KODAK, Tenn. - The Tennessee Smokies, Class AA minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, proudly announce today its 2011 Opening Day roster. On to defend their back-to-back Southern League North Division title, this year's team will field 20 returnees from the 2010 season and include Baseball America's top Cubs prospect (and #37 overall) in outfielder Brett Jackson.
A member of Team USA in the Pan American Games and 2010 Futures Game participant, Jackson hit for a combined .293 batting average between Class A Daytona and the Smokies last season. Joining him will be 2010 teammate, and Morristown, Tenn native, Matt Spencer, as well as veteran outfielder Jim Adduci.
Veteran leadership is abound on the infield as Blake Lalli and Nate Samson have each spent the better part of two seasons at Smokies Park. They will be joined by 2010 Smokies Ryan Flaherty, Marwin Gonzalez, and Josh Vitters. They will be joined by newcomers DJ LeMahieu, who hit .314 with Daytona last season, as well as Rebel Ridling.
Steve Clevenger will rejoin the Smokies in 2011. A Southern League Mid-Season All-Star, Clevenger hit .317 with 47 RBI in 88 games for Tennessee in 2010. He will be joined by Mario Mercedes, who hit .269 splitting time between Class A Peoria and Daytona.
11 of the 12 pitchers on this year's Opening Day roster were part of the Smokies' run to the Southern League Championship Series in 2010. The staff will be led by Trey McNutt, rated the #2 Cubs prospect by Baseball America. Joining him will be returnees Ryan Buchter, Alberto Cabrera, David Cales, Marco Carrillo, Hung-Wen Chen, Rafael Dolis, Blake Parker, Chris Rusin, Kyle Smit, Luke Sommer, as well as newcomer Brooks Raley.
The Smokies will begin the 2011 season this Thursday, April 7, on the road against the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Smokies will kick off their 100-year celebration at Smokies Park on April 13, as they play host to the Montgomery Biscuits. Tickets can be purchased online at www.smokiesbaseball.com, at the Smokies ticket office or by phone at (865) 286-2300.