By Joe Southern
It was fitting that the Sugar Land Skeeters gave away team card sets on Sunday, because with the revolving door on the roster it’s getting harder to tell the players without a card.
Call-ups and injuries have caused manager Gary Gaetti to rotate his roster like a rotisserie chicken.
“We’ve had to deal with quite a few things,” he said. “I’ve lost some of my key guys.”
So far this season seven players have had their contracts purchased by other leagues with one player coming back. The most recent departure is pitching ace Michael Nix, who was leading the Atlantic League with nine wins and a 2.24 ERA. He is going to the Chinese Professional Baseball League where he will play for the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions in Taiwan. That leaves Dustin Richardson as the last player on the team to have played for the Skeeters during the 2012 inaugural season.
Returning to the Skeeters is pitcher Felipe Paulino, whose contract was purchased by Saraperos de Saltillo of the Mexican League in May. In addition to the call-ups, several players have been injured and some have had leaves for personal reasons, such as infielder Josh Prince whose wife just had a baby.
“I’m in a perpetual state of scrambling trying to get nine players on the field,” Gaetti said.
He said the team is putting in the effort, but between the roster moves, key injuries and “a couple of errors” in a few games the team has been struggling. The Skeeters are 41-51 over all, third in the division and 12 games behind Lancaster. Still, Gaetti knows they are not out of it and he remains hopeful the team can pull it together for another post-season run.
Among the newcomers to the team is Dickie Thon, son of the former Major Leaguer of the same name who used to play for the Houston Astros. A Houston native, Thon was recently released by the Cardinals organization. He was drafted in 2010 by Toronto.
“He’s a good local player,” Gaetti said. “He’s still getting it going but he’s getting his batting straightened out and his fielding is good.”
The Skeeters are 6-4 in their last 10 games and were riding a three-game win streak against the Somerset Patriots as of Sunday night. They played three games at Long Island, losing the first game 6-1, taking the second game 5-4 and then dropping a heartbreaker 9-8. Returning home last Friday to face the Patriots brought a change of fortune as the Skeeters took the first three games of the six-game series 7-1, 4-3, and 4-3.
Catcher Wilfredo Rodriguez has been hot with the bat recently with a 10-game hitting streak. In his last 21 at-bats he is hitting .381. With 23 at-bats, infielder Anthony Giansanti is close behind with a .348 average. As a team the Skeeters have been hitting .255 in that span.
The Skeeters conclude their home stand against Somerset on Wednesday before taking off on a blistering road trip. They play four games against Freedom Division leader Lancaster, followed by three at New Britain and four at Liberty Division leader Bridgeport. They return home Aug. 15 to start a six-game series with York.
SKEETERS OF THE WEEK
After a slow start this season, outfielder Joe Benson has been coming on strong. In the last 18 games, Benson is 25-75 (.333) with nine multi-hit games, 15 runs scored and 12 RBIs. He is tied for third in the league with three triples this season.
Pitcher Jake Hale is 7-3 with a 2.65 ERA this season. He pitched five innings Saturday, giving up two earned runs on three hits and striking out three. With Nix’s departure, Hale moves up to second in the league in pitching behind Gaby Hernandez of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.