Press Releases

2017 RailCats Season Preview

05/06/2017 12:14 PM -

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 6, 2017
Contact: Jared Shlensky
jshlensky@railcatsbaseball.com

GARY, Ind. — The Gary SouthShore RailCats had their first official workout on Saturday afternoon and have their first exhibition game on Monday. Here's a glance of the same players who return from last season and who may fill what role on the team to begin the year. 

RailCats Exhibition Games

The RailCats have four home exhibition games before the start of the regular season. The team’s first home exhibition games is Monday, May 8 at 3:10 p.m. vs. the Florence Freedom of the Frontier League. Gary then plays the Schaumburg Boomers the very next day, with first pitch at 11:10 a.m. Tuesday’s game will be broadcast online at railcatsbaseball.com. Jared Shlensky and Austin Anderson bring you the pregame show at 10:50 a.m.

The RailCats wrap up their exhibition schedule vs. the Sioux Falls Canaries on Sunday, May 14 and Monday, May 15. First pitch for Sunday’s game is at 6:10 while first pitch for Monday’s game is at 11:10 a.m. Monday’s game will be broadcast online at railcatsbaseball.com and on WEFM (95.9 FM). The pregame show with Jared Shlensky and Austin Anderson starts at 10:50 a.m.

Season Opener

For the second consecutive year, Gary opens the season in St Paul, Minn., against the Saints for a four-game series. The season opener is Thursday, May 18 at 7:05 p.m. Last season, Gary was swept by St. Paul to begin the year, including an 8-3 defeat in the season opener.

Home Opener

The team’s home opener is Friday, May 26 vs. the Texas Airhogs at 7:10 p.m. Gary swept Joplin in its home opening series last season, including an 11-5 victory in its home opener. Friday’s game vs. Texas is a Fireworks Friday and a Free Magnet Schedule Giveaway. The first 1,000 fans receive a free magnet schedule courtesy of Great Lakes Orthopedics while the fireworks show is brought to you by Fifth Third Bank.

RailCats expectations are high for 2017

After missing the American Association playoffs for the third consecutive season in 2016, The Gary SouthShore RailCats look to end that drought in 2017. Gary went 52-48 last season, a seven-game improvement from the 2015 season, however, the team finished two games back of Sioux City for the Central Division Title.

Expectations are high for the 2017 campaign, as the RailCats return the reigning American Association Manager of the Year Greg Tagert, All-Star pitcher Charle Rosario, closer and former big leaguer Jorge De Leon, as well as 18 additional players from last year’s squad.

Coaching Staff

Field Manager, Greg Tagert — Greg Tagert returns to the Gary SouthShore Railcats in 2017 for his 13th season (23rd overall) as the team’s manager. Tagert has won three league championships (2005, 2007, 2013) and has finished with a .500 or better record in every season except one since being named the team’s manager in 2005.

The two-time Northern League Manager of the Year has led Gary to the playoffs seven times (six straight from 2005-2010), two Central Division Titles and has helped advance 27 former RailCats to affiliated baseball, including 2006 outfielder Nathan Haynes, who played in the MLB for the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays from 2007-2008.

Tagert has developed three Northern League Pitchers of the Year, a Northern League Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, five Baseball America All-Independent League selections, eight full-season Northern League All-Stars and two full-season American Association All-Stars.

Before becoming a professional manager in 1995, Tagert worked as a scout for the Detroit Tigers and as a pitching coach at the University of New Mexico. A native of Vacaville, Calif., Tagert pitched collegiately at San Francisco State University.

Pitching Coach, Alain Quijano — Alain Quijano returns to the Gary SouthShore RailCats in 2017 for his third straight season as the team’s pitching coach. Since being named the team’s pitching coach in 2015, Quijano has had two players have their contracts purchased by Major League Affiliates (LHP Alex Gunn, 2016 (Arizona Diamondbacks); RHP Christian Herstine, 2016 (New York Yankees)).

Quijano played nine seasons of Independent Professional Baseball, including three with Gary (2009, 2011, 2013). Quijano’s best season with the RailCats was on the 2013 Championship Team, where the southpaw won a career-high 12 games. Quijano finished the season 12-7 with a 4.05 ERA in 21 starts, striking out 82 batters in 133.1 innings. Quijano also holds the RailCats’ single-season record for complete games in a season (three). Quijano concluded his professional baseball career in 2014 with the York Revolution of the Atlantic League, posting a 10-10 record with a 4.59 ERA in a career-high 28 starts and 168.2 innings pitched.

A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Quijano pitched collegiately at Grand View University. Before becoming the RailCats’ pitching coach in 2015, Quijano was an assistant coach at his alma mater Grand View University, Moraine Valley Community College and City College of Chicago.

Hitting Coach, Bobby Spain — Bobby Spain returns to the Gary SouthShore RailCats in 2017 for his second straight season as the team’s hitting coach. Since being named the team’s hitting coach in 2016, Spain has had one position player have their contract purchased by a Major League Affiliate (C Jose Gonzalez, 2016 (Minnesota Twins)).Spain played four seasons of professional baseball (three affiliated, one independent). Spain’s professional baseball career began in 2007 after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 19th round of the 2007 MLB Draft out of Oklahoma City University. Spain spent three seasons in the Pirates organization, reaching as high as Lo-A. A native of Colorado Springs, Colo., Spain was selected by the Sand Diego Padres in the 39th round of the 2004 MLB Draft out of Norman High School but didn’t sign.

First Base Coach, John Mrugala — John Mrugala joins the Gary SouthShore RailCats for his first season in 2017 as the team’s first base coach. Mruguala was the Windy City Thunderbolts (Frontier League) Bullpen Coach in 2010 before being promoted to bench coach in 2011. Mruguala was also an assistant coach at Robert Morris University-Chicago. A native of Oak Lawn, Ill., Mrugala played high school baseball at Oak Lawn High School.

Third Base Coach, J.T. Scara — J.T. Scara returns to the Gary SouthShore RailCats in 2017 for his second straight season as the team’s third base coach. Scara previously served as the Windy City Thunderbolts (Frontier League) bullpen coach for two seasons and was an assistant coach at McKendree University and Robert Morris University-Chicago. A native of New Lenox, Ill., Scara played collegiately at Moraine Valley Community College, Rockford College and Robert Morris University-Chicago.

Starting Rotation

The RailCats starting rotation is expected to be one of the team’s strengths for this season, especially with the return of All-Star Charle Rosario. Rosario should get the ball for the season opener on May 18 against St. Paul. Overall on the season, Rosario went 11-4 with a 3.13 ERA in a league-high 24 starts. Rosario’s 11 wins, four complete games, 155.1 innings pitched, and 120 strikeouts were also team highs for Gary in 2016. Rosario began his RailCat career in 2015, going 12-8 with a 3.81 ERA in 22 starts.

Rosario signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 at the age of 18 out of La Vega, D.R. The right-hander spent five seasons in Boston’s minor league system, reaching as high as Double-A. Rosario began his Independent Professional Baseball career with the Les Capitales de Quebec of the Canadian-American Association in 2013, finishing 0-2 with a 3.78 ERA. The following season Rosario signed with the Schaumburg Boomers of the Frontier League, going 2-0 with a 4.76 ERA in seven starts.

Alex Gunn, Jeff McKenzie and Conrad Wozniak each return to Gary with starting experience from last season as well.

Gunn went 2-0 with one save and a 3.37 ERA in 12 games (six starts) for the RailCats before having his contract purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 7, 2016. After moving to the starting rotation on June 7, the southpaw allowed just eight runs in his six starts (2.20 ERA). Gunn pitched for both the Arizona League Diamondbacks and the Kane County Cougars (Lo-A) last year, finishing 5-4 with a 3.36 ERA in 11 games (four starts).

McKenzie returns to the American Association in 2017 after pitching for Lincoln in 2016. The southpaw went 5-4 with a 4.32 ERA in 30 games (seven starts) for the Saltdogs last season. McKenzie was drafted out of CSU-Bakersfield in 2013 by the Chicago White Sox in the 28th round of the MLB Draft. McKenzie spent two seasons in the White Sox minor league system, reaching as high as Lo-A in 2014.

Wozniak finished the 2016 season without a record and a 1.04 ERA. The right-hander appeared in seven games (three starts), striking out 17 and walking just three in 17.1 innings.

Another name to keep an eye out for is Drasen Johnson. Johnson signed with Gary as a free agent on April 12. Johnson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 26th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of the University of Illinois. Johnson pitched for two seasons in the Rockies organization, reaching as high as Lo-A. In 2016, Johnson went 7-5 with a 4.34 ERA in in 37 games (11 starts).

The Bullpen

With the RailCats projected to open the season with a four-man rotation, Tagert is expected to keep eight arms in the bullpen to round out the rest of his pitching staff. Former big leaguer Jorge De Leon is nearly a lock for the team’s closer spot, at least to open the year.

Last season, De Leon went 0-2 with a 1.70 ERA and a team-high 11 saves in 21 relief appearances. De Leon made his MLB debut with the Houston Astros in 2013, and finished the year with 11 total relief outings. The 29-year-old also became the first pitcher in over a century to retire the side on three pitches after setting the Cincinnati Reds down in order in the 12th inning on September 18, 2013.

De Leon made eight more relief appearances with the Astros in 2014, finishing without a record and a 4.91 ERA. The right-hander began his professional career as a shortstop in 2006 after being signed by Houston out of La Vega, DOR.

De Leon converted to pitching in 2010, finishing 2-1 with six saves and a 0.64 ERA in 23 appearances for the Tri-City Valley Cats (Class-A Short Season) in his first season as a pitcher. After spending time in the MLB with Houston in 2013 and 2014, De Leon split time between Double-A and Triple-A in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins organizations in 2015, finishing 1-5 with two saves and a 4.75 ERA in 42 combined outings.

Santiago Rodriguez and Andy Roberts also recorded saves for Gary last season and should see a lot of action out of the bullpen late in games this season.

Rodriguez went 6-5 with three saves and a 2.61 ERA in 36 relief appearances last season. The right-hander signed with the Chicago Cubs in 2013 at the age of 19 out of Mao, DOR. Rodriguez earned Mid-Season All-Star honors with the Dominican Summer League Cubs in 2014, going 8-1 with a 1.67 ERA in 17 games (11 starts).

Roberts went 4-1 with three saves and a 3.31 ERA in 23 games last year. The southpaw tossed a career-high 86.2 innings in 2015, finishing the year 2-8 with three saves and a 4.78 ERA in 21 games (13 starts).

Catchers

Gary opens the season with Jaime Del Valle and Wilfred Gimenez as the team’s two catchers, both of whom will be competing with one another for the starting spot. Gimenez brings the affiliated experience, however, hasn’t played professional baseball since 2014. Meanwhile, Del Valle returns to Gary for his third straight season and is coming off a nice campaign at the plate.

Last season, Del Valle batted .270 with nine RBIs, 22 walks and a stolen base in 35 games. Del Valle, a switch hitter, batted .251 in his first season with the RailCats in 2015, totaling 22 RBIs, seven extra-base hits and two stolen bases. A native of Barranquilla, COL, Del Valle began his professional baseball career with the Chicago White Sox in the Dominican Summer League in 2008. Del Valle played in the DSL for four years, earning DSL Post-Season honors in 2009.

Del Valle began his Independent Professional Baseball career in 2014, playing for Evansville Otters of the Frontier League and both the Vallejo Admirals and Sonoma Stompers of the Pacific Association. Del Valle combined to hit .262 with seven doubles, 21 RBI and six stolen bases between the three teams. 

Gimenez last played professional baseball three years ago, hitting .243 with a home run, 22 RBIs and two stolen bases in 44 games for the Suns (Double-A). Gimenez was also invited to the Miami Marlins’ Big League Camp for the first time in 2014. A native of Maracy, VZ, Gimenez signed with the Marlins in 2008 at the age of 17, spending six seasons in their minor league system.

Designated Hitter

A seasoned veteran, Frank Martinez will serve mainly as the RailCats designated hitter in 2017. Martinez, the oldest player on the roster at 31, returns to Gary in 2017 after hitting .301 with seven home runs, 20 extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases and a team-high 56 RBIs in 2016. Before joining the RailCats in 2016, Martinez played for the Sioux Falls Canaries. A native of Santo Domingo, D.R., Martinez signed with the Oakland Athletics at the age of 17 in 2003. Martinez, a switch-hitter, spent five years in Oakland’s minor league system, reaching as high as Double-A. Martinez’s best season offensively in the A’s organization came in 2007 with the Stockton Ports. Martinez hit .261 with 12 home runs, 60 RBI, 46 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases. Prior to being claimed off waivers by the RailCats in 2016, Martinez played for the Normal Cornbelters, Evansville Otters and Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League from 2011-2015. In 2015, Martinez was named a Frontier League All-Star with the Miners after hitting .271 with four home runs, 50 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 21 extra-base hits and a team-best 57 walks and .375 on-base percentage.

Infielders

Alex Crosby is penciled in as the team’s starting first baseman to open the year, however, the remaining three infield positions are open for competition. Crosby begins his third season with the RailCats in 2017 after leading the team in at-bats (311) and hits (91) in 2016. The infielder batted .293 with three homers, 16 extra-base hits, 44 RBIs and six stolen bases last season. Crosby began his RailCat career in 2015, batting .200 with six hits and three doubles in 30 at-bats.

Andy DeJesus, Kris Goodman, John Holland and Jack Parenty will all compete for the remaining three infield spots to open the season. De Jesus, Goodman and Holland all return to Gary for the 2017 season.

De Jesus hit .262 with two home runs, 13 RBIs and four stolen bases in 25 games last season. De Jesus signed with Gary after earning Missouri Valley Conference First Team and All Defensive Team honors at Indiana State University as a senior.

Goodman batted .238 with three extra-base hits, three RBIs and a stolen base in seven games for the RailCats last season. Goodman’s professional baseball career began in 2015 after being drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 32nd round of the MLB Draft out of Upper Iowa University. A native of St. Paul, Minn., Goodman spent two seasons in the Marlins minors league system, reaching as high as Low-A.

Holland hit .302 with a home run, 14 RBIs and a stolen base in 2016. Before signing with Gary in 2016, Holland played two games for the River City Rascals of the Frontier League.

Jack Parenty begins his professional baseball career in 2017 with Gary after batting .286 with one home run, 28 RBIs, six stolen bases and 10 extra-base hits as a senior at Stony Brook University. Parenty was named the America East Conference Player of the Year and to the ABCA/Rawlings All-Region Team as a junior in 2015 after hitting .367 with a career-high two home runs, 47 RBIs, .432 OBP, .524 slugging percentage, 38 runs, 77 hits, 13 doubles, seven triples, 22 extra-base hits and 19 walks.

Outfielders

The RailCats return five outfielders from last year’s team, including local native Anthony Cheky Jr., Chase Harris, Cameron Newell, Colin Willis and Reggie Wilson. Jackson Glines joins the RailCats for his first season in 2017 after spending two seasons in the White Sox’ minor league system. Cheky Jr. and Harris are the two who will probably see most of their playing time in centerfield while Glines, Newell, Willis and Wilson will predominantly see action in the corners.

Cheky Jr. returns for his third straight year after hitting .300 with 16 RBIs, nine extra-base hits and eight stolen bases in 38 games with the RailCats in 2016. Cheky Jr. had his contract purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks on December 2, 2015, but wasn’t signed out of Spring Training. Cheky Jr. began his professional baseball career in 2015 with Gary, hitting .375 with 3 RBIs in three games (11 at-bats). A Portage High School alum, Cheky Jr. played collegiately at Michigan State University, hitting .312 with 20 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and seven extra-base hits as a senior in 2015. Cheky Jr. led the Big Ten with 29 stolen bases as a junior in 2014 and led the Spartans in stolen bases with 15 as a sophomore in 2013. Cheky Jr. batted .486 with four home runs, four triples, 11 doubles, 21 stolen bases, 34 runs and 36 RBIs, earning the 2011 Northwest Indiana Times Player of the Year and IHSAABCA 4A First-Team All-State honors as a senior at Portage.

Harris hit .299 with one home run, 12 RBIs, eight stolen bases and 23 runs in 38 games for the RailCats last season. Prior to joining the RailCats, Harris played for the Lincoln Saltdogs, batting .191 with four RBIs, a double and three stolen bases in 25 games. A native of Boise, Idaho, Harris was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 14th round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of the University of New Mexico. Harris spent two seasons in the Phillies minor league system, reaching as high as Hi-A.

Newell batted .303 with a .404 OBP, 14 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs and four stolen bases in 2016 with the RailCats. Newell began his professional baseball career in 2015 with the Gulf Coast League Marlins after getting selected by the Miami Marlins in the 35th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of UC-Santa Barbara. A native of Roseburg, Ore., Newell hit .309 with two extra-base hits, three RBIs and four stolen bases in 19 games for the GCL Marlins before getting promoted to the New York Penn League. Newell hit .106 with seven extra-base hits and three RBIs for Batavia (Class-A Short Season) to close out the 2015 season.

Willis hit .231 with three extra-base hits, five RBIs, and three runs in 11 games (39 at-bats). Willis originally signed with Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League in the spring of 2016 after hitting .417 with one home run, five extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases for the Yuma Wranglers of the Arizona Winter League. Willis was inducted into the Purdue University North Central Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016 after hitting .364 with five home runs and five RBIs as a senior in 2015. Willis is also the school’s single-season leader in hits (93), runs scored (65) stolen bases (28) and triples (8).

Wilson batted a career-high .337 with one home run, 14 RBIs, eight extra-base hits and four stolen bases in 27 games for the RailCats in 2016. Before playing for the RailCats in 2016, Wilson played for Laredo and the Alpine Cowboys of the Pecos League. Wilson was drafted out of Oklahoma City University by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 35th round of the 2015 MLB Draft but didn’t play for any of their minor league teams.

Glines begins his first season in the American Association with Gary in 2017. Glines was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 10th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of the University of Michigan. A native of Coarsegold, Calif., Glines batted .240 with two home runs, 10 RBIs, three stolen bases 10 extra-base hits with the Great Falls Voyagers (Class-A Short Season) in 2015. Glines went back to Great Falls in 2016, hitting .243 with two home runs, 25 RBIs, 12 extra-base hits and four stolen bases. Glines was named All-Big Ten First Team as a senior in 2015, hitting .349 with five homers, 13 doubles, three triples, 34 RBIs and six stolen bases. 

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