By Joe Southern
The Sugar Land Skeeters have been fighting more than just their opponents on the field this past week.
Assuming there are no weather delays Monday and Tuesday, the team will have played 11 games in eight days and have had only one day off since April 27.
“I don’t really like our schedule right now,” Manager Gary Gaetti said Saturday night following the second of three doubleheaders the team will play from May 17-23. “It doesn’t seem fair to have three scheduled doubleheaders, split doubleheaders, in a week and a half. It’s just not right. I can understand the weather, but to schedule it like that’s not good. We just have to fight through it. It’s real taxing on your pitching staff. It’s alright to have twi-night doubleheaders when they’re both seven innings but it’s hard man.”
He said the schedule has been tough enough, but his pitchers haven’t been helping.
“You talk about hurtin’ arms. It doesn’t help that our guys aren’t throwing strikes,” he said. “I can’t pitch everybody just two innings every day. I just can’t do it. … Even though the guys may have got the second game off, they still pitched today. Everybody pitched today, so it’s a tough situation.
“I appreciate the effort, but at some point you’ve got to conserve on your pitches and I’d think at this point learn to throw strikes,” he added.
During Saturday’s doubleheader, Gaetti emptied his bullpen and brought outfielder Jeremy Barfield to the mound to close the second game.
“I’ve got innings under my belt,” Barfield said. “I got converted to be a pitcher when I was with the (Oakland) A’s. So I’ve pitched in Double A and Triple A before, so I know what I’m doing. I even brought my pitching glove just in case. I take it seriously, I enjoy it, but I was out there just trying to get outs.
“It felt good. It was a lot better than when I was actually a pitcher because I know I get to hit again. So, it’s nice to be able to get back out there and compete that way,” he said.
It was his first time pitching as a Skeeter and his second time pitching in the Atlantic League.
“I pitched when I was with Camden in ’15 and I threw all heaters and I got shelled,” he said.
Gaetti was pleased with Barfield’s performance.
“Jeremy did fine. I hate to have to do that, to bring a position player in, and he’s pitched before, and he’s throwing 91 (mph), 92, nice little breaking ball, pitching with confidence, so, I don’t plan on doing that a lot, but it’s nice to know I have that option,” he said.
Barfield agreed with Gaetti’s assessment of the schedule.
“The schedule’s brutal,” he said. “We’ve just got to find a way to put something together. We got sloppy. I think the heat just took over this second game, but everybody’s got to deal with it. So, we’ve got to find a way to bounce back with a day game tomorrow and get a W. Yeah, somebody hates us but that’s part of it so we’ve got to deal with it.”
Although Gaetti can’t control the schedule, he does have control over his personnel. On Saturday night he sent his pitching staff a not-so-subtle warning. When asked about the team’s recent activity with transactions, Gaetti said he wasn’t done making changes.
“Oh, I got a whole bunch more coming, too,” he said. “So, I’ve got to do something different. I’ve got too good of a team to have poor pitching and always be scratching and grinding just to stay in the ballgame or come back every night. I just got to improve. … I’ve got to do something because we’ve got a good enough team to win.”
Despite the schedule and the pitching, the Skeeters have managed to win. As of Sunday night, they were 18-14 and a full game behind the Lancaster Barnstormers (18-12) in the Freedom Division. The Skeeters and Barnstormers are also tied with the Somerset Patriots (18-13) and the Bridgeport Bluefish (18-13) of the Liberty Division for the most wins this season.
The Skeeters started the week last Tuesday at Somerset, playing the first of the doubleheaders last Wednesday. They split the games and the four-game series with the Patriots before returning home to face the York Revolution (12-18) for four games and Somerset for three.
On Friday night the Skeeters rallied with three runs in the ninth inning but fell short 6-5. The next day they won 8-7 in a seven-inning game, followed by a 10-5 beating that evening. The Skeeters came back on Sunday, going 11 innings before Andy Wilkins singled in Derek Miller for a walk off 6-5 victory.
The Skeeters were scheduled to play Somerset Monday night and a pair of games Tuesday before getting two days off. They then travel to York for a three-game weekend series, followed by three games each at Long Island (15-15) and Somerset.
Skeeter of the Week
In addition to coming out of the outfield to take the pitcher’s mound Saturday night, Jeremy Barfield has also taken the league lead in home runs this season with eight. His performance makes him the Fort Bend Star’s Skeeter of the Week.