PRO BASEBALL

RailCats numbers down, attract big-league vets to tryout

2013-05-02T18:00:00Z 2013-05-03T23:17:05Z RailCats numbers down, attract big-league vets to tryoutHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

GARY | Whether it was the 48-degree temperatures at the outset of the RailCats tryout, the newly installed $50 fee for players wanting to participate or the RailCats roster that is nearly full, Thursday's open tryout didn't produce the numbers as past years.

With 24 position players and 14 pitchers in attendance, the RailCats asked all from the morning session of workouts to return for an afternoon simulated game. From that group, manager Greg Tagert culled four position players and a pitcher to join the team in a May 10 exhibition game.

Among those returning is Clark graduate Mike Carpen, who has been working in part as an assistant baseball coach at Whiting High School.

Carpen, whose twin brother Albert recently signed a contract in the United League, is a 2011 graduate of Chicago State University. He's also an infielder, a position at which the RailCats had hoped to find some competition during spring training.

"It's a relief to me to be what they need," Carpen said. "It's nice to know that I have a shot to be asked back, and then a shot to be signed."

Tagert said he was happy with the tryout, despite the lower numbers.

"I think what creates a good tryout and what players choose is where the best opportunity is," Tagert said. "We had a player who didn't come because of our outfield situation. ... You don't want to gauge a success of a tryout on quantity, it's not a kid's camp. It's one of those things where quality matters so much more than quantity."

Included in those who tried out was pitcher Clay Zavada, a 2009 member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who pitched in Triple-A Memphis last season while battling injury.

Nathan Stewart was the only pitcher asked to return next week, in part because of the velocity on his pitches. The righty was clocking 90 and 91 miles per hour on the radar gun, Tagert said.

The RailCats coaching staff -- which added third base coach Bobby Segal and hitting coach Aaron McEachran on Thursday -- also asked catcher John Bobillo, outfielder Alex Foltz and Purdue North Central grad Spencer Anderson to return for next week's game.

There's no guarantee for players who reach the next step in the tryout phase to make the club. Each is evaluated against those players already under contract with the RailCats.

Carpen said he's happy just to make it past the first round.

"This gets my confidence up," Carpen said. "The last couple of tryouts, I haven't been invited back. The first was late in the season because I was still playing at Chicago State and the last one I wasn't invited back. This is a great boost of confidence."

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