Hey Batter, Batter, Swing … and Miss

Let's begin by asking one very important question: is the Great Lakes Loons pitching staff that good, or were the Dayton Dragons hitters that bad? In the four game series between the two teams that kicked off the 2008 season at Dow Diamond, Loon's pitchers compiled a whopping 61 strikeouts, achieving double digit strikeout totals in each of the first five games.

If this series is any indication, the Loons should be series contenders for one of the playoff positions for October.

"Pitching is our strength," said new manager Juan Bustabad after Friday night's win over the Dragons.

Last season, one could not say that with a straight face as the Loons bullpen struggled immensely in the second half of 2007 after the promotions of Jesus Rodriguez, Francisco Felix, and Miguel Ramirez to the Inland Empire 66ers.

Ramirez is beginning the season back with the Great Lakes Loons and is going to be the team's closer for the start of the season. However, if he is as consistent as he was last year in locking doors in the 9th like he did a year ago, he may not be around Dow Diamond for long.

Pitching coach Danny Darwin is quite optimistic about his staff for the upcoming season. According to Darwin, the key is finding the right roles for his pitchers.

Though the starting staff seems to be set with the likes of Steven Johnson, Bryan Morris, Kyle Smit, and Justin Miller, Bustabad and Darwin are still exploring options in the Loons bullpen. With the exception of Joe Dutton and Miguel Sanfler as being long relievers and Ramirez the Loon's closer, everything else is up for grabs.

As for Morris, he made his first start since 2006 for the Loons this weekend, throwing 5.2 innings while striking out six. Morris, who spent last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, has excellent velocity and dead-on accuracy which is one of the reason's he was selected in the first round of the 2006 draft.

"We have to be a bit patient with him," Darwin said after Saturday's game. "I think they said that this was the first game he's pitched in 500 days, or something like that."

After being asked if Midland was going to be a short pit stop for Morris, Darwin remarked that the Dodger's organization will be quite patient with his development this season.

"The sky's the limit with Morris," Darwin said. "I'm not sure if he will be called up soon, during the break, or if he will be with us the entire season. We have to see how he comes along."

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