The playoffs are officially underway with the Texas Rangers up 4-0 on Tampa Bay at the time of this posting. The playoffs aren’t without plenty of Kentucky connections as every team except the Giants has a player with Bluegrass State connections. Check out the list of Kentucky natives and former minor league players participating in the playoffs below:
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
Spring Training games are officially underway, making today an excellent chance to examine what BluGrass Baseball players are battling for specific roles on major league squads and roster spots. I’ve outlined relevant battles I can think of below, but feel free to include any you would add in the comments section.
Toronto Blue Jays:Closer
University of Kentucky and PRP alum Scott Downs is in a three-way battle for the Blue Jays closer position. Toronto manager Cito Gaston has said he might use a closer-by-committee approach if none of the three candidates step up. Downs saved nine games in 13 opportunities last season.
Other candidates: Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg
St. Louis Cardinals: Fifth Starter
2009 Louisville Bats starting pitcher Ben Jukich is in Cardinals camp as the team’s Rule 5 pick. Jukich must be on the 25-man roster all season for the Cardinals to avoid giving him back to the Reds, so he may be given added chance to make the team out of camp. If he doesn’t earn a starting spot he could be considered for a left-handed reliever spot.
Other candidates: Rich Hill, Mitchell Boggs, Kyle McClellan
Los Angles Dodgers: Right-handed reliever
Kentucky Wesleyan alum Cory Wade is looking to regain his spot in the Dodgers bullpen one year after shoulder pain led him back to AAA. Wade is in an open competition for a right-handed setup role after Ronald Belisario’s visa trouble getting into the country, but he would probably take a spot in middle relief if it means leaving the minors.
Other Candidates: Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, Charlie Haeger
Cincinnati Assistant GM Bob Miller checked in with readers on MLB.com to chat about all things Reds. Among the topics he touched on included several former and current Louisville Bats. I’ve included those questions and answers below. (Read more)
flgator69: Is Winter Ball or an extended Spring Training available for some of our hitters’ improvement?
Miller: Instructional League starts next week and Winter Ball and the Arizona Fall League in October. Most of our better young players will be in one or more of those leagues getting more at-bats or innings under their belts.
redstockings54: My question is with the number of good outfielders we currently have, are there any plans to trade any of them. And if so, what is the plan?
Miller: All of these guys are young and most of them still have options to the Minors left, so we like our depth. If something comes along that will better our team or fill another need, we will always consider it.
ChangeUp: Jonny Gomes seems to really enjoy being a Red and is really showing he can come through in clutch situations. Would you say there is a good chance he will be a Red next season?
Miller: I hope so. He’s had a good year. Hopefully we can come to an agreement that makes both sides happy.
batsfan09: Enerio Del Rosario has had a great season as a relief pitcher in the Minor Leagues. Do you think he could be a part of next year’s bullpen? Could he possibly be a starter next year with Louisville, as he has been in previous years?
Miller: I think Del Rosario and Logan Ondrusek will both be knocking on the door to pitch in the Majors next year. Both of them had outstanding seasons.
punksroo: Which Minor League prospects are we likely to see this Spring?
Miller: Travis Wood, Del Rosario, Ondrusek, Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart, Chris Valaika, Chris Heisey, etc.
lbentz11: I know it’s a bit premature, without writing off Matt Maloney, what are your thoughts on getting at least one left-handed starter for next season?
Miller: I think both Wood and Maloney will be good Major League pitchers. Give them some time.