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Schaeffer: Isotopes are 'ready to go' even if big leaguers won't be

Jan. 19—From somewhere north of Pittsburgh, Warren Schaeffer showed up on a late Tuesday Zoom call wearing a toboggan after a day of sledding with his kids.

The occasion was to discuss the staff that he, as Albuquerque Isotopes manager, will lead during the 2022 season.

And as for Major League Baseball's ongoing lockout — that other slippery slope? — Isotopes baseball is safely off that path for now.

"We will get started, no matter what," Schaeffer said. "... The report date for spring training might get pushed back to (March 1) if the big league spring training doesn't get kicked off. But the 'Topes are ready to go, man. We're gonna be playing."

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Isotopes vice president and general manager John Traub confirmed as much. "Full steam ahead," he said. "Zero indication otherwise."

The 2022 Triple-A West season for Albuquerque is set to begin April 5 with six games at Oklahoma City. The home opener is April 12, the first of a six-game set vs. the Tacoma Rainiers.

There would be differences, of course, until a labor deal between major league players and management is struck. A significant one is that no 40-man roster members of the Colorado Rockies — the Triple-A Isotopes' parent organization — or any other big league club would be available.

"And we usually have quite a few of them," Schaeffer said. "It definitely will affect our roster if that's the case."

This will be Schaeffer's second season over the Isotopes, though he was named manager prior to the 2020 campaign that did not materialize because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three members of this year's staff are holdovers from 2021.

—Pedro Lopez is back for a second season, albeit in a different role. Lopez will be the bench coach in 2022 after serving as the hitting coach last season. The 2022 campaign will be the first in which the Isotopes have had a bench coach.

—Athletic Trainer Hoshi Mizutani and Physical Performance Coach Phil Bailey will return to their same positions they occupied last season with Albuquerque.

—The notable newcomer and name well known from a local standpoint is Albuquerque native Jordan Pacheco, who was announced last November as the 2022 hitting coach. Pacheco, formerly of La Cueva and the University of New Mexico, made his big league debut with the Rockies in 2011 and had a six-season, 377-game big league career, during which he hit .272. He retired from his pro career after last season's gig with Lexington of the independent Atlantic League.

Schaeffer and Pacheco were drafted the same year (2007) by the Colorado Rockies and have been friends for some time.

"It's just always been a friendship. That's all anything in this game is," Schaeffer said. "I just look forward to it deepening in this capacity working every day to get people better."

—The other newcomer is new pitching coach Frank Gonzales, whom Schaeffer knows "very well." Gonzales filled the same role last season at Double-A Hartford and was a formerly rookie league manager. .

"It's a good crew," Schaeffer said. "I can't wait to get rolling."