LV’s success could rest on pitching staff
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs roster is a mix of familiar and not-so-familiar faces. Popular players like Dylan Cozens, Mitch Walding and Cole Irvin are back with the ‘Pigs. Young prospects JoJo Romero, Deivy Grullon and Jan Hernandez are at the Triple-A level for the first time in their careers.
Local hero Matt McBride returns for a second season after playing high school ball for Liberty High School and college ball as a Lehigh Mountain Hawk.
The success of the team seems to be set on pitching. Irvin, Romero, Enyel De Los Santos and Ranger Suarez give the team a strong foursome for the rotation and with former IronPig Jerad Eickhoff still working his way back from an injury, there are five quality starters. Six if you count Drew Anderson, who was promoted to Philadelphia on Monday when David Robertson went on the DL.
The bullpen has lefty James Pazos who came over from Seattle in the Jean Segura deal and also features southpaws Austin Davis and Tyler Gilbert. From the right side, there’s Edgar Garcia, who could find himself in save situations for the team.
“Our pitching is something to like about this team,” said manager Gary Jones recently. “We’ve got some good arms and they know how to pitch, so I like how our pitching sets up for us.”
While pitching is the key, the offense recently put up 20 runs in a game for the first time since June of 2016. The 20-18 win over Rochester saw the team hit a franchise record nine home runs.
Cozens and Walding are the known quantities when it comes to offense, but the team also added veteran major league infielder Sean Rodriguez and outfielders Lane Adams and Shane Robinson. Catching prospect Deivy Grullon won last year’s Eastern League Home Run Derby as a member of the Reading Fightins in what was a breakout power season for the 23-year old catcher.
Of course, the season will be filled with its usual up-and-down shuttling of players between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia. Reliever Victor Arano was the first to head down the turnpike for Philadelphia with Anderson hot on his tail.
It’s also possible that the Route 222 shuttle will be busy with Reading being home to a number of top prospects, including possibly the best outfield in the minors featuring Adam Haseley, Cornelius Randolph and Mickey Moniak, all of whom were first-round picks by the Phillies between 2015 and 2017. Pitchers Adonis Medina and David Parkinson are also possible members of the IronPigs later in the season.
FAST START... The IronPigs have jumped out to an 8-3 start on the season and hold a half-game lead over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the IL North. The Pigs opened with a 5-2 homestand and have outscored their opponents 75-49 through the first 11 games. The 75 runs they’ve scored are third in the IL and their 49 runs allowed are tied for fourth in the league.
CHANGE OF ADDRESS... Former fan favorite Andy Tracy, who later served as the organization’s minor league hitting coordinator, didn’t have his contract renewed by the Phillies following the 2018 season. Tracy wasn’t unemployed long. He is currently the hitting coach for the Columbus Clippers. Columbus makes just one trip to Coca-Cola Park (June 14-16). The Pigs travel to play the Clippers a week later.
CHANGE OF VENUE... Fans are used to seeing the Syracuse Chiefs come to Coca-Cola Park during the season. The Chiefs are no more after the team was sold to the New York Mets last season and is now the Syracuse Mets. The Washington Nationals, who had their Triple-A team in Syracuse since 2009, are now affiliated with the Fresno Grizzlies in the Pacific Coast League.