If it were up to new Isotopes manager Damon Berryhill, his team would be preparing to open the season in Albuquerque on Thursday night instead of being in Tacoma.
“No, I’d rather start at home,” Berryhill said. “I wouldn’t mind it if we were going on maybe a six-day trip (not) an eight-day trip, but right off the bat I’d much prefer to be at home. At the tail end we should get to finish at home. Either way, we’ll try to get off to a good start.”
Isotopes fans will have to wait an extra eight days to meet their new manager and 16 new players. This team is reminiscent of the 2011 club, a mix of experienced veterans and some legitimate top prospects.
This season’s starting five will feature three returnees, one top prospect and a minor-league veteran.
“It’s a lot different mix than we had last year, for sure,” said returning right-hander Red Patterson (7-4, 3.03 ERA). “I haven’t really been able to see a whole lot of how the team has come together this spring, because of the (Dodgers’) Australia trip and stuff like that. But it seems like a good mix. We are excited to see how it works out.”
Patterson made 12 starts and 27 relief appearances a year ago, but he will enter this season as a starter.
“It is nice to kind of have a (defined) role,” Patterson said. “I knew a couple days ago. I texted Dish (pitching coach Glenn Dishman) when I was in L.A. A few days ago, I thought I was going to be in the same role I was a year ago.”
Fellow right-handers Matt Magill (6-2, 3.47) and Stephen Fife (2-4, 6.03) are also back, both hoping for more stability after bouncing back and forth between Albuquerque and Los Angeles last season.
Most eyes, though, will be on Dodgers No. 4-ranked prospect Zach Lee (10-10, 3.32 at Double-A). There was considerable debate this offseason about whether or not the Dodgers would expose the former first-round pick (2010) to Albuquerque’s hitter-friendly environment.
“I found out pretty much right after, well, it was the last day of the Freeway Series,” Lee said. “They were planning out the flights and that was the first time I found out.
“It’s obviously going to play a little bit different (here than Chattanooga). There’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment period, probably. But anywhere you play there’s going to be adjusting that you have to do, so it’s one of those things, you take it for what it is.”
The final rotation spot will fall to veteran Henry Sosa, who went 9-9 with the Kia Tigers in South Korea last season.
The initial list of eight relievers released on media day Tuesday figures to change by the time the Isotopes take the field Thursday night. The Dodgers are expected to place reliever Brian Wilson on the disabled list with an elbow injury, which will necessitate a call-up.
Right-hander Jose Dominguez, who struck out 12 batters in eight scoreless innings with the Isotopes last season, is the odds-on favorite to go up as he is already on the 40-man roster and did appear in nine games with the Dodgers last September.
Even without Dominguez and his 100 mph fastball, the Isotopes have a strong relief contingent, though all of the other faces will be new to Albuquerque save for former UNM Lobo Steve Smith (1-0, 3.72).
Daniel Moskos (2-1, 4.97, 1 save at Charlotte) is the only left-hander. He is a former first-round pick (2007) of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The top candidate to close for the Isotopes may be Yimi Garcia (4-6, 2.54, 19 saves), who held that role at Double-A Chattanooga last season and earned a spot on the 40-man this offseason.
Rounding out the bullpen are veterans Sam Demel (1-1, 1.72, 3 saves at Scranton), Steve Edlefsen (2-2, 6.28 at Fresno), Josh Judy (1-4, 6.75, 7 saves at Salt Lake and Arkansas) and Justin Souza (5-3, 4.58, 19 saves at Toledo and Erie).