07/16/2009 10:12 AM
16 July 2009
Strong Arms Drive Orleans Firebirds Towards Top
By Ashley Crosby, CCBL Intern
ORLEANS, Mass—The Orleans Firebirds are notorious for the strong pitching staff that manager Kelly Nicholson and pitching coach Chris Beck put together each year, and the 2009 season is yet another illustration of their dedication to this ideal. Orleans is sitting in second in the East Division with 30 points, and is the top pitching team in the league with the fewest walks allowed in the league.
“When we put our team together, we always look for guys that throw strikes,” said Beck. “We always look at strikeouts to walk ratio. When we run guys out there, for the most part we’re going to have guys that are on the mound throwing strikes, and I think that that’s really key up here. If you’re not putting extra guys on base, you have a pretty good chance to win baseball games.”
The Cape League is a highly pitcher dominated league. Having one of the best pitching staffs between both divisions has kept Orleans among the top of the league for the last few years, including last year’s run for the championship trophy. Nicholson and Beck hope that their dedication to pitching will bring the trophy back to Eldridge Park this year after a three-year hiatus; Orleans last won the championship in 2005.
“There’s always things we can improve upon,” said Beck. “I think we’re middle of the pack offensively, I don’t think that we have a lot of offensive pledge and that’s why we have to rely on our pitching, but I think the hitters have done a really good job and they’re getting better.”
“The rest of the league better watch out,” he said.
“I think overall we need to play small ball a little bit better and execute a little bit better,” said Nicholson. “We haven’t done a great job of getting bunts down and that’s really the only thing that jumps out at me right now.”
If everyone stays healthy, Nicholson said, the Firebirds have a real chance to win it all. “We have to stay healthy. If we would lose a Michael Olt or a Gary Brown or one of our pitchers, we’re not that different than [the other teams].”
“Hopefully nobody signs,” Nicholson joked, recalling how Cole Figueroa (Florida) and Rich Poythress (Georgia) both left late last season, a move “that really hurt us down the stretch,” added Beck.
The Firebirds feel their starting rotation will carry them through to the end. “As the summer goes on, as the rest of the team starts to see they’re getting good starting pitching I think most of the team starts to play better,” said Beck.
Thus far, having Jorge Reyes in the starting rotation has helped. Reyes, who pitched with Falmouth last year and was drafted this year in the 17th round by the Padres “really helped solidify not only our starting rotation, but allowed us to move a guy into the bullpen and make our bullpen stronger.”
Ashley Crosby can be reached at [email protected]
Interns: Chris Blake, James Chandley, Ashley Crosby, Phil Garceau, Michael Campbell, Katy Ann Fitzpatrick