DURHAM They took their best cuts Wednesday, all hoping to make good swings, good contact.
Justin Faulk showed righthanded power, sending the last pitch he saw over the left-field fence. Brad Malone, a lefthanded batter, hit some well-placed liners in his turn in the batting cage.
Jordan Staal struggled with his swing but was a good sport about it, joking that summers are short and not a lot of baseball was played on the ol’ sod farm back in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ threesome were invited by the Durham Bulls to join batting practice before Wednesday’s game against Louisville at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Faulk also threw out the first pitch before the game.
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“It’s always nice to relax,” Faulk said. “We wish we were still playing, we wish we were in and enjoying the fun of playoff hockey. But it’s a chance to kind of relax and clear your mind and let the body heal and get ready to go next year.”
For the seventh straight season, the Canes were done after 82 regular-season games. They again were left out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, again left to face a long offseason and find ways to fill it.
Cam Ward was scheduled to join the group at DBAP but did not come. The goalie is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Ward and Jordan Staal did not go through the normal exit interviews with Canes general manager Ron Francis immediately after the season. Staal said he recently was in New York watching brothers Eric and Marc Staal of the New York Rangers fall in the opening round of the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Jordan Staal said he probably would meet with Francis next week, saying, “I’m sure we’ll go over a few things that have been on the table and we’ll go from there.”
Eric Staal’s trade to the Rangers just before the NHL trade deadline was troubling for Jordan Staal, who belived he and his brother could help the Canes reach the playoffs this season. But Francis made the tough call to trade Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles — all pending UFAs — before the Feb. 29 deadline, picking up some draft picks and promising prospects, stockpiling more assets and looking to the future.
“It was unfortunate the way it ended for him and the Rangers,” Jordan said of Eric.”He wanted so much more and this year didn’t seem to work out for him. I know he’s going to have a strong offseason to get ready for next year, wherever he ends up.”
Malone also will be a UFA on July 1, along with forwards Nathan Gerbe, Riley Nash and Chris Terry.
But Wednesday was about fun, not business. Faulk, on his last swing, put one over the fence. Didn’t hit the Bull or win a steak, but it was impressive.
“Faulker is the only American, so I guess he’s got that edge going for him,” Staal quipped.
Staal said Faulk’s swing has the same velocity and thump as the heavy shot the defenseman fires at NHL goaltenders.
“He’s got power in that slap shot and you can see the power in that baseball swing,” Staal said. “That’s just natural for him.”