By KIPP HANLEY
The Potomac Cannons may be mired in last place in the Carolina League Northern Division but it’s been no fault of their latest pitching acquisitions.
The arrival of starters Charlie Manning, Phillip Dumatrait and Jeffrey Bruksch via trades with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics have bolstered a team that has been recently raided by its parent club, Cincinnati. Cannons starters Ty Howington, Daylan Childress, Clayton Andrews and Steve Kelly as well as catcher Jesse Gutierrez, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion and shortstop Jeff Bannon were all called up to Double A-Chattanooga in the second half of the season.
Manning, Dumatrait and Bruksch have helped to pick up the slack, combining to win seven of their nine starts since joining the club in late July and early August. Manning (3-0), acquired through the trade that sent Reds third baseman Aaron Boone to the Yankees, has pitched 14 and two-thirds straight innings of one-run baseball with a miniscule 0.46 earned run average.
Although Dumatrait (3-0) is sporting a 4.74 earned run average, the left-hander has pitched 19 innings with an eye-popping 19 strikeouts. A Red Sox prospect, Dumatrait was acquired in a deal that sent Cincy reliever Scott Williamson to the Red Sox. Bruksch (1-1) nailed down his first win with the Cannons in a 6-2 victory Thursday over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. He pitched seven and a third innings of four-hit, one-run ball with six strikeouts and just one walk.
Throw in a seven-inning scoreless gem by Edward Valdez in a 5-0 win over Frederick on Aug. 12, and it has translated into a 7-3 mark in the Cannons’ past 10 games.
‘We lost pretty much the core of our team when we were in first place,’ Cannons manager Jayhawk Owens said. ‘And then the trades happened and we got those three pitchers, and we’ve been having some success lately. That’s a good feeling. Hopefully, we can continue to finish strong and make a run for it.’
Each pitcher brings something different to the table, said Owens. However, the one constant recently has been good defense. Potomac, which leads the league in errors, has committed just one error in its past four games. All four of those games have been victories.
‘April and May, we were bad on defense, flat out,’ Owens said. ‘The other day, we turned four double plays in one game. … And any time you get pitching performances where you’re only giving up one or two runs, you will have an opportunity to win those games.’
Potomac (25-27) is still 5 1/2 games behind co-leaders Wilmington and Lynchburg (31-22), thanks mainly to both teams also going 7-3 in that time span. However, Owens thinks the Cannons can slide into a playoff spot with 17 games to go [through Thursday’s games].
‘Wilmington keeps winning so we’re not getting any closer until we win and they lose,’ Owens said. ‘We play them three games at the end of the season. Hopefully, we can inch back the rest of the season and make those last three games nailbiters for both teams. I want to put a little pressure on their players. I’d like to go in there and have us need to win two of three to win it. To me, that would be entertaining.’
THORMAN, RODRIGUEZ WINS CL HONORS
Myrtle Beach first baseman Scott Thorman and Salem starting pitcher were named Carolina League Batter and Pitcher of the week of Aug. 14.
Thorman drove in five runs on 12 hits, including a two-run home run on Aug. 8. Rodriguez pitched his first career shutout and first complete game since 2001 as the Avalanche beat the Pelicans 2-0 on Aug. 11. Rodriguez retired the first seven batters and struck out five in a complete-game, one-hitter.