Might injuries end up doing what no team has been able to do — stop the juggernaut that is the Brooklyn Cyclones?
Rylan Sandoval, the Cyclones’ gifted shortstop, is gone for the season with a fractured wrist after being hit by a pitch — removing the leader of the infield and leaving the team without a fierce bat at the leadoff position.
“Sandy was the total package,” said manager Wally Backman. “He could run, he had power, he would make the routine plays and was a leader — the glue in that infield.”
Now the Clones must cope without Sandoval, who — despite having been out since Aug. 8 — is still in the top 10 in the New York-Penn League in home runs (9) and runs (34).
“It’s a huge loss,” said Cory Vaughn, another leader in the locker room, told the dean of the Cyclones press corps, Gersh Kuntzman. “[Sandoval] would come out and set the tone leading off. He didn’t waste a lot of at bats.”
The injury, which came only two days before an important road trip, indeed left the team reeling.
“It sucked!” said Backman, referring to the stretch in which the team won three and lost three games, two of which were attributable to ugly errors.
The Cyclones are the sixth-worst in the league in terms of fielding, with 80 errors in only 61 games — a trend that will likely not change as the team grows accustomed to a new shortstop Wilfredo Tovar — who already has two errors in four games.
And it isn’t just Sandoval who caught the bad mojo swirling around the Cyclones for the first time this season.
Vaughn, who is second in the league with 12 home runs, has been sidelined for three games with a hyperextended elbow.
Vaughn said he could hit and throw, but not at full strength.
That does not bode well for the future, as Vaughn’s bat will need to be swinging better than ever while the team adjusts to a more “small ball” style without Sandoval in the lineup.
“We’re going to have to manufacture more runs,” said Backman. “We’ll try to hit and run more and steal more bases.”
Sounds like a challenge — one that couldn’t come as a worst time as the Cyclones gear up for the playoffs.
The Cyclones lead the McNamara Division by 10 games with just 16 left to play. Playoff tickets are now on sale. Call (718) 372-5596 or visit www.brooklyncyclones.com.