Donald Lutz set to also fire in defence for Brisbane Bandits
BASEBALL: Star Brisbane import Donald Lutz believes he's not far off moving from designated hitter to first base, as he continues his strong comeback from Tommy John surgery.
Lutz has made a big impression on the ABL after just seven games, averaging .276 with eight hits.
He reached the Major League with the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 and 2014, playing 62 games in total and registering 23 hits.
But he was struck down by an elbow injury which required Tommy John surgery just 13 games into last season with the Louisville Bats at Triple-A level.
That was when Brisbane swooped and obtained his prized signature for this summer, Lutz remaining close with Bandits CEO Mark Ready, from when he played for Ready's Windsor Royals team before making the big leagues.
And so far the 26-year-old hasn't let down a city he has a close affinity with.
It was the cool-headed Lutz who scored Mitch Nilsson with a powerful line-drive double against the Melbourne Aces at Holloway Field on Friday night, in the bottom of the 10th inning.
That kick-started a late rally which saw the hosts win a thrilling match 6-5, after training 5-2 at the bottom of the added-on inning.
Brisbane went on to win the series 3-1.
"For me there was no pressure. I was only in there to make it a one-run ball game," Lutz told APN.
"I enjoyed that moment because everybody's tired, everybody's looking for you to do something.
And soon the first German-developed man to play in the Major League could also be contributing in defence.
"Soon I'll try to mix in a little bit of first base," he said.
"But for the outfield I'm not ready yet - the ligament is too fresh."
Lutz also had the option to play in Mexico, but he said playing for the Bandits would be the best way for him to bounce back and build momentum for next year, as he tries to keep his MLB dream alive.
"I have a lot of friends out here. Here it was just a better opportunity to get ready for Spring Training," he said.
Meanwhile, Brisbane native Nilsson said a season playing in the Czech Republic helped him get to 31 hits from 28 games this season, not far behind league leader and Canberra second-baseman Jason Leblebijian (38).
Nilsson hit an enormously high triple to right field which started the late rally on Friday night, and in Saturday night's 6-4 win over Melbourne he was a triple away from a cycle.
That included another towering hit for a double.
"I get a lot of backspin on the ball which is making them carry a lot further," he said.
"That's what I learned to do over there (in the Czech Republic) because they were small fields, so all you had to do was get it up in the air.
"Playing over there was great - it was the best couple of months I've ever had."
Bandits starting left-hand pitcher Rick Teasley threw six innings and gave up no runs in Friday night's thriller, and boasts a respected earned run average of 2.82 from 38.1 innings this season.
Teasley was recruited from the independent Frontier League with the Southern Illinois Miners, and is hoping a strong ABL summer will springboard him back into the Minor Leagues in the US.
"At the moment the cutter is working very well, and the change-up is coming around well," the Florida product said.
"It's been awesome. I didn't know what to expect coming here. But the competition is a step up, and coming here and facing these guys is a challenge.
"I held my first koala. I get to do stuff like that, and feed kangaroos.
"I'm hoping to get re-signed. That was a big thing coming here and throwing extra innings, to come here and try to get picked up.
"If that doesn't happen, that's alright because I'm having the experience of a lifetime."
The second-placed Bandits will next play reigning champions the Perth Heat at Holloway Field in a four-game series starting Friday night.
The Brisbane team will be looking for a repeat of its impressive 3-1 series win in Perth early last month.
But they will have to do it without American import and catcher Nick Ciuffo, who faces three weeks out with a fractured finger.