Opening Day Deux
The season hasn’t even started and the door is already revolving.
The weather today in Des Moines is passable but the Iowa Cubs are opening the 2011 season on the road at Round Rock, TX. Thomas Diamond is supposed to oppose Express southpaw Michael Kirkman, the #6 prospect in the Ranger system who takes the mound tonight with these creds: 2010 PCL Pitcher of the Year [13-3 with a 3.09 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 131 innings for Oklahoma City]. He also won two PCL Pitcher of the Week awards and led the PCL with an .813 winning percentage. Kirkman made his Major League debut on Aug. 24, 2010, against the Baltimore Orioles, striking out the first three hitters he faced and was named the 2010 Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
The home opener falls on tax day a week from tomorrow against the Memphis Redbirds, the team that nosed out the I-Cubs for a playoff spot in a Labor Day series last year that was about as compelling as minor league action gets.
There have been some changes in the PCL since then. The Portland Beavers have become the Tucson Padres. Two years from now they’re slated to move on again to Escondido, 30 miles from their parent club in San Diego. Triple A towns are building parks to woo teams too. Both Padre teams are owned by Jeff Moorad who got Escondido’s agreement to build a $50 million stadium before he bought the Beavers.
The Royals still have their traditional affiliation with Omaha, but the team will now be called the Storm Chasers and move from the historic Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series, to Werner Park, a brand new playground on the outskirts of town. I may road trip over there on May Day to check out the new digs and the top tier of the highly rated Royal farm system since Omaha doesn’t come to Des Moines until June.
Out of the chute some key parts of the I-Cubs will be rehabbing in warm weather, notably Welington Castillo and Jay Jackson. That’s a battery I was looking forward to. Sounds like Jackson, Brad Snyder and Castillo may all join the team in time for the home opener. As it is there are no highly touted prospects on the fast track and no HOF’ers paying managerial dues in bush league dugouts. There’s not much buzz period as the season gets underway so we’ll see what develops. From what AZP says it sounds like Bobby [much more baseballish than Robert] Coello has the potential to make sparks fly with both arm and mouth and Max Ramirez reminds me in advance of Jake Fox a little bit; a hitter in search of a position. A couple of Aprils ago while he was here Fox hit like Joe Hardy from Damn Yankees. Pepe LaHair should help us Iowinians get over Micah Hoffpauir . Which Smokies might I get a look at before the summer’s over? Castro and Colvin skipped Des Moines on their way up and Cashner was here just long enough for one memorable outing last spring.
Let's get the door spinning!