The future of Ottawa Lynx baseball remains uncertain, but for at least one more season, Canada’s capital city will field a competitive Triple-A squad, courtesy of the Philadelphia Phillies. [Roster]
Outfield: Ottawa's outfield isn’t the youngest collection of talent, but it should be productive nevertheless. Ron Calloway, Lou Collier and Pedro Swann were all standout Lynx in the past. Collier hit .316 with Ottawa back in 2002 and Swann was voted most valuable player on the 2003 playoff team. They’ll be joined by Phillies farm veteran Jim Rushford and slashing switch-hitter Chris Roberson. Average age of the outfield is nearly 32.
Catching: The only positional surprise shows up behind the plate, where Jason Jaramillo has done enough in the eyes of Phillies officials to graduate from Double-A following a so-so year. Veteran Dusty Wathan returns for another season. Ryan Budde, a Rule 5 pick who’s still on the Phillies 25-man roster but is injured, could be retained and sent to Ottawa or Double-A Reading if his original team refuses to carry him, which is likely. This could also be the destination of last year's Cinderella story, Chris Coste.
Infield: Like the outfield, Ottawa’s infield is comprised of veteran parts: Brent Abernathy, Gary Burnham, Brennan King, Carlos Leon and Danny Sandoval. Among them, King is the youngest at 26. Burnham can rake and is a good organizational guy. Leon, Sandoval and Abernathy represent an interesting infield logjam manager John Russell will need to unravel.
Starting pitching: The Lynx are loaded with quality left-handers. Brian Mazone was Scranton's pitcher of the year last season and led the International League in ERA. Fabio Castro didn’t make the Phillies cut, so now the 22-year-old will have plenty of time to work on his command in a pressure-free environment, either as a starter or reliever. Right-hander Matt Childers split last season between Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Trenton and is in his 10th season. Left-hander J.A. Happ is rated as one of the best pitchers in the organization and could be the first pitcher called on in an emergency. Ditto Zach Segovia, who remains on the Phillies 25-man roster, but could be sent down once Jon Lieber comes off the DL. Like Castro, lefty Eude Brito could take the mound as a starter or reliever.
Bullpen: Relief should be another strength. Joe Bisenius could see action as a closer after opening eyes in Clearwater. Brian Sanches can’t pitch in the majors, but he’s hell on minor league hitters. Hard-throwing Venezuelan Yoel Hernandez was once a highly regarded talent, but has suffered injury setbacks. Justin Miller started 33 games for the Toronto Blue Jays between 2002 and 2004. I don’t know a lot about him, but obviously his career hasn’t turned like he’d hoped. Kane Davis has 114 Major League innings under his belt, most recently with Milwaukee. Veterans Jim Crowell and John Ennis round out the bullpen choices.
Franchise outlook: Besides Class-A Vancouver, Ottawa is Canada’s last remaining minor league affiliate, a sad fact for a country that entered a baseball golden age when Pat Gillick's Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and 1993.
When I spoke with Lynx General Manager Kyle Bostwick earlier this winter, he said the 1994 strike weighs heavily on the hearts of Canadian baseball officials. Bostwick worked in the Montreal Expos farm system for years and no organization felt the strike harder. Once a model for excellence, the Expos toppled hard and fast. Many believe the '94 Expos fielded the decade’s best collection of talent, which was mostly home grown. After the strike, they were never the same.
Bostwick maintains that Ottawa has been unfairly labeled as a poor destination for baseball. Indeed, the climate is cold and fans are scarce, but the city is beautiful and bustling, as returning players such as Collier, Calloway and Swann would likely maintain. Lynx Stadium seats 10,332 and is fairly new, built in 1993 and home of one of the largest home clubhouses in minor league baseball.
Next season, the Phillies are set to move into a new, state-of-the-art facility in the Lehigh Valley, leaving Ottawa’s future uncertain. Bostwick said he and his staff are heading into the 2007 season fully prepared for 2008.
Tomorrow: Double-A Reading