By the month of June, most baseball managers know what type of team they are working with.
For Myrtle Beach Pelicans skipper Buddy Bailey, such a revelation came much sooner — and oddly at a time in which the club was struggling to catch its footing in the competitive Southern Division of the Carolina League.
Given the opportunity to take on a pair of the circuit’s top teams at the time — the Buies Creek Astros and Salem Red Sox — Myrtle Beach scuffled to a 2-6 record, the biggest culprit being its inability to string together a full nine innings of work.
But having spent the past few decades in dugouts throughout the minors, Bailey understands it only takes the dawn of a new day for one’s fortunes to change.
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And of late, few clubs in the Carolina League have performed better than the Pelicans.
Since that 2-6 stretch in late May, Myrtle Beach reeled off wins in 10 of its last 13 games coming into Tuesday night, including five games in a row. As a result of that recent surge, the club now finds itself atop the Carolina League South, supplanting the team’s chief nemesis this season in Buies Creek.
“As long as I’ve been in the game, winning tends to give you energy,” Bailey said. “You want your players to experience the type of games where a pitch here or swing there in later innings could help us win a game.”
Things like this are more important for development… sometimes you’ll come up short and want to win, but being in those situations prepare players for the next time they get into one much like it.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans manager Buddy Bailey
Pitching has proven to be the bell cow for the Pelicans, their staff already well above 500 innings as the first half of the Carolina League season nears its conclusion.
Starters Justin Steele and Adbert Alzolay are among the circuit’s ERA leaders, sitting in third (2.62) and eighth (2.90), respectively. As a team, Myrtle Beach is third with a collective ERA of 3.63, while leading the Carolina League in both shutouts and complete games.
The staff has proven mighty durable, its arms put to the test during more than its share of extra-inning games and doubleheaders over the past month.
Since the start of May, the Pelicans have played in four doubleheaders, while also participating in three extra-inning affairs in the past week.
“(On Friday), the way the standings were, we needed to win the game, but we also needed to win it when we did,” Bailey said. “After going 14 innings (on Wednesday against Down East) we were still trying to regroup our staff and keep things somewhat intact. Thanks to Ryan Kellogg’s effort (last Thursday), we were able to save our guy on the back end for anther day. It really helped us reshuffle the deck.”
Hitting has been more of a work in progress for the baseball club.
Ahead of Tuesday’s series finale with Buies Creek, the Pelicans were tied for last in the circuit in batting average. Worse, the club’s on-base percentage if .305, last among 10 teams in the Carolina League.
“It’s crazy, looking at the stat sheet our leadoff hitting hasn’t been good at all,” Bailey said. “But we’ve been better as a team with runners in scoring position. It seems we’d much rather hit with guys on base … let’s get the leadoff man on and we can get something working.”
Said Myrtle Beach hitting coach Guillermo Martinez: “I coached all these guys elsewhere (at South Bend (Ind.) Cubs), and these guys have all shown they can hit the baseball. It should be nothing more than a matter of time before they start clicking, I have that much faith in them.”