EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) -The Evansville Otters have signed pitchers Ty Hensley, Patrick McGuff and Austin Nicely to contract extensions and exercise option on pitcher Tyler Vail for the 2019 season.
Hensley comes back to the Otters after bouncing back from injury in the second half of the 2018 season.
“We are excited to see Ty this spring,” said Otters manager Andy McCauley. “He worked extremely hard this offseason and had a lot of interest.”
“I am really excited to be coming back to a comfortable and familiar situation,” said Hensley. “I’m ready to go compete and have fun with the group of guys we have coming in.”
A highlight from the 2018 season for Hensley came in an August home start against the Florence Freedom.
Hensley and relief pitcher Matt Chavarria threw a combined no-hitter against the Freedom, the third no-hit bid in Otters’ history.
Hensley went the first five innings, walking four and striking out seven before handing the ball off to Chavarria for the two-inning save.
Overall, Hensley went 2-0 with a 5.28 ERA, striking out 31 batters in 30.2 innings pitched with the Otters in 2018.
“There is no doubt he is very capable of doing good things for us this season, and we are hoping to get him to a good start this season,” said McCauley.
“Being my first season competing in such a long time, working back to 100% health, I had to get used to the adrenaline and shake off the rust,” said Hensley.
“I’ve made a few changes in my delivery by slowing it down, simplifying it a bit, and making adjustments pitch to pitch will be key for me this season.”
Hensley resides in North Port, Fla. and has spent time with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays organizations.
He was drafted by the Yankees in the first round of the 2012 draft. In his time with the Yankees organization, Hensley had a 2.95 ERA in 16 games played with 54 strikeouts.
McGuff returns to the Otters after a stint in affiliated baseball with the Cincinnati Reds organization in the second half of 2018.
“Patrick was a dominant starter for us last year and will certainly be at the top of our rotation,” said McCauley.
“It feels great coming back to Evansville and the atmosphere it provides,” said McGuff. “The coaching staff is second to none, and without them, I’m not sure I would have continued my baseball career. They’re great to work with.”
McGuff started 2018 in the Evansville Otters’ starting rotation, posting a 3-1 record and a 1.55 ERA in five starts. McGuff struck out 26 batters in 29.0 innings pitched for the Otters.
McGuff was signed by the Reds in July of 2018, and was assigned to the Dayton Dragons, the Reds’ Single-A affiliate.
With the Dragons, the right-hander was 2-5 with a 4.09 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 10 starts and 50.2 innings pitched.
“He is a fierce competitor on the mound and should have another opportunity with an affiliated team,” said McCauley.
“I really enjoyed my time in the Reds organization,” said McGuff. “I met great people and learned more about myself and the game every day. I got even more emphasis on what consistency is needed day in and day out to be a successful baseball player at the professional level.”
“Being from Cincinnati and being able to be a part of my hometown organization was truly a blessing.”
A Cincinnati, Ohio native, McGuff was drafted in the 36th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins from Morehead State University.
Nicely proved to be a durable starting pitcher from the left-handed side in 2018, finishing first on the team with 20 starts and second on the team with 114.2 innings pitched.
“Austin did a great job for us last year and will be looking to improve on that stellar year,” said McCauley. “I’m really excited to be back in Evansville with all the guys we have coming back,” said Nicely. “The coaching staff is one of the best I’ve been around and really enjoy playing for them.”
Nicely went 8-5 with a 4.24 ERA and 85 strikeouts last season, tossing one complete as well.
In game three of the FLDS against the Washington Wild Things, Nicely worked out of the bullpen in long relief, going four innings scoreless and allowing only one hit while striking out four.
“Austin is a composed left-handed pitcher that challenges hitters and commands the strike zone,” said McCauley.
“He did a great job keeping us in the playoff game last year, shutting down Washington.”
“Last season was a work in progress, trying to get better each outing,” said Nicely. “I’ve been working to sharpen up all my pitches.”
“I hope to build off the finish of last year and help us to get back to playoff baseball at Bosse Field.”
The southpaw was drafted in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft from Spotswood High School in Penn Laird, Va. by the Houston Astros and pitched in the Astros organization from 2013 to 2016 before joining the Otters last year.
Vail, the Easton, Pa. native, comes back to the Otters for what will be his fourth season overall with the franchise.
Vail was with the Otters from 2015 to 2016 before signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, and then returned to Evansville in 2018.
“Tyler is a character player that works extremely hard,” said McCauley. “He is receptive and capable of throwing in every role and situation.”
“It feels great coming back to Evansville, and I love playing in of the fans at Bosse Field,” said Vail. “It’s a great environment for baseball and pitching for the coaching staff is great because they hold you accountable.”
The right-hander went 3-4 with a 5.33 ERA in 14 starts in 2018. Vail moved to the bullpen toward the end of 2018, making four appearances with two saves. Overall, Vail also struck out 88 in 79.1 innings pitched.
“Tyler has started for us most of his time in Evansville, but with his success closing at the end of the season last year, he will be tabbed as our closer this year,” said McCauley.
“One thing I took away from the mound last year was remain positive, and never get too high when things are going well and never too low when things are going bad,” said Vail.
“I’ve worked on becoming a batter all-around pitcher, and even though I’ve been playing pro baseball for 10 years, there is always room for improvement.”
Vail was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 5th round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft from Notre Dame High School in Easton, Pennsylvania.
“I am very pleased to have returning experienced pitchers in Hensley, McGuff, Nicely and Vail,” said McCauley. “Not only do they each have extensive affiliated experience but also Frontier League experience. They understand what we are working toward in the Otters organization.”
The Otters will open the 25th season celebration against the Southern Illinois Miners on May 10 at Bosse Field.
Courtesy: Evansville Otters