ALLENTOWN — If anything, an extra day off could end up helping the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, a team that’s on a five-game losing streak entering the postseason.
Not to mention, they were just swept by the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the team they’re facing in the first round of the Governors’ Cup playoffs.
With a rainout Wednesday, the five-game series got pushed back a day, providing the RailRiders another day to recharge before they start their defense of their International League and Triple-A National Championship crowns.
The first two games of the series will be played at Lehigh Valley, on Thursday and Friday, before the series moves back to Moosic Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
“We have a bunch of guys here who are friends, so it’s not going to be that big a deal because we’ll get a chance to chill out and come back tomorrow,” RailRiders outfielder Jake Cave said of the rainout. “Especially after coming off of a few losses, yeah, I think to have a couple days off and then to go into the playoffs with a group of guys that we all know each other and get along, I think it’ll be a good way to start new.”
While the RailRiders got another off day on Wednesday, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Al Pedrique made sure to emphasize the importance of the workouts in the cage and throwing programs.
He wants to make sure his players stay sharp after a stretch of poor performances and a two-day layoff.
“Everybody’s ready to go, anxious to get back on the field and get this thing going. I feel very good about our team, our chances,” Pedrique said. “I don’t like the idea of going back-to-back without doing anything. I don’t feel good about showing up tomorrow, even though we’re going to work on the field tomorrow, and get ready for the game. It’s not the same. So I want them to stay focused.
“Everybody had a great day off yesterday back home. Now we have to get ready and somehow get the mental focus back on the game.”
When the RailRiders take the field for Thursday’s 7:05 p.m. first pitch, Domingo German will be on the mound after having an extra day to rest and prepare.
This will be the “second or third opportunity” the 25-year-old right-hander has had to open the playoffs for his team, so he’s more than comfortable pitching in big-time situations.
German has faced Lehigh Valley once this year, a July 9 start in which he pitched 3.1 innings of two-run baseball. He didn’t factor into the decision.
“(I) feel extremely confident just because (I’ve) had a chance not only to throw a couple innings against them before, but being in the dugout, seeing the guys execute pitches against them,” German said through an interpreter. “Also with them, their roster turning over, (I feel) pretty confident going out there and having a successful outing.”
Mark Payton and Mike Ford were added to the roster on Wednesday. Both provide a shot into the arm of a RailRiders lineup that averaged 1.8 runs over its last four games.
Both players provide Triple-A experience, with Payton spending most of his season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre while Ford has been up and down between Trenton and the RailRiders. Ford leads the Yankees’ farm system in home runs while Payton provides athleticism and a solid bat in the outfield.
Both players started in last season’s Triple-A National Championship game and provide experience in high-pressure situations.
“They were with us early. Both guys, Ford and Payton, did a good job for us,” Pedrique said. “They know how to prepare themselves. They’re always ready. … These two guys are true professionals and I’m happy to have them back on the roster.”
Ford could play a pivotal role this postseason.
He’ll likely share time at both first base with Ji-Man Choi and designated hitter with Payton, Cito Culver among others.
“I’m very excited to be back with a lot of the guys here and contribute up here,” Ford said. “Defensively I feel good. … With the bat, the power is definitely better this year. That’s one thing that I wanted to work on. Walks were still there, on-base was still there. Feel pretty good.”
RailRiders catcher Wilkin Castillo has been on the mend ever since sliding into second base Aug. 30 against Rochester. He was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a knee injury the following day.
Castillo, however, avoided major ligament damage. And while the knee is still sore, he’s working his way back.
The veteran catcher caught a side session on Wednesday.
RailRiders catcher Kyle Higashioka started his Minor League rehab assignment with Short-Season Staten Island on Wednesday. The catcher has been out since Aug. 18 with a shoulder strain.
Higashioka would provide offense from the catcher’s position, which is something Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has been searching for most of the season.