Peoria Chiefs Announce Roster

PEORIA, IL— The Chicago Cubs have announced the 25 players who will comprise Manager Jody Davis' 2006 Opening Day roster for the Peoria Chiefs. Among the returning Chiefs are starting pitchers Mike Billek and Jesse Estrada along with first baseman Ryan Norwood who was injured last season right before the season began. Top Cubs prospects joining the Chiefs in 2006 include starting pitcher Donald Veal, catcher Mark Reed, shortstop Dylan Johnston, and outfielder Davy Gregg.

The 2006 Opening Day roster will include 11 players who saw action with the Chiefs last season plus one player who played in Lansing in 2004. Nine players on the roster were drafted by the Cubs in the June 2005 draft while two were acquired via trade in the last eight months.

Donald Veal and Jesus Yepez are left-handed starting pitchers on the roster while returning Chiefs Mike Billek and Jesse Estrada are right-handed starters. Among other pitchers on the roster who started at least one contest in 2005 are right-handers Mitch Atkins, Matt Avery and Todd Blackford.

Veal was drafted out of Pima Community College in the 2nd round last June and went 1-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 11 games split between Mesa and Boise. He struck out 48 batters in 40 innings and is ranked by Baseball America as the 11th best prospect in the Cubs organization.

Yepez went 4-2 in 14 games for Boise last season with a 3.92 ERA over 61 innings. The 21-year old Dominican native was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2003.

Billek was drafted in the 3rd round last June and joined the Chiefs from Boise in early August. In eight starts with the Chiefs he was 2-0 with a 4.08 ERA and limited the Swing to one hit over six innings in his first career win.

Estrada was the lone Chiefs pitcher not to miss a start on rotation in 2005 and he joined the top 10 of the franchise's list for games started in a season with 27. He finished the season 6-12 with a 5.35 ERA in 151 1/3 innings.

Blackford was acquired by the Cubs in a trade with Atlanta for Todd Hollandsworth in August and started the Chiefs' final game of the season. In that outing he knocked off eventual MWL Champion South Bend with five shutout innings.

Atkins started 15 games in Boise posting a 3-6 record and a 5.03 ERA while Avery went 1-3 with a 4.62 ERA in 11 starts. Atkins was a 7th round pick in 2004 while Avery was selected in the 9th round in 2005.

In addition to the two left over starters, the bullpen will consist of returning Chiefs Michael Phelps, Jeff Teasley, Ed Campusano and Tim Layden. The lone newcomer in the bullpen is right-hander Roberto Sotolongo.

Phelps, a right-hander had a phenomenal four week run with the Chiefs in 2005 before earning promotion to Daytona. After being selected in the 11th round of last June's draft, Phelps posted a 1.59 ERA and allowed just 12 hits while striking out 17 batters in 17 innings. Teasley joined the Chiefs in late August and collected three saves in his four appearances.

Layden and Campusano are both left-handers who pitched out of Peoria's bullpen last season. Campusano started the season with the Chiefs last year and was 2-2 with a save and a 2.35 ERA before suffering a season-ending arm injury in late May. Layden joined the Chiefs in May and was 4-4 with a 4.62 ERA and four saves in 38 appearances.

The starting roster consists of three catchers, Mark Reed, Jake Muyco and Olin Wick. Reed started the 2005 season with the Chiefs and hit .135 in 14 games. He went to Boise for the remainder of the season and batted .250 with four homers in 55 games. Muyco was an 8th round pick out of North Carolina State last June and batted .220 in 38 games split between Mesa and Boise. Wick batted .208 last season in 34 games split between Mesa and Boise.

The infield will consist of some familiar names including Alberto Garcia, Ryan Norwood, Luis Rivera and Robinson Chirinos. Newcomers to the Midwest League are Dylan Johnston and Brandon Taylor.

Norwood is expected to start at first base for the Chiefs. The 9th round pick in 2004 had his 2005 Chiefs season cut short before it began when he broke his ankle in the exhibition game against Bradley two days before the season opener. He batted .296 with nine homers and 53 RBI for Boise in 2004.

Garcia also suffered a season ending injury with the Chiefs in 2005. The right-handed hitting corner infielder was batting .316 with a homer and 25 RBI in 58 games. He was selected to the All-Star team but couldn't participate after breaking his leg June 15th at Quad Cities.

Second baseman Robinson Chirinos is no stranger to the Midwest League. The Dominican native played for Julio Garcia in Lansing in both 2003 and 2004 before spending all of last season in the Florida State League with Daytona. He batted .273 with seven homers and 27 RBI in 74 games.

Rivera joined the Chiefs in the second half of the season and saw action at second base, shortstop and third base in his 25 games. The native of Puerto Rico batted .348 with 12 RBI and three steals.

Taylor played 57 games last season in Boise starting 37 of them at third base. He also saw time at first base and DH while batting .262 with seven homers and 30 RBI.

Johnston, the youngest player on the Chiefs Opening Day roster at 18, played 11 of his 13 games last season at shortstop. The Arizona native was drafted in the 4th round last June out of Hamilton High School. He is ranked as the 27th best prospect in the Cubs organization by Baseball America.

The Opening Day outfield will consist of Matt Ciamarella, Jonathan Defendis, Davy Gregg and Jesus Valdez who are all new to the Chiefs.

Ciamarella was acquired from the Boston Red Sox as the player to be named later in the Jermaine Van Buren deal. He split 2005 between the Gulf Coast Rookie League and the Greenville Bombers of the South Atlantic League. In 71 games he batted .286 with four homers and 35 RBI.

Defendis was drafted out of Rutgers in the 29th round last June. The 22 year old hit .324 with two homers, 12 doubles and 33 RBI in 62 games last season split between Mesa and Boise.

Gregg led the Northwest League in steals in 2005 with 36 for the Boise Hawks. The 22 year old speedster was selected in the 27th round in 2005 out of the University of South Carolina and batted .280 with nine doubles and 19 RBI from the lead-off spot.

Valdez returned from injury in 2005 after missing all of the 2004 season due to injury. The 21-year old Dominican native batted .244 with five homers and 38 RBI last season in 61 games for the Boise Hawks.

The Chiefs players and coaches are expected to arrive from Mesa, Arizona on Monday April 3rd and following the game against BU on Tuesday, the Chiefs will practice at O'Brien Field on Wednesday. The first game in against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on Thursday April 6th at 6:35 PM with live streaming audio available through Minor League Baseball via www.peoriachiefs.com. The Chiefs regular season home opener is scheduled for Tuesday April 13th at 6:30 pm against the Swing of the Quad Cities. Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins will throw out a first pitch and sign autographs. For more information about the Peoria Chiefs or O'Brien Field or to see the complete 2006 schedule, visit the team website at www.peoriachiefs.com.

Complete Roster

Pitchers

Mitch Atkins
Matt Avery
Michael Billek
Todd Blackford
Ed Campusano
Jesse Estrada
Tim Layden
Michael Phelps
Roberto Sotolongo
Jeff Teasley
Donald Veal
Jesus Yepez

Catchers

Justin Morgan
Jake Muyco
Mark Reed

Infielders

Robinson Chirinos
Alberto Garcia
Dylan Johnston
Ryan Norwood
Luis Rivera
Brandon Taylor

Outfielders

Matt Ciaramella
Johnny Defendis
Davy Gregg
Jesus Valdez

Coaching Staff

Jody Davis (Manager)
Rich Bombard (Pitching Coach)
Barbaro Garbey (Hitting Coach)
Nick Frangella (Trainer)
Phil Sabatini (Strength and Conditioning)


Northsiders Report Top Stories