February 21, 2008 - International League (IL)
HALL OF FAMER LOVULLO RETURNS: Manager Torey Lovullo will return to the Herd for his third season on the bench. Lovullo has led the Bisons to a pair of winning seasons, going 73-68 during the 2006 season and 75-67 last summer. In each year, the Bisons finished 3rd in the IL North division and won the Thruway Series Cup Championship, a competition with the two other teams connected by the I-90 Thruway (Rochester, Syracuse). Lovullo played for the Bisons for three seasons, won league championships in the American Association in 1997 and the IL in 1998 and was elected to the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
COACHING STAFF REMAINS INTACT AS MYERS, RADINSKY RETURN: Both hitting coach Dave Myers and pitching coach Scott Radinsky will be back for a second season on Torey Lovullo\'s coaching staff. Myers led a Bisons offense that finished in the top 3 in the IL in batting average (.266), runs (664), home runs (129) and walks (511) in 2007. Radinsky helped keep a pitching staff together that was hit hard by injuries (Adam Miller, Brian Slocum) and promotions (Rafael Perez, Jason Stanford, Jensen Lewis) last year. For both coaches, it will be their second season in Buffalo.
LARA RECOVERING AFTER OFFSEASON CAR ACCIDENT: Bisons reliever Juan Lara continues to recover from a near-fatal car accident during the offseason. On November 24, Lara suffered a blood clot on the brain, a cervical fracture, a collapsed lung and broken ribs when a motorcycle slammed into the side of his sports-utility vehicle as the pitcher was returning home from a Dominican Winter League game. Lara was transported to the US for multiple surgeries just prior to the New Year. On February 12, Lara returned to Cleveland where doctors said he was progressing well. Lara led the Bisons with 52 appearances in 2007, going 4-3 with a 3.88 ERA and two saves.
BOMBARD RETURNS AS MANAGER: Charlotte Knights fans will see a familiar face in 2008, as Marc Bombard returns for his second season as manager. Bombard went 63-80 in his first campaign with the Knights. He still sits atop all active Minor League Baseball managers in career wins with 1,618. He had previously been in the Philadelphia Phillies organization for 10 seasons. The last two he served as the Phillies first base coach. Bombard will have two new additions to his staff in 2008.
NIEVES PROMOTED TO WHITE SOX: The Chicago White Sox have named Charlotte Knights pitching coach Juan Nieves their new bullpen coach. Nieves leaves the Knights after spending the previous three seasons in Charlotte as the teams pitching coach. Nieves\' work was crucial in helping the Knights win the International League South Division in 2006. That season, the Knights had a 3.66 team ERA and opponents hit just .244 against them. Nieves has also supervised the development of several White Sox pitchers through his tenure in Charlotte, including Ehren Wassermann, Heath Phillips, Lance Broadway and Boone Logan. Nieves is also credited with teaching All-Star closer Bobby Jenks a sharp breaking curve ball in the Puerto Rican Winter League in 2004. Nieves pitched in the majors with Milwaukee from 1986-88, going 32-35 with a 4.71 ERA and 352 strikeouts. The left-hander threw the only no-hitter in Brewers history on April 15, 1987 in a 7-0 victory over Baltimore at County Stadium.
KNIGHTS IN BIG LEAGUE CAMP: Several Knights star players in 2007 are currently in Major League spring training with the White Sox. Lance Broadway was called to pitch in four games for the White Sox last September. He went 1-1 with a 0.87 ERA (1 ER/10.1 IP) in four games (one start) with the White Sox. C Donny Lucy appeared in eight games with the White Sox after his contract was purchased from Charlotte on September 1. He hit .200 (3-15) with six strikeouts. Sox pitchers owned a 5.18 ERA (19 ER/33.0 IP) when he was behind the plate.
WHITE SOX ORGANIZATION HONORS NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY: The White Sox are honoring the memory of the five people killed in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois by a gunman, who then took his own life. General manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen both wore NIU caps during spring training. The White Sox released at statement saying the families and the NIU community are in the thoughts and prayers of the entire White Sox organization.
BIRTH OF A BALLPARK: On August 2, 2007 the Columbus Clippers officially broke ground on their new home, Huntington Park. Situated in the heart of the Arena District in downtown Columbus, Huntington Park was designed by 360 Architecture and is scheduled to open in 2009. Fans can watch the ballpark come to life by logging on to clippersbaseball.com and clicking the Huntington Park webcam link.
FOLI BECOMES CLIPPERS\' 18th SKIPPER: Tim Foli was named the new manager for the Columbus Clippers on December 17. Foli becomes the fourth manager in the last four years for the Clippers, following John Stearns (2007), Dave Miley (2006) and Bucky Dent (2005). He spent last season as the Minor League Field Coordinator for the Washington Nationals after a two year stint managing the team\'s Triple-A club in New Orleans. Foli\'s son, Dan, was a right-handed pitcher in the Nats\' system last year and finished the season in the Clipper bullpen, posting a 3.14 ERA in 14.1 innings.
FORMER CLIPPERS SIGNED TO MINOR LEAGUE DEALS: The Washington Nationals signed a number of players to Minor League contracts on February 5. Among them were former Clippers Charlie Manning (LHP) and Wil Nieves (C). Both Manning and Nieves came through Columbus as members of the New York Yankees organization. Manning spent parts of 2004, 2005 and 2006 in the Clipper pen, appearing in 18 games and going 2-2 with a 4.30 ERA. Nieves played in 190 games between 2005 and 2006, hitting .275 with 9 HR and 71 RBI.
POTENTIAL RETURNEES: Several free agents who were with Durham when the team came one game short of a championship last year have re-signed with Tampa Bay. Outfielders Jon Weber and Jeremy Owens, as well as 1B/OF Chris Richard are among those to return to the Rays organization.
40-MAN FEVER: A total of 16 players on Tampa Bay\'s 40-man roster spent at least some time on the Durham roster last year, and that doesn\'t include Rocco Baldelli or B.J. Upton, who had rehab stints with the Bulls. Of those 16 players, ten are pitchers, including RHP Jeff Niemann, who is battling for one of two open spots in the Rays rotation.
NO COACHING CAROUSEL: After a stretch of three managers in three years, the manager and both coaches from 2007 return in 2008. Xavier Hernandez, who worked with a young pitching staff that led the IL in ERA, begins his second season in Durham, as does hitting coach Gary Gaetti and Manager Charlie Montoyo. Trainer Mark Vinson has been named Minor League Coordinator for the Rays, and has been replaced in Durham by Jimmy Southard, who was with Montgomery last year when that team won its second straight Southern League championship.
MUCH LOVE FOR MONTOYO FAMILY: More than $27,000 was raised for the Montoyo family in a fundraising effort that began in January and concluded on Valentine\'s Day. A total of just over $17,000 came from individual donors, while the Bulls matched the first $10,000 donated. Charlie Montoyo\'s son Alexander was born with a rare heart problem called Ebstein\'s Abnomaly. He has spent most of his young life on a ventilator since his birth in October and has undergone two open heart surgeries.
THE SKIPPER RETURNS: Manager Trent Jewett returns for his fourth season with the Indians in 2008. The 43-year-old has led the Tribe to a 224-205 regular-season mark in three years at the helm. In addition, over 30 of his players have received Major League promotions since 2005. Jewett, who was honored by Baseball America as the International League\'s "Best Manager Prospect" a season ago, picked up his 900th win as a Minor League manager on July 15, 2007. The upcoming campaign will represent his 11th as a Triple-A skipper and his 17th as an instructor in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
WHO\'S ON THE FIELD STAFF?: Hitting coach Hensley Meulens, trainer Jose Ministral and strength & conditioning coach Mubarak Malik also return to the Tribe\'s 2008 field staff. The lone newcomer is pitching coach Ray Searage, who spent the past two seasons in the same capacity for Double-A Altoona. Searage replaces Jeff Andrews, who became the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach in late November.
TIME TO TALK PROSPECTS: Outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who Indians fans should see at the beginning of 2008, is ranked by Baseball America as Pittsburgh\'s top prospect for a second straight season. INF Neil Walker (No. 2), 1B/RF Steven Pearce (No. 3) and INF Brian Bixler (No. 8) are other Top-10 prospects who will likely be on the Tribe\'s Opening Day roster.
A HALL OF FAMER: Don Buford, the 1963 International League and Indians Most Valuable Player, will be inducted into the IL Hall of Fame this season. Buford helped Indy to an 86-67 regular season and the Governors\' Cup Championship in 1963. The Tribe infielder led the League in batting average (.336), hits (206), runs (114), doubles (41) and stolen bases (42) that season. Buford was also honored by the Sporting News as Minor League Baseball\'s Player of the Year in 1963. The 5\'8", 165-pound switch hitter enjoyed parts of 10 seasons in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles.
MAKIN\' MONEY FOR THE CITY: The Indianapolis Indians generated over $28 million for the city in 2007, according to a recent economic impact study conducted by Strategic Marketing and Research, Inc. Over $11 million was spent as part of game attendance and more than $6.6 million as additional expenditure in the community as part of the visit. In addition, $10.4 million was infused into the local economy as a result of indirect spending. These expenditures also represented 665 jobs in the Indianapolis area.
HELPING WORTHY CAUSES: The Indianapolis Indians donated over $315,000 to charitable organizations in 2007. The total represents an increase of over $100,000 from the previous year. The Tribe filled $130,753 worth of ticket donation requests and worked with ARAMARK Sports & Entertainment to help 17 groups raise $114,676 at the Victory Field concession stands.
LEHIGH VALLEY IRONPIGS
BENSON AND HEDGES: The Philadelphia Phillies signed veteran RHP Kris Benson to a Minor League contract on February 13 and invited him to Major League spring training. Benson, who missed all of last season following surgery to repair a torn labrum, is expected to start the season with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. However, the Phillies hedged their bet by only guaranteeing the 33-year-old the cost of his Minor League contract ($100,000) and allowing him to request free agency if he's not on the Major League roster by March 25. The first overall selection in the 1996 draft has a Major League record of 68-73 with a 4.34 ERA in 195 career starts.
PORK POWER?: The Ottawa Lynx managed just one home run in their first 27 games last season and finished the year last in the IL with 59 (23 fewer than the next team; 87 fewer than IL-leading Durham). This season could be different for the IronPigs, as the Phillies this offseason signed OF Val Pascucci (who was the 2007 Pacific Coast League HR leader with 34 for Albuquerque), 1B Andy Tracy (who led New Orleans with 23 HR in 2007), and INF Mike Cervenak (who swatted 15 HR with Norfolk). The IronPigs also expect to have the services of C Pete LaForest, who was claimed by Philadelphia off waivers from San Diego last September. LaForest belted 29 HR in just 296 at-bats with Portland last year.
THREE-PEAT?: IronPigs manager Dave Huppert comes to Allentown after winning back-to-back league championships. The 50-year-old piloted the 2007 Clearwater Threshers to an 83-57 record and a Florida State League title after guiding the 2006 Lakewood Blue Claws to an 84-55 record and a South Atlantic League title. Taking it back farther, Huppert led his team to the postseason in three of his previous four managerial stints including a FSL co-championship with Brevard County in 2001. The native of South Gate, California has posted a 1,425-1,214 (.540) career record.
BASEBALL IS BACK: The IronPigs inaugural season will snap a 47-year draught of affiliated baseball in the Lehigh Valley - which has been void since the Allentown Red Sox of the Eastern League departed for Jamestown following their stint from 1958-60. Other Major League teams once represented in the LV were the St. Cardinals (1940, 1942-1952, 1954-56), the Philadelphia Phillies (1941), the Boston Braves (1939) and the Brooklyn Dodgers (1935-36). The only other professional baseball team in the LV during the draught were the independent Allentown Ambassadors (1997-2003) of the Northern/Northeast Leagues.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: The IronPigs staff moved into the offices at Coca-Cola Park on February 11, 2008. The completion of the $48.4 M stadium remains on schedule and on budget. Lehigh County is set to formally turn the keys of the stadium over to the IronPigs in a ceremony on February 27. The team will begin selling single-game tickets for the first time in franchise history on March 1.
SWEET RETURNS: Rick Sweet will return to Louisville in his fourth season as Bats manager. Sweet, 55, is 215-216 in three seasons with the Bats and is third on Louisville\'s career managerial win list. Sweet began managing in 1987 and owns a career mark of 1,264-1,271 in 19 seasons.
2008 MEIJER TRIPLE-A ALL-STAR GAME: The 2008 contest will mark the second time the Triple-A All-Star Game will be played in Louisville. In 1991, the National League affiliates defeated the American League affiliates 3-1 before a crowd of over 20,000 at Cardinal Stadium. Louisville will become the first International League city to host the event twice.
2007 MINOR LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Last year OF Jay Bruce became the first player in the Reds Organization to win Baseball America\'s Minor League Player of the Year award. In 2007 Bruce collected 80 extra-base hits and more than 300 total bases from Class-A to Triple-A. In 50 games with Louisville he connected on 11 home runs and was named Louisville Hitter of the Month in August.
THUNDER DAY AT LOUISVILLE SLUGGER FIELD: The largest annual pyrotechnic display in North America and kick-off event to the Kentucky Derby Festival will take place after the second home game of the season for the Louisville Bats. Thunder Day at Louisville Slugger Field will take place on April 12 and feature fireworks, an air show, and country music legend Marty Stuart.
GREAT IN \'08?: In his four previous years as a manager in the International League, Tides\' skipper Gary Allenson has guided his team to the playoffs in alternating years. Allenson managed Louisville to the playoffs in 1998, and after a non-playoff year with the RiverBats in 1999, he helped guide the Ottawa Lynx to the Governors\' Cup playoffs in 2003. 2007 was his first year with Norfolk, and he led the Tides to a 69-74 record, building a foundation for what hopefully will be a playoff run in 2008. Norfolk\'s field staff from 2007 will return for 2008, as Allenson will once again be joined by pitching coach Larry McCall and hitting coach Dallas Williams.
ORIOLES HAVE BUSY OFFSEASON: The Baltimore Orioles were very active on the trade front during the offseason, adding numerous prospects to the system - several of which could see time in Norfolk this year. The O\'s traded SS Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros in December, receiving OF Luke Scott, INF Mike Costanzo, LHP Troy Patton, RHP Matt Albers and RHP Dennis Sarfate. Baltimore also traded LHP Erik Bedard to Seattle in early February, picking up OF Adam Jones, LHP George Sherrill, RHP Chris Tillman, RHP Kam Mickolio, and LHP Tony Butler.
LOCAL PRODUCT JOINS ORIOLES ORGANIZATION: Virginia Beach native Tim LaVigne signed with the Orioles this offseason, and has a chance to be a member of the Tides again this year. LaVigne helped Cox High School in Virginia Beach win the state title in 1996, and he also attended the University of Virginia, where he is the school\'s record holder with 18 career saves. LaVigne appeared in a total of 90 games for the Tides between the 2005 and 2006 seasons, and he was named the Tides\' Pitcher of the Year in 2006 after going 3-2 with four saves and a 2.62 ERA in 45 games pitched.
PAWTUCKET RED SOX
WELCOME ABOARD: The Boston Red Sox have announced a number of offseason acquisitions, several of whom could impact Pawtucket this season. Here is a profile of some of the top newcomers:
INF Keith Ginter, 31, was with Buffalo for all of 2007 batting .247 with 15 HR and 62 RBI in 106 games for the Bisons. He has a career Major League average of .243 in 325 games with Houston (2000-02), Milwaukee (2002-04), and Oakland (2005).
RHP Lee Gronkiewicz, 29, has spent the last four years in the Toronto organization. In 2007 he was 3-2 with a 1.80 ERA along with 11 saves in 24 games for New Hampshire and 3-1, 2.82 with 2 SV in 23 games for Syracuse. He also made his Major League debut with the Blue Jays on June 19 vs. the LA Dodgers (1 run in 4 IP) in his only appearance with Toronto before returning to Syracuse.
RHP Ben Howard, 29, was with the Iowa Cubs all of last year appearing in 55 games (all in relief) going 6-9 with 2 SV and a 4.28 ERA. He spent the 2006 season in the IL making 34 RA for Buffalo (2-1, 3.98 with 11 SV) and 11 more RA for Syracuse (1-1, 8.82). He has pitched in the majors with San Diego (2002-03) and Florida (2004) compiling a 2-5 mark with a 5.20 ERA in 40 games (8 starts).
RHP Dan Kolb, 32, spent most of 2007 at Indianapolis compiling a 2-1 record with a 3.15 ERA and four saves in 18 games. He has a career Major League record of 11-23 with a 4.36 ERA and 73 saves in 290 games with Texas (1999-2002), Milwaukee (2003-04; 2006), Atlanta (2005), and Pittsburgh (2007). He was a National League All-Star in 2004, when he set a then Brewers club record with 39 saves.
RHP Matt Miller, 36, was 0-1, 2.89 in 38 games with Buffalo and worked 1.0 scoreless inning in two appearances with Cleveland in 2007. He is 6-1, 2.72 with two saves in 100 career Major League games with Colorado (2003) and Cleveland (2004-07).
LHP Jon Switzer, 28, was signed as a free agent after seven years in the Tampa Bay organization. He was superb for Durham last season posting a 0.82 ERA in 23 games and also made 21 appearances for Tampa Bay (going 0-2, 8.05) last year as well. He is 2-4 with a 6.11 ERA in 68 career Major League games with Tampa Bay (2003, 2005-07) including a career-high 40 appearances with the Rays in 2006.
LHP Michael Tejera, 31, went 8-5 with a 3.90 ERA in 27 games (19 starts) for Indianapolis last season. He is 11-13, 5.14 in 111 games (27 starts) in the majors with Florida (1999, 2002-04) and Texas (2004-05) including a career-high 8 victories with the Marlins in 2002.
INF Joe Thurston, 28, batted .300 with 5 HR & 59 RBI in 129 games for Ottawa last season in their final year of existence. The left-handed second baseman/outfielder has a .259 average in 55 Major League games with the Dodgers (2002-04) and Phillies (2006).
OF Jonathan Van Every, 28, split the 2007 season between Akron and Buffalo hitting .344 with 4 HR & 34 RBI in 44 games for Akron and .272 with 8 HR & 23 RBI in 51 games for the Bisons. He did not make an error in 50 games in the outfield for the Bisons last season. He also split the 2006 campaign between Akron and Buffalo and in 2005 was an Eastern League All-Star after belting a career-high 27 HR for the Aeros.
INF Gil Velazquez, 28, played for Rochester (.240 in 69 games) and New Britain (.267 in 17 games) last season. He was originally drafted by the Mets organization and played for Norfolk during parts of 2002-04.
CHAMBLISS RETURNS TO RICHMOND: Chris Chambliss rejoins the Braves organization as Richmond\'s hitting coach. Chambliss enjoyed a stellar 17-year big league playing career. He earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1971, was an AL All-Star in 1976, and earned a Gold Glove in 1978. He played in three straight World Series with the Yankees from 1976-1978. Chambliss managed the R-Braves in 1992. He has coached at the big league level with the Cardinals, Yankees, Mets, and Reds. Manager Dave Brundage returns to defend his Governors\' Cup title. Guy Hansen is back as pitching coach.
SOUTH FOR THE WINTER: Several R-Braves were busy this winter. 19 members of the 2007 club took part in winter ball, including 10 of the 24 players on the Braves playoff roster. R-Brave Brayan Pena was the MVP of the Dominican League after finishing 2nd in the League in doubles and 3rd in RBI and extra-base hits. He was also 5th in slugging percentage (.418) and 2nd in the League in percentage of runners caught stealing (13-39, .333) for Gigantes del Cibao. Martin Prado helped Tigres de Aragua to the Venezuelan League title. Iker Franco helped Yaquis de Obregon to the Mexican Pacific League championship. Pena (added to the roster of Aguilas Cibaenas) and Franco also played in the Caribbean Series.
BRAVES CAMP OPENS: 15 members of the 2007 R-Braves are on Atlanta\'s 40-man Major League roster: pitchers Manny Acosta, Jeff Bennett, Buddy Carlyle, Blaine Boyer, Anthony Lerew, Peter Moylan, Jo-Jo Reyes, Royce Ring, Zach Schreiber, and Phil Stockman; catcher Brayan Pena; infielders Yunel Escobar and Martin Prado; and outfielders Gregor Blanco and Brandon Jones. Three other \'07 R-Braves are in camp as non-roster invitees: pitcher Francisley Bueno, catcher Corky Miller, and infielder Brent Lillibridge.
ROCHESTER RED WINGS
WINGS STARTING ROTATION TEAM STRENGTH AGAIN: The Rochester Red Wings starting rotation looks to be the team\'s strength again in 2008. RHP Nick Blackburn (7-3, 2.11), LHP Brian Duensing (11-5, 3.24), RHP Brian Bass (7-3, 3.48), RHP Phillip Humber (11-9, 4.27 with New Orleans), RHP Zach Day, LHP Randy Keisler (8-11, 4.79 with Memphis), and RHP Kevin Mulvey (11-10, 3.32 with Binghamton) will be fighting for the five starting spots.
OUTFIELD IS VERY CROWDED: The Red Wings outfielders look to have a lot of speed and power this season. Darnell McDonald, Denard Span, Jason Pridie, Jon Knott, Randy Ruiz and a host of others look to have their work cut out for them as spots will be at a premium this spring.
IT\'S BEEN 20 YEARS SINCE THIS HAPPENED: The Red Wings will open up the 2008 season in Richmond on April 3. It will mark the first time Rochester has opened up an IL season in the south since 1987. Rochester will open with an eight-game swing through Richmond and Norfolk. To give you a perspective on how long it\'s been, in 1987 Rochester lost 8-7 to the Tidewater Tides (now the Norfolk Tides) at Met Park. Tidewater became the Norfolk Tides in 1993.
CHANGES AT PNC FIELD: PNC Field won\'t undergo another dramatic transformation like it did in 2007 (grass, seats, signage, bullpens, etc), but it will have one major change. A Family Fun Zone will be constructed inside the main gates. The Fun Zone will feature interactive games for kids, including a bounce house. The Fun Zone will be used primarily for pre-game birthday parties.
PLAY BALL: One major change fans will notice as they come through the gates will be the game program. Gone is the standard full size program and in is Play Ball. Play Ball will resemble a "Play Bill" that theater goers receive and will change every home game. The 32-page publication will feature updated statistics, standings, rosters, player bios and stories.
ONLY ONE NEW STAFF CHANGE: The Yankees coaching staff sees only one major change - that of pitching coach. Rafael Chaves joins the club, replacing Dave Eiland who was promoted to New York. He joins the organization after spending ten seasons in Seattle\'s system, including the past two as the big league pitching coach. He spent the 2004-2005 season as pitching coach with Tacoma. In 2005, the Rainiers advanced to the PCL Championship series and led the League in shutouts. Dave Miley returns as manager along with hitting coach Butch Wynegar and infield coach Alvaro Espinoza.
NEW FACES: The Toronto Blue Jays signed several free agents over the offseason that will compete for big league jobs but could be optioned to Syracuse. They include pitchers Jared Camp, Lance Carter, Kane Davis, and John Parrish. The Blue Jays also signed outfielder Matt Watson.
HEADED TO THE HALL: Tex Simone and Hank Sauer will be inducted to the International League Hall of Fame this summer. The ceremony will be held in Syracuse prior to the game against Pawtucket on Friday, August 15.
COOPERSTOWN CLASSIC: The Chiefs and Rochester Red Wings will play in the Cooperstown Classic on Sunday, May 18. The game will be played at historic Doubleday Field and will mark the first time the Chiefs have played a game there since 1939.
TOLEDO MUD HENS
TEAM PREVIEW FOR 2008 MUD HENS: The 2008 Toledo Mud Hens are coming off their third straight IL West Division Championship. Toledo has now won the IL West Division in 4 of the first 6 years at Fifth Third Field. Below is an early thumbnail sketch of potential Hens in 2008.
Infield: Toledo will have several familiar faces; 3B Mike Hessman was named IL MVP in 2007. He smacked 31 HR and drove in 101 runs. SS Erick Almonte appeared in 38 games with Toledo in 2007, hitting .276. 2B/SS Henry Mateo appeared in 96 games with Toledo last year, hitting .257 with a team-high 24 stolen bases. Newcomers include 2B Michael Hollimon who is Detroit\'s 4th best prospect. Hollimon spent most of last year with Double-A Erie, hitting .282 with 14 HR, 76 RBI, and 17 SB. 1B Jeff Larish hit 28 HR and had 101 RBI with Erie in 2007 (Detroit\'s 6th best prospect).
Outfield: Brent Clevlen will return to Toledo after hitting .220 last year and missing time with a broken finger. Timo Perez may return as well after hitting .309 with 69 RBI as an IL All-Star last year. Newcomer Freddy Guzman will patrol center for the Hens. Guzman was acquired from the Texas Rangers in a trade for Chris Shelton and he led the PCL in 2007 with 56 SB. Matt Joyce is considered Detroit\'s best defensive outfield prospect and will move up to Toledo after hitting 17 HR and driving in 70 runs with Erie in 2007.
Catchers: Behind the dish, Toledo will have Dane Sardinha back after he hit .202 with 10 HR & 47 RBI in 117 games last season. The other catcher spot will be between three players - Andrew Graham was with Toledo all of last year backing up Sardinha. He will receive competition from former Mud Hen Maxim St-Pierre and newcomer Nick Trzesniak.
Pitching: The pitching staff may also return some familiar faces. RHP Jordan Tata (4-5, 3.05) and RHP Virgil Vasquez (12-5, 3.48) should both return to anchor the rotation. RHP Chris Lambert came over from St. Louis at the end of last season in the Mike Maroth deal. Lambert started one game for Toledo last season. RHP Armando Galarraga was recently acquired from Texas and won a combined 11 games last year between Frisco, Oklahoma, and Texas. RHP Eddie Bonine went 14-5 with Double-A Erie in 2007. RHP Aquilino Lopez should return as the stopper after compiling 26 saves last season. Other members of the bullpen could include RHP Preston Larrison, LHP Clay Rapada, RHP Francis Beltran, RHP Anastacio Martinez, and LHP Macay McBride.
FIFTH THIRD FIELD ENTERS SEVENTH SEASON COMING OFF RECORD YEAR: The Mud Hens will celebrate their seventh season in downtown Toledo in 2008 with Opening Day scheduled for 5:00 PM on Thursday, April 3. Toledo is coming off an historic year in 2007 with a Toledo baseball record 590,159 fans coming out to root for the Mud Hens. Toledo has now sold out 175 games since 2002. The Hens have welcomed 3,325,847 fans (regular season) through the gates during the first six years of Fifth Third Field. As a comparison, the last six seasons at Ned Skeldon Stadium saw 1,847,126 fans from 1996-2001.
TELEVISION SCHEDULE ANNOUCED FOR 2008: For the fifth straight season, the Mud Hens will televise games on Buckeye Cable Sports Network (BCSN) locally. The 2008 season will be a historic first as all 72 home games will be carried live. Last season, the Hens televised 68 games on BCSN (52 live). The Hens have also televised all 21 postseason contests over the past three years. All games are also available (video streaming) online at www.mudhens.com as well. Jim Weber and Jason Griffin will again provide the play-by-play action of all 72 games on BCSN.