By Sean Tuttle
Tuesday afternoon media members got a first look at this season’s Double-A team. As players went through a series of head shots and video clips, we were able to sit down with manager Chris Tremie who is entering his second season with the Aeros.
“The health of the team is good. We have a full roster, and everyone is ready to go,” Tremie said. “I like our guys, I love our guys, [they are] a little bit older than last year, but their are still a few guys that I still need to get to know.”
When asked about the strength of the bullpen this season Tremie said, “As of right now there are no definitive roles.[Preston] Guilmet will begin the season as the closer.” The starting rotation is expected to consist of Paolo Espino, T.J. McFarland, Steven Wright. The fourth man is to be determined as of yet but expected to be Giovanni Soto, and the fifth man is expected to be Eric Berger. With this rotation there will be no lefties in the Aeros bullpen, but Tremie expressed that he was “comfortable” with that situation. McFarland is the only pitcher on the roster to have double digit starts at the Double-A level last season, and only three other pitchers have appeared in more than 25 games last season.
Two pitchers to pay close attention to this season will be starter Steven Wright and closer Preston Guilmet. Wright, who is a knockballer, is extremely excited about seeing what this year brings in his development of the pitch along the lines of throwing it at different speeds. When asked about the pitch and if he had any worries about throwing it in the Cleveland area, Wright stated, “No, you don’t know where it’s gonna go, you just let it go, and hope for the best.”
I asked him if anyone within the club liked to try to hit it, with a smirk he revealed “Nobody here likes to hit it, but I really don’t care.” “[Roberto] Perez does a good job of catching it, but like I said you never know where it is going to go.”
Guilmet is coming off a tough season due to some troubling injuries last season and is eager to get the season underway. “I just want to commit to the season every day. Commit to the team and your routine,” Guilmet said. “Last year was a learning experience I needed to go through. It was something that I needed to go through, and now I don’t see anything that could be an obstacle.”
Guilmet also expressed the feeling of not having any control of where the ball goes when it leaves your hand, “Guys will tell you that they are trying to do this with it or whatever, but the truth is there is a batter up there and they are trying to send it,” he said.
Guilmet shared about this offseason is the development of a third pitch. “I really developed a changeup this offseason and looking forward to developing that.”
Tremie explained that the number one priority was the development of the players. Even if it meant keeping a guy in a game when you knew the guy in the bullpen could handle the situation better.
There are a number of players that will be experimenting with new positions this season, one being Chun Chen. Chen, who has been catching in the past, will primarily be playing first base this season. This in large part is due to the emergence of Roberto Perez who will take over as the starting catcher, and will allow Chen to keep up his number of at-bats. Another player that will be tossed around the diamond this season is Jared Goedert. The skipper informed us that Goedert will be playing just about everywhere this season, including the outfield since there are only three true outfielders on the roster. Ryan Rohlinger will see time at second base, shortstop and third base. Adam Abraham will see time at first and in the outfield as well.
Tremie pointed to a few players that he will be interested in watching progress. Nick Weglarz will be one to pay close attention to coming off an injury and hopes are that he bounces back from last season. Roberto Perez will have his first experience at this level, Tremie reported him as a, “very good defensive catcher.” Tremie also said that Perez could have a decent year offensively as well.
Kyle Bellows has been known for solid defensive play at third base. “The biggest thing I take pride in is that I want the pitchers to want me to be out there playing behind them,” Bellows said. “It’s different to hit an RBI than to save a run on defense. If I am going to have a bad day at the plate I better save a couple runs.”
Tremie explained that a good number of players will get a good feel of the length of the season and learn the struggle of a long season and the highs and the lows. Everyone is excited about the advancement of former players and it is gratifying to see as coaches.
A common denominator to why some players may or may not progress in the ranks is often consistency in approach to on and off the field activities.
Two players Tribe fans may want to keep an eye on this season, along the lines of advancing in the ranks, is Weglarz and Goedert. Weglarz expressed that, “You got to stay focused on your game here and not look ahead. The Eastern League is a pitcher’s league, and a tough league. If you have success here, you can move up.” Easier said than done, especially when the big league club is stretched thin already in the outfield with injuries and lack of depth.
Goedert who has been to Triple A Columbus, expressed his openness to seeing time in the outfield. “I’m extremely open to playing the outfield,” he said. “It’s very beneficial not only to the club but to me as well. It is nice to know there isn’t much of a jump between AAA and AA in my opinion. It reassures you that you are almost there, it motivates and keeps you focused.”
The Aeros will begin the season on the road for two series, three games in Binghamton, and three in Altoona. They will open at home on Thursday, April 12, with four games against the Trenton Thunder, and then three against the Bowie Baysox.