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Isotopes look back on a season of pitching struggles

Prospect Zach Lee went 7-13 with an ugly 5.38 ERA in his first season at Triple-A.
Prospect Zach Lee went 7-13 with an ugly 5.38 ERA in his first season at Triple-A.
Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The 2014 season was not one to remember for the Albuquerque Isotopes. While there were some impressive individual campaigns, the sum of the parts stumbled along to the worst record (62-80) in franchise history.

“It’s been an up and down year,” first baseman Clint Robinson said. “We had a lot of moves, a lot of things happened this year with the Dodgers and all that. (But) this team continued to battle.”

Offensively, the Isotopes were as good as ever. They had the second highest OPS (on-base plus slugging) at .816 in the Pacific Coast League, trailing only first-place Las Vegas (.831).

Albuquerque was also second in home runs (169), unleashing a bruising lineup on the league. Unfortunately, the rest of the league took the Isotopes’ pitching staff and beat it senseless.

The battered arms in Albuquerque had the second worst ERA (5.50), fewest innings pitched (1,224.2), third most hits allowed (1,466) and runs allowed (828) and the second fewest strikeouts (976).

Ultimately the Isotopes never had enough pitching to back up their lineup. Throw in a slew of player transactions and it was all enough to throw the team into perpetual chaos.

“I think we did the math and we ended up with 180 transactions,” manager Damon Berryhill said. “We had about 60 different players. A lot of moves, a lot of stuff happened. A lot of injuries happened out there. But that’s just part of the game.”

While past seasons have seen Albuquerque boast a good mix of younger talent and upbeat veterans, the team chemistry was lacking throughout the year. The clubhouse was typically a quiet place this season as the team never really seemed to gel.

“In the minor leagues it’s always tough,” Robinson said. “You can’t really control a lot of the stuff that happens. Sometimes it messes with team chemistry.”

The biggest disappointment among the pitchers was right-hander Zach Lee (7-13, 5.38 ERA). A former first-round draft pick, Lee got off to a good start but regressed badly as the season went along.

The other starters were a mixed bag. Veteran right-hander Jeff Bennett (8-6, 3.83) deservedly earned the team’s pitcher of the year award, but the rest were a constantly shuffling group.

Henry Sosa (1-2, 3.72) looked good in seven starts before opting out to sign with a Korean team. Stephen Fife (2-2, 7.01) was off and on the disabled list before succumbing to Tommy John surgery late in the year.

Matt Magill (7-6, 5.21) opened the year in the rotation, struggled, got sent to the bullpen, pitched fairly well and returned to the rotation, only to struggle again. Red Patterson (5-8, 5.79) made 20 starts before he was shifted into relief for his last nine outings.

Carlos Frias (8-4, 5.01) rebounded from a slow start and earned his first promotion to the big leagues. Sam Demel (1-2, 6.41) made six starts after picking up five saves in 15 relief appearances, but his season was cut short by injury.

The end of the season saw several veterans imported for depth. Barry Enright (0-4, 8.10), Drew Carpenter (3-1, 7.74) and Justin Germano (1-1, 9.88) all struggled in short stints.

Another late addition was lefty prospect Chris Reed, who had pitched quite well (4-8, 3.22) at Double-A Chattanooga. He was pummeled (0-3, 10.97) in five starts with Albuquerque.

The humidor did little to help the starters and even less to help the beleaguered bullpen. Yimi Garcia (4-2, 3.10, 5 saves) was the exception, pitching well all season and earning a September call-up to the Majors for the first time in his career.

The rest of the relief corps was forgettable. Lefty Colt Hynes (1-3, 4.08, 2 saves) was semi-effective until the Blue Jays claimed him off waivers from the Dodgers.

Right-hander Jose Dominguez (1-2, 3.24, 10 saves) was more erratic than his ERA would indicate and he finished the year on the disabled list. Other 40-man roster pitchers who struggled included Pedro Baez (0-0, 4.76, 6 saves) and Paco Rodriguez (2-3, 4.40, 1 save).

Click here for part two on the lineup and the future of the franchise.

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