Suns Story - Plenty of Wins, No Playoffs

Jacksonville has known nothing but success since it became a Dodger affiliate and 2007 was more of the same as an 80-60 record demonstrates. Yet, there was frustration, too, for while the Suns were notable contenders in both halves of the Southern League schedule, they failed to make the playoffs.

Still, there were those 80 victories and that's even more remarkable when you consider that their roster was ravaged by call-ups and injuries that took some of their top players way.

Scott Elbert, who was supposed to be their number one pitcher, went out early with a shoulder injury. Shortstop Chin-lung Hu, who proved to be their best position player, was whisked away to Las Vegas about midway through the season. Jon Meloan, who became an excellent closer, was another promoted.

They had acquired a number of valuable additions via minor league free agency yet, one by one, third baseman Marshall McDougall, infielder Luis Maza, first baseman John Lindsey and pitchers Eric Cyr and Matt Riley went up.

So did pitcher William Juarez and outfielder Wilkin Ruan. Lefthander Mike Megrew missed much of the season with injuries as well. Still, the Suns carried on to the end as manager John Shoemaker showed once more that he's capable playing the hands he's dealt rather shrewdly.

It also showed the depth of the Dodger system for any number of replacements that poured in proved to be valuable assets. Blake DeWitt took over at third base to hit .281. Joey Norrito, thrust into the starting rotation, went 8-5, 4.13. Kevin Howard, a pickup from independent ball, took over at second and hit .292.

The 19-year old prodigy Clayton Kershaw gave a glimpse of the future by vaulting from Low A ball to make some noteworthy starts. Ramon Troncoso did well as Meloan's replacement with seven saves. Cory Wade proved invaluable as a setup man with a 1.36 ERA.

But no replacement proved more valuable than righthander James McDonald, who arrived from Inland Empire to post a 7-2, 1.71 mark, thrusting himself into the forefront of Dodger pitching prospects in the process.

There were those who stayed the course with the Suns to aid considerably as well. Outfielder Xavier Paul hit a solid .291 with 11 homers although he, too, missed some time with injuries. Outfielder Anthony Raglani sent 21 balls out of the yard. Catcher A. J. Ellis was dependable behind the plate and hit .260.

Righthander Justin Orenduff came back from shoulder surgery and got stronger as the season progressed to finish 8-5, 4.21. Another minor league free agent, Juan Gonzalez, played everywhere around the infield and hit .287. Lefthander Wesley Wright shuttled between Las Vegas and Jacksonville and posted a 6-2, 2.49 mark while with the Suns.

Lefthander Greg Miller came back to show that he had excellent stuff with a 98 mph fast ball and great curve but still couldn't get a lot of that in the strike zone. Zach Hammes was very inconsistent as both a starter and in relief while Mark Alexander couldn't begin to recapture the magic that he had shown as the organization's Pitcher of the Year in 2006.

Overall there was a lot for the Dodgers to feel pleased about. That's been typical of Jacksonville in the past so the tradition was carried on.

Team Leaders

Batting

Average- Hu .309
Home Runs- Raglani 21
RBI- Raglani 68
Stolen bases- Paul 17

Pitching

Innings- Norrito 117.2
Wins- Norrito, Orenduff 8 each
ERA- Wright 2.49
Saves- Meloan 19

Biggest Surprise- Norrito, whose fast ball doesn't exactly give off sparks, but who used his sinker effectively.

Biggest Disappointment- First baseman Cory Dunlap, who hasn't come close to duplicating the promise he showed early in his career. He didn't hit much (.226) to say the least.

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