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Miners bolster roster with experienced pitchers, infielders

updated: 4/10/2018 4:04 AM

MARION -- The Southern Illinois Miners announced they have signed four more players with affiliated minor league experience in pitchers Geno Encina and Patrick Duester along with infielders Luis Jean and Chance Shepard for the upcoming 2018 campaign.

Encina joins the Miners after playing three years in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Last year between Single-A Lansing and A-Advanced Dunedin, the big, 6-foot-4 right-hander had a 4-2 record and a 4.61 ERA in 31 games, striking out 57 and walking only 29 in 80 innings while also garnering Midwest League All-Star honors at Lansing.

The year before, the San Antonio, Texas native put up a 1.91 ERA with 33 strikeouts and six walks in 33 innings across 13 appearances across three levels. Drafted in the 18th round of the 2015 MLB Draft from the University of the Incarnate Word in his home state, Encina ranked first in school history with a 2.70 career ERA and a 1.6 walks-per-nine-innings rate, becoming the eighth player in program history to be selected.

Duester comes to Southern Illinois following one season in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. The 6-6 righty pitched in 34 games between Single-A Great Lakes and Rookie-level Ogden in 2017, going 5-3 with a 3.81 ERA and a pair of saves. He was tough on opposing batters, with 56 strikeouts against 22 walks and only 49 hits allowed in 56 2/3 innings in total.

Duester previously saw time as a starter and reliever in college, playing two years at Tulane University where he was teammates with fellow 2018 Miners signee Jake Willsey, and posted a 4.46 ERA in 25 games as a senior in 2016 for the Green Wave with 33 strikeouts and just 26 hits allowed in 34 innings pitched. He also played two years at St. John's River State College in Florida, where he was teammates as a sophomore with another 2018 Miners rookie in Cletis Avery in 2014.

Veteran shortstop Jean comes to Marion after six years in the Colorado Rockies organization, where he most-recently saw action in 61 games at Double-A Hartford in 2017. A strong defender on the infield who owns a career .958 fielding percentage while having played shortstop, second base and third base, Jean batted .235 with 10 doubles and 17 stolen bases in 26 attempts in 82 games at A-Advanced Modesto in 2016, and the year before hit .267 with 31 RBIs, 12 doubles and 27 stolen bases in 38 attempts in 89 games at Single-A Asheville. He originally signed with the Rockies at the age of 17 out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

Power-hitting first baseman/catcher Shepard joins the black and gold after spending two years in the Washington Nationals organization. Last year, the Wilmington, North Carolina native batted .249 in 54 games with short-season Single-A Auburn, adding 15 doubles, seven home runs and 17 RBIs. He originally joined the Nationals after playing four years at North Carolina State University, signing as an undrafted free agent following a senior campaign that saw him hit .279 with 15 home runs, 15 doubles and 54 RBIs, leading the Wolfpack to the NCAA Tournament in 2016.

"All four of these players have the potential to have a major impact on our success this season," said Miners manager Mike Pinto. "Geno is coming off a season that saw him in the all-star game, Patrick had a very solid rookie year last year, Luis has been a phenomenal defender at every position, and Chance has a power bat that can certainly help our run production."