Former Tide Baseball Players In Pro Ranks

Eleven former University of Alabama baseball players made their 2008 season debut last Thursday night in all four levels of professional baseball.

The only Major League player in the group is left-hand pitcher Taylor Tankersley, who began his third season with the Florida Marlins. Tankersley, who played at Alabama from 2002-04, was a first-round pick of the Marlins in 2004.

The Crimson Tide has four former players at the Triple-A level, including Andy Phillips, Lance Cormier, Wade LeBlanc and Paul Phillips.

Three of those Triple-A players are in the International League, including Andy Phillips (Louisville Bats), Cormier (Norfolk Tides) and Paul Phillips (Charlotte Knights). LeBlanc opened the season with the Pacific Coast League's Portland Beavers.

Phillips was on the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster this spring and was one of the last players sent to Louisville. LeBlanc is on the fast-track to the big-leagues in just his second full season with the San Diego Padres. He was mentioned this spring by manager Bud Black as the Padres potential No. 5 starter, but will begin the year in Triple-A.

Alabama's lone Double-A player is New York Yankees farmhand David Robertson, who opened his third professional season with the Eastern League's Trenton Thunder. Robertson played in low-A, high-A and Double-A last season and finished the year with more any innings than any other professional pitcher not to allow a home run. He is also on the fast track to the big leagues with the Yankees.

The Crimson Tide has five-players at the Single-A level, including Tommy Hunter, Emeel Salem and Greg Paiml, who began their first full season of pro ball on Thursday.

Hunter, a supplemental first-round pick by the Texas Rangers in June, 2007, was the opening day starter for the Bakersfield Blaze in the California League.

Salem and Paiml were teammates at Alabama for four seasons (2004-07) and both will open this season in the South Atlantic League. Salem will play for the Columbus (Ga.) Catfish, while Paiml will play for the Kannapolis (N.C.) Intimidators.

Two other former Tide players are also in the California League this season, including Matt Downs (San Jose Giants) and T.J. Large (Lancaster Jethawks).

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