Des Moines, IA - The Chicago Cubs have set the Opening Day roster for the 2013 Iowa Cubs in advance of the season opening game on Thursday, April 4 at Albuquerque. This year's roster features 18 players with major league experience, 12 who have played for Iowa before, and four players who will make their triple-A debut when they play their first game with Iowa this year.
Lefties Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley return to headline the starting rotation. Rusin led the I-Cubs in wins (8), starts (25), and strikeouts (94) last season before getting his first major league call-up on August 21. He will get the start on Opening Night in Albuquerque. Raley posted a 3.62 ERA in 14 starts with Iowa and also made his major league debut last August.
Right-handers Drew Carpenter, Barret Loux, and Nick Struck round out the starting rotation. Carpenter is former second round pick of the Phillies in 2006 and has pitched in the big leagues with Philadelphia (2008-11), San Diego (2011), and Toronto (2012). Loux went 14-1 with a 3.47 ERA for double-A Frisco in the Texas Rangers' organization last year and was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Year. The Cubs acquired him from the Rangers last November and Loux is a former college teammate of Raley's at Texas A&M University. Struck was 14-10 with a 3.18 ERA in 28 games (26 starts) at double-A Tennessee last season and was named the Chicago Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Casey Coleman, Rafael Dolis, and Blake Parker are familiar names out of the bullpen for Iowa fans. Coleman has split time between Iowa and Chicago each of the last three seasons. Dolis was Chicago's closer for a time early last season and also pitched in 13 games for the I-Cubs. Parker is one of three pitchers tied for Iowa's all-time career saves record with 34 over the last five years. Jaye Chapman and Yoanner Negrin also return to Iowa after brief stints in 2012. Veterans Jensen Lewis, Zach Putnam, and Cory Wade fill out the all-right-handed bullpen. Lewis and Wade joined the Cubs as minor league free agents while Putnam was claimed off waivers from Colorado this off-season. All three have been in the big leagues with Lewis and Wade each having 161 major league appearances under their belts. Right-hander Esmailin Caridad will open the season on the disabled list.
Baseball America rates Brett Jackson fifth on the Cubs' Top Prospect list, making the returning outfielder the highest-ranking player on Iowa's Opening Day roster. Jackson has hit 25 homers and stole 33 bases in 154 games with Iowa over the last two seasons and made his big-league debut last August. Ty Wright also returns to Iowa's outfield while veterans Brian Bogusevic, Darnell McDonald, and Tim Torres round out the group. Bogusevic is a Chicago-land area native who was a first-round draft pick by the Houston Astros as a pitcher in 2005, but converted to the outfield in 2007. He spent all of last season in the big leagues with the Astros. McDonald was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Orioles in 1997 and has played in 306 major league games with five different teams. Torres is a super-utility player who will also see time in the infield and is the emergency catcher.
Logan Watkins and Josh Vitters are two prospects in the infield who rank 19th and 25th respectively on Baseball America's list. Watkins was the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year last year after hitting .281 with 93 runs scored, 20 doubles, 11 triples, nine homers, and 28 stolen bases in 133 games at Tennessee. Vitters was a PCL All-Star for Iowa last year before getting called up to Chicago with Jackson in August. Algona, Iowa native, Brad Nelson, signed with Chicago as a minor league free agent during the off-season and returns home to play for the Cubs this season. Nelson is the first Iowa native to play for the I-Cubs since Mike Mahoney in 2007. Minor league free agent Edwin Maysonet and Canadian-born Wes Darvill round out the infield. Maysonet has 76 games of major league experience with Houston and Milwaukee. Darvill spent all of last season with single-A Peoria.
J.C. Boscan and Luis Flores will share the catching duties. Boscan has been in pro ball since 1997 and has played in 11 big league games with Atlanta over the last three seasons. The Cubs drafted Flores in the seventh round of the 2008 draft out of Oklahoma State University.
Thursday night's season-opener at Isotopes Park starts at 7:35 Central time. "Voice of the Cubs" Deene Ehlis and Randy Wehofer will have the call live on AM 940 and streamed at iowacubs.com. The Cubs' home opener is on Friday, April 12 at 7:05 against the Isotopes. The gates will open at 5:35 for a "Mediacom Friday Fireworks" Night. Tickets are on sale at Principal Park, online at iowacubs.com, or by phone at (515) 243-6111.