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BRIAN RICHESSON | Scrappers Message to fans: Don't panic



Published: Sun, July 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Neal Huntington doesn't lay awake at night wondering why the Mahoning Valley Scrappers have the worst record in the New York-Penn League.

If he didn't see players making progress in their development, then there'd be a problem.

Huntington, director of player development for the Cleveland Indians, wants to win as much as Mahoning Valley fans.

"But fans need to remember that this is a process," he said. "These guys are 21, 22 years old. They're a long way from Cleveland."

Losing streak: Entering their weekend series against the Hudson Valley Renegades at Cafaro Field, the Scrappers had lost a franchise-high 10 straight games.

The Scrappers broke the skid Friday and took a 7-24 record into Saturday night's game.

"A lot of young players are going through adversity together," Huntington said of the Scrappers' struggles. "They haven't had a guy step up and put the team on his back."

Just as teams win in different ways, the Scrappers have lost in different ways, falling short many times in close games, Huntington said.

"It's not like they're getting crushed," he said. "The win-loss record is disappointing, but it's not indicative of the work they're putting in."

Still impressive: A number of individual performances have impressed Huntington, who has made a couple of visits to Mahoning Valley.

First-year players Jonathan Van Every and Miguel Quintana -- both outfielders -- have given strong performances, while fifth-year catcher Angel Bastardo has shown improvement. First-year pitcher Nick Moran and second-year pitcher Victor Kleine have been reliable on the mound.

Outfielder Luke Scott, the Indians' ninth-round draft pick, would have provided additional punch to the lineup, Huntington said, but Scott was injured early in the season and underwent elbow surgery.

"You hope hitting will become contagious," Huntington said, when asked how the Scrappers can recover. "Hopefully, somebody comes in and hits a good pitch for a double, and other guys realize that it's been harder than it needs to be."

Organization's support: At times this season, fans have been hard on the Scrappers, but Huntington said the Indians haven't lost confidence in manager Dave Turgeon and his staff.

"For a manager to be [17] games under .500, it could be difficult for him to remain upbeat. Dave Turgeon has been remarkable," Huntington said. "Turge and his staff have created a positive environment.

"That's why I believe we can wake up tomorrow and win nine out of 10 games," Huntington said, "and do it because the hard work is paying off."

richesson@vindy.com




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