UNIVERSITY PARK — When State College Spikes manager Oliver Marmol and his players arrived in town last Saturday, he explained his approach to this season.
After leading the Spikes to the New York-Penn League Championship series last season, Marmol’s focus is on player development. The manager will see if his team’s in position for another trip to the postseason toward the end of the year.
At the Spikes’ media day at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Wednesday, Marmol repeated that plan nearly word for word when reminded of the Spikes’ success a year ago.
“Every year we come here with the same mindset,” Marmol said. “This organization really does a nice job of developing guys. My job here is to go ahead and develop them as best we can and then late in the season, we’ll see where we’re at and we’ll compete.”
The Spikes open the season at Williamsport on Friday at 7:05 p.m. This year’s team features plenty of new faces, but the players’ goal is to help State College return to the league championship series, where the Spikes lost to Tri-City last year.
State College pitcher Jacob Booden is among the returning Spikes on the roster.
Booden, who went 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA in 16 appearances in 2013, said the team sees this season as a fresh start, but the expectations remain the same.
“I don’t think it’s pressure,” Booden said of following last season’s run. “I think it’s an expectation of us coming back this year and competing like we did last year.”
Spikes pitcher Steven Farinaro said that expectation is understood when the players join the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Farinaro said it starts with what’s been termed “The Cardinal Way.”
“I know a lot of people know what ‘The Cardinal Way’ is and they hear ‘The Cardinal Way’ and that’s a true thing,” Farinaro said. “And really what ‘The Cardinal Way’ comes down to is the expectation to win. And whatever you can do to get your team to win, that’s what you’re going to do, so I’m excited to get out there and execute what I’ve been working on through spring training.”
Farinaro spent 2013 with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, going 1-3 with a 6.29 ERA. He immediately took note of how the Cardinals operate after being drafted in the 11th round.
It all goes back to the expectation to win, something he can feel in State College as the team prepares for the opener.
While the Spikes aim to win games, the coaches also work to develop their players. The process includes meetings with every player.
“They do a self-evaluation of themselves,” Marmol said, “and then we sit down for about 15, 20 minutes with each player and just go over what they think they need to improve on and then we give them a plan for improvement of what we see their weaknesses and strengths. But we do that with every single player. Halfway through the year, we do that with the drafted players once we have an idea on what they can improve on.”
Booden is still getting a feel for his new teammates from the draft. But he believe the Spikes will be in the mix in the New York-Penn League again.
“It’s all about execution, whether it’s from a hitting standpoint or pitching standpoint,” Booden said. “I think we have a good chance to compete again, and we have a good coaching staff behind us to help us get there.”
Perez to start Spikes’ opener
Marmol said Dewin Perez will start the season opener Friday at Williamsport and Farinaro will start the home opener Saturday.
Perez, a 19-year-old left-hander from Colombia, started his professional career in 2013 with the Gulf Coast Cardinals, going 2-4 with a 3.23 ERA. He was signed as an international free agent in 2011 and pitched for the Dominican Summer League Cardinals in 2012.
The 18-year-old Farinaro chose to sign with the Cardinals rather than attending UCLA after being drafted last year. He made six starts and 10 appearances with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in 2013, throwing 24 1/3 innings.
“We have a couple guys in the starting rotation with (Luis) Perdomo and Dewin Perez and Farinaro, which you’re going to see early on,” Marmol said. “Just some great arms. Some power arms that can do the job. They’re young and exciting.”
Follow Ryne Gery on Twitter @rgery