Workouts Washed Out, Clones Season Objective Still Crystal Clear
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Sunday, June 15, 2008
BROOKLYN, NY - Even though the weather during their open workout on Saturday night was bad enough to ruin the mood of the world’s biggest optimist, the Cyclones look to have plenty of clear skies on their horizon in 2008.
Powered by returning players Brandon Kawal and Zach Lutz, alongside 2008 first round pick Reese Havens and supplemental pick Brad Holt, the Mets Single-A affiliate see no reason why they can’t compete for the championship again this year.
“I’m really excited about this team this season,” said Brooklyn skipper Edgar Alfonzo. “The group we have this year is good and I’ve been impressed so far. I have a big problem here this season because I have too many good players. It’s going to be hard to give everyone playing time. In my eyes, this team is much better than last season’s.”
Not since Bob Keppel in 2003 have the Cyclones had a first rounder play in Brooklyn and after watching him in batting practice and fielding drills on Saturday, Alfonzo expects big things from his new shortstop.
“Havens signed two days ago and he has some tools,” said Alfonzo. “He has a good arm and I really like his hands. He plays good defense and looks good so far.”
The young middle infielder, who ironically grew up a big Chipper Jones and Atlanta Braves fan, sees himself playing a pivotal part in the team’s success this season as well.
“I’m excited about playing here,” Havens, who hit .359 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI with the University of South Carolina this season, said. “Whether I go 4 for 4 or 0 for 4, I’m going to come out here every night and give it my all.”
However, despite the presence of some blue chip prospects on this season’s club, players like Kawal and Lutz may prove to give the team the moxy and tenacity it needs to be a league powerhouse.
Playing in only 38 games last season, Kawal hit .302 and made the NYPL All-Star team. In his second professional season, the Mets 27th round pick in 2007 is looking to be more of a leader and looks to get the lion share of playing time in left field.
“This year is going to be a test for me,” Kawal said. “I feel that the preparation I did this offseason in extended spring training has prepared me and I’m ready to go.”
After being drafted in the fifth round last season, Lutz broke a bone in his right foot after making an amazing diving play at third base on opening day. After spending the rest of the season at home rehabbing, Lutz, who has gained about 10 pounds of muscle this offseason and looks much different from the skinny infielder who reported to camp last season, is hungrier than ever and ready to prove himself on the field.
“I feel fine. I’ve been swinging the bat well,” said Lutz, who started playing again about two weeks ago. “It’s been a while. I put on some weight and my foot feels good, which is the main thing. I’m ready to go.”
The Cyclones begin their season on June 17 at home against the Staten Island Yankees.
After workouts, Alfonzo announced that Pedro P. Martinez [no relation to the Mets starter, who also shares the same sweater number and country of birth as the Clones’ young hurler] will start opening day against the Staten Island Yankees. According to Alfonzo, Martinez has a 90-93 mph fastball and features a solid sinker and breaking ball. He also expects Manuel Olivares and Tim Stronach to make the next starts for the Clones, but didn’t know who would start after that.
Alfonzo also made mention of the possibility of the Mets other first round pick, Ike Davis reporting to Brooklyn in the near future, which would give the team two homegrown first round picks on their roster for the first time in their seven-year history.