By Ray Hamill
Photos by Matt Filar
Crabs fans can expect to see plenty of speed in the outfield and some valuable experience on the mound this summer as the 2010 roster begins to take shape.
The team will have just five or six returning players this year, but most of them will feature on the mound, giving manager Matt Nutter and head coach Robin Guiver a good foundation to build on for the summer season.
"The thing that strikes me right now is we have a pretty solid corps of pitchers," said Nutter. "We don't have some of the big bats coming back, but I look at the pitching staff and I like what I see."
Included among the returning players are last season's co-pitchers of the year, Scott Heinig (left) and John Austin (right), as well as Thomas Whitsett (below-left), who was a weekend starter for the club in 2009. Austin went 7-1 in nine appearances last season, while Heinig finished 5-2 with an ERA of 0.94 in 12 appearances. Whitsett added four wins in 11 appearances.
Also included among the returning players in 2010 are Humboldt County natives Brad Morgan (New Mexico Highlands, below-right) who returns behind the plate this year, and pitcher Zach O'Hanen (bottom-left) out of Oregon Tech.
Guiver, who is in charge of filling the roster each year, is also hoping pitcher Chris DeBoo will return this summer after an outstanding debut campaign with the club in 2009. "We're hoping to get him," Guiver said of DeBoo, who went 9-0 in 16 appearances last summer, posting a lowly ERA of 0.60. "We've been in contact with him and we always have room for another pitcher."
The problem for Guiver when it comes to filling the roster each year, however, is that he can never be certain who might back out at the last moment for a variety of reasons ranging from injuries to college coaches wanting their players to go elsewhere.
"I would say there are probably 27, 28 or 29 players on the roster, total, depending on how things work out," the head coach said. "And there are probably double that in terms of commitments we get because there are a lot of variables and we never know for sure who's coming until the summer. Until they get to Arcata, I never know for sure. That's the nature of summer baseball."
Guiver and Nutter also have to account for some players who may end up playing deep into the College World Series and would be unable to join the team until well into the two-month summer season.
And that's just one of the challenges facing the coaching staff during the early going each summer.
"Another part of it all is trying to balance guys on the quarter system who don't get done with college until mid-June"Guiver added. "That makes a difference for sure, and we have eight or nine guys this year who we know we won't have for the first few weeks of the season."
Overall, however, Guiver likes the way the roster is shaping up, especially in the outfield.
"We should be solid everywhere," he said. "We've got a good returning pitching staff and we have some power hitting players. And we'll have some pretty good speed in the outfield. We should have some serious speed there."
At the plate, three-time team MVP Jeff Giacomini is no longer on the roster, but Guiver is hoping the transition will be eased with the presence of power hitter David Popkins out of UC Davis, who is hitting .430 at clean-up for the Aggies this spring.
"He's a big kid that throws hard," Guiver said of Popkins
Also expected to make some noise for the Crabs this summer is outfielder Blake Gibbs out of Oregon State, as well as Craig Smith out of the University of Portland and Breland Almadova out of the University of Hawaii.
"We should have some good balance," said Guiver, in his 13th season with the Crabs.
For Guiver, the process of building the roster begins before the previous season even ends, when he looks for verbal commitments from players the team wants back, and gets under way in earnest as early as August.
But the process has gotten easier over the years.
"I think it has gotten easier in terms of the more I know the college coaches the more I know I can trust them and the more they know they can trust us," he said. "I don't have to sell the Crabs to these guys as much. They want to send their players here."