Previewing 2017 with Pacifics Manager Matt Kavanaugh
San Rafael, CA – With less than five weeks until Opening Day, Pacifics manager Matt Kavanaugh starts his preparations for the 2017 season. There is a tangible excitement in Kavanaugh’s voice as he enters the third season as the San Rafael skipper.
“This is definitely the best part of the year right now for us.” Kavanaugh said. “Everyone has been putting in so much work to get to this point. I think we’re excited now to just get out there and see the product on the field and start the grind of our 78 game season.”
For Kavanaugh, one of the most important parts about managing a team is to get them to come together. As has been the case with the Pacifics every year, there are returning players and new players. With the team together for a brief period in Spring Training prior to the season opener, it’s imperative to get everyone on the same page quickly.
“The mix we’re looking for out there is not just on the field but off the field.” Kavanaugh stated. “What we’re trying to put out there is something that the community and our organization can be really proud of. All the guys we’re bringing in are high quality high character guys. We’re looking for everyone to come together and create something special for us.”
Where it all starts for the Pacifics is at the top of the starting rotation. Marin County native Patrick Conroy has been the anchor of the Pacifics rotation since joining the club in 2014, but needed a spark in 2016 after a down year in 2015. Conroy responded to the challenge by posting the best individual numbers that he’s had at any level. In a career high 102 innings spanning 15 starts, Conroy went 5-2 with a miniscule 2.12 ERA. Prior to last year the lefty never had an ERA below 3.30 at any level of professional baseball. While the numbers as a whole are eye-popping, going into some of the individual starts makes those numbers even that more impressive.
“A lot of this game comes down to what you’ve got on the mound.” Kavanaugh said. “I get really excited when you have guys like Conroy and (Patrick) Barnett coming back because I look for the growth in them. For me its great to know that I’ve got two top guys already set in my rotation to start the year. It’s a comforting feeling because while other teams might be scrambling for starters I know what I’m going to get out of these two guys. The numbers speak for themselves but what Conroy does for us as a team is gives us a guy every five days that no matter what happens he’s going to give us a great chance to win that game.”
As Kavanaugh eluded to, Patrick Barnett, San Rafael’s number two starter, put up numbers that would’ve been arguably the best in the league if not for the excellence of Conroy. Barnett made his Pacifics debut on June 22nd of last year after making five starts in the Pecos League and did not disappoint. Against Vallejo at Wilson Park, Barnett fired eight innings of one run baseball, allowing just seven hits while striking out 12, getting the no decision as the Pacifics fell 2-1. Barnett though also fired back to back complete games on July 27th and August 2nd, only allowing two combined runs over those 18 innings. The Connecticut native finished the season with a stellar seven inning performance at Pittsburg, allowing just one unearned run on five hits. Pacifics fans have a lot to be excited about with Barnett back in the fold this year.
On the offensive end, nobody had a bigger impact in the 2016 Pacifics lineup than Jake Taylor. After hitting a whopping .361 with 12 home runs and 34 RBI in 36 games in 2015, Taylor in his first full season in San Rafael set the league on fire. Taylor led the league in home runs (16), RBI (74), and hits (97) and finished third among all qualifiers in batting average (.307). He was also one of two players in the Pacific Association to have over 300 at bats. Taylor also had two multi home run games in 2016, the only Pacifics player to do so. Kavanaugh glowed knowing that he has arguably the league’s best cleanup hitter back in the fold.
“Jake is what you look for in professional baseball in terms of a middle of the order hitter as a guy who can drive in runs.” Kavanaugh said. “Whether people are on base or not he demands the respect of the other teams every time he gets in the box. He frees up a lot of room for hitters in front of and behind him. To know that our middle of the order is ready to go with him in the middle is a big plus for us.”
On paper, Kavanaugh likes what he has going into the year. The main task now is to mold the team together so that when Opening Day hits on June 2nd, everyone will be firing on all cylinders.