(Rock Cats press release)
New Britain, CT – The Opening Day edition of the 2011 New Britain Rock Cats has been assembled in Florida and on Monday morning, the group will be arriving at their summer home in Connecticut.
Returning manager Jeff Smith and his players – 20 returnees and seven promising rookies - are ready to begin the franchise’s 39th consecutive season of professional baseball in the Nutmeg State. The Eastern League club will open their new baseball season at 7:05 p.m. next Thursday night (4/7) in Richmond, Virginia. The home opener is slated for Thursday, April 14, at 6:05 p.m.
The Rock Cats’ 2011 Opening Day roster contains a veteran presence that had been missing in recent years, when the New Britain team was consistently among the youngest in the historic baseball circuit. Indeed, of the 27 players starting the new campaign in the Hardware City, 20 are returnees who have previously performed in a New Britain uniform.
One returnee, 23-year-old 1B Chris Parmelee, was Minnesota’s top draft pick in 2006 while another, 23-year-old slugging OF Joe Benson, was named Minnesota’s 2010 Minor League Player of the Year. Baseball America ranks Benson the #4 Prospect in the entire Twins system and the sweet-swinging Parmelee, #18.
Other top prospects en route to Connecticut include three highly-regarded right-handed pitchers: 22-year-Liam Hendriks (ranked #6 by BA), 23-year-old David Bromberg (#13), and 23-year-old Bobby Lanigan (#31). Joining them will be a rookie and the pride of Danbury High and the University of Connecticut - 6’8” lefthander Michael Tarsi. The Twins selected Tarsi out of Storrs in the 2007 draft and he’ll soon be making his Double-A debut.
Other key returnees to the Rock Cats include 21-year-old RHP Deolis Guerra – a 2010 EL All-Star – and 23-year-old LHP Tyler Robertson, who led the 2010 club in starts (27), innings (144.2) and strikeouts (91). While Guerra is penciled in as a starter, the 6’6 Robertson likely will be working out of the bullpen.
Additional players include veteran catchers Danny Lehmann, Jair Fernandez and Allan de san Miguel. Fernandez will start the year on the disabled list.
In addition to Parmelee, five infielders who previously performed in Rock Cats uniforms will also be back in 2011. They are Chris Cates, Estarlin de los Santos, the versatile Toby Gardenhire, Yangervis Solarte and Steve Singleton. Both de los Santos and Gardenhire – the winner of the Rock Cats 2008 10th Player Award – will start the new season on the DL.
Coming to New Britain for the first time are four veteran players who were acquired by Minnesota after they had performed in other organizations. This group includes RHP Brett Jacobson, a 6’6 reliever acquired via trade with Baltimore,
LHP Jake Stevens, a bullpen specialist was signed away from San Francisco. Infielders Ray Chang, a 2010 EL All-Star with Portland who signed as a free agent, and Mike Hollimon, a middle infielder who has MLB time with Detroit, give the Rock Cats veterans they generally lack.
Along with Tarsi, another rookie who will be debuting in New Britain this season is infielder Deibinson Romero, a highly touted prospect who is now healthy after suffering a series of leg injuries.
The complete 2011 Opening Day roster:
PITCHERS (12): RHP Santos Arias, RHP David Bromberg, RHP Cole Devries, RHP Deolis Guerra, RHP Liam Hendriks, RHP Steve Hirschfeld, RHP Brett Jacobson, RHP Bobby Lanigan, LHP Tyler Robertson, LHP Spencer Steedley, LHP Jake Stevens, LHP Michael Tarsi.
CATCHERS (3): Allan de san Miguel, Jair Fernandez (DL), Danny Lehmann.
INFIELDERS (9): Chris Cates, Ray Chang, Estarlin de los Santos (DL), Toby Gardenhire (DL), Mike Hollimon, Chris Parmelee, Deibinson Romero, Steve Singleton, Yangervis Solarte.
OUTFIELDERS (3): Joe Benson, Evan Bigley, and Mark Dolenc.
The 24-year-old Bigley was impressive as a late-season call-up last year, batting .336 with nine doubles, four homers and 15 RBI in just 27 games. The versatile Dolenc contributed in several different ways and won the Rock Cats 2010 10th Player Award.