Tim Hulett figured he could pick out about half of the 29 players on hand for the Spokane Indians’ first practice Tuesday afternoon at Avista Stadium.
Names and faces will come together in short time.
“I have a pretty good idea about these guys this year because a lot of these guys were in extended spring (training) and I spent about a week down there,” said Hulett, who is back for his fifth season as Spokane’s manager. “I do recognize a lot of the faces and know most of these guys. There are just a few new guys coming in I’m not real familiar with yet.”
The Indians began a three-day minicamp with their season opener Friday at home against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
“Spring training is about three weeks and we’re going to do it in three days,” Hulett said.
Hulett usually spends a lot of time during the minicamp on basic fundamentals. He said that won’t be necessary this week.
“One of the advantages of having a lot of guys from extended spring (training) is there isn’t a lot of fundamentals to teach,” Hulett said. “They already know them.”
Some of the names will be familiar to Indians fans, too. Eight players who were in Spokane last year return. They were part of a team that clinched a playoff berth in the first half of the season before falling to the Everett AquaSox in the Northwest League championship series.
Hulett knows what it will take to challenge for a league title this year. He likes the makeup of the roster.
“It’s not a random process,” Hulett said of players being assigned to Spokane. “Everybody in our system is part of the process. They give their opinions and, of course, the upper guys make the final decision. It’s a well-thought-out, planned process of how to develop guys and making sure you put them into positions that allow the kid to develop as quick as possible.”
The odds are long that any of the 2011 Indians will one day play for the Texas Rangers, Spokane’s parent club.
“You draft 50 guys each year. You go to spring training with 200 guys for 144 jobs (from Texas through the minors),” Hulett said. “Guys get whittled out each year from that. It’s a pretty tough ride. Not only do you have to be a great player but you’ve got to be playing great and doing the right things at the right time. And you have to get a break. We’ve had quite a few guys from here the last few years (wind up in the majors). There were five or six guys who had played in Spokane that were on the American League championship team last year. That’s a high number. I think it says a lot about the Texas Rangers and the development that we’ve done with players.”
So as the Indians stretched before their first official practice, Hulett gave an initial appraisal.
“We’re young, but we were the youngest team last year (in the NWL) as well,” he said. “There are a lot of good prospect guys that can play the game. We’ll see where they’re at in about three days.”