Designated hitter/corner outfielder Michael Restovich is now Phillies property after spending parts of six seasons with Minnesota, Colorado, Pittsburgh, the Cubs and Washington last season.
With the Phillies moving their Triple-A operation into a state-of-the-art facility in the Lehigh Valley, the club figures to be in better position to add depth via minor league free agency. If the latest batch of signings are any indication, word has spread that Allentown’s east side is the place to be for Quad-A players.
At 6-4, 244 pounds, Restovich, who will be 29 next season, can’t hit breaking balls or field, but when he makes contact, he makes pitchers pay for mistakes with deep bombs. In parts of six seasons, he’s a .239/.313/.377 hitter with six home runs. He spent most of 2007 with Triple-A Columbus (Washington), hitting .270/.332/.503 with 20 homers and 58 RBIs in 368 at bats.
Over the last two seasons with the Cubs and Nationals, he’s earned just 40 big-league at bats and didn’t do much with them. The big bopper can expect an invite to spring training and may last until the final cuts, but smart money is on a full season in the Lehigh Valley. Maybe IronPigs GM Chuck Domino should pencil in a Michael Restovich bobble head day.
Rounding out the list of signings are right-handers Matt Childers, Kutztown University product Ron Chiavacci, Kris Wilson, infielder Casey Smith, first baseman Andy Tracy and outfielder Brandon Watson. [Link]
About the others: In addition to Restovich, Andy Tracy is another nice minor league part who’s had a couple brief stints in the Majors, including 80 games with Montreal in 2000. The 33-year-old spent all of 2007 as the first baseman for Triple-A New Orleans (Mets), hitting .271/.387/.472 with 23 home runs in 473 at bats. A lefty hitter with 209 lifetime minor league home runs, to go with 13 dingers in the Majors, someone needs to tell this guy about the money players like him can make in Japan. Andy “Randy Bass” Tracy. For now, he and Restovich will be a tough left/right combo for International League pitchers. Update: After a little research, Tracy did in fact give Japan a shot in 2005, but was unsuccessful.
Kris Wilson, 30, pitched parts of five seasons with the Royals and Yankees, going 14-9 with a 5.44 ERA. He pitched in Korea last season, and in 2006, he was with Trenton (AA), Columbus (AAA) and had a cup of coffee with the Yanks.
Matt Childers is a carry-over from last year’s lame duck Ottawa squadron. He was suspended 50 games for violating the league’s drug prevention and treatment program. He went 7-4 with a 5.17 ERA. He could either be in Lehigh Valley or Reading.
Heads up, Morning Call. You have your first IronPigs local angle. Ron Chiavacci was a 44th-round pick of the Expos from nearby Kutztown State University in 1998. The 30-year-old has a career 4.38 ERA in 101 Triple-A games in the Expos, Pirates and Tigers chains. Last season with Toledo, he went 12-6 with a 3.36 ERA with 126 strikeouts and 46 walks, and over his career his K-rate is quite good. He should be the veteran anchor of the Pigs' rotation.
Brandon Watson notched a 43-game hitting streak with Triple-A Columbus last season, which set the International League record. Still 26, the lefty-hitting outfielder finished 2007 as a .312/.352/.371 hitter in 393 games with two home runs. He's had a couple chances in the Majors with Washington and Cincinnati and went 5-for-18 with the Nats last season. He's swiped 189 bases in the minors. Another nice pickup.
Casey Smith spent all of 2007 as a versatile infielder with Salt Lake in the Pacific Coast League. In seven minor league seasons, all with the Angels, he’s a .273/.329/.354 hitter with 19 home runs.
Several of these players figure to earn invites to spring training. At the very least, Lehigh Valley has a nice, new foundation to replace the rot from last season’s dismal Ottawa team. It's shaping up to be an exciting inaugural season for the IronPigs.