With today's pair of Aeros games (Thursday's suspended game and Friday's regularly-scheduled game) postponed due to more rain here in Harrisburg, I've had some extra time to look through more material than usual.
One of the first things that struck me as odd is that so many former Aeros have ended up in the Washington Nationals chain - particulary at Double-A Harrisburg.
While catcher Javi Herrera and pitchers Bobbie Brownlie and Jim Ed Warden may not have made the made the cut in the talent-rich Indians system, they just might find a place with the fledgling Nationals' organization after signing as minor-league free agents this past off season.
Herrera, a No. 2 pick by the Tribe out of the University of Tennessee in 2002, made many friends in the organization over five years. Despite being a great clubhouse guy and well-regarded receiver, he has always struggled to hit. After seeing his playing time dwindle to once a week at Akron last year with Wyatt Toregas passing him up in the pecking order, Herrera agreed to a trade to the Nationals. After hitting just .167 in 18 games with the Aeros last year, he wound up batting .257 with four homers and 17 RBI with the Senators. He's currently splitting equal time with young backstop Luke Montz.
RHP Brownlie, whom the Indians signed out of the Independent Atlantic League mid-season last year, was 1-2 with a 3.17 ERA in nine games with the Aeros. Not only does he pop up with Harrisburg, but as the team's Opening Day starter? Wow, that sure says a lot about the Nat's organizational depth.
RHP Jim Ed Warden, who happens to rank second in Aeros history with 100 appearances, dominated the Senators last year. He threw five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and not allowing a walk while striking out six batters. But against his former team last night, Warden blew a 5-4 save by walking two batters and issuing a pair of wild pitches.
Other areas of interest to a minor-league geek such as myself with too much time on her hands:
* What a difference a year makes. Chuck Lofgren started Opening Day for the Aeros last season, shutting down rival Altoona in a 6-1 win. The left-hander gave up just one run on four hits while striking out six batters in five innings in his Double-A debut. In Akron's opener Thursday against the Senators, he struggled through 3 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits (inlcuding a home run) and five walks while facing a bases-loaded jam twice. If Harrisburg hadn't stranded eight men on base, his numbers would have been a lot worse...Here's hoping it was just a case of Opening Day jitters.
* Despite struggling mightily last year to get out of the gate and finishing with a 55-86 mark and sixth in the Southern Division last year, the Senators actually took the season series from the Aeros seven games to five. That's a bit disturbing considering that during a long season, good teams need to consistently win each series against lesser squads.
* The Aeros need to be careful with 23-year-old Roger Bernadina. The Senators speedy center fielder hit .314 (11-for-35) against Akron pitching last season, including four doubles, a grand slam run and seven RBI. Last season he also stole a career-high 40 stolen bases, the fifth most in Senators history.