Today is the opening day for the full season minor league teams, with all four of the Pittsburgh Pirates affiliates in action. The schedule is as follows:
Indianapolis Indians (AAA) at Columbus Clippers – 7:05 PM EST
The Indians open their season on the road against the Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Kevin Hart will take the mound for Indianapolis, with Pedro Alvarez making his AAA debut. Indianapolis hitters will be going up against Carlos Carrasco, who Cleveland acquired in the Cliff Lee trade to Philadelphia. Also playing for Indianapolis will be Brian Friday, Brandon Jones, Brandon Moss, and Jose Tabata.
Altoona Curve (AA) vs Harrisburg Senators – 6:30 PM EST
The Curve will send Michael Crotta to the mound to face the AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals and pitcher Jeff Mandel, who is Washington’s #27 prospect this year, according to Baseball America. Altoona will see the AA debuts of Chase d’Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Matt Hague, and Kris Watts, plus Ronald Uviedo could show up in relief. That’s most of the group that won the 2009 Carolina League championship in Lynchburg.
Bradenton Marauders (A+) vs Fort Myers Miracle – 7:00 PM EST
The Marauders will play their first ever game against Fort Myers, the high-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The pitching matchup should be a good one. For Bradenton, Bryan Morris takes the mound. Morris is coming off a bad season, but looked good at times down the stretch last year, and looked significantly improved in Spring Training, both based off of reports I heard, and the chances I got to see him pitch in an inter-squad game. Fort Myers will send out Minnesota’s 2009 first round pick Kyle Gibson, who will be making his professional debut. Bradenton will see the high-A debuts of Calvin Anderson, Brock Holt, Robbie Grossman, and Jeremy Farrell at the high-A level, along with the return of Tony Sanchez and Starling Marte, who were late season call-ups to the 2009 Lynchburg Hillcats.
West Virginia Power (A) at Savannah Sand Gnats – 7:05 PM EST
West Virginia takes on the low-A affiliate of the New York Mets, with Hunter Strickland taking on Armando Rodriguez. I’m interested in seeing Strickland follow up on his brief time with West Virginia last year. Strickland put up a 3.77 ERA with a 23:6 K/BB ratio in 43 innings over eight starts with the Power, after coming over from Boston in the Adam LaRoche trade. The highlight was his first start, in which he combined for a no-hitter with Diego Moreno. Strickland combined for a 3.49 ERA and a 74:19 K/BB ratio in 126.1 innings in the South Atlantic League last year. West Virginia hitters should include Aaron Baker, Benjamin Gonzalez, Evan Chambers, Wes Freeman, and the highly anticipated return of middle infield prospect Jarek Cunningham, who missed the entire 2009 season with a torn ACL.