At last year's Triple-A All-Star Game, the Pacific Coast League scored six runs in the top of the ninth inning to stun the International League, 6-5. With a healthy mix of sluggers and speedsters on this year's squad, which was unveiled Wednesday, the PCL is hoping it won't need late-inning heroics on July 15 at Portland's PGE Park.
All 16 teams will send at least one representative to the midsummer classic, while the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Nashville Sounds, Sacramento River Cats and Salt Lake Bees boast three All-Stars apiece.
Randy Ruiz of the Las Vegas 51s gets the start at first base. He's hitting .317 with 15 homers and leads the league in RBIs (67), hits (99), extra-base hits (46) and doubles (30). He'll play alongside speedy Sky Sox second baseman Eric Young Jr. (.292, 3, 21), who tops the PCL with 46 stolen bases and 68 runs scored.
Salt Lake's Brandon Wood (.302, 15, 45) will man the hot corner, with Nashville's Alcides Escobar (.294, 3, 27) rounding out the infield at shortstop. Escobar is tied for second in the league with 27 steals and ranks fourth with 56 runs scored.
John Bowker (.359, 16, 58) of the Fresno Grizzlies holds down one outfield spot. He leads the PCL with a .460 on-base percentage, is second in batting and third with a .637 slugging percentage. Sky Sox teammates Matt Miller (.324, 5, 63) and Matt Murton (.377, 9, 23) fill the other outfield spots, with Miller ranking third in the league in RBIs, hits (96) and doubles (25).
The PCL pitching staff boasts four pitchers who rank in the top 10 in ERA. Round Rock Express right-hander Bud Norris (3-5, 2.17) will get the start after pacing the circuit in ERA and strikeouts (88). He's joined by teammate Yorman Bazardo (7-2, 2.79), who's third in ERA.
Other starters on the staff of Portland Beavers manager Randy Ready are Grizzlies right-hander Kevin Pucetas (8-2, 3.17), Omaha Royals southpaw Lenny DiNardo (5-3, 3.46) and Albuquerque Isotopes knuckleballer Charlie Haeger (8-5, 3.75). Pucetas and DiNardo rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in ERA, while Pucetas and Haeger share the league lead with eight wins.
Ready will be able to call upon a deep bullpen headlined by Jess Todd (3-1, 2.50, 17 saves) of the Memphis Redbirds and Salt Lake's Jeremy Hill (1-3, 4.01, 16 saves). Other relief options are Portland's Mike Ekstrom, Bobby Korecky of the Reno Aces, Nashville's R.J. Swindle and Jay Marshall of the River Cats.