Oilers add 4 players for postseason
With their pursuit of a fourth National Baseball Congress World Series championship set to begin, the Peninsula Oilers have added four players to the roster.
Joining the Oilers are relief pitchers Hunter Lemke and Conner Kendrick of the Anchorage Bucs, outfielder Boomer Collins of the Bucs and designated hitter Stephen Branca of the Mat-Su Miners.
Peninsula coach Dennis Machado said Branca will be in the lineup when the Oilers open the 64-team tournament against the Northwest (Wash.) Honkers at 7:30 p.m. today at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, Kan. Lemke, Kendrick and Collins will join the club Thursday.
Lemke is a powerful right-hander with a fastball in the low-90s. He was second behind Kendrick in appearances for the Bucs with 10, finishing with a 1.21 ERA over 22 1-3 innings in the Alaska Baseball League.
Kendrick, a left-hander, was 4-0 with a 1.11 ERA in 12 league appearances, striking out 29 and walking 12 over 24 1-3 innings.
"Both of them were really tough this summer," Machado said. "It's going to give us some flexibility with matchups and add quality to the back end of our bullpen."
The biggest question this season has came from the back end of the bullpen: Who is the Oilers closer?
Reese McGraw, Tyler Blum and Mark Winkelman received chances, but none of them emerged as the everyday guy.
Lemke is an option because he had two saves for Bucs. And starter Gabriel Asakura, who has been hampered by a sore back the past few days, will pitch from the bullpen to begin the tournament and could get a chance to close if he is healthy.
"We'll see how he feels," Machado said.
Collins hit .261 and was second on the Bucs with 16 RBIs. He also hit three doubles and two home runs in league play. Machado could shuffle the outfield in a number of ways when Collins arrives.
Since the Oilers have platooned Zach Kirksey, Manny Acosta and Greg Anderson in left field - and none of them have hit with any consistency - the obvious move is to insert Collins in that slot. Collins, however, was the Bucs everyday right fielder, a position occupied by switch-hitter Tanner Rust.
Meanwhile, Branca hit .299 in the ABL and led the Miners with 21 RBIs. He will hit either fifth, sixth or seventh in the lineup today, Machado said.
The addition of Branca likely means first baseman/designated hitter Jeff Yamaguchi will see a reduced role because Troy Channing, one of the team's leading hitters, is a shoe-in to start at first.
Changes to the lineup don't mean a change to the Oilers' mentality.
"It goes back to what we have been doing all year, which is go out and play our game and compete and have our at-bats and see what happens," Machado said. "If we do that, we should be successful."
Right-hander John Maciel is the Oilers' starting pitcher today. ... Temperatures have been well above 100 degrees since the Oilers arrived Monday, reaching 114 Tuesday, Machado said. ... The Oilers were scheduled to practice from 10 p.m. to midnight yesterday. ... The Honkers belong to the Pacific International League and finished the season 15-10 overall, according to the club's website.