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February 26, 2007 February 26, 2007

Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.
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Edgardo Alfonzo during his brief stint with the Bluefish last season (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Alfonzo Traded To Ducks: The Long Island Ducks have acquired INF Edgardo Alfonzo from the Bridgeport Bluefish for Bucky Jacobsen and Pat Mahomes. Furthermore, the team has signed Alfonzo to a contract.

“We’re excited to welcome Edgardo to the Ducks family,” said the team’s principal owner Frank Boulton in a press release. “His leadership and talent will be a welcome addition to our ballclub.”

Most likely, Ducks manager Dave LaPoint was responsible for bringing Alfonzo to Bridgeport while he was the skipper there last year. If Jacobsen and Mahomes play in the Atlantic League this season, I’d say Bridgeport got the better end of the deal.

However, it doesn’t sound like Bucky will return, and Mahomes’ status is uncertain.

Alfonzo can still play, and will give the team some buzz this off-season.

Burkhart, Van Note Back To Lancaster: The Lancaster Barnstormers announced that C Lance Burkhart and UTIL Steve Van Note will be re-joining the team in 2007.

Getting Burkhart back is big, he’s a two-time Atlantic League All-Star with 34 home runs for the Barnstormers over the past two seasons.

Camden Not Far Behind: Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement from the Camden Riversharks, who will likely have some signings to announce very shortly.

Who’s Coming Back In Somerset?: OK, so everybody wants to know who’s coming back for the 2007 season. Now you’ll know what I know, as I take you through all 43 players who suited up for Somerset last season.

Position Players

C Travis Anderson (.248/3 HR/34 RBI)

It was an admittedly disappointing season for the former Atlantic League All-Star. Acquired before the season in a trade for playoff ace Mark DiFelice, Anderson had never hit below .294 in his three prior seasons in the AL with Camden.

The team experimented with Anderson as a first baseman as well when Larry Barnes moved to the outfield and Jim Burt’s bat kept him out of the lineup.

If Anderson can recapture his August form that saw him hit .337 with 10 of his 22 extra-base hits, he’s likely to be Sparky Lyle’s everyday backstop next season.

This off-season, Travis is working at Flemington’s (NJ) Jack Cust Baseball Academy.

2007 Status: Likely to return to Somerset

OF Elliott Ayala (.233/0 HR/1 RBI)

Ayala and Tommy Rojas were acquired in a “trade” with Nashua that eventually saw them sent back for themselves after the season ended.

The former Road Warrior never really got his bat going during his brief stay with the Patriots, and mustered only a .233 batting average.

With five home runs in 1,703 career at-bats, it’s not unfair to say that Ayala has absolutely no power whatsoever and only average speed at best. While versatile — he can also play in the infield — he profiles as someone at the end of your bench, a player probably best suited for a return to the Can-Am League in 2007.

Tom King of The Nashua Telegraph has previously reported that might be more difficult than it should be, however. Can-Am League officials suspended Ayala a whopping 15 games for bumping an umpire in the last inning of the last game of the season.

Perhaps the Road Warriors, where Ayala last played in 2003, would be a suitor for the 28-year-old.

2007 Status: Unlikely to return to Somerset

1B/OF Larry Barnes (.272/17 HR/83 RBI)

Barnes has signed a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Had he not, it’s unlikely he’d be playing anywhere, as it was common knowledge that he had no interest in returning to the Atlantic League for 2007.

The 32-year-old played 30 Major League games for the Dodgers back in 2003, a season he split between L.A. and Triple-A Las Vegas.

Initially starting the season as the team’s everyday first baseman, Barnes was moved to the outfield on June 2nd and never looked back. However, it was also around that time where his bat started to cool off. He was mired in a slump from late-May to mid-June that saw him go just 10-for-59, dipping his average to .248

2007 Status: In Spring Training with the Los Angeles Dodgers

C/DH Jeremy Booth (.077/0 HR/0 RBI)

On the surface, it might look like releasing Booth was a no-brainer. He had just one hit during his stay with Somerset, and reached base just twice in fourteen plate appearances.

He also got injured shortly after being traded from Newark, for whom he’d hit a home run against the Patriots in Somerset.

But Booth’s versatility could have been useful to a team that sometimes had problems putting together a healthy lineup.

Booth landed on his feet with the Can-Am League’s Sussex Skyhawks, finishing his playing career as their first baseman. After flirting with an affiliated deal, Booth agreed to become their hitting coach for the 2007 season.

2007 Status: Hitting coach for Sussex Skyhawks (Can-Am)

UTIL Pat Boran (.229/3 HR/23 RBI)

The former Red Sox farmhand played everywhere but first base and catcher for the Patriots last season.

After hitting .280 for the 2005 Atlantic League Champions after joining the team midway through the year, his batting average dropped 51 points in 2006.

Sparky Lyle seemed to have Boran in a different spot every day, although he played about half of his games in center field.

The Princeton grad is still living in New Jersey, and says he’d love to return to Somerset for 2007. He’d likely return in a utility role if he did come back, so it might be a little while before we find out one way or another if he’ll be suiting up for Somerset this year.

2007 Status: Would come back, unknown if he will

C Jim Buckley (.211/2 HR/7 RBI)

Drafted one round after Boran by the Red Sox in 2002, Buckley joined the Patriots at the end of July after Fernando Lunar was injured again.

A career .195 hitter, it’s fair to say that he wasn’t exactly known for his bat, although he seemed to “Buck” that trend in his first few days in a Patriots uniform. He started strong, going 5-for-17 (.294) in his first five games with Somerset. But then the Jim Buckley that people expected was the one that showed up, and he ended up hitting .211 for the season.

Five errors in 28 games also didn’t endear him to anyone, either. However, everyone liked having him around, and the pitching staff enjoyed throwing to him.

“Buck calls a great game,” said Patriots pitcher Ben Crockett. “It’s tough to come into a new situation like this, not knowing what guys throw. He’s done a good job with us; he sat down with me to see what I throw in what counts. He’s been great out there.”

2007 Status: Unlikely to return

1B/OF Jim Burt, Jr. (.203/4 HR/32 RBI)

The soft-spoken son of the former New York Giants star, Burt was brought into the team’s open tryout after being released by the New York Mets organization.

After making the team, Patriots officials had high hopes for the 25-year-old. Instead, he became a regular source of frustration for manager Sparky Lyle.

“He’s a very raw player,” Lyle said. “He’s only been to A-Ball, this is kind of above his head a little bit. We had a conversation, and I told him I thought he was overmatched here, but he didn’t think so.”

In that conversation, Lyle conceded that he’d had to play Burt far more than he’d ever wanted, likely another effect of the team having a short roster for much of the season.

Burt is best suited as a utility corner infielder, as his defense is likely his best attribute. I’d like to see him get another chance in the Atlantic League with less playing time, but I doubt you’ll see that happen with Somerset.

2007 Status: Unlikely to return

OF Edgard Clemente (.265/3 HR/5 RBI)

If you saw him at home, you thought he sucked. If you saw him on the road, you thought he’d morphed into his uncle, Roberto. Unfortunately, both Edgard Clemente’s ended up injured before the season was done.

Clemente hit .154 at Commerce Bank Ballpark and .414 everywhere else, although all three of his home runs did come in front of a home crowd.

A key part of the 2003 championship team and one of the only bright spots on a pretty miserable 2004 squad, his 2006 season ended the same way it did two years prior — on the DL.

After a second season with Sioux Falls of the American Association, Clemente was signed to give the team the boost everyone thought they needed to make the playoff push they never made.

Barnes, Clemente, Jeff Nettles and Ryan Radmanovich made for an intimidating middle of the order, but it didn’t last long.

Someone who saw Clemente play in Puerto Rico this off-season said he looked good, but I think Patriots officials are tired of Clemente’s injury issues and will look elsewhere for an outfielder with some pop.

2007 Status: Unlikely to return, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did

UTIL Tony Gsell (.168/3 HR/15 RBI)

From a baseball standpoint, the release of Gsell was an inevitable and somewhat obvious move. From a personal standpoint, it was a move that left a lot of people baffled.

Signed out of the team’s 2003 open tryout, Gsell was a key part of the team that brought Somerset its second championship, hitting 11 home runs while maintaining a .263 batting average.

One of the most popular players in team history — he attended high school not far from Commerce Bank Ballpark and was, by all accounts, a good guy — he was never able to get his batting average over .200 at any point last season.

Gsell’s head was one of several on the chopping block during the season.

“If it happens, it happens,” Gsell said. “I don’t really give it much thought. I just leave it up to Sparky, and he’s been good to me for the past couple of years. Whatever happens, happens.”

Unfortunately, what happened was that Gsell was released at the end of July, leading to the infamous “This Sucks” headline on this very website.

Now, Gsell works at the Jack Cust Baseball Academy in Flemington with his old high school coach, Tom Gambino.

2007 Status: Retired

OF Mike Lockwood (.336/6 HR/15 RBI)

When Mike Lockwood left for Taiwan, the Somerset Patriots playoff chances left with him.

Both he and reliever Hector Almonte left the team on the same day in mid-June, a devastating loss for a team that seemed to have legitimate playoff hopes at that point.

Lockwood seemed to do the impossible, replacing Jeremy Owens as someone the team could count on as a leadoff hitter and everyday center fielder.

He could hit for average, had above average power and slightly above average speed. He could also cover a lot of ground in center field and had an above average arm, something the team was never really able to replace with Henri Stanley later in the year.

I’ve not heard anything one way or the other about Lockwood coming back, but leaving for Taiwan on your own is a pretty good way to get yourself blacklisted from the Atlantic League. It’s possible you could see a trade involving his AL rights to another team that would be happy to take him.

2007 Status: Unknown, but unlikely he returns to Somerset

INF Lou Lucca (.314/3 HR/8 RBI)

Lucca made his annual cameo appearance in mid-September last year, well after the Patriots playoff chances had disappeared. The 36-year-old showed why he’s still in demand, getting a hit in his first seven games with Somerset and hitting home runs in three of his first four contests.

He was brought in as a late season replacement for Jeff Nettles, who was lost for the season after breaking his hand.

The engaging minor league veteran has started his last five seasons in the Mexican League, so it’s unlikely that will be any different in 2007. However, if the Patriots are in a playoff race down the stretch and Lucca is available, he’d make perfect sense to bring back.

2007 Status: Unlikely he starts the season in Somerset, but don’t be surprised to see him in August or September

C Fernando Lunar (.193/2 HR/18 RBI)

If you told me that Lunar had signed with the Atlanta Braves following the 2005 season, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all. He hit .292 that year, and was pretty much the catcher of choice for every pitcher on the staff.

So when I found that he’d signed after hitting .193 in an injury plagued 2006 campaign, a double-take was certainly not out of the question.

On paper, catching appeared to be a real strength for the Patriots last year. Instead, both Anderson and Lunar turned in career worst seasons.

But Lunar will be returning to the organization for whom he made his Major League debut in 2000, hitting .185 in 22 games for the Braves as Greg Maddux’s personal catcher.

2007 Status: In Spring Training with the Atlanta Braves

BENCH Ryan McDermond (.000/0 HR/0 RBI)

Along with Burt, McDermond was signed out of the Patriots open tryout. That tryout was probably the most action he saw he all year.

He got one at-bat last season, a strikeout in the April 30th marathon against the Surf. He basically served as the team’s bullpen catcher before being released, ending his tenure with the Patriots. Or did it?

Apparently, the team saw a need for him, bringing him back in mid-June. He’d appear in two games; getting one more plate appearance against the Ducks, where he walked.

That was the last time McDermond would be able to write “put me in coach” in Sparky Lyle’s suggestion box, as he was re-released later that month.

2007 Status: Not coming back

3B Jeff Nettles (.277/21 HR/69 RBI)

The everyday third baseman had his season cut short in Camden on August 24th, the victim of a stray fastball in Camden.

He still managed to put up great numbers, his 21 home runs and 69 RBI ranking second on the team. Perhaps his most impressive stat was that he made just 14 errors, just two seasons after leading the league with 34.

Nettles is about as complete of a player as you’ll find at this level, and he’s really worked hard to reach that goal. He still can occasionally make a routine play look spectacular, but more often than not it’s the other way around.

The Patriots are fortunate to have had Nettles for as long as they’ve had him, and it looks like he’ll be coming back for a fifth season in red, white and blue.

2007 Status: Likely to return

SS Kevin Nicholson (.244/3 HR/44 RBI)

The Canadian-born Nicholson’s arrival in Somerset was delayed for weeks due to visa issues. After hitting .281 with 11 home runs and 74 RBI for the 2005 championship team, expectations were high for the former Padres first-round draft pick.

Unfortunately, like many of his teammates, he was unable to match his performance from the previous season.

His home/road splits were interesting as well; he hit 62 points better at home than on the road, but he hit all three of his home runs away from home, with two of those coming in the same game in Atlantic City.

It appears that Nicholson, who would be 31 by Opening Day, has retired from baseball and won’t be playing anywhere for the 2007 season.

The team has already reportedly signed another shortstop.

2007 Status: Retired

SS Nick Ortiz (.326/1 HR/13 RBI)

Ortiz split his 2006 season between the Ducks, Road Warriors and Patriots. He hit well at all three stops, and showed that he still has something left in the tank after a lackluster 2004 campaign in Bridgeport.

Ortiz was brought in after Nicholson left in mid-August for an Olympic qualifying tournament and got a hit in 19 of the 26 games he appeared in. Six of those 19 games were multi-hit games.

But most impressive was that he reached base in all but two games for Somerset, ultimately walking more times (14) than he struck out (12).

At 33, he probably has a few more years of quality baseball in him. But I’ve also heard his name bandied about for the Road Warriors coaching staff, so let’s see how that unfolds first.

If Ortiz were to return, it would likely be in a backup role, as the Patriots have apparently already signed another shortstop.

2007 Status: Unlikely to return

OF Ryan Radmanovich (.302/27 HR/66 RBI)

This one’s the big mystery. Nobody seems to know whether Ryan Radmanovich will be returning next year, although rumors persist that he will.

Radmanovich likely would have come close to his 2005 numbers (.319/28 HR/89 RBI) had he not left with teammates Mike Johnson and Kevin Nicholson for an Olympic qualifying tournament.

Still, without Rad, the team would have been a mess. For a team that hit just 111 home runs as a whole, losing 27 of them would be devastating. But he’s also underrated in the field, with a surprisingly above average arm.

At 35 years old, Radmanovich’s window to return to affiliated baseball has likely closed. But he can still tear up the Atlantic League if he wants to come back for another season, and I’m sure Patriots officials would welcome him back with open arms.

2007 Status: Probably will return

C Tommy Rojas (.239/5 HR/9 RBI)

Rojas started his 2006 season as the backup catcher for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, an affiliate of the New York Yankees. He ended it as the Somerset Patriots backstop with a stop in Nashua inbetween.

Rojas and Ayala were brought in late to fill out the roster at the end of the year. While Ayala wasn’t much more than roster filler, Rojas got out to a hot start for the Patriots, with hits in four of his first nine at-bats.

He finished the season with five home runs and an awful haircut, but perhaps the haircut got him noticed by the Washington Nationals. After being returned to Nashua following the end of the Atlantic League season, Rojas agreed to a minor-league deal with Washington.

If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him back in a Patriots uniform via another trade.

2007 Status: In Spring Training with the Washington Nationals

1B Jared Sandberg (.206/1 HR/6 RBI)

Sandberg came to the Patriots after being released by the Astros organization in late May.

He debuted for Somerset on June 8th and apparently brought the case of strikeout-itis that plagued him in Houston with him. He struck out 14 times in just 34 at-bats with the Patriots, including six multi-whiff contests.

But much to everyone’s surprise, including Sandberg’s, he was signed by the Cleveland Indians and assigned to their Double-A affiliate for a playoff run.

The former Devil Ray is back in affiliated ball for 2007, landing a minor-league contract with the Texas Rangers.

2007 Status: In Spring Training with the Texas Rangers

2B George Sandel (.230/2 HR/41 RBI)

The former Mariners farmhand returned as the Patriots everyday second baseman last season.

He now has three professional home runs to his name, hitting another one in Lancaster as well as his first in front of the home fans in Somerset.

The diminutive 26-year-old has slightly above average range at second and around an average arm, but he did turn in a number of highlight reel plays last season.

While he has drawn interest from several teams, it appears likely that he’ll be back with the Patriots for 2007. If not, you’ll be sure to see him in the Atlantic League.

2007 Status: Likely to return

CF Henri Stanley (.261/5 HR/21 RBI)

He has no arm. Let’s be up front about it, let’s not beat around the bush here. Henri Stanley brings a lot of things to the table, but a strong throwing arm isn’t one of them.

After Somerset lost Mike Lockwood to Taiwan, they experimented with Pat Boran in center field before bringing in Stanley. A former top-30 prospect for the San Diego Padres, Stanley hit six of Somerset’s 18 triples and finished second to Boran in stolen bases with 11.

But Stanley drew the ire of Patriots fans for being a defensive liability. While he could cover a lot of ground in center, it became clear that his arm just wasn’t good enough to keep him out there as an everyday player.

Stanley has the bat and the speed to be an ideal leadoff hitter, but is probably best suited in a platoon role or off the bench.

2007 Status: Unlikely to return

Pitchers

CL Hector Almonte (5-1, 2.33 ERA)

Almonte signed late with the Chicago Cubs and will be in Spring Training with them. Had he not, it’s possible that he’d have returned to Somerset for 2007. Instead, he’ll join his brother, Erick (Rockies), in trying to stick with a Major League affiliate.

Almonte left the team in June, choosing to take a lucrative offer with Monclova of the Mexican League. However, the 31-year-old former big leaguer impressed Patriots officials by buying out his own contract, therefore leaving the door open for a return to the team.

The flame-throwing righty did return in mid-August, returning to the closer’s role he’d performed so well in prior to his departure. It was like nothing had changed…in fact, it was almost as if he’d gotten better. His ERA dropped three quarters of a run, and he added seven more saves to lead the team with 15.

2007 Status: In Spring Training with the Chicago Cubs

SP Robert Averette (5-1, 3.40 ERA)

After starting the season with the Can-Am League’s Brockton Rox, the 30-year-old righty made his way over to Somerset in late June.

It seemed unlikely he’d stick with the club, but he ended up emerging as the staff’s ace before leaving due to “personal reasons.”

Averette, who had pitched in the Atlantic League the previous year for the Nashua Pride, picked a bad time to leave. He was days removed from his best start, holding the Newark Bears to just three hits over eight and a third innings of work in an August 16th home start.

Considering it was rumored that Averette had some disagreements with the coaching staff, it would seem highly unlikely you’ll be seeing him back in Somerset any time soon.

2007 Status: Unlikely to return

RP Nick Bierbrodt (0-1, 10.38 ERA)

The Arizona Diamondbacks first round pick in 1996, Bierbrodt didn’t last long in his second go-around with the Patriots.

After the lefty posted a 4-2 record and 4.48 ERA in 2005, team officials were hoping there was room for improvement in 2006. But two bad outings cost the 28-year-old his job; giving up two home runs in an inning against Newark on May 3rd and allowing two runs against Lancaster three days later.

He signed with Bridgeport a few months after his release and pitched like his 2005-self, going 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA in 12 appearances.

While I have been in contact with Bierbrodt this off-season, he gave me no indication about his 2007 plans.

2007 Status: Unlikely to return

SP Ben Crockett (8-11, 3.51 ERA)

A third-round pick of the Rockies in 2002, the Harvard (yes, that Harvard) grad spent four seasons in the Colorado organization before signing with Somerset in 2006.

Along with Keith Ramsey, Crockett was one of the Patriots most consistent starting pitchers last year, but seemed to run out of gas late in the season. He lost five of his last six decisions and watched his ERA go from 2.70 to 3.51 in that stretch.

The 27-year-old is likely to come back to Somerset for the 2007 season, but where’d he fall in the rotation is a little unclear.

2007 Status: Likely to return

RP Kane Davis (0-0, 4.20 ERA)

The 31-year-old righty made his much anticipated Patriots debut on August 5th, after weeks of speculation he’d be joining the team.

Davis, who’d been in the big leagues as recently as 2005 with the Brewers, has a chance to return there in 2007. He’s signed a minor-league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, who would become the fifth Major League team he’s pitched for if he makes the team.

The former Rivershark was inconsistent last season, and was unable to pitch on back-to-back days. His 13 appearances were scattered over a month and a half, and he only pitched more than an inning twice.

2007 Status: In Spring Training with the Philadelphia Phillies

SP/RP Dave Elder (2-4, 4.39 ERA)

Elder’s been keeping busy since the last pitch of 2006, helping out a high school team and giving pitching lessons.

Perhaps best known for giving up Rafael Palmeiro’s 500th home run, Elder started 2006 with the Kansas City Royals organization, pitching well for them in Triple-A.

After a somewhat mysterious release, Elder returned to Somerset in mid-July and gave up exactly zero runs in his first six appearances.

Shortly thereafter, however, Elder was thrust into the starting rotation after the team had a sudden shortage of starting pitcher. It was role Elder volunteered for, only furthering his reputation as a team player.

While Elder would be welcomed back with open arms for 2007, there may be an affiliated deal in the works. The 31-year-old feels like he still has some good years left in him, so I’m sure you’ll see him somewhere in 2007.

2007 Status: Uncertain, but could return

RP Mike Johnson (5-4, 4.34 ERA)

Johnson was selected by former Orioles teammate Chris Hoiles in the York Revolution expansion draft, so if he’s pitching anywhere this season, that’s where he’ll be.

After Hector Almonte left, Johnson took over as the team’s closer. After allowing only two runs in his first 15 outings, he got shelled a few games into his tenure as stopper, giving up five runs in two thirds of an inning in a loss against Camden on June 19th.

His ERA never recovered, and neither did he. After leaving the team for the Olympic qualifying tournament in August, he decided not to return.

2007 Status: Drafted by the York Revolution

RP Adam Larson (0-0, 13.50 ERA)

Larson lasted just three games into the 2006 season, giving up two home runs in his last two outings.

He was likely on a short leash after an unspectacular 2005, where he went 1-3 with a 5.17 ERA. He was used sparingly in the playoffs, but did get a championship ring for his efforts.

Larson and Saul Solveson were brought in at the same time in 2005, and Solveson has proven to be the more effective pitcher.

2007 Status: Not coming back

RP Robert Marquez (2-1, 2.84 ERA)

Marquez, a member of the Patriots previous three teams (he never appeared in a game in 2003, but was on the team before getting picked up by Milwaukee) didn’t resurface until August last year.

The 33-year-old righty pitched well in limited action last season, allowing no hits in eight of his 12 appearances. In fact, the only four runs he allowed all season all came in the same outing, a one inning appearance in the next to last game of the year in Bridgeport.

The engaging Texan has already started the next phase of his career — coaching teams in Houston — and it’s unknown what his playing status is in 2007.

“I was back in Houston coaching a select team. I’d been throwing, and Adam (Gladstone) called me up to see if I’d play for the last month,” Marquez said last year.

Could a similar scenario pop up this year?

2007 Status: Uncertain

SP Sam McConnell (1-4, 3.79 ERA)

The former Braves pitcher joined the Patriots in late July, adding some stability to a starting rotation that was in desperate need of it.

McConnell was reliable and took the ball every fifth day, but was somewhat unspectacular in his 12 games with Somerset.

It’s very possible that the 31-year-old could return this year, but team officials would likely expect a little more out of him in order to place him at the front of the rotation.

2007 Status: Unknown, could return

SP/RP Todd Moser (6-6, 4.27 ERA)

Moser, who started and ended the season in the bullpen, was a starter inbetween. Outside of a rough July, Moser put together a solid campaign for Somerset.

The 30-year-old returned to the team after a 2005 season where he went 3-5 with a 5.00 ERA in 35 games. He had a similar role that season as well, with 12 of those appearances being starts.

He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, and is probably best suited as a middle reliever or your long guy. I’d be surprised if he returned this season, but I wouldn’t rule it out, either.

2007 Status: Unknown, could return

RP Tony Mounce (0-1, 7.71 ERA)

Mounce tried to make a comeback with the Patriots after last pitching with the Texas Rangers in 2003. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well for the lefty, and he was released just six games into his comeback attempt.

He only had one bad outing, giving up four runs without getting an out against Bridgeport. But he needed too much time to recover from his outings, and the team was looking for someone they could use more often.

I haven’t heard anything about Mounce’s playing status for 2007, but I’d assume you won’t see him back this season…although stranger things have happened with Gene Stechschulte.

2007 Status: Will Not Return

RP Jason Olson (5-4, 3.99 ERA)

Olson spent the entire year in Somerset, and was one of the more unsung players on the team.

The fact that his arm held up was a victory in itself, as Olson had two Tommy John surgeries prior to his stint with Somerset. He also stepped up when the team was short on starting pitching, making two spot starts in mid-June.

The 28-year-old righty did everything that was asked of him, and you’d have to think that he’d be welcomed back if he wants to pitch in 2007.

2007 Status: Uncertain, but would likely return

RP Andy Pratt (3-1, 5.81 ERA)

Pratt has retired, and has become a scout for the Texas Rangers.

The lefty reached the bigs with the Braves and the Cubs, and joined the Patriots in late June after being released by the Brewers organization.

He didn’t necessarily pitch all that well for Somerset, giving up runs in 11 of his 25 outings. But he did end his career on a nice note, winning his last professional game against Bridgeport on September 24th.

2007 Status: Retired; now a scout for the Texas Rangers

SP Keith Ramsey (6-7, 3.76 ERA)

He’ll be 27 in a week. He’s left-handed, has a plus curveball and is one of the most mature, down to earth people you’ll ever meet. What’s not to like about Keith Ramsey?

The Flava Do frontman spent the entire season in Somerset, joining the team after being released by the Phillies in Spring Training.

He got off to a great start in 2006, allowing only six runs over his first 38.1 innings of work.

Ramsey’s currently out in Los Angeles, getting some surfing in, playing a few gigs and delivering some pizzas on the side to make some extra money.

But most importantly, he’s also keeping in shape. After a few nibbles from affiliated clubs, it sounds like Ramsey’s set for a return to Somerset in 2007.

2007 Status: Likely to return

SP Jason Shiell (3-2, 2.92 ERA)

It seems like just yesterday that I was watching Jason Shiell make his first professional appearance since 2003. So it was nice to see that the Atlanta Braves thought enough of him to sign him out of the Atlantic League and promote him all the way to the big leagues before the end of the season.

Since then, Shiell has signed a deal with the Kansas City Royals and will have a real chance to stick in their organization.

He pitched surprisingly well for someone who hadn’t pitched in two years. Perhaps that’s because he expected to…

“I knew I was going to come in throwing strikes,” Shiell said. “All the therapy and all the throwing I did, I didn’t practice throwing balls, everything was over the plate. The biggest thing for me was not having any pain, I was just trying to build up this year and try to get back to where I was before my surgeries.”

2007 Status: In Spring Training with the Kansas City Royals

RP Saul Solveson (5-4, 3.11 ERA)

Not much was expected out of Solveson when the Patriots signed him after a lackluster showing for Elmira of the Can-Am League. But he’s been nothing but good since then.

He was 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA in 2005 for Somerset, where he helped stabilize the bullpen that helped the Patriots win the Atlantic League Championship.

He was just as good last year, joining the team a few weeks into the year after injuring his hand in a biking accident.

If he can put together a similar season this year, where he’s likely to return for Somerset, Solveson is a viable candidate to get a look from an affiliated club.

2007 Status: Likely to return

P Billy Sylvester (3-1, 2.48 ERA)

Sylvester signed with the Washington Nationals mid-way through last season after a strong start with Somerset. Originally expecting to go to Triple-A New Orleans, he was instead assigned to Double-A Harrisburg, where he pitched poorly and was ultimately released.

He returned to the Patriots shortly thereafter and although he pitched well, didn’t seem to be the same pitcher. After making six appearances for Somerset after his return, Sylvester left again — this time to Taiwan.

Although Patriots officials have set a precedent for not allowing players to return that have left to play overseas, I’ve heard strong rumors that Sylvester might be an exception the rule.

2007 Status: Likely to return

RP/SP Jeff Urban (3-1, 3.23)

Similar to Fernando Lunar, Jeff Urban has signed a deal to return to his old organization. After finishing the season in the starting rotation, Urban will head to Spring Training with the San Francisco Giants, who called him up to the big leagues a few years ago.

Urban, who didn’t appear in a game during that call-up, did not get off to a good start in Somerset. He allowed four runs in his first three innings of work, and looked unspectacular while doing it. Many thought he’d be on the way out, but he turned it around and really put together a solid campaign in Somerset.

Standing six feet, eight inches tall, Urban is an imposing presence on the mound and is left-handed to boot. With that said, he has a chance to stick in affiliated ball.

2007 Status: In Spring Training with the San Francisco Giants

SP Andy Van Hekken (3-6, 5.56 ERA)

Van Hekken, the team’s Opening Day starter, left the team in mid-July to sign a deal with the Kansas City Royals. Considering his less than stellar numbers at the time, his departure was rather surprising.

The 27-year-old southpaw, who reached the big leagues with Detroit in 2002, saw his ERA slowly but surely climb upwards during the season. He allowed double-digit hits in two of his last three starts, both of which went six innings.

Simply put, Van Hekken was unimpressive last season, and I’d be surprised to see him return this season

2007 Status: Unlikely to return

RP Justin Wechsler (0-1, 9.00 ERA)

Wechsler was released after going 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in eight games. Doesn’t sound like a guy who’d be going to camp with someone in 2007, right? Wrong. The 26-year-old righty has inked a deal with the Chicago White Sox.

He arrived in mid-June, and simply got off to an awful start. He allowed earned runs in his first three appearances, and ended up with just three scoreless appearances out of the nine he made.

2007 Status: In Spring Training with the Chicago White Sox

Lebron!: OF Juan Lebron, in contention for the Jason Shelley Award (most disappointing Patriot of all-time) has signed with the Laredo Broncos of the United League. Lebron split 2004 between Somerset and the Road Warriors. – Mike Ashmore, mashmore@patriotsbaseball.com

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Comments»

1. mnlem - February 26, 2007

Great article, briongs back memories of a nice summer. Despite the Patriots not making the post season, I really enjoyed listening to the games on 1450 and occasionally attending.

I hope Radmanovich is back, he contributed a big portion of the Patriots offense.


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