The Chattanooga Lookouts of 2008 will have a similar look to last year’s team.
Almost identical, in fact.
Five infielders who played for the Lookouts last season broke camp Saturday in Sarasota, Fla., and are on their way to Chattanooga for Monday’s first practice and Tuesday’s exhibition against Chattanooga State. Luis Bolivar, who hit .297 in 109 games a year ago, and Drew Anderson, who led the team in hits (129) and runs scored (76), are returning along with Jose Castro, Mike Griffin and Tonys Gutierrez.
Also on their way back to Chattanooga are three outfielders: Danny Dorn, Shaun Cumberland and Cody Strait.
“We’ve all kind of come up together, going all the way back to (rookie league) Billings,” Strait said. “It’s kind of nice having guys on the team that you know and you’re used to playing with, so you can get a little team chemistry going. That can be a hard thing to do in the minor leagues, because there are so many people going up and down.”
Craig Tatum returns at catcher, while James Avery, Sam Lecure and Justin Mallett are back in the starting rotation. Carlos Fisher, a starter last year, was moved late this past week into the bullpen. It will be headed by Josh Roenicke, who had an 0.95 ERA in 19 appearances with the Lookouts last season.
Having 17 of 24 players back from last year could bode well for Chattanooga, which went 38-32 in the Southern League’s second half and closed on a six-game winning streak.
“It was a young bunch going in there last year,” Reds farm director Terry Reynolds said. “My expectation is that as the season goes on, some of these guys will move up, but sometimes they’re there the whole year. Either way, it’s a nice group to start. I see them having a very strong pitching staff that gets them in the fifth, sixth or seventh inning, and I see a pen that has three or four guys that can close games for them, and that’s going to be a strength.
“The one thing that is lacking is power, but I think with the experience and versatility and the line-drive hitters they’ve got, I think they’ll manufacture some runs.”
Chattanooga lacked in power last season as well. The 5-foot-8 Anderson hit 11 homers for the Lookouts a year ago, more than any other returning player.
“I’ll hit a few home runs, but I’m going to focus more this year on just getting on base,” Anderson said. “We’ve got Cody Strait, who can hit the ball as far as anybody I’ve ever seen. Tonys can hit some. It may be spread equally for a while. We may have to see who’s feeling it and who’s not.”
Dorn, who had 20 total homers last year with the 12 he hit in high Single-A, could get the first crack at cleanup batter. New Lookouts manager Mike Goff said Griffin likely will start out leading off with the left-handed Cumberland next, but the lineup after that could be determined by whoever has the hot hand.
Much like last year, the Lookouts will have to scrap for runs and expect to play their share of close games.
“It’s definitely a National League club,” Goff said. “We’re going to have to force the issue. We’re going to have to bunt, and we’re going to have to hit-and-run like crazy. We’re going to have to take some chances, because we really don’t have a big banger in the middle of that lineup to give you some stability.”
And who better to manage a National League club than someone who has spent the last 16 years with the Seattle Mariners of the American League?
“Pretty messed up, isn’t it?” Goff said. “I’ll have to get used to double switches pretty quickly, but the game is still the game.”
E-mail David Paschall at email@example.com
ON THE LOOKOUTS
The 24 players who broke camp Saturday with the Chattanooga Lookouts:
* played for Lookouts in 2007
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...