Minor League Aces Ready For Openers

While the Phillies season is two games old, the minor league season gets underway Thursday. Three of the four minor league teams open on the road, with just the Clearwater Threshers at home for their debut with Cole Hamels on the mound.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre at Columbus

Allen Davis leads the Red Barons as they open in Columbus. Davis went 13-9, 3.64 at AA Reading last season and made three starts with the Red Barons, going 1-1, 2.03 at the AAA level.

Davis will serve as the team's ace and be followed in the rotation by Jeremy Cummings, Matt White, Eude Brito and Seung Lee. It's not clear where White and Lee will pitch in the rotation, with one of them pitching third and the other fifth. Brito is set for his first start on Sunday and will pitch fourth in the rotation.

Reading at Bowie

Giovany Gonzalez will lead the Reading Phillies into their opener at Bowie. Reading pitching coach Tom Filer thinks Gonzalez is going to be fun to watch. "He has three pitches that are all above average, he's a young guy - 20 years old - and the sky is the limit for this kid," said Filer referring to his staff ace. Filer believes that Gonzalez simply has some "refining" to do in order to make it to the next level.

Gonzalez will be followed by Daniel Haigwood, Scott Mathieson, Brian Mazone and Tim McClaskey in the rotation.

Dunedin at Clearwater

All eyes will be on Clearwater Thursday night as the Threshers debut with Cole Hamels on the mound. The temperature in Clearwater should be around 76 degrees at game time, which is exactly what the Phillies wanted for Hamels. They figure it's better to have him pitching in that environment early in the season than in the 60 degree weather that the Reading Phillies will be playing in against Bowie. If Hamels pitches well and stays healthy, he'll be climbing quickly once the weather warms.

The Clearwater rotation could be second to only Reading in pitching prospects. Behind Hamels, the Threshers feature Andy Baldwin, Derek Griffith, J.A. Happ and Zack Segovia.

Incidentally, Hamels will be opposed by A.J. Burnett, who is on a rehab assignment from the Toronto Blue Jays. Burnett's catcher will be veteran major leaguer Gregg Zaun, who is also rehabbing.

Lakewood at Lexington

Kyle Kendrick gets the nod for Lakewood. The 21 year old right-hander pitched at three different levels last season - Batavia, Lakewood and Clearwater - going a combined 5-8 with a 4.65 ERA.

The BlueClaws also have two picks from the 2005 draft in their rotation. Third round pick Matt Maloney is scheduled to follow Kendrick in the rotation and tenth round pick Josh Outman will be Lakewood's number four starter. The other two spots go to Carlos Carrasco and Maximo De La Cruz.

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