The Charleston RiverDogs held their Media Day in advance of their 2018 season. They’re looking for their third straight playoff appearance fueled by a pitching staff that should make them extremely competitive.
Pitching coach Justin Pope broke down each of the starters in what will be a six-man rotation to start the season.
Garrett Whitlock, a 6’5” right hander will take the ball opening night in Lexington. “He works really quick, so it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch him pitch which is nice. It helps the defense when he works quick. He works quick, he hammers the strike zone. He has a two-seam and a four-seam fastball. Again, he can move the ball in and out, got a nice little slider and a nice little changeup that goes with it too. He’s got an opportunity to do well also just because his stuff’s well and he knows how to pitch. He gets the ball and go. He’s not afraid to pitch away from contact,” Pope said.
Glenn Otto will get the ball Friday night for his first start of the season. Otto is another 6’5” right-hander who had pitched for his hometown Rice Owls in college. “First, start with his curveball which he can really spin. It’s really sharp, late break, bite. A lot of bite to it. Swing and miss pitch. And his fastball, he’s got some really nice attributes to his fastball. He’s able to pitch up in the zone when he wants, but he can also locate the ball down. He’s going to be another interesting one to watch. Especially when he really starts getting into a rhythm, a nice routine because he’s never really started before so it’s going to be kind of new to him. But once he kind of figures out what he needs to do between starts to be ready for a start, I think he’s really going to take off.”
Nick Nelson will go third in the rotation and will be returning to Charleston after pitching for the Dogs in 2017. He often struggled with his control, but Pope is confident he can turn it around. “He’s got a really good arm. I think pitching the full season last year, staying here all year is going to give him experience. I think he’s going to come into this year and have a nice year. He’s got a really nice delivery. A lot of it is just kind of being able to control his delivery and not speeding up or maybe trying to do too much or trying to overthrow. Just staying within himself. Once he learns how to do that, once he learns how to control his effort, he’s going to be good and he’s going to be able to command his fastball than he has been,” Pope said.
Dalton Lehnen will follow Nelson in the fourth slot in the rotation. “He’s kind of like a poor man’s Andy Pettitte. He’s got a fastball that has good attributes, has a little cut action to it. He’s got tight, tight spin to his fastball. Curveball, some days it’s really good. It’s just kind of inconsistent. He’s got to work on his consistency with his curveball and he has a good changeup too that he throws over the plate. Again, like I said, he’s a poor man’s Andy Pettitte so it’s going to be fun to watch him pitch and develop,” Pope said. When asked if he has Pettitte’s pick-off move, Pope laughed and said, “I hope so!”
Daniel Ramos will take the ball in the fifth game of the season against the Rome Braves. “Fastball, curveball, changeup. He’s got some good movement with his fastball. It cuts a little bit when his timing’s right and everything matches up in his delivery. Really good curveball and still working on his changeup. Another one that as long as he doesn’t try to do too much and fills up the strike zone, he’s got an opportunity to do well too. He’s a good kid, he works hard. It’s going to be fun and interesting to see him pitch and see how he does,” Pope said.
J.P. Sears rounds out the rotation in the sixth spot. This a homecoming of sorts for Sears. He’s from Sumter, SC, which is a little over 100 miles north of Charleston. He played college baseball at Joe Riley Park which serves as home to both the RiverDogs and The Citadel Bulldogs. His future pitching coach never got a chance to see him pitch while with the Bulldogs. “I heard a lot of things about him. I wish would have come out and watched him pitch. You hear Friday nights, they had this lefty that pitched for them and every time he pitched, they had a good chance to win. I just never really had the chance to come out and watch him pitch, but I had a chance to watch him pitch in spring training quite a bit. I’m really excited to see what he’s going to do during the season because he’s got really good stuff. A lot of swings and misses on his fastball, a good breaking ball and a changeup to go with it and he’s a great kid. It’s going to be fun to watch. Especially pitching in this ballpark where he played in college, so it’s going to be fun to watch him,” Pope said.
On a side note, Daniel Ramos will be starting the exhibition game the RiverDogs will be playing against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the High-A Carolina League on Tuesday, April 3 at Joe Riley Park. The exhibition will benefit the Shawn Jenkins MUSC Children’s Hospital. This will be the third annual edition, but only the second game played in the series due to a rainout at Myrtle Beach last year. In 2016, Myrtle Beach defeated the RiverDogs 2-0 at Joe Riley Park.