The New Orleans Zephyrs released the team's Opening Day roster for the 2013 season on Thursday, which includes 20 players with Major League experience, 12 players with previous time with the Zephyrs, and a pair of former first-round draft picks.
Under manager Ron Hassey, who guided the Z's to their first winning season in five years in 2012, the Zephyrs return many key components from the Pacific Coast League's top pitching staff. Tom Koehler, a PCL All-Star last year when he registered 12 victories for the second straight season, returns to head the starting rotation. Brad Hand is also back in New Orleans following an 11-win campaign in his Triple-A debut last year.
Jacob Turner, drafted ninth overall by the Detroit Tigers in 2009, recorded a 1.98 ERA in five starts with New Orleans after a July trade and will begin the season in the Zephyrs' rotation alongside Elih Villanueva, back for his third season with the Z's, and free agent signee Mitch Talbot.
The bullpen is led by Chris Hatcher, who established a Zephyrs record by posting a 0.77 ERA last season in 37 appearances, while going 11-for-12 in save chances. Also returning to New Orleans is Dan Jennings, who recorded a 3.14 ERA in 42 games. Fellow southpaws Scott Maine and Zach Phillips will work out of the bullpen with right-handers Doug Mathis, Jordan Smith, A.J. Battisto and Jonathan Albaladejo, who notched an International League-record 43 saves in 2010 while pitching in the Yankees organization.
Kyle Skipworth, the Marlins' top draft choice with the sixth overall selection in 2008, moves up to Triple-A as the primary catcher, and will be joined by veteran presence Koyie Hill.
Bryan Petersen and Kevin Mattison both return to the Zephyrs to spearhead the outfield and the top of the lineup. Petersen hit .321 in 64 games with the Z's and played in 84 games with the Marlins, while Mattison led the Zephyrs in doubles, triples, runs and stolen bases, and became the first Zephyr since 2006 to swipe at least 25 bases. Matt Diaz, signed by the Marlins late in spring training, will open the season in New Orleans along with Jordan Brown, who owns a .307 batting average in five seasons at Triple-A.
The infield returns Nick Green, who hit .344 in 63 games with New Orleans last season between stints on the disabled list. Ben Lasater also begins a second season with the Z's, though injuries limited him to just 10 games with New Orleans last year. Wilson Valdez has spent the last three seasons in the big leagues with Philadelphia and Cincinnati, while Matt Downs logged extensive time with Houston over the last two years, and Ed Lucas has played the last three seasons at Triple-A in the Royals, Braves and Angels systems.
The Zephyrs open their 21st season in New Orleans on the road, Thursday at 7 p.m. against the Nashville Sounds, before returning to Zephyr Field for the home opener on Friday, April 12 against the Round Rock Express. Tickets are available by calling (504) 734-5155, by visiting the Zephyr Field box office or any Ticketmaster location, or by visiting www.zephyrsbaseball.com