Friday, June 13, 2014

Alex Garcia dominates in HarbourCats debut

Alex Garcia
It has been quite a week for Alex Garcia. Seven days after pitching at Dodger Stadium in the CIF-SS Division 3 championship game, Garcia turned in the best outing by a high school pitcher in the (brief) history of the Victoria HarbourCats by pitching seven shutout innings en route to a 3-0 victory over the Bend Elks. The 6’3, 190 lb. right-hander, who will be a freshman at UC Santa Barbara in the fall, held the Elks to only two hits, while striking out four and walking four.

Nathan Lukes was the offensive star of the game with a pair of RBI singles that plated Kelly Norris-Jones on both occasions. Lukes' two hits matched the entire output of the rest of the HarbourCats batting order. Garcia earned the victory, while Alex Fagalde earned the save with 1 ⅓ scoreless innings. The win pulls the HarbourCats (4-3) into a tie for second place in the West Division with the Kitsap BlueJackets and keeps them one game behind the first-place Bellingham Bells.

The HarbourCats made a slew of roster changes early Friday morning before heading out on the brief road trip to Bend. The bad news is that starting pitchers Bryan Conant, Bret Helton, and Jacob Hill will not be coming to Victoria this summer for a variety of reasons. The trio would have anchored the top-end of the HarbourCats’ rotation, but their absence will open up opportunities for other members of the team’s pitching staff. While we have previously expressed concerns about the ‘Cats starting pitching, we also pointed out that there is “a lot of raw talent that could potentially produce a few nice surprises.” In addition to Alex Garcia, another very nice surprise has been Mikey Wright, who already has a pair of wins and has struck out 10 while walking only one batter in his team-leading 12 innings on the mound. While we aren’t quite convinced (yet) that the starting pitching is good enough to get the team into the playoffs, we are now cautiously optimistic.

The roster moves on the pitching side weren't all negative, however. After we wrote in a recent blog post that “there is no obvious candidate to be the key late-inning guy from the right side”, the organization went out and plugged that very hole by re-signing last year’s closer Ryan Keller of Cal State L.A. While Keller struggled as a starter this past spring (6.29 ERA), he should be more comfortable returning to his previous role coming out of Victoria’s pen in the late innings. He posted a 1.63 ERA with four saves in 15 relief appearances with the H-Cats last summer.

In other roster news, Nanaimo's Alex Rogers has earned himself a regular roster spot after a couple of solid outings with the team. The right-handed starter from Trinidad State Junior College was previously signed to a 10-day contract, but he should be spending the entire summer with the HarbourCats now. Rogers has only given up one hit in four innings on the hill so far; he’ll get the start in Game 2 of the Bend series on Saturday night. 

The news definitely wasn't good for 10-day players Brett Hull, Eric Hegadoren, Matt Bryan and Nick Kearley. All four were released on Friday morning. It was also announced that Port Coquitlam’s Darren Honeysett will miss the remainder of the summer with a broken left hand. The injury was suffered in a pre-game warm up on Wednesday. Honeysett only appeared in one game, but he reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances. It is expected that he will be back on the field in time for the start of his college season in the fall.

The full roster, which now stands at 35 players, can be found on the blog’s detailed roster page (we also indicate secondary positions for players who play more than one).

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