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    Asheville Smokies Excited About Young Guns as 2011 Begins

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    AshevilleTom
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    Asheville Smokies Excited About Young Guns as 2011 Begins

    Post by AshevilleTom on Wed Mar 03, 2010 12:27 am

    Team Looks to Starting Pitching to Carry Weak Offense This Season

    The Smokies Vibe
    A Team Quarterly
    Lennon Johns Reporting

    April 4, 2011

    With the opening pitch just hours away, Team Owner Tom Lifsey and General Manager Jimmy Holbrook have whittled away excessive payroll and players to come up with what they feel will be a competitive team for 2011. Despite a lineup with only one proven long ball hitter, the Smokies management feels their starting pitching and improved bullpen should keep the team in more games this season than last season when they limped home at 80-82 and finished third in the strong Mantle Division.

    An early off season deal with the Carolina Bearcats has given the Smokies three young arms at the top of their rotation that appear to have solid careers ahead of them. Coming over to the Smokies from Carolina is Bailey 'Harpo' Gabrielson, 23. Gabrielson brings a big heart and a lot of heat and has won the Opening Day start according to Manager Gaylen Hicks. "He just came in here and showed us he is ready for the spotlight. We are so glad to have him and his enthusiasm and his talent will only make our other four starters better." Hicks said. Last year's talented rookie, Bill Bowman, also 23, brings his 17 wins from 2010 into his sophmore season. A tender elbow relegated him to the second spot in the rotation to start this season. The third young gun is returning starter Branson Rathwell, 26. Rathwell showed considerable improvement last season over 2009 and appears to be getting stronger and stronger. Finishing out the starting five will be Angelo Gallegos, 27, and Justin Fulton, 22. The bullpen was aided with the aquisition of Manuel Hernandez, 26, in the deal with Carolina. Hernandez brings a blazing 95 MPH fastball that at times will sneak in at 97. "If he can temper his control, he will be a buzzsaw." said a confident Hicks. "Our bullpen is better because of him." Along with Closer Pablo Gonzalez, 30, who saved 43 games for the Smokies in 2010, the bullpen will have Pancho Baca, 23, Karl Rioux, 31, Chris Johnston, 24, who is coming off a torn flexor tendon that forced him to miss all of 2010. At the back end of the pen are Carlos Roman, 23, and Roger Wilson, 22.

    With star catcher Mike Taylor, 26, on the DL and out for three weeks, the Smokies only have power hitting first baseman Ollie Roberts, 29, who has hits 30 or more homers and driven in over 100 runs in both his first two seasons. The team will have to depend more on situational ball to score runs this season and hope their pitchers hold up. Second baseman Sergio Avilla, 24, hopes to continue to improve from a career threatening injury in 2009 and have a breakout season at the top of the lineup. 32 year old and oft-injured Miguel Angel Garza hopes to avoid the injury bug and provide some offense and solid defense up the middle. For now, 31 year old and 2010 Gold Glove Winner, Rafael Rojas is back at third base. His spot is being pushed, however, by Trevor Saunders, 24. Saunders has a way about getting on base and that is what the club is in dire need of this season. Catcher Mike Knox, 24, FA aquisition and infielder Jacob Milne, 36, and backup first baseman Jorge Rojas, 25, fill up the bench, though Knox will open behind the plate until Taylor returns.

    The outfield will be headed by 34 year old right fielder Anastasio Correa who has had two .300 plus seasons and showed some power last year with 17 homers. 20 year old, and AHIBA career triples leader, Wally Thompson will man center field and will provide some much needed speed in the lineup. Left field will be platooned by 24 year old Ricardo Sanchez and 33 year old Manny Valdez. The Designated Hitter role will be primarily manned by 29 year old Okakura Taketo, who performed admirably in 2010 hitting .263 with 10 homers in 138 games.

    "While we may not have the bats that other teams in our division have, we do feel our pitching staff will keep us close in a lot of games this season." said GM Jimmy Holbrook. "We have assembled what we fill will keep us in contention and will help fill Len Daniels, Sr. Ballpark this season." he finished. As the players start filling into the clubhouse for tonight's opening game, the electricity is in the air and the fans of Asheville are buzzing.





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    Bumstead
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    Re: Asheville Smokies Excited About Young Guns as 2011 Begins

    Post by Bumstead on Wed Mar 03, 2010 12:43 am

    Nice article! Hopefully Wingate can solve those Smokies this season! Razz

    Jeff
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    Re: Asheville Smokies Excited About Young Guns as 2011 Begins

    Post by PhoenixGM on Wed Mar 03, 2010 11:26 pm

    Good article & good luck. You've always got a chance with good pitching... You ever want to get rid of any pitching for a bat or two let me know...
    -George

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