14 Former Tiders In Pro Baseball

A total of 14 former Alabama baseball players began their professional baseball seasons this week, with many minor league teams opening their seasons on Thursday night.



The collection of former Alabama players includes one Major League player, seven Triple-A players, four Double-A players and two Single-A players.

Former Alabama All-America and Academic All-America Lance Cormier is the Tide's lone Major League player. Cormier opened the season with his new team, the Tampa Bay Rays, the defending American League champions. Cormier has made one appearance on the mound this season, retiring four of the five batters he faced against the Boston Red Sox.

The list of Triple-A stars include Matt Downs, Wade LeBlanc, Adam Pavkovich, Andy Phillips, Paul Phillips, David Robertson and Taylor Tankersley.

Downs began the year as the starting second baseman for the Pacific Coast League's Fresno (Calif.) Grizzlies, the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. In 131 games last year between San Jose (Class A) and Fresno, Downs hit 20 home runs and knocked in 82 runs. He was 0-for-4 in his 2009 debut against Portland.

LeBlanc is back with the Portland (Ore.) Beavers for the second year in a row. LeBlanc made his Major League debut last season with the San Diego Padres, where he made six starts. He was one of three UA players to make his MLB debut during the 2008 season, joining David Robertson and Tommy Hunter. All three were teammates on the Crimson Tide's 2006 SEC Championship team.

Pavkovich is in his third season with the Salt Lake (Utah) Bees in the Pacific Coast League. Last year with the Bees, Pavkovich hit 22 home runs and 82 RBI for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Triple-A affiliate.

An All-America at Alabama in 1999 and finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, Andy Phillips made his debut with the Indianapolis (Ind.) Indians on Thursday. He went 3-for-5 with one home run and one RBI for the Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A affiliate.

A 10-year minor league veteran, Paul Phillips is in his first season with the Colorado Rockies. He began the season with the Colorado Springs (Colo..) SkySox in the Pacific Coast League. Phillips has played in the major leagues with Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox during his career.

Robertson opened the 2009 season with the Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Penn.) Yankees in the International League. He pitched all levels of the Yankees organization last season, making his MLB debut with the Yankees in June. He posted a 4-0 record and struck out 36 batters in 31 innings in his first season in the big leagues. He was one of three UA players to make his MLB debut during the 2008 season, joining David Robertson and Tommy Hunter. All three were teammates on the Crimson Tide's 2006 SEC Championship team.

A former first-round draft pick, Tankersley began the season with the Triple-A New Orleans (La.) Zephyrs in the Pacific Coast League. He opened the season on the seven-day disabled list.

The list of Double-A players includes Alex Avila, Tommy Hunter, Cale Iorg and T..J. Large.

Avila made the jump to Double-A in his first full season of pro ball. He played for the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps in the Midwest League last season after being selected by the Detroit Tigers in the fifth round. Avila is 2-for-7 (.286) in his first two games with the Erie (Penn.) Seawolves as the starting catcher. He has one double and one RBI. Avila is on the same minor league team with former Alabama freshman All-American Cale Iorg (2005). The two did not play together at UA.

After making his Major League debut in 2008, Hunter opens the 2009 season with the Texas League's Frisco RoughRiders, the Texas Rangers' Double-A affiliate. He pitched in relief on Thursday night and struck out four in 2 2/3 innings. Hunter was 13-8 last year at all three levels of the Rangers farm system before being promoted to the big leagues in August. He made three starts with the Rangers. He was one of three UA players to make his MLB debut during the 2008 season, joining David Robertson and Tommy Hunter. All three were teammates on the Crimson Tide's 2006 SEC Championship team.

A Freshman All-American during the 2005 season, Iorg also made the jump to Double-A in his first full season of pro ball. He spent the 2008 season with the Florida State League's Lakeland (Fla.) Flying Tigers. Iorg, who is listed as one of the Tigers top minor league prospects, is 0-for-8 as the Seawolves starting shortstop. Iorg is on the same minor league team with former Alabama All-American Alex Avila (2008). The two did not play together at UA. His older brother, Eli, is the starting center fielder for the Triple-A Round Rock (Texas) Express in the Pacific Coast League.

Large is in his second season with the Portland (Maine) SeaDogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. He was 2-3 with 10 saves last year in Class A Lynchburg (Vir.) and Class AA Portland.

The Crimson Tide's list of Class-A players includes Greg Paiml and Emeel Salem.

Paiml opened the season as the starting shortstop with the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash in the Carolina League. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in 2009 debut on Thursday in a loss at Kinston (N.C.).

Salem is on the comeback trail after missing most of the 2008 season with a season-ending elbow injury. He opened the 2009 season with the Charlotte (Fla.) Stone Crabs in the Florida State League. He was 0-for-2 on Thursday night with one walk and one strikeout.

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