Wichita Wingnuts

Wingnuts dealing with roster issues

Perhaps the most difficult part of Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper's job is something that goes against the nature of baseball, which calls for patience and rarely offers success for players who get too high or too low emotionally.

When having to release a player, Hooper keeps the nature of the game in mind, but in a 100-game season, a player who fails to perform for just a handful of games can find himself without a job.

It's not a part of the game Hooper enjoys, but as a manager whose first priority is to win, he often can't wait for a player who has struggled for a significant amount of time to get back on track.

"The hardest thing for me is to sit somebody down and tell them they're going home," Hooper said. "This is their livelihood, it's what these guys do for a living and how they pay the bills. To sit somebody down and tell them they're no longer needed or wanted here, that's tough to do."

Hooper has had to have that conversation several times this season. The Wingnuts have released seven players and placed another, Trent Lare, on waivers before he was claimed by Kansas City and the teams worked out a trade.

Four pitchers have been let go, most recently starter Jonathan Ellis, who had an 0-3 record and 6.55 ERA in six starts.

Six starts is nothing in a 162-game major-league season, but Ellis' was with the Wingnuts for around 25 games, or one-quarter of the season. Ellis had experience in Triple-A with the San Diego Padres organization, but the Wingnuts couldn't afford to see if he could regain his effectiveness.

"It just didn't work out," Hooper said. "He had plenty of opportunities for it to work out. That was a no-brainer to take a chance on him with his track record. He just couldn't get the command down."

The Wingnuts released Ellis without replacing him in the rotation; they signed right-hander David Sherman to occupy the spot left by Nick Singleton, who left for the Mexican League last week.

Wichita has until Saturday to find a pitcher to take Ellis' rotation spot. Hooper, the rest of the coaching staff and general manager Josh Robertson are using their connections to track down an experienced pitcher not already playing affiliated ball.

"We all use all of them, everybody on our staff," Hooper said. "Anybody that I know in the game, pretty much, got a text from me telling them we needed starting pitching. That was a long list, so hopefully something is going to pop."

The lack of a fifth starting pitcher helps the Wingnuts save money to perhaps sign a player later in the season. But their lack of success in finding one means they may have to trade from an area of strength to improve a weakness.

By releasing players who have had success previously but were disappointing this season, such as Ellis and outfielder Jorge Cortes, Hooper has shown assertiveness in his efforts to improve the team, which is 20-16. A 100-game season means he has to sometimes be hasty with his decision-making.

"This is a game of performance," Hooper said. "We have to be pretty quick with decisions. We've scuffled, but we're still in first place. We can get a lot better as a team, I think."