HILLARY SMITH: RailCats don't hesitate to shake up to add power

2013-07-14T19:05:00Z 2013-07-16T13:45:05Z HILLARY SMITH: RailCats don't hesitate to shake up to add powerHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
July 14, 2013 7:05 pm  • 

Last season, when the RailCats spent the bulk of the year below the .500 mark, changes were made in ebbs and flows.

Now, as the RailCats enter the second half of their season, changes will be made swiftly and for immediate help.

On Sunday, second baseman turned utility player Chase Tucker was in the dugout with his uniform on at 1:45 when he was told to head to Windy City. The rookie had been dealt to the Frontier League team in a trade, because while he was the best player to come out of training camp, "our ballclub is better with Danny Pulfer in the lineup," manager Greg Tagert said.

Pulfer is hitting .276 this season and .313 over the last 10 games. Tucker is hitting .206 for the season and .071 over the last five games he played.

Even more important, Pulfer is hitting the ball for extra bases.

"What we need, in a game like today when you don't get the double-digit hits, we need the guy that can hit the double," Tagert said after the RailCats beat Fargo-Moorhead 3-1 on Sunday with just three hits. "On a day when you get four or five hits, can you score four or five runs instead of just three?"

The biggest find already in the RailCats arsenal is Christian Vitters, who had been away from the sport for four years, but his email to the team rekindled his career. In the 14 games he's played, he put himself in position to be among the top four hitters on the team. In the last nine games, he's hitting .366 with eight runs and five RBIs, including the hit Sunday that broke a no-hitter RedHawks starter Taylor Stanten took into the sixth inning.

"The game of baseball is mostly in the head," Vitters said. "I get my at-bats going in my head before I go out there. I get to watch guys in front of me, like (Adam) Klein and (Mike) Massaro putting up great ABs in front of me and I can learn from them. I can see how they respond to pitches, so by the time I get up to bat, I feel like I've already had a few at-bats and I've warmed up a bit. I can't stress enough how much of a head game baseball is."

The mentality for the RailCats is not to find a home run hitter. Inside U.S. Steel Yard, that's not a necessity.

However, hitting for extra bases is. While the RailCats are the only team in the American Association with single-digit home runs (nine) through the first half of the season, they are also last in doubles (80) while sitting first in triples (25). 

Moves will be made swiftly and, likely, shortly.

"It's no secret that we're continuing to look for a little help on that offensive side," Tagert said. "We've got a couple guys in mind here and a couple deals possibly in the works, so things will probably shake up on the road."

The long-term goal is tomorrow, not next year anymore. The RailCats are fighting for their postseason now, because when the final records are tallied, a win in mid-July is as important as one in late September.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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