ThunderBolts Insider: T-Bolts have something special in relief
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media August 31, 2014 8:30PM
Windy City's Reese McGraw gets ready to pitch against the Gateway Grizzlies in Crestwood, Illinois, August 4, 2014.| Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 1, 2014 2:10AM
Throughout a miserable 2014 season, one thing that’s remained a constant positive for the Windy City ThunderBolts has been the back end of the bullpen.
Danny Carela, Reese McGraw and Jessie Snodgrass have formed one of the best relief trios in the Frontier League, and they’ve formed quite a bond as well.
“We definitely feed off each other,” Snodgrass said. “It’s not so much that we compete as much as we pull for each other. We all want to see the other guys go out there and succeed. When one of us struggles, with as close as we’ve become, it feels like all of us struggled. When one of us succeeds, we’re always the first guys out there to congratulate each other.”
Entering Sunday, McGraw had a 2.41 ERA, two saves and 45 strikeouts in 371/3 innings. Snodgrass had a 2.60 ERA with three saves and 59 strikeouts in 69 innings.
Carela, meanwhile, has found his way back to affiliated ball. He was signed Thursday by the Atlanta Braves. In 26 appearances with the T-Bolts, he posted a 2.27 ERA and recorded seven saves while striking out 39 in 272/3 innings.
Snodgrass has become the team’s workhorse. He has pitched the most innings of anyone in the league who hasn’t made a start.
“That’s kind of my role,” he said. “From the beginning of the year, that’s what ‘Smitty’ (pitching coach Brian Smith) has talked about. That was going to be my job. The way I throw, my arm seems to hold up. Even after throwing three innings, my arm feels good the next day.”
Low on options
The T-Bolts are playing with just 21 active players on their roster, three shy of the maximum allowed by the league. Just 11 are position players.
Since Aug. 16, Daniel Cropper was traded, Victor Larez returned home to Venezuela to deal with a family situation, Tony Viger left to go back to college, Kyle Robinson was placed on injured reserve and Carela was signed by the Braves.
Windy City signed pitcher Brian Oliver before the league’s transaction deadline passed and was able to bring in outfielder Deaun Williams because of Robinson’s injured status, but the T-Bolts can’t sign any more players to fill the voids.
Viger’s departure undoubtedly was the most frustrating for T-Bolts manager Ron Biga.
“I was told at 2 a.m. (Aug. 24, a day Windy City was set to play a doubleheader) that he was leaving for school,” Biga said. “That’s not the way to handle things.”
The league’s postseason awards winners were named Sunday. Robinson, who is a virtual lock to win the batting crown with a .366 average, was named to the postseason All-Star team as an outfielder and was the only T-Bolt honored.
Evansville’s Shayne Houck won the Morgan Burkhart Award as the league’s Most Valuable Player and Southern Illinois’ Matt Bywater took the Brian Tollberg Award for the league’s top pitcher.