Command Eludes Brooklyn in Opening Day Defeat

BROOKLYN, NY- Heavy rains and severe winds may have postponed the Brooklyn Cyclones’ season opener against the Staten Island Yankees, but it did not dampen the intensity or anticipation as the Cyclones played their home opener at MCU Park on Tuesday, falling to their arch-rivals by a 7-4 final.

The pop and circumstances that surround Opening Day can sometimes have an adverse affect on most pitchers and for Cyclones’ starter Jake Simon, it appeared to negatively impact his command. Simon hit two and walked three in the first three innings and found his club trailing 3-0 on a run-scoring double from Dom Thompson-Williams and an Oswaldo Cabrera two-run single. In four innings of work, Simon allowed two hits and three runs along with four walks and two hit batsmen.

“Simon did a pretty good job for us,” Cyclones manager Edgardo Alfonzo said. “I think he did what we expected to happen and he kept us in the game. We had a good chance to win, but we did not finish and baseball is like that sometimes.”

The Cyclones took a few innings to adapt to Staten Island starter Jorge Guzman, but once Jacob Zanon and Leon Byrd opened the fourth with successive walks they began chipping away at the deficit. Carlos Sanchez‘s two-run double off the left field fence was the key hit in a three-run frame as the Cyclones evened the score.

Guzman, acquired in the offseason trade by the Yankees from the Astros for Brian McCann, asserted himself capably in his New York-Penn League debut, striking out four in five innings for his first victory and suppressed hard contact with a fastball sitting primarily in the upper 90s.

“He’s got electric stuff,” Staten Island manager Julio Mosquera said. One of the really good arms we have in the (Yankees) organization and I think he controlled himself really well out there and picked up a little extra to get out of the fifth inning.”

Joe Napolitano also experienced bouts of wildness in relief for Brooklyn. The righty out of Wake Forest walked two in the fifth to set up a two-RBI triple from Dalton Blaser in a four-run inning for Staten Island, who saw seven men come to the plate. Cyclones’ pitchers walked nine and hit three, illustrating their difficulties commanding pitches.

“Napolitano is one of the veteran guys. He is going to have outings like this sometimes,” Alfonzo explains. “His first inning was rough. I think it’s good to get those things out of the way early. Napolitano did a great job for us in extended spring training and his second inning in this game was more polished.”

Catcher Carlos Sanchez had a trying outing behind the plate with three passed balls, which allowed opposing runners to take the extra base and set up extended rallies. Alfonzo says Sanchez’s defensive performance is not indicative of his potential and expects him to revert to the form expected from his billing.

“I think this guy is special and he knows how to play the game. I told him tonight that it’s going to happen but you have to concentrate and do what you have to do. When he came through with the big hit, it was touching because he will drive in runs.”

With the loss, the Cyclones fall to 12-5 on Opening Day and are 10-4 against Staten Island since the clubs began facing each other to open the season beginning in 2005. Following Tuesday’s game, the Cyclones will travel to Vermont for a three-game series against the Lake Monsters with Thomas McIlraith making the start on Wednesday while he rehabs from an injury suffered last month.

Edgardo Alfonzo Relies on Past Experience as Brooklyn Manager

In 2001, manager Edgar Alfonzo led the Brooklyn Cyclones to the McNamara Division title with a 52-24 record in their inaugural season and a share of the New York-Penn League championship. To this day it stands as the standard of excellence measure for all future Cyclones’ teams, leaving an enduring legacy.

Across town in Flushing, Edgar’s younger brother Edgardo Alfonzo was in the midst of a prosperous eight-year career with the Mets, where he would hit .292/.367/.445 with 120 home runs and showcased stellar defensive skills at two infield spots. Alfonzo quickly endeared himself to the Mets’ faithful and was arguably their most complete player during the Bobby Valentine era.

“I remember when my brother was the manager here,” Alfonzo said. “He taught me everything that I know about the game and to follow in his footsteps. “I think it was very important to me and I can call him whenever I need him.”

Sixteen years later, Alfonzo brings his storied playing career into the dugout, following in the footsteps of his brother as manager of the Cyclones. Alfonzo is no stranger to Coney Island, having served as the bench coach the past three seasons for recently retired manager Tom Gamboa and looks forward to the opportunity.

“I think with Tom, it was great coaching for me. He taught me everything that I needed to know and that’s why I tried to be around Tom as much as I could because he is a great baseball man. He taught be to be patient with the guys and the little things like when to hit and run.”

Even though Alfonzo will serve as Brooklyn’s skipper for the 2017 season, managing was never a long-term aspiration. But when Gamboa retired from professional baseball following the World Baseball Classic, he decided to assume the position at the behest of the organization and will lean on his prior coaching experience in his new role.

“Tom (Gamboa) left, so I was the guy who was available,” Alfonzo explains. “For the first three years I was with the Cyclones, they (the Mets) asked me to do it and I told them that it’s not easy being manager. I like to learn as a coach how to deal with the guys and understand their character. I felt I was ready when Tom walked away.”

Alfonzo’s notable baseball background was strengthened during his playing career thanks to the tutelage he received from managers such as Valentine, Dallas Green, and Felipe Alou, who either qualified for the World Series or finished first in their division during their time in the dugout. Each possessed qualities that rounded Alfonzo into a complete player.

“I take the most from Bobby Valentine. Dallas Green was the guy who brought me to the big leagues and I played my first year for him. Bobby knows a lot about baseball. Sometimes I’d ask a lot of questions during the game, so I would know what to do in certain situations. I will still call him to ask a few questions and Felipe Alou was a pretty aggressive guy who taught me about the little things.”

The Cyclones enter the 2017 season with a young roster comprised primarily of players, who played together at previous stops in the Gulf Coast League or with the Kingsport Mets. As these players prepare for their first foray in Class-A, Alfonzo will look to see how they react to typical situations and evaluate the trends that may emerge.

“I think this year we will see how the guys react to things,” Alfonzo said. “We also need to see their body language because not everybody can handle each situation. We have pretty good talent. Pitching-wise, we have a few veteran guys that know how the call. We need to put stuff together with what we have thus far and work hard.”

Alfonzo makes his managerial debut in the New York-Penn League, where he previously starred as a 19-year old prospect with the Pittsfield Mets in 1992, batting .356 in 74 games. While the playing experience the league proves beneficial to Alfonzo, he also realizes that player development evolved in the last two decades as organizations prioritize different attributes to project success at higher levels.

“Pretty much everything has changed with player development. Before, you had to hit to move up the ladder. Now it seems like teams emphasize on-base percentage and patience with players a lot more than they used to and the competition is a lot better, so it’s changed a lot from simply just doing well to move up.”

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