INDIANAPOLIS -- Three of Pittsburgh's top 10 prospects highlight a list of 25 players who are en route to Indianapolis for the 2009 Triple-A Baseball season. The Indians' Opening Day roster will also feature 12 returning players and nine members of Pittsburgh's 40-man roster.
OF Andrew McCutchen (No. 2), 3B Neil Walker (No. 6) and RHP Daniel McCutchen (No. 9) were all ranked by Baseball America as the Pirates organization's top prospects heading into the 2009 season. Both Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker played the entire 2008 season with the Tribe last season.
Andrew McCutchen finished 2008 as an International League All-Star after placing among the IL leaders in walks (3rd, 68), games played (3rd, 135), stolen bases (7th, 35), hits (T-9th, 145) and on-base percentage (10th, .372), while also leading the Indians in games played, at-bats (512), hits and runs (75). Andrew was also named Pittsburgh's "Best Minor League Athlete" and "Best Defensive Fielder" by Baseball America and ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the Minor Leagues for 2009 by MLB.com.
Walker was chosen as the 2008 Indianapolis Indians MVP after he hit .242 and led the Tribe in HR (16), RBI (80), triples (7) and total bases (209). Neil also collected 30 multi-hit games and a team-best 20 multi-RBI games.
Daniel McCutchen was a late season addition to the Indians in the 2008 campaign, after coming to the Pirates organization on July 26 in a trade that sent OF Xavier Nady and LHP Damaso Marte to the New York Yankees. Daniel started eight games for the Indians last season posting a record of 3-3 with a 4.69 ERA and 41 SO.
Besides Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Daniel McCutchen the Tribe will be returning nine other players from 2008, including RHP Jimmy Barthmaier, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, LHP Corey Hamman, RHP Evan Meek, C Robinzon Diaz, INF Brian Bixler, INF Jason Delaney, 1B/OF Steve Pearce and RHP Jason Davis.
Barthmaier (16 appearances, 3-1 record, 3.53 ERA), Gorzelanny (7, 3-1, 2.06), Hamman (12, 4-3, 5.03), Meek (23, 0-0, 2.40), Diaz (5 games, .244 average, 0 HR, 2 RBI), Bixler (86, 2.80, 7, 36), and Pearce (103, .251, 12, 60) all spent significant time in Indianapolis. INF Jason Delaney (30, .255, 0, 8) was a late season call-up from Double-A Altoona (Pa.) finishing the season with the Tribe.
Though LHP Dave Davidson (35, 4-2, 3.34) spent the entire 2008 campaign in Double-A Altoona he is making his return to Indianapolis. Davidson was a member of the Tribe pitching staff for six games in the 2007 season. Dave is also coming off two stints with Team Canada in both the 2008 Summer Olympics and the more recent 2009 World Baseball Classic.
The Indians will also welcome a host of newcomers, all with Triple-A experience. The newcomers include RHP Denny Bautista, RHP Chris Bootcheck, RHP Brian Slocum, INF Andy Phillips, OF Jeff Salazar, RHP Jeremy Powell, RHP Virgil Vasquez, C Erik Kratz, INF Anderson Machado, OF Larry Broadway, and OF Garrett Jones.
Bautista (Toledo, 5 appearances, 0-1 record, 0.00 ERA), Bootcheck (Salt Lake, 19, 0-0, .286), Slocum (30, 3-7, 4.85) Phillips (Louisville, 40 games, .315 average, 5 HR, 22 RBI) and Salazar (Tucson, 90, .34, 4, 18) all spent most of the 2008 campaign in Triple-A with some making stops in the Major Leagues.
RHP Jeremy Powell returns to American baseball after spending the past eight seasons (2001-2008) in the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball League. Originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1994, Powell pitched 35 games in the Major Leagues and 52 contests in Triple-A before making his journey to Japan in 2001. Jeremy posted a 2-6 record and 5.29 ERA last season as a starter for the Fukoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League.
Vasquez (27 appearances, 12-12 record, 4.81 era) spent all of last season in Triple-A Toledo (Ohio) signing with the Indians this past offseason, while Kratz (40 games, .234 average, 9 HR, 24 RBI) split 2008 between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Syracuse (N.Y.). Machado (76, .226, 4, 21) comes to Indianapolis after spending last season with Triple-A New Orleans (La.), while Broadway (130, .266, 9, 55) played the entire 2008 campaign for Triple-A Columbus (Ohio).
Jones (138 games, .279 ave, 23 HR, 92 RBI), who played the entire 2008 season with Triple-A Rochester (N.Y.), joined the Tribe as a free agent this past winter on December 27. Garrett will be approaching career Minor League milestones in 2009 as he is 34 games away from 1,000, 29 runs away from 500, 99 hits away from 1,000, four home runs away from 150, and 20 RBI away from 600.
RHP Jason Davis (21 appearances, 6-9 record, 4.41 ERA) returns to Indianapolis as the 2009 Opening Day starter, while Barthmaier, Gorzelanny, Daniel McCutchen and Vasquez will also begin the year in the starting rotation. Bautista, Bootcheck, Davidson, Hamman, Meek, Powell and Slocum will see action out of the bullpen.
Diaz and Kratz will fight for playing time behind the plate, while Bixler, Delaney, Machado, Pearce, Phillips and Walker will compete for innings at the other four infield positions. Broadway, Jones, McCutchen and Salazar will be the club's four outfield options.
The Indians welcome two former players to the 2009 field staff. New Tribe Manager Frank Kremblas returns to Indianapolis after playing for the Indians from 1993-96, while new Hitting Coach Jeff Branson returns to the Indians after playing with them in 1997 and 1999. Kremblas has spent the last four season managing the Nashville Sounds, the Milwaukee Brewers Triple-A affiliate. Branson is in his seventh season within the Pirates organization, most recently as the manager for the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats.
Pitching Coach Ray Searage, Trainer Jose Ministral and Strength & Conditioning Coach Mubarak Malik all return to round out the Tribe's 2009 field staff.
The regular season begins tonight as the Indians host the Toledo Mud Hens at 7:00 p.m. for the Tribe's third annual Opening Weather Guarantee. If the game-time temperature is not at least 60 degrees every fan with a ticket will get a free ticket for any other 2009 April home game. Victory Field will also display the special "Diamond Cut" mowing pattern that was chosen by fans voting in the first annual "Opening Day Mowing Pattern" poll that concluded Friday, April 3.
Season-ticket packages are available by visiting www.IndyIndians.com or calling 317-269-3545, while single-game tickets are available by going on-line, visiting the Victory Field Box Office or calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.