MANCHESTER, N.H. - The New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, announced their preliminary roster for the 2015 season today. Manager Bobby Meacham, entering his second season in New Hampshire, will work with a veteran squad that features 21 of 26 players who have appeared in a New Hampshire uniform in previous seasons.
"We are excited to see the new list of players who will join us for 2015," said Fisher Cats President and General Manager, Rick Brenner. "There are a lot of familiar names who have provided some great memories on the field and made some positive connections in our community. We look forward to seeing them play starting Tuesday night against Southern New Hampshire University."
Nashua native Kevin Nolan is back for a third season, and anchors the infield next to his 2014 double play partner and team MVP, Jon Berti. Another one-time resident of Nashua, K.C. Hobson, returns, as do Andy Burns and Jorge Flores. The newcomers on the infield are Shane Opitz and Jake Fox. The latter was a member of the Phillies organization in 2014, and has spent parts of four seasons in the major leagues.
The outfield features a similar composition as the infield. Ryan Schimpf needs just ten home runs to break the franchise record of 55. Matt Newman and one-time New York Yankee Melky Mesa return for a second straight season. The lone new outfielder is Dwight Smith, who ranks as the 14th-best prospect in the Blue Jays' organization according to Baseball America.
Behind the plate, fan favorite Jack Murphy and Pierce Rankin, both familiar with New Hampshire, will handle the catching duties.
All five members of the starting rotation toed the rubber in New Hampshire last season, combining for 70 appearances and 45 starts. The workhorse of last year's team, Casey Lawrence, is back for a second full season, as is lefty John Anderson. Matt Boyd and Taylor Cole, who combined for 12 appearances in 2014, will begin the season at Double-A for the first time in their respective careers. Rounding out the staff is Mike Lee, who was acquired in a trade by the Blue Jays last season, and pitched in a New Hampshire uniform five times.
The bullpen features the largest number of Fisher Cats rookies. Of the eight relievers on the preliminary roster, five have pitched for New Hampshire in previous seasons, led by 2014 All-Star Dustin Antolin. He'll be joined by familiar names in Blake McFarland, Danny Barnes, and closer Arik Sikula. Another old friend is lefty Luis Perez. He made 41 appearances for the Fisher Cats from 2009-10, then pitched in Toronto over the 2011-12 seasons. Injuries forced him to miss all of 2014, and limited him to just 12 games in 2013.
The three new faces in the bullpen are all right-handers: Cory Burns, Matt West, and Greg Burke. Burns and Burke join Mesa, Perez, and Fox as the lone Fisher Cats who have seen the major leagues.
A pair of players with previous New Hampshire stat lines will begin the season on the disabled list: left-handed pitcher Ricky Romero and catcher Derrick Chung.
The current roster contains 26 players. The roster will need to be reduced to the Eastern League limit of 25 players by Thursday's season opener.
The Fisher Cats open their regular season on Thursday, April 9, at 6:35 p.m. against the New Britain Rock Cats (Colorado Rockies). Individual game tickets are on sale at the team's website, www.nhfishercats.com, as well as via telephone and in-person at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Full- and Half-Season Tickets and Mini-Ticket Plans are also available, and each pack comes with a variety of benefits and gifts. Visit www.nhfishercats.com or call (603) 641-2005 to learn more.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.