Lincoln Saltdogs Line: May Update
The last two months have been tough ones for the Lincoln Saltdogs, as they prepare to defend their Central Division title in the American Association. The loss of closer Marshall Schuler to the Mexican League was a key loss, but April has seen two other key pieces of their roster head across the pond to take their talents to Italy. Manager Ken Oberkfell had to pull out some miraculous moves to put this team in a position to win last season, and this year is going to take an extra dose of his genius to take the squad back to the league championship series. There is some serious talent here, but Oberkfell is going to have to mold it quickly to keep this team in the running in the ultra-competitive Central Division.
Tax day saw the Lincoln Saltdogs make a few moves that should have a big impact on the 2015 season. INF Kevin Howard and RHP Joe Bisenius were released by the club. Howard hit .310 in 47 games last season for Lincoln, while Bisenius was 6-2 in 13 starts for the Saltdogs. Both players will be hard to replace.
In addition, Jared Gaynor was acquired from Grand Prairie to complete an earlier deal. Gaynor was acquired by the AirHogs from Wichita near the end of last season. He struggled working out of the bullpen for the Wingnuts, posting an 8.16 ERA in 10 appearances. However, in Grand Prairie he moved to the rotation and looked like a whole new pitcher. He lost both of his starts, but allowed just two runs in 10.1 innings pitched for a 1.74 ERA. The left-hander should be an outstanding addition to the Lincoln rotation.
On April 21, the club got dealt two big body blows, when RHPs Marquis Fleming and Jhonny Montoya opted to play in Italy this year. Fleming was the winning pitcher in last season’s American Association All-Star game. He finished 10-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 19 starts and his place in the rotation will be hard to replace. He will be pitching for the Bologna club.
Montoya was signed by Nettuno. The right-hander played with four different clubs last season. He was 4-2 in Lincoln with a 4.58 ERA in 26 relief appearances.
Looking to soften the blow, the Lincoln Saltdogs signed veteran RHP Jesse Smith. The Lincoln native played for San Rafael of the Pacific Association last season, where he was 6-7 in 15 starts with a 3.75 ERA. Smith should be a quality arm in the club’s rotation.
On April 25 came the signing of C Ryan Wiggins. The Saltdogs did not get a lot of offensive production out of their catchers last season, so Wiggins should be an upgrade. This will be his second season of professional ball. Last year he played in 15 games for the Los Angeles Angels rookie league team, hitting .282 with 5 runs scored and 8 RBI. He also had a very impressive .396 on-base percentage.
Two days later, LHP Moises Melendez was inked to a deal. The left-hander was out of baseball last year, and last played for Lincoln in 2013. He was 3-6 with a 5.02 ERA that season. This will be his ninth season of professional baseball.
By Robert Pannier