Mudcats Lack Big Names But Have High Expectations in 2014
Rob McLamb | On 02, Apr 2014
In 2013, the Carolina Mudcats entered the season with a wave of excitement due to presence of two former first-round picks and several other players who were rated highly in the Cleveland Minor League system.
Carolina manager Scooter Tucker, heading into his first season guiding the Cats, met with the media on Tuesday at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C. He acknowledged that, while there may not be the prospects that generate the type of enthusiasm throughout baseball circles that the squad did last season, he feels the Mudcats will be full of young players with the potential to both progress through the Indians system and do well on the diamond in Carolina League play.
“I think you are going to find that we are a team that has a lot of guys that play pretty hard,” Tucker said. “They like playing the game. I think you are going to get max effort just about every night. We are still concentrating on developing these guys. We try to put them in certain situations to challenge them. It may not be the perfect fit if you were managing a Major League team. We’re trying to keep them in mind and not worry so much about my record.”
Heading into Thursday’s opener at home against Potomac, regulars at Five County will see a familiar face on the mound. Left-hander Shawn Morimando returns to Carolina this season and has been given the nod on Opening Day. The native of Virginia Beach, Va. went 8-13 with a 3.73 ERA for the Mudcats last year.
“I am excited. It helps a lot (having pitched last season for Carolina),” Morimando said. “I have a little more understanding of what is going on. All I care about is how I am pitching. I am ready to go. We have a great team and a great coaching staff.”
The Mudcats floundered last season on the field despite having a slew of top prospects and tying the Myrtle Beach Pelicans with the most players on the Carolina League All-Star team at four. Carolina at various points in the campaign had the worst overall record in all of the Minor Leagues.
“I think we are going to have a really good season,” Morimando said. “There is a lot of awesome talent around here. We are all here for a reason, to compete, play ball and to have fun.”
The lack of success did not translate towards development however. A majority of the players from the 2013 squad, including both former first-round draft picks (Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin), along with the entire coaching staff made to move up the organizational ladder to Double-A Akron this season.
“The Indians organization as a whole has done a great job of promoting front office people, on-the-field staff as well as, the ultimate goal, the players,” Tucker said. “I am fortunate enough in that two years ago I was here as the hitting coach, and very blessed to have the manager we did, Edwin Rodriguez, that allowed me to do a lot of things that prepped me for managing. In a way, I had a little bit of on-the-job training. Edwin was about as good as a mentor as you can expect. I am very thankful for it.”
Tucker seeks to provide the same learning environment for the Mudcats that Rodriguez gave him in 2012. The second-year skipper who managed Lake County last season feels Zebulon and Five County Stadium is the perfect environment for player development based on his experience two seasons ago.
“I like this league. I enjoyed living here. I have got family that lives near here,” Tucker said. “Everything about my experience here was good. This is wonderful and just a very enjoyable league.”
From me, from a preparation standpoint, it is a lot like the higher levels,” Tucker added. “You have only seven opponents, so you get to know them pretty well. In the Midwest League, we saw a team only one time, so you are basically just going out and playing them. Here, it induces the guys to learn how to prepare for an opponent. I think that is a part I like.”