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Editor Jim Lockwood

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Monday, April 7, 2025
Story by David James, Courtesy Sports Weekly: Australian Edition

SYDNEY (AP) - The 2024 season saw the Rebels finish what could only be considered a step backwards when measured against last season. After finishing with one win fewer than last season at 68- 94 the Rebels again found themselves finishing dead last in their division, five games behind the resurgent Argentina Archers. Of course it could be said that the loss of 2024 Free Agent Signing Veteran Closer Dale Martinez in the second week of the season definitely cost the team a few wins over the course of the season, but as team Owner Ad Costa would say; “Hey…them’s the breaks ya know ?” Anyone can tell that the Owner is disappointed with the team that he inherited a few years ago. How could he not be ? The man has been known to build winners, even if as he claims it seems it happened completely by accident. It’s obvious that he’s had a plan for this team and to a point it’s worked out for him, although certainly not as he’d thought it would. To see success in the organization all one needs to go is look towards one of the best young tandems in the league in third year First Baseman Jim Keating and second year Catcher Stinky Edwards. Both have shown signs of having bright futures in the league.

Although Keating had a down season in terms of his Batting Average and production he also set a career high for Home Runs and Stolen Bases while only giving up two defensive errors all season long. Defensively Keating has only committed three errors in his entire career. Stinky Edwards showed improvement across the board, hitting for higher average, more home runs, more RBI and more Stolen Bases. He also improved his strikeout count, striking out fifteen fewer times than he had the season before. It’s no wonder Costa so strongly resisted trading the two players in spite of getting inquiries from multiple teams about the both of them.

“They’re both exceptional athletes, they are the kinds of players that one definitely builds a strong team around. Jim has already shown us what he can do, and in spite of the drop in average and walks this season I’m completely confident that he’ll manage to give us that home run production that we saw this season while returning to his three hundred batting average ways. The stolen bases are nice too of course. There’s a reason I chose him to be the Team Captain last season. I also know I can expect big things out of Stinky in this upcoming season and the future as well. He’s going to be another special player, even more so than he is already.”

The Rebels will have their Veteran Closer back next season, of course that is if they don’t trade him this off season and they have let it be known that there have been teams who have inquired about him. Martinez is most likely in the same boat as fellow Veteran Joe Bell, although the team could loose Bell to Free Agency this season. Costa admits that the two men are valuable to the team in terms of the experience that they bring to what is rapidly becoming a very young team. Bell has already been productive in his two seasons with the team, generally taking a spot as the team’s Designated Hitter and occasional First Baseman. The team had been counting on having veteran Center Fielder Kelvin Thomas in the new season as well. Thomas had just finished his first season with the team after being acquired from Argentina in the same trade that netted the team Rookie Starting Pitcher Roy Rock, a man who ended up being incredibly valuable to the team after being called up to substitute for veteran Starter Bunny Triandos, who had suffered an injury. Although Thomas would be the first to say that it wasn’t the season that he was expecting when he was traded to the team, he was also honest enough to admit that he didn’t exactly deliver what the team had expected of him when they acquired him. Thomas played all of the team’s games this season, racking up almost six hundred at bats in the process. Thomas hit .244, hitting 29 Home Runs and driving in 69 RBI. He was also fourth on the team in Runs Created (RC) with 73. Thomas spent the better part of the season at Second Base, although he did shift out to his more natural position of Center Field for a few games. Thomas retired in December after more than a decade in the league. When he had been asked how he felt about the season and the possibility of being traded the veteran player had this to say;

“It was tough coming over to a new team and then shifting between my natural position of Center Field and the position that the team needed at Second Base. It had some effect on me, but I hit almost thirty home runs this season so it couldn’t have affected me that much. People asked me when I had made up my mind to retire this season, but truth be told I didn’t make that decision until after the season was over. When the season ended I knew I faced the possibility of being traded if I stayed around another season in Sydney and I honestly think that at one point in mid November that I was ready to return and face that, although I loved playing for the Rebels. I didn’t make up my mind until I had talked it over extensively with my wife and family and I decided that although I still had plenty of power and the ability to produce that it was time for me to hang the cleats up. Mr. Costa called me a few days ago and offered me a position in the Minor League System…I’m thinking about it right now. I have to see how my wife feels about it.”

Although Mr. Costa had made it very clear that he wouldn’t hand the player away and would have made every attempt to get what he saw as full value for him he did say that trading Thomas wouldn’t have been a personally easy thing for him to do.

“I personally like Kelvin a great deal. He has a great attitude, he loved helping our younger players learn the game and he’s a great leader and positive influence on the clubhouse. In addition to that he was a solid bat who I have no doubt would have posted a bounce back Average next season. That being said, if I had gotten the player or players that I wanted in return for him I’d have traded him. Kelvin knew it was part of the game and as a valuable veteran commodity he could have helped us fill a hole or two in the team if we had moved him. Since he decided to retire, and Triple A Center Fielder Henry Nagle seems to be progressing extremely well it all seems to have worked out in the end. I spoke to Kelvin about joining the team in some capacity within our Minor League system. He told me that he’d let me know. I hope he accepts.”

When asked what his starting lineup and defensive alignment might look like next season he replied that there were only three (five if Thomas hadn’t retired and the team manages to keep Bell through Free Agency) of the nine batting order spots guaranteed to be filled when the team goes into Spring Training. Those spots are known to be held by Catcher Stinky Edwards, First Baseman Jim Keating and Right Fielder Mookie Sabo. Costa admitted that he’d like to fill the Shortstop position with 23 year old prospect John DiNapoli and Center Field with 23 year old prospect Henry Nagle, but he admits that he won’t know where they fit into things until after the completion of Spring Training next April.

“There really aren’t too many easy decisions to be made here. We all know that this team needs to get younger, faster and smarter on the base paths. We also have to get stronger up the middle. We’ll have a better idea of where we stand once Spring Training is complete. We hope to make some moves in the off season as well. We’ll see what we look like as a team once that’s all said and done.”

There are rumors coming out of Sydney that the team is considering trading two of their Starting Pitchers. Although the team hasn’t confirmed the rumor it has said that it would consider making such a move if it served the team’s long term plan and purposes. The Rebels have said that they plan on making multiple moves this off season, but they wouldn’t elaborate on what they were beyond bulking up the bullpen and trying to patch some of the team’s holes in the infield. What happens is widely dependent on the Free Agent market and how it ends up affecting the wider trade market as a whole. It’s very clear that Roy Rock, who most within the team feel deserves the Rookie of the Year Award, isn’t going anywhere and will be a long term fixture in the team’s rotation. The team also hopes to see progress in Right Handed Pitchers Mark Thormodsgard, Paul Rowen and Philip Mars. If any of those three end up major league ready going into next season the team will have greater flexibility to not only juggle the rotation around, but also to make moves towards acquiring other badly needed talent. Mars had been expected to be the next player to be ready out of the Minors as he already has a strong Fastball and a curve ball that has been described as “more than Major League ready”. It appears though that 25 year old Mark “Thunder God” Thormodsgard will get the call first and end up somewhere in Sydney’s Bullpen.

Thormodsgard doesn’t possess any truly dominant pitches or even particularly fantastic control, but the team thinks that as a Long or Middle Reliever that he could really help the team out and get very valuable Major League Experience. Right now the Bullpen only has a few set components, amongst them righties Mo Bailey (1-0, 4.82, 37.1 IP in 2024), Rob Walker (2-6, 4.62 and 109 IP) and Dale Martinez (2-1, 4.85 and 2 saves in 13 IP before going down with a season ending arm injury). It is suspected that the team might place Bret Bridewiser into the pen as well. Bridewiser had no major league record last season, spending the entire season in Triple A. The team is expected to try and deal a few veteran pieces in order to upgrade the Bullpen and plug up a few holes. Thormodsgard would be considered a solid contributor to the pen if he finished this season with an ERA in the low 4.00 range. Thormodsgard is said to be very excited by the potential call up. In LOW and Triple A he was known to be an eccentric and very energetic player, often wearing a red cape and Burger King crown to the bullpen by carrying a mock up of the Norse war hammer Mjolnir. According to fellow Minor Leaguer Paul Rowen;

“Thor is at one hundred percent, full bore tweaked twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and three hundred sixty five days a year. I’ve never seen Thor actually be what we’d all call “clam”. He’s perpetually amped and always has that damned noise hammer with him. I’m starting to really hate that thing. He’s gonna drive those guys in the Rebels Pen insane…but at the same time they’re all going to love the guy like an insane little brother like the rest of us do. Thor is older than me, but he’s such a goofball that he just has that goofy little brother thing going on. We’re going to miss him down here if he gets to the big show.”

The team also called up 24 year old Left Fielder Doug Pepper. Pepper was acquired from Jamaica last season in the trade that sent Relief Pitcher Ramon Law to the Caribbean. Pepper is another one of those “almost there” players. Although he already posses strong Defensive skills and a good arm, his bat hasn’t quite matured at the same rate. At this point he projects to have about the same batting eye as current Left Fielder Rip Reninger (a career .207 hitter), just with less power. The team hopes that Pepper can mature a little more with the bat so that they can play him more often than Reninger and get the benefit of his defense into the field. The team will probably try to shop Reninger as a component in another trade if possible and start veteran Kid Bella, although management has always been disappointed by his production issues as well. When asked about Pepper, Rebels Manager Jim Edmonds had the following to say;

“We see Doug as the kind of kid who right now projects as substitute base runner and fourth Outfielder. We’d love to see him refine his eye a little more and put a little more power into his swing so that he could eventually start for us. We know he’ll never be a thirty home run hitter or a fifty base stealer, but honestly we’d all be happy to see him hit fifteen to twenty a year with maybe ten to fifteen stolen bases. If he did that we’d have him starting for us in Left just to put his glove and his maturing cannon arm into the field for us. We like what we see in the kid, we like it a lot. The kid has a great attitude and great potential; we just have to help him unlock them.”

That may seem like a bit of a long shot in some ways, but Sydney as a team has always been known for taking those head scratching moves that no one else seems to understand. The team may not be great on paper, but it certainly has a lot of character and that suits them perfectly. Eventually this team will begin to get it right, even if they do so completely by accident.

Somehow that would suit them perfectly.

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