by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Play ball!
The Mudcats will boast a pair of fresh-faced first-round draft picks and a young new manager when Cody Anderson (4-7, 3.20 at Lake County last season) takes the hill against Bryan Blough (2-0, 3.93) in the first of their three-game set against the Chicago White Sox affiliates.
The manager is 33-year-old David Wallace, a Vanderbilt alumnus and former Indians organization catcher who played in Kinston and later Buffalo. Wallace is 112-102 entering his third season as a manager.
The Mudcats went 63-77 in their first Carolina League season last year under Edwin Rodriguez.
Switch-hitting shortstop Francisco Lindor was the Indians’ first-round pick in 2011 and will be 19 years old through the season. Center fielder Tyler Naquin, last year’s first-round pick, is a left-hitter who played at Mahoning Valley in the New York-Penn League last season.
Naquin will be the Mudcats’ every day leadoff man, followed by left-hitting Tony Wolters — an infielder last season who’s being converted to catcher — in the No. 3 spot as the everyday designated hitter for much of April.
The rest of the batting order isn’t set in stone.
Switch-hitting Charlie Valerio will be the everyday catcher with lefty Jerrud Sabourin at first, left-hitting Joey Wendle at second and Todd Hankins at third. Bryson Miles will start the opener in left field and Jordan Smith in right.
Following Anderson in the rotation are Jacob Lee, southpaw Shawn Morimando, Will Roberts and Jordan Cooper.
They said it …
Anderson: “This is my first time going on opening night. I just want to go out there and go as deep as I can in the game and give us a chance to win and try not to put too much pressure on myself. I’ll probably have an 85-pitch limit. This is a great group of guys and I’m ready to go.”
Naquin: “I just want to play hard every day and let the numbers take care of themselves. I just want to hit well and have no errors in the outfield. Everything speaks for itself. And I want to stay healthy. I just need to command the strike zone and get good pitches to hit. I’d like to steal more bases and play more to my body type. We’re going to be solid. We’ve got a bunch of good arms and a lot of talent.”
Lindor: “I worked hard in the spring, learned a lot and got better. I’m working on everything - trying to get my pitch and take advantage of what the game gives me, whether it’s getting on base or moving a runner or trying to bring one in. I just want to get better every single day. This is a great group of guys. They’re fun and humble, and we all talk to each other and support each other. We all want to win and get better.”