WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee AppleSox record isn’t the only thing experiencing ups and downs this season.
The team’s roster — which at this late point in the season has settled — has also been in a state of flux. According to scorekeeper and local historian Bruce Bennett, the Sox have had 37 players on the team this year, which is the highest number for a single season in the team’s history.
“Every year, the roster changes throughout the year for a lot of reasons,” Sox head coach Ed Knaggs said. “This year was different because there were a lot of players that we never saw that were scheduled to be here.”
Wenatchee signed several pitchers who were shut down due to throwing too many innings in the spring or other injury concerns. The team also had a high number of players sign professional contracts instead of pursuing — or continuing — a college career. To compound that, Washington State standout Jason Monda had scheduling conflicts throughout the summer, preventing him from playing more than two games for the AppleSox.
“You kind of roll the dice a little bit, and it just happens,” Knaggs said about players signing Major League deals that supersede their agreement with the Sox. “We had to reset a little bit. But now some of the guys here end up getting opportunities.”
Some of the players who got those opportunities have been success stories for the first-place AppleSox, who beat the San Francisco Seals 5-3 on Saturday and are on top of the West Coast League’s North Division.
Knaggs kept three players — Wenatchee Valley College’s Nate Steffler and Lars Rider, as well as Central Washington’s Davis Engel — who were slated to be temporary players at the beginning of the summer.
“Davis is a guy that’s been such a big plus for us,” Knaggs said. “He got a shot and has done a lot with it.”
One of Wenatchee’s best players this season wasn’t on Knaggs’ radar until he recognized a dire need for infield help. The skipper said he called Lewis-Clark State coach Jeremiah Robbins to inquire about any available talent. Robbins said he had been waiting for the call to send shortstop Joe Mello to a summer league. Mello hasn’t disappointed since joining the team — he is hitting .355 in 26 games with 26 runs, 12 doubles, three homers and 13 runs batted in.
“We needed an infielder who could hit,” Knaggs said. “We brought in (Bob) Cruikshank and he lasted three days. He came to us hurt, which is unfortunate. We got lucky (to replace him with Mello).”
The Sox have also brought in useful pieces to expand their outfield depth. Joey Jansen and Kramer Ferrell are likely to see increased playing time down the stretch, as starting right fielder Ryan Barr, will likely be leaving the team before the last regular season series against Kelowna.
Although it is tempting to wonder how dominant Wenatchee could’ve been if the highly-touted players that were supposed to be on the team had actually arrived in North Central Washington, Knaggs says this kind of amorphous roster is a regular occurrence.
“Who knows how the team would’ve played had they been here,” he said. “I suppose it’s possible (that the team’s inconsistency could be attributed to the players not joining the team). I don’t know how talented we would’ve been with them at the same time.”
Despite the record-high number of players donning Sox jerseys in a season, Knaggs shrugs it off: “It’s just part of the deal.”