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Williams trying to find playing time for everyone

June 19, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
A week ago at Williamsport Crosscutters media day, manager Shawn Williams was talking about how his team would make it through the weekend with just 21 players on its roster.

Thursday, just after batting practice, the first-year manager was talking about trying to find playing time for 17 position players.

It's a delicate process, one which isn't nearly as simple as it is at higher levels of the minor leagues. But Williams and his coaching staff are now charged with the challenge.

“You just try to do your best to get them in there when you can,” Williams said. “You can rotate guys into the DH spot. But you're trying to get everybody involved and to be a part of the team to help the team win.”

The Cutters have 31 active players on the roster, 15 of which are pitchers. New York-Penn League teams are permitted to have 35 active players on the roster.

Williamsport is currently carrying three catchers, six infielders and seven outfielders. But playing time is scarce because of the need for playing time for some of the top prospects in the Philadelphia Phillies' minor league system.

Players like third-round selections Cord Sandberg, Aaron Brown, Jan Hernandez and fifth-round pick Rhys Hoskins, along key international free agent signings like Deivi Grullon and Jiandido Tromp will get the lion's share of the playing time are their positions because of their potential to be big league players.

Some of the pressure in the infield was alleviated Wednesday when shortstop Malquin Canelo was promoted to Lakewood. But there's still a logjam in the outfield. Sandberg, Brown and Tromp are all outfielders. In fact, much of the reason Tromp is in Williamsport is to get consistent playing time. The 20-year old was stuck behind a crowded outfield in Lakewood before being sent to Williamport last week.

The logjam means players like 2013 Big 10 Player of the Year Justin Parr aren't in the lineup. Herlis Rodriguez, who hit .324 in 41 minor league games last year, isn't in the lineup. And 10th-round draft pick Matt Shortall has appeared in just one game since arriving.

Williams said other players understand the pecking order which comes with being at this level.

“But when they get the opportunity, they're going to have to make the best of it and make it so that they stay in the lineup,” Williams said. “Get after it like they have been and have some good games.”

Most of his infielders are capable of handling multiple positions defensively, providing more opportunities to play. Williams also has the designated hitter spot available to get players at-bats, or even to give players off a day in the field.

“We're just going to mix them in the best we can,” Williams said. “We want guys to be successful. We want them in there in the right situation so they can succeed and become better players.”

STARTING TO FALL

Rhys Hoskins has tried not to get frustrated over the last week. The Williamsport first baseman has been through streaks like this before, where he's squaring up the baseball but it's just not finding holes.

But he's been through it enough before that he knows he can't allow himself to become frustrated or it's only going to exacerbate the problem. So nights like Wednesday, even when he only gets one hit for the Crosscutters, keep him from reaching that point of frustration.

His one hit Wednesday was a key one, a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game with Jamestown at 4-4.

“It's baseball. All you try to do as a hitter is put the barrel on the ball, and if it falls, it falls,” Hoskins said following Wednesday's game. “It is tough not to get frustrated. But the more you get frustrated, the more it seems to happen, and then it snowballs. If you get frustrated, you're never going to fall of out it.”

Hoskins was consistently hit the ball as hard as anybody in the Crosscutters' lineup through the first six games, but doesn't have much to show for it. He's hitting just .167 through the first six games, constantly in the clean-up spot.

Manager Shawn Williams said it's a case where the results don't necessarily show just how well Hoskins has played.

“His at-bats, in general, are good,” Williams said. “If he keeps swinging the bat like this, he's going to have a good year.”

“It's just satisfying to me to see that if I stick this, it's going to eventually happen,” Hoskins said of seeing consistent success.

 
 

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