The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local Sports

April 8, 2009

LumberKings ready to open Midwest League season


Steinmann expects his team to play in the mode of prediction: aggressive.

“Aggressive is the common theme,” he said.

Clinton fans definitely should expect a team that is aggressive on the bases. Five players on the roster stole 14 or more bases last season, led by 31 by outfielder Dan Carroll. The outfield should be especially speedy with Carroll (38 steals last year), Maximo Mendez (25) and Denny Almonte (14).

Nate Tenbrink (24 steals) and Luis Nunez (16) bring added speed to the infield. The infield also includes Mario Martinez, Pulaski’s Player of the Year last season after hitting .319, and Scott Savastano, who batted .298 last year in the Arizona League.

The catching duo appears strong with Juan Fuentes, who batted .337 and was an Appalachian League all-star, and Travis Howell, who threw out 29 of 40 runners who attempted to steal against him at Everett.

Almonte and Mendez both return to the Midwest League after playing full seasons last year at Wisconsin, while one of Carroll’s three minor-league stops last year was with Wisconsin.

Almonte, a second-round draft pick in 2007, is looking for big things.

“Last year I hit 10 home runs and think I can do better,” the 20-year-old said. “I want to hit 20 this year, have 40 or more stolen bass, hit .350 or better and have fewer strikeouts (he had 149 in 100 games a year ago). I’m working on better pitch selection.”

Almonte is one of 10 LumberKings who saw time in Wisconsin a year ago. All but three of them are pitchers. But, Steinmann has no problem with a veteran pitching staff.

Only one pitcher on the roster is younger than 22, although two others celebrated their 22nd birthdays last month during spring training. The oldest pitcher on the staff is a player familiar with Clinton. Adam Harben played for the Minnesota organization in 2003 and 2004, going 9-7 with a 3.09 ERA in the latter season. He made it as high as Double-A before an arm injury set him back. He spent the past two years in the Cubs organization, then signed with Seattle in the offseason.

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