2009 New Britain Rock Cats Season Preview

The New Britain Rock Cats will open their 2009 season with 16 returnees to the roster, and ten new faces. Included in the roster are three former #1 draft picks, and some of the better talent the Twins' organization has to offer. Here is a look inside their Opening Day roster.

New Britain, CT – The 2009 edition of the New Britain Rock Cats has now left their Spring Training site in Florida and will, later today, be arriving at their Summer home in Connecticut. New skipper Tom Nieto and his players – 16 returnees and 10 rookies - are all eager to unpack their bags and begin the franchise's 37th consecutive season of professional baseball in the Nutmeg State. The Eastern League club will open the new baseball season on Wednesday night in New Hampshire.

The Rock Cats' 2009 Opening Day Roster carries three former Minnesota Twins #1 Draft selections – RHP Matthew Fox (2004), OF Matt Moses (2003), RHP Jay Rainville – and seven more players whom Baseball America ranks among the best Prospects in the entire Minnesota organization. Included in this latter group are 21-year-old C Wilson Ramos (BA Prospect #3), 24-year-old 3B Danny Valencia (#5), and 24-year-old RHP Jeff Manship (#11). Both Valencia and Manship were very productive mid-season additions to the 2008 Rock Cats.

Other key returnees to the Hardware City in 2009 include 25-year-old INF Steve Tolleson – a 2008 Eastern League All-Star who finished among the League's Top Ten hitters and was voted the Rock Cats 2008 Player of the Year – and 24-year-old RHP Rob Delaney, who posted a 1.05 ERA out the bullpen and was later named MiLB.com's 2008 Relief Pitcher of the Year. Baseball America cites Messrs. Tolleson and Delaney as the Twins' 23rd and 24th Top Prospects, respectively.

Additional players making the journey back to New Britain in 2009 include LHP Ryan Mullins – a 2008 EL All-Star – and RH bullpen stalwarts Frank Mata and Zack Ward. Moreover, three Infielders who previously performed in Rock Cats uniforms will also be back: 25-year-old Brian Dinkelman; 26-year-old Toby Gardenhire, and 25-year-old Erik Lis. Dinkelman was a 2008 Florida State League All-Star; the versatile Gardenhire won the 2008 Rock Cats 10th Player Award; and the powerful Lis led the entire Eastern League in Doubles (36) last year.

The complete 2009 Opening Day Roster in New Britain is as follows:

PITCHERS (12): RHP Rob Delaney, RHP Cole Devries, RHP Matthew Fox, LHP Jose Lugo, RHP Jeff Manship, RHP Frank Mata, LHP Ryan Mullins, RHP Yohan Pino, RHP Jay Rainville, RHP Anthony Slama, RHP Zach Ward, and RHP Oswaldo Sosa. The 23-year-old Sosa will start the season on the DL due to a back injury suffered in the off-season. Devries, 24, is a University of Minnesota product who has won 19 games in his first two seasons of pro ball; Fox, 26, was a 1st Team All-American at the University of Central Florida; Lugo, 24, made 51 appearances out of the Ft. Myers bullpen in 2008; and Slama, 25, played at San Diego State University and was 3rd in all of Minor League Baseball last year with a Strike Out to 9 Innings Pitched ratio of 13.9/9.

CATCHERS (2): Wilson Ramos, and 21-year-old Allan De San Miguel. De San Miguel is another in a long line of Australian prospects signed by Minnesota.

INFIELDERS (7): Brian Dinkelman, Toby Gardenhire, Erik Lis, Yancarios Oriz, Whit Robbins, Steve Tolleson, and Danny Valencia. The 24-year-old Robbins is a 1B with power out of Georgia Tech; Ortiz, 24, is a smooth-fielding SS out of San Cristobal, DR.

OUTFIELDERS (5): Joe Gaetti, Matt Moses, Juan Portes, Rene Tososi, and Brandon Roberts. The 24-year-old Roberts will begin the new season on the DL with a lower back injury. Gaetti, 27, is the son of former Twins great Gary Gaetti and played collegiately at North Carolina State; Portes, 23, is from suburban Boston and hit .270 with 14 HRs at Ft. Myers in 2008; Tosoni, 22, is from British Columbia and his potent bat ranks him, per Baseball America, as Minnesota's 18th best Prospect. Moses, 24, enters 2009 as the New Britain franchise's all-time RBI leader with 181.

The Rock Cats 2009 Home Opener at New Britain Stadium will be Thursday, April 16th at 6:05 PM. Good seats remain available for that special game and all others during the 2009 Season. Fans seeking tickets may visit the New Britain Stadium Box Office (M-F, 10 AM to 6 PM, Sat !0 AM to 2 PM) or call the Ticket Office at (860) 224-8383. Those interested in the convenience of online purchasing may do so by visiting the club's website (www.rockcats.com).

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