Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
Could this be the year of the southpaw?
The pace of signings has predictably picked up in the early days of the new year, and it seems noteworthy that left-handed pitchers Ryan Bollinger, Brandon Mann and Mike Kickham are right in the middle of it.
Bollinger, all 6-foot-6 of him and with experience in 2014 with both Winnipeg and St. Paul, has come off a winter in Australia to get a fresh opportunity in the New York Yankees farm system. This marks the first time the soon-to-be 27-year-old (February 4) has been with a major league organization since 2013 in the Chicago White Sox system.
Mann, who struck out 157 American Association hitters in 143.2 inning at Fargo two years ago although he was only 7-10, 4.07, has signed as a free agent with Texas, which has placed him on the roster of its top farm club at Round Rock and invited him to the major league spring training camp. Triple-A will be a new level for the 33-year-old (except for one game), but he was still striking out more than a hitter per inning last summer when he appeared in 46 games for Oakland’s Class AA farm in Midland, TX.
Kickham, a starter for the Kansas City T-Bones most of 2016 (3-5, 2.83), has signed to remain in the Miami farm system where he split time between the Marlins’ top two clubs last year going 8-10, 3.65 primarily as a starter.
Two other reported recent signings of former American Association players have first baseman Balbino Fuenmayor (Laredo ’13), fresh from another strong offensive showing in his native Venezuela inking a Washington minor league contract and right-hander Nestor Molina (Joplin ’15) coming out of the same winter league with a contract to play in the St. Louis Cardinals chain.
Another Honor in Forney Family As Son David Named to All-Bowl Team
Rick Forney has been pushing the right buttons the last two seasons to give Winnipeg, where he has managed since 2006, back-to-back American Association championships although one might expect him to be popping buttons off his chest for another reason these days.
Forney’s son, David, has just been named to ESPN’s mythical all-bowl team after the Naval Academy sophomore center helped the Midshipmen’s offensive line blitz Virginia for 452 rushing yards in a 49-7 Military Bowl triumph.
The younger Forney, reported anywhere from 303 to318 pounds, started the season second on Navy’s depth chart before moving to a more dominant role. David Forney was an all-state high school honoree in Maryland, and was recruited by a number of colleges before settling on Navy.
The Focus on Chris Martin
Chris Martin‘s return to baseball in the United States does not officially begin for another month, but the right-hander, who started his professional career in the American Association in 2010 (Grand Prairie), has proven popular even before the opening of spring training with the Texas Rangers. For one, the media has its curiosity since he was a teammate in Japan of the hyped Los Angeles Angels rookie pitcher-hitter Shohei Ohtani. And the Rangers have had the 31-year-old on their pre-season promotional tour, an opportunity not often given to someone who has yet to win a major league game.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at www.WirzandAssociates.com.