First-year Lake Erie Crushers manager Chris Mongiardo had some tough decisions to make Wednesday.
With the Frontier League rosters due to be trimmed to 24 by 5 p.m., Mongiardo hemmed and hawed over some tough cuts on his pitching staff.
In the end, he made the decision to part ways with experienced pitchers Trevor Longfellow and Brent Choban among the four players he released. Two others -- six-year veteran Andrew Davis and right-handed pitcher Michael Jahns -- were placed on the 14-day disabled list, while rookie infielder Adam Ford was out on the seven-day disabled list.
Outfielder Michael Durham and right-handed pitcher Chris Orphanos, both rookies, were also released.
The team also acquired rookie catcher Kevin Franchetti from Rockland of the Can-Am League for a player to be named later to back up Emmanuel Quiles behind the plate.
“I had no problem releasing guys when I was (managing) Richmond,” Mongiardo said, “but for some reason, I had a tough time releasing guys here. I brought in a lot of guys that either met or exceeded my expectations, and it was tough.”
Mongiardo made his second wave of cuts Sunday, releasing catcher Nico Baldelli, shortstop Roger Bernal, left-handed pitcher Brian Del Rosso, and right-handed pitchers Jordan Kraus and Blake Ware. Kraus is an Olmsted Falls resident who was the Crushers’ first draft choice two weeks ago.
“Kraus was pitching really well, and I really liked him,” Mongiardo said. “But he got caught up in the numbers game. I had to make some tough decisions on the pitching staff, especially with the rookies.”
The two notable cuts were Longfellow and Choban. Longfellow led the Crushers in victories in 2012, going 11-2 with a 3.35 ERA. He was ex-manager Jeff Isom’s Opening Day starter in 2013, but was released after going 2-2 with a 6.95 ERA in four starts and wound up with the Fort Worth Cats of United League Baseball.
Choban, acquired from Florence for Dave Middendorf during the offseason, was 7-7 with a 4.89 ERA in two career seasons with the Freedom. The Rittman native graduated from Akron Archbishop Hoban and pitched for Ohio University.
“I’ll be honest with you, Choban threw the ball real well, but with his being experienced, I had to roll the dice with the younger guys,” Mongiardo said. “It came down to the number of experienced guys. I’m going with (Roberto) Padilla and (Todd) Kibby as my other two starters.
“Hopefully, Longfellow and Choban will find new spots very soon. Both deserve to play in this league. Who knows what can happen down the road? One or both may end up back here.”
The Crushers’ roster sits at 23 — 10 pitchers and 13 position players. Mongiardo hopes to acquire an outfielder that will bump the roster back to 24.
“For now, I’m keeping 10 pitchers, but that will change,” Mongiardo said. “When (Matt) Rein returns from his coaching job, I’ll likely go with 11 pitchers and 13 position players. That’s the breakdown I usually like. But, with the amount of young guys we’ll have on the offense, I felt I had to go with the experienced guys there to help us get over the hump.”
Mongiardo stressed that his three DL players have legitimate injuries.
“Ford got a little banged up a few days ago,” he said. “We spoke with the trainers and they felt that he’d be good to go in seven days, so we DL’ed him to save us a roster move. We believe he has a future with this team.
“Same goes with Jahns, who was with us last year and really turned it around. And, obviously, Davis would be in the lineup if he was 100 percent. We expect all three to be activated when their stints are up.”
Mongiardo brought four catchers to camp and released the three rookies. He had his eye on Franchetti from the get-go and finally brought him in.
“(Emmanuel) Quiles will be our No. 1 guy, but I wanted a No. 2 guy that could play every day,” Mongiardo said. “We may play Quiles at first base a bit to spell him, and we wanted to be safe in case he got injured or picked up by an affiliated team.
“Franchetti was the first guy I tried to sign but he wound up going to Rockland in the Can-Am League. Fortunately, I was able to get him for a player-to-be-named. He played at Ball State and at Carson-Newman, and I’ve never gone wrong with a guy from Carson-Newman. Plus, his coach at Ball State was mine at Kent State, so I know he knows what’s going on.”
Mongiardo will go with only five experienced pitchers out of 10.
“The guy that caught me by surprise was (Jose) Rosario, who we picked up in the tryout camp,” Mongiardo said. “He threw the ball the best out of everyone. He’ll start out in the pen but eventually we’ll put him in the rotation. He was in the rotation when he was in the Reds’ organization, but we feel best putting him in the pen.”
Of the 23 players on the roster, 12 played last year for Lake Erie, the Frontier League runner-up. Counting Davis and Jahns, that number increases to 14.
Mickey Jannis, Connor Whelan and Kibby will start the opening series, with Padilla currently penciled in as the No. 4 starter. Jason Wilson will open as the closer, with Zac Treece the set-up man.
Offensively, Mongiardo is still fiddling with the lineup. He said Anderson Hidalgo, Craig Hertler, Juan Sanchez, Quiles and Vincent Mejia will be the everyday starters, and the other spots are still up in the air.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.