The Mississippi Braves will defend the 2008 Southern League Championship tonight as they host Carolina at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Mississippi.
Manager Phillip Wellman will have another solid and talented roster for this season. It will include a pitching staff that could even be better than last year's group.
The rotation order will go with lefty Jonny Venters getting the start tonight against the Mudcats. Venters is finally healthy and is one to watch this season. He'll be followed in the rotation by Deunte Heath, Scott Diamond, Kyle Cofield, and Ryne Reynoso.
Unlike most Double-A rotations, all five of those pitchers are legit major league prospects.
The closer's duties will be split between Stephen Marek and Rafael Cruz. Marek was acquired from the Angels last July in the Mark Teixeira deal.
Cruz was signed out of the Dominican Winter League in January. Cruz was an infielder in the Rangers organization ten years ago. He became a pitcher a few years ago and pitched in Japan, and Cruz was actually a teammate of Kenshin Kawakami with the Chunichi Dragons. Cruz throws in the upper 90s and could be an option for Atlanta later this summer.
Rudy Darrow, acquired last week from Detroit for Josh Anderson, will be a setup man for Mississippi. He'll be joined in the pen by Brett Butts, Bryan Dumesnil, Jerome Gamble, and Jeff Lyman.
Phillip Britton will be the main catcher for the Braves. The 24-year-old Britton hit .246 in Myrtle Beach last season. Jose Camarena will be the backup behind the plate.
The infield will have Isaiah Ka'aihue at first base, Travis Jones at second, Brandon Hicks at shortstop, and Eric Campbell at third base. Javier Guzman and Kody Kirkland will be the infield reserves.
Concepcion Rodriguez will start in right field, with Gorkys Hernandez in center, and Willie Cabrera in right. Matt Young will also see plenty of playing time at all three outfield positions, along with some time at second base.
Mississippi's lineup could be very potent, with Ka'aihue, Hicks, Campbell, and Rodriguez proving power, Hernandez providing the speed, and Cabrera providing the solid bat.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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