(Long Island, N.Y.) The best way to erase the bad memories of missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons is to get yourself right back in the first chance you get. That is exactly the way the Long Island Ducks have approached the 2011 campaign and their current position near first place in the Atlantic League’s North Division shows that they have the right mix on their roster.
The organization has been known as one bringing in the big name former major leaguer to the independent circuit, but first year manager Kevin Baez has been able to make things happen with a lack of that type of player. Where as in the past when the likes of Carlos Baerga, Juan Gonzalez, John Rocker, Bill Pulsipher and Carl Everett have garnered the headlines, names such as Lew Ford and Duaner Sanchez will have to do.
Ford is in his second go-round in Central Islip while Sanchez is looking to resurrect a career that has spiraled downward since a late night food run in Miami back in 2006. The setup man had established himself as a reliable eighth inning specialist for the New York Mets before injuring his shoulder as the passenger in a taxi cab. The right-hander had to undergo season-ending surgery and that very well may have played into the Mets falling short of the National League pennant by one game.
A second operation on his pitching shoulder was a sign of things to come for Sanchez and he found himself pitching in Mexico last summer. Now he is being looked at as a veteran at the age of 31 in the Ducks’ bullpen.
For the 34-year-old Ford, he is hoping for similar success as he enjoyed in 2009 as a member of the Ducks. In 93 games, the outfielder hit .330 (good enough for second in the entire league), 10 home runs, two triples and 55 RBI. He also had a 13-game hitting streak and reached base in 40 consecutive games. The Cincinnati Reds signed him before the end of the season, but the former Minnesota Twin did not stick with the organization and joined Sanchez in Mexico in 2010.
Back in 2001, the Mets drafted a tall, slim left-handed starter in the third round and had aspirations that he would turn into a member of their rotation some day. Lenny DiNardo did make it to the major leagues, but it was in Athletics, Red Sox and Royals uniforms. The 6’4″, 195-pounder showed enough in the first month of the current season on Long Island to have Oakland take another flyer out on him. DiNardo will report to Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento with the blessing of Baez.
“We are happy that Lenny will get a chance to return to the major leagues,” the manager said. “He was a tremendous addition to our pitching staff and will surely be missed.”
In three starts as a Duck, DiNardo went 2-1 with a 5.09 ERA, but had 17 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings pitched. That in itself may have been enough to give the southpaw a legitimate shot. And if their success continues, DiNardo will be far from the only Duck signed by a major league organization.