Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

SPORTS >> Travelers showcase new talent, begin year

By TODD TRAUB
Leader sports editor

The Arkansas Travelers will do just that as they open the season this week.

Arkansas starts Class AATexas League play on the road at defending champion Midland on Thursday. The Travelers boarded the bus after a workout Tuesday night at Dickey-Stepehens Park in North Little Rock, and they took a new-look roster that is expected to be strong on relief pitching and speed and short on power.

The parent Los Angeles Angels have assigned only eight returnees from last yearís Travelers team that went 61-79. Of the 24-man roster, 22 are products of the Angelsí minor league system.

Manager Bobby Magallanes, who led Arkansas to the 2008 Texas League championship, returns for his fourth year and will oversee a team in which the bullpen, with three potential closers, is expected to be a highlight.

Right-hander Jordan Walden, limited to 13 starts at Arkansas last year because of injuries, will share closing duties with Ryan Aldridge (0-1 with a 4.50 ERA with the Travs last season) and newcomer Mike Kohn.

Kohn, a right-hander, split time between Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Rancho Cucamonga and went 6-1 with a 1.64 ERA and 103 strikeouts.

Right-hander Tim Kiely will be the Travsí opening night starter at Midland after going 9-8 with a 4.67 ERA between Rancho Cucamonga and Arkansas in 2009.

The rest of the starting rotation includes left-hander Jayson Miller (7-11, 4.93 ERA at ClassA Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga), right-hander Jeremy Thorne (4-8, 4.83 at Rancho), left-hander Mike Anton (3-8, 5.07 ERA at Arkansas) and converted reliever Ryan Brasier (5-4, 5.23 ERA in a stint at Rancho).

With Angelsí top prospect and last yearís starting catcher Hank Conger departed for Class AAA Salt Lake, Alberto Rosario takes over behind the plate for Arkansas.

Rosario threw out 44 percent of would-be base stealers to lead the California League at Rancho Cucamonga last season and he will be backed up by Travelers returnee Brian Walker, who hit .291 with 21 RBI at Rancho and batted .267 as he finished up with the Travelers.

Power has sometimes been scarce in spacious Dickey-Stephens Park, but the Travelers do have a power-hitting threat in right fielder Julio Perez, who batted .265 with 10 home runs and 51 RBI at Class A. Outfielder Clay Fuller is one of the teamís three switch-hitters while Jeremy Moore, expected to share center field with Fuller, hit .279 with 20 doubles, 12 triples and 11 home runs.

The Angels picked up some experience for the Travelers with free agent signee Paul McAnulty, who has 124 games of major league experience and last year was at Pawtucket, in the Boston Red Sox organization, and Colorado Springs, in the Colorado Rockies system.

Second baseman Ryan Mount is the only returning everyday player from the 2009 Travelers, while first baseman Efren Navarro moves up to Class AA after batting .287 with 61 RBI at Rancho Cucamonga.

On the left side of the infield is shortstop Andrew Romine, who batted .278 and stole 26 bases at Rancho Cucamonga, and third baseman Jay Brossman, who hit 10 home runs and had 45 RBI at Rancho.