Today I want to try something different as we get ready for the series against Quad Cities. During the off-season I freelance in both radio and print for high school sports (Football, volleyball, basketball, etc) and this past winter I wrote for the Dispatch-Argus out of Rock Island in the Quad Cities. It just so happens that Dan Makarewicz who got me working with the good people at the Dispatch-Argus is also the River Bandits beat writer. So I thought it would be fun to pick his brain about the River Bandits before this three-game series starts. I’ve seen this done in college sports quite a bit where bloggers will ask bloggers from the other team questions before their teams play and thought it could work here. My questions are in bold and Dan’s answers follow.
1. Through the first two homestands what jumps out at you about this River Bandits team?
“This is a team with a lot of potential. I would not say it has as much talent as the club did at this point last year, but there are some intriguing prospects. RHP Andrew Thurman has the look of a potential ace and position players such as James Ramsay, Brett Phillips and Tanner Mathis show promise. This is more of a veteran roster that had success in Greeneville and Tri-City. Should be some good times ahead.”
2. Obviously the talent from last year was extreme with two #1 picks and numerous other prospects and the Bandits proved the talent was there winning the MWL title. As a beat writer with the 2013 season and all the story lines, what were a couple of your favorites ?
3. The prospects in 2014 seem to be mostly pitching, who has stood out to you so far this season?
“Pitching can be rough early in the season, but Thurman has been impressive his last three outings. His last start, he had eight strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. In his last 13 1/3 innings, he has allowed one run with 18 strikeouts. Kent Emanuel (Friday’s starter in Peoria) also has been solid, crafting a 3.00 ERA and a WHIP below 1.”
4. Manager Omar Lopez appears to have a lot of fun and also a good relationship with the media. From your perspective what is his style and how does his personality come through with his players?
“Great, great guy. In my opinion, he is what you want with a manager. He never gets too high or too low. His demeanor remains the same after a win or loss. Such a pleasure covering him. The players seem to respond well. Omar is demanding, but only because he has high expectations. Obviously, it worked well last year. The vibe inside the clubhouse is the players respecting him and enjoying him as their manager.”
5. Quad Cities, and the Astros, exclusively use the piggyback/tandem system. Can you explain to the fans what this means and how it sets up the River Bandits for a typical series?
“A start gets five innings or 75 pitches (whatever comes first). The second pitcher gets 60 pitches or four innings. If the start does not work five innings, a reliever will take the hill. The second pitcher will not come in before the sixth. The numbers, at least for now, are strict. There are four tandems. If you start on one day, your next appearance will be as a reliever.”
6. What impact have the Astros had on QC (where I assume it is mostly Cubs and Cardinals fans) in their first season plus as an affiliate with the River Bandits?
“A big one. The negative is the Astros not having a huge following here. However, the Bandits made history last year with Appel and Correa playing here. The prospects Houston has sent here have been outstanding. If there is anything as a perfect fit, the Astros are that right now.”
7. Quad Cities native Thomas Lindaeur gets to join the hometown team this week and while he won’t have played a home game before coming to Peoria what kind of buzz is there around the QC for a local kid to play for the Bandits?
“Big buzz. The one thing that makes the Quad-Cities, particularly on the Illinois side, so special is how it supports local products. We saw that with Chasson Randle’s run in the NCAA Tournament (With Stanford). There is a lot of buzz surrounding Lindauer’s arrival. He had a great career at Moline, plus helped the Post 246 team make the 2010 American Legion World Series. People are excited he has reached the Bandits.” Editor’s Note: Lindauer had a 2HR, 5 RBI game on Tuesday at Clinton and is 6-for-14 (.429) to start his MWL career
8. Finally what is your favorite Modern Woodmen Park concessions item that Chiefs fans who make the drive up for the two June series should enjoy?
“I always enjoy the Walking Taco, which you can get along the third-base line. It’s made with Happy Joe’s chips, which are delicious.”
Big thanks to Dan for taking the time to join our blog today. He also is working on an article on Chiefs catcher Carson Kelly for the Dispatch-Argus and when it posts I will link it on social media and the blog.
After last night’s rain out, the sun is out bright today and it is nice and warm as we get ready to host the Bandits. Here are today’s Game Notes and lineup: