TRAVERSE CITY — For Traverse City Beach Bums manager Gregg Langbehn, the goal remains the same.
"To compete for a playoff spot," he said. "That's what you play for."
The Beach Bums start workouts here in just over a month. They played for the Frontier League championship in 2010 and then came up a run short of qualifying for the playoffs last September, losing to Lake Erie in extra innings in the regular season finale. That loss put Lake Erie in the post-season and Traverse City on the sidelines.
"The last couple years we've put together some good teams," Langbehn said. "2010 was certainly a great season. We had the right pieces. We did last year, too. Unfortunately, we had a slow start, weathered it, and put ourselves in position to make it. Obviously, it was a disappointing end. Nonetheless, it was a good season and that's what we expect this year. We feel we have more than enough to compete again."
Jason Wuerfel, director of baseball operations, is putting the finishing touches on the training camp roster. The Beach Bums report May 2, then begin workouts the next day. The opener is two weeks later, May 17, in Florence, Ky.
With the season fast approaching, Langbehn discussed his team.
The strength of the staff is in the bullpen with set-up man Scott Dunn and closer Scott Mueller returning. Dunn finished 9-3 with a 2.58 ERA while Mueller recorded 21 saves with a sterling 1.31 ERA. Mueller struck out 53 in 55 innings.
"It's unfortunate Scott hasn't been given another affiliated opportunity because he's earned it," Langbehn said. "He works harder than anybody. He's all business. He knows the role and he's prepared when we call for him. Rarely does he let the team down. He's been extremely durable and reliable. You've got to have that. It can be so demoralizing if you don't have guys that can close games out for you."
Langbehn moved Dunn into the starting rotation down the stretch last summer, but he'll go back to his familiar role in 2012.
"He did a fantastic job for us (as a starter)," Langbehn said. "We did that out of necessity. He had the ability to do it. Obviously, I'd prefer to keep him in the bullpen."
As of now, Langbehn is expecting David Deminsky, Reid Kelly, Jacob Clem and Bennett Whitmore to challenge for starting roles.
Deminsky went 6-3 with a 3.84 ERA after joining the Beach Bums in June.
Kelly pitched in the Chicago White Sox farm system a year ago.
"He was in the Astros organization when I was there," Langbehn said. "I'm real excited to see him throw. He has a big strong arm. He's an 88-92 (mph) kid. A big power curveball. He just wants the opportunity to be in the rotation and get some innings and he'll be given that opportunity."
Clem, who pitched at the University of Washington, is another newcomer who will get a look.
"He's a kid we're really excited about," Langbehn said. "He pitched in the Australian Winter League and did a really good job. He's a big kid, a ground ball pitcher which should work nicely at Wuerfel Park."
Whitmore, a lefty like Deminsky, pitched previously in the Seattle Mariners system.
The Beach Bums have three under contract — Travis Higgs, Kip Masuda and Chris Kay. A fourth — Jon Hurst — is also vying for playing time as a corner outfielder.
Higgs hit .300 in the Mariners system last year while Masuda led the Pecos League in throwing out runners.
"On paper, we're probably stronger at catcher than last year," Langbehn said. "That's not a knock on the guys we ha, but we were looking to upgrade and we think we've done that."
Three positions appear set — Jose Vargas at third, Tom Zebroski at second and Chase Burch at first.
Vargas hit .261 with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs, Zebroski, who had a 13-game hitting streak late in the season, finished at .281.Burch, after a sluggish start, bounced back to hit .260 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs.
Vargas spent some time at short in 2011, but will remain at third this season.
"He and Andrew Davis of Lake Erie are the two best third baseman in the league," Langbehn said. "They make every play."
Burch, one of the most feared hitters in the league in 2010, has been playing in Australia this off-season.
"(2010) was a tough year for him," Langbehn said. "He had some different things going on in his life personally. He started off slowly offensively and that was tough for him because he had never struggled before. He had a strong finish, though. That was the guy we saw for almost the entire 2010 season. He carried us for awhile. We're excited to have him back."
Jeff Flagg, another long ball threat, can play first and third and will now try corner outfield as well.
"We'd like to keep his bat in the lineup," Langbehn said. "That versatility (in the field) increases his value."
Flagg hit 13 home runs after joining the team June 28.
Stephen Shults, who led the Frontier League in home runs in 2010 and was eighth in hitting, came over in a trade with Florence in mid-August. With Burch at first, Shults could add punch as the designated hitter.
This is where the Beach Bums need to retool following the retirements of J.T. Hall and Matt Brown.
Brown, a top-flight defensive outfielder, led the team in hitting at .299. Hall set a team record with 23 home runs.
"Those are significant losses," Langbehn said. "With J.T., obviously he's a great player, but we'll miss his presence in the clubhouse, too. He was a fan favorite. But he had to make a decision in his life and he moved on."
Greg Burns is ticketed for center or left field. Flagg will be given an opportunity as will Hurst.
The Beach Bums have also inked Matt Howard and Sam DiMatteo.
"We're still talking with a couple other guys," Langbehn said.
Players report on May 2, season opens on May 17
TRAVERSE CITY — For Traverse City Beach Bums manager Gregg Langbehn, the goal remains the same.
Beach Bums fall in Joliet, 6-3
Catcher Grant DeBruin went 3-for-3 and drove in three runs Saturday night as the Joliet Slammers made it two straight over the Traverse City Beach Bums, 6-3.Continued ...
Beach Bums lose, 5-2
Goose Kallunki drove in three runs Friday night as Joliet beat the Traverse City Beach Bums 5-2 in a Frontier League season opener.Continued ...
FINAL: Joliet 5, Traverse City 2
The Traverse City Beach Bums lost their 2013 Frontier League season opener 5-2 to the Joliet Slammers on Friday night.Continued ...
UPDATE: Beach Bums, Slammers tied 1-1 in 4th
The Traverse City Beach Bums are tied with Joliet 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning of their 2013 Frontier League baseball season opener.Continued ...
Beach Bums open tonight against Joliet
Jacob Clem will get the start in tonight’s Traverse City Beach Bums opener at Joliet.Continued ...
- Thursday, May 16, 2013
Wuerfel Park power numbers on the rise
One season probably doesn't completely kill the opinion of Wuerfel Park. But after last season's surge in power numbers, the Beach Bums are doing their best to change the notion that their home park isn't friendly to hitters.Continued ...
Gusrang's move to outfield pays big dividends right away
Sean Gusrang was an infielder by trade. Until last season, that is.Continued ...
Bums' bullpen figures to be strong
If things go as expected, Beach Bums’ opponents may be hard-pressed to find success in the late stages of games.Continued ...
Vargas no laughing matter to Frontier League pitchers
You might not know it, but reigning Frontier League MVP Jose Vargas is a bit of a joker. The Traverse City Beach Bums slugger usually keeps a straight face in public.Continued ...
Nidiffer adds more than a bat to Bums' roster
Marcus Nidiffer is a coach on the field. He's also a pitcher's best friend. That's part of his job description as the catcher for the Traverse City Beach Bums.Continued ...
- Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Langbehn not yet ready to set Bums lineup
Starting rotation? Still working on it. Opening day pitcher? To be determined. Starting lineup? Pending.Continued ...
- Monday, May 6, 2013
Former Rippers find home with Beach Bums
Chris Kaminski witnessed a baseball franchise collapse last season. Which makes him all that more glad he's now with one that's been stable.Continued ...
- Friday, May 3, 2013
Skipper vows Bums will make it on merit
When Traverse City Beach Bums manager Gregg Langbehn met with his players this week he did not talk about goals.Continued ...
2013 Beach Bums training camp roster
2013 Beach Bums training camp roster:Continued ...
- Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Beach Bums pick pair of lefties in draft
The Traverse City Beach Bums selected two left-handed pitchers in Tuesday’s Frontier League draft.Continued ...
2013 Frontier League tryout draft
Frontier League tryout draft results:Continued ...
- Thursday, April 18, 2013
Beach Bums add outfielder, 2 more pitchers
The Beach Bums roster is nearing completion. With Wednesday's addition of outfielder Mike Mergenthaler and pitchers Johnny Omahen and Michael Kerschner, the team's roster sits at 28.Continued ...
- Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Beach Bums re-sign Burch, Sabol, add 2 more
The Beach Bums re-signed first baseman Chase Burch for the upcoming season, giving the team a formidable middle-of-the-order bat to build a lineup around.Continued ...
- Friday, March 8, 2013
Sports in Brief: 03/08/2013
Beach Bums sign pitcher Phil Brua; Mayor passes on bid idea for 2024 Olympics; St. Louis shortstop to undergo elbow surgery. (Plus more)Continued ...
- Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Bums could have familiar look
When the Traverse City Beach Bums take the field for their home opener May 21, the lineup could look very familiar to fans.Continued ...
Maple, birch bats returning to Frontier League
Wuerfel Park is not known as a place to go to see a ton of home runs.Continued ...
- Thursday, December 20, 2012
Still returning to Beach Bums in '13
The Traverse City Beach Bums have announced that All-Star second baseman Ryan Still is returning to the team in 2013.Continued ...
- Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Bums reflect on highs, lows
Gregg Langbehn will rejoin his crew Friday to officiate the Wisconsin Rapids-Oshkosh West high school football game. Langbehn, manager of the Traverse City Beach Bums, was hoping to miss his fourth consecutive week of football, but plans changed after Southern Illinois completed a three-game sweep of the Frontier League’s No. 1 playoff seed on Saturday night.Continued ...
- Friday, September 7, 2012
Bums face elimination
You could almost hear a pin drop in the Traverse City locker room. The silence was created when Southern Illinois’ Ken Gregory belted a solo home run on the first pitch he saw in the 10th inning Thursday to give the Miners a 5-4 victory and a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series.Continued ...
- Thursday, September 6, 2012
Bums fall in playoff opener
Evidently, you don't take a hit away from Javier Herrera.Continued ...
- Beach Bums fall in Joliet, 6-3