The York Revolution celebrates its 2017 Atlantic League title, the third in franchise history.
In many ways, Thursday’s opening-day festivities for the York Revolution will be a nod to the 2017 Atlantic League title team.
There will, of course, be various events celebrating the 2017 crown at PeoplesBank Park. The returning Revs will get their championship rings, and giveaways that commemorate the feat will also be featured. One lucky fan will walk away with his or her own title ring.
Even manager Mark Mason’s selection for his starting pitcher Thursday night, Jay Gause, is a tip of the hat, of sorts, to last season's championship.
“Jay was here last year and he had a really good year for us. He turned out to be a big innings eater for us,” Mason said. “And coming off a championship season, it’s very deserving for him to get that opportunity.”
Gause went 10-4 last season and posted a 3.67 ERA in 19 games with 16 starts. In 90 2/3 innings he had 74 strikeouts.
“I think it goes off last season, and trying to start off in a good way. I think I’m the only returning starter and I think that’s one reason,” Gause said of his selection to start the year on the hill. “(Mason) has trust in me and our pitching staff. I’m ready to go, I’ve been ready to go since March.”
Interesting journey: Gause's pro career arc is an interesting one. Drafted in the 10th round in 2014 by the Houston Astros, the North Carolina native appeared in nine games that season in the Low-A level.
He then didn’t throw a pitch for two years because of a “dead arm” before coming to York. There was also a series of setbacks before he turned pro, ranging from injuries in high school, to eligibility issues and multiple transfers during his college days.
Gause is part of a staff that Mason expects, along with those playing defense behind them, to be the identity of this season’s squad.
“We always try to make it pitching and defense. That’s usually the first things we concentrate on,” Mason said.
The Revs' manager enters the year pleased with the preseason performances so far, speaking highly of limiting walks and deep counts during spring training.
More familiar faces: Another familiar name returning to that staff is Ricardo Gomez. He’s back for his ninth season in the league and sixth with the Revs. He ranks at, or near, the top of York stat categories such as ERA (first), strikeouts (third) and saves (fourth).
Also, a member of the 2011 title team, the veteran reliever was 4-4 with a 3.26 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 41 games a year ago.
Defensively, York sees the return of names such as Jared Mitchell and Luis Cruz, just to name a few.
Mitchell played 122 games for York in 2017, hitting .295 with 14 homers, 62 RBIs and 24 stolen bases. The 23rd overall pick of the 2009 draft by the Chicago White Sox, Mitchell has spent time with both the White Sox and Angels organizations, reaching the Triple-A level with both clubs.
Cruz comes back after being acquired in midseason by York in 2017 and helping lead the team to its third Atlantic League crown. While strong defensively, Cruz also contributed at the plate, batting .276 with five homers and 29 RBIs in 67 games.
He also saw time as the team’s designated hitter and even made two starts at third base.
Another key returner is Michael Burgess, who enters his third season in York after being an Atlantic League All-Star selection a season ago.
Primarily a first baseman, Burgess also spent time as the team’s DH and in the outfield. He batted .264 with 17 homers (tied for second most on the team) and 66 RBIs in 117 games.
Drafted 49th overall out of high school by the Washington Nationals in 2007, Burgess reached the Double-A level with the Nats, Cubs, Astros and Orioles. He has registered 162 homers and 675 RBIs in his pro career.
In total, York has 13 players who spent some time on the Revs' roster in 2017 returning for another round.
Ex-major leaguers: One of the hallmarks of the independent Atlantic League is its success in seeing its players get back to affiliated ball. Another is that you’ll often find rosters that feature plenty of big-league experience.
York’s lineup is no different. One of those names looking to get back to the show is pitcher Ross Detwiler.
Detwiler comes to York after spending nine seasons in the majors, including seven with the Nats. The lefty spent the 2017 season in the minors with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics organizations and appeared in 19 games.
A sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft by Washington, his best season was 2012, when he went 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA and 105 strikeouts. He logged 164 1/3 innings over 33 appearances, with 27 starts, in helping the Nats win the National League East.
“Being in affiliated ball, you always hear about guys in the Atlantic League getting signed. And we were talking to a few different teams and saw how many York had signed and it was a no-brainer,” Detwiler said of coming to York. “I’m really working on location, throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters. Working on off-speed stuff right now. Just trying to get some reps in. It’s good competition here, I don’t feel like it’s a step back at all.”
Jose Tabata comes to the Revs after having played 509 games in the majors over six seasons, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates. A lifetime .275 hitter in the big leagues, Tabata also hit 17 homers, 81 doubles and 15 triples, while stealing 47 bases.
Another one of those familiar faces, Alexi Casilla, also adds more major league experience to this year’s team.
Casilla comes back after joining the club in late May of 2017. He was instrumental in the club’s turnaround from a slow start to a title team. The switch-hitting infielder batted .358 with four homers, 18 doubles, 34 RBIs and a .410 on-base percentage in 62 games.
This will be his 15th pro season, including nine in the big leagues. He made his MLB debut in 2006 with the Minnesota Twins and spent the next six seasons there. He also played for the Baltimore Orioles in 2013 and 2014.
“I think if you’re not with a major league organization, this is the league you want to play in,” Mason said. “This is the highest caliber of competition, which translates into the numbers you put up here meaning more than other independent leagues.”
The opener: Finally, Thursday’s opener becomes even more special since it’ll be the first time the Revs meet up with their cross-river rivals, the Lancaster Barnstormers. First pitch Thursday is set for 6:30 p.m.