Pittsfield Suns take to the road for home opener
PITTSFIELD -- Sometime this afternoon, the Pittsfield Suns players and coaches will board a charter bus and head to Leominster for the start of the 2014 Futures League season.
"It's time to go, definitely," Suns second-year manager Tom Conley said after practice at Wahconah Park on Tuesday. "Even for these guys, we didn't need too much [practice]. We didn't need a whole week.
"We needed a couple of days to get back into it, to take their ground balls, take their BP, throw their bullpens. At least for me, I'm ready to go."
The Suns will open their season tonight on the road against division rival Wachusett.
With the addition of the Worcester Bravehearts to the Futures League, the league has been divided into two, five-team divisions. Pittsfield is in the West Division with Worcester, Wachusett, Torrington and Nashua.
The Suns first three games will be against division rivals. They will visit Worcester on Thursday and host Torrington in Friday's home opener.
On Tuesday, the Suns took batting practice in the cage on the field after getting in their swings in the hitting tunnel on Monday. Conley liked what he saw.
"It was nice to see the ball travel," he said. "The [new] balls are kind of tighter wound and were kind of jumping off the bats. I saw a lot of good swings today. I'm excited about that.
"As I've talked about before, we have some speed, so I think it could be a pretty exciting offense."
When the Suns take Doyle Field tonight, here's a thumbnail look at what Conley and pitching coach Cameron McMullen have:
PITCHING -- A pair of right-handers from Holy Cross will take the hill to start games 1 and 2. Phil Reese, who stands 6-foot-4, and 6-2 Justin Finan will pitch in Leominster and Worcester, respectively. Conley and McMullen still haven't decided who will take the bump Friday at Wahconah Park.
"He's a little bit more experienced" as a starter, McMullen said of Reese. "We wanted in game one to throw someone who is a little more familiar to that role and would be a little more experienced about how to approach things."
Reese led the Crusaders with 10 starts and finished with a 2-4 record and a 4.43 earned-run average. He was No. 2 among the team's starters in ERA. He was second on the team with 44 2/3 innings pitched.
Finan, like Reese, just finished his freshman year at Holy Cross. He appeared in 13 games and started two. He had a 5.24 ERA in 22 1/3 innings
Conley and McMullen haven't decided on a game 3 starter, but it could be righty Jacob Williams of George Washington. Williams was 4-5 and led GWU with a 3.72 ERA.
The rotation could change and the Suns will go with a bullpen-by-committee before pitchers settle into their roles.
CATCHER -- Returning veteran Derek Gardella from Rhode Island will settle in behind the dish on opening night. Bryant's Dan Palazzo, Manhattan's Chris Reynolds and the returning Steve Dill from Harvard will also factor in.
INFIELD -- Dill played a lot of first base at Harvard, and will also see time there this summer. Tonight, though, returning vet Brenden Geary will start at first base.
Conley has a lot of choices for the rest of his infield slots, but hasn't made a decision about tonight. At third base, UMass-Lowell's Zack Tower is 6-4 and hit .273 in limited action as a freshman, while Jeff McGarry of Penn was a second-team All-Ivy League selection who can play third and first. He led the Quakers with a .316 batting average.
Up the middle, Conley can choose from Tad Martin (South Carolina-Lancaster), B.J. Bocchiccio (Villanova), Dan Donahue (Salve Regina) and Dan Cellucci (Bryant).
OUTFIELD -- On opening night, returning veteran Luke Reynolds of UMass-Lowell will man a corner outfield spot and St. Bonaventure's Tyler Bell will start in center.
Penn's Gary Tesch, who played center for the Suns in 2013, has some issues with his left wrist and is day-to-day.
UNLV's Edgar Montesis, in Conley's words, a "natural center fielder," and will also see time there.