The Carolina Mudcats entered Tuesday’s contest at Wilmington with .500 winning percentage after 40 games. Often when teams have an even split of wins and losses, there is a consistency at the statistics within. The Muddies have some interesting contrasts so far in 2014.
Carolina is a better team away from Five County Stadium so far. The Mudcats prior to Tuesday are 11-7 on its travels away from Zebulon. A 9-13 home record is not the only thing negating the advantage however, as six teams in the Carolina League has winning records on the road and two clubs actually have won more games than it has lost at home. Not coincidentally, the two teams are Myrtle Beach and Potomac. Both have leads in its division.
At the plate Carolina has hit well and currently stands second overall in the Carolina League with a team batting average of .259. Anthony Gallas continues to lead the way for the Mudcats at .338 for the season (third overall in the Carolina League) and the Mudcats have also benefitted from the improved play at the plate from James Roberts. The shortstop is hitting at a .292 clip, a stark contrast to his .235 average at Mahoning Valley in 2013.
The Mudcats do have two losses to contend with, one to injury and one to promotion. Third baseman Erik Gonzalez, currently eighth in the Carolina League with a .309 batting average, is on the disabled list. Infielder Todd Hankins also departs Carolina again for a second stint with Columbus in the International League. Hankins had three home runs and 17 runs batted in for Carolina in 111 at-bats.
There is a lot to be excited about on the mound as well. Ryan Merritt continues to look like a pitcher who will be making the move to Double-A Akron at some point in the near future. The lefty leads the league with a paltry 1.65 ERA. Merritt is tied with two pitchers (including teammate Shawn Morimando) with the most wins at 5 and is also one of only three pitchers who have hurled a complete game this season.
Manager Scooter Tucker is happy with the development he has seen from his squad. The Mudcats appear to have several viable prospects for the future.
“I think we’ve played well,” Tucker said. “We have had some growing pains, so to speak. For the most part, we’ve been competitive every day. Obviously we have not won them all, but we have had a chance to win many of them. We’ve come-from-behind in some. I am pleased with it.”
With exactly 100 games remaining heading into Tuesday’s action, Tucker is anxious to see the Mudcats continue to compete in the Carolina League, as well as send more players through the Cleveland system. It has been a challenge at times for the second-year manager, with injuries and transfers in and out of the squad, but Tucker feels there will be growth.
“It has been a chore at times,” Tucker said. “It is not just a situation we are going through, others do too, but at one point we had four infielders and four catchers. It is unique. You have to deal with it. Everybody has got a good attitude. Taking those things into consideration, I am very pleased with the way we have played and with the attitude the guys have shown. We are continuing to grow and I am happy to see that.”
Photo: Aaron Moody/Smithfield Herald