those numbers do not tell is that 28 of those runs came in four starts. The left-hander took one for the team, getting hit early but staying in the ball game to save his bullpen. Take away those four starts and Culbreth posted a 3.97 ERA.
Cesilio Pimentel, LHP
Cesilio Pimentel pitched briefly in Sioux Falls in 2018. He had a lot of success, going 3-1 with a 1.36 ERA before his contract was purchased and he headed south of the border. The left-hander has great stuff with a career 38-30 mark and a 3.63 ERA. However, he has only made five appearances in the last two seasons. If he can give this team 18 starts, look for 15 to be quality ones.
Angel Ventura, RHP
Angel Ventura has reached the AAA level twice in his career, so you know he has great stuff. After pitching very well for the Milwaukee Milkmen in 2019 (6-10, 2.76 ERA), Ventura struggled with injuries. However, he made 22 appearances for the Canaries last season, going 7-7 with a 5.14 ERA. Ventura actually had an incredible season, and it would not be surprising to see as the No. 1 guy in this rotation. Only one time did he give up more than five runs in a game last season and the righty allowed 13 earned runs over his final 37.0 innings pitched (3.17). He may be fully healthy and ready to lead this rotation.
The Expectations Will Be Soaring
The newly realigned American Association has made the Western Division stacked. That makes it a tough task for the Canaries to soar to the top of the division. However, if this rotation holds up as expected, the Birdcage may see its bars tightened as opponents bats have their wings clipped.
By Robert Pannier