The State College Spikes’ players are ready to go.
Some were in extended spring training since late February, training and playing in empty parks during the day. It’s a process Spikes pitcher Jacob Booden said can seem to drag on. Others finished their college careers in late May and came to State College after being drafted last week.
They spent this week training at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Pitchers threw in the bullpen and in live batting practice. Position players fielded ground balls and fly balls and reviewed baserunning in addition to getting their swings.
The preparation leads to the Spikes’ season opener Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Bowman Field against Williamsport, part of a four-game series with the Crosscutters. State College will host Williamsport on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
“Now it's time to perform,” Booden said.
State College left-hander Dewin Perez will get the start on the mound.
The 19-year-old from Colombia is entering his third season in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization. He started eight games for the Dominican Summer League Cardinals in 2012 and pitched in 11 games for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals last summer.
“I’m looking forward to this opportunity,” Perez said through manager Oliver Marmol translating. “I’ve felt really good throwing in my preparation as far as like my live BP the other day. Everything feels good, 100 percent. I’m looking forward to the opener.”
The 6-0, 175-pound Perez throws a fastball, curveball and changeup. He said he’s been working to improve his changeup with pitching coach Dernier Orozco.
“For me the biggest thing was my changeup,” Perez said. “I’ve kind of had too hard of a changeup.”
Marmol is excited about what he’s seen from the rest of his roster.
Chris Rivera and Leobaldo Pina form a young middle infield for the Spikes.
Rivera, a second baseman, hit .195 for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in his first year of professional baseball. Pina, a shortstop, finished with a .273 batting average with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.
“We got some guys up the middle with Chris Rivera and Pina, who are 19 years old who are tremendous players and we're expecting a lot from them,” Marmol said. “And then a center fielder in Acevedo who can cover some ground, who will be exciting here.”
Marmol said Jhohan Acevedo will be another exciting player to watch in center field.
Acevedo played in six games with the Palm Beach Cardinals, hitting .263, and Marmol said he can cover some ground in the outfield.
Rowan Wick is also among the Spikes’ four outfielders on the roster.
He played right field during extended spring training, with Brian Vigo-Suarez in left field. Nick Thompson started working out with the team this week after being drafted by the Cardinals as a right fielder out of the College of William and Mary.
Wick has shown some power, hitting 10 home runs and 11 doubles in 56 games for Rookie-Level Johnson City last season.
“I haven't played under the lights since last year in Johnson City,” Wick said, “so I'm looking forward to it.”
To prepare his players for the opener, Marmol planned two night workouts at Medlar Field this week.
Down in spring training in Jupiter, Fla., their schedules consisted of morning workouts and day games. The drafted players have had a few weeks since they last saw live pitching.
The live batting practice provides a preview for what to expect against Williamsport.
“We don’t want the first time they play under the lights to be on Friday,” Marmol said.
Extended spring training and the draft are behind the Spikes now.
The empty stadiums will now be filled with fans. Professional careers will officially begin when they step on the field.
Opponents will no longer be teammates in live batting practice.
On Friday, they’ll be the Crosscutters.
“I’m excited,” Booden said. “We got here about a week ago and just getting really antsy about getting going.”