Players come and players go, often without much warning. This is life in the Atlantic League.
Individual success may breed wins, but it also comes under the watchful eyes of major-league scouts. It’s the definition of a double-edged sword. Teams want their players to do well. They want them to move on to bigger and better things. But, when they do, the teams are left scrambling to replace their top players.
So, when the Ducks lost two of their top starting pitchers in a six day period — Mark Blackmar to the Washington Nationals’ organization and Jack Snodgrass to the Texas Rangers’ system, — manager Kevin Baez took it in stride.
“It’s part of the league,” Baez said. “You want guys to get a chance to get back to the big leagues. Our job is to manage and coach the guys that we have here and wish the guys that are not here the best.”
Blackmar and Snodgrass joined Nate Freiman, who went to the Red Sox organization, as Ducks moving to MLB affiliates this season. Yaphank-native Bruce Kern spent spring training with the Royals and Mark Minicozzi spent the beginning of the season in the Mexican League. Kern and Minicozzi are back with the Ducks.
Blackmar was 6-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 13 starts with the Ducks. After two solid starts for the Nationals’ Class-A affiliate, he was promoted to Double-A.
Snodgrass went 6-6 with a 3.79 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 14 starts. He did not have the immediate success of his former teammate, allowing four runs and seven hits in three innings in his first start with Triple-A Round Rock.
To replace those two, the Ducks turned to a familiar place, giving Bobby Blevins back his rotation spot, and an unfamiliar place, granting reliever Dustin Richardson a chance to gain his stripes as a starter.
Blevins, who started the year in the rotation, struggled early and was replaced by Kern in June. He made one relief appearance and spent the rest of his time away from the mound, refining what he diagnosed as a “location issue.”
“I just needed to minimize,” Blevins said. “My fastball wasn’t fully there. When you get in those situations, you start overthinking and trying to be too fine. As much as you say you trust [your pitches], mentally when you step back out, you have that opportunity to sit back and work on your stuff, get back into a routine, and trust your abilities.”
Blevins added: “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Early returns indicate that a strong finish is in the cards. Blevins did not allow an earned run in six innings in the Ducks’ 3-2 loss to the Bridgeport Bluefish on Wednesday.
Richardson, who began the season in the Dodgers organization and has bounced around in both starting and relieving roles his entire career, was 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA in nine appearances (6 2/3 innings) out of the bullpen. He was also impressive in his first start of the season, allowing only one hit in four innings, striking out four, and walking one in the Ducks 5-1 win over Bridgeport Tuesday.
The Ducks close out their weekend series with Southern Maryland Sunday and return home Monday to finish out July against New Britain and Sugar Land. Richardson is scheduled to make his second start Sunday. Blevins is slated to go on Monday.