Chattanooga Lookouts start slow as team struggles in first month of season

Chattanooga Lookouts start slow as team struggles in first month of season

May 2nd, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - Professional

Chattanooga Lookouts manager Jody Reed watched his share of bullpen struggles during the first month of the season.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

It just seemed like anything that could go wrong has gone wrong for us. We've had tough luck, but the guys have been battling. We just keep waiting for a little momentum to build on, because we've been right on the verge."

- Lookouts manager Jody Reed

The Chattanooga Lookouts got to the hump several times in April. They just never got over it.

Chattanooga lost four of its first five games, seven of its first 10, and never got to the .500 mark during an 11-14 opening month. Touted prospects Zach Lee, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig showed their value on the field, but it has been a start filled with missed opportunities.

"It just seemed like anything that could go wrong has gone wrong for us," first-year Lookouts manager Jody Reed said. "We've had tough luck, but the guys have been battling. We just keep waiting for a little momentum to build on, because we've been right on the verge."

Lee, the No. 5 prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization according to Baseball America, went 2-1 with a 2.42 earned run average in his first five starts and worked six scoreless innings during an April 15 win over Birmingham at AT&T Field. Pederson, the No. 4 prospect, hit .304 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in the first month and had a pair of two-run homers in an April 17 win over the Barons at AT&T Field.

When he wasn't on the disabled list with a sprained thumb or getting arrested for going 97 miles per hour on Amnicola Highway, Puig, the No. 2 prospect, was hitting .333 with four homers and 11 RBIs.

Lee headlines a rotation and Pederson and Puig an outfield that were expected to be team strengths. The bullpen was arguably the top concern and has struggled, carrying a 5.12 ERA into Monday night's doubleheader split with Jackson before finishing the month at 4.86.

"We were aware of it," Reed said. "We had some guys with some very good arms, but we weren't quite sure about their strike-zone command. It did end up being an issue, but that's why we're here. We're here to develop young arms that have the ability to get to the big leagues."

The biggest bullpen blowup occurred in Jacksonville on April 24, when the Lookouts scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning to break a 5-5 tie. Ryan Acosta and Greg Infante then combined to allow seven runs while recording only one out as the Suns rallied for a 12-9 win.

Acosta nearly spoiled Lee's six scoreless innings by allowing a four-run seventh inning.

"One of things coaches always say is that we can't jump in for the athlete and do the pitching for them," pitching coach Hector Berrios said. "It's early on and a lot of teams go through this at different junctions of the season. We just happened to see it as we got going. Hopefully we can iron out the kinks and get rolling.

"I always look at the bright side of things, and I know we are going to get something positive from all this stuff. These guys can build on something."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.