New Mexico baseball fans don’t have a major league team of their own, but they do have plenty of familiar players to root for this postseason.
Four native New Mexicans earned spots on playoff rosters: Farmington’s Mike Dunn with the Colorado Rockies, Albuquerque’s Mitch Garver with the Minnesota Twins, and Albuquerque’s Alex Bregman and Ken Giles with the Houston Astros.
The number could reach five should the Boston Red Sox suffer an injury or decide to make a roster change between series during their postseason run. Rio Rancho’s Blake Swihart, a September call-up, is not expected to be on Boston’s ALDS roster but accompanied the team to Houston for the Red Sox-Astros series just in case.
“I don’t remember a year where there were so many New Mexico boys in the playoffs,” University of New Mexico baseball coach Ray Birmingham said. “How great would it be to see them playing in a World Series? I’m rooting for all of them.”
Birmingham and members of the UNM baseball team gathered at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch Garver and the Twins take on the New York Yankees in Tuesday’s American League Wild Card Game. Garver, who earned his first major league call-up in August, played at La Cueva High School and with the Lobos. Garver did not play in the Yankees’ 8-4 victory.
Dunn, a Piedra Vista High alum, will join a number of former Albuquerque Isotopes representing the Rockies in today’s National League Wild Card Game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Colorado had not released its roster for the game Tuesday night, but starting shortstop Trevor Story and starting pitcher Jon Gray played extensively for the ‘Topes in 2015. Several members of Albuquerque’s 2017 squad are likely to be on the Rockies’ bench tonight.
Bregman and Giles will almost certainly play key roles for the Astros, whose ALDS series against Boston begins Thursday. Bregman, the former Albuquerque Academy standout, has been Houston’s starting third baseman this season, while Giles, a Rio Grande High graduate, is the Astros’ closer.
Swihart, who played high school ball at Cleveland, was not on Boston’s active roster on Sept. 1 but is postseasn eligible because he was on its 40-man major league roster on Aug. 31. He could be added if the team suffers an injury, potentially putting three New Mexicans in a single ALDS game.
Here’s a look at the New Mexicans on postseason rosters.
Mitch Garver, C/IF, Twins: Appeared in 23 games but was used sparingly during the Twins’ playoff push and batted .196 with three triples and three RBIs. Had strong season (.291 average with 17 home runs) for Triple-A Rochester and was named team MVP.
Mike Dunn, LHP, Rockies: Became a primary setup man in his first season with Colorado. Appeared in 68 games and posted a 5-1 record with a 4.47 earned-run average. Dunn struck out 57 and walked 28 in 50⅓ innings.
Alex Bregman, IF, Astros: Appeared in 155 games in his first full big-league season and hit .284 with 19 homers, 39 doubles and 71 RBIs. Bregman was Houston’s primary third baseman but filled in capably at shortstop when all-star Carlos Correa was injured.
Ken Giles, RHP, Astros: Was Houston’s closer throughout the season, appearing in 63 games and posting a 1-3 record with 34 saves in 38 chances. Giles had more strikeouts (83) than hits (44) and walks (21) combined in 62⅔ innings pitched.