The 2013 Sedalia Bombers had some veteran arms. Players like Robert Greco, Peter Fairbanks, Jordan Knutson, Kody McFarland and Zac Anstine helped lead the team to a 24-18 record.
The Bombers enter the 2014 season with a much younger staff. Gone from Jud Kindle’s 2013 roster of the experience from the pitching staff which kept the team in the heat of a division title race for most of the season.
“This one’s a youthful staff, but we’ve got a lot of live arms,” Kindle said. “It’s one of those things, hopefully these guys will settle in. They’re just young.”
Kindle likes what he has coming in, but knows that it could take a few games for them to get going.
“We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had good pitching out of the gate every year so far,” he said. “I expect that out of these guys, but there’s not a lot of juniors and seniors, it’s a lot of freshmen and sophomores.”
One of those college freshman is a pitcher who has played plenty of games at Liberty Park in the past: Smith-Cotton graduate, former Sedalia Traveler and current Coffeyville Junior College pitcher Dalton Christian.
“He’s got a bunch of up-side,” Kindle said. “He’s big. He’s got a chance to throw pretty hard. He’s got life on his fastball but his command is the big thing for him. He’s going to have to command his ball and throw strikes, limit walks.”
Kindle expects Christian to come out of the bullpen but could be in the mix for starts later in the season.
Among the Bombers starters is a returning pitcher, Sam Perez. He mostly saw time in the bullpen last season due mostly to the wealth of pitching talent the Bombers had. Perez now moves into the rotation following a spring season which saw him record a 4.50 ERA at Missouri State.
“I think Sam Perez has earned his starting spot from last year,” Kindle said. “He had a really good year for us, we just didn’t get him the innings out of the bullpen that he deserved. He’ll probably be the innings eater this year for us.”
Kindle expects to see Mark Reyes in the starting rotation, but perhaps not for long. Reyes, a left-handed pitcher, led Crowder to a Region 16 championship this spring with a 2.20 ERA and averaging 8.48 strikeouts per game.
“He’s got late life on his fastball, very good cutter,” Kindle said. “He’s one of those kids that has a good chance at being drafted so we might only see him for about a week.”
Clayton Lulley from Maryville could pitch a lot of innings and a start or two early in the season. Nick Derminjian out of Cal-Bakersfield is expected to start once he arrives.
Tyler Tuepker from Missouri Western State could also see some starts.
“From what I saw, he’s got pretty good stuff,” Kindle said. “I think he’s got a chance to be pretty good.”
Kindle’s pick to start the home opener on Monday against is Cole Bartlett, a right-hander from Mizzou who has a fastball, curveball and changeup.
“He’s going to have some control issues early,” Kindle said. “All three of his pitches are really good.”
Bartlett saw limited action as a freshman at Mizzou this year. As a senior in high school in 2013, he led Hagerstown (Ind.) to a 24-4 record and conference and sectional championships with 99 strikeouts and a 1.11 ERA.
Out of the bullpen, the Bombers have Chandler Wolf, a Russellville native and Jefferson Junior College pitcher, slated to be the closer early in the season.
“His slider is definitely his best pitch,” Kindle said. “I think he’s got the personality to be a good closer, it’s whether he takes the role or not. Right now he’s our closer.”
SIU-Edwardsville pitcher Brett Thomas returns to the Bombers. Last summer he had a 2-0 record with one save in 10 appearances, starting four games and coming out of the bullpen six times.
“He’s kind of our jack-of-all-trades again,” Kindle said. “He’ll start when we need him to start, middle relief when we need middle relief.”
Also out of the bullpen the Bombers will have Reese Taylor, a Jefferson Junior College right-hander, middle innings reliever Julian Lankford from Maryville and Tony Forcelledo from Northwest Missouri State, a left-hander with a good curveball who Kindle plans to bring in to face lefties as a situational reliever.
The Bombers open the season this weekend with a two-game series at Chillicothe before returning to Liberty Park for the home opener at 7 p.m. Monday against Nevada.