The “Post Manny Era” begins with the EDA Rhinos facing the Lamigo Monkeys in a two-game road series at the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium that begins tonight.
While the departure of the former major league slugger will undoubtedly deal a blow to an already stuttering Rhinos offense, the real task at hand for coach Hsu Sheng-ming is how to get his team to forget their recent mishaps and distractions and focus their efforts on the game.
Nevertheless, the Rhinos have built a strong enough foundation to find themselves still in the hunt for the first-half title with the Uni-President Lions.
Should Ramirez’s replacement on the roster, Jesse English, become a dependable starter in the Rhinos rotation, Hsu will still have a very good chance of taking the first-half title with a formidable trio of pitchers in Lin Chen-hua (8-2 with a 3.45 ERA), Andy Sisco (6-3 with a 2.16 ERA) and English plus a lineup that features Lin Yi-chuan, Hu Chin-lung, Kao Guo-hui and Chang Chien-ming, whose combined .354 batting average tops any foursome in the league.
With the Lions having dropped two in a row earlier this week, the Rhinos will have an excellent opportunity to reclaim the top spot in the standings with a pair of wins over the Monkeys and the Brother Elephants to set up Sunday’s showdown against the Cats at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium.
To boost their chances of winning the first-half title, the Lions have acquired the services of former major leaguer Nelson Figueroa, who led them to victory in the 2007 Taiwan Series before leaving for a five-year stint in the majors.