Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
Southpaw Luiz Gohara, a Brazilian teenager, is one of the Pulaski team’s most intriguing new players.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
The Pulaski Mariners take to the field for a team photograph Wednesday, June 19 at Calfee Park. They open today on the road.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Chris Prieto begins his first season as the manager of the Pulaski Mariners, who open today at the Burlington Royals.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
PULASKI — The Pulaski Mariners are back at their headquarters at Calfee Park for the summer. There’s a big story there.
That would be Luiz Gohara. He’s big, very. He’s also left-handed and he can hurry a fastball up to the plate at an impressive rate of speed.
But the fact that he’s here with the rest of the hopefuls on the 33-man roster is a story. That’s true on a couple of levels. First, he’s from Brazil. That country has produced enough soccer players to stretch from there to the North Pole but not very many baseball prospects. The second point that makes the hulking Mr. Gohara a story is this: He’s 16 years old.
Being such a long away from home at such a young age is a particular challenge.
“It’s very, very difficult,” Gohara said through translator and pitching coach Nasusel Cabrera during the team’s first public appearance Wednesday. “But I know this is going to be my career. My family can come see me, though.”
They’ll have a long trip from Tupa, Brazil, but they’ve done it before.
“They came to see him when we were in Arizona, too,” Cabrera said.
That’s where the Mariners’ spring training facility and Arizona League headquarters are. It’s a familiar address for all the first-, second-, and third-year players on Pulaski’s Appalachian League team.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-handed Gohara is in his second year with the organization. He’ll take the ball the second evening out after Pulaski opens the season tonight on the road at Burlington. The Mariners play three games there before returning to Calfee for Sunday’s 7 p.m. home opener against Bluefield. The Mariners will play six games with Bluefield and Danville in their first homestand.
With Gohara’s stout fastball and his impressive build (especially for a teenager), he’s already a highly regarded prospect in the organization.
“We think he will be very good,” Cabrera said.
Hopes are high for all the pitchers, according to manager Chris Prieto, who is in his first year in that post here.
“It’s a very young staff but also very talented,” he said. “Obviously when we get into the games, we’ll learn more about their character, their perseverance, their ability to pitch with pressure. But as of right now, on paper, it’s a pretty special pitching staff.”
Edwin Diaz, a second-year right-hander from Puerto Rico, will be the opening night starter. Gohara, the only lefty in the five-man rotation, is up next and he’ll be followed by Noel De La Cruz from the Dominican Republic. Another Dominican, Ramire Cleto, and Venezuelan Jose Flores are in the Nos. 4 and 5 slots. The oldest one is De La Cruz at 22.
“All of them are pretty special pitchers,” Prieto said.
Also on the staff is Virginia Tech product Eddie Campbell, who was drafted in the 15th round this year.
Three catchers are on hand to handle the staff. With 19 pitchers on the roster, that’s a lot of staff to handle. Toby DeMello, Luke Guarnaccia and Franklin Diaz are all second-year players. DeMello and Diaz were here last year but not for long either one of them.
“DeMello is one of our older players, a leader,” Prieto said. “He’s been around the game a while. I think he’s going to help our staff out a lot.”
DeMello played at three levels last year and hit .350 in 20 at-bats when he breezed through Pulaski. Diaz hit .200 here.
Guarnaccia has unusual foot speed for a catcher, as indicated by five triples and going 3-for-3 in steals last year. Both he and Diaz are switch hitters.
Others who will figure in the regular lineup include Gabriel Franca playing middle infield and leading off; University of Virginia product Keith Werman, another middle infielder and likely No. 2 hitter; outfielder Isaiah Yates; infielder Joseph DeCarlo; outfielder Wilton Martinez; and infielder Kiristian Brito.
“The thing about the lineup that is really cool is we have a lot interchangeable parts so I can do a lot of things and move a lot of guys around,” Prieto said. “You could see one guy in the two slot to the six slot very easily. We have guys who can run and power in the middle of the lineup.”
Werman signed as a free agent last year and hit well for the brief time he was in Pulaski. He started out this season at Class A Clinton before being reassigned here.
“I played with a couple of these guys last year in Arizona,” he said.
“It’s a young group, but I think you’re going to see some pretty great things out of them.”
Weather Journal7 wintry scenarios for Sunday