04/25/2004 9:39 AM - With the team starting spring training on May 5, Manager Al Gallagher has been working overtime to ensure that the pitching staff has the horses to take the T-Bones to the 2004 Northern League title. As there are ten spots on the pitching staff and fifteen names signed to dotted lines as of April 26, theres going to be some tough competition.
Seven pitchers return from the 2004 T-Bones staff, including four who started at least six games and three who pitched exclusively in relief. The starters, all right-handers, are Jonathan Krysa, Jayson Sigley, Jon McDonald and Erik Grunwald. Krysa, a resident of Lees Summit, is currently a graduate student at Rockhurst University. In his six starts last season, he posted a 2-3 record with a solid 3.72 ERA; he is in his fifth year of pro ball. Sigley was a workhorse on the hill for the T-Bones in 2003, starting twelve times and posting six wins with a 3.68 ERA. McDonald, 26, started nine times for the T-Bones in 2003 and posted one of two complete-game shutouts for the club. In four years as a pro, his best campaign was in 2001, when he went 8-3 with a 3.44 ERA for New Britain of the AA Eastern League. Grunwald took the bump twelve times for the T-Bones in 2003, finishing with a 5-5 mark in his fifth pro season.
The returning relievers are headlined by an international star, D.J. Johnson, who pitched in the Baseball World Cup this past off-season. An alumnus of Kansas State, Johnson was 7-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 17 saves in 35 appearances in 2003. Lefty Bryan Felkel appeared in eight games last season for the T-Bones, all in relief, and recorded a 2.89 ERA after coming over from Sioux Falls. Mike Hoyt, entering his fifth year of pro ball, spent 2000 and 2001 in the San Diego Padres organization. He appeared in nine games for the T-Bones in 2003, mostly in long relief.
Two pitchers come to the T-Bones from the ranks of affiliated ball: Zach Sutton and Dusty Wrightsman. Sutton, originally a 22nd round pick, spent the last two seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization, making 39 appearances, all in relief. In that stretch, he went 0-2 with nine saves while posting a 2.93 ERA, advancing as high as Frederick of the A Carolina League. Wrightsman, a 26th rounder, was 22-18 in four seasons in the Kansas City Royals system, where he advanced as high as the Wichita Wranglers of the AA Texas League. Wrightsmans best season was 2002, when he went 9-4 with five saves and a 2.38 ERA for the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the A Carolina League.
Four accomplished independent league pitchers hope to make Kansas City home for 2004: Eric Horner, Matt McClellan, Ralph McCasland and Phil Rosengren. Horner, a control specialist who has command of four pitches, recorded a 2-2 record with a 2.25 ERA in his first professional season after graduating from Central Missouri State with a degree in finance. McClellan, a seventh-round pick of Toronto in 1997, is in his eighth year of pro ball. He has had two stints with the Syracuse Sky Chiefs of the AAA International League, with his best season the 2001 campaign in which he went 1-2 with a 3.27 ERA. McClellan spent time with the Atlantic Leagues Newark Bears in 2003, joining Rickey Henderson and Jose Lima. McCasland was obtained from Sioux City for outfielder Rodney Clifton after recording a 4-5 record with a 3.90 ERA. The lanky lefty has averaged one walk per five innings of work in his four-year pro career. Rosengren was a 24th round pick of the Cleveland Indians out of Northwestern and spent two years in the Cleveland system. After missing the 2002 season due to injury, Rosengren came back in 2003 to pitch for the Rockford RiverHawks of the Frontier League, posting a career-best 2.11 ERA.
Two rookies round out the candidates for the T-Bones staff. Situational lefty Clint Marcus, 27, was signed out of the Northern Leagues tryout camp five years after the completion of his college career at the University of Nevada-Reno. Marcus has trained with Randy Wolf of the Philadelphia Phillies. Out of Tempe, AZ, comes righty John Howerton. Howerton played his college ball at Division III Clarke College in Dubuque, IA. One look at the Clarke record books reveals that Howerton is a workhorse with a knack for fooling batters: he held opponents to a minuscule .265 average in 2003.