A little more than two weeks into the season, Leobaldo Pina is already showing signs of fatigue.
Pina is the State College Spikes’ primary shortstop, playing 14 of the team’s 16 games at the position. Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez has relied on Pina to start five games at a time before getting a day off.
The 21-year-old is still adjusting to the physical challenge of being in the lineup nearly everyday, and the Spikes have made protein shakes a regular part of his diet.
“We make sure he has a shake when he gets here, a shake after the game when he’s eating,” Rodriguez said. “Because you can see at times, he gets tired and you see how his throws will kind of die off.”
Rodriguez is also working with infielder Danny Martin at shortstop to lighten Pina’s load, but Martin is currently day-to-day with a groin injury. Pina was in the lineup for the fourth straight night Sunday in the second game of State College’s three-game series at Auburn.
Rodriguez has seen a tired Pina botch routine throws.
Poor footwork leads to a poor throw. Some have resulted in errors while others have been saved at first base. Rodriguez said the mistakes are about a lack of focus as much as fatigue.
“Even if you’re 100 percent, going well and have a lot of energy, if your feet move slow, your arm’s gonna drop,” Rodriguez said before adding Pina’s focus needs to be sharp at all times.
Rodriguez said Pina has limited range and an average arm, factors that may lead to a position change later in his career.
“I think eventually maybe he’ll be moved to third but we’re going to let that play itself out,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll let him play himself out of there. We’re not going to make that move yet.”
Martin has played two games at short and Josh Swirchak is also capable of giving Pina a break at times.
But Pina will be at shortstop nearly every day on a Spikes team lacking depth in the infield. If Pina climbs through the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system, Rodriguez said it will be because of his bat.
Pina was hitting .241 with two doubles and a home run going into Sunday.
Said Rodriguez: “He’s going to get stronger physically and he’s got a little juice in that bat.”
The Cardinals’ 2015 draft picks and undrafted free agents have gotten a crash course in time management with the Spikes.
The first-year pros, like outfielder Thomas Spitz, have learned about developing a routine around early work and batting practice before games.
“Two weeks in, you’re starting to get more and more comfortable each and every day,” Spitz said.
Spitz has found his comfort zone at the plate, too. The West Chester native and Wingate University product had reached base in all 13 games he made a plate appearance going into Sunday. Spitz was hitting .302 and was tied for the team-lead with eight walks going into Sunday. He had also recorded hits in eight of his last nine games.
“It’s a learning process every day and you just got to get better,” Spitz said.
Pittsburgh Pirates first-round pick Kevin Newman has had a rough start to his professional career.
Newman is hitting .205 in 10 games with the West Virginia Black Bears. He left Thursday night’s game against State College after fouling a pitch off his foot in the first inning and missed the next three games.
But West Virginia manager Wyatt Toregas can see why the organization took the University of Arizona shortstop with the 19th overall pick of the 2015 MLB Draft.
“He’s a gamer, he plays hard, he doesn’t seem to get fazed by adversity,” Toregas said. “He just plays the game the right way — runs hard, he does the little things. He’s a good pickup for us.”