The California Sharks are gearing up for big things in the postseason. They’ve had a comfortable lead in the West for most of the year, and are almost certainly headed for the playoffs. With that in mind, the Sharks came into Wednesday’s trade deadline looking to bolster their few weaknesses and prepare for a deep run. Their lineup is producing the most runs in the league, so there’s no need for upgrades on that score. Their rotation also looks postseason-ready, especially once knuckleballer Todd Warrant returns from injury. But their bullpen was a reliable arm short; closer Eugene Grace has been inconsistent, and long man Kerry Lopez has struggled badly.
The Sharks addressed that weakness on Wednesday, acquiring veteran left-handed reliever Olen Abernathy from the Milwaukee Bear Claws in exchange for lefty prospect Luke Bond.
“We’ve got one goal this season, and that’s to win a title,” said California owner/GM Colin Mills. “We don’t have a lot of weak spots, but we needed one more good relief arm to strengthen our pen. Olen Abernathy is the guy we wanted, and I couldn’t be happier that we got him.”
Abernathy has postseason experience, as he was a key part of the bullpen that led the Bear Claws to the PBL title in 2015. “Last season, whenever we played Milwaukee I knew we needed to score early,” said Sharks manager Eduardo Aponte, “because I knew that Almon, Abernathy, and Buenaventura would shut the door right in our faces.”
The southpaw has been reliable again this season, going 3-5 with a 3.29 ERA. Milwaukee, however, hasn’t been able to repeat its success from last season. With the team struggling, they were willing to make deals to retool for the future. “We ain’t giving up on the season,” said Bear Claws skipper Poss Horton, “but we’re looking at making our team stronger for the long haul.”
Bond is a hard-throwing arm with considerable potential. The 20-year-old southpaw has a fastball that lights up the gun in the upper 90s and a developing curveball. His biggest issue is control; he walks a lot of batters and is prone to firing wild pitches. Last season, Bond was 3-3 with a 5.84 ERA in 22 appearances with the Sharks. This season, he’s been in the minors for California.
“A guy like Luke has the kind of arm you can dream on,” said Horton. “I’m excited to see what [pitching coach] Zane [Stafford] can do with him.”