One area the Red Deer Riggers have always seemed to struggle with was having enough pitching.
That shouldn’t be the case this season.
The Riggers have eight regular pitchers on their roster as they prepare to open defence of their Sunburst Baseball League championship Friday in St. Albert against the Tigers.
“We do have a lot of arms, which takes a lot of pressure off guys early in the season,” said Riggers head coach Curtis Bailey. “No one will have to push themselves and hopefully, we don’t have sore arms beyond the normal tired arms you get early on.
“We hope to open this week and we’ll use guys for two or three innings each.”
The Riggers added Wyle Cunningham this season, giving them another left-hander to go with Matt Davis and Brant Stickel.
Cunningham is a former member of the Canadian Junior National team and played with Salt Lake Community College in the States last year.
Stickel had arm problems late last season, but has been out to a couple of indoor workouts so far and appears to be coming around.
“At one time we didn’t have a left-hander, so it’s nice to have that depth as well,” added Bailey, who also has Josh Edwards, Joel Peterman, Davin Gulbranson, Sean Maguire and Dustin Northcott on the roster.
Maguire works in Olds and Northcott in Fort Saskatchewan so they will be more part-time.
The Riggers have a full lineup back from last season, except for first baseman Matt Fay, who is attending school in Halifax, N.S..
“Matt did a lot for the team and will be missed, but it can’t be helped,” said Bailey, who added first baseman Jason Louis.
“He’s from the St. Albert-Edmonton area and has a good bat,” Bailey said. “We watched him last year and at the time he hadn’t played much but you could see he swung the bat well. He’ll fit in nicely.”
Catcher Curtis Mazurkewich returns along with Jason and Jaret Chatwood, Mike Ronnie, Denver Wik, Kevin Curran, Jordan Weinkauf, Shayne Court, Mark Fay and Kerry Boon.
“The guys are excited to get the season underway, even more so with the fact we’re going to the nationals (in St. John’s, N.L.),” said Bailey. “It’s been a long winter and you could see how anxious everyone is. We held our first outdoor practice last Friday. You usually get five or six guys out that early, but 15 showed up. They’re been cooped up long enough.”
The SBL has the same teams as last season with the Edmonton Cubs, Fort Saskatchewan A’s and Parkland White Sox joining the Riggers and Tigers.
The fact the Riggers qualified for the nationals by winning the league title last year, doesn’t mean they’ll take it easy this season, says Bailey,
‘‘Not at all,” he stressed. “We’ll go into the season in the right frame of mind, concentrating on winning the provincial title again. That’s our goal, then we can look at the nationals.”
The only time the Riggers won the Canadian title was in St. John’s . . . Riggers play Monday in Edmonton against the Cubs with their first home game May 20 against the White Sox . . . They play a 16-game schedule, finishing July 23 . . . The semifinals go Aug, 4-8 and the final Aug, 11-15.