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Baseball: Slammers aim to cut down on walks allowed

The Slammers' Grant DeBrutriples against Windy City. | JCunningham~For Sun-Times Media

The Slammers' Grant DeBruin triples against the Windy City. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 25, 2014 6:23AM



As the Joliet Slammers struggle to move up in the Frontier League West Division, one statistic is particularly aggravating to the coaching staff:

Bases on balls.

No team in the league has issued more walks than the Slammers (14-18), whose 140 free passes are tied with West Division leader Gateway. The Grizzlies have withstood some of the inaccuracy because their staff also leads the league in strikeouts.

“We’ve got to do a better job with walks,’’ Joliet manager Jeff Isom said. “The clubs I’ve had haven’t done that. If you’re giving up too many baserunners, that’s not good.

“We’ve got guys trying to be too fine. Pick, pick, pick, not trust their stuff. They have the ability to get guys out in the strike zone. We’re having to change their thought process on that.’’

The starting rotation changed again with the release of second-year Slammer Matt Dillon, who was 0-4 with a 7.13 ERA in six starts. The end came when he allowed eight hits and six runs in 32/3 innings last week against Normal.

Joliet signed 24-year-old left-hander Harry Marino for Dillon’s spot. Marino has pitched in the minor leagues for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Baltimore Orioles.

Blair Walters is the only one left from the Slammers’ rotation that began the season. Walters (0-3) has endured bad luck and a lack of run support, but his 2.60 ERA is best among Joliet starting pitchers.

It was a different situation for Isom last season when he managed the Lake Erie Crushers.

“We stuck with five guys all season long,’’ Isom said. “It was rocky at times at the beginning, but they figured things out ... Last year’s starters were OK, but we had a very good bullpen.’’

Power surge

Grant DeBruin hit one home run in 77 games last season with the Slammers, but the Joliet third baseman already has four homers with two-thirds of this season left. He’s also hitting a team-best .328.

“If something good happens and I get picked up, that’s why I’m here, try and make it to affiliated ball,’’ DeBruin said. “Hopefully, something works out.’’

“If you’re going to be a corner infielder at a major league level, you’re going to have to hit with some power,’’ Isom said. “He’s shown he can do damage.’’

On the calendar

The Slammers start a road series Tuesday against the River City Rascals and return to Silver Cross Field for a weekend series against the Grizzlies.

The weekend set will be a familiar setting for Gateway bench coach Mike Breyman, who was fired last year by the Slammers after one season as manager.



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