June 19, 2015
by WESLEY SYKES (@Wesley_Sykes)
YD Red Sox Beat Reporter
Rarely does one get a second opportunity at making a great first impression. The tired cliche has been used and reused throughout time for a reason ? because all too often it rings true. And when referencing the old adage in terms of the Cape Cod Baseball League, it resonates like the crackle of a fastball meeting the leather webbing of a catcher?s mitt.
Every player on the Cape understands they have 40-plus games in almost as many days to work on their craft, impress scouts and prove potential doubters wrong ? a compressed season that forces the cream of the Cape to rise to the top. Yet many players don?t have the luxury of a full summer to make a name and improve their game. Maybe it?s only a day or two. Maybe a week. And maybe, just maybe that small sample size is large enough to turn into a memorable season.
Full 30-man rosters have yet to be finalized with players competing in the College World Series and being poached for Team USA, making the use of temporary players a necessity. Until the July 3 deadline, temporary players or ?temps? not only have an opportunity to play in the acclaimed summer league, but also a chance to Wally Pipp some of their peers of a higher baseball pedigree.
It?s an ever-juggling juxtaposition of keeping an eye on the players coming back from the CWS and looking ahead to an almost-inevitable end of the line while presently trying to prove one?s worth that players like Red Sox infielder Brady Conlan must deal with.
?Coming out here I knew I was on a short leash, so I try my hardest to be the first one here at the field, work hard and don?t take anything for granted,? Conlan said, who?s already survived the first two weeks of the season and cancelled his return flight home to Canoga Park, CA.
A third baseman by trade, Conlan, who held a stout .344 batting average for Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills in 2015, had to check any hint of an ego at the Bourne Bridge and be ready to do whatever it takes to stay the whole summer.
?Whenever Coach Pick[ler] asks me if I?ve ever played first or any other position, my answer is always yes. I tell myself whatever keeps me here longer is what I?m going to do. If they need an outfielder ? and if it keeps me here longer ? I?m going to play outfield.?
While Conlan keeps his eye on what will keep him on Red Wilson Field, there?s a fast-approaching, highly-touted third baseman raking in the College World Series that could immediately help a Red Sox lineup lacking big-time pop in Vanderbilt?s Will Toffey.
?They?re watching the College World Series too. They know who?s coming back to replace them shortly,? Y-D team president Steve Faucher said.
Toffey, a local kid from Barnstable, hit .296 with 4 homers and slugged .424 for the Commodores and will be welcomed to a Yarmouth-Dennis lineup that?s hitting .211 through nine games with open arms.
?I try not to worry about the things I can?t control. I just try to stay within myself and control the things I can,? Conlan said, who?s hitting .192 with two extra-base hits in 33 at-bats this season.
Hitters are needed for Sox manager Scott Pickler, although the starting stretch of seven games in six days initially led him to fill up the majority of his 15 temporary roster spots with pitchers.
?At first I thought I needed pitching to get through the seven games in six days. And now I?m realizing the pitching worked itself out. Now I?d like to get the balance between my hitters and pitchers. I need a hitter now,? Pickler, who can be constantly seen with his iPhone 6 in hand talking with other teams in leagues across the country trying to recruit players, said.
One of the pitchers who has been a pleasant surprise in the early going is right-hander Alec Eisenberg. After a shaky 2015 season with the Hofstra Pride in which he posted a 5.83 ERA and a WHIP of 1.50, Eisenberg is using his time on Cape Cod to show he?s fully healthy after back-to-back summers spent nursing right elbow injuries.
In 2014, Eisenberg?s first with the Pride, he suffered a broken elbow and in 2013 ? his final year with Westchester Community College ? received three platelet-replacement injections for a small tear in his forearm.
Eisenberg didn?t want to commit to a summer league team until he was 100% healthy.
?I was told pretty late in the season that I was going to be playing for the Y-D Red Sox, just based from the fact that the previous two seasons I?ve been injured,? Eisenberg said. ?You still have to go out and pitch and prove yourself whether you?re a regular roster guy or a temp player.?
Through two games, Eisenberg (0-1) has shown he?s healthy after not stepping foot on a mound in over a month. He?s flashed good signs with a plus-90?s fastball and a great out-pitch in his change-up, but has run out of gas late in games.
According to Pickler, Conlan and Eisenberg are two of the names higher on the list of potential temps-turned-keepers although he admittedly said he won?t know until the July 3 deadline draws closer. And should their season?s come to end on Fourth of July weekend it doesn?t spell the end of a summer-league season. Faucher and Pickler are constantly in contact with other teams in summer leagues across the country who are looking to poach from the country?s most prestigious collegiate summer league.
?If they show potential, we have a lot of leagues that contact us looking to pick up some of our temporary players who don?t make it,? Faucher said. ?We don?t just send them home.?
But on the other hand, there have been plenty of temp players to make the most of their brief tryout and become key cogs on championship teams ? like 2014 Red Sox OF/2B Jordan Tarsovich. Invited on a temporary basis, Tarsovich forced the hand of Pickler by showing off a scorching bat (.322 avg / 3 HR / 21 RBI), earning a trip to the All-Star game and a championship ring in the process. He parlayed that season into a recent 22nd round draft selection by Los Angeles Dodgers.
Or 2012 Y-D second baseman Carlos Asuaje, who posted a .280 average on the season after getting a temp invite. Asuaje, then a sophomore from Division II Nova Southeastern University, has since spent the three following seasons in the Boston Red Sox minor league system ? currently playing for the Portland Seadogs, the organization?s Double-A affiliate.
As Conlan and Eisenberg look around the dugout, they?ve already seen some players turn in their jerseys.
Outfielder Kyle Kempf, infielder Mike Marcinko and catcher John Mayer have been released in the past week, while players like RHP Shane Bieber and OF Luke Bonfield return from the collegiate playoffs ? fleshing out the reality that going home is only a conversation in the coach?s office away.
But in a game where succeeding is failing seven out of ten times, self-confidence ? scratch that ? an unwavering sense of cockiness is needed, something Conlan and Eisenberg exude, if they hope to not cash in a second chance opportunity.
?When I packed my bags for the Cape, I packed them for the whole summer,? Conlan, narrowing his eyes in conviction, said. ?I have two huge bags in my room, I just unpacked both of them two days ago. So I?m here for the long haul,? Eisenberg echoed.
How?s that for a first impression?