EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The Evansville Otters have signed left-handed pitchers Neil Lang and Justin Lewis out of the California Winter League and inked catcher Michael Gangwish and right-handed pitcher Steve Pastora for the 2020 season.
Lang signed with the Otters while playing winter baseball in the CWL for the Manitoba North Stars. So far during the winter league season, the left-hander has made two starts, logging a 5.00 ERA in seven innings pitched. He has also struck out nine batters.
Otters bench coach Boots Day discovered Lang while managing him in the CWL.
“Before I got out here, Andy (McCauley) told me about Lang after hearing good things from multiple scouts and to have an eye on him,” Day said. “I watched him throw a side session so we could see for ourselves, and everything matched with what we had heard.”
“I am very excited to have signed with Evansville and could not be more grateful for the opportunity to be an Otter this season,” Lang said.
Lang, from San Ramon, Calif., has pitched at the independent level in 2018 and 2019, first for the Monterey Amberjacks in the Pecos League and then for the San Rafael Pacifics, Napa Silverados, and the Salina Stockade in the Pacific Association. Overall in his career in independent baseball, Lang has six wins, a 5.30 ERA, 21 starts, and 117 strikeouts in 132.1 innings pitched.
“He has three good pitches, can throw strikes and pitch ahead in the count,” Day said. “His change-up is great and has a decent breaking ball that he can throw over for strikes just like his other pitches.”
“Neil was really excited when we offered him the contract with the Otters, feeling some relief earning a professional contract.”
“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help the team win a championship,” Lang said.
Also pitching for the Otters’ Day in the CWL with the North Stars, Lewis has recorded a 4.42 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 6.1 innings and two starts.
“We wanted to sign Lewis pretty quickly, as he’s been the talk of the California Winter League,” Day said. “Everybody wants him with several teams from multiple leagues here, and there’s been multiple scouts in the stands watching his outings.”
“I’m very excited to be a member of the Otters,” Lewis said. “I’ve been training very hard for my next opportunity in professional baseball, and I’m looking forward to helping the team win games.”
The Burbank, Calif. native was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 28th round of the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft and spent two seasons with the organization.
Lewis pitched for the Arizona League Dodgers and the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer League between 2017 and 2018. Overall, Lewis was 2-1 with a 6.08 ERA in 31 appearances, recording 54 strikeouts in 47.1 innings pitched.
“Justin has a power arm, hitting 93-95 in velocity, and he has a decent change-up and a breaking pitch that can be unhittable and a wipeout pitch,” Day said. “Working with pitching coach Max Peterson, who is also a lefty, will help him improve to be more consistent with the secondary pitches.”
“He’s committed to put the work in and ready to be an Otter.”
“I expect to work out of the bullpen, but I can also start if needed,” Lewis said. “I’m a hard worker, and I’m always looking for ways to learn and improve my game.”
The southpaw played for Cornell University at the college level.
“I’ve heard a lot of great things about this organization, and I’m hoping to be a part of something special in Evansville this year.”
Gangwish is from Albuquerque, N.M. and will be joining the Otters for his rookie season.
The catcher played college baseball at the Colorado School of Mines and closed his career as Mines’ all-time home runs and RBI leader. He also received numerous all-region, all-conference, and all-America honors.
“Michael contacted our league office and was then brought to our attention,” Otters manager Andy McCauley said. “We then did our research and was intrigued by what we gathered.”
“We received good reports from contacts we know that saw him play in college and have been following his production this winter in Australia.”
“I’m excited for the opportunity to play in Evansville and help the club win in any way I can,” Gangwish said. “I believe that it will be a great fit, and I’m looking forward to playing at historic Bosse field.”
For his college career, Gangwish batted .354 in 162 starts and 174 games played, while scoring 153 runs, hitting 45 doubles and 46 home runs, recording 186 RBIs, and posting a .426 on-base percentage. Defensively, Gangwish had 153 assists and sported a .983 fielding percentage.
“Michael’s offense and catching ability caught our attention after we received good reports from our college contacts that he played against,” McCauley said. “They were convinced he was a draft-worthy player.”
“We feel his receiving ability will translate to the Frontier League and if he can make the adjustment to wood bats, he should see considerable time behind the plate.”
“I pride myself in being a defensive catcher first, working hard every day to make myself the best catcher I can be,” Gangwish said. “As a hitter, I am aggressive in my zone and look to capitalize when pitchers make mistakes.”
Pastora is from Sacramento, Calif. and brings with him two seasons of professional experience, having a stint with the Wichita Wingnuts of the American Association in 2018 and with Rocky Mountain Vibes of the Pioneer League and affiliate of the Milwuakee Brewers organization in 2019.
“Steve was recommended to us by the Brewers organization and other scouts who saw him,” McCauley said.
“I’m ready to compete and do it every day no matter what,” Pastora said. “I’ll be ready to take food away from hitters every night.”
Pastora did not allow a run in three appearances and three innings with the Wingnuts in 2018. The right-hander logged a 2.37 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 14 appearances and 19 innings pitched in 2019 with the Vibes.
“The reports on Steve have been great, describing him as a power arm capable of a setup or closing role,” McCauley said. “We can see him being similar in style to Danny Hrbek from last season.”
The righty concluded his collegiate career in 2018 at William Jessup University, an NAIA school in Rocklin, California. He’s been a position player his whole life, including at the college level.
Pastora said after a couple injuries to his non-throwing shoulder due to sliding and diving, he was faced with a decision to change positions in the field or become a pitcher.
“After a short stint as a closer at the beginning of the college season because of a misdiagnosis, I went back to hitting when I transferred to William Jessup,” Pastora said.
Then after his senior season, Pastora said he realized pitching was his best option moving forward with his baseball career and going into his second full year as a pitcher.
“I’ve always been super athletic my whole life, so I figured why not give it a chance on the mound since I love this game so much, and here I am today,” Pastora said.
“I’m excited to have an organization that believes in me and wants to help me be the best I can be.”
Evansville will host Opening Night from Bosse Field against the Gateway Grizzlies May 15 at 6:35 p.m. Preseason exhibitions will begin May 2 for the Otters. The annual Education Day games will be May 6 and May 13 at 10 a.m.
You won’t want to miss what’s new in 2020 at Bosse Field with the Evansville Otters, featuring some new Frontier League competition as part of the largest, independent professional league in North America!
The Evansville Otters are the 2006 and 2016 Frontier League champions.
The Otters play all home games at historic Bosse Field, located at 23 Don Mattingly Way in Evansville, Ind. Stay up-to-date with the Evansville Otters by visiting evansvilleotters.com, or follow the Otters on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For more information, visit evansvilleotters.com or call (812) 435-8686.