Long Island Ducks: 2011 Minor League Baseball Season Preview

Eric HoldenContributor IDecember 28, 2010

Bud Harrelson
Bud HarrelsonJared Wickerham/Getty Images

Randy Leek's 12 wins and Ray Navarette's 56 RBIs were the bright spots in an otherwise disappointing 2010 season for the Long Island Ducks.

After failing to make the playoffs and a third-place finish in the Atlantic League Liberty Division, the front office decided to part ways with skipper Dave Lapoint and brought in former New York Met Kevin Baez, to manage the squad. It was the first year since 2005 that the team didn’t finish with a winning record or advance to the division finals, so a fresh start was long overdue.

Baez became just the fifth manager in the history of the franchise and brings a wealth of experience to the position. The 43-year-old is a veteran of 63 major league games, all of which were with the New York Mets and spent the last six seasons as the third-base coach for the Ducks.

The 2011 pitching roster has some question marks after the retirement of Sidney Ponson, who notched four wins for the team last season. The top hurler of last year's starting rotation, Leek, also decided to cap off his career after posting a team-high 12 wins.  Those two key losses at the top of the rotation will be tough to bounce back from.

When the Ducks start signing free-agent starters, they will have to get the ball to Kane Davis in the ninth inning. Davis led the Ducks in saves last year with 14 and posted a 1.69 ERA.

There are plenty of holes in the roster that will be filled in the coming months, but count on infielder Ray Navarette to return to action for a sixth season with the Ducks. The 31-year-old’s efforts have earned him trips to the Atlantic League All-Star Game each of the past four years, while setting the franchise record in home runs and RBIs.

The 2011 season opens with a tough battle on the road against the Bridgeport Bluefish beginning April 29. The series comes back to Long Island on Friday, May 6, when the Ducks open their home schedule at the ballpark in Central Islip.