The Sioux City Explorers finished a disappointing fourth in the Central Division of the American Association last season, but this was a team that showed flashes of excellence, going 18-11 following the All-Star break. That record included a five- and a six-game win streak. The Explorers showed real heart, and they are ready to feed off the success they had down the stretch, and garner that into a division title.
A week after the season ended the team got to work. On September 8, the Explorers acquired RHP Ryan Zimmerman and LHP Nick Cicio from Rockford of the Frontier League to complete an earlier deal. Zimmerman went 9-6 last season with a solid 3.20 ERA in 21 appearances, 17 of those starts. The right-hander allowed just 89 hits in 112.1 innings pitched and struck out 87.
Cicio made just three starts for Rockford last year. He was winless (0-2), and finished with a 4.96 ERA. The previous year he was 4-6 in 29 appearances, with a 4.10 ERA.
Sioux City remained quiet for the rest of September, but on October 6 they acquired Rene Tosoni from Sugarland of the Atlantic League. Tosoni is a former Minnesota Twins player who returned to Sioux City following a deal that sent him to Sugarland late last season. He hit .277 in Sioux City in 99 games, with 7 home runs and 57 RBI. He also stole 12 bases and posted an impressive .357 on-base percentage. For Sugarland he hit just .170 in 14 games with a home run and 8 RBI.
A week later the team dealt outfielder Oscar Mesa to Joplin. Mesa hit .327 last season with 35 RBI and 45 runs scored in 73 games.
On December 1, Sioux City traded Kyle Allen to Rockford for a player to be named later. Three days later the trade was completed when RHP Gerardo Sanchez was dealt to the Explorers. Sanchez was 0-3 with an impressive 1.54 ERA last season. He saved 18 games and struck out 55 batters in 41 innings pitched. He will get a real shot at being the team’s closer in 2015, and has the stuff to be a dominant one.
On December 23, manager Steve Montgomery re-signed two key pieces to last year’s pitching staff and inked a deal with the newly acquired Sanchez. John Straka, a Chaska, MN native, re-signed with the team after being one of the team’s key starters last year. Straka was tied for the team lead in wins with 9 last season (9-5) and posted a 4.14 ERA. He also threw 2 complete games and struck out 90 in 130.1 innings pitched.
Geoff Broussard also re-signed. The 23-year-old had a dominant year in Iowa, going 8-1 with a 3.26 ERA. The righty made 41 appearances, three as a starter, throwing 88.1 innings while striking out 83. He also had two saves, and was arguably the team’s best pitcher last season.
A day after the New Year, Sioux City brought back two of its relievers from the 2014 season: RHP Jimmer Kennedy and LHP Kenny Long. Kennedy had an incredible season for the Explorers last year, posting a 3-5 record with one save and a 2.90 ERA. The right-hander pitched in 48 games, allowing just 53 hits in 71.1 innings pitched.
Long also had a solid season for Sioux City. He pitched in 40 games, and was 2-0 with a 3.76 ERA. He allowed 35 hits in 40.2 innings pitched, and did an outstanding job as the team’s primary left-handed specialist.
The team sees the signings of these two relievers as keys to its success in the upcoming season. “Re-signing Jimmer and Kenny are two more big pieces to continue to solidify our bullpen for the 2015 season,” comments field manager Steve Montgomery. They both had a great year last year and I am looking forward to them being a big part of our bullpen success once again this season.”
Nearly two weeks later the team re-signed two outfielders, Tim Colwell and Michael Lang. Cowell appeared in 64 games last season, hitting .307 with a home run and 34 RBI. He also stole 19 bases and scored 46 runs, and played solid outfield defense for the team.
Lang, also, proved to be a key figure in the team’s batting order, hitting .295 with 18 RBI and 53 runs scored in 79 games. He stole 15 bases and posted a .377 on-base percentage.
Just before the month of January came to a close the Explorers announced that Tommy Mendonca was returning to the team. Last season was his first in Sioux City, and he made an impression, hitting .250 with 3 home runs and 55 RBI in 95 games. He also scored 41 runs and hit 20 doubles.
On February 6, the team announced the signing of Ino Patron. He graduated from Long Beach State last year, where he was a standout for the team. He finished third all-time in hits for that school (238). In his senior season he batted .308 average in 60 games, and had 19 extra base hits and 36 RBI.
By Robert Pannier