BRISTOL - With the Bristol Blues bullpen going through some recent troubles, not to mention departures from the unit, the team made a pair of moves to bolster the pitching staff, bringing in a pair of Connecticut natives in Randy Polonia and Ben Brown.
“Those are elite guys and that’s what we needed,” Blues manager Pat Riley said. “Our bullpen has been struggling lately and hopefully this will bring something positive. Positive additions and key contributors. We’re going to need them.”
Polonia is coming off his freshman year at the University of Connecticut, where he acted as the Huskies’ closer for the first half of the season. The righty out of Stamford pitched 25 innings for UConn, picking up 38 strikeouts and earning a 4-3 record.
“It’s awesome,” Polonia said about joining the Blues. “It’s another opportunity to play for another team. Meeting a bunch of new guys and I’m excited for it.”
Before the Blues gave him a call, Polonia was pitching in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the Danbury Westerners. While he was there, Polonia made just one appearance. On June 13, Polonia pitched three innings of relief against the Valley Blue Sox, ending up with the loss.
Unfortunately, circumstances soon forced Polonia to leave the Westerners.
“I got sick so Danbury didn’t work so I came here,” he said. “Bristol gave me the opportunity.”
Looking at his numbers from UConn, Polonia is obviously capable coming out of the bullpen and that is something the Blues need. Polonia hopes his pitching can help the Blues get back to winning consistently.
“[I hope I can bring] some life,” Polonia said. “I throw a bunch of sliders so we’ll see where that goes. I’m also trying to develop my fastball. Hopefully I can help out this team.”
Brown is another bullpen specialist that figures to play a prominent role in the later innings.
Last season at Post, the native of Middlebury pitched 30 1/3 innings over 18 games. Over that span, he picked up 32 strikeouts. He had an 0-2 record and also earned a save.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Brown said about joining the Blues. “Everyone’s really cool and really welcoming.”
Unlike Polonia, Brown was not playing in a collegiate summer league when the Blues came calling.
“I was just playing in a local men’s league,” he said. “It was a good opportunity to come here and play for the Blues.”
While he was not playing organized collegiate ball, Brown does have experience at this level. Brown pitched for the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs in the FCBL last season. He pitched 30 innings in 15 appearances for the Dirt Dawgs, registering 36 strikeouts and a save in addition to a 1-0 record.
“It’s good competition,” Brown said about playing in the Futures League.
Brown made his Blues debut before Polonia did, getting into July 16’s matchup with the Torrington Titans. With the Blues leading 7-2 heading into the eighth inning, Brown took the mound. He pitched the final two innings, giving up one run in the bottom of the ninth but did not give up a hit. He also struck out one batter while securing the 10-3 win for the Blues.
For Brown, being able to get off on the right foot for the Blues was important and is something he hopes to carry with him into his subsequent appearances.
“It definitely feels good,” he said. “Just use that for my next appearance. Just keep moving forward.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org