Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Otters Ready to Take Next Step ; Champion Finishes out Season at Somerset of Atlantic League

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Otters Ready to Take Next Step ; Champion Finishes out Season at Somerset of Atlantic League

Article excerpt

Evansville Otters manager Andy McCauley is all about promoting his players. Playing in the independent Frontier League, they all dream of rejoining an affiliated team or playing for one for the first time. As a result, the Otters traded closer and all-time franchise saves leader Eric Massingham in late August to the Fargo- Moorhead RedHawks of the American Association, considered a higher- level independent league than the Frontier.

Evansville is expected to do the same for left-handed starter Adam Champion, a North High School graduate. The Otters are planning to send him to Somerset to finish out the last few weeks of Atlantic League season.

"He'll finish the year in the Atlantic League, finish at a higher level," McCauley said. "Hopefully, it will jump-start his career."

Released by the Houston Astros' organization this spring, Champion found himself back home in Evansville. When Dan Blewett went down with an injury in June, Champion seized the opportunity, becoming the Otters' No. 1 starter.

"Without a doubt he came here and figured things out," McCauley said. "We went to him and he commanded (the No. 1 starter's role). He gained a lot of confidence."

If Champion does not continue to climb the professional ladder, his Frontier League rights are retained by the Otters, Mc-Cauley said.

Champion allowed a season-high eight runs in four innings in Sunday's season-ending 10-1 loss to Florence, elevating his final earned-run average to 3.06. He compiled an 8-5 record.

For his part, Massingham finished with 21 saves, one shy of his career-best 22 last season, which set an Otters club record.

Patrick Crider, a left-handed reliever from Owensboro, Ky., appeared in 36 games this year, finishing with a career-low 2.91 ERA. He set a franchise record for appearances (55) last year and holds the team record for career appearances (123) in his three seasons.

"He's a reliable lefty out of the pen in various situations," Mc- Cauley said. "Looking at the off- season, he's certainly someone we would like back. We would sure love to have him contribute. But you can't play the rest of your life. …

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