Arkansas Travelers 2008 Opening Day Roster

Steve Marek will be the closer

The Arkansas Travelers in conjunction with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim announce their roster for the opening of the 2008 baseball season.

In his second year as Travs Manager Bobby Magallanes will work with a group consisting of 12 pitchers and 12 position players plus an average age of 24.6 years. Ten players will return to Arkansas from the 2007 season joined by 14 newcomers including OF Chris Pettit, the 2007 Angels Minor League Player of the Year, and SS Hainley Statia, LA's Minor League Defensive Player of the Year.

The 23-year old Pettit hit .327 with 18 home runs and 95 RBI splitting the 2007 season between Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga. Statia, 22, also performed well at the plate for Rancho Cucamonga with a .288 batting average, 74 RBI and 29 steals. Statia also led the California League in games played (135) and at-bats (549) while ranking second in base hits (158).

The Angels signed 1B Jesse Hoorelbeke and 3B Corey Smith out of the independent Atlantic League to handle the corner positions. Hoorelbeke, 30, is coming off a monster year for Bridgeport where he was the Atlantic League's co-Player of the Year with a league-best 33 home runs to go with a .313 average and 94 RBI. Formerly with the Mariners organization, Hoorelbeke swatted 22 homers with San Antonio in 2006. The 25-year old Smith is a former first-round pick of the Indians, and hit .274 with 18 homers for Newark in 2007. 2B Nate Sutton, who hit .277 last year at Rancho in 135 games, is expected to round out the starting infield with Ryan Leahy and Michael Collins returning to back up.

Pettit will be joined in the Travs' outfield by three returning players; Brad Coon, Aaron Peel and Cody Fuller. Coon, 25, joined the Travs in July and batted .301 in 51 games with 25 steals. Peel joins the Travs' opening day roster for the third straight season. The 25-year old batted .255 in 83 games with the Travs before a mid-season demotion. Peel finished the season with a flourish batting .346 with Rancho Cucamonga in the last month. Fuller, 25, played in 106 games for the Travs collecting a .221 average and 20 steals.

Both catchers on the club return to Arkansas with Ben Johnson due to start and Tim Duff backing up. Johnson, 26, hit 19 home runs between the Cal League and Arkansas and in 34 games with the Travs collected a .267 average, 5 homers and 18 RBI. Duff, 26, caught 46 games with the Travs last year and finished the season at Salt Lake.

The Travs' all right-handed starting pitching rotation includes four returnees; Fernando Rodriguez, Brok Butcher, Robert Mosebach and Jesse Smith. The opening day starter will be the 23-year old Rodriguez who was 8-4 for the Travs last year and holds a 19-12 record over the last two seasons. Butcher, 24, was 5-7 with a 2.69 ERA in 18 starts for Rancho Cucamonga before a promotion to Arkansas. Mosebach, 23, finished with two starts at Arkansas after an 11-7 season at Rancho Cucamonga. Smith, beginning his third season with the Travs, was limited to five appearances last year because of an arm injury. Anthony Ortega, 22, joins the Travs' rotation from Rancho Cucamonga where his 4.02 ERA ranked fifth in the Cal League.

RHP Stephen Marek, 24, will move into the bullpen for the first time and serve as the Travs' closer. Marek was 8-10 with a 4.30 ERA for Rancho Cucamonga last year. RHP Kevin Jepsen, 23, will also work late innings out of the bullpen after two years at Rancho where he averaged almost one strikeout per inning. Doug Brandt, 23, is the only left hander available in the pen and comes to Arkansas after splitting the 2007 season between Cedar Rapids and Rancho. Brandt tossed 104 innings allowing a 2.49 ERA with 115 strikeouts. RHP Francisco Rodriguez, 25, also joins the Travs' bullpen after two years at Rancho Cucamonga. RHP Bill Edwards returns for a third season with the Travs after a 4-4, 4.74 ERA season. RHP Von Stertzbach and RHP David Austen look to bounce back from injuries in their third years at Arkansas.

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