Pittsfield Suns swing back into action as season opener approaches


PITTSFIELD -- It's been at least two weeks without baseball for most members of the Pitts field Suns. So, getting on the field or into the batting cage this week is an opportunity to get their baseball muscle memory working again.

"I got some time to relax, see some family and friends, and got back into it right before I came over here," said outfielder Tyler Bell from St. Bonaventure. "I feel good. I feel like I'm back in my groove and I can't wait to get back out there."

Suns manager Tom Conley had the Pittsfield players out at 11 Monday morning in what, for many, turned out to be a nearly three-hour workout. At the end of the workout, Conley was hitting ground balls to his infielders.

The first day of practice was "fun," said Conley. "It was a lot of fun to get back out there. I think these guys were excited.

"We just did some extra [infield] work."

Conley and pitching coach Cameron McMullen still have to decide who will be on the mound for Wednesday's opener at Wachusett, Thursday's game at Worcester and Friday's home opener against Torrington.

"We're kind of emphasizing throwing strikes, because last year, we had way too many walks," said Conley. "Especially with a wood-bat league, that just can't happen again."

The Suns welcomed two more players on the first day of preseason workouts. Infielder Rob McLam from UMass, who played for the Suns in each of their first two seasons, is back for a third year. McLam tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee making a pivot at second base last year and took a medical redshirt for his senior season. That's what allows him to return to Pittsfield for his third season.

McLam and Steve Dill are the only two players who will be spending their season on the Suns roster. Dill reporting over the weekend.

The newest Suns pitcher is Austin Salnitis of Lenox. The left-hander just wrapped up his freshman season at Division I Central Conn ecticut. Salnitis appeared in eight games for the Blue Devils, garnering a 1-0 record in 1213 innings. He had a 2.19 earned-run average.

Conley threw batting practice and said he liked what he saw.

"We have some strong guys. It looks like we can drive the ball," the second-year manager said.

Bell is a junior from Corn wall, N.Y., and he hit .288 in 41 games for the Bonnies.

"You need a few days just to get back in the rhythm" of hitting, said Bell. "For me, I'm a big rhythm hitter so I'll go off the tee for a little bit, do a bunch of soft toss and then get back in rhythm again with over-the-top [pitching]."

Tad Martin is an infielder from Rock Hill, S.C. He was originally slated to play for the College of Charleston, but instead is playing for the University of South Carolina-Lancaster, a two-year school.

"The swing isn't gone, it's just the timing," he said. "I've been off for two weeks now. The timing is everything right now, trying to get that back.

Martin said he played in three wood-bat tournaments in the past couple of seasons; so playing in a full-season wood bat league will be different.

"I would say pitch selection, choosing which pitches to swing at," he said, "being patient and just getting stronger, too."

To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6553.
On Twitter: @howardherman.


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