Rick Forney has plenty of reason to be celebrating these days because of his Winnipeg Goldeyes polishing off the American Association championship, their second in the last five years.
The veteran manager also has another reason to be happy since one of his most successful former players, relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler, is enjoying his most successful major league season as the closer for the Minnesota Twins.
Kintzler still appreciates Forney’s help even though he was part of the Goldeyes back in ’07 and ’08, then moved on to St. Paul part of the next season before Milwaukee bought his contract and a seven-year relationship with the Brewers started.
“I thought Independent ball would be a cakewalk and I’d be out of there in no time,” Kintzler told The Winnipeg Free Press this week. “The fact he (Forney) was patient with me and gave me an opportunity, that’s all you can really ask for. In the end, he helped me out a lot.”
It was not always easy for the now-32-year-old, who both started and relieved for Winnipeg and had consecutive years with earned run averages above 4.00.
“I definitely remember getting my butt kicked a lot when I first got there. I was coming back from shoulder surgery. You really have to learn how to pitch, with stuff I didn’t have there yet. It prepared me, for when I did get healthy, to be able to succeed at a higher level.
“We didn’t get along sometimes. As I look back I probably said some dumb stuff as a young guy I’d never say again…I learned a lot about myself up there.”
While struggling of late, Kintzler has been in 50 games this season (well over 200 in his career) with the first 14 saves of his seven-year major league career and a 3.04 earned run average.
This Association Grad Helps Earn Triple-A Title
Derek Eitel, who pitched briefly at Wichita one year ago, was a member of El Paso’s Triple-A championship team. The right-hander, 28, was 5-1 with a 3.67 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning in 54 relief outings for San Diego’s top farm club. He also was the winning pitcher in the final game of the Pacific Coast League’s championship series against Oklahoma City.
Eitel was a two-sport star at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, posting a 29-10 mound record in four seasons and establishing school records at quarterback with 7,507 passing yards, 576 completions and 52 touchdown passes.
Guerra Proves Himself Again Before Being Shut Down
Junior Guerra (Wichita ’09-’11), undisputedly the best new American Association grad earning his way in the major leagues this season, has been shut down by Milwaukee after coming back from elbow inflammation, but not until he proved himself all over with a 2-0, 1.88 showing in three starts.
“He finished exactly the way we wanted him to finish coming off the injury,” manager Craig Counsell told The Associated Press. The 31-year-old by way of Wichita in ’11 and ’13 went 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA for 20 starts.
Duo in WBC Qualifier
Outfielders Dexter Kjerstad (Amarillo ’15) and Blake Gailen (Lincoln ’11, Wichita ’08) and right-hander Tyler Herron (Fargo ’12, ’15-’16) have more baseball ahead of them this year. Kjerstad, in the Miami farm system, and Gailen are both on Israel’s roster for the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Brooklyn this weekend and the New York Mets have assigned Herron to the prestigious Arizona Fall League, which mostly has genuine major league prospects.
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 his book, “The Passion of Baseball”, launches October 5 .