Keller lands with Diamondbacks

We’re always hearing that the Atlantic League serves as the road to affiliated ball for more than players.

Managers. Coaches. Executives.

revs david kellerThey too are hoping to improve themselves through the indy league. So it’s nice to see that the system continues to work.

David Keller, the Camden Riversharks’ director of baseball operations, has joined the Arizona Diamondbacks’ baseball operations staff. As many of you will recall, Keller served one year under Adam Gladstone, the Revs’ director of baseball ops, with BASA in York’s inaugural season before taking on the gig in Camden last year.

Keller, also formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies video scouting department, did a tremendous job with Camden last year. The ‘Sharks had 12 players signed by affiliated organizations — best in the Atlantic League — and their roster was completely altered because of it. Yet Camden still managed to qualify for the playoffs while knocking off Long Island in a huge upset in the first round.

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Playing the prediction game

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No Atlantic League team has signed a single player yet for the 2009 season.

Is that really a reason to hold off on predicting how the season will play out, though?

Hardly.

So here are five things that will take place in the Atlantic League this year, according to yours truly.

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What we’ve all been waiting for…

RL v Stewartstown

My apologies for the long hiatus. The mystique of wrestling singlets has consumed my every moment lately.

As many of you undoubtedly already realize, even with the York Revolution’s 2009 season more than two months away, there is still plenty to discuss. We’ll tackle the pertinent issues in bullet-form fashion.

1) A group of Susquehanna and Central League all-stars will face the Revolution in an exhibition game on April 18 at Fan Fest.

Local sandlot fans and townball players have been calling for this game since the Revolution arrived in town. Now they’ll finally get their chance against a group of likely former major leaguers and minor league veterans.

If nothing else, this game should provide plenty of intrigue and excitement. But spring training — as many of you know — is typically the time when Atlantic Leaguers are at their weakest, especially pitchers. Many pitchers new to the league are used to six weeks of spring training and the AL’s 10-day spring usually gives them fits (see: Corey Thurman).

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Esquivel signs with Indians

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One of the York Revolution’s most popular players is getting a second chance in affiliated baseball.

Matt Esquivel, once a prized Atlanta Braves prospect, has signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians, according to Revolution officials. The 25-year-old outfielder finished with a .294 average, 35 doubles, 13 homers and 77 RBIs in his one year with the Revs — impressive numbers considering his dreadful start to the season.

080425-matt-esquivelAs you will all probably recall, Esquivel landed in independent baseball at a really young age because of a series of undisclosed incidents off the field that he played a part in during his time with the Braves. Atlanta grew tired of it and released him, but Esquivel redeemed his reputation and his playing career with a successful season in York, on and off the field.

The San Antonio, Tex. native — who had talks of walking on as a running back at Nebraska years ago — grew very close with many York players and seemed to really enjoy his time with the Revolution. He had this to say about his time with the Revs after York’s loss to Somerset in the playoffs.

“It’s just being around the guys,” Esquivel said. “It’s not every year you get to play with the group of guys we have right now. Not only do we get to share the baseball field, but we get to share our personal lives. And it’s just one of those things where I’ve been able to open up.”

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McCurdy excels in winter ball

When the dog days of summer roll around every year, you can count on affiliated organizations scouring the Atlantic League for talent.

Revolution vs BarnstormersThere are a number of reasons to explain this. Injured players (think Kenny Perez) can open a void at Triple-A in a certain system. Maybe a team wants to reacquire a familiar face. Heck, maybe a particular organization is facing the reality that it did a horrendous job of drafting players.    

Whatever the reason, unfortunately many Atlantic Leaguers are viewed as nothing more than short-term rentals. Luckily, that doesn’t appear to be the case with former Revolution relief pitcher Nick McCurdy.

The right-hander signed an affiliated deal with the Florida Marlins after earning the save in the 2008 Atlantic League All-Star game and he’s had plenty of success with the Fish. McCurdy, 28, has pitched for the Marlins in winter ball in Puerto Rico and has done pretty well.

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Minor stays with Shorebirds

Rev Spring Training

It was almost a foregone conclusion that Ryan Minor would eventually land a managing job in the Atlantic League — until the big names came a calling, that is.

Von Hayes. Gary Carter. Wally Backman. All had more panache then the former heir apparent to Cal Ripken Jr., leaving Minor to take his act to the Delmarva Shorebirds (the Single-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles) a season ago.

Minor served as the Shorebirds’ field coach in 2008 and he’ll return to Delmarva in the same capacity this season, according to a news release from the Orioles. Minor is a Salisbury, Md. resident, which is very close to Delmarva, so the proximity to his family is a definite perk of the position.

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Phelps signed by Tigers

Travis Phelps has had his troubles just getting on the field the last several years.

travis_phelpsAfter battling through nearly an eight-hour surgery to remove a tumor behind his ear just more than a year ago, Phelps had the misfortune of finding the shelf again for six weeks in 2008. That time the culprit was a strained muscle in his armpit, of all places.

But once Phelps, a member of the 2008 York Revolution bullpen, finally did reach the pitcher’s mound, it was easy to see why the man with the slender, 160-pound frame ascended all the way to the major leagues with Tampa Bay and Milwaukee years ago.

And Phelps is now getting another chance at baseball’s biggest stage.

The former York Revolution and Newark Bears’ relief pitcher has been signed by the Detroit Tigers, according to York Revolution officials. Phelps turned into one of York’s go-to set-up men last year and also an occasional closer while posting a 3-3 record with a 3.82 ERA.

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