Kelly Casares isn’t mad about it; he just knows it wasn’t the right call. In Sunday night’s series opener against San Angelo, the lanky 6-foot-5 righthander was on in relief in the ninth, and suffered through a bad call from the umpire. Everyone on the Roadrunner bench howled in disgust at a third strike that was called a ball, and the Colts went on to tie the game at 4-4 after the reprieve.
But Casares managed to stop the bleeding, get out of a jam, and watch his teammates pull off a 5-4 victory after Osiel Flores homered on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth. It was a great win for a team that had lost seven of eight, and The University of Texas-Pan American played a prominent role in the comeback.
UTPA ex Flores won it with the homer, and Casares, a former teammate of the catcher, got the decision despite his worst outing of a fine season so far.
“It happens, there’s nothing you can do but come out the next night and get back to work,” said Casares, whose fielding error on a bunt started the bad inning. “That pitch was right down the pipe. I know umps are going to miss a few during the course of a game, but not in the ninth, when the game is on the line. You don’t like to see that.”
A day later, Casares was lounging around the clubhouse waiting for Monday’s contest, in which another ex Bronc, Tim Haines, would get the start on the hill for the Runners.
“There are a lot of Pan Am guys here,” said Casares, a hard-throwing reliever who led the Sioux Falls club in appearances last year, after having pitched for the hometown Coyotes in 2006, when he left UTPA. He saved seven games with a 0.68 ERA that summer, his first in pro ball, and followed that up with a 2.23 mark in ’07, dropping to 5.53 in ’08. This season, his ERA is still zero, as the run Sunday was unearned.
Ray Silva and Aaron Guerra join their ex college mates on a staff heavily dotted with local products. Haines is from Sharyland while Guerra hurled for Edinburg High.
“Plus, a bunch of us were with Fort Worth the last couple of years,” he continued, noting that Chad Tredaway, son of long-time Bronc player and coach Reggie Tredaway, is the manager up there in the American Association.
Now 25, Casares marvels at how time flies, and said that a group of the Broncs from 2005-06 is still playing.
“It’s a lot more relaxed here than what they say affiliated ball is like,” said the hard thrower who has perfected a cut fastball that acts somewhat like a slider; he came into the season with 107 strikeouts with just 38 walks in 108 innings lifetime and a 3.11 ERA. He is the team’s closer this season. “It’s a good place to play, just look at the facilities, they’re really nice.”
Though he was never drafted, Casares says he’s had feelers from major league organizations. Many of the Runners have played in the minors before, and some may get the chance to be picked up if they can produce big numbers in independent ball. Casares has checked out Mickey Pena, the La Joya lefty who was drafted in the fifth round by the St. Louis Cardinals this spring.
“That guy is pretty tough, and if he walks the right path, he might have a chance to make it,” he predicted. “You have to be coachable, and that’s something that you can’t teach. You have to be able to listen to the coaches and do what they ask, not get upset.”
For now, Casares entertains the dream all the Runners share, to win here and move on into affiliated ball. And yet, the likeable righty will admit to still being a fan of major league baseball. Some pros will not say they watch or admire the other pros, but some do.
“I watch baseball when it’s on, I am still a fan,” he smiled, as a well-known New York Yankees rooter who gets a kick out of veteran reliever Mariano Rivera, who saved his 500th career game and got his first MLB RBI on the same night last week. “It was my dad’s 50th birthday a while back and we went up to see an Astros’ game, sat behind home plate. It was cool.”
He may enjoy watching, but his career is still cranking along. Casares, who is taking a summer class at UTPA and is 18 hours away from a degree, again noted that he’s concentrated on putting the bad outing Sunday behind him. He’s learned that taking lingering animosity back out onto the field is a recipe for disaster.
“You just have to put it behind you, and quick,” he suggested, echoing the traditional closer’s mantra. “If you get selfish and stay mad, and then lose a game, well, that isn’t going to cut it. It happened, and we got the win last night, so that’s really all that matters. I’m not going to change a thing by worrying about it.”