2024 STORIES...

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Editor Jim Lockwood

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Monday, May 20, 2024
Story by Ad Costa

SYDNEY (AP) - Most people don’t consider a three year record of 193- 293 a sign of progress, or for that matter a sign of anything positive happening. With this season starting out with the Rebels holding a record of 15-21 due to their struggling offense and generally inconsistent and unreliable bullpen it wouldn’t appear as if there’s that much to be happy about.

Most people look at Sydney and see a team that isn’t good this year, probably won’t be good next year and may not be good for at least two more years after that, when the team’s top level prospects are expected to be ready for the Majors. With offensive prospects like Right Fielder Mookie Sabo, Shortstop John DiNapoli and Center Fielder Henry Nagle the team is excited by what the lineup and defensive alignment should look like in a few seasons. In terms of the rotation the team has already gotten a small shot in the arm from rookie Long Reliever and spot Starter Roy Rock, who has notched two wins in his two starts and has been very effective as the team’s primary Long Reliever. The Rebels hadn’t intended on calling Rock up until next season, but injuries to both Bunny Triandos and Horace Scherbarth and both in the same week forced the team’s hand.

When asked about it Manager Jim Edmonds was very forthcoming in his response.

“We honestly had no intention of calling Roy up this season; we would have preferred to leave him in Canberra to work on his pitches a little more. Unfortunately for us losing Trio and Horace both in the same week forced our hand and we had to do something. We looked in Triple A and then in Canberra and we decided that Roy had the best chance of helping us out. As it turns out it seems thus far that we were right. We see no reason why that won’t continue.”

When asked for his opinion Pitching Coach Dave Righetti was a little less talkative, but no less positive.

“I think Rocky has a long and successful career ahead of him and pitching with guys like Trio, Horace and Bobby Barton can only help him be better. I’m excited to see what the kid can do and I’ll be working with him a lot.”

In addition to Rock the Rebels also have three other righties in the system who excite Management and the Big Team. The newest addition to the farm is twenty-two year old Philip Mars. Mars was taken early in the first round of last years Amateur Draft, a pick that was met with some surprise at the time. While Mars (4-1, 3.13) has shown that his control still needs some work after walking 15 in forty innings of work while hitting three batters he has also displayed what many on the team refer to as “the nastiest Curveball in the entire system from top to bottom”. When asked about it Mars shrugged and said “I was blessed with a great curve, but I still have a very long way to go before I’m ready to help the big team.”

In addition to Mars the team also has the recently acquired Paul Rowen and the youngster whose team mates call “Thunder”, twenty four year old Mark Thormodsgard. Rowen, a twenty two year old right hander, was acquired from Argentina along with Pitcher Sam Drudge and current Second Baseman Kelvin Thomas. While Rowen is a little further away from major league service, the team expects him to come up in the next two to three seasons. The team’s Pitching Coaches in Canberra are already very high on his arm, his incredible poise and what they refer to as a “great fastball”. Rowen, like Mars, has to work on his control a little but the youngster has thus far managed to accrue a record of 3-2 with an ERA of 3.48 and 51 strikeouts in 49.3 innings pitched. Rowen is known to be a young man of few words and when asked how he felt about his season he said; “It’s had its ups and down’s, but I’m pretty happy with where I am. If I listen to our coaches I think I’ll be in the show in no time and that really excites me.”

“Thunder” as he is known by his teammates is the nickname of 24 year old righty Mark Thormodsgard. He teammates refer to him as “Thunder” for two reasons. The first of them is because of his last name, which is not only Norwegian but also sounds like “Thor”, which is the name of the Viking God of Thunder. The second reason is because of his booming voice, which most people can hear in the clubhouse or on the field after he records a big out. “Thunder” has good stuff, although he doesn’t have the developing heat of Rowen or the knee buckling hook of Mars to his advantage. All three of Thormodsgard’s pitches are considered to be strong, although none overpowering. His main issue right now is the same as the other two, his somewhat erratic control. His control is about equal with Rowen’s, but where Rowen’s manifests itself in walks Thormodsgard uses it to his advantage by pitching really tight on hitters and somewhat frequently hitting them. Thus far he hasn’t been thrown out of any games for it, but many Minor League hitters think the man is nuts and don’t like to bat against him. Due to that his ERA is a little higher than Rowen or Mars, but he has two more wins than the other two because he’s become so good at intimidating hitters with his erratic control and equally erratic behavior. “Thor” even walks to the Bullpen to begin warming up with a realistic looking likeness of the Norse Thunder God’s mystical warhammer, Mjolnir and a billowing cloak. His teammates take it in stride. Said Shortstop prospect John Dinapoli;

“Yeah, Thor’s a little goofy, but we love the guy. He keeps the clubhouse and bullpen loose when he’s around us because you just never know what the guy is planning on doing. He drives our Coach insane with some of the pranks that he pulls, but he always seems to know just when to do them in order to lighten the team up when it needs to relax. We couldn’t imagine the clubhouse without him. Besides, you have to give props to a guy who’s willing to walk around in public with a red cape and a war hammer…”

There are those within the organization who are calling for at least Mookie Sabo to be called up, but team owner Ad Costa keeps refusing them.

“I’ll have Mookie called up with we all feel that the time is right. At the moment he’s doing exceptionally well at Canberra and he definitely will warrant a look at the major League level soon, especially if our outfield continues to struggle as it has been. I don’t want to rush him though and I think another season or two in Canberra will be good for him. It’s not like we’re going to challenge for the division this or even next season. Why rush the kid ? I’d prefer to let him mature at his own pace.”

In the meantime the team continues to struggle offensively, hitting just .225 as a team. The team’s one bright spot has been the Starting Pitching. After a rough start for Bob Barton, last season’s staff ace with 15 wins and an ERA of 3.05, he’s settled down and posted an ERA of 2.95 with 20 strikeouts in 39.2 innings pitched. In addition to him the team’s unsung ace and most consistent Starter, Bunny Triandos has gotten off to another strong start. Although his record is only 1-3 due to his constant nemesis of no run support when he pitches he has a team low ERA of 2.70 and opponents are only hitting .217 against him. Rounding out the rotation are the #1 Starter and staff horse Horace Scherbarth who led the team in complete games last season with 7. This season Scherbarth already has two complete games, has posted a record of 2-3, an ERA of 3.28 and leads the team in innings pitched with 57.2. The three men give the team an effective 1-3 in the rotation and give the team a chance to win with almost every outing. Rounding out the rotation are Buttercup Holzemer and, for the time being at least, Sam Drudge. Holzemer is off to another strong start this season. After finishing last season 8-13 with an ERA of 3.99 he’s thus far posted a record of 1-2 with a 3.44 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 44 innings pitched. Rounding out the rotation is Sam Drudge, the righty who was acquired from Argentina at the beginning of the season. Drudge has had a couple of rocky starts so far but has been relatively effective overall. He’s 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 8 starts this season and has struck out 22 in his 48.1 innings pitched. Some are calling for Drudge to either be traded or moved to the bullpen to make room for rookie sensation Roy Rock, but it doesn’t seem as if the team has any intentions of doing so this season, barring an injury to Drudge or one of the other starters. Overall the starting rotation has posted a record of 7-12 (not counting Roy Rock’s victory as a starter) with an ERA of 3.23. All the team needs now is offensive production and a little more consistency out of the bullpen and good things could happen. The team sees no reason to rush anything. According to hitting coach Derek Jeter;

“Everything that we’ve done player wise this season has been by design and very deliberate, other than the call up of Roy. That was done out of necessity. Sure, we’re a ways away from really competing in this division or even in this league…but you have to like our chances in the future. I certainly do.”

There is no doubt that this team has a long and at times difficult season ahead of it, but spirits are high in spite of that. Everyone on the team knows what they have to do and according to Team Captain Jim Keating;

“The boys in the rotation are doing everything that we could ask of them. We have to get our bats going. Right not the burden for our failures falls squarely with the offense. It won’t last…we have too much talent offensively for this drought to continue. I’ll get us going, even if I have to boot a few butts to do it.”

Every rebellion needs an on the field leader and Sydney’s is definitely Jim Keating…or “The General” as his teammates like to call him. Sydney may not win a lot this season but in time they will... and it will all have been done very deliberately and completely by design.

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