Manager Bill Dancy will have an experienced roster in his first season as Iowa's skipper. The roster features nine players on Chicago's 40-man roster and 13 players with major league experience. Fans will recognize many of the names, as 20 of the 24 players have previous experience with the I-Cubs.
On the mound, Casey Coleman, Thomas Diamond, J.R. Mathes, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, and Roberto Coello will form the starting rotation. Coleman and Diamond both started the season in Iowa's rotation last year before earning their first major-league call-ups. Mathes enters his fifth season with Iowa and is the organization's career leader with 40 wins. Bibens-Dirkx joined the I-Cubs in July last season after earning All-Star honors at double-A Tennessee. Coello made his major league debut with Boston last year and was acquired by the Cubs from the Red Sox just prior to spring training for infielder Tony Thomas.
The bullpen includes right-handers Justin Berg, Esmailin Caridad, Chris Carpenter, Jake Muyco, and Jeff Stevens along with lefties John Gaub and Scott Maine. All spent at least part of last season with Iowa, and Berg, Caridad, Stevens, and Maine also pitched for Chicago. Baseball America rates Carpenter #6 on the Cubs' Top 30 prospect list. He is the highest-rated player on that list on Iowa's opening day roster.
Max Ramirez and Chris Robinson will split time behind the plate. Ramirez was claimed off waivers from Boston in January and is in his first year in the Cubs' organization. Ramirez has been a highly rated prospect in the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and Texas Rangers organizations and appeared in the big leagues for Texas in 2008 and 2010. Robinson begins his third straight season in Iowa. He was a PCL All-Star in '08.
On the infield, 2010 regulars Matt Camp, Bryan LaHair, Bobby Scales, and Marquez Smith all return. LaHair tied for the team lead with 25 home runs last season while Smith was the PCL's Topps Player of the Month in August. Scales has hit .290 over the last three seasons with Iowa. Scott Moore returns to Iowa for the first time since 2007 when the Cubs traded him to Baltimore on August 31. He has played 80 major league games between Chicago and Baltimore in his career.
Luis Montanez also returns to the Cubs' organization after four years in the Orioles system. The Cubs drafted Montanez in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2000 draft and he played in 82 games with Iowa in 2006. Montanez has played 93 big-league games with the Orioles over the last three seasons. Tony Campana, Fernando Perez, and Ty Wright round out the outfield corps. Campana led the organization with 48 stolen bases at double-A Tennessee last year. Perez is also know for his great speed and came to the Cubs along with Matt Garza from Tampa Bay in December. Wright played in 58 games with Iowa last year after an All-Star first half with double-A Tennessee.
The Iowa Cubs open the 2011 season on Thursday, April 7th at Round Rock. Game time is 7:05 and the game will be broadcast live on AM 940 with the Safeco On-Deck Circle Pre-Game Show starting at 6:45. "Voice of the I-Cubs" Deene Ehlis and Randy Wehofer will have the call again this year.
The Cubs' home opener is on Friday, April 15th at 7:05 against the Memphis Redbirds. The gates will open at 5:30 and the first 1,000 fans will receive a magnet schedule sponsored by Bob Oliver Heating & Air Conditioning. There will also be fireworks after the game sponsored by Mediacom and Fox Sports Midwest. For tickets, fans can call (515) 243-6111 or visit iowacubs.com.