Steady Mix of Returners, Newcomers Look to Lead Voyagers

Ryan Newman, 32, takes over the managerial helm in 2011

Ryan Newman, 32, takes over the managerial helm in 2011

June 16, 2011 8:34 PM ET

GREAT FALLS Mont.-Returning Voyager Pete Gehle is scheduled to start on opening day for Great Falls as they begin on the road in Billings on Monday, June 20.

Gehle finished last year going 3-3 with a 3.91 earned run average. Numbers don't tell the whole story for southpaw from Azusa Pacific in his first professional season. "He earned his stripes as the season progressed," said last year's manager, Chris Cron, who is now managing the Double-A Erie Sea Wolves of the Eastern League, a Detroit Tigers affiliate. "At the end of the year, he was one of our most trusted pitchers."

Gehle is one of five members of last year's Voyagers squad on the opening day roster in 2011. Joining him on the staff is Stephen McCray, whose six wins in 2010 was tied for fourth in the Pioneer League.

Michael Earley, who hit .263 with five home runs to go along with a collection of highlight reel plays in 2010, headlines a triumvirate of returning position players. "[Michael] is a true pro in everything he does. He is one of those players that helps teams find ways to win," said Cron.

Leighton "Panda" Pangilinan and Randall Thorpe also return for another season with the Voyagers.

Pangilinan, who will be 20 years old when the season begins, hit .289 in his first year with Great Falls before suffering a season-ending hand injury.

Thorpe looks to build on his first professional season, in which he hit .226. "He has a world of potential and he can fly," said Cron of the outfielder.

Also returning for Great Falls is their pitching coach, Brian Drahman. The former big leaguer returns for his third season with the Voyagers. Last year's staff, under Drahman's direction, gave up the second fewest runs in the entire league.

The list of newcomers for the Voyagers starts at the top with manager, Ryan Newman. While Newman is new to Great Falls, he enters his third season with the White Sox organization after spending the last two seasons managing the Bristol White Sox. Newman, 32, grew up in big league clubhouses as his father, Jeff, enjoyed a nine-year Major League career with the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox before beginning his coaching career, which was highlighted by an eight-year stint as the third base coach for the Cleveland Indians.

Gary Ward rounds out the staff as the team's hitting coach. The former Major Leaguer was a late addition to the staff and brings a great deal of experience. Ward, a two-time All-Star, enjoyed a 12-year career with the Twins, Rangers, Yankees, and Tigers.

There is a total of seven players new to the Voyagers, but not new to the White Sox organization.

Right-handed pitcher, Jamaal Hollis, spent most of last season with Bristol, before getting the late call up to Kannapolis. Hollis put together a stellar season, posting a combined 1.93 earned run average in 32.2 innings pitched.

Thirteen Voyagers are getting set to begin their first year of professional baseball fresh out of college.

Fourth-round pick, Kyle McMillen, was the closer for Kent State this past Spring. In that role-a year after hitting over .350 as a two-way player-McMillen racked up 18 saves, which was tied for the most in the country.

David Herbek, a shortstop from James Madison, put up some impressive numbers offensively. The 15th round selection hit .336 with 15 home runs and 76 runs batted in for the Dukes.

The team opens up its 76 game schedule on Monday, as they begin 2011 on the road in Billings to play a four game set versus the Mustangs. The team opens up at home on Friday, June 24 versus Missoula.

Voice of the Voyagers This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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