It is nice to hear that Aaron Cunningham, the 26-year-old lefty who was hit squarely on the jaw by a line drive last season, has recovered to the point he will get another chance to pitch for the Shreveport-Bossier (LA) Captains this season.
"It was nasty," General Manager Craig Brasfield told me this week of the incident when I interviewed him for the lead story in this week's Independent Baseball Insider column, which went out to subscribers Thursday.
Brasfield said Cunningham, who has spent the last four seasons (his entire pro career to this point) with the American Association team, was in the Captains' offices recently and will be coming back for pre-season camp. The 6-foot-3 hurler from The Woodlands, TX had moved into the Captains' rotation for the first time in his pro career only to be injured in his sixth start on July 2. He has a combined 6-10 record and 4.07 earned run average for his four seasons.
Baseball fans realize that the number of trades has been significantly reduced at the major league level because of the complexities of big contracts. Trades carried so much offseason chit chat among fans.
With the need for a change of scenery or the desire to play closer to home and something less than huge salaries as factors, trades still occur with frequency in the Independent ranks. They even take place between leagues, especially before a new season starts.
The Kalamazoo (MI) Kings of the Frontier League and the new Lake County Fielders from Zion, IL in the Northern League got together this week in a dandy. Eleven players were swapped. It stands to reason some of the movement came about because more advanced Kalamazoo players probably were projected as being ready for the more veteran Northern League while some of those on the Lake County roster could benefit from getting playing time with others of their age in the Frontier. Lake County got seven of the players with the Kings receiving four plus what was described as future considerations.
FIGUEROA SHARP; HOPES METS KNOW IT
"I can only hope that the Mets are watching this and they are happy with the work I am doing," veteran right-hander Nelson Figueroa told MLB.com after his eight-strikeout, 7-1 complete-game victory for the Dominican Republic in the on-going Caribbean Series. Figueroa, who has pitched for five major league teams but has yet to get in a full season at that level, is expected to compete for the fifth spot in New York's rotation after his 3-8, 4.09 performance in 70.1 innings last season.
He has "shown he has the stuff to pitch (in the majors)," said Ken Oberkfell, who managed Figueroa during his time at Buffalo (7-5, 2.25) and is his skipper with Escongido. "He'll be ready in spring training instead of trying to build himself up to that. He's a competitor."
Oberkfell and Figueroa both has logged time in the Independent game. Oberkfell was a manager in the Northeast League (Mohawk Valley and Elmira, NY) while Figueroa worked briefly for the Long Island (NY) Ducks in the Atlantic League.