The greatest pitcher in Gary SouthShore RailCats history is one step closer to being a Florida Marlin.
Two years after leaving the ‘Cats, Willie Glen tossed on a Marlins jersey for the first time to take the mound against the Baltimore Orioles in a Major League Spring Training game Wednesday and produced predictable results. Glen pitched the first four innings, allowing just one run and striking out four, and out-dueled Orioles Opening Day starter Jeremy Guthrie to earn the win in a 13-2 game. Glen gave up a leadoff double to Ryan Freel in the first inning – Freel later came in to score – but fired zeros from that point on against a lineup that included most of the Orioles projected starters, like Nick Markakis, Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff.
Glen – who had been pitching with the New Orleans Zephyrs (AAA) this spring – got the call to the major league game when Ricky Nolasco was given a day off. The 31-year-old Glen is not on the Marlins 40-man roster, but his performance since joining the organization has opened some eyes. Glen was one of the best pitchers in the Southern League (AA) last season, going 9-4 with a 2.01 ERA in 24 appearances (17 starts) and allowing only 59 hits in 94.0 innings (the league hit .180 off Glen).
Glen is expected to start the season with New Orleans where he’ll be at the ready should the major league club have a role to fill. The Marlins have a stacked minor league system but are very young, even at the big league level. Nolasco, at 26, is the most veteran of the Marlins starters, and 32-year-old reliever Scott Proctor is far and away the elder statesman of the bullpen.
Glen was a successful professional before coming to the RailCats in 2005, pitching previously at Double-A and Triple-A, but he credits his former Manager Greg Tagert for his accelerated development in the Northern League. A career reliever, Glen embraced his starting role in Gary and became a dominant pitcher. After two outstanding seasons Glen put together arguably the best year a Northern League pitcher has ever had in 2007, going 12-1 with a 3.03 ERA, striking out a league-record 162 batters in 139.2 innings and holding opponents to a .214 average. Glen’s 2007 postseason was even better – a 4-0 mark that included a storybook 140-pitch, three-hit, 10-strikeout, complete game win over Calgary in the decisive fifth game of the Northern League Championship Series.
Glen is trying to become the third RailCats player to reach the major leagues, joining Tim Byrdak and Nathan Haynes. Byrdak, a 2003 RailCat, will begin his second season with the Houston Astros next week coming off an impressive 2008 in which he struck out 47 in 55.1 innings and boasted a 3.90 ERA out of the bullpen. Byrdak has been back in the major leagues each season since 2005 after spending three years (1998-2000) with the Kansas City Royals before an injury. Haynes played for the RailCats in 2006, Los Angeles Angels in 2007 and Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. Haynes is in minor league camp with the Texas Rangers this spring.
Elsewhere in Marlins camp, former RailCats Andy Haines and Anthony Iapoce have been assigned their coaching duties for the upcoming season. Haines – the RailCats Hitting Coach in 2005 & 2006 – will manage the Jamestown Jammers (A) in the New York-Penn League after working as a hitting coach in Marlins system in 2008. The Most Valuable Player of the 2005 Northern League Championship Series, Iapoce retired to become a coach after that season and will work with the Marlins Florida State League affiliate in Jupiter this summer as a hitting coach.
Tanner Townsend, the 2008 Northern League Most Valuable Player, endured a dose of bad news earlier this week when he was shelved with a back injury. A timetable for Townsend’s return to minor league camp is unknown. Earlier this year, Townsend was the top playoff hitter in the prestigious Puerto Rican Winter League.
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