Chris Iriart connects for a grand slam

Southern Illinois Miners Chris Iriart (5) connects for a grand slam home run during a preseason exhibition game against Gateway at Rent One Park in Marion.

The Southern Illinois Miners finished their Washington-Lake Erie road trip with just a 3-3 mark, but that was good enough for manager Mike Pinto to declare a moral victory.

The Miners lost closer Mike Duron in the midst of the trip. He was signed by the Seattle Mariners, the 56th players in Miners’ history to sign with a major league team.

“It’s wonderful for the player,” Pinto said. "That’s why they come here. We have built a reputation, we help people move on. Those opportunities don’t come often. When they come, they have to go and they have to go now.”

When the opportunity comes in the middle of a road trip, the team just has to suck it up until it returns home.

“He really moved into the closer role fairly quickly,” Pinto said. “It was certainly plus velocity for our league. He really had electric stuff.”

Initially, there are no plans to try to sign someone else specifically for the closer role.

“We have a few guys that could do it,” Pinto said. “We were grooming Jordan Brink and Gabe Gentner for the role. It may change from day-to-day. They both have the stuff to be able to do it. I have great confidence I can go to either one of those guys and know the job will get done.”

In the meantime, injuries also left the Miners shorthanded during the road trip.

Starting second baseman Gianfranco Wawoe missed a couple game with a tendon issue behind his knee. He suffered the injury sliding into a base. Wawoe returned to the lineup late on the road trip.

However, the team suffered several other injuries on the trip and Pinto said there will be roster moves made this week to fill in the gaps.

“It was a MASH unit,” he said. “I’m like, ‘We won three games this week?’ That was a smoke-and-mirrors week. It says a lot about the guys. They just want to win.”

The injury situation has gotten serious enough that Pinto essentially put a want ad on his social media accounts.

“That’s really all I’ve done since the game ended Sunday,” he said. “I’ve been on the phone. Fortunately, I have a huge social media network. I probably have 75 names since I put that out there 24 hours ago.”

On the other hand, the Miners are sitting two games over .500 and 18 of their 27 games have been on the road. The Washington Wild Things and River City Rascals come to town for six games this week.

“Fortunately, we’re home now,” Pinto said. “At this point, we’ve been on the road a little more than 3,500 miles on the season. We’ve spent more than 60 hours on the bus. The heavy part of the season is now off of us, but it’s been rough travel through the first month of the season. I’m really proud of the guys for playing as well as they have.”

Southern Illinois opens the homestand against Washington, a team that has the worst record in the league.

“I never worry about that stuff,” Pinto said. “I always go to how we are playing. Washington can hit, and you can’t take them lightly. “

The Miners are 7-2 at Rent One Park this season and 6-4 over the last 10 games.

Transactions: Miners transactions over the last week:

June 4 – Activated Alex Santana from the DL, placed Chris Iriart on 7-day DL.

June 5 – Activated Patrick Duester from the DL, placed left-handed pitcher Kelvan Rodrigues on the 14-day DL.

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On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​


Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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