Silver Sox open season tonight
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – With only two weeks of workouts and two preseason games under their belts, the Reno Silver Sox will begin a six-game homestand to open their inaugural season in the Golden Baseball League.
The Sox will open their three-game series with the Long Beach Armada tonight at Peccole Park, beginning at 6:35 p.m.
The Armada, which tied the Chico Outlaws for second place in the GBL’s California League with a 49-41 record, return eight players – including five pitchers – from last year’s squad.
“They have a good pitching staff – they were one of the best in the league,” said Silver Sox manager Les Lancaster, who managed the Mesa Miners of the GBL’s Arizona Division last season. “Our guys have to be ready. They’re usually not high-scoring games.”
The Sox will receive one break, however, as the Armada sold the contract of right-handed pitcher Jeff Heaverlo to Salt Lake City, the Triple A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
According to Darrell Evans, manager of the Armada, Heaverlo was the projected Opening Day starter for Long Beach. Evans had 414 career home runs in 21 seasons playing for the Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants.
For their part, the Silver Sox will have to try and overcome the effect of having a short training period.
“I would have liked to have had more days and played more games,” said Lancaster, whose team split a pair of exhibition games with the Outlaws. “But I’m happy with what we have now. I’m curious to see how things turn out when they put it together.”
Lancaster said Thursday he cut his roster down to the mandated 22-player regular season roster by trading right-handed pitcher Jason Conrad and left-handed pitcher Mike Kunes.
Kunes pitched one inning in last week’s 6-3 win over Chico at Peccole Park, giving up one unearned run on two hits.
Lancaster also said that former University of Nevada infielder Carlos Madrid made the cut – for now.
“We’re going to be making personnel changes over the week and a half,” Lancaster said. “It all depends on who performs well.”
Madrid, a 2001 Reed High School graduate, batted .250, hit three home runs and had 22 RBI for Nevada last season.
Lancaster said he felt pretty good about two-thirds of his team’s elements.
“I think we’re pretty strong in pitching and hitting,” he said. “Defense? We’ll see. But especially with our bullpen I feel we’re very strong. Since we only started two weeks ago, every day will be dangerous. Come (today) and Saturday night, we’ll find out.”
At the conclusion of tonight’s game, there will be a fireworks display.
Lancaster said left-hander Chris Marini will start tonight’s game with the Armada. Right-hander Ben Thurmond will start Saturday, lefty Mike Spiegel will start Sunday and righty Hideki Nagasaka will start Monday’s game against the Fullerton Flyers, who will be in town for a three-game series.
Nagasaka pitched three innings in the win over Chico, striking out four while giving up one unearned run and one hit.
Fullerton finished in fourth and last place in the California Division last season, with a 34-56 record.
Silver Sox general manager Dwight Dortch said ticket sales are moving along.
“Everything’s going well,” Dortch said. “There’s a lot of excitement, no doubt about it. We already have 1,400-1,500 presales on Friday’s game and about 1,000 for Saturday’s game.”
Peccole Park seats about 3,000.
Dortch also expressed confidence in the team.
“Les is doing a great job,” Dortch said. “He’s put a solid team together – a competitive team. The facilities are nice. It’s a good place for us to play. It’s fantastic. I encourage people to come out and enjoy a great game. There are still good seats available. It will be a great weekend.”
Dortch said that Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak – who also is an investor in the GBL – would throw out Saturday’s first pitch. The first 1,000 fans to show up will receive a Sajak bobble head.
The gates will open for tonight’s game at 5:35 p.m.