After such a warm welcome, I figured out the best way to introduce myself again to the three loyal readers of PH8. I’m going to talk entirely about another person. Erin Bolen has resumed her pinch-hitting role down in Springfield and shares with us that she has the inside track to take over the beat full-time.
The SCards snagged a playoff berth by winning the first-half title and look to take the Texas League title back to the friendly confines of Hammons Field. You can follow the updates on Twitter @ErinBolenNL and listen tonight during the UCB Radio Hour as we chat with the newest Cards’ beat writer.
Let the grilling begin…
Josh: I see your background is in covering other sports mainly — how did the SCards gig come about?
Erin: I actually covered the Cardinals at the tail end of last season when Kary Booher left for Baseball America, so I’ve done some with them in the past. I got to cover Wallace when he first came up and Descalso when he played the first two games in Springfield without a nameplate.
I joined the N-L in August 08 after working two years in San Angelo, Texas. I covered high school, small colleges and a semi-pro baseball team (and actually covered Shelby Miller a bit – he was a junior and his team was at the fringes of our coverage area). Previously, I’d interned with the Dallas Cowboys working for their Web site and covered a variety of sports. Honestly, my true love is ice hockey.
This year, I spent most of the summer covering area golf but backed up the Cardinals beat, covering a few games and doing a few features since I got to know some of the players and all of the staff last year. When Matt left for Tulsa, it made the most sense for me to take over the beat full time.
My “job description” is the beat writer for the Missouri State women’s basketball team and golf.
Any shock to how the Baker thing went over in the newsroom? We Cardinal bloggers were shocked with the timing…
Young journalists (Matt’s 24, I’m 25) are always looking for the next rung on the ladder, so I wouldn’t say I was surprised that he got on with a bigger paper. The timing was a little hard on us, though. We’re also losing a second writer at the end of this week and are seriously short staffed.
But as far as Matt, I mean, I can’t begrudge him anything. When the opportunity arises, you have to take it because you don’t know when your next shot will come.
With that said covering a team about to make the playoffs can never be considered a bad thing — happy for the opportunity?
I loved covering the team last year and have enjoyed covering them this year, tonight’s deadline-pushing fiasco notwithstanding. Ed. Note — Erin is referring to this game, check out her work while you are at it.
I enjoy getting to work with organizations that conduct their business professionally, and the Cardinals are definitely that.
What are your first impressions with this year’s Springfield club?
They’re not exactly first, but I’ve been more impressed with the pitching than the hitting. They’ve got some live arms in the bullpen, and while no one on the starting staff will blow you away, Lynn and Dickson (and Hearne before he got sent up) have been consistently effective at getting guys out, even when their best stuff isn’t there.
In the field, Jim Rapoport has really come around since struggling at the plate last season, and he’s always had great range in the outfield. I haven’t seen a lot of Colt Sedbrook yet, but I’ve been really impressed with his glove.
D. ‘Tools’ Jones and Joey ‘Bombs’ Mather are both on the comeback trail. Do they have the appearance of being ready to take it to the next level?
I’ve seen almost none of Jones, so that’s a wait and see. Pop Warner told me he wouldn’t be surprised if Jones starts next season at Double A after missing this streght. His defense in his first game back was very nice (one spectacular diving catch). Mather also looks very comfortable in the field, and his swing doesn’t look bad. It’s just not quite in rhythm yet, and that’s to be expected after missing as much time as he did.
Pete Kozma has taken some flack for the most part of this season. Are his struggles mainly related to his youth at the AA level?
I think some of his defensive struggles were. He was definitely rushing early and was playing nervous. And the reason he was rushing, honestly, was he wasn’t trusting and was waiting too long to react to the ball off the bat. He wanted to make sure it was going where it was supposed to be going and therefore putting himself behind. That’s really settled down now, and he looks quite comfortable in the field.
I’m not as sure about his bat. His pitch selection still isn’t quite where it needs to be, and he sometimes struggles to move guys over or get bunts down. But the scouts I talk to say they see positive signs in his swing and think (as one told me today), “if he keeps going like this, they may be onto something.”
Lynn in the rotation and Sanchez closing out games have really turned some heads — which one do you think has the most upside?
Potential or likely?
Sanchez definitely has the highest ceiling. He’s got nasty stuff, and he’s got the ability to go one or two innings. The difference between his fastball and his offspeed pitches makes hitters look silly. And he’s still only 20. It makes me laugh because the first game he pitched in Springfield this year was a mess – the world’s worst throw to first, a ball way out of the zone and then an hour-long rain delay that ended his outing.
But I think Lynn is right on course to be a No. 4 guy at best and a No. 5 guy at worst. He’s not got overpowering stuff, but he’s calm and knows how to work what he does have effectively. He’s won at every level he’s ever played at, and there’s something to be said for that.
You have seen how the other teams in the Texas League stack up with the SCards — can this team win the whole thing?
They’ll have to get everything back in order. None of the teams in the Texas League are going to run away with it at this time. Springfield has the potential to be dominating on the mound, even from their less-heralded guys (like Dickson), and their bats are good enough when guys are playing well. There’s not a ton of power, but they can get guys on and move them around. If they can figure out their issues on the road and get their bats going at the right time, they’ve got a shot.
Time to look into the future a bit — this time in 2010, we still following Erin Bolen bylines on the Cardinal games?
Well, right now we might not get to hire replacement writers, so it could very easily happen. I really enjoy covering the Cardinals, and I think I do at least a decent job at it. It’s all a matter of who we have at that time. The way it’s looking right now, I’d say the chances are pretty likely.But then again, if I get an offer to cover an NHL team at a major paper, that would probably win.
What is the one thing you would change with AA baseball?
Late starts when I have an early deadline.
Seriously, not a lot, at least in Springfield.
Name the first player from the 09 edition to break the big league roster?
Other than Mather? If you forced me to pick of the guys here right now, I’d say Sanchez. He’s got the most major-league ready stuff. But it’s so hard to tell. Descalso has the tools to be a solid second baseman. Hearne’s got a killer curve when it works. It’s a matter of opportunity almost as much as it is a matter of talent.
Does Wallace count?