Peoria Chiefs 2008 Opening Day Roster

PEORIA, IL- The Chicago Cubs have announced the players who will comprise the 2008 Opening Day roster for the Peoria Chiefs. Headlining for the Chiefs this year are Robert Hernandez, who is returning for his second season with the team, Josh Donaldson, Ryan Acosta, and Kyler Burke.

Other returning Chiefs include infielder Jonathan Mota, outfielder Dylan Johnston, catcher Blake Lalli, and pitcher Blake Parker, among others.

The 2008 roster includes eight players who played with the Chiefs last season plus another who played for the team in 2006. Ten players were acquired from the 2007 draft, with the remaining fifteen having joined the Cubs system as far back as 2003. Eight of the players are from Latin American, with one hailing from South Korea.

Among the infielders, Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Mota are switching between shortstop and second base, while Nathan Samson will also be working at second. Jovan Rosa is at third base, and Marquez Smith is covering second and third.

Mota is returning for his third season with the Chiefs. Last year, he played shortstop, second, and third base for the infield and hit .307 at O'Brien Field. Mota was signed in 2003 as a non-drafted free agent.

Gonzalez had 17 hits in 17 games in Mesa last season, seven of which were for extra bases. He was signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in November of 2005.

Rosa hit .359 in 59 games with at Lake City Community College in 2007, with nine homers, 57 runs scored, 16 doubles, and 56 RBI. He was a 22nd round selection in the June, 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Rosa was named First Team All-Connecticut and Rawlings All-Region Player before being drafted by the White Sox after high school.

Samson played for the Chiefs last season, following a brief stint in Daytona. With the Chiefs, he batted .246 in 61 games. He was a 34th round selection from the June 2006 amateur player draft. Samson's father, Fred, played eight seasons with the Texas Rangers organization in the late 80's and early 90's.

Smith, an 8th round selection in the June 2007 amateur player draft, was selected as a preseason first-team All-ACC prior to his senior year at Clemson University. He was also rated the number one defensive third baseman in the ACC in the preseason by Baseball America. Smith is a veteran to the Peoria team and batted .297 in his 18 games with the Chiefs last year, collecting three homers and 14 RBI.

The 2008 outfield includes Cliff Andersen, Kyler Burke, and Dylan Johnston covering left field. Drew Rundle is expected to split time between the outfield and first base.

Andersen spent the majority of the 2007 season in Mesa, where he batted .298 in 45 games, pulling in 11 doubles and 17 RBI. He also scored seven triples this year, tying him for third in the Northwest League. Andersen was selected in 2006 in the ninth round of the draft.

Burke signed with the San Diego Padres in 2006, but was traded to the Cubs system with Rob Bowen for Michael Barrett last summer after playing for Fort Wayne in the Midwest League. In 2007, Burke hit .254 in 63 games with Boise, with ten home runs and 41 RBI.

Johnston began the 2007 season with the Chiefs as the starting shortstop before being plagued with his second injury in just two years. He suffered an ankle injury in 2006 while playing with Peoria. In Johnston's 62 games with the Hawks last year, he hit .237 with three home runs and 16 RBI.

Rundle was rated the 106th best player by Baseball America pre-draft, projecting him as a 3rd or 4th rounder, but he wasn't selected by the Cubs until the 14th round of the 2006 draft. In 48 games in Boise last season, Rundle finished with a batting average of .199.

Three catchers are leading off Peoria's 2008 season: Josh Donaldson, Blake Lalli, and Mario Mercedes.

Donaldson led all NWL catchers last year with a .990 fielding percentage, throwing out 38 percent of basestealers. He was a Cubs 2nd round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

Lalli is returning for his third year with the Chiefs, where he is expected to split his time between catching, first base, and as a designated hitter. Lalli had a .295 average in 77 games last season. He was signed with the Cubs in 2006 as a non-drafted free agent.

Mercedes signed with the Cubs in 2003 when he was 16 as a non-drafted free agent. He allowed only four passed balls last year and made only two errors in 167 chances.

The 2008 Opening Day roster consists of 13 pitchers. The tentatively planned starting rotation includes Al Albuquerque, Robert Hernandez, Chris Siegfried, Zach Ashwood, Dae-Eun Rhee and possibly Ryan Acosta.

Albuquerque started the 2007 season in Peoria until a reoccurring injury to his arm sent him to Boise. He made six starts and went 3-2 with the Hawks as well as gaining one save and posting a 3.73 ERA in ten games.

Hernandez, a Venezuelan native, was the youngest pitcher in the Midwest League in 2007, at 18 years of age. Hernandez posted a 8-9 mark with a 3.20 ERA in 20 games, and in 18 of his 20 appearances, he worked at least five innings or more, helping him to the fifth-highest inning total (103 1/3) on the Chiefs staff. Five of his eight wins came at O'Brien Field.

Siegfried is returning to Peoria for his second season with the Chiefs. In 2007, he went 2-0 with a 5.59 in 10 games. He was an 11th round selection for the Cubs in the 2007 amateur player draft. The lefthander was the winning pitcher in the first ever no-hitter thrown at O'Brien Field last August.

Ashwood was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2004 but chose to go on to Texas Christian University instead. He finished his college career at Kansas and was drafted by the Cubs last June. In Boise last year, Ashwood went 4-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 18 games.

Rhee was signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in 2007 and will make his professional debut this season with the Chiefs. Rhee will be the first South Korean native to wear the Chiefs uniform.

Acosta was selected in 2007 as a 12th round pick by the Cubs. He pitched three games with the Hawks last year, going 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA. In 2007, Acosta was named an Under-Armour All-American and a Rawlings All-American.

The bullpen will be made up of seven more pitchers, including Alberto Cabrera, Jordan Lathem, Marcos Mateo, Craig Muschko, Blake Parker, Dustin Sasser, and Steve Vento.

Cabrera went 3-0 in five starts with Boise last summer, striking out 23 batters and walking ten in 26 innings of work with the Hawks. He was signed with the Cubs in July of 2005.

Latham is noted for his 87 to 91 MPH fastball, and last year in Boise he went 2-0 with a 3.74 ERA in 20 games. He was signed in the 29th round of the 2006 draft.

Mateo was traded to the Cubs in September of 2007 to complete the Buck Coats trade with the Cincinnati Reds. While with the Dayton Dragons, he was selected to the 2007 Midwest League All-Star team. In 41 games last year, Mateo went 2-4 with a 3.50 ERA and didn't allow a run in 5 1/3 innings against the Chiefs.

Muschko attended LaSalle University, planning on playing football but walking onto the baseball team as a freshman instead. After being selected in the 22nd round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Muschko played in 14 games, where he went 0-2 with a 6.86 ERA.

Parker played for four years while attending the University of Arkansas, where he split his time between right field, first base, and catcher, after pitching throughout high school. He returned to the mound with the Hawks last year, going 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 8 games. Parker was selected by the Cubs in 2006 in the 16th round and finished that season with the Chiefs at third base in the playoffs before becoming a pitcher.

Sasser spent all of 2007 with Boise, starting in all 14 games he played. He went 3-4 with a 4.59 ERA. He was selected in the 15th round of the 2007 draft.

Vento made 22 appearances last year in Boise while posting a 2-1 record with a 4.23 ERA. He struck out 29 and walked 21 in 33 1/3 innings of work with the Hawks. Vento's brother-in-law, Tommy Murphy, plays for the Anaheim Angels.

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