Archive for April, 2010

Game 7: Bluefish @ Patriots

April 30, 2010

9:48 PM — Game over.  Somerset wins, 3-1.  Houston closes it out with a 1-2-3 9th.

9:47 PM — Houston’s at 92 on the stadium gun…but who knows how reliable that is.

9:45 PM — Houston’s in for the ninth…3-1 lead for Somerset.

9:41 PM — Ryan Houston getting loose in the Somerset bullpen…looks like he’ll be coming in for the 9th to try to close this one out.

9:39 PM — 1-2-3 inning for Reilly against Bridgeport’s 2-3-4 hitters.  Impressive.  3-1, Somerset, heading into B8.

9:32 PM — Matt Reilly in for the 8th inning…

9:30 PM — Joe Burke has moved to first base from left field.  Tim Raines, Jr. is in left field.  Joe Holden is in right field.

9:27 PM — Pressley walks…Joe Holden coming in to pinch-run.  Runners on first and second for Matt Hagen…Hagen throws the bat out and weakly pops up to second, though.  Still 3-1, Somerset, going into T8.

9:25 PM — Jeff Nettles reaches on a two-out error by Jiannetti…Chris Rivera started the 7th for Bridgeport after six decent frames by Oseguera.  6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K.

9:20 PM — New home opener attendance record for Somerset: 8,052 fans here tonight.  Nice job by them.

9:16 PM — Bridgeport’s on the board.  Alex Prieto hit a little two-out flare to short right field.  Noah Hall dove for the ball, but couldn’t come up with it, and Jiannetti scored (after stealing second) to make this a 3-1 game.  That’s the score heading into the bottom of the seventh here in Somerset.

I’d have to guess that’s it for Thompson…85 pitches, 57 strikes.  7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

9:13 PM — That’s Matt Reilly up for Somerset…Thompson’s right around 80 pitches now with Brian Barton up.

9:12 PM — And Joe Jiannetti with a one-out single to right center.  Both bullpens with activity.

9:06 PM — And Belcher breaks it open.  A three-run home run to right field…looked like he got all of it, but it actually  just got out.  1-1 changeup.  3-0 Patriots lead.  No action in the Bridgeport bullpen yet, but that likely won’t be the case for long…

9:05 PM — Joe Burke with a line single up the middle…Hagen to second.  Two outs and Jason Belcher up…

9:00 PM — Matt Hagen with a one-out single through the left side, the first Somerset hit by someone other than Wayne Lydon…

8:55 PM — Thompson’s spun six scoreless so far…his first inning without allowing a hit.  There’s no action in the bullpen, and there shouldn’t be.  He’s at 73 pitches through six, 48 strikes.

8:48 PM — Nettles strikes out looking on an 0-2 fastball.  0-0 game heading into the sixth inning.  Really, it’s been Oseguera pitching in and out of trouble all night, especially with his early walks.

8:47 PM — Hall advances Lydon to third with a single to short right center.  Nettles up with runners on the corners.  The 1 and 2 hitters are pretty key in a lineup that features Nettles, Pressley and Hagen at 3-4-5.  Those guys need runners to drive in, and the first two guys are critical to that…

8:45 PM — Wayne Lydon with another hit…his second and Somerset’s second as well, here in the fifth.  This has been a well pitched game on both sides.  It may come down to the bullpens…which clearly hasn’t been a Patriots strength in the first six games.  0-0, B5.

8:40 PM — Interesting take by Revolution beat writer Jim Seip on the somewhat interesting decision by the league to let Sparky Lyle manage the home games during his suspension.  If you forgot…and if you saw it, you never will…Lyle was suspended 10 games by Atlantic League Executive Director Joe Klein for his memorable tirade during Game 3 of the championship series in Waldorf, Maryland.

8:35 PM — Thompson has given up one hit in each inning…Adam Greenberg got him in the fifth, and has advanced to second on a stolen base.  Neither Jason Belcher or Todd Jennings has thrown anyone out tonight.

8:30 PM — It feels like Thompson has been pitching in and out of trouble all night, but the line’s actually pretty good…four hits over four innings of work.  Meanwhile, Oseguera has allowed just one hit and three walks through four and is at 55 pitches, 33 of them strikes.

Heading into the fifth, Thompson’s at 50 pitches, 34 of them for strikes.

8:15 PM — Scoreless heading into the top of the 4th here in Somerset…three hits for the Bluefish, just Lydon’s for the Patriots.

8:10 PM — Here’s Mike Thompson’s first inning strikeout…

7:45 PM — The game didn’t get started until 7:25 PM or so…one hit per team through one inning.  Wayne Lydon’s got the first Patriots hit at TD Bank Ballpark this season…and the first two stolen bases.

Give me a few minutes and I’ll get some of these photos for you.  In the meantime, I’ll do game updates.

6:15 PM — Heading down to the field for some pictures and so on…stay tuned for that.

5:45 PM — Make sure you check out Ryan Dunleavy’s special section in The Courier News today…if you can’t get the print edition, he’s got the links up on his blog.  Definitely worth a read.

5:20 PM — Spoke to Tom Mastny in the clubhouse.  Mastny usually wears contacts, but was sporting glasses thanks to an eye infection that scratched him from his start in Bridgeport.  He told me he’s still slated to pitch tomorrow, but doesn’t have much of an idea as far as a pitch count goes…he said this was his first live action in about a month after getting let go by the Indians organization.

I’ll have a story after the game on the former big leaguer.

5:15 PM — Lineups are in…

BRIDGEPORT

Adam Greenberg, CF
Brandon Chaves, SS
Tike Redman, DH
Josh Phelps, 1B
Danny Putnam, LF
Todd Jennings, C
Joe Jiannetti, 3B
Brian Barton, RF
Alex Prieto, 2B
Paul Oseguera, P

SOMERSET

Wayne Lydon, CF
Noah Hall, RF
Jeff Nettles, 3B
Josh Pressley, 1B
Matt Hagen, 2B
Pete LaForest, DH
Joe Burke, LF
Jason Belcher, C
Elliott Ayala, SS
Mike Thompson, P

4:05 PM — As if those stats I just gave you didn’t tip you off, Brett Jodie is actively looking for arms.  I noticed a sidearmer in the bullpen when I got here, and didn’t remember seeing one in spring training…turns out, it’s fifth-year pro Eddie Pena, who was trying out for the team.  In four seasons, all for the Can-Am League’s Worcester Tornadoes, Pena has appeared in 125 games (eight starts) and posted a 15-16 record with a 4.30 ERA and nine saves.

Doesn’t sound like anything is imminent…but it’s also somewhat of a message to the current group that their jobs are far from safe.

3:45 PM — Tom Mastny is tentatively scheduled to pitch for Somerset tomorrow, he’ll be opposed by Riley Shuckerow.  This will be Shuckerow’s season debut.  Jesse Darcy is slated for Sunday, and he’ll be opposed by our good friend TBA.

Very interesting stats out of the game notes…Somerset’s starters are carrying a 6.11 ERA into this game.  The bullpen?  6.85 ERA.  Yikes.

3:40 PM — The grounds crew, led by Ray Cipperly, have done a great job with the field yet again…it looks immaculate.

3:15 PM — I’ve been here for about a half an hour, but only now have I unearthed the magical internet cable that will allow me to do some work here.  Sweet.

Well, after getting off to the worst start in franchise history, Somerset’s finally back at TD Bank Ballpark.  Former big leaguer Mike Thompson gets the nod for Somerset today, and he’ll be opposed by Bridgeport’s Paul Oseguera.

Haven’t really had the chance to do much work yet, but I’ll hopefully have some info for you guys in a little bit.  I’ll post lineups or any news as it becomes available.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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Patriots Lose In Squeaker On Long Island

April 30, 2010

(PR) Central Islip, NY – Jeff Nettles and Josh Pressley drove in ninth
inning runs but the rally was one score short as the Long Island Ducks
finished off a sweep of the Somerset Patriots, winning 8-7 on Thursday
night.

Trailing by three going into the top of the ninth, Joe Burke drew an
Ivan Maldonado walk to lead off the inning. Ryan Freel sent a tapper
to Maldonado who attempted to sidearm a throw to second base in hopes
of cutting down Burke. Instead the ball skipped into the outfield,
allowing Burke to reach third. Nettles stood in with one out and
banged a run-scoring double to left, putting Freel at third. Elliott
Ayala came into pinch-run for Nettles and reached third when Pressley
rolled a grounder to second, allowing Freel to score. With the tying
run 90 feet away, Noah Hall launched the first pitch he saw down the
right field line, hoping to even up the game. But the ball fell just
foul and Hall would eventually ground out to end the contest, giving
Maldonado the save. The three-game sweep is the first the Patriots
have suffered since dropping a trio to Southern Maryland, August 24-26
of last season.

Long Island starter Randy Leek pitched seven innings, spreading out
eight hits and five runs, four earned. Leek (1-1), who walked a pair
while striking out one, gave up a two-run Pressley home run in the
first inning, a game-tying, two-run triple to Matt Hagen in the
fourth, and a Burke RBI groundout in the sixth which gave the Patriots
a 5-4 edge.

Jason Monti smoothly got through two relief innings after starter
Justin Jones allowed four runs on seven hits in three frames. The lead
changed hands for the fourth time when, in his third inning of work,
Monti (0-1) saw a Matt Cavagnaro two-run shot head over the right
field fence, putting the Ducks in front 6-5. Two more Long Island runs
came in on a Matt Esquivel homer in the seventh off of Daryl Arreola.

Somerset has dropped five straight games for the first time since a
six-game skid, August 17-21 of 2008, four of those losses coming at
Suffolk County Sports Park. The Patriots (1-5) are off to their worst
start in franchise history but finally come home to open up the slate
at TD Bank Ballpark against the Bridgeport Bluefish. Mike Thompson
will get the start Friday for the Patriots against left-hander Paul
Oseguera in a rematch from six days prior. The game will be carried
live on 1450, WCTC-AM and online at http://www.wctcam.com and
http://www.somersetpatriots.com beginning at 7:00 pm. Gates open at 6:00 pm
as the Patriots will receive their 2009 championship rings prior to
the game. Pre-game festivities will also include the raising of the
championship flag and fans can stay afterwards for a post-game
fireworks show, courtesy of EmPower Somerset.

NOTES: Nettles has a hit in all six games this year…the two
ninth-inning runs are just the 2nd and 3rd the Patriots have scored
after the sixth inning…Brian Henderson pitched a scoreless eighth…the
Somerset defense turned three double plays…The Patriots pitchers
struck out seven batters, a season-high.

Ponson Pounds Patriots

April 29, 2010

(PR) BEHIND PONSON, DUCKS TAKE SERIES FROM PATRIOTS

Central Islip, NY – Sidney Ponson pitched 6.2 innings of one-run
baseball and the Long Island Ducks put 15 hits on the board en route
to a 10-1 win over the Somerset Patriots to take the series on
Wednesday night at Suffolk County Sports Park.

Ponson (2-0) really never faced any trouble until the seventh when an
error, a walk, and a hit batter loaded the bases. The veteran Major
Leaguer exited the game, giving way to Jerome Gamble who got Ryan
Freel, making his Patriot debut, to ground out to end the threat.
Ponson finished his outing allowing just one run on three hits,
walking four and striking out a pair.

Josh Miller made the start for Somerset, one day before his scheduled
date, after Tom Mastny was scratched. Miller (1-1) was perfect through
two but allowed a run in the third and two apiece in the fourth,
fifth, and sixth frames. Miller took the brunt of the damage, allowing
11 hits and seven runs in six innings.

The Patriot offense finally got to Ponson in the top of the sixth
inning when Iggy Suarez led off with a single. With two outs, Jeff
Nettles pulled a base hit to center, bringing Suarez and the lone
Patriot run home. It was the only inning where the Patriots put the
leadoff man on base.

Carlos Hines proved to be a bright spot for the Patriots. After a
rough outing five days prior, Hines came back to pitch a perfect
eighth, striking out two.

The series wraps up on Thursday when Justin Jones makes his Patriots
(1-4) debut against fellow southpaw Randy Leek of Long Island (3-2).
The game will be carried live on 1450, WCTC-AM and online at
http://www.wctcam.com and http://www.somersetpatriots.com beginning at 6:30 pm.

NOTES: The Patriots stranded a season-high 10 runners. Somerset has
stranded 44 through five games…with his single, Nettles has accrued a
hit in every game so far…Mike Gardener allowed three runs on four hits
in the seventh…before the game, Josh Muecke was signed by the Colorado
Rockies where he’ll report to AAA. Joe Holden was reactivated and drew
a walk in his first plate appearance of the season…Mastny is scheduled
to start on Saturday at TD Bank Ballpark against Bridgeport.

Muecke Signed By Rockies

April 28, 2010

(PR) Bridgewater, NJ – The Five–Time Atlantic League Champion Somerset Patriots have announced that left-handed pitcher Josh Muecke’s contract has been purchased by the Colorado Rockies organization.

Muecke is expected to report to the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs later this week.

Muecke appeared in one game with the Patriots, starting in Bridgeport this past Friday night.

Muecke has spent his entire career with the Houston Astros organization, including the past two seasons at the Triple-A level. He finished the 2009 season with a 4.90 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 136 innings pitched. In 2008, Muecke had 107 strikeouts in 165.2 innings pitched.

In other team news, the Patriots have activated outfielder Joe Holden.

Patriots Bullpen Blows Another One; Ducks Win, 7-6

April 28, 2010

(Ducks PR) (Central Islip, N.Y., April 27, 2010) –The Long Island Ducks defeated the Somerset Patriots 7-6 in 10 innings on Tuesday night at Suffolk County Sports Park.

Somerset jumped on the board early with a three-run first inning against Ducks’ starter Jake Dittler. Four singles, including RBI base hits by Matt Hagen and Pete LaForest helped give the Pats an early advantage. A single run in the fourth and two more in the fifth pushed the Pats’ lead to 6-0.

Long Island would not go quietly into the night as they pushed across two runs in innings five, six and seven to even the score at six. Three hits and an error in the home half of the fifth helped the Ducks cut the deficit to four as catcher Tom Pennino’s RBI single and a RBI groundout by Juan Francia made the score 6-2. Two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, highlighted by a two-run single off the bat of Robinson Cancel, helped slice the lead to 6-4.

In the seventh, three walks and a single led to a Matt Padgett RBI sacrifice fly and a Matt Cavagnaro RBI groundout, which evened the score at six.

The score remained the same until the home half of the 10th inning. Gabe Suarez led off with a single and was sacrificed over to second on a Cavagnaro bunt. After pinch hitter Johnny Hernandez walked, Suarez and Hernandez pulled off a double steal to move the winning run just 90 feet away. Ducks leadoff hitter Juan Francia subsequently pulled a grounder to the right side as Suarez broke on contact and slid in safely under catcher John Belcher’s tag to give the Ducks their first waddle-off win of the season.

Ivan Maldonado (1-0) earned the win with two scoreless innings while Ryan Houston (0-1) absorbed the loss.

The Ducks continue their series against the Patriots on Wednesday. Game time is 6:35 p.m., and the Suffolk County Sports Park gates open at 5:35 p.m. Sidney Ponson takes the mound for Long Island against Somerset’s Tom Mastny.

Raining On Sunday

April 25, 2010

Keith Urban would be proud…it was rainin’ on Sunday in Bridgeport, so the game between the Bluefish and Patriots has been postponed.  It’s been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on June 12th.  It’s a 5:05 PM start, and each game is slated for seven innings.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Bluefish Blow Up Patriots Bullpen, Win Second Straight

April 25, 2010

(PR) (Bridgeport, Conn. – April 24, 2010) – After earning the first victory of the season on Friday night, the Bluefish won for the second straight day as they knocked off the Somerset Patriots 6-4 at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard.

The Patriots scored runs in each of the first two innings. In the first inning, Wayne Lydon doubled and then advanced to third on a long fly ball with one out. Jeff Nettles drove home Lydon with a single to make it 1-0. In the second frame, Matt Hagen doubled and moved to third on a Jason Belcher base hit. Iggy Suarez hit into a double play, but Hagen scored allowing the Patriots to lead by two.

Even though the Patriots started out strong, the Bluefish responded in the bottom of the second. Danny Putnam collected a base hit and advanced to third after Luis Rodriguez reached on an error. Colin Roberson, who earned three hits in the contest, provided an RBI single to cut the lead in half. During Joe Jiannetti’s plate appearance, Belcher threw the ball down the right field line attempting to pickoff Roberson; Putnam scored on the errant throw while Rodriguez advanced to third. Bridgeport’s catcher came home on a single by Jiannetti.

Somerset’s offensive attack would not relent. With one out in the third inning, Noah Hall walked. Jeff Nettles followed with a single and Hall advanced to third on an errant throw by Jiannetti. After Pete LaForest recorded a popout, starter Paul Oseguera, delivered a wild pitch which enable the tying run to come across. On an error by Luis Rodriguez, Nettles scampered to third and was knocked home by a Belcher base hit.

Bridgeport came back and would not relinquish the lead in the seventh. With two batters retired, Brandon Chaves walked and Adam Greenberg singled. Once Tike Redman drew a walk, Steven Moss pinch-hit for Tim Johnson and drove a two-run single through the left side. The Bluefish regained the lead.

Colin Roberson added his first homer in the eighth with a blast to right field which gave the Bluefish a two-run cushion.

Paul Oseguera did not earn a decision but pitched six innings and surrendered three earned runs. Matt Thompson also collected a no-decision as he worked five frames and gave up one earned run. Reliever, Chris Rivera (1-0), pitched two shutout innings in earning the, while Casey Cahill (0-1) tossed one and two-thirds innings and took the loss after allowed the go-ahead run to score. Pat Ryan pitched a scoreless ninth to save his first game of 2010.

The Bluefish and Patriots play the finale of their four game series tomorrow at 2:05 p.m. Righthander, Marc Kaiser, will make his Bridgeport debut, and will be opposed by Patriots starter, Jesse Darcy.

Bridgeport Evens Somerset Series

April 25, 2010

(PR) (Bridgeport, Conn. – April 23, 2010) – The Bridgeport Bluefish earned their first win of the season Friday night, defeating the Somerset Patriots 8-3 at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard.

The Bluefish had an explosive second inning, scoring five runs on five hits. Josh Phelps started the rally with a one out single, then after Luis Rodriguez reached on a fielders choice, Steve Moss roped a two-out hit to right field to keep the inning alive for Joe Jiannetti. The Atlantic League veteran broke the game open with a three-run home run to left field, scoring Moss and Rodriguez. Later in the inning, the Bluefish would increase the lead 5-0 after Luis Lopez knocked home Tim Johnson and Tike Redman with a base hit down the left field line.

Jiannetti, Bridgeport’s biggest offensive threat on the night, added another two-run shot to left field in the sixth and finished with a game-high five RBI.

Kyle Jackson (1-0) picked up the victory after throwing five innings, giving up only two runs on three hits and five walks, while striking out five. Antonio Alfonseca made his debut in Bridgeport relieving Jackson in the sixth and allowed one run on one hit over two innings of work. Patrick Ryan and Jorge Julio finished the final two frames for the ‘Fish.

Bridgeport drove Patriots’ starter Josh Muecke (0-1) out of the game after only three innings. The lefty allowed five runs on six hits and three walks.

Somerset’s first two runs came on Tim Raines Jr.’s home run in the top of the fourth inning, scoring Matt Hagen. In the sixth, Raines Jr. clubbed a triple to right field and then scored the Patriots’ third run on a base hit by Jason Belcher.

The Bluefish and Patriots play game three of their four game series tomorrow at 6:05 p.m. Lefthander Paul Oseguera will make his Bridgeport debut, and will be opposed by Patriots starter, Mike Thompson.

Patriots Blast Bluefish In Season Opener, 8-0

April 23, 2010

(PR) Bridgeport, CT- The Somerset Patriots shut out the Bridgeport Bluefish 8-0 at the Ballpark At Harbor Yard on Thursday night to start the 2010 season.

The Patriots got on the board with two runs in the top of the third inning. Center fielder Wayne Lydon reached on an error, right fielder Noah Hall reached on an error, and both runners scored on an error that allowed third baseman Jeff Nettles to reach safely for a 2-0 lead.

Somerset added four runs in the top of the fifth inning. Hall singled, Nettles singled, and then designated hitter Josh Pressley drove home Hall with an RBI single. First baseman Pete LaForest would give Somerset a 6-0 lead with a three-run home run (1) to right field.

The Patriots scored again in the top of the sixth inning. Lydon drew a walk and later scored on an RBI single by Pressley to make the score 7-0.

Somerset plated their final run in the top of the eighth inning. Lydon singled, advanced to second on a balk, and scored on a pinch hit single by Joe Burke for the 8-0 final.

Patriots starter Josh Miller (1-0) pitched six innings and allowed five hits and struck out three to earn the win. Bridgeport starter Matt Pike (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing six runs, four earned, on seven hits in 4.1 innings pitched.

Previewing The Patriots

April 22, 2010

The level of excitement doesn’t quite seem to be where it’s been in the past heading into a Somerset Patriots season, does it?

Blame the Atlantic League.

Oddly, the defending league champions are set to open on the road in Bridgeport later tonight, and will then play a three-game set in Long Island, meaning the first seven games of their title defense will come away from TD Bank Ballpark.

The Patriots won’t wear white until their April 30th home opener, when the fifth ring ceremony in franchise history will take place before their 7:05 PM game against the Bluefish.

By then, however, you might have a pretty good idea of what kind of team you’re going to get this season.  Is it the team you see on paper…the one with a loaded offense but question marks on the pitching staff?  Or will they be something completely different? 

Let’s take a look at the team on paper before I get to see them with my own eyes for the first time eight days from now…

CATCHING

The bulk of the catching duties will likely be handled by Jason Belcher this year, with Pete LaForest alternating between first base and behind the plate.  LaForest also told me he can play a little third base if necessary, but that scenario doesn’t seem too likely.

This is a big season for Belcher, who is the number one catcher for the first time as a Patriot.  Always consistent at the plate, his ability to throw out baserunners has always been the knock on him, and that’ll have to improve if he wants to make sure that #1 status is cemented.  LaForest’s combination of power and versatility make him a valuable asset not only to the Patriots, but likely affiliated baseball at some point as well.  He will, as I said, play multiple positions for this team to keep that “versatility” tag, and he could supplant Belcher as the regular catcher for a stretch if the situation calls for it.

INFIELD

Josh Pressley, Matt Hagen, Elliott Ayala, Jeff Nettles.  Any questions? 

I could just leave it like that, but really…that’s a loaded, loaded group right there.  If there are any questions, they likely center around the play of Ayala, who will man shortstop for Somerset this season.  While there are a handful utility infielders on the team who could step in if needed — most notably Iggy Suarez — it is unlikely that there will be too much instability on the dirt this season. 

Pressley will likely see only limited time at first base.  LaForest will likely play first when Pressley is DH’ing, although most questions surrounding Pressley’s health were answered during spring training.  And don’t rule out seeing Joe Burke there this season, either.

OUTFIELD

Tim Raines, Jr., Noah Hall, Wayne Lydon and Burke are likely to get the majority of the time in the outfield this season.  Collectively, they’re a solid, athletic group that should be exciting to watch, especially Raines, Jr. and Lydon.  Hall brings veteran leadership and a consistent bat to Somerset, while Burke’s versatility could have him in multiple spots in any given week to spell the so-called regulars.

Both Raines, Jr. and Hall have been picked up out of the Atlantic League before — Hall twice by the Yankees and Raines, Jr. last season after a brief stint overseas.  It’s not unreasonable to think it could happen again…as is the case with many teams in this league, affiliated baseball may dictate how successful Somerset’s offense ultimately is this season.  Right now, they’re loaded…but a few signings, and they could be scrambling to replace some of their potent bats.

STARTING PITCHING

Josh Miller, Josh Muecke, Mike Thompson and Jesse Darcy currently comprise the Patriots starting rotation, with the fifth slot to be determined.  They don’t actually need a fifth starter until May 1st, so that’s not a real pressing issue just yet. 

The uncertainty of Muecke, Thompson and Darcy, however, is.  With all the turnover in the pitching staff this season, nobody really knows what to expect.  While Muecke brings Triple-A time and Thompson’s made it all the way to the big leagues, Darcy’s never made it past A-Ball, and who knows who’s going to fill that number five slot.

Miller was outstanding for Somerset last year, and big things are expected of the club’s Opening Day starter…but to give you an indication of just how unstable things have become from last year to this…Miller was booted out of the starting rotation in the playoffs last year to make room for Jason Standridge.  And now, he takes the ball on day one.

RELIEF PITCHING

With Casey Cahill and Brian Henderson holding down the middle innings for Somerset, nobody’s got any concerns there.  They were two of the most solid and reliable relievers in the league last season.

But there are a lot of questions marks otherwise.  Will Mike Gardner be able to recover from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss all of 2009?  Will Carlos Hines or Ryan Houston emerge as a true closer?  Will Matt Reilly or Jason Monti get significant innings?  And what role will Justin Jones, who wanted to be a starter, fill?

PREDICTION

When I predict that the Somerset Patriots won’t win the championship, they do.  When I predict that they will, they don’t.  The last two seasons, I had the York Revolution winning it all.  And…uhhh, yeah…we all know how that panned out.

But I don’t see it this year.  If you asked me right now — and that’s essentially what a pre-season prediction is — if I thought Somerset would win a championship in 2010, I would tell you no.

It isn’t that they aren’t good enough right now.  And it isn’t that I don’t think Brett Jodie can do a good job of plugging the holes that will inevitably pop up thanks to affiliated baseball.  There just might be too many holes to plug, and with the overall turnover in the league this season and talent level, it seems to be anyone’s game this year.

There are a lot of question marks in that pitching staff this season…and while it wouldn’t at all be shocking to see some familiar faces come back to the team this season to “fix” that, will it come in time?  I do think Somerset will make the playoffs…because it’s hard to envision a Patriots team not getting there after making it for three straight and four out of the past five seasons. 

It makes too much sense for them to win this season, because that’s all they’ve done for the past two seasons: Win. 

Or maybe it’s just some reverse pyschology on the behalf of Patriots fans…after all, they do win when I think they won’t…