June 27, 2008 / Sports

‘Clones to avenge ‘07

The Brooklyn Paper

Last year was a dream season for the Brooklyn Cyclones, but it was the kind of dream that ended abruptly and disturbingly.

The Cyclones posted a 49-25 record, the best in the New York-Penn League and the second-best in franchise history. But their unceremonious loss in the finals to the Auburn Doubledays caused an uneasy feeling that has stayed with the team all off-season.

The new season has arrived not a moment too soon. Finally, the ‘Clones have a chance to make things right.

To do so, they will rely on a bumper crop of high draft picks from the recent 2008 draft, in which the Mets – the Cyclones parent organization – had three of the first 33 picks.

Two of those picks – shortstop Reese Havens, drafted 22, and pitcher Brad Holt, drafted 33 – will be on the Cyclones’ opening day roster. It is believed that Ike Davis, the 18th pick in the draft, will report to Brooklyn as well once his contract is settled.

Havens will be the first Mets first-rounder to play for the Cyclones since Bob Keppel in 2003. If Davis joins the squad, it will represent the first time in franchise history in which two Mets first round picks have been in Brooklyn at the same time.

The big names on the roster have raised expectations in Brooklyn, expectations Manager Edgar Alfonzo had no interest in playing down.

“I’m very excited about this team – we have some very good-looking young players,” said Alfonzo, who is entering his third season at the helm of the Cyclones.

“I think this team, in my eyes, is better than last year’s by far.”

Havens, a University of South Carolina product, will begin the year at shortstop. Scouts see him as a patient hitter with pop in his bat and superb instincts for the game.

He will partner at the keystone with second baseman Josh Satin. A sixth round pick this year out of the University of California-Berkeley, Satin is seen by scouts as a potential impact hitter at a premium defensive position.

At third base, eighth round pick Eric Campbell, a Boston College product, will see action. He will split time with Zach Lutz, a fifth round pick last year who was impressive before a stress fracture suffered on opening day required season ending surgery.

If and when Davis, the first round pick from Arizona State, joins the team, the first base job will probably be his. Until then, Jefferies Tatford, a returning Cyclone, and Nicholas Giarraputo, who played Rookie-level ball in Kingsport, Tenn., last year, will man the position.

The outfield will be anchored by returning Cyclone Brandon Kawal, whose .293 batting average earned him a spot in the NYP-League All-Star game last year.

Recent third round pick Kirk Nieuwenhuis will probably man center field. A strong and athletic center fielder from Azuza Pacific University (Calif.), Nieuwenhuis was rated the top NAIA player in the country by Baseball America.

Returnee Will Vogl and recent draftee John Servidio, a 26th round pick, will see action in the outfield as well.

Behind the plate, catchers Cesar Cordido and Ralph Henriquez will shepherd the team’s pitching staff.

The ‘Clones opening day starter will be Pedro P. Martinez, who pitched at Kingsport last year and is not to be confused with his big-club namesake.

Martinez the Younger, who also wears number 45, works off a low 90s fastball, mixing in a sinker and a curveball.

Manuel Olivares, another Kingsport promotee, will pitch the season’s second game. Tim Stronach, who split time between Brooklyn and Savannah, Ga., last year, will pitch the season’s third game.

Holt, the 33rd overall pick in this year’s draft out of UNC-Wilmington, will play a key role as well. A 6-4 inch right-hander with a “projectable frame,” in scout-speak, Holt has a devastating fastball that touches 96 mph but is thought to be in need of a reliable secondary pitch.

For Holt and the other top prospects calling Brooklyn home this summer, hopes are high and the pressure is on.

“I tell them, be ready to play here: It’s exciting, but it’s a challenge,” Alfonzo said.

“I like to win, the organization wants to win, and we’re going to win.”

***

The Cyclones open the season with three games against their trans-Verrazano Bridge rival Staten Island Yankees, before a heading to Aberdeen, Md., for a weekend series against the IronBirds.

The ‘Clones then play a three-game set against the Hudson Valley Renegades before playing host to Aberdeen for a three-game series.

Home games are Monday the 23 and Thursday the 26 through Monday the 30.

To purchase tickets, call 718-507-TIXX, go to www.brooklycyclones.com, or purchase from the box office at Keyspan Park.


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