In 1964 there was a film released in Japan featuring a terrifying and intimidating dragon-like creature with three heads called Ghidorah. Nearly 60 years later the Wichita Wingnuts are hoping that the back end of their bullpen will strike a similar fear in opposing hitters. With that thought in mind, the Wingnuts have signed three pitchers with closing experience, Daniel Bennett, Patrick Mincey, and Matt Nevarez.
The 25-year old Bennett returns to Wichita after serving as a valuable asset in the Wingnuts’ bullpen in 2013. The sidearm throwing right-hander went 1-3 with 13 games finished and a 2.79 ERA in 48 relief appearances. He struck out 56 and walked 27 in 51.2 innings pitched. Bennett did not allow an earned run in 36 of his 48 outings and held right-handed hitters to a .203 average.
“Benny had a quality year for us in 2013 and I am hoping 2014 is going to be even better,” said Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper. “He is a unique guy for us to have in the pen because he adds a different look being a sidearm pitcher. He is very tough on righties and has come up big for us in crucial situations.”
Bennett will be beginning his fourth season of professional baseball, and is 10-7 with 22 saves and a 2.38 ERA in 136.1 career innings. The Tallahassee, FL native has struck out 156 against 57 walks and six home runs over his first three pro campaigns. Bennett was drafted by the Tigers in the 19th round in 2011 after playing two seasons of college baseball in his hometown at Florida State University. Bennett was a combined 8-2 with 18 saves and a 2.73 ERA for the Seminoles, and helped them reach the 2010 College World Series. Bennett also pitched two seasons at Tallahassee Community College where he holds school records for both single season and career appearances.
The 24-year old Mincey was also in the American Association last season, but wore a different uniform. After a dominant season as the closer for the Grand Prairie AirHogs the Wingnuts were able to acquire him via trade in exchange for third baseman Abel Nieves. The right-hander’s impressive numbers included a 5-1 record, 43 games finished, 24 saves, and a miniscule 1.01 ERA. In 53.1 innings of work, all in relief, he struck out 55, walked just 14, and allowed a lone long ball. Mincey’s WHIP of 0.881 ranked him fourth in the league among pitchers who threw at least 20.0 innings. Following the season he was named the American Association’s Relief Pitcher of the Year and was one of three relief pitchers included on Baseball America’s All-Independent Leagues Team.
“We were adamant that if we were going to trade Abel Nieves, Mincey was going to be the guy we had to get,” explained Hooper. “I like to have as many closer type guys as I can in the late innings of a game. I know for a fact our guys didn't like facing him so I am glad he will be wearing our uniform this year.”
The Hartsville, South Carolina native spent his first professional season with the Schaumburg Boomers of the Frontier League in 2012. While there he earned 17 saves throwing 35.2 innings in 34 games. He posted a 2.78 ERA and struck out 57 while issuing just 17 free passes, a 3.35 ratio. Mincey finished his college career playing two seasons at Division II Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. after spending his first two years of eligibility at Spartanburg Methodist College.
“I’ve heard only good things about Kevin Hooper and the facilities in Wichita are great, I have nothing but respect for the organization,” said Mincey. As for his goals this year, “I just want to win a ring. Everybody would love to get picked up at some point, but I’m not going to worry about things I can’t control or what my stats are.”
Nevarez, also a right-handed thrower, will be joining the Wingnuts for a third time in 2014. After beginning the 2011 season with the Houston Astros Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi Nevarez joined the Wingnuts in early July. He finished five games and earned one save on his way to a 2.76 ERA in 18 appearances. In 2012, he started the season in Wichita before having his contract purchased by the Tampa Bay Rays in late July. In his Wingnuts’ career Nevarez is 3-3 with eight saves and a 2.95 ERA in 43 games. He has fanned 64 while walking 17 in 42.2 innings. American Association opponents have hit just .167 against him.
“I am excited to get back and work with all the coaches and players,” said the 27-year old pitcher. “It is a great organization that always works hard to put the best team possible on the field; I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.”
Nevarez, who was initially a 10th round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 2005, appeared in nine games last season for the Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay, Double-A) prior to injuring his arm. He has logged four years in the Rangers system, three seasons with the Houston Astros, and most recently a pair of seasons within the Rays organization in his eight year professional career.
Hooper knows that Nevarez possesses the tools necessary to be special, “We have had Matty in the past and are ecstatic to have him back to begin this season. He is coming off of surgery and if he can show he is healthy we may not have him for long. Not many guys are blessed with a mid to upper 90's fastball, but he is one of them.”
The seventh season of Wichita Wingnuts baseball begins Thursday, May 15th against the Grand Prairie AirHogs at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. For information on season tickets, group outings, and party packages, call the Wingnuts' main office at (316) 264-NUTS, or visit the Wingnuts' official website at www.wichitawingnuts.com