A few weeks ago, I predicted that the El Paso Diablos would start winning games because their pitching was much improved from last season. Unfortunately, my prognostication could not be further from the truth. The team’s Earned Run Average jumped to an alarming 6.16, last in the 13-team American Association. The Diablos also rank 8th in the league in team batting, with an average of .278. Through the first 32 games this season, the team has won just seven times and is last in the South Division. The poor start prompted Diablos’ managing partner Matt LaBranche to fire manager Jorge Alvarez and replace him with Tim Johnson. If that name sounds familiar, it is because Johnson managed the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998. He also spent seven seasons in the big leagues as an infielder with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Blue Jays.

The big question will be whether or not Johnson can salvage the season for the Diablos? LaBranche thinks the team is close to turning things around. “I think the fact that we lost so many one-run games for Jorge, is an indication that we need an experienced manager who knows what buttons to push,” LaBranche said. “Tim needs some time to put his stamp on the team. He’s bringing in some new personnel and we’re confident that with him managing he will be able to salvage the season.” Their new personnel will include five pitchers and two position players from injury. Former major leaguer Enrique Cruz is playing third base for the Diablos. The team returns home this weekend for a three-game homestand with Laredo. The Diablos begin a longer eight-game homestand with Laredo and Worcester July 3-10. For tickets, call 755-2000 or visit the Diablos box office.