Sazeracs, Hammerheads Trade Hurlers

At this stage of the Patriot League season, most teams have a good sense of their shortcomings and the areas where they need help.  The Jackson Hammerheads, for instance, have struggled to identify consistent lockdown arms in the bullpen.  Meanwhile, the New Orleans Sazeracs are desperately seeking stability in their rotation.  The teams have struck a deal to try to address their respective weaknesses, with New Orleans shipping veteran left-handed reliever Boss Walker to Jackson in exchange for starter Yu Chen.

Boss Walker

The 35-year-old Walker has been used primarily as a lefty specialist by New Orleans this season, with a 1-0 record and a pair of save to go along with a 4.41 ERA.  He split last season between Salt Lake and California, providing some much-needed stability for the left side of the Sharks’ relief corps.  For Jackson, a team that’s already well-stocked with lefty relievers, they’re hoping to use Walker as a late-inning weapon against lefties and righties alike.

“We’re very excited to bring The Boss here to Jackson,” said Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler.  “He’s got the kind of experience and attitude we’re looking for in the late innings.  He’s the key piece to solving our bullpen puzzle.  The rest of the teams in the East should just save us all some time and give up now.  I’ll send them all tickets to our championship parade.”

Walker is a native of Mississippi, but he will miss the Big Easy.  “New Orleans is my favorite city in the world,” said Walker.  “But Jackson’s a better team, and I’m all in to get me a ring.  Besides, we’ll be through town pretty often, so I’ll have plenty of chances to get my jazz and jambalaya fix.”

Yu Chen

Chen represents an intriguing buy-low opportunity for the Sazeracs.  The 28-year-old Korean lefty came to Jackson last season in the disastrous Eddie Battin deal, and failed to establish himself as a fixture in the Hammerheads’ rotation.  After going 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA in 2016, Chen was exiled to the bullpen down the stretch.  He got another chance to start this season, but flamed out quickly and returned to relief exile.

Chen’s numbers this season testify both to his poor performance and his limited use: 0-1, one save, and a 9.39 ERA in only 16 1/3 innings of work.  Butler had been shopping Chen aggressively around the league, but found few takers.

The Sazeracs, though, are in desperate need of rotation help.  They’ve had a solid top two in Darius Tice and Matthew Erickson, but otherwise they’ve been plagued by injuries, ineffectiveness, and an addiction to the local nightlife.  One season-opening start, Norm “Rattler” LaForce, landed in alcohol rehab.

“It’s no secret that we need some help in the rotation,” said Sazeracs owner/GM Jeff Wiggins.  “We’re hoping that given a low-pressure environment and the chance to straighten out his mechanics, Yu will be able to rediscover the form that made him successful in Korea.  Let the good starts roll!”

As part of the trade, the Hammerheads and Sazeracs agreed to exchange players to be named later.  Both parties were tight-lipped on that aspect of the deal, but Butler reportedly submitted a lengthy list of conditions regarding the PTBNL exchange prior to the league office approving the deal.  According to sources with knowledge of the deal, the list was notarized and ran up to 10 pages.  Asked for specifics, Butler declined, saying, “Revealing those details might compromise other trades that the Sultan of Swap has in the works.  But we made sure to cover all appropriate contingencies.  The details will be revealed at the appropriate time.”

Hammerheads Shake Up Pitching Staff

The Jackson Hammerheads never expected to find themselves here.  After finishing a strong second in the East last season, Jackson owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler made a series of aggressive trades designed to propel them to the top.  Instead, after a dreadful first couple of weeks, the Hammerheads are stuck in the cellar with a 5-10 record.

Worse yet, the biggest problem plaguing Jackson is the same issue that derailed them last year: the pitching staff.  The Hammerheads’ 6.14 team ERA is the worst in the league by a healthy margin.  The rotation has posted a dismal 6.83 mark; only first-year man Willie Lebron has inspired confidence.  And the bullpen has been responsible for a surge in ulcers around central Mississippi after a string of late-inning meltdowns.

Bob Henley

Manager Bob Henley has seen enough.  Today, the skipper announced a shakeup of his pitching staff.

“When you got the kind of talent we’ve got, this kind of start just ain’t acceptable,” said Henley.  “We’re not performing, so I’m making some changes.  And I’ll keep making changes until we get this right.”

Yu Chen
Tony Harris

In order to fix the rotation, Henley demoted Korean lefty Yu Chen to the bullpen and made righty Tony Harris a starter.  Chen was acquired from Knoxville in the middle of last season and turned in underwhelming numbers.  This season, he’s been even worse, going 0-1 with a 10.95 ERA and barely averaging 4 innings per start.  The 37-year-old Harris, acquired from Jacksonville shortly before the start of this season, has excelled in long-relief work, posting a 1.35 ERA in 7 appearances.

“What I’ve seen out of Tony is a guy who get the job done and inspires confidence,” said Henley.  “I’m not seeing that same confidence in Yu.  In my clubhouse, you do the job and you get rewarded.  Tony’s earned a chance to show us what he can do.”

Butch Turnbull

To address the relief problems, Henley sent Butch Turnbull to the minors.  The hard-throwing right-hander has appeared frequently in late-game situations, making 9 appearances already in the young season.  Unfortunately, he’s struggled badly, going 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA.

“I’ve given Butch plenty of rope, and he’s made a noose out of it,” said Henley.  “I’ve seen enough.”

Turnbull’s roster spot will be given to DH Dexter Jester.  His late-inning duties will be turned over to righty Bobby Boniface and lefties Hilton Sircy and Sam Drawdy.

A furious Turnbull responded to the move by demanding a trade.  “I don’t know what they want me to do here,” the righty fumed.  “Last year, I practically had to beg to get into games.  This year, they run me out there every night.  I don’t know if they’re trying to ruin me or what, but I’m sick of it.  I want to go to a team that will just let me pitch and quit jerking me around.”

Henley hopes the moves will put other struggling pitchers on notice.  Henley did not demote closer Rick Sheen, who’s blown 2 of 4 save opportunities and is allowing a 1.381 OPS against, or #1 starter Henry Jones, who’s gone 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA on the season.  But he stressed that no one, regardless of salary or reputation, is safe.

“Now they know I’m serious,” said Henley.  “If you don’t do your job, you’re gonna spend some time on the bench or in the minors.  No excuses.”

Leaked information from inside the clubhouse suggested that Henley is contemplating replacing Sheen as closer with Boniface; the manager said only, “Everything’s on the table if we don’t get better.”

PBL Transactions, 5/25/15 – 5/31/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

Jackson Hammerheads

 

Jackson Hammerheads: Traded 1B Eddie Battin and RP Sylvester Lighty to Knoxville for DH Alex Jaramillo, SP Yu Chen, and 1B Pete Cianciarulo. (See story here.)

 

Salt Lake Samurai

 

Salt Lake Samurai: Activated RF Romeo Martinez from the 15-day disabled list. Demoted 3B Luis Poncilar.