Geno Mirabella was the pitchingest pitcher in the Pioneer League last year with 891/3 innings. He led the league in strikeouts until the last game, when Mark Mimbs of the league-champion Great Falls Dodgers surpassed him while throwing against his division's worst team. Mimbs wound up with 94 strikeouts, Mirabella 90.
Mirabella, who'd spent the summer of 1990 with the independent Salt Lake Trappers hoping a big-league organization would sign him to a minor-league contract, spent the winter untouched. Teammates Kevin McMullen, Mike Moberg, Pat Jurado, Steve Keighley and Rob Bargas got signed by organization clubs, but Mirabella ended up going to spring training with the Class A Miami Miracle, a co-op/independent team."He put up good enough numbers you'd think somebody would take a chance," says Trapper Manager Nick Belmonte. "He has a good, live fastball and a good breaking ball and was one of the top five pitchers in the league. He should have been given a shot," Belmonte says.
Instead, even Miami, a long-season A team, wound up releasing him this spring when, just before opening night April 11, it was sent an organization-team pitcher who used up free-agent Mirabella's roster spot. He was cut loose.
"I knew right away I was coming back to Salt Lake," says Mirabella, who'd been offered a position by Belmonte earlier. "I was happier back here. It's a great place to play. I really wanted a shot at the Florida State League, but I'm still young," says Mirabella, who just turned 22 and has already belonged to Cleveland, the White Sox and Miami as well as the Traps after coming out of New Jersey's Brookdale Junior College.
Mirabella has set no time limit for himself in baseball. "I'll go for as long as I can," he says. He's learning the car-dealership business from a friend of his father's who owns several dealerships and employs him in the off-season as a Mercedes swapper. When another Mercedes dealer wants a certain car, or when his dealer wants one, Geno does the driving to make the swap in the New York-New Jersey area.
If the Trappers hold to their five-man pitching rotation, Willie Ambos will start Saturday night's home opener in Derks Field, and Mirabella would pitch Sunday afternoon as the No. 2 man on the staff.
His first start, like Ambos', was a disaster - 21/3 innings Tuesday at Idaho Falls, one strikeout, six hits, four runs, three earned.
"Just a bad outing," says Belmonte. "He had problems throwing strikes and was behind every hitter."
Mirabella didn't even have time to work on the thing he thinks kept him from advancing after last summer's nice numbers: Concentration.
Mental lapses in an inning or two in some games got him into trouble, and that's his No. 1 personal priority now.
"If I get through the first three innings without a run, I'm OK," he says. "My mechanics are fine. When I'm going bad, it's not my arm, it's my concentration. Don't let a second go by without thinking," Mirabella says.
Oddly enough, considering his history of strikeouts that has stuck with him since his college days when he broke the school record along with a teammate, Mirabella doesn't think about getting them or particularly hope for them. "I'd rather have the infielders and outfielders do the work," he says, noting that strikeouts take more pitches than groundouts. "It's great to do it all yourself, but I like to use the players in the field."