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Scorpions set for season opener
Baseball still keeps Darryl Brinkley up at night.
But now instead of going over a scouting report of a pitcher in his mind or worrying that he took enough batting practice, he's going over different lineups and making sure all his pitchers got enough bullpen time.
After 16 years of playing in independent and minor leagues, Brinkley is managing the Yuma Scorpions this season, his first at the helm of a professional team. He'll be tested from the start, as the Scorpions open the season at 6:30 p.m. today against defending Golden Baseball League champion Calgary.
Brinkley said he's been relishing the transition from player to coach.
"You think a little bit more," Brinkley said. "I went from getting my body in shape to getting my head ready. That's the big difference. You lay up a little big longer at night thinking about all different lineups and rotations, making sure guys get their bullpen in; rather than thinking about my long-throwing, my sit-ups, my swings."
Last year, Brinkley tied for the GBL lead in RBIs, driving home 82 runs in helping Edmonton reach the postseason. His 13 home runs was fourth in the league and he finished with a .297 batting average.
Despite those numbers, Brinkley - who turned 41 in December - said player-manager is not in his future.
"I'm done playing," Brinkley said. "I can't hang in there with these young kids any more. It was tough. To play last year, the last couple years, I really, really trained hard to just to hang in there with them. I'm glad this opportunity came along now, because I don't think I could do one more year anyway.
"I'm thinking how in the world was I ready at this time last year," he said. "I'm so out of baseball shape right now. I still work out, but normally by now I'm two months into running, and right now I'm only a week into it. I just can't find the time."
Brinkley isn't the only first-time coach on the team. Former New York Met Bill Pulsipher is the pitching coach, and will also be the team's ace. He was 4-2 with a 3.55 ERA last year with Winnipeg of the Northern League. He'll be on the mound against Calgary tonight, and batting ninth. The GBL will drop the designated hitter rule this year and require pitchers to bat.
"I'm not going to be perfect right off the bat, because nobody's perfect," Pulsipher said. "Hopefully I learn from my mistakes as a coach as well as hopefully you learn from your mistakes as a player. Is it an adjustment? Yes. But it's something over the last few years I've found myself focusing on."
Pulsipher - a lefty who last pitched in the majors with the Cardinals in 2005, his last of six big league teams - isn't the only former big leaguer on the roster. Cha-Seung Baek is penciled in as the fourth starter and pitched for the Padres in 2008.
"We're real young, which is fun for me because I can do some teaching," Pulsipher said. "It's my first time in the league so I'm not sure what to expect from the other staffs out here, I think we have some guys now I feel comfortable are going to go out and pound the strike zone and execute their pitches."
Brinkley said pitching is a definite strength for the Scorpions, with Daryl Arreola slated as the No. 2 starter, lefty Drew Coffey as the No. 3, and lefty Gilbert de la Vera as the five starter. Cibney Bello, one of six Venezuelans on the roster to start the season, will be the closer.
"Supposedly there aren't supposed to be that many runs now (with the removal of the DH)," Brinkley said. "You need to have shutdown pitchers. That way your always in the game."
Brinkely said there are a couple potential starters in the bullpen as well, including Matt Stone and Tony Perez, who was signed Tuesday after pitching against the Scorpions for a traveling all-military all-star team that topped Yuma 4-3.
"That's the one that's a work in progress, but it's coming now," Brinkley said. "A couple of guys who were going to be our starters are now in the bullpen, so that's always a good thing."
The third big leaguer on the roster is shortstop Alex Prieto who hit .209 in 24 games for the Minnesota Twins in 2003-04. He was signed to replace reigning GBL MVP Nelson Castro, who was acquired in a trade with Calgary but decided to retire.
Peter Young, Scorpions vice president, said he doesn't think it's a permanent retirement.
"He's got a couple young kids, and I think he's finally realizing his family life is maybe more important to him than gallivanting around the baseball world," Young said. "I think that in the near future, I don't expect him to change his mind. But knowing how much these guys love to play and the itch that's eventually going to come back, I wouldn't be surprised if we get a phone call in the next month just saying 'Hey, I'm tired of sitting around, I want to play again.'"
The Scorpions are owned by Golden Glove Professional Baseball, a Venezuela-based company. Young said more Venezuelans will join the team as the year goes on.
But in the meantime, the new coaches Pulsipher and Brinkely are excited for a new season.
"Hopefully I'm here to lead by example," Pulsipher said. "I still believe in myself as a pitcher. I believe I can perform out there. I believe my stuff is still good. It's good to be the guy that's expected to do well and I wouldn't have came if that wasn't the case."