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Where and when to find the day's top games, biggest headlines
April 3, 2008
The 2008 Minor League season officially gets under way at 2 p.m. ET today when the Syracuse Chiefs (Blue Jays) host the Louisville Bats (Reds) in the first of 56 games scheduled around the country (the eight-team Carolina League doesn't start until Friday). As usual, Opening Day is jam-packed with big names and intriguing story lines, and guides you through the who, what, where and when of all the action.

Opening Act

Louisville @ Syracuse
When: 2 p.m. ET
Where: Gameday Audio
This game isn't only the first of the day, it's also one of the more interesting, with two of baseball's top prospects -- Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey -- on Louisville's roster.

Bruce, who celebrates his 21st birthday today, comes into the '08 season sitting atop's Top 50 rankings. The 2005 first-rounder hit a combined .319 with 26 homers and 89 RBIs as he cruised through the ranks from Advanced A Sarasota to Double-A Chattanooga to Louisville, where he batted .305 with 11 home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games down the stretch.

Bailey, 21, is ranked No. 9 on our Top 50 (the Reds have four players on that list, second only to Tampa Bay's five). The Texas native with the cowboy flair boasts a blazing fastball and knee-buckling curve, but the 2004 first-rounder struggled with his control this spring, costing himself a spot in the Cincinnati rotation. He looks to regain his command and make it back up to the bigs before long.

Where are the Top 10?

With Bruce (No. 1) and Bailey (No. 9) heading to Syracuse for Opening Day, where will the rest of our Top 10 prospects be? Well, two of them are in the Majors: pitchers Joba Chamberlain (No. 5) with the Yankees and Clay Buchholz (No. 6) with the Red Sox. And the rest?

2. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay
Game: Durham @ Toledo
When: 5 p.m. ET
Where: MiLB.TV | Gameday Audio
Durham's starting third baseman opens on the road in Toledo, but he shouldn't make himself too comfortable once he gets home to North Carolina. In fact, he should keep at least one Major League-ready suit on a hanger in its dry cleaner plastic. The 2007 Southern League MVP is destined to be with the Rays as soon as the arbitration-eligible clock flips over.

3. Cameron Maybin, OF, Florida
Game: Carolina @ Mobile
When: 8:05 p.m. ET
Where: Gameday Audio
With just a few big-league games under his belt in Detroit before being traded to Florida in a blockbuster deal this past winter, it wasn't a huge surprise to see Maybin sent to the Minors for a little more seasoning. It was a little more surprising, though, that he's starting the year with the Double-A Carolina Mudcats, who open their season on the road against Mobile. The 2005 first-round pick is one of the most exciting five-tool prospects in the game.

4. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles (NL)
Game: West Tenn @ Jacksonville
When: 7:05 p.m. ET
Where: Gameday Audio
Arguably the top pitching prospect in the Minors right now, the 20-year-old southpaw will start the season with the Double-A Jacksonville Suns, although he won't take the mound on Opening Day. While Jacksonville seemed to be the obvious destination once Spring Training started, he actually battled for a Major League rotation spot right down to the wire ... that's how impressive his stuff is.

7. Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis
Game: Memphis @ Oklahoma
When: 8:05 p.m. ET
Where: MiLB.TV | Gameday Audio
Rasmus opens the year as the starting center fielder for Triple-A Memphis as the Redbirds hit the road in Oklahoma. He hit .275 with 29 homers, 72 RBIs and 18 steals in the Texas League last summer at age 20, and by mid-season he could well be in St. Louis.

8. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh
Game: Indianapolis @ Pawtucket
When: 7:05 p.m. ET
Where: Gameday Audio
McCutchen opens the season in the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians outfield, where his first task will be to face former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon, who's starting for the Pawtucket Red Sox. It's just a matter of time before the talented five-tool prospect joins the big boys in Pittsburgh.

10. Adam Miller, RHP, Cleveland
Game: Buffalo @ Norfolk
When: 7:15 p.m. ET
Where: Gameday Audio
Miller made our Top 10 despite seeing most of his 2007 season interrupted by a variety of finger and arm injuries, so he returns to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons rotation and takes the mound in the opener at Norfolk. He's still just 23 years old and expected to vie for a spot in Cleveland at some point this season.

Notable Debuts

While most of the players taking the field on Opening Day are resuming their pro careers, a handful will be making their professional debuts after signing as top Draft picks late in 2007.

Rick Porcello, RHP, Detroit
Game: Lakeland @ Tampa
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Game log
The 6-foot-5 teenager from New Jersey checked in at No. 14 on our Top 50 without the benefit of having thrown a pro pitch yet. He dropped to No. 27 overall in the Draft last year due to signability issues, but will get his Minor League career started on the mound at the Tampa Yankees' newly renamed home -- George M. Steinbrenner Field. The top high school pitcher in the 2007 Draft, he has power stuff in the mid-to-high 90s, a plus curveball and a good slider.

Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore
Game: Lynchburg @ Frederick
When: Friday, April 4 -- 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Gameday Audio
Wieters, the No. 5 overall pick last year out of Georgia Tech, is the top catching prospect in the Minors, a true star in the making. The switch-hitter will lead the defending Carolina League champion Frederick Keys when they begin their title defense at home Friday night against the Lynchburg Hillcats (Pirates).

And for those who are wondering how we could possibly have left out Tampa Bay Rays southpaw David Price, the first overall pick in 2007, he's out temporarily with a sore elbow and should return in about four to six weeks. Don't worry, we certainly won't overlook the big day when it arrives.

Familiar Faces

It's not just the newbies who will be making headlines around the Minors, though. A few big names will be taking their acts on the Minor League road to start the season as they try to work themselves into big-league shape.

Bartolo Colon, RHP, Boston
Game: Indianapolis @ Pawtucket
When: 7:05 p.m. ET
Where: Gameday Audio
As mentioned above, 2005 American League Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon has signed a Minor League contract with the Red Sox and is expected to make a few starts for Pawtucket, including the Opening Night slot, as he continues his return from arm trouble that has slowed him for the last two seasons. He'll face an impressive Indianapolis lineup that features not just McCutchen, but also 2007 Minor League Player of the Year Steven Pearce.

Francisco Liriano, LHP, Minnesota
Game: Sarasota @ Fort Myers
When: 7:05 p.m. ET
Where: Game log
Considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball just over a year ago, Minnesota Twins southpaw Francisco Liriano is almost all the way back from the Tommy John surgery he underwent a year and a half ago. It will be a big week for him as he gets the Opening Night nod at Class A Advanced Fort Myers, then heads across the state to Miami, where his wife will give birth the next night. He'll then head north to join the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings in anticipation of his return to the Twins rotation.

Randy Johnson, LHP, Arizona
Game: Colorado Springs @ Tucson
When: 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Gameday Audio
For the second year in a row, Randy Johnson will be the Opening Day starter for the Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders. The 44-year-old, who continues his comeback from back surgery and is expected to make possibly one more rehab start before joining the Diamondbacks, will face a Sky Sox lineup that features top Rockies prospects like Ian Stewart and Joe Koshansky.

Starting Fresh

Two Minor League teams will be playing their first-ever games on Opening Day.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Philadelphia)
Game: Lehigh Valley @ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: MiLB.TV | Gameday Audio
The IronPigs, the Phillies' new affiliate now that the Ottawa Lynx are no longer in the International League, begin the season on the road against the Yankees. They'll get what is sure to be their biggest rivalry started in a hurry as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was the longtime home of the Phillies' IL affiliate before the Yankees came to town in 2007. The grand opening of Lehigh Valley's Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa., is on April 11.

Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City)
Game: Northwest Arkansas @ San Antonio
When: 8:05 p.m. ET
Where: Gameday Audio
The Naturals, a Kansas City affiliate formerly known as the Wichita Wranglers, open on the road in San Antonio. They'll christen Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark., on April 10.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for