April 9, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – If there were a movie made about Marshall alumni to open the 2014 pro baseball season, it could be titled “Eight Men In.”
With the season underway, Coach Jeff Waggoner’s program has eight players on active rosters at various pro levels.
The list is led by Oakland right-hander Dan Straily, who is back in the Athletics’ starting rotation and is scheduled to pitch today at Minnesota’s Target Field in an afternoon game slated for an MLB Network telecast.
Straily, who got his first taste of the bigs in August 2012, is the first Herd baseball alumnus to play in the Majors since veteran right-hander Rick Reed retired following the 2003 season.
Straily is one of seven active pro pitchers who are former Herd performers. The other is outfielder Isaac Ballou, who in the first week of the season is among the top hitters in the low Class A South Atlantic League for the Hagerstown Suns.
Ballou, a Washington Nationals’ farmhand and second-year pro, has started 10-for-23 (.435), with 1 homer (grand slam), 1 double, 1 triple, 5 RBI and 4 runs scored. Ballou, playing leftfield for the Suns, already has five multi-hit games in the six he’s played.
He will be back in his former Herd Conference USA “home” soon, when the Suns visit Appalachian Power Park from April 24-27 to face the West Virginia Power.
Back on the mound, Straily is joined by right-handers Kevin Shackelford in Class AA, Arik Sikula in high Class A and Aaron Blair in low A. Two former Herd hurlers, lefty Greg Williams and right-hander Joe Church, are in extended spring training in Arizona doing rehab after arm problems.
Then, there’s right-hander Ian Kadish
, whose signing with the independent American Association’s Lincoln Saltdogs was announced Tuesday.
Kadish spent three seasons – mostly in long relief with a 9-9 record, 14 saves and 171 strikeouts in 138 innings – in the Toronto system, but was released by the Blue Jays in late March.
The American Association season does not open until May 15.
Straily, a 24th-round draft pick in 2009 whose Athletics’ salary is listed at $492,500, will be making his second 2014 start on Thursday. He’s 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA after a six-inning stint last weekend against Seattle. He fanned seven and allowed six Mariner hits.
Blair, the No. 36 overall pick in last summer’s MLB Draft, lost to Bowling Green (Ky.) in an Opening Day start in the Midwest League for the South Bend Silver Hawks. The Arizona Diamondbacks’ farmhand had 10 strikeouts and no walks in six innings, but allowed five runs.
Blair is scheduled to make his second start tonight (Wednesday) against the Beloit Snappers.
Shackelford, a converted Herd catcher, is back in the Class AA Southern League with the Huntsville Stars after being added to the Milwaukee Brewers’ 40-man roster in the offseason. Shackelford was with the Major League club for two weeks of spring training before being sent out. He’s pitched once this season – two scoreless innings, allowing two hits with one strikeout.
After being one of the top relievers in the Midwest League in 2013, Sikula earned a promotion in the Toronto system from Lansing (Midwest League) to Dunedin in the Florida State League. The right-hander has one save in two games this season with three strikeouts in two innings.
Church remains in the San Diego system, rehabbing from arm problems. When healthy, he is expected to go to the Fort Wayne Tin Caps in the Midwest League, or perhaps even to Lake Elsinore in the high A California League. Church is 7-5 with 71 strikeouts in 71 innings in two minor league seasons and spent most of last season at Fort Wayne.
Williams missed all of last season in the Texas Rangers’ system after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2012. The hard-throwing lefty is expected to leave his rehab stint soon and report to Hickory of the South Atlantic League for some early innings, then on to Myrtle Beach in the high Class A Carolina League.
Waggoner’s program has had 18 selections in the last six MLB Drafts (2008-13) – the Herd’s first selections since 1994.