Laredo Lemurs Lingo: Mexico Comes Calling on Reigning Champs
The Laredo Lemurs find themselves just a bridge away from entering Mexico. Nuevo Laredo is just on the other side of that bridge, and the proximity of the two cities, as well as the two countries, has made it so that there is a kind of kinship between the people of the two cities. That bond goes beyond food, music, and heritage, translating into their love of baseball as well.
Coming off the club’s first American Association Championship, the Laredo Lemurs now find that many of the teams to their south are realizing that the Texas teas has just the right pieces to fill their roster. Since the calendar changed years, seven Lemurs players have been signed to contracts by teams in the Mexican League, meaning Laredo Manager Pete Incaviglia has his work cut out for him if his team is going to repeat as the league’s best.
The exodus began early this year, when LHP Luis Pollorena and INF Roger Bernal both signed with Puebla of the Mexican League on January 14. Bernal was a versatile addition, providing three innings of work and 11 at-bats in the playoffs for the Lemurs. Pollorena pitched out of the bullpen and made 11 starts during the regular season, posting a 5-4 record. He also made two starts for the Champs.
The team took a big hit on March 4 when OF Denis Phipps signed with Acereros. The outfielder has been a big part of the success of the Lemurs the last two seasons. In 2014, he hit .335 with 15 homeruns and 47 RBI in 66 games. His 2015 was even better as he slugged 17 HRs, 24 doubles, drove in 76 and hit .336 in 99 games. All of those numbers but the batting average led the team. Clearly the loss of his bat is going to be a costly blow to the Lemurs’ lineup.
Three days later, LHP Joe Testa was signed by Saltillo. The left-hander was acquired by Laredo from Sussex County of the Can-Am League in late November, along with RHP Rett Varner, for RHPs Greg Holle and BJ Hyatt, plus INF Ty Forney. Testa had been a real force for Sussex County, saving 18 games and posting an outstanding 1.23 ERA. He struck out a whopping 65 in 44 innings pitched and looked to be the team’s solution to losing American Association Championship Series MVP John Brebbia, the team’s closer from last season who dominated on the team’s way to the title. The loss of Testa leaves a big hole in the back end of the team’s bullpen.
March 9 saw two more players signed and heading south of the border. LHP Miguel Pena signed with Tijuana while Danny Gutierrez had his contract purchased by Laguna. Pena was acquired from the Sioux Falls Canaries on November 9 for infielder Frank Martinez, and looked to play a prominent role in the team’s starting rotation next season after going 6-7 in 18 starts.
Gutierrez had been acquired from the Kansas City T-Bones the day before Pena. He spent part of last season in Laguna as well, going 4-2, while also making stops in Grand Prairie and St. Paul. That was two potential big contributors to the Lemurs rotation lost on the same day.
On March 11, INF Juan Silverio had his contract purchased by Veracruz. Silverio was with the Lemurs last season, where he hit .269 with 13 homeruns in 89 games. In the title run he drove in seven in nine playoff games. The loss of Silverio and Phipps remove two huge power bats from the team’s lineup.
This is part of the curse of success that the other three top clubs in the American Association have had to endure as well. The St. Paul Saints lost league MVP Vinny DiFazio, Angelo Songco, and Anthony Phillips, as well as starters Dustin Crenshaw, Pedro Hernandez, and Kramer Sneed. The Wichita Wingnuts lost manager Kevin Hooper as well as OF Nick Van Stratten. Sioux City lost American Association Pitcher of the Year Patrick Johnson and RHP Jose Flores. This is just the breaks of success.
Clearly it is going to be a tough road for the Laredo Lemurs to repeat, but the team’s manager has proven he is up to the task. In just two seasons as the skipper of the team he has accumulated a 115-85 record, and now has led two different teams to the American Association title series. If there is a manager that can keep his team on top after key departures like this, it is Pete Incaviglia.
Lemurs Notes: On February 24 the team resigned infielder Travis Denker. In two seasons with the team he has been an absolute beast, hitting .305 with 25 home runs in 2014 and hitting .361 in 20 games last season after returning to the club from the Mexican League. He was a major reason the team grabbed their first title last year, hitting .406 with 2 homeruns and 8 RBI in 9 games in the playoffs…Two surprises from the Laredo Lemurs were the release of C Phil Pohl and the dealing of Matt Sergey to Gary Southshore. Pohl hit .311 in 23 games during the season, but was an absolute beast in the five game series against the Wichita Wingnuts, going 9 for 17 with 6 runs and 8 RBI. Sergey was undefeated in his five starts for the team and was unscored on through his first four starts. With the numbers he put up, it was no surprise when the Lemurs reacquired the right-hander a few months later.
By Robert Pannier