Shortstop Phil Caulfield has taken to the Ducks leadoff spot,...

Shortstop Phil Caulfield has taken to the Ducks leadoff spot, hitting ,351 in 70 plate appearances. Credit: Long Island Ducks

The Ducks appear to have found their leadoff man.

Phil Caulfield, a 27-year-old former Washington Nationals minor leaguer, has impressed Ducks manager Wally Backman with his production at the plate, and energy in the field. Through 14 games (70 plate appearances), Caufield was slashing .351/.471/.509 with 10 walks, six stolen bases and seven RBIs.

“He’s a very good leadoff hitter, probably one of the best I’ve had in a long time,” Backman said.

The Ducks signed Caulfield on June 28, but the shortstop landed on the injured list with an elbow injury suffered while colliding with a baserunner. Since returning on July 28, Caulfield has been a tough out.

Caulfield played well in Mexico earlier this season, but was released after 22 games. He said he was surprised by the release, but is not surprised that he’s continued his success in the Atlantic League.

“I think it was right on par with what I expected,” Caulfield said of his new league. “I don't really ever expect for my opponents to be better than I am. But, I did expect there to be a lot of talent here.”

The push is on for the Ducks, who entered Saturday five games out of the first wild-card spot with a little over a month left in the regular season. The wild card takes effect if a team wins both the first and second half divisional championships. It appears likely that at least the Gastonia Honey Hunters will do that and, thusly, open up that spot.

The Ducks, who limped home this weekend after a 5-7 road trip, are 12-22 in the second half.

“I shouldn’t say our backs are against the wall, but it’s getting close to being that way,” Backman said. “I’m not used to being in this situation. We’ve got to be better.”

Iorio back, Parry out

Joe Iorio, who left the team after his start on Aug.3, has returned and will pitch Sunday against the Charleston Dirty Birds. Iorio wanted to begin the ‘post-baseball’ portion of his life, but after a week away had a change of heart, Backman said.

Iorio is 7-4 with a 4.67 ERA in 23 games (13 starts). He struck out 52 batters, walked 33, and allowed 11 home runs in 90 2/3 innings.  

But, while Iorio is back, pitcher Bennett Parry appears to have ended his. Unhappy with the team’s plans to move him to the bullpen, Parry left the team last week. The 31-year-old, who missed most of the season with variety of shoulder issues, was 0-2 with a 6.57 ERA in seven starts. He struck out 24 batters and walked 15 in 24 2/3 innings. He allowed five earned runs, struck out two, and walked three in five innings in his last start — a 10-7 loss to Staten Island on Aug. 4.

“He didn’t want to pitch in the bullpen, so he basically quit,” Backman said. “…We rehabbed him, spent a lot of money on him, but his performance was not good enough to maintain a position where he could start.”

Parry, who started for the Liberty Division in the 2018 Atlantic League All-Star game, was once a prized commodity in the independent and international ranks. He made five starts for the Ducks in 2019 before being picked up by a team in the Mexican League. But, after the pandemic cancelled the 2020 minor league season, he retired. While coaching high school baseball in California last year, Parry got the itch to return and was back with the Ducks in spring training. But he never regained his stride.   

“I think, sometimes, players think they’re better than what they are. We did a lot of things for Bennett to try and get him back to where he once was. It just didn’t work. It just didn’t happen,” Backman said. “We felt that putting him in the bullpen may have rejuvenated him a little bit, but he didn’t want to do that. He doesn’t make the decisions. We do.”

Travis done for the season

First baseman Sam Travis is out for the season with a torn quad. Travis, who played parts of three seasons with the Red Sox, slashed .310/.368/.452 in 83 games (323 at-bats) this season. He hit nine home runs and had 68 RBIs.

“He had a good year for us,” Backman said. “Hopefully he gets an opportunity to go back to spring training with somebody. But, if not, he’s a guy that would definitely come back next season.”

More LI Ducks