Inland Empire 66ers Notebook

While the Inland Empire 66ers lost most of its players from last year's California League championship roster, they have reloaded and appear quite capable of making a run at a repeat in 2004. InsidethePark.com's Jonathan Bianchet, who also works for the 66ers, gives you an up-close look at the team in this week's notebook.

Excellent pitching, good hitting and a solid defense are usually the formula for a victory.

That formula has executed four out of the first six games of the young California League season as the Inland Empire 66ers have started the year, 4-2.

Along with the return of manager Daren Brown, who managed the former San Bernardino Stampede in 2000-2001, Brown has brought 16 new faces from Mid-A Wisconsin to High-A San Bernardino. 

"They know me and I know them," said Brown, 36.  "We have pitched extremely well, we have hit well, and have played good defense.  If we do those things we should win some games."

Led by 6-foot-3, 190-pound lefty Bobby Livingston, the starting pitching has been nearly untouchable.  Livingston (1-0) has pitched 14.2 scoreless innings to open the season and has only allowed six hits.  Combined with young 18-year old phenom, Felix Hernandez, and Rich Dorman, T.A. Fulmer and Juan Sandoval, the starters have pitched at least five innings in every game, 36.2 total. 

Allowing only four earned runs, the starters have a combined ERA of 0.98, surrendering only 18 hits.   The entire pitching staff has an ERA of 2.03, with an outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 3:1.  Put all these stats together and Inland Empire has the best pitching staff in the California League.

Offensively, while they have squandered opportunities with runners in scoring position, they have still been able to get the job done.  Averaging 5.6 runs per game, thanks largely to a 16-4 blowout over Lake Elisnore, the 66ers have a team batting average of .293, good for second best in the Cal League.

Right-fielder TJ Bohn, who hit 13 home runs and drove in 70 last year at Wisconsin, ended the first week of the season hitting .380 with one home run and four RBI.  Bohn has also been spectacular with his arm.  Bohn had 20 outfield assists last year in Wisconsin, and has kept it up this year with the 66ers. He gunned down a Lake Elsinore runner to keep the game knotted at zero in the season-opener.  Later in the week, Bohn threw out two more runners on the base paths.

But while everything seems to be clicking on all cylinders for the 66ers, there is always something to improve on. 

"The kids need to stay sharp," said Brown.  "If they were able to do that, they would be at higher level."


  Touching all the Bases

The 2003 California Championship banner was raised as part of the Opening night ceremonies on April 8 to commemorate last year's Championship team.  The 66ers lost the game 1-0 due to a ninth inning balk called on pitcher Cesar Jimenez... Eighteen-year old Felix Hernandez pitched 5.1 innings in his winning 66er debut on April 9.  He struck out six batters and allowed two runs on three hits... Centerfielder Gary Harris went 3-4 with a homerun, triple, four runs scored and five runs batted in, leading Inland Empire to a 16-4 rout of Lake Elsinore on April 10... The 66ers pitchers combined to pitch 19.2 scoreless innings, spanning from the seventh inning on Sunday at Lake Elsinore to the ninth inning on Wednesday against Bakersfield... Left-handed starter Bobby Livingston has a current stretch of 14.2 scoreless innings to begin the 2004 season.  Livingston also continued a starting pitching scoreless inning string from last season. It currently is at 17.1 innings entering play on April 15...  Right-fielder TJ Bohn had his five-game hitting streak snapped in a 3-2 victory over Bakersfield on Wednesday April 14.  Bohn was 0-3 on the day but did throw out a runner attempting to reach third base... Seattle Mariner's third baseman Scott Spiezio began a three-day rehab assignment with the 66ers as of last night, and RHP Rafael Soriano has also been sent to Inland to fully regain the arm strength he lost while missing most of Spring Training with an injury.

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