Saturday, April 2, 2005

Rock Cats ready to break camp

Heads up New Britain! A whole new squad of Rock Cats is coming your way!

While Saturday's pre-season game in Fort Myers may be cancelled by rain, the Rock Cats have put in a solid training camp and are ready to get back to patroling New Britain Stadium.

The Cats will bring some big bats north with them, starting with University of Miami stand out Danny Matienzo, who nearly earned the Florida State League batting title last season. Matienzo will serve as a first baseman when he is not DHing, splitting time in that position with Luis Jimenez. Jimenez, a free agent off-season signing, hit .310 for Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Also high on the list of Cats with Bats will be outfield Alex Romero, who is noted for more that just his batting. Romero brings speed to the basepaths, and a canon of an arm to the outfield. Joining Romero in the outfield is former Ohio State University alumni Doug Deeds. Deeds had been slowed in the early part of his career by a hand injury, but is fully recovered now and was considered one of the best players with the High A Fort Myers Miracle last season. Deeds lead the Florida State League in triples last season with 12.

Behind the plate, look for switch hitting Jose Morales. While Morales, a Florida State League All-Star, needs some work with his catching skills -- especially in learning to work his pitching staff and in calling the games -- his althetic skills speak for themselves. He is both skilled with his bat and is defensively solid, taking steady aim at anyone who might try to steal second. Morales' inexperience will be offset by the mentoring of veteran cat Bryan Kennedy. Kennedy is a heart and soul player who does well with the mental portion of the game and who deals well with his teammates. These two should provide the Cats with one of the best catching tandums in the Eastern League.

Also returning for to New Britian is two utility players, Tommy Watkins and Jake Mauer. "These guys will at least get an opportunity to play at AAA, and who knows from there?" said Jim Rantz, director of the Twins farm system, who also noted that much like his younger brother, Jake Mauer can also catch.

Leading off the starting rotation will be Francisco Liriano, a late season call up in 2004. This southpaw was clocked at 97 mph this spring, and could reach Class AAA Rochester this season, as soon as he fine-tunes his control.

Next up should be sharp eyed Colby Miller, who was slowed last year by injuries. Justin Olson will be the third starter. Originally a reliever, the hard throwing Olson worked his way into the starting rotation in Florida last season, and will be looking to prove himself with the Cats.

6'4" righty Matt Yeatman will also start for the Cats. Yeatman, who was obtained in a trade with the Brewers in 2002 posted respectable numbers in Single A. He was slowed last year by tendantis, but should come on strong for the Cats.

Finally, righty Levale Speigner from Thomasville, Georgia, will round out the starting rotation. Speigner was a mid season call up to High A ball last season had a 4-3 record with a 1.79 ERA for the Miracle.

While last season's Cats were shy on lefties, that won't be the case this year with Jason Miller, Jeff Randazzo, J.T. Thomas and Ricky Barrett in the bullpen. Submarine throwing Pat Neshek will share the closing duties with Kevin Cameron, both returning to the Rock Cat pride.

The Cats start their season Thursay April 7th on the road against New Haven for a 6:35 pm game and will play a series in Portland against the Sea Dogs before their home opener on April 14th.

Expect an explosion of baseball excitment with the new 2005 version of the New Britian Rock Cats!

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