BRISTOL - For the first of only two times this summer, the Bristol Blues have two days off in a row Monday and Tuesday and they are hoping the time away will help them regroup.
“The days off in this league are so limited you kind of just give it to them when you get them,” Blues manager Pat Riley said.
The Blues have played 17 games in 19 days to start the season, including an exhibition game against the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League. These are only their second and third scheduled days off this season, with another day off due to a rain out. Recently, the Blues have hit a rough patch, going 5-5 in their last 10 games, and currently sit 2½ games out of first place in the West Division.
Riley sees the time off as an opportunity for his players to get ready for the rest of the season.
“We’re 9-7 16 games in,” he said. “We’ve got 40 [games] to go. That’s a college season in itself. That’s what a lot of college guys play.”
The Blues coaching staff has done its best to keep its players rested through the first three weeks of the season by giving them plenty of rest. There are enough players on the team’s roster for the Blues to be able to shift who plays from a game-to-game basis and keep everyone sharp and that could help them out later in the season.
“In terms of rest, that is something we’ve done,” Riley said. “Giving guys opportunities, mixing the lineups on a daily basis. I’m not going to sit here and say that’s going to necessarily be the case moving forward but guys do need to play. This is a developmental league and I believe in that. In terms of rest, guys have been given rest. Guys have been getting days off.
“Being tired really isn’t something that should be affecting us. It’s more of baseball, in-game stuff that has been getting to us more.”
In addition to their coaches, the Blues players are thankful for the opportunity to take a load off for a couple of days and recoup.
“Definitely, from a physical aspect, just taking the toll off of our bodies, getting back into playing shape and keeping fresh legs,” Blues shortstop Tyler Roberts said. “Mentally, I think it’s [good to] just get away from the game, take a couple days to yourself, hang out with your teammates, get some good camaraderie going and just enjoy it. It’s the summer and we’re young and have a good time.”
While the off days give the players the chance to take a break, it seems as though the work ethics of the Blues players will cut into the relaxation time.
“It’s good to get away from baseball for a couple days sometimes,” Riley said. “But, with this team, from what I’ve seen, a lot of guys are going to get their work in. They’re going to [do] what they need to do.”
Riley does not anticipate doing too much, if any, work or practice as a team but he knows that some of his players will put in the work regardless.
“We’ve got a lot of ball players on this team who love coming to the ballpark and getting the reps in,” he said. “But in terms of organizing practices and side work[outs], we might do some stuff with the pitchers just so they’re prepped up ready to go for the week but that’ll be the extent of it.”
Working out aside, the players are excited to have some time for themselves and will spend at least some of it away from Muzzy Field.
“Personally, I’m going to go explore a couple other passions of mine,” Roberts said. “I’m going to go fishing. Just give my mind a break from the grind that summer ball has on you. And [I’m] just going to lay low, rehab my body and look forward to coming back fresh on Wednesday.”
Even the newer players to the team are ready for the break.
“Tomorrow I’m looking to get a nice haircut,” newly-acquired catcher Chris Villa said after Sunday’s game, “and then get back to work after that.”
Still in the work mindset after Sunday’s loss, Riley hadn’t thought through his plans as much as some of his players.
“Oh I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far yet,” he said. “My first priority is making sure this team is set to go. That’s making sure guys are ready for Wednesday who need to be and trying to figure out what I need to do to help prepare this team moving forward. So that’s my first priority and then what comes after that we’ll see.”
The main goal for the Blues going forward is righting the ship and getting the offense going. Riley and the rest of the team are hoping the days off will help but only time will tell.
“Maybe it won’t help us,” Riley said. “We’ll find out. I don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet but we’ll see what happens with it.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org