Even in the middle of July, the Ducks preseason open tryout continues to bear fruit. In the team’s continuing quest to find middle relief answers, they rang on Chris Pike, a Southampton native who tried out for the team in April.
After not making the team out of the tryout, Pike stayed ready at his home with the help of his father, Gary. When the call finally came and the Ducks signed Pike on July 18, the righthander was ready.
“I would work out and run on my own and try to stay in shape,” Pike, who spent four years in the Tampa Bay Rays system, said. “But as far as throwing goes, my dad was on me almost everyday saying ‘hey, lets go throw.’ He’d get home from work and we’d go outside and throw.”
“Whether it was with throwing with weighted balls or throwing a bullpen, he was definitely not scared to get down and catch for me. He was definitely the driving force for me to stay in shape.”
Pike’s goal was to play for the Ducks at some point. He didn’t necessarily think the call would come this year, but he wasn’t planning on letting the brass in Central Islip forget his name.
“My short list was the Long Island Ducks,” Pike said. “They were the only team I was really looking forward to playing with. If it wasn’t this year, I was definitely going to try again next year with them.”
Pike is the sixth player from the open tryout to play in the Atlantic League this year — and the fourth to play for the Ducks. Jason Creasy, Robert Garcia, and Tyler Honahan, who are no longer with the team, were the other three.
“He was in the tryout, but he was also recommended to us after he got released [from the Rays],” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said right after the signing. “So, it was good that he came down to the tryouts. He’s got a good arm and throws strikes . . . He looks like he knows how to pitch.”
Pike said he wasn’t incredibly disappointed when he didn’t get a spring training invite out of the tryout. He didn’t know when, but he had a feeling he’d be back on the Bethpage Ballpark mound.
“I kind of knew that there were a lot of guys that already had spots filled and, coming out of spring training, it’s tough to get picked up right away,” Pike said. “I knew it would give me the best chance and the best opportunity. If I showed up to the tryout and showed what I can bring to the table, if a spot opened up, I could be one of the first guys called . . . It was nice to come down here and meet [Baez] and some of the other coaching staff. It was worth it.”
Pike struggled in his first two appearances, allowing three runs and five hits in two innings out of the bullpen against the Somerset Patriots last weekend.
Ducks Close to inking Navarro
The Ducks question marks at catcher appear to be a thing of the past. The Ducks agreed to terms last week with former All-Star catcher Dioner Navarro. Navarro is expected to join the team Monday, when the Ducks face the Somerset Patriots at Bethpage Ballpark, Ducks president and general manager Michael Pfaff said.
Navarro played 13 years in the big leagues with the Rays, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Cubs, Reds, White Sox and Yankees. The Yankees traded Navarro, along with Javier Vazquez and Brad Halsey, and cash to the Diamondbacks in 2005 for Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson.
Navarro was then flipped by the Diamondbacks to the Dodgers as part of a deal for Shawn Green.
Navarro was an All-Star in 2008 with the Rays when he hit .295 with seven home runs and 54 RBIs. He has a career batting average of .250 with 77 home runs.
The Ducks, who at one point this season had to play their bullpen catcher, will now have two big-league catchers on the roster. Ramon Cabrera played for the Reds in 2015-2016.
The Ducks also signed reliever Logan Ondrusek last week. Ondrusek played for five seasons with the Reds from 2010-2014 and made seven appearances with the Orioles in 2016.
Ondrusek allowed one run and two hits in one inning in his Ducks debut on Thursday.
Honor for Harrelson
The Ducks will retire Bud Harrelson’s No. 3 in a pregame ceremony before the game against the Road Warriors Aug. 3 as part of “Bud Harrelson Appreciation Night.”
The Ducks also will use the night to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, which Harrelson was diagnosed with in the summer of 2016, his former wife Kim Battaglia told Newsday in February. The Ducks will wear special purple jerseys during the game, which will be auctioned off. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.
Harrelson, who played with the Mets from 1965 to 1977, managed the team from May 30, 1990 until Sept. 30, 1991 and managed the Ducks in their inaugural 2000 season. He’s been a Ducks coach since 2001 and is their senior vice-president of baseball operations and a part owner.
Harrelson’s number will be the third retired by the organization, joining Justin Davies’ No. 4 and Ray Navarrete’s 16.
Francisco Rodriguez was 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA and 16 saves in 24 appearances, entering Saturday night’s game against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. He allowed 16 hits, walked 12, and struck out 22 in his first 24 innings with the Ducks. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning and earned the save Friday night against Southern Maryland.