LANCASTER, Calif. - The defending California League Champion Lancaster JetHawks unveiled their opening day roster which includes the Astros organization's top player and pitcher from the 2012 season. Second year manager Rodney Linares will lead a roster that also includes eight players who were on the roster for the California League Championship Series.
Delino DeShields Jr., who earned the organization's player of the year award last season after stealing a total of 101 bases between Low-A Lexington and Lancaster, returns after spending the end of the regular season and the postseason with the JetHawks. The second baseman hit .318 and scored 11 runs during the playoffs en route to earning Cal League Championship Series MVP honors.
Highly touted pitching prospect Mike Foltynewicz, the organization's 2012 pitcher of the year, headlines the JetHawks rotation after spending the last two seasons in Lexington. The right-hander earned the South Atlantic League Most Outstanding Pitcher Award last season, finishing 14-4 with a 3.14 ERA.
Andrew Aplin, Chris Epps, Rafael Valenzuela and Drew Muren join DeShields as position players returning from last year's title-winning team. Aplin patrolled centerfield for the JetHawks during the final weeks of the season and batted .260 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. Epps, an outfielder who had multiple stints in Lancaster in 2012, hit .353 with a home run and five RBIs in the postseason. Infielder Valenzuela spent all of 2012 with Lancaster and appeared in 73 games.
Tyson Perez heads back to Lancaster after throwing 120 innings in 2012. The right-hander tied for the team lead with nine wins and posted a 2.08 ERA in the postseason. Perez is joined by returning pitchers Blair Walters, who joined the Astros organization after a mid-season trade with the Chicago White Sox, and Carlos Quevedo, a reliever who allowed just seven runs in 31 innings.
Tyler Heineman and M.P. Cokinos are the team's two catchers. Heineman, a Los Angeles native, was drafted in 2012 out of UCLA and hit .358 for Tri-City to win the NY-Penn League batting title.
Shortstop Nolan Fontana and outfielder Preston Tucker were teammates at the University of Florida before being drafted by the Astros in 2012. Fontana, the team's second round pick, drew 65 walks and struck out just 44 times in 222 plate appearances for Lexington in his first pro season. Tucker hit .321 with eight homers and 38 RBIs for Tri-City in the NY-Penn League.
2012 Tri-City teammates Aaron West, Brady Rodgers and Travis Ballew join the JetHawks pitching staff. West went 6-2 with a 2.04 ERA, Rodgers finished 7-2 with a 2.89 ERA and Ballew finished with a 1.62 ERA out of the bullpen last season.
Pitchers David Rollins, Alex Gillingham, Chris Devenski and Theron Geith will all start their first full seasons in the Astros organization with the JetHawks after being acquired by the Astros via various trades last season.
Infielders Zach Johnson and Matt Duffy and outfielder Brandon Meredith were all teammates in Lexington in 2012. Johnson led the Legends with 108 RBIs, Duffy set South Atlantic League record after being hit by a pitch 41 times and Meredith added 15 home runs.
Recently acquired infielder Raoul Torrez and pitchers Luis Cruz, Jonas Dufek and Tommy Shirley round out the roster.
Don't miss the exciting 18th season of JetHawks baseball in Lancaster. The 2013 regular season opens Thursday, April 4 and ticket packages are available now. To order, call (661) 726-5400 or visit jethawks.com for more information.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.