By JAMES COOK
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Perhaps the biggest bat in Traverse City’s lineup is back.
The Beach Bums re-signed first baseman Chase Burch for the upcoming season, giving the team a formidable middle-of-the-order bat to build a lineup around.
With All-Stars Jose Vargas, Ryan Still and Marcus Nidiffer and breakout outfielder Sean Gusrang also back in the fold, the Beach Bums could have a potent offense again. Traverse City averaged almost six runs a game last season.
“Hopefully, we’ll be stacked,” Burch said. “I’m extremely excited and ready to play. We still need to add some starting pitchers it looks like, but I have faith that they will find us some.”
The Beach Bums also re-signed right-handed reliever Jake Sabol on Tuesday, and added infielder Brandon Brewer and catcher Chris Cowell.
In 2012, Burch led the Beach Bums with a .304 average to go along with 17 homers and 76 RBI. He ranked in the Frontier League’s top 10 in each triple crown category, finishing fifth in RBIs, eighth in homers and 10th in average. Burch also was fourth in walks (63), fifth in on-base percentage (.423) and 10th in slugging percentage (.497). He was second in league MVP voting to Vargas.
Burch enters the campaign as the franchise’s career leader in games played, at-bats, runs scored, homers and RBIs.
Sabol was a key addition for Traverse City down the stretch last season going 2-0 with a 0.71 earned-run average.
The right-hander earned his first professional save on Aug. 29 with 3.1 innings against Gateway in a game that locked down the top seed for Traverse City in the Frontier League playoffs. Sabol joined the Beach Bums following a two-year stint in the Tigers organization.
Brewer could be in the mix at shortstop with Frontier League veteran Andrew Cohn, who was signed last week just two days after being let go by the Normal Cornbelters. Last year’s starting shortstop, Kyle Eveland, was dropped from the team’s roster Tuesday.
Cohn hit .311 in 44 games with Normal, and .279 for the season. Schaumburg traded him to Normal after 22 games. Brewer was a utility player for the L.A. Angels’ Class-A Island Empire team last season. He played shortstop, second base, third base, both corner outfield spots and even pitched in six games with 3.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts in nine innings of work. He hit .229 with eight RBIs and 11 walks in 44 games.
Cowell hit .271 in 21 games for the Colorado Rockies’ rookie-ball affiliate last season. He had two home runs and six RBIs in 70 at-bats, but struck out 31 times.