LINCOLN, NE – Six pitchers from the Lincoln Saltdogs’ record-setting 2017 pitching staff are set to return for the 2018 season. Pitchers J.R. Bunda, Derek Gordon, Dimitri Kourtis, Shairon Martis, Cesilio Pimentel and Brian Smith have all re-signed contracts with the Saltdogs.
The 2017 Saltdogs compiled a 3.45 ERA which was the best in the league and the lowest in franchise history. They also held opponents to a franchise-low .251 batting average, struck out a franchise-record 720 batters and tied a franchise-low of 52 home runs allowed.
J.R. Bunda led the team in wins (10-1) despite not making a single start. The Hawaiian, who will be in his third season with the ‘Dogs, appeared in a team-high 41 games, struck out 40 batters and registered a 2.49 ERA last year. Bunda was particularly dominant in the middle of the season. He wasn’t charged with an earned run between May 28th and August 26th, a stretch that saw him toss 28 innings.
Derek Gordon, a Lincoln native and Southeast HS alum, was the Saltdogs Pitcher of the Year in 2017. He is the younger brother of three-time MLB All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon. He went 9-4 with a 3.46 ERA in 19 appearances last season. He was an ‘iron man’ who posted three complete games including one shutout. The right-hander was 5-0 with a 1.54 ERA over six starts in July. The team won eight straight games in which Gordon started, from June 27-August 5th.
Dimitri Kourtis gave the Saltdogs quality middle relief pitching while make a few spot starts in his rookie season. He posted a 1-2 record with a 3.39 ERA in 26 games. The Mercer University product made his first professional start on June 22nd at Texas and pitched five shutout innings in a win. He proved to be an innings-eater out of the bullpen, throwing four scoreless innings of relief against Gary and allowing one run over four innings against Wichita in crucial late-season games.
Shairon Martis played for the Saltdogs in 2015-17, compiling a 19-12 record with a 3.34 ERA over 51 appearances. After rejoining the team in late July 2017, Martis was 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA for Lincoln. The star pitcher brings MLB experience to the roster. He pitched for the Washington Nationals in parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons while registering six appearances for the Minnesota Twins in 2013. His career MLB numbers are 6-7 with a 5.35 ERA in 116 innings including one complete game.
Cesilio Pimentel was picked up in a trade with Fargo-Moorhead mid-season. He didn’t allow a run in his first eight appearances for the ‘Dogs. The Dominican Republic-native went 1-2 with a 3.81 ERA before his contract was purchased by the Diamondbacks organization.
Brian Smith made two critical late-season appearances for the Saltdogs in 2017. He tossed a complete game in the first leg of a double-header at Fargo. Then, he started and pitched 5.2 innings in the Saltdogs’ division-clinching win at Gary. He was 0-1 with a 4.62 ERA over the two appearances.
Pitching Coach Dan Reichert returns for his fifth season in charge of Saltdogs hurlers. The former Kansas City Royal and Toronto Blue Jay lives in Lincoln with his wife and three kids.
The Saltdogs are set to begin their 18th season in Lincoln on Thursday, May 17th. For more information on the Saltdogs, follow the team on Facebook and Twitter/Instagram @saltdogsball. For ticket information visit https://saltdogs.com/tickets/ or call (402) 474-2255.