2006-05-17 / Columnists

Fowl Ball! Weekly report on the DUCKS

Ducks Winning Streak Ends At Six, Figueroa Is First Player on Path to Majors
by Jason Eisenberg

Mother Nature could not stop the Ducks this week but Long Island's baseball team did not have as much luck with Mother's Day. The team resumed play last Wednesday after two days off and proceeded to string together four straight victories. This would push their total winning streak to six games and move them into an earlyseason lead atop the Atlantic League's North Division.

Certainly the most impressive performance during this stretch, and perhaps to this point in the young season, came last Friday night when the Ducks had to pitch, catch and bat through a pretty severe fog that had descended upon Citibank Park. Their Citibank Park. Their opponents, the Road Warriors, did not have nearly the same fortune in handling these difficult playing conditions. The Warriors' outfielders appeared to misjudge fly balls numerous times and their offense never mounted any sustained pressure during the shortened, but official, game.

A lot of the credit must also go to Long Island starting pitcher Pat Mahomes, who did not need any help from the fog, as he continued his strong start to the season by dominating the Warriors' hitters for most of the night. "I was not at spring training this year so it had been three months since I last pitched," says the former-Met, who is now tied for the league lead in wins with a record of 3-0, "I needed some time and a few games to get in-sync but tonight I felt in control of most of my pitches and it was probably my best start of the season so far." Mahomes was on the mound for all seven innings allowing only five hits and not a single run. His effort qualifies as a complete game shutout since the officiating crew decided to call the game, with the Ducks up 9-0, after a 30 minute delay in the middle of the seventh inning. They believed that the fog had reached a point where it would be dangerous for the teams to continue playing.

The team also had a very successful night at the plate, as seven of the nine Ducks batters had at least one hit and eight different players scored a run. This includes a sixth inning which saw the Ducks bat through their entire lineup and add seven runs to put the game out of reach. "These guys are pretty much playing their way into shape and they are just going to keep getting better and better," said Ducks manager Don McCormack, "Even when we plug in guys like [Rob] Cafiero and the Goelz brothers they will get their share of hits because these are all good players. Everybody on this team can contribute." However, on this particular night Carlos Hernandez was undeniably the star of the show. The Ducks second baseman went a perfect 4-for4 with 2 RBI's and was just a home run away from becoming the second player in Ducks history to hit for the cycle. "In my last at-bat I could see the outfielder was having problems with the fog after I made contact," Hernandez said after the game, "so the thought of making it all the way around the bases came up but I could only get another double out of it. Still, I was hitting the ball well tonight so it was a good game for me." Nelson Figueroa signs with Washington Nationals

Most players in the Atlantic League fit into one of two categories; some are young guys who just want to play any kind of professional ball, but the majority consists of older or middle-aged veterans looking to get noticed in hopes of either returning to the majors or getting their first shot at the big league level. During these first few weeks of the 2006 season, the Long Island Ducks had over a dozen players on their roster with previous Major League experience. Many of these guys are looking to take whatever steps are necessary in order to make it back, and this week one of them got his chance.

Pitcher Nelson Figueroa became the first Duck this season to sign with a Major League organization and he will immediately report to the Washington National's AAAaffiliate in New Orleans. "Heading into the season, we knew that Nelson would be one of the first guys to be picked up, but we didn't think it would happen this quickly," said Ducks' general manager Michael Hirsch. "We are extremely happy for him and wish him the best of luck in New Orleans."

At the start of the season, new Ducks' pitching coach Dick Such said, "One of the biggest goals we have set is to see how many guys we can get up to the big leagues." Pat Mahomes and slugger Bucky Jacobsen are probably the two Ducks who are most likely to be next on the radar for some Major League teams. Jacobsen had a short, but successful, stint with the Seattle Mariners two years ago while Mahomes has pitched in over 300 games at the big league level. "If everything works out it would be great to get back up there," Mahomes says, "But I am happy to be here with the Ducks and right now my focus is on doing everything I can to help this team win ballgames."

EXTRA INNINGS:

The Ducks also announced the signing of pitcher Damian Moss to fill the opening left by Figueroa's departure. Moss is another former major leaguer, who previously played with the Atlanta Braves in 2002 and more recently pitched for his home country of Australia in the World Baseball Classic tournament. Moss made his Ducks debut on Sunday and it was a forgettable one as he lasted only three innings in a 10-3 loss. The defeat, which came on Mother's Day, ended Long Island's winning streak at six games.

After an off day on Monday, the Ducks began a three game series in Atlantic City on Tuesday. The team will return home to Citibank Park on Friday night for three games over the upcoming weekend against the Newark Bears.

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