Kip Wells went 4-0 with a 2.82 era to lead the La Crosse Lagers to an unfamiliar position – the top of the standings in the AL West. Newly acquired Troy Percival finished with seven saves in nine opportunities as the Lagers finished 15-13 in their contests vs. NL Central Division opponents.
“We’re very surprised by the results from the first month of the season, but we’re not going to get overly excited as it will be a long season and we still don’t have very high expectations,” said Lagers’ manager Harlan McLain. “We won seven out of 11 one-run games which was basically the difference.”
The Lagers dealt Randall Simon, a young talented first baseman and reliever Scott Strickland to the Toledo Mudhens to acquire Percival. Simon batted .474 in the month of April with four home runs and 19 rbi’s, while Strickland finished with a 1.88 era in 14 innings of relief work.
“As long as Percival continues to save games, the heat will stay off me for making that deal,” McLain said.
John Burkett, who the Lagers acquired in a deal with the Metropolis Avengers, struggled to a 1-4 record with a 6.91 era in April.
Kevin Millwood, signed to a long-term deal in the offseason, showed a lot of improvement in the first month of 2003. He went 2-3 with a 3.55 era in six starts. Last season was an embarrassment for Millwood as he finished 6-10 with a 7.85 era. The Lagers management was seriously scorned by La Crosse area radio personalities for re-signing Millwood for a 5-year, 26.6 million dollar deal.
“Who cares what those assholes think?” McLain said. “I rarely listen to the damn radio anyway.”
Manny Ramirez was remarkable in April, slugging for a .728 clip with a .369 batting average. He hit 9 dingers and is tied for the Brassball lead in rbi’s with 29. He has been complaining about shoulder soreness and may need to be rested for a few games in the upcoming months so he can make it through a full season. Aubrey Huff was also a contributing factor to the Lager’s April success. He hit 8 homers with 25 rbi’s. La Crosse also signed Huff to a 4-year U contract in April.