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Morales Returns, Rascals Continue to Upgrade Roster

The River City Rascals would like to announce the contract extension of shortstop Johnny Morales and the addition of three experienced players to the 2017 roster. 

Morales will be entering his fifth year with the team and is looking to be in the opening day lineup for the fourth consecutive season. Two appearances away from playing in his 300th game, the shortstop has been an integral part of the Rascals success helping the club to a trio of Frontier League championship series. Over the course of his career, he has hit .272 while notching 65 extra-base hits; 52 doubles, six triples and seven homeruns. He had a career high three homeruns in 2016 despite dealing with an injury and his best year overall came in 2014 when he hit .302 with 39 RBI and was named a Frontier League All-Star.

Along with Morales, manager Steve Brook signed left-handed pitcher Hector Hernandez and outfielders Arby Fields and Eudy Pina. The three of them have combined for 1,066 games in the minor leagues and have all been in professional baseball for four years or more.

Hernandez has played at the highest level of the newcomers appearing in two games last year for the Reno Aces, Triple-A Affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 26-year-old southpaw was originally drafted in the 10th round by the St. Louis Cardinals out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and was with the redbirds affiliates through the end of 2015. Hernandez has tossed the baseball in 141 games with 97 starts and has a career 32-30 record with a 3.89 earned run average. He began his career primarily in the starting role but saw a transition to the bullpen last year starting two games and coming out of the bullpen for 24. The lefty succeeded in that role maintaining a 3.10 ERA in 52 1/3 innings with 55 K’s and held opponents to a .222 batting average.

A pair of guys that Brook signed over this past month to help Hernandez out defensively are Arby Fields and Eudy Pina. Fields had a .260 batting average with 26 doubles and 54 stolen bases in 220 minor league games primarily in the Seattle Mariners organization. The speedy outfielder reached as high as the Bakersfield Blaze last season and had a career night with the Class A-Advanced squad launching a grand slam and totaling six RBI in a game on May 20th.

Eudy Pina has been in professional baseball since 2009 when he was signed as an international free agent by the New York Mets out of Bani, Dominican Republic.  Pina played his first two years for the Dominican Summer League Mets before moving up the ladder year-by-year and playing in 105 games last year for the Double-A Birmingham Barons. Pina has played in 705 games and up to this point of his professional career has 42 homeruns, 312 RBI and a slash line of .261/.333/.386. He is also a force in the run game stealing 115 bases in 153 attempts.

Other notable transactions for the Rascals include Michael Gunn and Vin Guglietti being traded to the Pittsburg Diamonds of the Pacific Association to complete a previous trade and Joe Pavlovich being traded back to the Rascals from the Gary SouthShore Railcats. However, Pavlovich was then placed on the suspended list.

If Pavlovich does come off the suspended list, he can be expected to bring quality innings to the club as last year he went 4-2 with a 2.81 earned run average in 19 appearances, eleven of those coming in starts.

Less than 50 days remain before opening night against the Normal CornBelters and Brook currently has a roster of 34. More players are expected to be signed in the next few weeks leading up to Spring Training and to follow all the action stay tuned to