Cyclones’ Co-Closers Slam The Door
At the midpoint of the season, the Brooklyn Cyclones 29-12 record is highlighted by the fact they are 13-5 in one run ballgames and 5-1 in two run ball games. With the offense non-existent for most of the season, the pitching has had to take the extra burden in pulling out the wins. Helping the cause for the first place Cyclones in closing ballgames are co-closers Robert Paulk and Carlos Muniz.
Paulk and Muniz are part of an outstanding pitching staff that has helped the Cyclones to a first place lead over second place Williamsport. The two pitchers are a combined 21 for 22 in save opportunities.
Carlos Muniz has taken to the role of closer and run with it. Muniz previously closed games at Cal State Long Beach and was fourth in the NCAA overall in saves. Muniz was unsure of what role he would pitch professionally with the Cyclones.
"My first day here I didn’t know what they wanted me to do as far as short relief or long relief but they told me to close and I’ve been doing my best ever since."
Muniz has used his fastball, sinker, slider and changeup with his fastball and slider the pitches he uses to get batters out. Muniz is 13 for 13 in save opportunities while not allowing a run in 16 innings of work.
Pitching coach Hector Berrios has been a big factor according to Muniz in his success. "He’s made me comfortable here and he’s given me the ball. I told him that in any save situation that I want the ball and he’s shown me the way and made me comfortable."
Berrios is very aware on how the lack of offensive output has placed the co-closers in pressure situations. Berrios regards the tight games as a valuable teaching experience. "We basically go with anyone who is available. We don’t have anyone in particular. We have two guys that are so reliable in closing."
"It’s a good test because we are always in a pressure packed situation. When you look long term, these kids are getting groomed for situations like this in the long road."
Robert Paulk, who pitched at North Florida Community College, has experience with closing games as he got a taste of the job last season with the Cyclones. But this season, Paulk, who uses a fastball, changeup and slider, was not given the job at the start of the season.
Until last Sunday’s makeup doubleheader against divisional rival Williamsport, Paulk hadn’t pitched 2 weeks. That was due to his role in a huge brawl on July 17th in Staten Island against the Yankees. The Cyclones’ Andy Wilson was hit in the head by a pitch by the Yankees Matt DeSalvo in the sixth inning. That sparked a huge brawl, which included many ejections and suspensions for players in both teams.
Paulk served three games for his role in the fight and wasn’t aware of any bad blood that preceded the fight. "I went over there (the brawl started on the pitching mound) and there was a bunch of guys one of our players and I tried helping him out and this guy came out of nowhere. I tried to defend myself".
But Paulk insists that he wasn’t trying to be Lennox Lewis. "I had no intentions of fighting and I don’t like fighting." Muniz acknowledges the incident was ugly but it may have brought the team together. "It’s not a good thing but we just responded."
Muniz says that the team has rebounded well from the adversity they face "We’ve had our bumps on the road but we find a way to get back on the winning side".
Paulk originally was at higher Single A Capital City to start the season. But along with 2002 Cyclones teammates, Ender Chavez, Blake Whealy and Jonathan Slack, Paulk knows the reason why he is back in Brooklyn. "I know my job. It’s to bring home a championship to Brooklyn."
News And Notes
The Cyclones’ fight with the Staten Island Yankees at Staten Island on July 24 resulted in a reported 9 Cyclones players who were suspended. The players who were suspended included: infielders Ian Bladergroen, David Reaver, Blake Whealy, Stacy Bennett and Shawn Bowman, pitchers Ivan Maldonado and Robert Paulk and outfielders Ender Chavez and Ryan Harvey.
Sunday August 3 will be Jackie Robinson Day at Keyspan Park as the Cyclones take on the Staten Island Yankees. The first black ballplayer to break the color barrier in 1947, the former Brooklyn Dodgers great and Baseball Hall of Famer will be honored for his accomplishments as the Cyclones retire his #42 jersey in pre-game honors. The ceremonies will include Jackie’s daughter, Sharon, and wife, Rachel Robinson.