BluGrass Baseball Spring Training battle update

Major League Baseball

Chris Burke; Photo by grovesa16 via Flickr

Earlier this month I posted a Spring Training position battle primer for Kentucky fans looking to keep track of their native sons hoping to make MLB rosters. These were the borderline major leaguers and players assured of making the roster but fighting for a bigger role, not established players. With one week left before Opening Day I thought I’d update each battle so you have a better idea of where the official Kentuckians in the majors count will stand in 2010. A special kudos goes to PLD alum and Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis who appears ready to start the season with the big league club after starting catcher Russell Martin suffered a groin injury.

Toronto Blue Jays: Closer

  • University of Kentucky and PRP alum Scott Downs is all but eliminated in the three-way closer race that will go to righties Jason Fraser or Kevin Gregg. Downs recently commented to a Toronto newspaper he prefers pitching in the eighth inning anyway.

San Francisco Giants: Fifth starter

  • Louisville-native and Bellarmine alum Todd Wellemeyer has all but wrapped up the fifth starter position after star prospect Madison Bumgarner was sent to AAA this week. Wellemeyer is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA this spring.

Cleveland Indians: Left fielder

  • Lexington-native Austin Kearns has likely lost the starting job to top prospects Michael Brantley and Matt Laporta, but should still stick with the Indians as a reserve. The team is very left-handed, so Kearns’ right-handed bat is needed for balance.

Seattle Mariners: Relief pitcher

  • Louisville-native Shawn Kelley appears destined to make the team per this MLB.com blog post, but hasn’t had a great spring. Kelley has given up eight runs in 12 innings, but does have 14 strikeouts compared to just one walk.

New York Mets: Relief pitcher

  • No one in the Mets bullpen has really stepped up this Spring so Louisville Male alum Sean Green remains firmly in the mix for an Opening Day spot despite a 6.75 ERA and eight walks compared to four strikeouts this spring.

Cincinnati Reds: Utility reserve

  • Despite an early camp injury, non-roster invitee and St X alum Chris Burke is still hanging on to a big league Spring Training spot. Burke is batting just .188 in eight games, so he’ll have to sell the Reds on his defensive versatility to avoid spending 2010 in his hometown with the Bats.  2009 Louisville Bat Drew Sutton is still in the mix.
  • Candidates: Burke, Sutton, Aaron Miles, Paul Janish

Hit the jump for the concluded competitions.

Cincinnati Reds: Fifth starter

  • Top Reds prospects and 2009 Louisville Bats Matt Maloneyand Travis Wood are still in the running along with youngster Mike Leake. Veterans Justin Lehr and Kip Wells, who both appeared in Louisville last season, haven’t technically been eliminated. Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman was the early star in Reds camp but a back injury will likely send him to Louisville to start the season. Regardless of who wins the job, Bats fans should have their pick of great pitching this season with Chapman, Leake, Jukich, Wood and/or Maloney.
  • Candidates: Maloney, Wood, Lehr, Wells, Aroldis Chapman

St. Louis Cardinals: Fifth Starter

  • 2009 Louisville Bats starting pitcher Ben Jukich was returned to the Cincinnati Reds last week and will start 2010 back in Louisville. Jukich, who was the Cardinals’ Rule 5 pick, was eliminated from the starting rotation early in camp and didn’t profile well as a reliever.

Los Angles Dodgers: Right-handed reliever

  • Kentucky Wesleyan alum Cory Wade is out for several months after undergoing shoulder surgery. Wade will attempt to rehab in the minors later this season.

New York Mets: Infield reserve

  • Lexington-native and UK alum Andy Green was reassigned to Minor League camp on March 16 after failing to appear in a Spring Training game with the Mets. Indications point to Green spending 2010 back in AAA Buffalo with the hopes of a midseason callup after a big league injury.

Washington Nationals: Left-handed reliever

  • Non-roster invitee Ryan Speier, born in Frankfort, was cut from camp on March 12. Speier will try to revitalize his career in AAA and if he sticks in the Nationals system he could earn a callup with a good performance because lets face it, the Nationals are terrible.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Long-reliever

  • Chris Jakubauskas, the only Florence Freedom alum to ever reach the major leagues, was reassigned to Minor League camp on March 24. He lasted through most of camp, so Jakubauskas could be in line for a midseason callup with a good AAA performance.

Cincinnati Reds: Left field

  • The Reds left field competition was a lot less interesting after the team resigned Jonny Gomes, who has five home runs this spring. Former Louisville Bat Chris Dickerson will likely share time in left with Gomes and center with 2009 Louisville Bat Drew Stubbs. 2009 Bats standout Chris Heisey will return to the River City to start 2010 where he will be accompanied by Somerset-native,Eastern Kentucky University alum and former Lexington Legend Josh Anderson who was an early casualty in camp.

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