KINSTON, NC -- The Wood Ducks have set the season's starting pitching rotation ahead of Thursday's opener. Right-hander Emerson Martinez gets the nod for the Woodies in Lynchburg, VA on Thursday night. It is the first Opening Day start in the minors for the 22-year-old Venezuelan.
The next three games with the Hillcats features RHP Edgar Arredondo, RHP Michael Matuella, and RHP Jonathan Hernandez in that order. Next, Down East turns to RHP Walker Weickel and LHP Christian Torres to open the series in Woodbridge, VA on Monday and Tuesday with the Potomac Nationals.
Martinez joined the Wood Ducks on April 28th from Hickory and finished with a 3-10 record and 4.19 ERA in 19 starts. He was a model for consistency, accumulating the second-most innings pitched on the team with 116. Then he found a groove over his last five starts, going 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in those starts as the DEWDs pushed for the playoffs. He was also the winning pitcher in the clinching Game 2 of the South Division Championship Series against Myrtle Beach in which he appeared from the bullpen for two innings without allowing a run.
Arredondo will take the ball in game two of the series with the Hillcats. The 20-year-old spent all of 2017 with Hickory and finished 6-6 with a 3.86 ERA in a team-leading 21 starts. He also led the Crawdads in strikeouts (105) and innings pitched (109.2). This will be the right-hander's third season stateside out of four years in the organization. He also appeared in a game with the Quintana Roo in 2013 when he was only 15, making him the youngest pitcher to ever appear in a Mexican League game.
Matuella moves to the High-A level after a healthy 2017 in Hickory. A former Duke Blue Devil, the righty was coming back from a forearm strain and Tommy John surgery in 2016 and 2015 respectively. He finished second on the Crawdads staff with 20 starts while seven of his last nine starts were at least five innings long. A former All-American at Duke, he's ranked as the No.22 prospect in the Rangers organization by MLB.com and No.30 by Baseball America.
Hernandez is another returner to the Wood Ducks like Martinez from the championship team in 2017. The right-hander started Game 1 of the South Division Championship Series and claimed a win after five and one-third innings of one-run ball against the Pelicans. Born in Memphis, TN while his father, Fernando, was pitching in the Tigers' organization at AA, but Hernandez was raised in the Dominican. He's also a ranked prospect in the organization, slotting at No.14 and No.17 for MLB.com and Baseball America respectively.
Weickel begins his seventh season in pro ball, but only his second as a member of the Rangers organization. He was signed by Texas as a Minor League free agent last April and was assigned to Hickory. He finished 5-4 with a 3.01 ERA with all five wins coming in his final 11 starts. He was previously selected out of Olympia High School in Orlando, FL as the 55th overall pick by the San Diego Padres in 2012. The righty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and missed most of the 2016 season while recovering. He has made 70 career starts in the Minors.
Torres rounds out the rotation and is the lone southpaw in the unit. Born and raised in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, initially made his stateside debut at Indian Hills (CA) Community College before transferring to Faulkner (AL) University where he was selected as a senior. He mostly appeared out of the bullpen, but still collected 85 innings with the Crawdads in 2017. He also tied for the organization lead in in fewest walks allowed (min. 80 IP) as he matched teammate Edgar Arredondo's 21 walks.
The Wood Ducks' season begins with a seven-game road trip to the Lynchburg Hillcats (CLE) and the Potomac Nationals (WSH). Down East returns to Kinston on Thursday, April 12th against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to open a seven-game homestand. Single game tickets can be found by clicking here.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.