Entering Saturday night’s home game against the San Antonio Missions, the Tulsa Drillers sported a 5-3 record and were in first place in the Texas League’s North Division.
Dennis Higgins, the play-by-play voice of the Tulsa Drillers, has called all of the Driller action so far this season, so I thought he’d be a great person to ask about Tulsa’s early-season success.
Kevin Henry: So what are you seeing about this Tulsa team that you like?
Dennis Higgins: (Tulsa manager) Duane Espy said in this morning’s Tulsa World article that he likes this team a lot, and I agree with him completely. It’s early in the season, but if you’re a Drillers fan, you have to be encouraged with what you’ve seen so far.
The makeup of this team is a great blend of older players who have Double-A experience and prospects with bright futures. I really think one of the keys to the season is how long the Drillers can keep Nolan Arenado (Colorado’s top prospect who plays third base). The third base position in Colorado is tenuous with a platoon situation going on, so we’ll see what happens. He’s only 20, and I’d love to see him here all year.
Henry: Speaking of Arenado, what have been your early impressions of him?
Higgins: I’ve been more impressed with his defense than his bat, and that’s saying a lot with him batting .387 (heading into Saturday night’s game). During the first week and a half of this season, he’s made three or four real special defensive plays. He’s been very impressive in the field.
Henry: Have you seen any areas of the team that you think are red flags that could be trouble now or later in the season?
Higgins: I don’t really see any red flags. Last year, the bullpen was a problem. This year, the bullpen has an experienced group of guys, including two starters (Cory Riordan and Josh Sullivan) from last year. They bring a lot to the table coming out of the bullpen.
Henry: People were wondering how the Drillers would replace the offensive power of Tim Wheeler and Wilin Rosario this season, but it looks like Tulsa has done just that. Would you agree?
Higgins: Absolutely. Colorado has done a very good job of drafting young players. Arenado, Josh Rutledge, and Kent Matthes all excelled at the Single-A level last year. Lars Davis has finally earned the starting catcher position after spending time here in Tulsa behind Rosario. They’ve replaced the offense, but the Drillers are also playing very good defense right now.
Knock on wood, but if there are no injuries or call-ups and the core of this team can stay together, this could be a very fun year.