International League News & Notes

April 3, 2008 - International League (IL)

News Release


WELL DECORATED ROSTER: The 2008 Bisons Opening Day Roster features three International League All-Stars from 2007 (Ryan Mulhern (mid-season), Aaron Herr, Ben Francisco), two former Bisons Most Valuable Players (Mulhern \'07, Francisco \'06), two former Bisons Most Valuable Pitchers (Aaron Laffey \'07, Jeremy Sowers \'06), two former IL Batting Champions (Francisco \'07, Danny Sandoval \'05) and three members of the Cleveland Indians\' Top 10 prospects by Baseball America (Laffey #5, Jordan Brown #7, Francisco #9). RHP Adam Miller (Indians #1 prospect) will begin the season on the disabled list.

ONE IS NO LONGER LONELY: The Bisons Opening Day Roster features five former 1st round draft picks. OF Brad Snyder (2003) and LHP Jeremy Sowers (2004) were both selected by the Cleveland Indians. OF Jason Tyner was picked in the 1st round of 1998 draft by the Mets while RHP Matt Ginter went to the White Sox in the first round in 1999. INF Aaron Herr was Atlanta\'s 1st round draft pick in 2000. A sixth former 1st rounder, RHP Adam Miller (Cleveland, 2003), will begin the season on the Bisons disabled list.

SPRING RECAP: The Bisons finished their spring exhibition schedule with a 4-4-3 record. Among those having solid springs were INF Jordan Brown, who hit .286 (6-21) with 3 HR and 6 RBI. All three homers came in one game, March 24 against Toledo. 2007 Bisons MVP INF Ryan Mulhern hit .414 (12-29) with 6 doubles and 5 RBI. On the Mound, RHP Edward Mujica was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in four games with the Herd (6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 K). RHP Rick Bauer threw five scoreless outings (8.0 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 8 K) while RHP Jeff Harris posted a 1.29 ERA in his two spring games (7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K).


BOMBARD HAS A POWER LINEUP: Charlotte Knights manager Marc Bombard begins his second campaign with the Knights this week as he takes the team on an eight-game road trip to Columbus and Toledo. Bombard expects to have a powerful team led by sluggers Thomas Collaro, Brad Eldred and Jeff Liefer. Bombard also has the luxury of starting the year with 2006 IL Rookie of the Year Josh Fields at third base. Fields spent the majority of the 2007 season at the Major League level with the Chicago White Sox. Fields, who finished 7th in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, hit 23 home runs in 100 games with the White Sox last season.

WASSERMANN RETURNS: 2007 IL mid-season All-Star Ehren Wassermann returns to the Knights bullpen. Wassermann was the final cut the White Sox made at the end of spring training. Wassermann was outstanding for the Knights last season, where he had an ERA of 2.11 in 38 games out of the bullpen. The sidearm reliever doesn\'t throw hard but his deceptive motion makes it tough on opposing hitters.

KNIGHTS ENJOYING NEW COACHES: The Charlotte Knights players and front office have enjoyed having two new coaches being added to the staff. Pitching coach Rich Dotson brings a great amount of experience and knowledge to the Knights. Dotson spent the past several season with Double-A Birmingham and helped develop many of the Knights current pitchers, including Adam Russell, Oneli Perez, and Lance Broadway. Joe McEwing enters his first season as a coach after a 13-year professional playing career. "Super Joe" knows the IL well after playing last season for Pawtucket.


GOODBYE TO THE COOP: April 3 is the final Opening Night at historic Cooper Stadium. Built in 1932 by the St. Louis Cardinals, more people have seen a Minor League game at the ballpark on Mound Street than any other stadium in the United States. The Coop passed Rochester\'s Silver Stadium for the honor. Ironically, the two parks were identical. The same blue prints were used for both stadiums. The Coop was the first ball park built with permanent lights. Hall of Fame executive Larry MacPhail over saw the construction of Red Bird Stadium and would later take night baseball to the Major Leagues with Cincinnati in 1935. In 1932, the visiting team shared the gate receipts. The first game under the lights, in Columbus, had to wait for two weeks until St. Paul came to town. The Cardinals\' traded the right to play the first night game to the Saints for their shortstop Jimmy Reese.

COLUMBUS STARTING ROTATION: Manager Tim Foli\'s starting rotation for the Clippers to kick off the 2008 season will be southpaw Mike O\'Connor in the opening game vs. the Charlotte Knights tonight, followed by Garrett Mock, Collin Balester, John Lannan and Tyler Clippard. O\'Connor is a 27-year-old native of Dallas who was selected in the 7th round of the 2002 draft by Montreal. After spending the 2006 season with the Nationals, Mike started last season on the DL recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow. He made his \'07 debut with Harrisburg (Double-A) and posted a 3-7 record in 15 starts with the Senators. Mock (25) is also a Texas native, who was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 3rd round in 2004. The right-hander began the 2007 season recovering from surgery, then split time between Potomac, the Gulf Coast Nationals and Harrisburg. Balester (21) entered the season ranked as the Nationals\' #1 prospect by Baseball America. The right-hander started last season with Harrisburg and was 2-2 with a 2.98 ERA through his first 10 starts. He was selected to play in the Eastern League All-Star Game, but was unable to attend due to his promotion to Columbus. As the youngest player in the International League last season, Collin posted a record of 2-3 with a 4.18 ERA. Lannan (23) rocketed from Potomac (Class-A) to Harrisburg to Columbus to Washington in 2007. The southpaw was 3-1 with the Clippers with a 1.66 ERA in seven games. Lannan led Nats\' Minor Leaguers in ERA (2.31) and finished 2nd in wins (12) and was named Washington\'s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Clippard (22) pitched an inning for the Clippers in 2005. The right-hander split the 2007 season between Scranton/WB (4-4), New York (3-1) and Trenton (2-1).

A FAMILIAR FACE: Bret Boone will be starting the season as the Clippers' second baseman. The 39-year-old last played in the Major Leagues in 2005. Boone is looking to get as many at-bats as possible as he works his way back to the Majors. Boone, a former All-Star with the Reds and Mariners, is a 14-year Major League veteran with Seattle, Cincinnati, Atlanta, San Diego, and Minnesota. His grandfather Ray, father Bob, and brother Aaron were all Major League All-Stars. Bob is currently the Nationals' Assistant GM & VP of Player Development.


WELCOME BACK: Eleven players who were with Durham last year during the playoffs are beginning 2008 with the Bulls. In the field, Evan Longoria, Chris Richard, Justin Ruggiano and Jon Weber are back with the Bulls, as are starting pitchers Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot, and J.K Ryu. In addition, Calvin Medlock and Dale Thayer were in the Durham bullpen during the playoffs. Joel Guzman spent the majority of 2007 with the Bulls, but was with Tampa Bay during the playoffs.

STARTING WITH EXPERIENCE: The first three starters in the Bulls rotation (Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot and J.K. Ryu)were starters for Durham at the end of the last season.

THESE BISCUITS RISE: Montgomery, Tampa Bay\'s Double-A affiliate, won the Southern League championship last season for the second straight year. The following players finished 2007 with the Biscuits: Reid Brignac, Nick DeBarr, Brian Henderson, Chris Mason, Fernando Perez, and Mike Prochaska. Of that group, Prochaska is the only one who has played for Durham prior to this year.

ROAD WARRIORS: The Bulls begin 2008 with an eight-game road trip through Toledo and Columbus. This will be the only regular-season trip to these cities. In contrast to previous years, South Division clubs are playing only eight games against West Division foes (four at home, four on the road), as compared to 12 total in recent years. That will lead South Division clubs to play more games this year within the division.


FIVE FIRST-ROUND PICKS: The Indianapolis Indians\' 2008 Opening Day roster will include five former first-round picks. LHP Sean Burnett (2000), RHP John Van Benschoten (2001), RHP Bryan Bullington (2002), INF Neil Walker (2004) and OF Andrew McCutchen (2005) were all taken by the Pirates in the opening round of Major League Baseball's annual First-Year Player Draft.

WE HAVE PROSPECTS, TOO: The Indianapolis Indians\' 2008 Opening Day roster will also include four of Pittsburgh\'s Top-10 prospects. OF Andrew McCutchen (No. 1), INF Neil Walker (No. 2), 1B/RF Steve Pearce (No. 3) and INF Brian Bixler (No. 8) were all recognized by Baseball America in its most-recent organizational rankings.

A BIG PIECE TO THE PUZZLE: 1B/RF Steve Pearce may have started the 2007 campaign in Advanced Class-A, but he will be an important piece to the Tribe\'s 2008 puzzle. Named Minor League Baseball\'s Player of the Year by and Topps last season, Pearce covered four levels, finishing with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 24-year-old prospect collected 31 HR and 119 RBI while hitting better than .300 at three of the four stops.

WHO ARE THE STARTERS?: Indianapolis will begin the 2008 season with five right-handers in the starting rotation. Bryan Bullington is scheduled to start the opener at Pawtucket. Jason Davis, Luis Munoz, Ty Taubenheim and John Van Benschoten will also be in the mix.

LET\'S TALK ABOUT THE ‘PEN: The Indians will begin the 2008 campaign with six right-handed relievers -- Jonah Bayliss, T.J. Beam, Jesse Chavez, Marino Salas, Romulo Sanchez and Mike Thompson. Sean Burnett will be the Tribe\'s only southpaw in the bullpen.


ROSTER BREAKDOWN: The IronPigs roster consists of 18 (75%) players who have already played in the Major Leagues -- with 37-year-old reliever LHP Vic Darensbourg having the most service time on the roster. Darensbourg has appeared in 309 games over the course of nine seasons (1998-2005). The average age of the Opening Day roster is 30.04-years-old with Darensbourg being the oldest. The roster also features four members of the Phillies 40-Man Roster (RHP Joe Bisenius, OF T.J. Bohn, LHP J.A. Happ and C Jason Jaramillo).

WHO\'S HOT: In the two exhibition games, OF Chris Snelling went 3-6 with a HR, 3 RBI and 2 BB... INF Mike Cervenak had the first IronPigs RBI (March 30) and first HR (April 1, solo shot off Carlos Carrasco in the 2nd)...Rule 5 draftee 2B Casey Smith spent the bulk of March in Major League Spring Training and impressed his new employer with his bat -- hitting .333 (8-24). Even after his assignment to Triple-A camp, Smith hit .350 (7-20, 3 2B, 3 RBI). Smith, who was selected by the Phillies out of the Angels organization, batted .290-2-53 with Triple-A Salt Lake last season . . . 2007 Ottawa starting 3B Brennan King led the club in batting this spring, swinging to the tune of .407-1-6 (11-27, 3 2B). He also managed to go 4-13 (.308-0-3, 2 2B) in Major League Spring Training . . . SS Gookie Dawkins only batted .222 (10-45), but he led the team with 3 HR. . . RHP Jason Anderson appeared in 5 games and pitched 9.2 scoreless innings -- only yielding two hits -- in Minor League Spring Training.

WHO\'S NEW: A year after Ottawa finished last in the IL in runs scored, the IronPigs team only features only three returning position players from the Lynx squad -- and these three all finished with a higher batting average than the team total (.267): C Jason Jaramillo (.271), 3B Brennan King (.277) and SS Gookie Dawkins (.274). Pitching-wise, nine of the 12 staff members spent time in Ottawa a year ago.

SPRING RECAP: The Phillies\' Triple-A Team finished with a record of 6-8-4 during Minor League Spring Training games, not including Saturday\'s 1-0 loss to the Rays -- in which no current IronPigs participated -- or either of the two exhibition games: a 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday or the 6-2 win at Reading (AA) on Tuesday.

OPENING DAY: The Lehigh Valley IronPigs travel to PNC Field in Moosic for their season-opener against the 2007 Northern Division Champion Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Triple-A affiliate of New York). Tonight\'s game will also mark the official return of affiliated baseball to the Lehigh Valley for the first time in 47 years -- when the Allentown Red Sox moved their Eastern League entry to Jamestown, PA following the 1960 season. The region did have an independent league baseball team -- the Allentown Ambassadors of the Northeast/Northern Leagues from 1997-2003. First-Pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.


OPENING DAY: Since 1982, Louisville is 12-14 on Opening Day and 2-6 on Opening Day when beginning the season on the road. Last year, Louisville defeated Toledo 5-4 in 10 innings. RHP Brad Salmon picked up the win while LHP Bobby Livingston started for the Bats and allowed four runs in 5.1 innings pitched. OF Tyrell Godwin started the 10th inning with a double to right field, reached third base on a sacrifice bunt by INF Mark Bellhorn and scored the winning run on OF Bubba Crosby\'s fielder\'s choice.

LOTS OF TURNOVER: The Bats return just four players (all pitchers) from 2007\'s Opening Day roster: RHP Homer Bailey, RHP Gary Majewski, RHP Tom Shearn and RHP Ricky Stone.

HOMER ON THE HILL: RHP Homer Bailey is making his 13th career start as a Louisville Bat and the first of the 2008 season. In six starts this spring with the Reds, Bailey went 1-3 with a 5.21 ERA in 19.0 innings pitched. He ended 2007 by finishing the season in Cincinnati and winning his last two decisions.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Former Bats are scattered throughout the International League. Charlotte: Dewayne Wise (\'07); Lehigh Valley: Gookie Dawkins (\'02), Brandon Watson (\'06); Richmond: Reggie Taylor (\'04); SWB: Chad Moeller (\'07); Indianapolis: Matt Kata (\'06); Durham: Calvin Medlock (\'07), Jeff Bannon (\'05-\'07); Buffalo: Aaron Herr (\'06-\'07); Rochester: Ryan Jorgensen (\'06-\'07); Syracuse: Mike Gosling (\'06-\'07), Bubba Nelson (\'04), Pedro Lopez (\'07) and Toledo: Dane Sardinha (\'04-\'06).


OPENING NIGHT: Tonight\'s contest marks the beginning of the 16th season of baseball at Harbor Park, and the Tides are 9-6 in home openers since the park opened in 1993. The Tides were 36-35 at home in 2007.

STARTING STRONG: Norfolk\'s starting rotation is extremely talented, and should be a bright spot for the club this season. Getting the nod tonight is 23-year-old right-hander Hayden Penn, who is making his second straight Opening Night start for the Tides after picking up a no-decision in the season opener a year ago. Joining Penn in the rotation are 24-year-old LHP Garrett Olson (9-7, 3.16 ERA in 22 starts with Norfolk a year ago), 29-year-old RHP Jon Leicester (3-3 with a 2.22 ERA in 13 games with the Tides in 2007), 24-year-old RHP Radhames Liz (Baltimore\'s 2007 Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 11-4 with a 3.22 ERA at Double-A Bowie), and 24-year-old RHP Jim Johnson (4.07 ERA, 109 strikeouts with Norfolk last year).

QUICK ON THEIR FEET: If past performance is an indicator of success, the Tides should enjoy plenty of stolen bases this season. Tike Redman posted 32 stolen bases in 2007, while Eider Torres stole 22, Chris Roberson had 21 steals, Sebastien Boucher stole 19, Adam Stern swiped 17, and Mike McCoy registered 13 stolen bases. Those six players totaled 124 steals last season, while the 2007 Tides swiped 112 bases as a team.


OPENING WITH A BOTTLE OF COLON: Three years ago the Pawtucket Red Sox sent a legend to the mound in the form of Curt Schilling as their Opening Day starter in Indianapolis. Tonight, the PawSox turn to another Major League great as former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon gets the nod in the 2008 opener at McCoy vs. Indianapolis. Colon, 34, has a career Major League record of 146-95 with a 4.10 ERA in 309 games (306 starts) for Cleveland, Montreal, the White Sox, and the Angels (11 years). In 84 Minor League games (74 starts) he is 39-12 with a 2.48 ERA. His best season came in 2005 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim when he went 21-8 (leading the majors in victories) with a 3.48 ERA in 33 GS to earn the American League Cy Young Award. Since then, however, he has been plagued by injuries. He was limited to just 10 starts for the Angels in 2006 (1-5, 5.11) with right shoulder inflammation and a partial tear of the right rotator cuff. Last season he started strong (going 5-0 in his first 6 starts) but he eventually went on the DL in July with irritation in his right elbow before returning in September (overall finishing with a 6-8, 6.34 mark in 19 games for the Angels). He was signed by Boston to a Pawtucket contract with a major league spring training invitation on February 25.

PAWSOX ROSTER RECAP: For the first time in club history, the PawSox will unveil an Opening Day roster that features all 24 players with Triple-A experience. Furthermore, all 24 players spent at least some time in Triple-A last season (15 with the PawSox). The PawSox starting staff consists of Opening Day starter RHP Bartolo Colon followed in order by RHP David Pauley, RHP Devern Hansack and RHP Charlie Zink (all of whom pitched for Pawtucket last season), along with LHP Michael Tejera (the former Indianapolis southpaw). The bullpen features returning righties Craig Hansen, Lincoln Holdzkom, and Edgar Martinez as well as lefty Abe Alvarez - along with newcomers Lee Gronkiewicz (formerly of Syracuse), veteran Dan Kolb (who was with Indianapolis last year and has spent considerable time in the big leagues with Texas, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh), and lefty Jon Switzer (who split last season between Durham and Tampa Bay). The catching corps includes 24-year-old George Kottaras (back for his second season) and 25-year-old Dusty Brown (for his first full season with the PawSox). The PawSox infield features 1B Brandon Moss (who played primarily RF for the PawSox last season and has already started this season with a bang - a HR for the Boston Red Sox on March 25 vs. Oakland while the Sox opened the season in Japan before being optioned to Pawtucket after the game on March 26). Veteran 2B Joe Thurston (an IL mid-season All-Star with Scranton/WB in 2006), SS Jed Lowrie (the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year last season), and 3B Keith Ginter (who comes over from Buffalo) are expected to round out the starting infield with Chad Spann and Gil Velazquez providing help at a number of positions. The outfield spots will be manned by two players who have spent much of their recent time playing 1B - LF Chris Carter (a .310 career Minor League hitter) and RF Jeff Bailey (back for his fourth year with the PawSox). Veteran big leaguer Bobby Kielty (who had a pinch-hit HR for the Red Sox in his only at-bat during the 2007 World Series) and CF Jonathan Van Every (the former Buffalo Bison) will get plenty of playing time in the outfield as well.


GETTING STARTED: Buddy Carlyle is Richmond\'s Opening Day starter for the second straight year. He is one of seven pitchers to start two straight Opening Days for the R-Braves, joining Brad Woodall (‘96-\'97), Mike Birkbeck (‘93-\'94), Marty Clary (‘88-\'89), Steve Shields (‘85-\'86), Tony Brizzolara (‘79-\'80), and Max Leon (‘73-\'74).

RING IN THE NEW YEAR: The R-Braves will welcome back nine players from their 2007 Governors\' Cup championship roster to open 2008. Ryan Basner, Francisley Bueno, Zach Schreiber, Phil Stockman, Ray Serrano, Barbaro Canizares, Brent Lillibridge, Wes Timmons, and Brandon Jones return to defend the crown.

A SPRING IN THEIR STEP: Of the 23 players who were on Richmond\'s roster breaking spring training, 22 saw action for Atlanta in Grapefruit League play. All 12 pitchers appeared in Major League spring training games. Only C Ray Serrano did not appear in a big league game this spring.


IN THE BLACK: Rochester hasn\'t spent a day under .500 the last two seasons. In fact, the Red Wings haven\'t been below .500 since June 18, 2005 when they had a 34-35 record (span of 362 games).

STAN THE MAN: Manager Stan Cliburn enters the 2008 season with a 161-135 record as manager of the Rochester Red Wings. Cliburn needs just 39 wins to become only the sixth Red Wings manager since 1963 to compile 200 wins (Joe Altobelli 502, Marv Foley 363, Greg Biagini 237, Darrell Johnson 230, and Phil Roof 216).

JUST WIN BABY: The Red Wings finished the 2007 season with a 77-67 record for their fourth consecutive winning season. It\'s the first time Rochester has had four consecutive winning seasons since 1966-1976 when Rochester had a franchise record 11 consecutive winning seasons.

CLARK BAR: The 2008 season will be infielder Howie Clark\'s fifth season with the Red Wings (1998-2000, 2002 & 2008). Clark joins outfielder Josh Rabe (2003-2007) as the only two players to play five seasons in a Red Wings uniform since catcher Floyd Rayford in 1980-84, 1986 & 1987.

THAT\'S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR: In 1986 Dionne Warwick and friends had the #1 hit in America "That\'s What Friends are For" raising money for AIDS research. It\'s also the last time Rochester opened the baseball season in Richmond. The John Hart-managed Red Wings lost to the Braves 12-2.


THE BIG LEAGUE BUNCH: Fourteen of the 24 players on the SWB Yankees opening day roster have Major League experience. These include Chris Britton (Orioles, Yankees), Bernie Castro (Orioles, Nationals), Dan Giese (Giants), Alberto Gonzalez (Yankees), Nick Green (Braves, Yankees, Mariners), Kei Igawa (Yankees), Jason Lane (Astros, Padres), Chad Moeller (Twins, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Reds, Dodgers), Heath Phillips (White Sox), Edwar Ramirez (Yankees), Cody Ransom (Giants, Astros), Darrell Rasner (Nationals, Yankees), Scott Strickland (Expos, Mets, Astros), and Jose Veras ( Yankees). Combined, the 14 players have accumulated 22 years, 185 days on Major League rosters.

WELCOME BACK...HAPPY BIRTHDAY: OF Justin Christian, who suffered a ruptured ligament in his left thumb on August 6 last season, has fully recovered and is on the SWB roster to begin the 2008 campaign. Christian, who sustained the injury while attempting to steal third base in a game against Buffalo, was outstanding in his first taste of Triple-A action. The Lincoln, NE native hit .325 (55-169) with 32 runs, 16 RBI and 17 stolen bases (in 19 attempts) in 40 games with SWB after being promoted from Double-A Trenton on June 22. He turns 28 today.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU AS WELL: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees Manager Dave Miley will also be celebrating his birthday on opening day, April 3. Miley is in his ninth season as an International League Manager, his third with the Yankees at Triple-A and his second in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He is 46.

LOOKING TO SNAP THE SKID: The SWB Yankees hold the distinction of holding the longest current Opening Day losing streak in all of Minor League Baseball. The last time Scranton/WB picked up a win to open the season was 1999. Brett Myers got the start for the then-Red Barons, the IL affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Since then, the Red Barons/Yankees are zero for the 21st century, having lost eight in a row to begin the season.


FEEL FREE TO PLAY ON THE LAWN: For the first time in Alliance Bank/P&C Stadium history, a natural grass playing surface has been installed for play. The weather is set to cooperate as well with a game-time forecast of 50 degrees and mostly sunny skies. It\'s a far cry from the six inches that fell on the Syracuse area just six days prior to opening day.

A NEW LOOK TO THE STAFF: The Chiefs opening day roster has only two pitchers that wore a Syracuse jersey in 2007 - reliever Jordan De Jong and Friday starter Josh Banks. Opening day starter David Purcey, Davis Romero and Jesse Carlson have pitched in the Salt City before.

OPENING DAY MAGIC: Syracuse had success in the first game of the year last season, winning at Durham 2-1 as well as winning the home opener 4-0 against Ottawa. The Chiefs have won at least two straight home openers eight times in their history. The longest streak was a four gamer from 1942-45. All-time, Syracuse is 28-41 in home openers.


OPENING DAY FAST FACTS: The Toledo Mud Hens open the season at home this afternoon against the Durham Bulls. The Hens have a Modern-Era (1965-Present) Opening Day record of 21-22 (and are 4-2 in home openers at Fifth Third Field). The Hens face a familiar opponent as their final game last year was a 5-2 loss to the Durham Bulls in the playoffs. However, the Hens and Bulls are traditionally very competitive with each other. Since 2002, the two teams are even at 36-36 against each other. In 2007, the Mud Hens outscored the Bulls 64-57 (including the playoffs), but finished 7-8 against Durham.

HOT CORNER HEROES: Toledo\'s opening home stand will feature a few of Minor League Baseball\'s best third basemen. Mike Hessman (Toledo), Evan Longoria (Durham), and Josh Fields (Charlotte) will be playing in Toledo in the initial homestand. Hessman returns for his fourth season with the Mud Hens. He was named the International League\'s Most Valuable Player in 2007, and was the first to achieve the honor for the Hens since Phil Hiatt in 1996. Hessman led the IL in home runs (31) and RBI (110), both career highs. He also became the Hens alltime home run leader on June 1 when he hit his 68th home run for Toledo. Not only was Hessman strong at the plate, but he was named by Baseball America as the best defensive third baseman in the League. Longoria is the number one prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays according to Baseball America. He was the third overall pick in the 2006 draft. In 2007, Longoria was named the Southern League MVP, and was leading the Double-A circuit in runs, home runs, and RBI before he was promoted to Durham in late July. Longoria is starting the season with the Bulls, but there is little doubt that he will be playing with the Rays at some point in 2008. Fields was the first round pick (18th overall) by the White Sox in the 2004 draft. Prior to 2007 he was ranked the number two prospect for the White Sox by Baseball America. Fields played 100 games for the White Sox last season but will start this year with Charlotte. He hit .244 with 17 doubles, 23 home runs and 67 RBI in 100 games in his rookie season with the Sox. Fields lost the battle for this year\'s starting third base job for the White Sox to Joe Crede, but he is expected to be back with the White Sox sometime this season.

WELCOME TO OUR SIDE: After being released at the end of spring training by the Cleveland Indians, the AL Central rival Detroit Tigers made short work in signing veteran lefty Aaron Fultz. The 34-year-old Memphis native will start the year with the Mud Hens after a sparkling year with the Tribe in 2007. Fultz went 4-3 with an ERA of 2.92 with Cleveland in 37.0 innings of work.

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