KITCHENER – The Panthers may be limping right now, but their managers say they’ve got the depth to claw their way back in the standings.
Injuries to ace Marcos Reyna, veteran outfielder Jeff Pietraszko, starter Adam Echlin and shortstop Mike Glinka has field manager Brian Bishop shuffling his lineup to fill gaps all over the place.
His team has slipped into fourth place in the Intercounty Baseball League after losing six of their last eight games.
“We’re kind of banged up right now, but we’ve got the depth to handle it I think,” said general manager Scott Ballantyne.
Reyna, the teams’ No. 1 starter, is nursing a sore shoulder and is being rested for what could be a few weeks, Ballantyne said. He tweaked it in his last game when the pitcher’s mound was causing him to slide out further than usual.
To fill his spot, reliever Shaun Hancock, who has extensive college experience as a starter, has been thrown into the starting mix. His start Friday night against Hamilton was rained out.
With Matt Robertson requesting a move back to the bullpen, that leaves only two other healthy starters, Matt McGovern and Mike McGillivray. After that, the team will lean on relievers to start games in a pitch-by-committee approach until Reyna returns.
“We’ll just have to Johnny All-Staff it for a bit to get through this,” Bishop said.
There has been some pleasant surprises in this rough patch, however, including the breakout performance by newly-acquired Tanner Nivins, who’s batting .615 with eight hits in four games since signing with the Panthers – while showing off some slick defense in the outfield.
“You never know exactly what you’re going to get with college players. But Tanner has come here and he’s been on fire. We’re really glad to have him,” Ballantyne said.
Another player having a great week is centerfielder Keith Kandel, who’s stolen four bases in his last three games and swatted five hits, including a home run. The speedy Californian now leads the league with 14 stolen bases.
Left-handed reliever Shawn Slemko, released from Barrie this month, has also added depth to the bullpen, despite giving up three earned runs in Thursday’s 11-6 loss to Brantford.
The look ahead
Mike McGillivray is expected to pitch Sunday for the Panthers, who will be in Toronto taking on the Maple Leafs at Christie Pitts. Game time is 2 p.m.
Shaun Hancock is likely to make his first start of the year for the Panthers at the team’s next home game, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Jack Couch Park.
Matt McGovern will probably get the ball in Wednesday’s 8 p.m. game against first-place Brantford. That game will be broadcast on Rogers TV cable 20 at 9 p.m.