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Getting to CHS Field

Gentleman At Arms: Saints Sign Three Right-Handed Hurlers

ST. PAUL, MN March 26, 2018

Each of the 12 teams in the American Association are aware that pitching will carry a team towards the promise land.  Over the last five seasons 16 of the 20 playoff teams have finished in the top half of the league in ERA, including each of the four playoff teams finishing one through four, twice.  The St. Paul Saints, after finishing 10th in the league in ERA in 2017 at 4.76, the highest team ERA since 2013, signed three arms to strengthen their staff in 2018.  Manager George Tsamis brought back hard throwing righty John Straka, and signed two former Wichita Wingnuts hurlers that helped guide them to the Championship Series last season, starter Eddie Medina and reliever Mike Devine.

 

          The 28-year-old Straka began the 2017 season with the St. Paul Saints and went 3-4 with a 6.02 ERA in 10 starts.  In 55.1 innings pitched he walked 21 and struck out 37 while opponents hit .319 against him.  He had his contract purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays organization, for the second straight season, on July 10 and started at Double-A New Hampshire.  Straka was 1-2 with a complete game and an 8.18 ERA in three games (two starts) before being assigned to High-A Dunedin on July 25.  He returned to form going 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts. 

 

          With about three weeks left in the 2016 season the Blue Jays purchased Straka’s contract from the Saints and he spent the remainder of the season at New Hampshire.  While with the Fisher Cats he pitched well going 4-1 with a 4.68 ERA in five games (four starts).  In 25.0 innings pitched he walked just eight, struck out 22 and opponents hit .258 against him.  Over his final three appearances he allowed just two runs in 17.1 innings pitched including 5.1 shutout innings in a start on August 26 at Reading and 6.0 shutout innings of relief on September 5 vs. Portland.

 

          With the Saints in 2016 Straka was 10-3 with a 4.48 ERA in 17 games (16 starts).  In 94.1 innings pitched he walked just 22 and struck out 77 while opponents hit .281 against him.  Over his last four appearances he allowed just one run in 18.0 innings of work. 

 

          Straka finished with the third best winning percentage in the American Association, .769.  In his last start with the Saints, on August 8, he hurled 7.0 innings allowing one run against the Gary SouthShore Railcats.  His finest outing of the season came on July 31 at Lincoln when he tossed 7.0 shutout innings allowing just two hits while striking out seven.  On July 17 at CHS Field against Fargo-Moorhead Straka struck out a season high 11.  He went at least six innings nine times and allowed three or fewer earned runs eight times.

 

          Straka came over in a trade with the Sioux City Explorers on May 16, 2016 and was 11-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 20 starts in 2015 for the league runner-up Explorers.  In 129.1 innings pitched he walked just 36, struck out 110 while opponents hit .247 against him.  He finished fifth in the league in strikeouts and fanned at least six in 10 of his 20 starts including double digits twice.  He struck out 11 on July 4 vs. Sioux Falls and in his last start of the season he tossed 7.0 innings allowing two unearned runs on one hit while striking out 12 Grand Prairie AirHogs.  He went at least 6.0 innings in 14 of 20 starts and at least 7.0 innings in 11 of 20 starts.  He threw 15 quality starts, defined as throwing at least 6.0 innings and giving up three runs or fewer runs  One of his best starts came on July 29 at Lincoln when he tossed 8.0 shutout innings allowing three hits while walking two and striking out nine.

 

          Straka was a 32nd round draft pick by the Texas Rangers in 2013 out of North Dakota State University.  He pitched one season for the Rangers organization spending 2013 with the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League.  As a reliever he went 2-2 with a 4.88 ERA and two saves in 19 relief appearances.  He finished fourth in the league in fewest walks per nine innings, walking only six in 31.1 innings pitched.

 

          After being released by the Rangers he was signed by the Explorers for the 2014 season where he went 9-5 with a 4.14 ERA in 21 starts including two complete games.  In 130.1 innings pitched he walked 38 and struck out 90 while opponents hit .304 against him. 

 

          Straka went to Chaska High School where he was a three-year All-Conference pitcher and catcher.  He was an All-State selection his senior season when he struck out 71 in 65.0 innings and had a miniscule 1.29 ERA.  He was also a two-year starting quarterback and passed for 1,592 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 679 yards and eight touchdowns in an All-Conference senior season.

 

           The 28-year-old Medina pitched for the runner-up Wingnuts in 2017 season and had a stellar season going 9-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 17 games (14 starts).  In 90.1 innings pitched he walked just 25 and struck out 68 while opponents hit only .234 against him.  He finished fifth in the American Association in win percentage (.750), eighth in ERA and 10th in opponents batting average against.  Seven of his 14 starts were considered quality starts and went at least 6.0 innings in nine starts.  In the playoffs Medina was 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts.

 

          Medina was scheduled to sign a free agent contract with the Toronto Blue Jays organization in 2013 out of St. John’s (NY) University, but a herniated disc in his lower back halted the process.  Instead, he signed with the Las Vegas Train Robbers in the Independent United League and proved he was healthy going 4-1 with a 3.95 ERA in 18 games (10 starts).  In 68.1 innings pitched he walked 39 and struck out 66 while opponents hit .287 against him.  After pitching out of relief in eight of his first 10 appearances, Medina worked his way into the rotation and started his final eight appearances including an eye-popping 7.0 inning, one run, 15 strikeout complete game in his final appearance of the season on July 22.  He struck out 23 over his final two starts and finished tied for fourth in the league in K’s and fifth in ERA.  He helped guide the Train Robbers to the playoffs where they made the Championship Series before losing two-games-to-none to the Roswell Invaders.

 

          In 2014 Medina pitched most of the season for the Brownsville Charros of the United League and again was among the league leaders in several pitching categories.  He finished his time with the Charros going 4-3 with a 2.71 ERA and one complete game shutout in 12 starts.  In 73.0 innings he walked 33 and struck out 62 while opponents hit .259 against him.  Medina finished tied for first in the league in shutouts, third in strikeouts, fourth in ERA, tied for fourth in starts and win percentage (.675).  He was traded to the Fort Worth Cats in August and won his lone decision with them.  He struck out at least six in a game seven times, including nine twice.  His complete game shutout was a 9.0 inning, five-hit, nine strikeout performance on July 8 at Rio Grande Valley, the team Fort Worth would lose to in the Championship Series three-games-to-none.

 

          Medina began 2015 with the York Revolution in the Independent Atlantic League, but pitched one game before being released and beginning his career with the Wingnuts.  Medina was signed on August 1 and went 4-1 with a 3.50 ERA in eight starts.  IN 46.1 innings pitched he walked 18 and struck out 29 while opponents hit .268 against him.  His team once again reached the playoffs, but lost three-games-to-two in the semifinals to the Laredo Lemurs.

 

          In 2016 Medina pitched the entire season for the Wingnuts and went 6-6 with a 5.56 ERA in 20 games (14 starts).  In 100.1 innings pitched he walked 40 and struck out 63 while opponents hit .293 against him.  The Wingnuts made the playoffs and lost three-games-to-two to the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the American Association Championship Series.

 

          The 28-year-old Devine was an important reliever for the Wingnuts in 2017 on their road to the American Association Championship Series.  He was 3-4 with a 2.25 ERA in 44 games.  In 44.0 innings pitched he walked 11 and struck out 34 while opponents hit just .222 against him.  He had two separate stints of not giving up a run in seven straight appearances including his final nine (10.0 IP) from August 14-September 4.  Devine also went five straight appearances, 5.1 innings pitched, without allowing a run or hit from June 21-July 2.  He threw on four consecutive days from June 3-6.

 

          Devine began his career by signing as a free agent with the Traverse City Beach Bums (Independent, Frontier League) out of Virginia Military Institute in 2012.  He was 0-0 with a 2.84 ERA and three saves in five relief appearances.  In 12.2 innings he didn’t walk a batter and struck out 11 while opponents hit .239 against him.  Devine recorded a save in his final three relief appearances and helped guide the Beach Bums to the playoffs where they lost three-games-to-none to the Southern Illinois Miners in the semi-finals.

 

          In 2013 Devine pitched the entire season with the Beach Bums, but this time mostly as a starter.  He was 6-2 with a 3.95 ERA in 19 games (15 starts).  In 86.2 innings pitched he walked 34 and struck out 65 while opponents hit .254 against him.  He finished fifth in the league in win percentage (.750) and once again reached the playoffs, but lost three-games-to-two to the Lake Erie Crushers in the semifinals.  Devine’s best performance in the regular season came in his final start allowing one run on four hits in 7.0 innings pitched against the Joliet Slammers.  In his lone start of the postseason he pitched 6.0 shutout innings and earned the victory.

 

          Devine began 2014 with the Beach Bums, but was released on June 17 and then signed with the Normal CornBelters in the same league.  Between the two teams he was 3-5 with a 5.75 ERA in 15 starts, setting the stage for an incredible 2015 year as a reliever.

 

          Signing as a free agent in the Frontier League with the Lake Erie Crushers in 2015, Devine was the biggest workhorse in the league.  Devine went 3-4 with a 3.33 ERA and four saves, pitching in an astounding 60 of the Crushers 95 games.  In 78.1 innings pitched he walked 17 and struck out 83 while opponents hit .246 against him.  He led the league by eight appearances, pitched on four consecutive days three different times and an amazing six consecutive days from August 4-9.  He also pitched in both games of a July 9 doubleheader.  Despite the workload Devine didn’t give up an earned run, just one total run, over his final nine relief appearances, 12.1 innings pitched. 

 

          All of Devine’s success on the mound was rewarded in 2016 when he began the season with the Crushers and made the All-Star team.  He was 7-6 with a 4.56 ERA and three saves in 29 games (nine starts).  In 81.0 innings pitched he walked 18 and struck out 67 while opponents hit .274 against him.  His ERA, however, was incredible as a reliever where he went 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 20 relief appearances (28.1 IP).  He was selected as a Frontier League All-Star and pitched in the game on July 13 in Florence.  He didn’t allow a run in seven straight relief appearances (8.0 IP) from May 31-June 10.  What was most impressive about that feat was he pitched on six consecutive days during the streak from May 31-June 5.  Devine was traded to the Wingnuts in mid-August to strengthen their staff for the playoffs and he went 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 10 relief appearances.  In 13.0 innings he walked just two and struck out eight while opponents hit .280 against him.  The Wingnuts reached the American Association Championship Series, but lost three-games-to-two to the Goldeyes.

 

          Devine graduated from VMI and finished his career second all-time in appearances (90) and saves (15).

 

          The Saints have now signed 10 players this off-season.

 

Roster

RHP – Mike Devine

LHP – Ken Frosch

RHP – Eddie Medina

RHP – Vinny Nittoli

RHP – John Straka

RHP – Beck Wheeler

OF Kes Carter

OF Jordan Smith

INF – Josh Allen

INF Brady Shoemaker

The Saints had signed infielder Jake Hager, but he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers organization on February 20, and infielder Noah Perio, but he signed with the Colorado Rockies on March 3.

 

          The Saints begin the 2018 season on the road against the Gary SouthShore Railcats on Friday, May 18.  The Saints first game at home is on Monday, May 21 against the newest member of the American Association, the Chicago Dogs, at 3:05 p.m.