'Topes, Lookouts, 66ers, Loons Open Tonight

Opening games tonight, April 9th, include the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes hosting the Omaha Royals, Double-A Chattanooga's Lookouts travel to Birmingham, Single-A Inland Empire will entertain the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and the Single-A Great Lakes Loons are at Dayton.

ALBUQUERQUE kicks-off their seventh home opener tonight with a series against the Omaha Royals, Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The 2009 home opener is particularly special as it is the first game under the new partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The series with the O-Royals begins an eight-game stretch that features a slew of exciting giveaways and special events.

The 2009 Isotopes Opening Day roster has been revealed and it's safe to say that the 'Topes' first year as Triple-A partner of the Dodgers is going to be extremely entertaining. Manager Tim Wallach will also have the luxury of putting out what should be one of the most potent lineups in the Pacific Coast League. While things could still change between now and when Albuquerque meets Omaha at The Lab on April 9, this is the Isotopes' possible rotation: 

LHP Shawn Estes, RHP Charlie Haeger, LHP Eric Milton, RHP Miguel Pinango?and LHP Eric Stults. Out of the bullpen: RHP Giancardo Alvarado, RHP Henry Bonilla. RHP Nick DeBarr, RHP Dwayne Pollok, RHP Tanyon Sturtze and RHP Jeff Weaver.?

?Catchers include A.J. Ellis and Danny Ardoin.

On the infield: Juan Castro, Chin-Lung Hu, Hector Luna, Luis Maza and Valentino Pascucci.

The 'Topes will have one of the deepest outfields in the PCL with: Dee Brown, Xavier Paul, Mitch Jones and Jason Repko.

It's safe to say this offense is going to be able put some runs on the board! 

CHATTANOOGA'S 27-man roster includes three players on the disabled list, features an impressive array of top prospects and proven Southern League performers.

OF Andrew Lambo, the number one prospect in the Dodgers organization per Baseball America, headlines a group of heralded prospects. Three other prospects (RHP Josh Lindblom (#4), LHP Scott Elbert (#5), 3B Josh Bell (#8)) are also are featured in Baseball America's list of top 10 Dodgers prospects, while LHP Brent Leach (#21), OF Jamie Hoffman (#22), LHP Victor Garate (#24), LHP James Adkins (#26), and C Lucas May (#28) round out an impressive group of young players featured in Baseball America.

In addition, the roster features a copious amount of experience, as 19 of the players have accrued time in the Southern League. Furthermore, eight of whom have been tabbed as Southern League All-Stars (RHP Jesus Castillo, C Lucas May, INF Juan Gonzalez, INF Adolfo Gonzalez, INF Gaby Martinez, INF Russ Mitchell, OF Adam Godwin, and OF Jamie Hoffman). Also, C JD Closser, RHP Tim Corcoran, RHP Travis Chick (played for the Lookouts in 2005-06), and LHP Scott Elbert have all played at the Major League level.

RHP Tim Corcoran, INF Adolfo Gonzalez, and OF James Tomlin will all begin the season on the disabled list.

INLAND EMPIRE'S roster includes 14 players from the 2008 team, including standout outfielders Tommy Giles and Trayvon Robinson and right-handed pitcher Chris Withrow, the Dodgers first round pick in 2007.

The 66ers will be managed Carlos Subero, who enters his first year with the club after leading the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League to a 74-63 record and playoff birth. Former Dodger and 25-year Major League veteran Charlie Hough returns for his third year as pitching coach.

Hough will work with three former Dodger first-round draft picks on the 2009 pitching staff, Greg Miller (2002), Justin Orenduff (2002) and Withrow. Another former Dodger, Franklin Stubbs, joins the 66ers as the hitting coach. The former first baseman was a key part of the 1988 Dodgers World Series championship team.

The 2009 roster includes five of the Dodgers top-30 prospects according to Baseball America. Four of the top five prospects are pitchers: Chris Withrow (9), Steven Johnson (15), Daigoro Rondon (23) and Josh Wall (29). Rounding out the prospect group is infielder Pedro Baez (13), who slugged 12 homeruns and drove in 50 runs in 61 games with short-season Class-A Ogden in 2008.

Nancy Patterson will serve as the athletic trainer in her first season with the 66ers while Nate Tamargo joins the club as the strength and conditioning coach.

GREAT LAKES active roster consists of 12 players selected by the Dodgers in the top 10 rounds of the draft and a whopping 11 players ranked by Baseball America as Top 30 prospects in the Dodgers' organization.  The Loons have never had as many Top 10 draft picks or BA Top 30 players at any time on their roster.

The Loons' crop of prospects is led by 2008 first round draft choice Ethan Martin, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher from Toccoa, GA, ranked by BA as the Dodgers' No. 4 prospect. 

Other prospects expected to contribute significantly include shortstop Devaris Gordon, a quick, rangy shortstop ranked by BA as the Dodgers' No. 7 prospect; hard-throwing, right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (BA No. 10); outfielder Kyle Russell (BA No. 17), the University of Texas' all-time home run leader; right-handed pitcher Jon Michael Redding (BA No. 18); and catcher Tony Delmonico (BA No. 19), a converted infielder from Florida State.

Additionally, the Loons have a core of four key players with significant experience in the California League – first baseman Austin Gallagher (BA No. 11), right-handed pitchers Javy Guerra (BA No. 25) and Jordan Pratt (BA No. 30), and second baseman Jaime Pedroza.

The Loons have 10 players returning to the team from past seasons – pitchers Bobby Blevins (2008), Blake Brannon (2007-08), Justin Miller (2008) and Kyle Smit (2007-08); catcher Esteban Lopez (2008); infielders Parker Dalton (2008) and Elian Herrera (2007); and outfielders Erik Kanaby (2008), Alfredo Silverio (2008), and Travis Vetters (2008).

A record-low four Loons players were born outside the United States, including Japanese-born right-handed pitcher Robert Boothe, likely the first Japanese-born player to play for the Loons.  Catcher Fumi Ishibashi also hails from Japan, but will begin the season on the Loons' disabled list.

A mostly veteran team, the Loons have 16 active players with college baseball experience, a new Loons' record, and just two players – Martin and Eovaldi – transitioning from high school to their first full professional seasons.  The Loons have 13 players older than 22 years old, a new opening day record.

Manager Juan Bustabad returns for his second season managing the Loons, eighth season as a manager with the Dodgers and 13th overall season as a minor league manager.  His career record is (537-446), 91 games over .500.  Twenty-one year major league veteran Danny Darwin returns for his second season as pitching coach, his fourth season with the Dodgers.  Michael Boughton begins his first season as the Loons hitting coach and second season as a Dodger coach.

The Loons' opening day roster:

Pitchers: Bobby Blevins, Robert Boothe, Blake Brannon, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Garcia, Javy Guerra, Ethan Martin, Justin Miller, Jordan Pratt, JonMichael Redding, Kyle Smit, Steve Smith (DL) and Joshua Walter.

Catchers: Tony Delmonico, Fumi Ishibashi (DL), Esteban Lopez, Matt Wallach.

Infielders: Parker Dalton, Austin Gallagher, Devaris Gordon, Anthony Hatch, Elian Herrera and Jaime Pedroza.

Outfielders: Erik Kanaby, Kyle Russell, Alfredo Silverio and Travis Vetters.