Extra Time Pays Off For Bradenton

While the most important thing for a minor league manager is preparing his players for the next level, Bradenton Marauders manager Oscar Garcia believes winning and player development come hand in hand—even if it takes 18 innings to get the victory.

Three days after suffering a 16-inning loss to the Charlotte Stone Crabs, the Marauders were victorious in an 18-inning game against the Tampa Yankees on Sunday night—the longest game in franchise history. The loss to Charlotte lasted 4 hours and 40 minutes, while the win over Tampa took 5 hours and 23 minutes.

“When we take the field, we’re trying to win,” Garcia said. “We aren’t trying to break a pitcher’s arm by doing so, but we’re going to play the game the right way.  So much of developing individually is by focusing on doing the little things well to win a ballgame.”

Unlike most major league clubs that employ pitchers for specific roles, Bradenton relies on their bullpen to pitch multiple innings, especially when the game goes deep into extra innings.

Last night, Tampa brought in second basemen Hector Rabago to pitch the 18th inning. The Marauders took full advantage as 2010 third-round pick Mel Rojas Jr. delivered a two-out, go-ahead RBI triple to give Bradenton the lead for good.

After getting six shutout innings of relief from lefthander Josh Poytress, Garcia countered by going with righthander Jeff Inman to close the game out. Poytress has yet to give up a run in 16 2/3 innings in the Florida State League and has given up only one in 25 innings including the low Class A South Atlantic League.

Just five Marauder pitchers took the hill in the victory, compared to nine for Tampa.

“You can’t afford to have one-inning guys in the minor leagues. Our pitchers know they have to prepare for anything and everything because this game is just so unpredictable,” Garcia said.

Gerrit Cole, the 2011 No. 1 overall pick, pitched five strong innings last night and has been a force for the Marauders alongside 2010 No. 2 overall pick Jameson Taillon.  Garcia said their presence has forced the whole team to elevate their game.

“We’ve got two potential aces that have given us great consistency so far. They’ve been tremendous for our staff and players. Right now, they’re both in a position where they can focus on winning and developing pitches at the same time,” Garcia said.

Cole is 1-1, 3.54 with 34 strikeouts and 10 walks in 28 innings and Taillon is 1-2, 1.76 with 33 strikeouts and six walks in 31 innings.