Tonight’s Interview: Roenis Elias
Just a year and two days ago, the 2010 LumberKings prepared for the debut of a recent call-up from short-A Everett as they played game two of a three-game series at Time Warner Cable Field in Wisconsin. The Kings, 16-18 and fifth in the West Division in the second half under manager John Tamargo, were 6.5 games out of first place and were struggling to stay in the playoff picture. The man making the debut that evening, right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen, would be the lift they’d need to get back into contention. The 26-year-old former Milwaukee Brewers prospect dominated the low-A affiliate of his former club over 7.0 scoreless, two-hit innings as he walked one and struck out five in a 5-0 Kings’ victory. Wilhelmsen, along with fellow AquaSox’ call-up Yoervis Medina (who would make his first start just four days later in the Quad Cities), combined to go 11-1 during the stretch drive, leading the LumberKings to the Wild Card spot.
Last night, the LumberKings entered play at 19-19 and held the West Division Wild Card spot over Beloit by 2.0 games despite three-straight losses. 23-year-old left-hander Roenis Elias, called up after just one outing in the AZL and three games with rookie Pulaski, made his Clinton debut on the very same diamond as Wilhelmsen. He didn’t quite duplicate the performance, but he did fire 6.1 innings of five-hit ball, allowing one unearned run and fanning four in a 3-2 Kings’ win. I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming déjà vu when comparing the debuts of both, especially given the timeframes in which they happened and the Kings’ record and relatively similar playoff standing.
While it’s still far too early to tell what the LumberKings will have in Elias, it’s certain that his path here is even more intriguing than Wilhelmsen’s. Elias pitched for the National team out of Guantanamo, Cuba, defected to the United States last fall, pitched briefly in Mexico, signed with the Mariners in May, went 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in just three outings in Pulaski and is now 1-0 as a LumberKing.
With the help of manager Eddie Menchaca as interpreter, I chat with Elias for the first time tonight.
Listen Here: Elias Interview 8.5.11
Tonight’s Game Notes: 8.5.11 kingsnotes
Right-hander Taijuan Walker (4-5, 3.12) starts for the Kings tonight as they attempt to split the series with Wisconsin. The Timber Rattlers counter with lefty Charly Bashara (4-4, 5.12). Walker and Bashara squared off on May 15 with Walker fanning 11 over 6.1 innings for the win and Bashara serving up eight runs, five earned over 5.1 innings in the loss. Listen to the game at 7:05 PM on 1390kcln.com.
Follow me on Twitter at @davelezotte and the LumberKings at @LumberKings.