Wally Backman walked over to Joe Iorio Wednesday afternoon, trying to change a made-up mind. But, those things are hard to change and, by first pitch on Thursday night, Iorio had a new moniker — former Duck pitcher.
The righthander, who has been a key part of Backman’s pitching staff since he took the Ducks job before the 2019 season, left the team last week, ready to begin the post-baseball portion of his life, Backman said.
This kind of move is not unprecedented in the Atlantic League. Players dare to read the writing on the wall, see that Major League interest has evaporated (if it was ever there) and decide to start the rest of their lives before the official end of a baseball season.
That appears to be what happed with Iorio, Backman said. But, the manager gave it one final shot after Iorio allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings and earned the win in the Ducks 3-2 victory over the Staten Island FerryHawks.
“I said, ‘Joe, really? Is this what you really want to do right now?,' ” Backman said. “He was teared up a little bit. I don’t really think that he wanted to, but I think that he has other pressures outside (of baseball and) wants to get on with his life.”
Backman continued: “He feels that he hasn't gotten the opportunity that he was hoping for the last parts of three years and he’s going to try and get on with his life and do other things. I told Joe, ‘you never take the uniform off until somebody makes you take it off.’ But, he has other plans, so I respect him for it.”
Iorio was 7-4 with a 4.67 ERA in 23 games (13 starts) this season. He struck out 52 batters, walked 33, and allowed 11 home runs in 90 2/3 innings. In parts of three seasons on Long Island, he yo-yo’d between the starting rotation and bullpen. In 2019, he struck out 92 batters in 128 1/3 innings. In 2021, he was 13-2 in 23 appearances (22 starts).
Iorio’s a pitcher that Backman relied on, and one he’ll miss.
“Joe's not a guy that's going to light up the radar gun,” Backman said. “He doesn't have the so-called ‘spin rates’ that the analytics are looking for. The one thing that you could never grade with Joe Iorio is what he feels inside. He's a competitor wanting to win, big heart. Those are things you can't put numbers on and that's unfortunate for Joe.”
Backman said the team will go back to a five-man rotation for the time being after employing the six-man model recently. They signed lefty Rafael Monsion, who pitched in the Pioneer League earlier this season. Monsion spent four seasons in the Blue Jays system, never rising above Class A.
LI-native Bottari released
The Ducks released Wading River native Nick Bottari last week and signed outfielder Matt Chamberlain to fill the spot.
“I needed another outfielder,” Backman said. “Bottari did a great job for us last year, good off the bench … He’s going to go to the police academy, so it was sort of the end for him. He’s a great kid, but he just happened to be the person that we had to make a change with.”
Bottari, who spent two seasons at Hofstra before transferring to NAIA Southeastern University in Florida, hit .365 with 13 RBIs in 27 games (63 at-bats) with the Ducks last season. He hit .143 in 21 at-bats (nine games) this season.
In Chamberlain, the Ducks brought in another lefthanded bat who can play every outfield position. He spent two seasons in the Cardinals system, never advancing above Class A.
“I’ve never been with the (Cardinals organization), but I totally respect (it),” Backman said. “He should know how to play the game the right way…Expect him to be a guy to play against righthanded pitching and give (Alejandro) De Aza a rest in centerfield.”