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Smokies' 2010 Opening Day roster announced04/05/2010 5:10 PM ET
By Rennie Leon / Tennessee Smokies
SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Smokies, Class AA minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, proudly announce today its 2010 Opening Day roster. The youngest team in the Southern League a year ago, this year's team will field 18 returnees from the 2009 season and include Baseball America's top Cubs prospect (and #13 overall) in shortstop Starlin Castro.
A 2009 Futures Game participant and 2009 Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star while with High-A Daytona, Castro hit .303 for the Smokies during last year's Southern League playoffs and then .376 in the Arizona Fall League. Joining him again in the infield will be his 2009 teammates Blake Lalli and Tony Thomas. Nate Samson will also be back for a second stint in Tennessee, along with two newcomers to the team, Jake Opitz and Ryan Flaherty. Flaherty, rated #9 among Cubs prospects according to Baseball America, was Chicago's second-round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft.
In the outfield, Brandon Guyer and Ty Wright return to the Smokies in 2010. Russ Canzler, another member of the 2009 team, will switch from first base to the outfield. They will be joined by Tony Campana, who hit .284 in 126 games last season in Class A between Peoria and Daytona and Morristown, Tenn. native Matthew Spencer, who will begin the season on the disabled list.
Veteran leadership is abound behind the plate, as Robinson Chirinos and Steve Clevenger have each spent part of the past two seasons at Smokies Park. Chirinos was a 2009 Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star, while Clevenger hit .364 for the Smokies last year before heading to Iowa.
Nine of the 12 pitchers on this year's Opening Day roster were part of the Smokies' run to the Southern League Championship Series in 2009. The staff is led by Andrew Cashner, rated the #4 Cubs prospect by Baseball America. Joining him will be returnees David Cales, Marco Carrillo, Hung-Wen Chen, Alex Maestri, Marcos Mateo, Jake Muyco, Jeremy Papelbon and Dustin Sasser, as well as newcomers Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Ryan Buchter and Craig Muschko. Chris Carpenter and Casey Lambert, both members of the 2009 staff as well, will begin the season on the DL.
The Smokies kick off the 2010 season this Thursday, April 8, on the road against the Mississippi Braves. Opening Night at Smokies Park is next Wednesday, April 14, against the Chattanooga Lookouts. Tickets can be purchased at www.smokiesbaseball.com or at (865) 286-2300.
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