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Doing Things the Right Way Helps Somerset “Weather the Storm”

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. – After a handful of recent transactions, Somerset’s pitching rotation looks outstandingly different from opening day.

Mike Antonini was in the midst of a historic campaign as a closer. He sat atop the Atlantic League with 25 saves in 31 games. The southpaw had his contract purchased by Pericos de Puebla of the Mexican Baseball League on July 12.

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Following Antonini’s departure in July alone were: Jonathan Cheshire (Double-A Pensacola), David Kubiak (Algodones de Union Laguna, Mexican League), Logan Darnell (Sultanes de Monterrey, Mexican Baseball League) and Brett Oberholtzer, who had his contract purchased by a team in the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

Somerset is yet to announce the team Oberholtzer will go to but says a deal is done.

“You try to weather the storm and hope they don’t all [have their contracts purchased] at once,” Somerset manager Brett Jodie said. “We’re kind of prepared to lose a few guys, but to lose six [players] in that amount of time – and six great guys too, these are guys we counted on. It’s definitely a huge challenge in this league.”

To compensate for the departure, Jodie and Director of Player Personnel Jon Hunton added five valuable pitchers in 11 days.

Pitchers Rick Teasley and Tyler Cloyd returned to Bridgewater after they spent a majority of 2019 in Mexico with Pericos de Puebla and the Seattle Mariners organization respectively. The Mariners purchased Cloyd’s contract during spring training.

Pitcher Zech Zinicola rejoined the team after missing time due to “personal reasons”.

The team also announced the signing of 2015 Championship Series MVP pitcher Roy Merritt and relief pitcher Edwin Quirarte. Merritt started Saturday night’s game against the Long Island Ducks on “a moment’s notice.”

Merritt had a four-year stint with Somerset from 2012 to 2015 where he tossed a complete game no hitter in a pivotal Game Five of the 2015 Liberty Division Championship series against none other than the Ducks.

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When it comes to bringing in players, Hunton said he is in constant contact with scouts and agents throughout the season. Those connections with those people are what make him good at his job.

“The biggest thing for me is staying in the loop. I’m already in contact with players, scouts, agents, even other teams who might be moving somebody,” Hunton said. “Specifically when I talk to players, when they get released or become available, I will reach out to them and just plant the seed and get a feel for if [playing in Indy ball] is something they’re looking for.”

In Quirarte’s case, he had come home from playing in Mexico to be with his wife who is pregnant. Hunton said they spoke back and forth so both parties can assess when the right time would be for a reunion.

“We were thin going into the High Point series [form July 19 to 21] to start off the road trip, then we get hit hard in Lancaster with guys getting picked up,” Hunton said. “It was already a plan that [July] 26 was a target. We knew Zinicola was coming back that day and it all just worked out. For [players] to know ‘Hey I’m ready whenever you guys are,’ it makes me feel great because I know they want to be here and they know I’m not wasting their time.

“[Merritt] called me as soon as he got let go by Sugar Land [Skeeters]… it was just the timetables working out correctly for those guys coming in and with who we lost so it worked out.”

A believer in good karma, Hunton said he and Jodie pride themselves on doing things the right way which is likely a reason why players genuinely want to come back to Bridgewater and play for the Patriots.

“We just lost four or five guys but we already know we had Zinicola coming in, Teasley just came back, Cloyd called me and said he got released by the Mariners and then we had Quirarte [and Merritt],” Hunton said. “It always seems to kind of work itself out.”

Follow Dylan Manfre on Twitter for the latest on the Somerset Patriots and the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

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Dylan is a sophomore journalism major at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey and covers the Somerset Patriots and Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. He is also the Sports Editor of Rider's student newspaper, The Rider News.
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