With opening night just over five weeks away, the Wichita Wingnuts’ starting rotation is beginning to take form. With Jon Link and Anthony Capra already in the fold the team has added two experienced arms in Michael Schlact and Tim Brown and will bring back a familiar face in Justin Klipp.
The 28-year old Schlact sat out the 2013 baseball season while he recovered from his second shoulder surgery. His last baseball action came in 2012 with the Atlantic League’s Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. He appeared in just three games that season before he was injured. During his most recent full season, which came in 2011 with Southern Maryland, he was 6-4 with a 4.61 ERA in 21 appearances, 18 of which were starts. He struck out 38 and walked 25 in 107.1 innings of work.
Manager Kevin Hooper is looking forward to watching the towering Schlact throw this season. “Michael is a guy I am very excited to see in May when the guys report. He is a 6'7" right-hander that will hopefully fit somewhere right in the middle of our rotation. He seems to pound the strike zone and doesn't give out many free passes.”
Schlact is entering his tenth season of professional baseball since being selected by the Texas Rangers in the 3rd round of the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft out of Wheeler High School in Marietta, GA. He spent seven years in the Rangers organization reaching as high as Double-A Frisco, where he spent four seasons from 2007-10. Schlact enjoyed his best season statistically with the Low-A Clinton LumberKings in 2005. There he posted a 10-7 record in 28 starts to go along with a 4.17 ERA.
“I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to be part of such a classy and successful organization,” Schlact said. “I am looking forward to being on the field with some really talented players and a top notch coaching staff.”
Although relatively young in age, Tim Brown is an independent baseball veteran. The 27-year old has already completed five seasons with three different independent baseball clubs. He pitched for the Lincoln Saltdogs and Grand Prairie AirHogs, both of the American Association, between 2009 and 2011 before spending each of the last two campaigns with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League.
“I’m very excited to be joining the Wingnuts this year,” Brown stated. “I have always enjoyed the city of Wichita and playing against the team in the past. I have nothing but respect for them and I look forward to a great season.”
Brown was not drafted after finishing his collegiate career at Pittsburg State University in 2009. Brown led the Gorillas pitching staff that year with a 3.71 ERA in 80.0 innings of work. He has the fourth most strikeouts in a single season at the school with 77. Brown is the career leader in lowest amount of walks per nine innings pitched with an average of 0.83 and holds the two best single-season marks in the same category with an average of 1.04 in 2008 and 0.68 in 2009.
Following the completion of the college season Brown joined the Lincoln Saltdogs, going 7-1 in 17 appearances with a 2.59 ERA. He also began the 2010 season with Lincoln, but after starting the season 7-5 had his contract purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies in July. Brown was placed with the team’s Gulf Coast League affiliate where he finished with an impressive 1.50 ERA in seven games spanning 24.0 innings.
He split the 2011 season between Lincoln and Grand Prairie before flourishing with Gateway the past two seasons. With the Grizzlies Brown was a combined 25-5 in 39 starts with a 2.61 ERA. He struck out 136 batters while issuing just 64 walks. In 2013, he finished second in the Frontier League with a 2.97 ERA. On July 20th of last year in a game against the Lake Erie Crushers Brown threw the third no-hitter in Grizzlies history, allowing just a pair of base runners via walk.
“I have kept a close eye on Tim since the first time I saw him pitch for Lincoln in 2009 as a true rookie,” explained Hooper. “He pitches to our philosophy of going right at guys, pounding the zone, and letting his defense play behind him. He is a proven winner and I can't wait to see him in a Wingnuts uniform.”
The right-handed Klipp played professional baseball for the first time last season at the age of 28. He spent the final three months of the season with the Wingnuts after being acquired via trade from the Edinburgh Roadrunners of United League Baseball. In 17 appearances with Wichita, 15 of which were starts, Klipp posted an 8-3 record and 3.88 ERA. In 92.2 innings he struck out 56 and walked 21.
According to the 29-year old from Tarzana, California the season cannot begin soon enough. “I am excited to be in Wichita and have been chomping at the bit to be playing every day again since the new year began. I want redemption for last year and will settle for nothing less than a ring.”
Klipp started just three games with Edinburgh prior to the trade to Wichita, but made his mark in the short time frame. He was 2-1 with a 1.24 ERA in 21.2 innings pitched. He struck out 14 batters in 6.1 innings against Fort Worth in his professional debut and followed that by fanning another 14 in his next outing.
Klipp was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 22nd round in 2007, but did not see live action professionally until last year due to a pair of back injuries. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Klipp was drafted following two successful years at Cal State Fullerton. Klipp posted a 2.15 ERA during his senior season with the Titans, striking out 28 in 37.2 innings of work.
“Klipper is an older rookie that had dealt with a serious injury, but has come back hungrier than ever. I'm expecting big things out of him this year,” expressed Hooper. “He continues to want to get better every time out and I really like that he isn't fazed by anything thrown at him.”
The seventh season of Wichita Wingnuts baseball begins Thursday, May 15th against the Grand Prairie AirHogs at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.