It’s not that often a minor league team returns the entire middle of its batting order from one season to the next. But for first-year manager Kenny Holmberg, that’s one of the benefits of taking over the reigns of the Spokane Indians this season.
Holmberg will have six players return from the squad that clinched a playoff spot on the last day of the 2017 regular season, including the top three RBI producers from that club: 19-year-old outfielder Miguel Aparicio, 18-year-old shortstop Cristian Inoa and 21-year-old first baseman Curtis Terry.
“I’m real excited about the new season,” Terry said from the Avista Stadium dugout during the team’s workout on Saturday. “I can’t wait for Opening Day. I’m excited to see how everyone does individually and as a team.”
In addition, catcher Isaias Quiroz and pitcher Tai Tiedemann also return to Spokane for the new season.
“I’m excited to come here and meet all the fans again,” Quiroz said. “I was here last year and it was cool meeting all of them, and learning about the atmosphere around here and how passionate they are.”
“They’re going to get more familiar with me in this role versus my infield (coordinator) role, so I look forward to growing with these guys. The majority of them will stay all year and we’ll have a fun year.
“We’re going to go out and compete and play hard.”
Terry, the big first baseman, isn’t the most rah-rah guy in the clubhouse, but Holmberg said he’ll lead by example.
“He’s a guy that maybe won’t be a vocal leader, but he will be by how he performs,” Holmberg said. “I’m looking forward to Curtis going out and continuing to play baseball.”
Terry, the team’s home run leader last year with 12, said it’s how you go about things that makes the difference.
“I’m not as talkative, but I’m out there playing hard, showing how to do it, rather than being vocal,” he said. “Once the new players that are coming out this year, once they catch on and see the returning guys, how we play, how we handle it, they’ll catch on too, and we should be able to put together a pretty good season.”
On the field, Terry thinks having the 3-4-5 hitters back will be a strength right out of the gate for the Indians.
“We have guys in the middle of the order that know how to put together good at-bats, know how to drive in runs. I feel pretty confident about us producing runs this year,” said Terry, who also had 12 doubles and slugged .467 last season.
“We came back to make the playoffs last year and we want to finish the job from last year,” said Inoa, through his translator, catcher Quiroz.
Aparicio, through Quiroz, said he’s working on the mental side of the game this year:
“I have a new plan this year to focus and do anything I can to help the team win.”
Quiroz is happy to back in his multiple roles as catcher, translator, leader – whatever it takes to make the team better and himself a better player.
“I’m just trying to help those guys out,” Quiroz said of taking more of a leadership role as a returning player this season. “Trying to teach them the ways of being in affiliated baseball. Just trying to help as much as I can. It’s a little different for a guy just coming out of Arizona (instructional league).
“It’s a much different atmosphere playing in front of fans, and the lifestyle and the grind of playing in the Northwest League.”
Quiroz said he’s “more than happy” to lend a hand to his fellow Spanish-speaking teammates.
“Absolutely. I’m just trying to help them out so they can understand,” Quiroz said. “A lot of guys come here and they don’t understand how to speak the language or struggle to talk and get things across. I did it when I first signed and I’m glad that I can help those guys out.”
Holmberg asserted that his catcher has other talents in addition to being affable, with natural leadership abilities.
“‘Q’ is way more than that,” Holmberg said. “He’s a good ballplayer. He’s a good catcher. He’s grown and matured as a hitter. He’s a guy that pays attention behind the scenes. We’re going to see a better Isaias Quiroz this summer.”
“(Spokane is) just a great place to play,” Terry said.
“Great atmosphere. Love the fans. They’re always on our side, whether we’re up or down. It’s just the whole experience here and around this league, and it’s great to be back.”