Cutters await reinforcements

If the Williamsport Crosscutters’ roster released Wednesday seems a little thin, it’s because it is.

The team held maybe the fastest batting practice in its history during its workout at Bowman Field yesterday, the team’s first since coming to Williamsport from extended spring training in Florida, largely because there’s just 21 players on the roster. The New York-Penn League allows for 30 active players on the roster, with only 25 maximum permitted to dress for games.

The Cutters, though, are short-handed as the Philadelphia Phillies, Williamsport’s parent organization, tries to sort out where it will send the 18 players it has drafted and signed in the last week. There’s is just one player who was selected in last week’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on the roster, and that’s fifth-round pick Rhys Hoskins.

The other 20 players are previous years’ draft picks and free agent signees from Latin America. First-year Cutters manager Shawn Williams said the team has everything it needs to be ready for this weekend’s season-opening series against State College.

“I think we’ll be all right,” said Williams, the son of former big league manager Jimy Williams. “We have a lot of guys here that are very versatile. We have enough pitching and we’ll be fine until we get the remainder of the roster.”

Reinforcements are expected near the end of the weekend after the Phillies’ minor league coordinators evaluate their draft picks in Clearwater. Usually, most of the Phillies’ minor league coordinators are in Williamsport for opening weekend of the Crosscutters’ season, but only Ernie Whitt, the organization’s catching coordinator, was on hand for the team’s first workout yesterday.

Six of the players on the roster saw time in Williamsport last year, including pitcher Mitch Gueller. The 2012 Supplemental First-Round draft pick struggled to find consistency in his first full professional season last year, going 2-8 with a 5.86 ERA in 14 starts for the Cutters.

Shortstop Malquin Canelo, the silky smooth defender who came on strong with the bat in the last two weeks of last season, also returns. Pitchers Manny Martinez and Keivy Rojas return. Outfielders Herlis Rodriguez and Jiandido Tromp, a 2013 NYPL All-Star, return as well. Tromp was just sent down to Williamsport from Lakewood on Tuesday.

Gueller is also one of four players on the roster drafted in the fifth round or higher by the Phillies.

Outfielder Cord Sandberg is one of the most intriguing prospects in the Phillies’ system after he turned down a football scholarship to play football at Mississippi State last year to sign with the Phillies. The third-round pick hit .207 with a pair of home runs in the Gulf Coast League last summer. Power-hitting third baseman Jan Hernandez gets his first shot outside of Florida after hitting .210 with three home runs a year ago as a third-round pick out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico.

Hoskins was a fifth-round pick out of Sacramento State over the weekend. He helped the Hornets to a WAC title and their first appearance in an NCAA regional by hitting .319 with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs in 59 games.

But Hoskins is the only player on the roster – for now – who did not participate in extended spring training. Williams, who was a coach for the Crosscutters last year under manager Nelson Prada, said that familiarity with his players should help him get through the weekend.

“Knowing where guys can play, I know the best place for them to be successful to start the season,” Williams said. “We’ll see what happens from there.”

“It’s nice to be with a bunch of guys we know and played with in extended,” Gueller said. “And when the new guys come in, it’ll be nice to meet those guys and get things started with them.”

The Cutters open the season Friday night at Bowman Field against State College at 7:05 p.m. Alejandro Arteaga is expected to get the start.