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Positional Preview: Starting Pitchers

Positional Preview: Starting Pitchers

The River City Rascals will feature a much different starting pitching rotation in 2019 than fans have become accustomed to in recent years. Gone are stalwarts such as Dan Ludwig, Hector Hernandez and Lucas Laster—and a new crop of arms are in the mix for this summer. Two familiar faces will compete for a starting role--second-year man Dalton Roach and veteran Jason Zgardowski. They will be joined by MiLBers Alec Byrd, Seth Davis, Alex Winkelman and Luis Rivero, along with rookies Ryan Simpler, Colton Fletcher, Josh Norwood and Travis McQueen in competition for the starting rotation.

Zgardowski, along with infielder Braxton Martinez, is the longest tenured Rascal, having first joined the team in 2016. The 6'5" right-hander re-signed with the team in late August of last season, having spent most of the year in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He appeared in three regular season games as well as three of the team's playoff games against the Joliet Slammers. The San Antonio, TX native appeared in a combined 49 games for the Rascals out of the bullpen between 2016 and 2017, registering a 1.33 ERA in 34 games in 2017 before being signed by the Cardinals. He has made just two career starts at the professional level, both during the 2014 season with the (RK) GCL Phillies.

Roach joined the Rascals midway though last season after completing a decorated career at Minnesota State-Mankato. The Eau Claire native was 1-3 with a 4.66 ERA for the Rascals, making five starts and 11 total appearances. He struck out 42 and only walked 13 in 36 2/3 total innings of work, and also worked three scoreless innings in Game 2 of the FLDS against the Slammers. The right-hander was a four-year starter for the Minnesota State Mavericks and was the Tomko Award winner (best pitcher in NCAA D2 baseball) during the 2017 season, going 10-1 with a 1.56 ERA in 14 appearances (13 starts) in 86 2/3 innings--finishing with 128 strikeouts, 12 walks, and a .180 opposing batting average.

Byrd is a lefty who spent the last two seasons with the (A-) Boise Hawks of the Northwest League, after being drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 33rd round of the 2017 draft out of Florida State, where he was a teammate of Rascals catcher Gage West for three seasons in Tallahassee, along with Rascals reliever Jim Voyles. The Miami Shores, FL native made 16 appearances for the Hawks last season including 10 starts. He was 3-3 with a 3.00 ERA. Alec led the ACC in appearances (36) as a collegiate senior in 2017, and also appeared in the College World Series that year.

Davis has spent the last four seasons in the New York Mets organization. The right-hander was drafted in the 29th round of the 2015 draft out of Augustana College (IL). He split the 2018 season between the (A-) Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League and (A+) St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League. The Aurora, CO native appeared in 21 games between the two clubs last season, all out of the bullpen. He had a combined ERA of 3.52 and struck out 36 hitters in 30 2/3 total innings. Seth struck out 100 hitters in 2013 with the Augustana Vikings.

Winkelman is a Crystal City, MO native who played collegiately at Southeast Missouri State. The southpaw was a 21st round pick of the Houston Astros in 2015, and spent four seasons in their farm system. He reached as high as the (AA) Corpus Christi Hooks of the Texas League in both 2017 and 2018. In 2018, he was 5-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 32 appearances (six starts), and struck out 81 in 77 2/3 innings. Alex was a state champion at Crystal City High School in 2010.

Rivero, a native of Venezuela, has been in the Boston Red Sox system since 2015. The 21-year old spent three seasons representing the club in the Dominican Summer League, and came to the states last season to pitch for the (RK) GCL Red Sox in Florida. The 6'3" right-hander put up excellent numbers in 2018, going 3-0 with a 1.92 ERA in 12 appearances out of the bullpen, registering 18 2/3 total innings and 13 strikeouts.

Simpler played his college ball at East Tennessee State, wrapping up his collegiate career in 2018. He split his time between the bullpen and starting rotation his first two seasons, but became a full-time starter his junior year. The Lewes, DE native pitched over 300 innings for the Bucs, and finished his career with 317 strikeouts. The right-hander's 96 strikeouts in 2017 ranked fourth all-time in school history for a single season.

Fletcher is a San Jose, CA native and rookie from Cal State Monterey Bay. The 6'4" lefty spent his final two seasons collegiately with the Otters. Colton excelled out of the bullpen as a junior, accumulating a 1.57 ERA in 12 appearances, totaling 23 innings. He moved into the starting rotation as a senior, and went 10-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 13 starts. He led the team in wins, ERA, and innings pitched, totaling 81 1/3.

Norwood is a rookie southpaw from Chapman University, who started his collegiate career at El Camino College. The Rolling Hills Estates, CA native made 11 appearances, including seven starts for the Chapman Panthers in 2016 totaling 37 innings. The 24-year old threw a no-hitter while pitching for Palos Verdes High School.

McQueen is a Midlothian, VA native who spent last season in the USPBL with the Westside Woolly Mammoths, where he appeared in 21 games, making seven starts and totaling 66 innings. The right-hander played his college ball at Radford. As a senior in 2016, he appeared in 18 games, making one start. He struck out 42 hitters in 38 innings of work.

The Rascals kick-off the 2019 campaign against the Washington Wild Things on Thursday, May 9 at CarShield Field. Tickets for the season are available at rivercityrascals.com, or by calling the team box office at 636-240-2287.

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