Elizabethton pitching staff highly effective

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com
If baseball revolves around pitching, then the Elizabethton Twins are in good shape for Appalachian League title contention.
Holding the league's best record (24-15) and lowest ERA (3.17), the Twins have relied on a host of talent and some of the best depth in rookie league baseball.
Much of that is due to the depth and work ethic of their bullpen.
"Well, for the most part we throw over the plate, we're aggressive and don't waste any time," said Twins pitching coach Jim Shellenback Tuesday afternoon. "It's basic fundamentals, but we throw strikes and do a good job of getting players off the field.
"Our starters are all consistent throwing strikes, and we're the deepest we've been in pitching in quite awhile. We're among the leaders in fewest walks allowed."
Before Tuesday night's rain-out, the Twins led the Appalachian League in strikeouts (368) and were third in fewest walks (132).
"We're getting 5-6 solid innings from our starters, but the key has been the setup guys," said Twins manager Ray Smith. "We've been able to hold leads and they've allowed us to win games late. Our success is mostly due to the pitching."
"We probably have the most depth in the league," said Bothell, Wash., native Evan Meek, who leads the Twins' pitching staff with a 4-1 record. "Everybody goes to work hard and loves the game."
It's been a tough task getting all of the pitchers action from the mound, but they are prepared for each game that awaits them.
Said Arizona native Chris Marini (2-1): "It's a learning experience. I was a little rusty my first few outings, now I'm getting a better understanding. It's different from college, but as long as you throw strikes, you should be all right."
"In this league, we work on throwing off speed for strikes because a lot of people are looking for the fast-ball," said Chris Schutt, the Illinois native who carries a 4-2 record with a 2.10 ERA. "There have been some good people probably not getting as many innings as they want, which is kind of rough for the bullpen guys."
Many of the players have improved their game over the course of the season, that is the case with former Gonzaga Bulldog Errol Simonitsch, who was named Twins Pitcher-of-the-week this past week.
"Everything's been great," Simonitsch (2-0, 0.92 ERA) said. "I've been able to throw strikes and get command on my pitching and been able to get outs.
"The coaches are absolutely wonderful, they are different from college in that they give you space to work on your own thing. You have nobody breathing down your backs like in school."
Jimmy Speigner (3-1), Kevin Culpepper (2-0) and Angel Garcia (2-1) also have winning records for Elizabethton.
Paul Mutch, Dennis Medina, Jon Uhl, Eric Brandon, Julio DePaula, Ryan Hader, Tim Henkenjohann, Hiroyuki Iida and John Lynch have all brought something to this team's table, whether it be starting or relieving, and have shown signs of improvement throughout the season.
The players credit Shellenback and the Twins' staff for their work getting them preparation.
"Shelly teaches us well, and everybody on the staff knows their job and are always ready whether they are a starter, reliever or closer and that's a big part of our success," Meek said. "Its really a big comradery among the players."
Said Schutt: "Shelly's a great coach. He doesn't say a lot, but when he does, you put it into action and right away you see results."
The Twins began the season under a more offensively-charged theme, that has changed with the mixed hitting nights and performance of the pitching.
"We had spurts early in the season on offense, we were able to swing good the first month of the season -- but it's a total team effort," Smith added.
"You've got to have hitting, good defense and pitching. We've been fortunate to have quality people, that goes to the quality scouts and Jim does a good job, and they're able to apply it to the game. They are responsible for 80-90 percent of the game."
TWINS NOTES: Tuesday night's Elizabethton and Martinsville game was rained out. The game will be played Wednesday at 5 p.m. as part of a double-header where the first 100 fans across the gate gets a team photo.
Tuesday night's Coleman's Bat Night will be pushed to Thursday as part of a 6 p.m. double-header.