Salem, VA (April 2, 2012) - With the new season set to commence on Friday in Frederick, the Salem Red Sox are proud to announce their opening roster that will strive to bring the Mills Cup back to the Roanoke Valley for the first time since 2001. Manager Billy McMillon, Pitching Coach Kevin Walker, and Hitting Coach Rich Gedman, all three of whom played in the Big Leagues, possess a talent-laden group of prospects to mold into a contender. After kicking off the season with six games on the road, the Salem Sox will enjoy their home opener at LewisGale Field on April 13, 2012 against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
Three of Salem's position players are ranked among the top ten prospects in the entire Boston Red Sox organization, according to Baseball America. Leading the list is Aruban shortstop Xander Bogaerts, a 19-year old who is listed as the #2 prospect in the organization. Bogaerts belted 16 homers and drove in 45 runs over 72 games for Greenville in 2011. Brandon Jacobs, an outfielder from Snellville, GA, joins Salem after bashing 17 homers and driving in 80 runs in 115 games last year for Greenville. Jacobs is ranked sixth on Baseball America's top ten list, while Jackie Bradley, Jr., an outfielder from Richmond, comes to the Roanoke Valley as the publication's 10th best prospect in the system. Bradley won two national championships at the University of South Carolina and is the highest-drafted player opening the season with Salem, taken with the 40th overall selection in the sandwich round of last year's draft.
Second-baseman Sean Coyle, a third round-pick in 2010, and third-baseman Travis Shaw, a ninth round selection in 2011, are two more newcomers in the infield who will make their Advanced-A debuts this year. Michael Almanzar, Zach Gentile, Drew Hedman, and James Kang all return to Salem's infield as part of the Opening Day squad of 2012. Hedman spent all of 2010 with Salem, while Almanzar, Gentile, and Kang each spent parts of 2011 with the Sox. Joining Bradley and Jacobs in the outfield are Advanced-A rookies Matty Johnson and Felix Sanchez, while Shannon Wilkerson returns to Salem after launching ten round-trippers in the Carolina League last year. Behind the plate, Christian Vazquez enters the Advanced-A level following a breakout 2011 campaign with Greenville, in which he hit .283 with 18 homers and 84 RBI in 105 games. Vazquez is accompanied by fellow catchers Carson Blair and Adalberto Ibarra.
On the mound, Salem has five returning hurlers and seven fresh arms that are set for their first taste of the Carolina League. Ryan Pressly, Drake Britton, and Pete Ruiz all are back after spending much of the 2011 season in Salem's rotation. Manny Rivera, who pitched five games for Salem last year, is back on the staff alongside Jeremiah Bayer, who shared the team-lead with 36 appearances a season ago, compiling a 3.26 ERA. Miguel Celestino arrives in Salem after going 10-6 in 27 starts for Greenville in 2011, while Keith Couch and Scott Swinson bring versatility to the team, having worked extensively as both starters and relievers with the Drive. Marco Duarte, Ruben Flores, Andrew Jones, and Mike Olmstead fill out the Salem pitching staff.
Salem has gotten off to super starts in each of its three seasons as a Red Sox affiliate, having compiled a 41-22 April record from 2009-2011. No other Carolina League team has more than 34 April victories during this span.
Following a six-game trip through Frederick and Lynchburg, the Salem Sox are back at LewisGale Field for a six-game homestand from April 13-April 18. Special promotions include a free magnet schedule giveaway on April 13 and a Tuxedo T-Shirt giveaway on April 14.
For the fourth consecutive season, "Voice of the Salem Sox" Evan Lepler will broadcast all 140 games on Flagship Station NewsTalk 960 WFIR and streaming online for free at www.salemsox.com.
Note: The list of 27 players is a tentative roster, with roster moves forthcoming before Opening Day.