Batter up for 2016 Brooklyn Cyclones
Kick off 16th Season on Coney Island Friday Night vs. S.I. Yankees
The Brooklyn Cyclones’ Sweet 16 season on Coney Island begins Friday at MCU Park against their traditional Opening Night rivals, the Staten Island Yankees.
Brooklyn will send right-hander Gabriel Llanes to the hill for the coveted season-opening start as the Cyclones once again begin their quest to capture the organization’s first New York-Penn League title since the inaugural 2001 campaign.
Llanes, a 20-year-old California native whom the parent-club Mets selected in the 15th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, has a combined 6-1 record with a 3.88 ERA over 19 professional appearances, including six starts, during stints at Rookie-level Kingsport and the developmental Gulf Coast League in his first two seasons.
As per usual, a bushel of players recently selected by the big league club in this year’s draft will cut their teeth at the pro level in Brooklyn, which has spawned the likes of Mets reliever Hansel Robles, a former NY-Penn Pitcher of the Year, and budding star outfielder Michael Conforto in recent summers.
Fifth-round pick and possible opening day shortstop Colby Woodmansee out of Arizona State; third baseman Jay Jabs, a 17th-round selection from Franklin Pierce University; and outfielder Jacob Zanon (15th round, Lewis and Clark State) will make their Cyclone debuts.
As will catcher Dan Rizzie, a 13th-round pick out of Xavier and right-handers Gary Cornish (19th round, San Diego) and Joseph Zanghi (19th round, Cumberland County College).
While the neophytes have yet to leave an imprint with the loyal Brooklyn fan base, there will be plenty of familiar faces gracing the Cyclones’ 7,500-seat facility by the sea during the 76-game grind of a short season schedule.
Returning players on this year’s preliminary roster include right-handed hurlers Nicco Blank and Raul Jacobsen, outfielders Hengelbert Rojas and Emmanuel Zabala, and catcher Brandon Brosher, who famously belted a grand slam and drove in a franchise-record seven runs for Brooklyn last July 2.
Blank, who went 0-5 for the Baby Bums last year despite posting a solid 2.40 ERA in 20 appearances, including a pair of starts, is likely to play a leading role on this staff, according to first-year pitching coach Billy Bryk Jr.
“[Blank’s] gonna be a big guy for me, for not only the draft guys, but for the others coming here for their first time or second year in the organization to look up to,” Bryk Jr. noted.
“He’s one guy that I’ve had to tell to do less. And he is going to be a vital part of our staff on showing these guys how to carry themselves on and off the field.”
The Cyclones, who have failed to reach the NY-Penn playoffs in each of the previous three seasons, will once again be spearheaded by veteran manager Tom Gamboa, who is beginning his record-tying third straight year at the helm of the Mets’ Class A short-season affiliate.
Bryk, bench coach and former Mets legend Edgardo Alfonzo and first-year hitting instructor Sean Ratliff round out Gamboa’s staff in what Brooklyn fans hope will be a return to greatness for a franchise that finished below .500 (33-43) for the first time in its history last summer.
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This, That and the Other Thing: After Llanes kicks things off on the mound in Coney Island on Friday night, RHP Harol Gonzalez (4-7, 4.21 ERA over his first two minor league campaigns) will take the ball against the Yankees at Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island on Saturday … Following their two-game set with S.I., the Cyclones will host a three-game series against visiting Tri-City at MCU Park, beginning with a 4 p.m. Father’s Day matinee … Conforto, who went from the Cyclones to playing in the World Series for the Mets in a little over a year, will be honored Monday night at MCU with a special bobblehead doll, available to the first 2,000 fans through the gates.