Elizabethton Twins have size on their side

Published 10:48 pm Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips  The 2016 Elizabethton Twins are in town and ready to hit the baseball diamond. The Twins will open their season with a trip to Kingsport today.

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips
The 2016 Elizabethton Twins are in town and ready to hit the baseball diamond. The Twins will open their season with a trip to Kingsport today.

This season, there is one thing the Elizabethton Twins have in their favor and that is size.

In the bullpen, the Twins have five pitchers that are 6-5 or taller, with slingers Ryan Mason and Alex Schick topping out at 6-7. Having tall guys on the mound makes thing rough for opposing batters, said Elizabethton manager Ray Smith, who will be entering his 30th season with the Twins this year.

“I know we have some size,” Smith said. “That should allow us to score more runs and shut down the opposing offense.

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“Height is really good for pitchers, because the hitter has to adjust to the angle,” Smith continued. “It is hard enough to hit the ball when it is coming in straight, but when you have tall pitchers that can throw the ball down hill that is double tough for the batters.”

Smith has only had a couple of days with his new crop of players, and hasn’t had much time to assess what type of talent the Twins’ have this time around. However, Smith said he knows that the guys are pumped up and ready to hit the field.

“All I know is that they are playing with a lot of enthusiasm,” Smith said. “If tradition holds up, the scouts have done all of their research, and they have a good record of sending us players who have tremendous ability.

“I seen a few of the new guys a little over the past few days, but not much,” Smith continued. “But I do know that they have been playing with enthusiasm and they have been blessed with ability, and that is a pretty great combination.

“We will be OK,” Smith added. “We will see what happens when the lights turn on and we have people in the stands. Then we will see what we’ve got. I am just as optimistic as I have always been. It is always fun to get out on the field everyday.”

Arriving this week will be the Minnesota Twins’ first-round draft pick Alex Kirilloff, an 18-year-old out of Pennsylvania. Kirilloff was the 15th overall pick during the 2016 MLB Draft. The outfielder from Plum High School in Pittsburg had a batting average of .523 his senior season. The 6-2 slugger had 31 RBIs and 14 stolen bases as he went to plate 88 times. Kirilloff also spent time on the mound and over 42.2 innings he maintained a 1.48 ERA, while having a 6-1 win/loss record. He recorded 67 strikeouts against 32 walks.

Besides everything that has been written about the standout from up north and some video, Smith said he didn’t know much about Kirilloff.

“I am anxious to see him and watch him play,” Smith said.

This year, the Twins have quite a few players out of California. Among the list of the eight west coasters is Schick, who was picked up by the Twins in the sixth round. The 6-7 pitcher is from  San Diego, Ca. and during his time in the Golden State, Schick played for the University of California. The former Golden Bear is join in Elizabethton by former Cal teammate Ryan Mason.

Last year Mason, who was drafted in the 13th round, had 16 starts for Cal and had a 6-3 record. Mason doled out 41 strikeouts over a team-high 99.2 innings, while maintaining a 2.98 ERA.

The Elizabethon Twins will have some returning faces this season, with Travis Blankerhorn, Amauys Minier, Ariel Montesino, and Alex Robinson all coming back to Joe O’Brien field.

“That is fairly typical,” Smith said. “It doesn’t question the quality of their talent at all. If they have a uniform on, they have a chance to be a big leaguer.”

Coaching in the minor leagues is much like managing a revolving door, with players always moving around. Smith said that is alright, because it is all about developing good players.

“Everybody in the whole league wants to win, but we are not going to keep a quality player here just to win a league title,” Smith said. “Some people don’t understand that. It is all about development. You earn your way out of this league, and to do that, you have to have success here. The guys that are having success are going to get promoted.”

The Twins travel to Kingsport tonight for their season opener. The team will not be playing at Joe O’Brien Field until June 29. Elizabethton General Manager Mike Mains and his team are hard at work making sure the facilities are in top order.

“We are set and ready to go,” Mains said. “The guys have worked hard, especially on the athletic turf to make it really what it needs to be.

“We are excited about the promotions we have,” Mains continued. “We are even more excited about the groups that have committed to coming to games here, the churches and other organization.”

During Wednesday’s media day, Mains wanted to stress how important the Twins are to the community of Elizabethton and Carter County.

“When you look at this roster, these guys come from all over the United States and the world,” Mains said. “Some of those guys’ family are going to come to Elizabethton and they are going to stay here in Elizabethton.

“It is always good to see people coming into your community and enjoying what we have here,” Mains continued. “They are giving back locally to businesses that they will visit and spend their time with. That is a great thing for us.”