Dash eager to get ‘fresh start’ in second half of season

Dash eager to get ‘fresh start’ in second half of season
June 25
00:00 2015

In photo above: Chris Jacobs (Glenn High graduate) was promoted to Double-A Birmingham on June 16. (Photo by Craig T. Greenlee)

   When it comes to minor-league baseball, winning games is not the end-all and be-all. The chief aim is to develop players.

   By that measuring stick, the Winston-Salem Dash is doing OK. Prior to mid-season, the Dash had two players (former Glenn star) Chris Jacobs and Keenyn Walker who were promoted to the Double-A level with the Birmingham Barons.

   Additionally, Omar Narvaez, James Dykstra, Matt Heidenreich and Trey Michalczewski were named Carolina League All-Stars. In the meantime, Jake Peter has taken his game to a new level as evidenced by an impressive 20-game hitting streak.

    “You measure success by Chris and Keenyn being called up to play Double-A ball,” said Dash manager Tim Esmay, whose team posted a 30-40 record for the first half of the season. “Anytime you see our guys move forward, there’s an excitement about what you’re doing.

    “This is all about developing players as to what’s best for them and how they can move forward in their careers. For each player, the ultimate goal is to one day win championships for the Chicago White Sox. It’s our job to figure out ways for them to develop those routines to help them prepare to advance in their careers. Those are the wins.”

   In Esmay’s mind, the biggest surprises of the season involve two members of the pitching staff. All-Star right-hander Heidenreich (8-2, 2.77 ERA) has proven himself as Winston-Salem’s most effective starter. The most intriguing prospect, though, might be lefty reliever Andre Wheeler (2-2, 3.86 ERA), an outfielder who became a full-time pitcher during his sophomore season at Texas Tech.

“Andre has been thrown into a lot of different mixes this season,” said Esmay. “We’ve used him as a spot starter. And at one point, he was a one-inning reliever and now he’s a two-inning reliever. I’m excited to see how he’s developing. Andre has that really good arm, but he’s also starting to develop those other pitches he needs to have as he progresses in his career.”

   As for the rest of the starting staff, Dykstra and Heidenreich are the established anchors, but those two can’t be expected to shoulder the entire pitching load. They’ll need help from Jake Cose, Brandon Brennan (recently returned from disabled list), Brian Clark and newly-acquired Jordan Guerrero from Kannapolis.

  “It hurt us that we lost (left-hander) Jace Fry to Tommy John surgery,” he said. “Our starters are going to get their innings. What will really help is having (reliever) Brad Goldberg evolve, along with the continued development of Wheeler, Michael Ynoa and Jefferson Olacio.”

 The month of May wasn’t very kind for the Dash, who lost seven straight series over a 25-day period. Since then, the offense has shown some spark. During a three-week stretch leading up to the All-Star break, Winston-Salem won four of the seven series it played. It remains to be seen if this team can establish offensive continuity during the second half of the season.

 “With only eight teams (in our league), everybody is going to know each other by the time the season is over,” he said. “So, as a player, you have to figure out what changes to make in order to make sure that you’re still successful. I think our guys are beginning to do that a little bit now.”

With the three-day All-Star break officially over today (Thursday), Esmay turns his attention to the second half of the season. In the Carolina League, the season is divided into halves. The Dash finished last in the CL’s Southern Division in the first half, but that doesn’t mean the team is doomed to remain at the bottom of the league standings.

The slate is wiped clean for the second half and all teams have a new beginning. So, if the Dash wins the division in the second half, it will earn a spot in the league playoffs.

“We’re excited about the second half,” said Esmay. “It’s nice to be able to get a fresh start again. What I like most about this club is that no matter who we have, they all like to work. They like to come out early. They love being in the club house.”

“For us to have a really great second half, our non-starting pitchers) have to have a much better understanding of what their roles are. If we can stay with that as far as keeping this group together, I feel like we’ll be in a better situation because they’ll have a better idea of how we’re going to use them.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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