KITCHENER – The Kitchener Panthers’ roster continues to take shape for the 2014 season, with the team announcing the return of veteran shortstop Mike Glinka and signing of import utility man and pitcher David Whiteside.
Glinka, 25, will bring his steady glove back to shortstop for another summer, and will be a key piece of the Panthers’ offence, with a .310 batting average over three seasons and low strikeout ratio. He had 48 hits in 36 regular and post-season games last season, racking up 26 RBI.
The return of the home-grown talent, a son of Polish immigrants who moved to Mannheim when he was an infant, means the Panthers’ defensive tandem of Glinka at shortstop and Mike Andrulis at second will remain intact.
Whiteside, the newest addition to the club, will take one of the team’s four import spots. The 26 year old collected 11 hits in 11 games for the upstart Peoria Explorers of the independent Freedom Pro Baseball League in Arizona in 2012.
Last season, the 215-pound, six-foot-three infielder hit .307 over 40 games in the regular season for the Explorers. The Californian can certainly hit – but the team says they’d like to use him as relief pitcher, and that’s his preference, too.
“Ideally, he could be a guy who can swing a bat, but can come in and close games,” said the team’s general manager Scott Ballantyne. “At this point, his role is not totally defined, but he can help us as a left-side infielder and mainly to pitch.”
Whiteside, who was primarily used a third baseman last year in Peoria, gives the team an option if third bagger Mat Taube doesn’t return this season. First base will be primarily manned by Bryon Bell, who will replace Mitch Delaney.
League MVP Sean Reilly, signed in the off-season, will also fill in at first base, but will mostly be used as a designated hitter.
Whiteside also has some familiarity with the Panthers’ new catcher, Scott David, a 23-year-old from Pleasanton, Calif. The pair played together recently at a tournament in Las Vegas.
The Panthers have also learned that Marcos Reyna, a hard-throwing right hander who recorded 25 strikeouts in his first four starts last year, will not be coming back. The American has a nagging shoulder injury that he’s not been able to recover from.
“He’s decided to hang ‘em up and not pursue baseball. He’s going to move on with life,” Ballantyne said. “It was a bit of a surprise to us, because he’d confirmed verbally he was going to come back.”
That leaves a confirmed starting rotation of Shaun Hancock, Mike McGillivray and Adam Echlin, although Whiteside could potentially start a few games. The general manager said he’d like to pursue another starter on the import market.
There are a few other unknowns around the pitching staff. That includes former Panther Kyle McKay, currently playing college ball and hoping to get drafted, and Mitch Clarke, the former Cincinnati Reds prospect, who may not be healthy enough to pitch.
The club is also hoping for a return of Oakville’s Taylor Bratton, a left-handed senior at the University of West Alabama, who pitched for the Panthers in 2010.
The outfield, meanwhile, looks set, with Tanner Nivins, Jeff Pietrazsko and Darnell Duckett all confirming they’ll be back.
The Panthers’ season begins on the road on May 11 in Toronto. Their home opener at Jack Couch Park is Thursday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m.