Like last year, when 12 players had their contracts purchased by Major League Baseball organizations, the Sugar Land Skeeters are rapidly rotating through their roster.
Just three weeks into the season, five players already have been called up and two more player-coaches are gone.
On Friday, the Skeeters cut player-coach Josh Prince. That came on the heels of player-coach James Loney, an Elkins High School graduate and former first-round draft choice by the Los Angeles Dodgers, suddenly retiring.
“Like the old saying, when one goes down, somebody else has to step up,” Skeeters bench coach Lincoln “Juice” Gumbs said. “So we lost a big cog in James, a 12-year veteran in the MLB. Great kid. He just felt it was time to hang it up. So as a team, we have to come together now and next man up. It’s that type of attitude that we carry – next man up.”
The Skeeters beat the Long Island Ducks 4-3 on Friday to run their winning streak to seven games, then lost 8-5 in 11 innings on Saturday and 3-1 on Sunday.
This week they host the York Revolution for a seven-game series that ends Sunday.
Loney, 35, appeared in 11 games with the Skeeters, hitting .278/.357/.333 with a triple and three RBIs. He also pitched an inning of relief on May 1 against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, allowing a run on two hits while picking up his first professional strikeout.
Loney spent seven of his 11 major league seasons with the Dodgers, also appearing with the Boston Red Sox (2012), Tampa Bay Rays (2013-15) and New York Mets (2016).
Skeeters pitcher Dallas Beeler credits manager Pete Incaviglia with getting good players and helping them move up to MLB-affiliated minor league rosters. Beeler got called up last year, spending a month with the Kansas City Royals’ Triple-A team before returning to the Skeeters.
“Five guys picked up. It seems to be the common trend just like last year,” said Beeler, who is 2-0 on the mound this season. “Pete does a great job with us of getting our name out there and doing phone calls. He really wants us to get out of here, whether we’re playing good or not. He does a good job of finding guys to fill in.”
With a rotating roster, the Skeeters have been busy breaking in new players. Beeler said they still have been solid defensively.
Despite losing player-coaches, Gumbs said team leadership remains strong.
“Most of the guys that’s here now that was here last year, and the new guys, they’ve all bought into the brand of baseball that Pete loves,” Gumbs said. “As far as leadership goes, we’ll be fine.”
Game within the game
Saturday’s game was a “Game of Thrones” night for the Skeeters, featuring a bobblehead with Incaviglia sitting on the Iron Throne.
When asked how he felt about being a bobblehead, Incaviglia said he was impressed.
“I’ve been a lot of them, but I think this is the best one,” he said.
Skeeter of the Week
Making his Skeeters debut Friday, Jason Martinson belted a home run in his first at-bat, followed by several key plays in the field. For his strong start, Martinson earns Skeeter of the Week honors.
“Great kid, he swings a bat pretty well,” Gumbs said. “He was hurt in the beginning of the season from spring training, so he just got off the injured list. He should help us a lot because he can move around on the infield and can also play outfield.”
After the home series against York, the Skeeters are off Monday before playing six road games at Somerset and Long Island. They return home to Constellation Field on May 27 for seven games with the Somerset Patriots.
There will be postgame concerts on May 18 featuring Cory Morrow and May 31 with the Spazmatics.
Atlantic League standings
Wins – Losses – Games back
Sugar Land Skeeters 10-7-0
Lancaster Barnstormers 4-10-4
York Revolution 4-11-5
S. Maryland Blue Crabs 4-11-5
Somerset Patriots 11-3-0
Long Island Ducks 12-4-0
High Point Rockers 9-7-3
New Britain Bees 6-8-5