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South sluggers take aim at North's Wood07/12/2009 10:00 AM ET
By Bailey Stephens / MLB.com
With some of the Southern League's top young talent matching up at the All-Star Game on Monday night in Birmingham, anything could happen. But one thing is certain: the competition should be fierce.
Glancing at the North Division roster, it's clear it will have plenty of ammunition to throw at its South Division counterparts.
With Carolina Mudcats left-hander Travis Wood (8-3, 1.37 ERA) on the mound and explosive West Tenn Diamond Jaxx outfielder Ezequiel Carrera in the lineup, the North has the advantage of two of the league's very best on its side.
Woods, a former second-round pick of the Reds, leads all of Minor League Baseball with a 1.29 ERA. He headlines a pitching staff that includes Huntsville Stars right-hander Donovan Hand, who has seven wins and a 3.05 ERA. Hand's Huntsville teammate, reliever Casey Baron, boasts a 2.13 ERA.
Carrera will team with Mudcats slugger Todd Frazier to power the North's offense. Frazier, the Reds' 2007 supplemental first-round selection, tops the circuit in doubles (31) and extra-base hits (40). Carrera's West Tenn teammate, Marshall Hubbard, should give the lineup even more pop in his second straight Southern League All-Star appearance.
Despite the North's big names and league leaders, Monday's tilt should not be one-sided -- not if South Division starter Kyle Cofield has anything to say about it.
Cofield got the nod after John Ely of the host Birmingham Barons pitched on Friday. Cofield (5-2, 4.00), who appeared in last year's California/Carolina League All-Star Game, will have his Mississippi Braves batterymate, J.C. Boscan, behind the plate.
Complementing Cofield on the South pitching staff is a trio of Jacksonville Suns, led by Kasey Olenberger (7-1, 1.18) and closer Matt Peterson (2-2, 19 saves, 3.57).
Barons outfielder Stefan Gartrell, who leads the league with 60 RBIs, has tentatively been penciled in to bat cleanup. Joining him in the starting lineup will be four members of the Mobile BayBears, including first baseman Sean Coughlin (.297, 11, 39) and third baseman Ricardo Sosa (.258, 9, 45).
Jordan Danks (.293, 4, 12) was added to the roster as a replacement for former Birmingham teammate David Cook, who was among the league leaders in homers and RBIs before he was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte.
SWINGING FOR THE FENCES: The league's top sluggers will duke it out during Home Run Derby, a traditional All-Star favorite. Gartrell will have the hometown fans behind him as he headed to the break ranked third in the circuit with 16 homers. Other participants will include Frazier, Coughlin and Sosa.
The competition will consist of three rounds, with four hitters progressing to the second round and two going head-to-head in the finals.
THE FUN CONTINUES: In addition to the game itself, fans will be entertained by the ZOOperstars!, BirdZerk! and Jake the Diamond Dog. The Barons also are offering free jersey T-shirts to the first 1,000 kids through the gate.
And the All-Star Game will be followed by a fireworks display.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.