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Panthers Looking To Improve In 2011

RosemeadXROSEMEAD - 3/3/11 - In his fifth year as coach of the Rosemead High baseball team, Wesley Gonzalez said this year's Mission Valley League champion can be anyone.

"It's up for grabs," said Gonzalez, whose Panthers finished fifth in league play last year. "But I think our biggest challenge is just playing fundamentals. I think pitching has kind of been our downfall. We're starting off the inning with a walk and giving up key base hits."

Gonzalez said he and pitching coach Mike Salgado have been working with the pitching staff to make sure those things no longer happen.

"I think to help with that situation is we're zoning in with our pitchers more so in the offseason than even," Gonzalez said. "They're working with Salgado, breaking down the fundamentals and just basically their balance on the mound through their release point to following through."

Returning junior righty Rafael Garcia is expected to lead the team's rotation.

"He's more of a finesse pitcher," Gonzalez said of Rafael Garcia. "He hits his spots and has a fastball, change up and curveball."

His brother, Manuel Garcia, is a senior right-hander and is expected to be the number two guy on the staff.

"He's similar to his brother," Gonzalez said of Manuel Garcia. "He has his fastball and his curve."

Rounding out the starting rotation should be freshman righty Armani Garcia (no relation to the first two pitchers).

"He will be like a number three or middle relief," Gonzalez said of Armani Garcia. "He basically has the same pitches. From what I've seen so far he has potential. For his age he does have a pretty strong arm. His velocity is pretty good."

Offensively, Gonzalez said the Panthers are still looking for a leadoff hitter. But he said Armani Garcia, when playing center field, is expected to bat second.

"He's a consistent contact hitter and he'll be able to sacrifice himself to move the guy over, playing small ball," Gonzalez said.

Batting clean up should be junior catcher Andrew Gibson.

"He's a pure power hitter and will help drive in some runs," Gonzalez said of Gibson.

Also expected to contribute to the Panthers' hitting attack is senior second baseman Paul Cruz.

"He's got power," Gonzalez said. "If he needs to change it up, he can be a contact hitter."

And rounding out the middle of the order is Manuel Garcia, who will be playing third base and batting fifth when not pitching.

"He's pretty much a good overall contact hitter," Gonzalez said. "Not so much power, but is a good situational hitter."\

In addition, Gonzalez said he is hoping the offense comes through more than it did last season.

"Last year we left too many guys on base, just left them hanging," Gonzalez said. "I think we're improved in both hitting and pitching."

If you want to follow the Panthers this season on the Internet, just log onto www.rhspanthersbaseball.com.

(Shel Segal can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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