The Missoula Osprey learned today that they will return many familiar faces when they open their 2011 campaign in Helena on June 20. The initial announcement by the Osprey and their parent club Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday includes ten players with professional experience, many of whom started their career in Missoula in 2010.
Two-fifths of the Osprey starting rotation is in place and has previously pitched in Missoula. Robby Rowland, who was the 2nd-round choice by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2010 MLB Draft, headlines that rotation and is the leading candidate to get the Opening Night start in Helena.
Enrique Burgos, who pitched in Missoula in 2009 and helped the Osprey to the Northern Division post-season title, will likely be the No. 2 starter to begin the season. Last season Enrique was with the Yakima Bears in the Northwest League helping them to a playoff appearance. In 15 starts last season, Burgos was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA, striking out 54 batters in 68 innings pitched. In his career, Burgos is 9-4 in 41 starts, with a 5.02 ERA.
Another pitcher coming back into the fold this season will be right-handed reliever Victor Lara, who posted a 1-5 record with one save and an 8.02 ERA last summer. Lara did show improvement with his command during the season, and did not allow a run in five of his final eight appearances.
Also among the returnees is infielder Eric Groff, the only player in Osprey history to hit three home runs in a game. Groff received a late-season promotion to Triple-A Reno, and in 63 games in Missoula, hit .281 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs. He was second on the team in both HRs and RBI and will be a welcome addition to the lineup.
Behind the plate, the Osprey will have two returnees in Roidany Aguila and Fidel Pena. Aguila will be in his third season in Missoula, and hit .234 with six RBIs for the Osprey last season. Pena played mostly second base and designated hitter for the Osprey, hitting .272 with a home run and 16 RBIs. Pena has recovered from a hand injury that bothered him all of last season and has played really well in extended spring training.
"He has stepped up and has become a very good baseball player since recovering from his injury," said Arizona Diamondbacks Director of Player Development Mike Bell. "He will play catcher and some second and third defensively."
Joining Groff as a returning infielder for the Osprey will be Florida State product Stephen Cardullo. In limited duty last season, Cardullo hit .172 with five RBIs in 20 games played.
Ty Linton will be one of the Osprey patrolling the outfield this season. Linton, a 14th round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, was a late signee, and managed to only make one plate appearance last season, in which he walked. A two-sport star in high school, Linton gave up a football scholarship to North Carolina to pursue his professional baseball career.
He is a great athlete with big time power," commented Bell.
Outfielder Westley Moss played in 67 games with the Short-A Yakima Bears last summer, and the outfielder posted a .244 batting average, drove in 15 runs and was second on the squad with 21 stolen bases.
"(Moss) is one of the fastest players in the organization," said Bell.
Infielder Tom Belza played in 43 games a season ago for the Bears, and batted .212 with seven RBIs and three stolen bases. He is a super utility type player and will play pretty much everywhere but pitcher and catcher at some point this season.
"These players are coming to Missoula with one more year of experience. They have improved over that time and will be better than they were before," said Bell on the overall makeup of the announcements.
Exciting news for Osprey fans as many of these players have already had success at this level. More roster additions will be announced in the coming days as the drafted players sign and pass physicals.
The 2011 Osprey will open the season on June 20 at Helena, then will host the Brewers for their home opener on June 22. Tickets for the Home Opener, as well as all other games this season, are now on sale at the MSO Hub Box Office, located at 140 N. Higgins, by phone at (406) 543-3300 or online at MissoulaOsprey.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.