Joplin Blasters Jive: April Update
It is an exciting time in Missouri, as the Joplin Blasters are getting their roster ready in anticipation of the 2015 American Association season. Manager Carlos Lezcano has been working feverishly to find the right blend of players to turn this into a true competitor in the tough South Division of the league. With quality talent brought in to aid the pitching staff, the infield, and the team’s catching for this season, there is no doubt that this team could be a real force in the upcoming season.
March 12, Joplin signed Kristhiam Linares to a deal. The left-hander split time between Amarillo, Laredo and Kansas City last season. Combined he went 3-3 with a 6.03 ERA in 28 appearances. Linares has an outstanding fastball and quality stuff in general, striking out 40 batters in 37.1 innings pitched.
Catcher Juan Medina was signed on March 24. Medina played with South Maryland of the Atlantic League last season, after playing two seasons in the Freedom Pro Baseball League. He is a former Chicago Cubs prospect who also played with the El Paso club when they were in the American Association. Last season he hit .122 in 15 games. In 2013, Medina had a huge year for the Peoria Explorers. In 22 games he hit .348 with 10 runs and 9 RBI.
Two days later RHP Winston Abreu was signed by the Blasters. The righty pitched at the Major League level in 2006, 2007 and 2009. Last season he was with Bridgeport of the Atlantic League, where the right-hander was 3-7 with a 4.85 ERA in 54 relief appearances. He also saved 17 games and struck out 54 in 52 innings of work. He has a career 72-58 record in 18 seasons of professional ball, with 111 saves.
On April 1, Infielder Maikol Gonzalez became a Joplin Blasters player. Gonzalez is entering his eighth season of playing professional baseball. Last year he split time between Yucatan of the Mexican League, AA-Arkansas (a Los Angeles Angels’ affiliate), and the Lincoln Saltdogs. Between the three he hit .280 in 101 games played, with 2 home runs and 30 RBI. He also stole 35 bases and scored 62 runs. In Lincoln he played especially well, hitting .417 in a seven game stint there.
RHP Luis Chirinos was signed by Joplin on April 9. The right-hander is entering his ninth professional season. Last season he was with Great Lakes (Mid-A) and Rancho Cucamonga (High-A), affiliates of the Los Angeles Angels. Combined he was 5-6 in 28 appearances, 13 of them starts with a 4.97 ERA. Chirinos has good command of his stuff, and keeps the ball in the park.
On April 9, the Blasters signed C Yenier Bello. Bello played in the Cuban National Series from 2003-2011. Last season he played for the Atlanta Braves organization, splitting time between their rookie league team and High-A Lynchburg. In 15 total games he hit .308 with a homer and 4 RBI. In the Cuban leagues he was a career .274 hitter in 483 games played, with 75 home runs and 297 RBI. He is also a quality defensive catcher who calls a good game.
By Robert Pannier