With Brett Anderson moving up in the world, the South Bend Silver Hawks have a big hole to fill. The club had already lost catcher Frank Curreri to a promotion in May, and sustained an injury to staring pitcher Shane Dove around the same time.
"Right now at South Bend, we're shorted a little bit," agreed outfielder Joey Side. "Maybe we'll have some guy from the draft that steps up, fills a leadership role, helps us take it to the next level, and gets us a spot in the playoffs."
So even though the Silver Hawks finished the first half ten games out of first place, Side believes that the club has a serious shot at the postseason?
"We do, yes," Side confirmed. "We have a very great team, we just started off a little slow. It was snowing the first fourteen games we had, so it's hard to play in. We tried to stick it out, and we got back to even a couple of times. We have a great team, and a great opportunity."
Several Silver Hawks cite the weather as reason for failing to get into a rhythm early. But they can't use that as an excuse in the second half, and they don't want to use the loss of Anderson as an excuse, either. We asked Side how the team could replace the young hurler.
"You don't," Side admitted. "Even thought he's only 19, you can't replace him, you've just got to have somebody step up and fill the role."
Derik Nippert, Dustin Nippert's twin brother who has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness since being drafted in 2003, finally appears strong. Derik has allowed just one run in three starts so far, and appears to have rein over Anderson's spot in the rotation. Nippert has thrown just 12.1 innings in those three starts, however, so durability does come into question.
Staff ace Tony Barnette already has someone from the draft in mind to help fill Anderson's shoes.
[Anderson has] dominated the Midwest League," Barnette said. "But we had a good draft; we're going to have a lot of good guys going in once the College World Series is over. We got Wes Roemer: he's a top college pitcher. If he comes here, I bet he would fit in real well and win us some ballgames.
"There's a lot of talent in this organization right now at Missoula and Yakima, and once something clicks with them, they'll start moving pretty quick."
So far, the Silver Hawks haven't needed such an infusion of new young players to replace Anderson. But more promotions could be on the way, and these newly drafted players could determine whether the Silver Hawks can make the playoffs for a second straight year.
Email Keith Glab at email@example.com