The 2009 Cedar Rapids Kernels are home and ready to battle their way back to the Midwest League playoffs. The 25-man roster includes nine members of the 2008 MWL playoff team as pitchers Chris Armstrong and Michael Davitt; catchers Anel De Los Santos and C.J. Bressoud; infielders Alexi Amarista, Hector Estrella and Gabe Jacobo; and outfielders Angel Castillo and Carlos Colmenares return to Cedar Rapids.
The roster includes RHP Vladimir Veras, who played in Cedar Rapids in 2007 but was injured last season, also is a member of the 2009 team.
In addition to the returning players, there are two of the Angels top prospects headed for Cedar Rapids. Right-handers Will Smith and Manuarys Correa (#14) join the Kernels pitching staff, which should be the driving force behind the team.
In addition to Smith and Correa, the starting rotation includes right-hander Michael Davitt and left-handers Manuel Flores and Jayson Miller.
In the bullpen, the Kernels have two legitimate closers in left-hander Andrew Taylor (5 saves) and right-hander Jeremy Thorne (8 saves - .121 BA against).
Offensively, look for speed on the basepaths.
Outfielder Robert Auer and infielder Alexi Amarista both had over 20 stolen bases in short-season play in 2008. Gabe Jacobo (10 HR/56 RBI) and Angel Castillo (14 HR/47 RBI) should supply some power and RBI production.
The 2009 Kernels will be playing an exhibition game against Kirkwood Community College at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, April 7th as part of 'Meet the Kernels Night'.
Opening Day at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium is scheduled for Thursday, April 9th when the Kernels take on the Beloit Snappers at 6:35 pm.