Minor League Baseball: ThunderBolts top Slammers in exhibition opener
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media May 5, 2014 8:56PM
Updated: June 7, 2014 6:35AM
When Joliet opened its exhibition schedule Monday against the Windy City ThunderBolts, Slammers first-year manager Jeff Isom was looking to the future as he watched the game unfold at Silver Cross Field.
“Obviously, we’ve got decisions to be made,’’ Isom said. “The games answer those questions. It’s easier to evaluate guys when you’re playing games.’’
The 5-2 loss to the ThunderBolts, also playing their first spring training game, was the first of seven exhibition contests for Joliet. The Frontier League season starts May 16.
Isom guided the Lake Erie Crushers to the league championship series in 2013 and spent six years managing and coaching in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
“I’m going to do what I can to instruct and develop these players,’’ he said. “I took the same approach last year as I did in affiliated ball.’’
Isom already is impressed with Marquis Riley, the Slammers’ All-Star second baseman last year. Riley had an RBI single Monday against Windy City.
“He’s a professional bat,’’ Isom said. “He has an idea at the plate, goes in there with a great approach. He’s got a very good swing.’’
One player who was expected to return and hasn’t is slugger Nick Akins, who was put on the suspended list.
Akins was second in the league in home runs (21) and tied for fifth in RBI (65) last season. His dramatic walk-off grand slam in July against Rockford is featured on the team’s web page.
Ron Biga, Windy City’s second-year manager, is a familiar face at Silver Cross Field. Biga, a St. Rita graduate, was the Slammers vice president of baseball operations in 2011 and 2012.
Biga expects Monday’s starter, Dyllon Nuernberg, to be a fixture in the rotation.
“Dyllon had a good season last year and did a real good job of getting himself in better shape this year,’’ Biga said. “We’re looking for big things from him.’’
Windy City was 27-13 after the All-Star break last year and finished 50-46 despite a slow start.
“I think we had the second-best record in the league after the All-Star break,’’ Biga said. “We’re pretty happy with the guys we’ve got.’’
The Slammers’ exhibition schedule continues Tuesday at Windy City and Wednesday at home against the Normal CornBelters.
Joliet right-hander Daniel Hernandez and lefty Blair Walters are scheduled to pitch Tuesday’s game. Hernandez was in spring training with the Kansas City Royals, Walters with the Houston Astros.
“We’re going to see a couple guys who we feel like could be the opening night starter and second night starter,’’ Isom said.