SIOUX CITY | Earning a spot on the Sioux City Explorers roster was Sam Judah’s primary focus.
Late Saturday afternoon, X’s Manager Stan Cliburn said the young outfielder from Alabama had nailed down a job.
Driving in three runs with a single, double and triple, Judah helped Cliburn’s team hammer out 17 hits and wallop the Lincoln Saltdogs 13-1 Saturday afternoon at Lewis and Clark Park.
Following up on a 4-for-5 performance in the club’s 8-5 victory Friday night in Huron over the Sioux Falls Canaries, Judah had his new skipper thoroughly convinced in his value to the American Association team.
“He’s won a spot -- you can document that,’’ said Cliburn after his team finished up a four-game preseason schedule with a 2-2 record, matching the 17 hits they had pounded out on Friday.
“He’s on the club, it’s just a matter of me getting him at-bats,’’ said Cliburn, who team jumped out to a 6-0 lead after three and pushed four across the plate in the second and eighth frames.
Lincoln, which had won all four of its previous exhibition contests, was limited to three hits by five different Sioux City pitchers.
“That’s the core of our pitching staff that you saw out there today,’’ said Cliburn, whose team open its regular season schedule Thursday night, hosting Sioux Falls. “I expect them to go out and get those kind of results.’’
Still, Cliburn conceded the Saltdogs were as many as three regulars short with veteran first baseman Ian Gac sidelined by an oblique muscle while shortstop Jason White and outfielder Daniel Carroll are both unavailable due to hamstring problems.
If he can get healthy, Gac could be one of the league’s top sluggers, having slugged more than 30 homers twice in the last five seasons.
The Explorers, meanwhile, have suffered a costly injury of their own, learning Saturday that veteran lefthander Richard Salazar, slated to start their season opener, will begin the season on the disabled list due to shoulder tendonitis.
The Thursday night start, then, falls to Josh Rainwater, a former fourth-round draft pick by the Tigers who led the Association in wins two seasons ago, forging a 14-6 record for Grand Prairie.
Rainwater and Dan Jurik, one of four pitchers still battling for three spots in a starting rotation that became more wide open with Salazar’s injury, each pitched two shutout innings before Lincoln mustered its only run in the fifth inning off lefthander Josh Poytress.
Jon Plefka and closer Chris Bodishbaugh each sandwiched a shutout inning around two scoreless frames for Cody Satterwhite, ticketed to be Cliburn’s bullpen setup man.
The offense, though, certainly wasn’t to be overlooked.
“Knowing I have to bring it every day to make the roster, I feel good,’’ said Judah, an Ozark, Ala., native who starred at the University of Auburn at Montgomery before batting .298 last season for Normal (Ill.) of the Frontier League. “I’m just trying to put a good swing on every pitch. If you hit the ball hard every time, you can’t fault yourself after that.’’
Another Alabama native, veteran outfielder/DH Palmer Karr from Birmingham, continued to make Cliburn happy he picked up the 30-year-old from league rival Laredo, rapping two singles and a double.
Rookie infielder Anthony Kaskadden also had a three-hit outing on a day when a brisk wind from the northwest helped produce three triples for the X’s. All of them came on plays made more challenging than usual for rightfielder Stephen Holdren, who also was helpless to prevent a first-inning line drive homer to right by Wally Backman, Jr.
The battle for the club’s utility infield spot is still undecided between Kaskadden and fellow rookie Travis Weaver, who had a three-hit game Friday night. Meanwhile, Salazar’s injury means Cliburn may only need to trim one more pitcher to get down to the 11-man staff and the 23-man roster he’ll be allowed to carry for the season’s first 10 days.
After that, league rosters must be trimmed to 22.
Article by Terry Hersom, Sioux City Journal