Fisher Cats complete first-to-worst season
Needing one more win to avoid matching the worst record in franchise history, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats ended the year with four straight losses and finished last in their division. A year after winning the Eastern League championship, Sal Fasano's team went 61-81, ending the season by getting swept at New Britain.
Fisher Cats shortstop Ryan Goins, heading to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, picked up another hit in Monday's 8-5 loss at New Britain Stadium. Goins (1-for-5) tied Darin Mastroianni's franchise record with 158 hits on the season and would've broken the record with a bit of luck - or better aim.
In the sixth, Goins hit a screaming liner to New Britain left fielder Daniel Rohlfing. In his final at-bat of the season, Goins bounced a hard grounder to second base in the eighth inning for a double play. The 142nd and final game of the year ended with Brian Van Kirk, who homered earlier, getting called out on strikes.
Playoff-hungry New Britain (75-67) ended the season with six straight wins but fell one game shy of reaching the playoffs, thanks to Reading's 7-3 victory at Portland. The Reading Phillies are set to host the Trenton Thunder in the Eastern Division playoffs beginning Wednesday night. The Akron Aeros, which posted the league's best record at 82-59, will host the Bowie Baysox in the Western Division playoffs.
The Fisher Cats returned to Manchester on Monday night, cleaned out their lockers, and said goodbye to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Some of the younger players will likely return in April, including prospects Jake Marisnick and Sean Nolin, and others may never return to New Hampshire. Koby Clemens, Brian Jeroloman, Fernando Hernandez and Yohan Pino are among the free agents who'll be looking for another contract this winter.
Pino (10-8, 3.56 ERA) was the only Fisher Cats pitcher to reach 10 wins. The Venezuelan led the team with 111 strikeouts and put himself in good position to ink another minor-league contract before spring training.
'He commands the ball. He throws it where he wants to most of the time. He's not overpowering, but he certainly knows how to pitch and knows how to get guys out,' Fisher Cats pitching coach Tom Signore said. 'I would think somebody would notice him.'
New Hampshire's pitching staff logged a disappointing 4.14 ERA, ranking 10th among 12 teams, though it did notch more than 1,000 strikeouts, a benchmark in full-season Minor League Baseball. The Fisher Cats batted .259 (tied for eighth) and blasted 121 homers (third).
History suggests Fasano, the sixth manager in club history, will not return. No Fisher Cats skipper has stayed with the team more than two seasons - and the 2012 campaign was no feather in Fasano's cap. In fairness, the team was not stocked with as much talent as the 2011 squad.
The injury-racked Blue Jays plucked some of New Hampshire's top players by midseason. Pitchers Evan Crawford, Drew Hutchison, Sam Dyson, Aaron Loup and Chad Jenkins all were called up by Toronto.
Overall, nine Fisher Cats graduates reached the majors for the first time this season, including catcher Yan Gomes, shortstop/third baseman Adeiny Hechavarria and outfielders Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra.
How the New Hampshire Fisher Cats have fared since their inception in 2004:
Year Record Manager Finish (in div.)
2012 61-81 Sal Fasano 6th
2011 77-65 Sal Fasano 1st*
2010 79-62 Luis Rivera 2nd
2009 64-78 Gary Cathcart 5th
2008 61-81 Gary Cathcart 6th
2007 70-73 Bill Masse 3rd
2006 68-73 Doug Davis 4th
2005 68-74 Mike Basso 5th
2004 84-57 Mike Basso 1st** won Eastern League title
Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com.