Along with a new manager, the Sugar Land Skeeters will have a fairly new team in 2018.
Only six players from last year’s team are returning and a total of seven former Skeeters have been invited to spring training this year.
Pitchers Felipe Paulino, Brett Marshall and Mitch Talbot, along with catcher Albert Cordero, outfielder Anthony Giansanti, and infielder Ryan Jackson are returning. (Jackson was only with the team for four games before getting called up to the Seattle organization.) Former Skeeter Willy Taveras is also returning but was not with the team last year. He last played in Sugar Land in 2015.
Two of the players are from Venezuela and figure to have a big impact on the team this year.
Albert “Coco” Cordero and Felipe Paulino are excited to be back in the friendly confines of Constellation Field.
“I feel glad to be back here in Sugar Land,” Paulino said. “I’ve been living here around this area. I’ve got pretty good friends around, my family, so it’s great. It’s great to play here and be helpful to the team and get some wins.”
Paulino started the season with the team, had his contract bought out by the Saraperos de Saltillo of the Mexican Baseball League, but was released and returned to the Skeeters to finish the 2017 season. Paulino was signed by the Houston Astros as an undrafted free agent in 2001. He made his major league debut on Sept. 5, 2007. He was traded to the Colorado Rockies in 2010 and went on to play with the Rockies, Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox through 2014. In 2015 the Boston Red Sox signed him to a Minor League contract but released him. The Chicago Cubs signed him to a Minor League deal and released him at the end of the season. Since then he has played in Japan, Mexico, and Sugar Land.
Paulino said he is not familiar with new skipper Pete Incaviglia, but will do his best for his new boss.
“Things have got to change. I don’t know how he coaches. They made a change for something good. We have a new manager and I’ll be here to help, to be ready with whatever he needs me to do. The good thing is to try to build as strong a team as we can be and do 100 percent on the field,” he said.
The 34-year-old said he is looking forward to meeting his new teammates.
“This is a great place to play. I believe when they come here in the camp they’re going to be so proud about it. The field for one thing is an impressive field,” he said. “They will have to adjust to the weather. In my opinion, playing in the heat is a good opportunity. I mean, everybody loves to play baseball in the heat and I believe some of them will make a great adjustment when they come here to this city.”
He has been living in Houston for the last 12 years. As a former Astro, he was thrilled to see the team win the World Series last year.
“That’s amazing. Just to be part of the Astros some time ago and see the Astros win their first World Series, that’s great for the city. They’re a great group of core players to build a team around. Giving happiness to the city is amazing. It’s something they’re going to keep doing,” he said.
He hopes to do the same for the Skeeters.
“I want to. I like to win and that’s what I want to share with the new guys. I want to show how winning, how to prepare to win games, how great it is to win games,” he said.
Cordero was named the Skeeters Community Man of the Year last season and is a fan favorite.
“I’m excited to be back for another season, 2018, I’m ready to start the season right now. I’m glad to be back with the Skeeters again,” he said.
He doesn’t mind the change from Gary Gaetti to Incaviglia. To him, it’s all part of the game.
“I’m OK with that. I’m just coming over here to play baseball, so I have to make my job good and still play,” he said.
He returned home in the off-season.
“I played winter ball back in Venezuela. I did a good job so I hope I can do the same over here,” he said.
Cordero began playing professional baseball in 2008. He started his career in the New York Mets farm system and has played for several foreign leagues. He joined the Skeeters part way through the championship season of 2016 and played all of 2017 with the team.
“It’s the same baseball, you have to do your job, do the right thing,” he said.
The 28-year-old said he thinks his new teammates will like playing in Sugar Land.
“They’ve got really good people here in Texas. Come and enjoy,” he said. “I’m good with the people. Like I say, they’ve got good people around here. I love them and I just come over here to play for them. I’m excited to be back. I’m glad to be back with the Skeeters.”