Monday, March 29, 2021

Nogowski, Dobnak, Thielbar Have Majors Jobs, Others Still Hopeful

        It is still about 72 hours until the cry of Play Ball becomes real so much can happen as major league teams juggle their rosters to get to the 26-man Opening Day limit.

        But considerable positive news already is known for some of the former Independent Baseball players who started spring training last month hoping to survive all of the painful cuts before April 1.

        --Onetime Sioux City (American Association) first baseman John Nogowski has officially landed a bench job with St. Louis after a terrific spring.  He will be a pinch hitter as well as a backup at first base and the corner outfield positions.

       --The United Shore League's No. 1 find, right-hander Randy Dobnak, has given the Independent ranks another bragging point by not only sticking with Minnesota but garnering a five-year contract extension that reportedly could amount to nearly $30 million.  He pitched for Utica in the Michigan-based league.

            --Southpaw Caleb Thielbar's persistence has paid off with a second consecutive time in the Twins' bullpen at age 34, but only after he returned to St. Paul (American Association) for two seasons (2016-17) after his first stint of two-plus years with the American Association team had ended.  He tried to make it with two other organizations after his second time in St. Paul.

       --All signs point to veteran reliever Brandon Kintzler (St. Paul plus Winnipeg when it was still in the Northern League) being in Philadelphia's bullpen although the team has not officially promoted him from his non-roster status in spring training.

       Some of the decisions still to be made are whether righty Chase DeJong (Sugar Land, Atlantic League) will stick with Pittsburgh despite a solid spring, will lefty Scott Kazmir (Sugar Land) land a comeback role with San Francisco and can veteran Luis Garcia (Newark, Can-Am League) squeeze his way onto the New York Yankees bullpen.  Miami seems ready to keep both James Hoyt and Ross Detwiler in the bullpen with first-timer Anthony Bender, another Sioux City product, still in the picture.

       There have been disappointments, of course, with No. 1 probably being Tampa Bay's shelving Indy native Nick Anderson (Rockford and Frontier Greys, Frontier League) for at least 60 days because of elbow problems.  Marcus Walden of Boston, Andrew Albers of Minnesota and Mike Kickham of the Los Angeles Dodgers had some excellent outings this spring, but could not nail down jobs, at least to start the season.

       Still others decisions loom prior to Thursday's openers, and will track those as part of our annual list of all Independent players who will open in the majors.


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