NEW BRITAIN - Even with spring training games scheduled to start on Friday, the New Britain Bees’ roster continues to take shape.
On Tuesday, the Bees announced the signings of catcher Nate Irving as well a trio of pitchers - Andy Van Hekken, Elvin Ramirez and Jim Fuller.
Van Hekken and Ramirez both have Major League experience. Van Hekken with the Detroit Tigers, Ramirez with the New York Mets. Irving, meanwhile, is expected to be the backup catcher behind incumbent James Skelton.
“As we begin spring training we’re glad to fill out the roster with these four players,” Bees general manager Brad Smith said in a statement. “Andy and Jim add a pair of important left-handed arms to our pitching staff. Ramirez is a former big leaguer with a proven track record in this league, while Nate brings catching experience to the club.”
This season will be Van Hekken’s 21st in professional baseball and fourth in the Atlantic League. The former big leaguer spent the past six seasons with the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization, including a brief stint the with the Seibu Lions of the Japan Pacific League in 2016. With Nexen, he made 156 total starts, posting a 73-42 record with a 3.56 ERA and 860 strikeouts over 925.2 innings of work.
Originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the third round of the 1998 MLB amateur draft, Van Hekken made his Major League debut for the Tigers in 2002 and threw a complete-game shutout against the Cleveland Indians. Overall, the left-hander made five starts with Detroit, compiling a 1-3 record with a 3.00 ERA.
After four more minor league seasons, the now 38-year-old made his Atlantic League debut in 2006 with the Somerset Patriots.
This will be Ramirez’s second season in the Atlantic League and 11th overall in professional baseball after being acquired in a trade with the Long Island Ducks. The former Met spent last year with the Bridgeport Bluefish, appearing in 31 games and posting a 5-2 record with a 2.31 ERA, two saves and 30 strikeouts in 33.1 innings pitched. The 30-year-old made his MLB debut in 2012 and pitched 21.1 innings across 20 games, while striking out 22 batters.
Fuller joins the Bees for his 10th season of professional baseball and second in the Atlantic League, after being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Dogs of the American Association. Last year, the left-hander appeared in 18 games for the Long Island Ducks, collecting a 2.30 ERA with one win and 20 strikeouts in 15.2 innings.
Fuller was originally drafted by the Mets out of Southern Connecticut State University in the 21st round of the 2008 MLB amateur draft. He spent five seasons in the Mets organization before joining the Minnesota Twins organization in 2014 with subsequent stops with the Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates farm systems in the next two seasons.
Irving joins New Britain for his first season in the Atlantic League and fifth in professional baseball. Last year, the catcher appeared in 56 games for Sussex County Miners of the Can-Am League, posting a .297 batting average with 15 extra-base hits, 25 RBI and 29 runs scored.
The 25-year-old was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 34th round of the 2014 MLB amateur draft out of the University of Virginia. He spent two years in the Diamondbacks organization before joining Sussex County in 2016.