Saturday, April 04, 2020
These strange times in everyday life and obviously in the derailed baseball season make it next to impossible to figure out where certain players would be playing if not for the coronavirus.
It is known that none of the former Independent players who were in major league spring training camps when they were abruptly shut down for an indefinite time had been added to 40-man rosters, a move, currently forbidden, that almost certainly would have meant they had locked up a spot on 26-man Opening Day rosters.
At the same time, there had not been any major surprises where players who would have been expected to be in the major leagues had been sent back to the minor leagues. Tampa Bay had optioned Trevor Richards, who started his pro career with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League, to Triple-A Durham, but the right-hander had only won six of 18 decisions last season when he started 23 major league games in his 30 appearances and had a 4.06 earned run average.
The most promising showings in major league camps that looked like possible opportunities at some point in the season had come from a pair of left-handed pitchers on the comeback trail after not being in the big leagues for a number of years.
This pair, who certainly bear watching whenever baseball gets the green light to re-open camps, are Tyler Matzek with Atlanta and Casey Crosby of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fascinating thing is both pitched in the American Association last season, Matzek with the Texas AirHogs and Crosby with the Chicago Dogs. Crosby, who started three games for Detroit when he was only 23 back in 2012, also spent time with Lincoln in '17 when he was just starting a comeback after three arm surgeries that led to nearly three seasons of inactivity from the mound.
Matzek got his MLB experience with Colorado in '14 and '15, winning eight of 20 decisions, almost entirely in starting roles. He has faced both wildness and mental demons since, but spent considerable time with the AirHogs each of the last two years. He worked out of the bullpen exclusively last summer, registering a 2.64 ERA and striking out 53 batters in a mere 30.2 innings. He continued to dazzle with the Braves in spring training when he was actually assigned to the minor league camp. The parent club gave him three looks and seven of his 11 outs came on strikeouts while he only allowed one hit (no walks).
The hurdle for both pitchers will be for their organizations to find room on their 40-man rosters, not exactly an easy chore at this point.
Non-roster veterans who could get another major league opportunity once the freeze on roster movement is lifted include reliever Luis Garcia (Newark, Can-Am League) with Texas and catcher Rene Rivera (Camden, Atlantic League) with the New York Mets.
Former chief spokesman for Major League Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. Six years as publicity director for the Kansas City Royals, and a background in newspaper, radio and television. Started Wirz & Associates, a sports PR and consulting firm, in 1985. Has written extensively on Independent Baseball since 2003.