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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2018 3:22 am 
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Turner Bulks Up Rotation; Saenz Lineup?
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

February 8, 2028: Aurora, Colorado - The offseason has been a quiet one - aside from the sudden shifts a top The PEBA hierarchy, but that all changed shortly after the League officially moved into it's Preseason as Aurora added two established vets to bolster both the rotation and the line-up.

First off, one of the top free agent starters on the market will replace another top free agent starter who is still on the market. 29-year old Right-hander, John Turner - the #1 selection in the 2020 draft by the New Orleans Trendsetters, joins Aurora on a guaranteed 3-year, $55.5M deal which includes an opt-out after year three, plus a pair of team options that would add another $37M to Turner's pockets.

Turner will replace Clark Snow, the 31-year old who had his best career year in 2027 - his second with the Borealis after he came to Aurora in a trade with Amsterdam for Eduardo Romano and Bill Jones (plus cash and an exchange of draft picks). Clark had provided Aurora a 13-7 record, 2.32 ERA and 174 K/25 BB last season. Snow was Aurora's most effective starter in 2027 and quickly jumped at free agency looking for the huge pay day. He is still unemployed.

To fill the Snow Void, Boy Wonder GM Will Topham turned to Turner who was 12-10, with a 3.17 ERA, 181 K and 41 BB will pitching for the 79-83 Trendsetters. 'JT', as he's been know to be called, should fit right in with the Aurora staff as he was 4th in the IL in strikeouts and 3rd in K/9. Featuring a divesting fastball that tops out at 99 mph, and a curve, change and forkball that would be many pitchers best pitch, it's not a reach to expect him to repeat that feat in the SL - joining perennial leaders 'Train Arollin'' and 'Tugboat'.

Turner is an unassuming guy who 'plays the game the right way' - by old school standards. As the GMs father would say years ago - he pitches like he's done it before. Aurora's manager Kata Hayagawa was noncommittal about where he would have JT in the rotation, saying only, "It will continue to be Provost and Smith throwing 1 & 2..."

Aurora's other move does not have the 'surface bang' that the Turner signing has, but they hope that it will provide some bang to the lineup - something this team has lacked over the last number of years. In doing so they bring into the fold a former-Bear, former-Evas minor leaguer, who didn't even play in 2027!

That someone is 1B Carlos Saenz, a 32-year old from Lafayette, Louisiana, who's last year of competitive ball was in 2026 at AAA Kyoto - where he hit .273 with 21 HR and 75 RBI. With Pablo Medrano (.238, 4 HR) and Gabe McIntyre (.293, 3 HR) mostly providing little power in shared time at first, Saenz seemed a cheap gamble with a high risk-reward outlook.

Carlos signed a 1-year deal for $2.3M - small enough to jettison should he be a total bust, but a total bargain if he even approaches those 2026 numbers. The lone concern really centers around what is mostly a very poor defensive record - Saenz may really be better suited at DH, but Kata seems to have other plans to fill that spot (rumors suggest 'Fido', while carrying a 3rd catcher, or 'Fudd' or River Pope) - a spot vacated by the departure of Pedro Ferringo to free agency.

"We have for so long been the chased," Will Topham said, discussing these moves, "but now it's Shin Seiki's turn to be the target of the League. There is one fundamental truth about beating the Evas - if you can't out-slug them, you better out-pitch them! We hope these moves put us in a position to do both of those just a little bit better."

With Spring Training just about 4 weeks away, we shall soon find out.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 4:52 am 
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Spring Drops Big Borealis Challenges
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

March 6, 2028: Grand Junction, Colorado - The Borealis have won the Desert Hills division for 7 consecutive years, while winning 100+ games in each of those seasons - although it was a long 5-years ago when they put the finishing touches on their Three-peat performance.

And yet, season after season, we hear the rumbles - this is the year it falls apart... the Borealis are too old... the once powerful Aurorans have become too dependent on pitching, defense and timely hitting. And each year, the nay sayers weren't necessarily wrong. So what does 2028 have in store for Aurora?

This is the year it falls apart... The Borealis are too old... The once powerful Aurorans have become too dependent on pitching, defense and timely hitting. Will things really be that bleak on The Front Range? Let's take a look at three key questions as Mike Provost takes the mound against Toyama in the Spring opener.

DH-Catcher/Catcher-DH
It may seem like a long time ago, but from 2015 through 2018, Aurora infamously employed the 'Two-Headed Catcher' strategy. Bob Keller and young Scott Vinson shared the duties at catcher and DH - and effectively so; and Ernie Card made quite the living as the seldom used back-up catcher. 10-years later Aurora has 2022 1st round pick 'Fido' Castro and 2023 Contraction Draft selection Domingo Gutierrez - and they've been faced with an 'apple and orange' choice between the two as the presence of perennial .300 hitting Pedro Ferringo manned the DH spot.

Now, Ferringo has greedily fled for free agency and had to settle for a cheap deal with Reno after highballing Aurora management. Domingo Gutierrez had an outstanding first season as the primary starter in 2027 - hitting .336, and Castro has hit 30 homers and is 29-29 on stolen bases over the past two years. Might we see the return of the 'Two-Headed Catcher'? Might one (Castro) slide full time into the DH spot?

Maybe... but there's a hitch with the 'THC v2.0' plan.

The hitch centers around another pair of 1st round picks - 2023 draftee 'Fudd' Martinez and 2025 draftee Ricardo Zamora - both corner outfielders, and both needing to start proving themselves. 'Fudd' has had his chances, getting into 114 games over the past two seasons, but managing to hit just .217. He hasn't shown the power that Aurora had hoped he'd develop, though his speed is undeniable - he's 37-40 in SB. Zamora - almost a mirror image of Martinez, will be getting his first chance at making the Big Leagues after a solid AAA season (.290/21 HR/65 RBI) that earned him Aurora Minor League Hitter of the Year. He also stole 27 bases in 37 attempts.

Why, you may ask, do a pair of young corner outfielders impact the decision about using both catchers in the lineup (and, of course, carry a third catcher). Well, both Martinez and Zamora are far better defensively - and faster, than long time incumbent in Left - River Pope. We all know what Pope gives us - a clutch .300 hitter, with modest power, runs the bases well, despite his reduced speed. Moving Pope to DH, replacing his former partner in crime at the top of the line-up, would make good defensive sense - if 'Fudd' or Ricardo hit. Using Castro at DH makes sense if both he and Domingo hit. Five players, two spots (well three if you count LF), and uncertainty - as only Pope has shown the talent over the test of time.

Who's on First?
Last year, Theron Boswell started at second and Pablo Medrano was the first baseman. It wasn't long before both those players spent time trading off at second while Gabe McIntyre took over at first, finishing the year with a .293 average. But in 7 PEBA seasons as mostly a back-up (2027 saw Gabe play the most games in his career - 131) he has hit a grand total of 12 homers. Medrano, in five seasons, has 29 homers and a .253 average.

But as so many would tell you, you have to get power out of the first base position, and if you want to 'Keep up with the Jones'' - and as we know, the new 'hunted', the freshly minted Rodriguez Cup holding Evil Evas have averaged well over 200 HRs over the past 5 years. Aurora hit 113 last year, well near the bottom of the League. So with that, enter the Old and Young tandem of Carlos Saenz, the former-Bear, and 2024 1st round pick Jose Torres.

Torres had a monster breakout year in '27 that could have just as easily netted him the Aurora Minor League Player of the Year. His .278/26 HR/76 RBI provided a glimmer of the hitter Aurora was drafting out of West Virginia. Also coming off a big season is Saenz - except he was out of baseball in 2027, so his .273/21 HR/75 RBI at AAA Kyoto (SS) are a full year off for the 32-year old Louisianan. Saenz comes to Aurora on a 'no pressure' $2.3M, 1-year contract that could be a cheap boom, or an inexpensive bust, but one thing is for sure going into this spring - Aurora has given the 'improve the power' mantra lip service these past few years, but they finally look like they may have the horses to do just that.

And just as easily it could be Pope in left, Castro at DH, Medrano at 2B and McIntyre at 1B, with the questions about Aurora power arising again. Good thing Britt, Carlisle and Flores are still around!

And on the Fifth Day, the Starter is...
Aurora looks pretty solid in the rotation heading into the spring. Provost, 'Tugboat' 'Chief' and newly inked John Turner gives Aurora once more one of the toughest rotations in the PEBA. But what about Day 5?

After an outstanding 2026, where he posted a 14-8 record and a 2.98 ERA, 'Terror' Diaz seemed to have found his mojo, but ineffectiveness, inconsistency, and injury doomed Diaz to an 8-7 mark and 4.02 ERA in 19 starts. Enter former-Lion Carlos Rivera, whose own ineffectiveness found him demoted to the 'pen, until Diaz hit the DL. His 3.71 ERA is a bit deceptive - particularly with the frequency he forks up gopher balls. Diaz is earning some big bucks. Rivera even bigger bucks. A realist would chose one of the two to take the mound against Neo-Tokyo to open the season's second series.

Are there other options? Sure. Hugh Jones had 7 starts at the end of 2026, and posted a tiddy 2.79 ERA - which earned him a full year and 27 starts at AAA Thornton (12-9, 2.44). A long-shot would be 2026 top pick Right-hander Rob Imhoff - if he can stay healthy. Aurora drafted Imhoff while on the mend, then in 9 games posted a 1.56 ERA at Mokule'ia. Last season, at AA Gatineau (yes, he uncharacteristically skipped A Ball) he had a 2.74 ERA in 16 starts. He had two rather forgettable starts at AAA, but that is where he is scheduled to begin the year - but who knows. The team's scouting department rave about his ability, so a good spring - and he's expected to get a couple of starts, may portend his arrival on The Front Range sooner than later.

These questions may or may not get answered by the time the team breaks camp and heads east, over the Continental Divide to open the season at Northern Lights, entertaining the Bears. Perhaps the spring will open more doors and more questions. We shall see. The one thing we can guarantee you is - Baseball is Back!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:03 am 
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This blog is fantastic, Mike. I like the big picture looks at the team and it’s prospects, mixed with items about players (did the Stork end up retiring, or did he hook on with a new team?), and coverage of the season. What a nice sense of immersion you’ve created! I’m going to attempt to do something like it for the Claymores - this is exactly the kind of league I was hoping to find!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 5:59 pm 
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Vic, thank you for the kind words. I've really made a conscious effort to create as good a record as I can. From what I've already seen, I can't wait to see where you take the Scottish!!

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 3:25 am 
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One Game in - Season Already Over?
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

March 7, 2028: Grand Junction, Colorado - At least he got the win; as hollow a silver lining as they come.

In what can only be described as the worst possible outcome to hit the Borealis after just a single Spring game, the Borealis got the painful news that Michel Provost's season is over - and maybe his time with the team that signed the little known free-agent 23-year old from Canada.

It was a normal spring game for Provost, heading into his fourth and final inning of Aurora's opening game. Despite surrendering 3-runs, Provost had 6 K and seemed to be throwing smoothly, when all of a sudden one could see the pain on his face as he followed through with a pitch. With a grimace, he threw his glove to the ground, circled the mound, cursing.

Aurora manager Kata Hayagawa and trainer Dennis Patterson ran to the mound, and after a brief consultation, escorted 'Train Arollin'' to the dugout and into the locker room. It didn't take long before the initial diagnosis began circling around the training facility here on the Back Range - a torn flexor tendon - ending Provost's season with the first significant injury of his career, and possibly dooming Aurora's season as well.

The guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer - and 5-time Golden Arm winner (second only to 'Fireworks' 7-award winning seasons) has a 160-83 record with a 2.73 ERA. After struggles at AAA, where he promptly landed after signing with Aurora for 5-years and $72M, Provost had it all come together in 2019 - Aurora won their second title (first under the Topham regime), Provost won his first Golden Arm, and he posted an unreal 1.52 ERA and had 258 K with only 9 walks. His career numbers of 2079 K and 195 BB are "video game worthy" as the Boy Wonder GM stated when giving the bad news to the press.

With the loss of one of the greatest arms in PEBA history on the shelf, where do the Borealis go from here?

"Well, I can tell you it won't be through free agency, even though an arm we are very familiar with is still unemployed" Topham stated, "we just don't have the budget room to make that kind of offer." He would go on, being... politic, about his relationship with his half-brother and boss and his... miserly nature. "But what I can say is, this is why you can never have enough pitching."

Well, that's one thing we know about Aurora. They always seem to have the arms.

For starters, they still have a rotation anchored by 'Tugboat', whose own pair of Golden Arms (the two have won the last 6 awards) reflects the excellency of his career (156-71, 2.68, with a not too shabby 1817 K). Add in last years free agent acquisition 'Chief' Nieves and this years catch, JT, John Turner, things look solid for the top 3 rotation spots. Based on past history, 'Terror' Diaz and Carlos Rivera would seem the likely candidates for the 4 and 5 spot. Neither has shown the kind of consistency Aurora would like.

When asked about other options, Topham replied' "We have some guys we are going to take a look at, but for the time being we are going to turn to Rob Imhoff, whom John Donohue and his scouting team feel really highly about."

If Imoff can stay healthy. The 29th overall selection in the 2026 draft, Imoff was one of the top arms in the USCBA when mid-senior season he ruptured a finger tendon that kept him out of a good portion of the Short A season. He did make 9 starts, posting a 1.56 ERA, with 37 K and 3 BB - all more in line with his first three college seasons. Last year, starting at AA Gatineau (2.74 ERA ini 16 starts), then finishing at AAA with a brief two appearances, Rob would end up missing 11 weeks in all from a variety of ailments. Aurora had planned on giving him a pair of starts this spring, then send him to Thornton, for more seasoning. Now he's pitching for a spot in the Opening Day rotation.

It's never a good time to sustain an injury of this magnitude, but if it's going to happen, now is that time. It feels like a good bet that the three men named above will rotate through the 4th and 5th rotation spots. Perhaps a trade is on the horizon - if not before the season opens, perhaps as the All-Star game fades into the Trade Deadline. Or maybe Aurora's attempts to pump up the offensive power will provide the punch to make up for Michel's loss.

One thing is certain - that is the state of Provost's contract. In May of 2024 - after winning his 3rd Golden Arm, Provost signed a 5-year extension worth $175M - a tidy $35M per year. What that contract also called for is a team option after the 2028 season - a season that officially leaves a whole world of questions and zero statistical data. Looking ahead, that $35M on the books for 2029 is an awfully nice looking chunk that could be spread to multiple pieces.

Could Aurora be saying goodbye to arguably the most significant piece of their 4-Cup run?

They could.

Would they?

Ah... This is the team that anguished over the losses of McDonald, Jose Rivera, 'Stork' and 'Sawmill'. Then again... $35M is a lot of loonie's at the exchange counter.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:56 am 
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Such hard news. But you're totally right -- better this happen now then right after the trade deadline. Tough blow to Aurora but I don't have any doubt that the team will be fine! That 35m next year will definitely be a nice consolation prize.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:57 pm 
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Yikes - that’s a tough break in a spring training game. At least it sounds like you have enough depth on the staff, plus the possibility of Imhoff, to pull through ok. If it’s any consolation, nice blog post ...

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:00 am 
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Claymores wrote:
At least it sounds like you have enough depth on the staff, plus the possibility of Imhoff, to pull through ok.

Yeah... Imhoff... who has missed significant time in the past two years, throws 1 inning in his first spring start and will be out for 5 weeks with shoulder inflammation... :shake: :shake: :shake: :shake: :shake:

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:31 pm 
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Mid-Spring Trends? Hitters
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

March 14, 2028: Grand Junction, Colorado - As the spring continues it's leisurely pace towards the start of the 2028 season, there are a few players whose attempts to crack the already bulging 26-man roster have made for compelling storylines:

- Jose Torres, 1B: The 27th overall selection in the 2024 draft was chosen for his power potential, as he averaged just under 20 homers a year and hit well over .300. He had 10 in half a year at A Ball SLRC after the draft, 19 at Gatineau the following year, and after an off-year adjusting to AAA in 2026, he had 26 last year and hit .278.

After a 4-12 week, with a homer and 3 RBI, Jose is hitting .375 for the spring.

Challengers: Pablo Medrano, who has split time at 1st and 2nd (along with Gabe McIntyre) is hitting .448, with a far and away team best 11 RBI. McIntyre is hitting .294, while FA signee Carlso Saenz is hitting .263.

- Ricardo Zamora, LF: The 29th overall selection in the 2025 draft was also chosen with added power in mind - although his blazing speed and more than adequate defense in the outfield were considerations. after averaging 14 homersand .300 in college, he hit an impressive 12 homers at SA Mokule'ia (plus 2 at SLRC) after the draft, then 13 homers at Thornton (plus 2 at Gatineau) despite hitting only .217. Last year, a full season at AAA had him hitting .290 with 21 homers.

After a slow 2-8 week, with a homer, Zamora is hitting .389 with a pair of homers for the spring.

Challengers: Depending on how Aurora handles the DH position they could carry 5 OF - one of which is likely defensive CF wiz Nick Heath (hitting only .211 - .232 in 185 AB last year). With starters Pope, Carlisle and Flores a given, that leaves the 5th spot between Zamora and 2023 16th overall pick Roberto Martinez - who has struggled at the major league level and is only hitting .118 this spring.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2019 1:39 am 
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Spring Finishing in Flourish, Hard Choices Abound
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

March 27, 2028: Grand Junction, Colorado - Spring Training is down to it's last four games and Aurora looks to be ready for Opening Day. An 8-game winning streak (and, yes, it's Spring Training) has been a pitching boon - 3-games allowing just a run and a pair of shut-outs has ERAs dropping all around.

'Onion' formerly of Palm Springs, has been en fuego, allowing no runs on 7 hits and 10 K in his 11 innings - making the Boy Wonder GM look like a genius. John Gray has 15 K in 13 IP, allowing a pair of runs on a homer. Dan Field (1.69 in 10.2 IP), Ron Latour (1.12 in 8 IP) and Felix Pena (1.12 in 8 IP) round up the returning bullpen's outstanding work. Then look at the guys trying to break into the mix out of Thornton: Xavier Diaz (0.96 in 9.1 IP), Tomas Moya (2.16 in 8.1 IP), Billy Taylor (1.42 in 6.1 IP) and Pedro Vega (0.00 in 6 IP). That all makes Orlando Moya's 3.09 look absolutely horrible. Hugh Jones, who has pitched in relief and has a start, has allowed a pair of runs in his 8.2 IP. Complicating matters, Tomas Moya and Taylor are out of options.

Offensively, a pair of recent #1 draft choices are forcing themselves into the conversation about the 14 position players the team is going to carry. Ricardo Zamora is showing more offense (.481, 5 HR) than Roberto Martinez (.250, 1 HR) has shown in his 345 ABs with Aurora. The two are arguably fighting for the same roster spot. Jose Torres (.348, 1 HR) is outpacing FA signee Carlos Saenz , who is hitting .286. That's a .286 that might keep Saenz around for the first month or so of the season - well, that and the $2.3M/1-year deal he signed in early February. Keeping Torres at AAA really is counter to what Aurora may have wanted - but then again, Saenz is here for a reason... To complicate matters, primary returning 1B, Pablo Medrano is leading the infield at .348.

One spot that needs replacing, DH, is a wide open affair. Domingo Gutierrez' 2027 season and .310 Spring, is pretty much clinching the catcher spot - Manny Castro struggling at .241 sealing that - but also making the DH spot not the slam dunk many thought before Spring. The idea of reprising the 'Two-Headed Catcher' looks even more unlikely with Jorge Alonso's 3-28. River Pope - also a candidate to move from his LF spot where he's starred for the past 10-seasons is worrying some in the organization with a .222 - though the GM points out that he did hit .349 last year. Perhaps Torres, Saenz or Zamora will win the DH role.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 6:00 pm 
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Final Roster Surprises & Expectations
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

April 3, 2028: Aurora, Colorado - The Borealis went into the spring wondering how some youngsters would fair when given shot at a roster spot, whether some oldsters still had it, and if an 'Onion' had anything left in an arm that spent 10 months healing from elbow surgery. A quick look at the roster as it breaks camp and crosses the Continental Divide from The Back to The Front Range.

Catcher
Poor Jorge Alonso, he never stood a chance. His only saving grace - as far as the organization is concerned, is his outstanding defense. That'll keep him at AAA despite an .094 in 32 AB and a .199 at AAA last year. Domingo Gutierrez, last years break-out player for Aurora, hit .354 - following last years .336 that beat out 'Fido' for the starting gig. Castro didn't help himself any with a .256 spring and no extra base hits. That, and a .264 last year - despite 14 HR, wasn't enough to satisfy those in the organization that had hoped Castro would win the DH spot. The performance of others pretty much sealed that deal.

Domingo Gutierrez - starter
Manny 'Fido' Castro - back-up

Infield
Not that anyone was going to replace Mike Britt - short of his moving to 1B - which many think Aurora would LOVE to do, 'Big Whiskey' finished the spring with perhaps his best spring showing - .333, 7 HR, 15 RBI. Aurora could really use a big year from their career HR hitter. No one really expected Teddy Loetzsch to be replaced, either - an adequate .276 seemed in line with his 2027 .272 where he hit a PEBA-record 16 triples. The real intrigue centered around first, where returning players Pablo Medrano and Gabe McIntyre, Rookie Jose Torres and FA pick-up Carlos Saenz competed in a complicated scenario that involves Pablo or Gabe playing 2B and possibly a third playing DH. Saenz, at .229 this spring, killed his chances of starting - and a lack of options will force Aurora's hands. Torres, the rookie and 2027 runner-up Aurora Minor League Hitter of the Year, looked pretty solid at .310. But incumbent Pablo Medrano was impressive with a .362 and 12 RBI - enough to beat out Torres, who will play back-up, instead of dropping back to AAA. Expect him to get plenty of ABs while Medrano occasionally backs up McIntyre (.294) at 2B. The roster selection is a dangerous one, as this leaves only Torres and Saenz - a pair of 1B as infield back-ups. It'll be a circular rotation of the other, more versatile guys, that will create a rest rotation. Aurora Manager Kata Hayagawa must be praying that Torres or Saenz open the season hot.

Starters
1B Medrano
2B McIntyre
SS Loetzsch
3B Mike 'Big Whiskey' Britt

Backups
Jose Torres
Carlos Saenz

Outfield
To start with, River Pope had a shaky spring, at .220, but no one is worried about his bat once the season starts - he is a career .325 hitter, 2-time batting champ, who just missed a third last year. His age, his declining defense, and the superb spring by Ricardo Zamora, made the DH question moot - after 7 straight seasons with Pedro Ferringo being the primary DH, it is Pope's turn to fill that hole. That opens the way for Zamora, who took the challenge on in his first spring by hitting .417 with 5 HRs. Add his blazing speed and solid defense and he's a natural replacement, defensively for Pope, and offensively for Ferringo. Kata has already made public that Zamora will hit in the 9-hole as that 'second leadoff' hitter to match speed with Flores.

Speaking of Flores, after a year of mixed offense and injury upon his arrival on The Front Range, Tomas seemed to figure out Northern Lights Park in 2027 and provided Aurora with the offense they were hoping to get when they traded for him (from Duluth). A Sovereign League leading .320, with 19 HR and 46 SB, he became a key cog to the Aurora lineup and a Royal Raker candidate. This spring, he hit .278, with mediocrity dripping off his performance. For now, he's slated to hit leadoff, though he also hit second and third last year... so he may find himself, again, all over the lineup. Nick Heath, .257 on the spring and .232 last year in his first full season, will remain as the back-up CF. Offensively, the coaching staff has seen nothing in his performance that impresses them about Heath - but his excellent defense and speed is more than enough to keep around to backup Flores and assure the team D remains high.

Paul Carlisle remains as the starter in RF, and a tidy .302 and 3 HR over the spring did nothing to make folks think otherwise. But on a team that will carry five OFers, that leaves a couple of folks on the outs. Lawrence Justice, who managed just .150 this spring, has bounced back and forth between Aurora and Thornton over the past 5-seasons - managing a .290 average in 783 AB. Everyone in the organization loves the quiet, mild-mannered Southerner, but he's been faced with the reality that Aurora's corner outfielders have been ensconced in their positions for the past 8 seasons - and one hits .320 and the other .284 and averages 20 HRs, leaving Justice either riding the Inter-State or riding the pine. Lawrence is out of options, so baring some last second change of heart, the DFA list is in his future.

Also odd man out - and a guy the management really wanted to break out, is Roberto Martinez. Fast, great D, power... and he continues to underperform. and his .265 wasn't enough to impress when Zamora hit over .400. Unlike Justice, 'Fudd' has options left and thus will begin the year at Thornton. He's likely to be first man up.

Starters
LF Ricardo Zamora
CF Tomas Flores
RF Paul Carlisle
DH River Pope

Backup
Nick Heath

Projected Line-up
CF Flores
DH Pope
C Gutierrez
3B Britt
RF Carlisle
2B McIntyre
1B Medrano
SS Loetzsch
LF Zamora

Starting Rotation
Long the strength of this club, that traditional view will be tested in 2028. The loss of Mike Provost for the year - his flexor tendon surgery reportedly went well and he hopes to be ready for Spring Training 2029, has put pressure on the organization. GM Will Topham and Hayagawa had viewed that as a chance to see what Rob Imhoff has - scouts drooled every time he threw, but as has been his problem, he, too, got hurt, and is out for another 2 weeks, at least.

Fortunately, Team Ace 1.2 is still around, and 'Tugboat' will get the chance to be the official Leader of the rotation. Smith's spring ERA looks rough - K-zoo touched him up for 6 runs, but his last two were shut-outs and he did strikeout 17 and walk just 1 in his 15.2 IP. He'll be joined by Aurora's main FA acquisition - John Turner, who in 7 seasons at New Orleans was 57-66, 3.68 and 1165 K in 1161 IP. His spring ERA was 1.12 and he had 21 K in his 16 IP. Last years big FA catch, 'Chief' Nieves (10-11, 3.50 in 2027) was solid this spring, bringing home a 2.81 era.

With Provost and Imhoff out, what was a battle for the 5th rotation spot, became moot and an effort in preparing for the year. 'Terror' Diaz (2.25, 13 K) has been inconsistent in his time with Aurora, since his arrival in the Contraction Draft of Late-2023. Carlos Rivera - also somewhat inconsistent, actually pitched fairly well last year - mostly out of the bullpen (only 5 starts and a 3.71 ERA), struggled getting guys out - giving up 26 hits in his 16 IP. His 6.19 ERA this spring will be ignored if he can stop giving up hits - he did, after all, strikeout 17 this spring. One guy who continues to defy odds for Aurora is Hugh 'Mister' Jones, who did have 2 starts and threw 12.2 innings, allowing just 3 runs. In 2026 he was 3-2 in 7 starts for Aurora with a 2.79 ERA. He will be back at Thornton, for the 4th season - but he's likely to get the first nod.

Rotation
Randy 'Tugboat' Smith
John 'JT' Turner
Luis 'Chief' Nieves
Edgar 'Terror' Diaz
Carlos Rivera

Bullpen
Let's work backwards, shall we? Closer John Gray - no questions. He seemingly keeps getting better, and will be in his third year in the role. 16 K in 13.2 spring innings, 1.32, OAVG of .130. Done and Done. The set-up roles will be handled by one of the most consistent relievers for Aurora, Ron Latour and one that has spent 10 months rehabbing - the 'Onion'. Latour was mostly outstanding in his 11 IP, a pair of hits and a single run allowed (that adds up to 0.82 for those counting), while Juan 'Onion' Castro surrendered 7 hits in his 11 IP - and zero runs and 10 K, looking dominant - as Palm Springs had hoped to get when he traveled from Japan to the Desert portion of the DH, and as Aurora hopes to have now that he's in the Hills portion. Castro's dominating spring, and Latour's 8 BB have made Aurora's decision easy - 'Onion' in the 8th and Latour in the 7th.

The 'pen pitched well in the spring, and returners Dan Feld (1.69), Felix Pena (2.89) solidified their spots. 'Youngster' Tomas Moya - out of options, but having shown enough at both AAA and Aurora, struck out 15 in 12 IP, offsetting his 3.75 spring ERA. He was likely to stick, despite his lack of options, and will be an emergency starter. Out of options, but pitching well enough to earn a spot, Billy Taylor's career-long hopes of making the rotation may be over, but his 1.08 ERA and 9 K in 8 IP has him earning a mid-relief spot.

Pitching well, but earning a FasTrax card to the FasTrax were Pedro Vega (1.04, 9 K, 8 IP) and Xavier Diaz (0.73, but 7 BB in 12 IP) who had the unfortunate luck of having options left. Also pitching well in his first Spring was Orlando Moya - 14 IP, 11 K - though 16 H and 6 BB made his 2.51 ERA a little less shiny,

Bullpen
Closer John Gray
Set-up Juan 'Onion' Castro
Set-up Ron Latour
Mid-Relief Dan Feld
Mid-Relief Felix Pena
Mid-Relief Tomas Moya (emergency starter)
Mid-Relief Billy Taylor (long relief)

Questions still abound with this roster - the leading ones centering around the roster decisions around 1B and the infield rotation, and the efficacy of Diaz and Rivera. Answers to these questions will quickly center around Torres' ability to hit major league pitching (and a versatile infielder thus coming in to provide more defensive flexibility), and if Aurora will need to seek a quick solution to a rotation issue via trade. If Turner can approach Provost numbers, it'll take some pressure off of Diaz and Rivera - but the two still need to give Aurora something in the 3.30 ERA zone to do their part in picking up the slack.

It's Opening Day, the Bears are at Northern Lights - what can be wrong with the world? Those questions are for days 2-162. For now, enjoy the Beauty of Opening Day!

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 9:51 am 
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Nice review of the club. Losing Provost was tough. And no Justice for anybody who brings a .150 AVG to the plate.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 10:03 pm 
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Solid Opening Week for Borealis
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

April 10, 2028: Okinawa, Japan - When you take into consideration that Aurora got 'Maes'd' in their Season Opener at Northern Lights, the 5-2 start to the 2028 campaign looks pretty bright. With a 3-1 series win over their rival's from the Central Valley and a 2-1 series win over the Akira, a 5-2 week puts the Borealis atop the Desert Hills, a game up on Reno and 2 games up on the rest of the division.

Opening Day looked to be a problem, with the always tough Neil Maes on the mound for Bakersfield, and he didn't disappoint the cluster of Bears fans in the crowd. He would go the distance, throwing a 5-hit shutout at Aurora - on 79 pitches!! 'Tugboat' would surrender a pair of single runs in the 4th and 5th innings. Smith would strike out 10 in his 5.2 IP (13 Bears in all would K).

'JT' would return the favor, with 5.1 innings of 2-hit, 10 K ball, with Moya, Latour and Castro closing out a 4-0 Aurora shut-out win in game 2. The Borealis jumped Littleworth for 3-runs in the first - doubles by Pope and Britt being the big hits, and Ricardo Zamora finishing the scoring with his first career homer in the 7th, a solo shot.

Aurora would be very rude hosts to Fred Womak in game 3, as they would touch him for 13-hits and 6-runs (Castro and Zamora with homers) and 5-extra base hits. Flores (2-5), Pope (2-5), Castro (3-5), Britt (2-5) and Loetzsch (3-4) all had multi-hit games - as did rookie 1B Jose Torres, who was 2-3 in his major league debut. 'Chief' looked solid in his 2028 opener, with a solid 6 IP, 4 H, 6 K, 1 BB and a run. Billy Taylor, in his third turn with the big club, Aurora's top pick in the 2021 draft, threw 3 innings to close out the 8-2 Aurora win.

The starters in game 4 were really the story of this game - and not so much in a good way, as 6 of 7 relievers went scoreless. 'Terror' Diaz gave up 3-runs in his 5.1 IP - two of which were on Antonio Figueroa's first homer of the year. Meanwhile of Aurora's 11 hits off Bears pitching (9 off starter Erik Watson), 6 were doubles (4 off Watson). Everyone in the Aurora line-up had at least a hit, while the bottom half of the line-up had 6 of Aurora's 7 RBI (McIntyre, Medrano and Zamora all had 2).

What you, perhaps, need to know about the series opener with Neo-Tokyo is that Carlos Rivera lasted two batters before being lifted because of an oblique strain. Tomas Moya would come on and pitch well into the 4th, when a Bob Blanchard 2-run homer would tie the game. Billy Taylor, Ron Latour, and Juan Castro would all pitch scoreless innings for Aurora, and after manufacturing a run in the 8th, it seemed like a John Gray save was about to give Aurora their 4th win in a row - except Glass singled, Justavo singled, Blanchard doubled and Britt botched a grounder - in the first 5 batters, to give the Akira the lead - then Grier singled and Gassaway doubled and that would chase Gray away with the Double Whammie - a BS and an L...

'Tugboat' would go 6-innings in game 2, leaving a tie game, then watched 'Onion' give up his first run, ever, with Aurora, in the 8th. Not to be out done, River Pope's 2-out single in the 9th would tie the game at three, and send Aurora to extras for the first time this year. Ron Latour would earn the win in the 11th (3 IP, no hits, 2 K) when Nick Heath hit a 2-out single and was doubled home by Zamaora for the GWRBI!

The rubber match of the series was a nail biter, but the numbers you need to know? JT: 9 IP, 1 H, 7 K, 0 R... Jose Fernandez, the young NT star: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R - Freddy Brooks 8th inning single and a Teddy Loetzsch double accounting for all the scoring.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:15 am 
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An opening week you can build on for sure!

Just curious: do you watch the game replays, or just look at box scores, etc. I’ve started out by watching the full replays and find them oddly compelling.

Good luck to the Borealis in week 2!

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:29 am 
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I’ve always watched the replays - and take pain-staking effort not to look at the top of the screen to see team record. Glasses on the end of the nose, blurring the screen, and setting the game bookmark each sim to the opening game for the next week (on the scores screen) allows for a quick F2 to the right place! It’s much more fun to see those games first, before digesting all the rest...

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