The Rock Cats open their season on Thursday at New Britain Stadium. (Photo courtesy Rock Cats via Facebook)
NEW BRITAIN, April 1 – Two Connecticut natives are on the opening day roster for the New Britain Rock Cats, the Double A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, the team announced Monday.
Left-handed started pitcher Pat Dean is a native of Naugatuck and pitched for the Rock Cats last season before moving up to Triple A Rochester. Left-handed reliever Jim Fuller played collegiate baseball at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.
New Britain opens the 2014 season on Thursday night when they host Richmond at 6:30 p.m. — the first game of a seven-game home stand.
Kennys Vargas, a 6-foot-5, 273 pound first baseman who hit 19 home runs and had 93 RBI in the Florida State League in 2013, will be at New Britain for the first time. Vargas has been often compared to Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and is on the Twins 40-man major league roster.
Right-handed pitcher Lester Oliveros, coming back from Tommy John surgery, is the only Rock Cats player with major league experience. He pitched for the Tigers and Twins for two years in 2011 and 2012.
The Rock Cats lineup should have plenty of power with Vargas (19 home runs with Class A Ft. Myers in 2013), Brandon Waring (25 HR between Bowie and Triple A Norfolk) and Reynaldo Rodriguez who led the Rock Cats with 21 home runs last season.
New Britain’s starting rotation will be anchored by returnees Dean, D.J. Baxendale, a 10th round draft pick from the University of Arkansas and Matt Summers (4th round, UC-Irvine). They’ll be joined by talented newcomers LHP Sean Gilmartin, a former first round draft pick by the Atlanta Braves, and Taylor Rogers, an 11th round pick from the University of Kentucky.
The 2014 Rock Cats roster consists of 13 returning players along with 12 new comers. While much of the roster was built on original Twins draft picks and international free agent signings, some of the players have come through trades and minor league free agent signings.
Gilmartin was acquired from the Braves in exchange for Ryan Doumit this past December and has pitched at the Triple-A level. He was the 28th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Florida State University. Fuller, outfielder Corey Wimberly and infielders Tony Thomas and Waring were signed by the Twins as minor league free agents. Wimberly, Thomas and Waring have played at the Triple-A level.
Opening Day is Thursday at 6:35 p.m. against Richmond with day games on Friday (noon), Saturday (1:30 p.m.) and Sunday (1:30 p.m.). New Britain hosts Harrisburg for three games on April 7-9.