Opening Day for the Grizzlies’ 2012 season is 35 days away (43 until the home opener on April 13th). While the next month will dictate how the Grizzlies roster shakes out, it is time to revisit the 2011 Opening Day roster. Some familiar faces may return to Fresno this season, but several players have moved on to other organizations. Check out the list below to see where they have landed.
RHP Josh Banks – signed with the Baltimore Orioles. Banks was without a job until February 28th when he signed with the Orioles on a Minor League contract. The right-hander is local to the Baltimore area as he is from Severna Park, Maryland.
RHP Casey Daigle – unsigned. Daigle pitched in 36 games with the Grizzlies last season. He did not pitch in a game after July 10th, however, as he ended the season on the disabled list.
RHP Steve Edlefsen – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. The right-hander made his Major League debut in 2011, pitching in 13 games with the Giants. The 26-year-old, who has pitched in Fresno for parts of the last three seasons, may once again start the year in Fresno this season, but he may also see significant time with the Giants.
LHP Alex Hinshaw – signed with the San Diego Padres. The left-hander was released this past offseason, before he was signed by San Diego. The 29-year-old attended San Diego State University, so the transition to America’s Finest City should be an easy one if he pitches for the parent club. Hinshaw was invited to the Padres’ Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
RHP Andrew Kown – re-signed with the Giants; invited to San Francisco’s Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Kown is a candidate to once again pitch for the Grizzlies, depending on how he performs in Spring Training and what types of opportunities open up at the big league level.
RHP Marc Kroon – retired
RHP Shane Loux – re-signed with the Giants; invited to San Francisco’s Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Similar to Kown, Loux will more than likely start the season in Fresno if he sticks with the Giants organization.
RHP Doug Mathis – signed by the Boston Red Sox. Mathis appeared in 13 games with the Grizzlies in 2011 before joining the Oakland A’s organization midway through the year. The University of Missouri product is in Boston’s big league camp this spring. Former Giants farmhand Tony Pena Jr. is also with Mathis in Boston’s Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
RHP David Mixon – retired midseason last year. After appearing in seven games with the Grizzlies, the right-hander was sent to Double-A Richmond before joining High-A San Jose. In July, Mixon decided to step away from the game and step into a post-baseball career.
RHP Henry Sosa – traded to the Houston Astros midseason last year. Sosa is on the Astros’ 40-man roster and figures to contend for a spot in Houston’s pitching staff at some point this season. The Astros are a young team, and Sosa has only made 10 Major League starts in his career, all of which occurred last season.
RHP Ryan Vogelsong – re-signed with the Giants on a two-year deal. In case you didn’t hear, the right-hander had a good season last year.
LHP Matt Yourkin – re-signed with the Giants; invited to San Francisco’s Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Once again, Yourkin is in the same boat as Kown and Loux in terms of where he starts this season. If Yourkin pitches for the Grizzlies in 2012, it will be his third-straight season in Fresno.
C Chris Stewart – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Stewart is competing with Eli Whiteside for the backup catcher role with the Giants.
C Jackson Williams – still within the Giants organization. Williams is attending big league Spring Training camp for the fifth straight season as a non-roster invitee.
INF Brock Bond – still within the Giants organization. Bond missed most of the 2011 season with an injury. He will be looking to bounce back in 2012, possibly putting up numbers similar to 2010, when he was named a Pacific Coast League All-Star.
INF Emmanuel Burriss – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Burriss is competing for a role with the Giants full-time, either as a starter or as a utility player off the bench.
INF Conor Gillaspie – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Gillaspie appeared in 15 games with the Giants last season as a September call-up. He first appeared with the Giants in a limited role during his first professional season in 2008, all of which was part of his contract. Gillaspie will more than likely start the year in Fresno with his play and opportunities opening up at the Major League level determining where he finishes the year.
INF Edgar Gonzalez – signed by the Chicago Cubs. Gonzalez was one of the mainstays in the Grizzlies lineup in a year filled with plenty of roster turnover. He signed with the Cubs organization entering the 2012 season and is participating in the Cubs’ big league Spring Training camp as a non-roster invitee. Plenty of competition exists for Gonzalez in the Cubs’ camp, but Grizzlies fans might have the opportunity to watch him play again in May when the Iowa Cubs pay a visit to Fresno. All of this, of course, depends on Gonzalez staying with the Cubs organization if he does not make the big league club breaking Spring Training.
INF Brett Pill – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Pill is competing for a spot on the Giants 25-man roster breaking Spring Training camp. After primarily playing first base for his first five professional seasons, Pill gained some experience at second base with the Grizzlies in 2011. In addition to playing a handful of games at third in the minors, as well as taking some fly balls as an outfielder in Spring Training, Pill is adding versatility to help him make the Giants’ Opening Day roster.
INF Ryan Rohlinger – signed a Minor League contract with the Cleveland Indians. Rohlinger was traded to the Colorado Rockies in early June of last season, where he played in 70 games with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox to end the year. The 28-year-old will attend the Indians’ Minor League camp after his deal with Cleveland did not include an invitation to the big league Spring Training.
OF Terry Evans – unsigned. Evans opened the 2011 campaign with the Giants organization, appearing in 39 games with the Grizzlies. He opted out of his contract at the end of May, freeing him up to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Georgia native played in 48 games with the Double-A Reading Phillies to close out the 2011 season.
OF Darren Ford – signed with the Seattle Mariners. The speedy outfielder was let go by the Giants this past offseason in a reshuffling of the 40-man roster. Ford battled injuries for most of the 2011 season, spending time at four different levels in the San Francisco organization. Ford received an invitation to the Mariners’ Major League Spring Training, but with nine outfielders already on the 40-man roster, Ford will have plenty of opportunity to compete for a spot with Mariners. Worse comes to worse, Ford will land with the Tacoma Rainiers. The Grizzlies play the Rainiers to open Fresno’s 2012 home schedule.
OF Tyler Graham – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Graham led the PCL in steals in 2011, a year after he batted .343 over 109 games with the Grizzlies in 2010. The Giants added Graham to their 40-man roster this past offseason, meaning Graham could make his Major League debut in 2012 if an outfield spot opens up in San Francisco or, at the very least, as a September call-up.
OF Thomas Neal – traded to the Cleveland Indians midway through last season. Neal has secured a 40-man roster spot with the Indians entering Spring Training, but he is facing plenty of competition, including from former Grizzlies and Giants outfielder Fred Lewis.
By: Josh Jackson
Anybody who is involved in Minor League Baseball knows that there is a certain theme affiliated with the sport. It does not matter if you are a player, a coach, a front office employee, or a lowly intern such as myself. Everyone is trying to push themselves to the next level, however possible. This concept especially pertains to me, as a recent college graduate currently seeking full-time employment, as the competition in the industry doesn’t exclusively take place on the baseball diamond. Of course, this is what I expected when I started my internship back in February, but I did not get to fully experience the fluidity of the industry until taking a trip with the team to Sacramento.
The June 17th game against the Sacramento River Cats marked the beginning of the 2011 edition of what is known as the Highway 99 showdown series. It also represented my first experience on the road with a professional baseball team. I sat in the press box during the game and really tried to take everything in. It was a beautiful day at Raley Field, and I was admiring the performance of Grizzlies starter Matt Yourkin, who was having another solid outing. At a certain point during the game, River Cats Media Relations Director Rebecca Brutlag peered through her binoculars as she saw an unfamiliar figure warming up in the Sacramento bullpen. “Who the heck is that warming up in our bullpen?” she asked to the press box at large. I turned to my boss, Director of Media Relations with the Grizzlies, and he jokingly replied, “It’s probably Doug Mathis.”
Doug Mathis had opted out of his contract with the Fresno Grizzlies just two days prior. Despite six quality starts in 13 appearances as a Grizzly, Mathis was never able to find the win column for a variety of reasons. Anyone who paid any attention to the season that Doug Mathis was having in Fresno would be understanding of his frustration and the decision he made. Mathis needed a new start in order to get to where he wanted to be.
So as it turns out, we looked through the binoculars and confirmed that the right-hander warming up in the home bullpen was none other than Mathis himself. We eventually found out that Mathis had been signed by the Oakland A’s and was set to be placed on the Sacramento roster. Mathis made no appearance that day, but the sighting of one of our best pitchers in a rival uniform served as a wake-up call. It showed me just how quickly things could change on a day-to-day basis.
The situation became even more of a reality when we were down in the River Cats clubhouse the next day. As I waited for my boss to finish an interview with Major League rehabber Mark Ellis, I stood just a few feet away from Mathis, who was wearing a Sacramento River Cats warm-up shirt. He sat there quietly as he ate the food provided to the players. Guys were coming up to him and introducing themselves, which drove home the fact that Mathis was still a stranger in the clubhouse. None of it seemed out of the ordinary, though. It was evident that scenarios like this are played out on a constant basis.
After the near no-hit performance put on by the Grizzlies pitching staff that day, we headed back to the hotel in downtown Sacramento. As we walked into a lounge area near the lobby, we noticed a few of the Grizzlies players and coaches sitting at a table, sharing food and cocktails. It took me a second to realize it, but Mathis had joined the group. This was not shocking to me by any means, however being a witness to the scene reminded me of my recent college experiences.
The baseball world is just like one big fraternity- everyone seems to be connected to each other in one way or another. In fact, we ran into Grizzlies reliever Geno Espineli and River Cats reliever Joe Bateman at a local Irish Pub later on that night. The two pitchers had played together at Double-A Connecticut when Bateman was still with the Giants organization. We sat and talked about baseball in general and what it was like to work in the sport from each of our own perspectives.
At one point in the conversation, Espineli made a statement that I felt was really representative of what playing at the minor league level is all about. “It’s crazy how much players move around. Everywhere I go, I’ll run into people I used to play with and I’ll be like, ‘Wow, you’re playing here now?’ It’s just crazy how often it happens.”
Bateman was also venting his frustration that comes with the strenuous environment of the minors. After a couple of drinks, it was hard for an athlete like himself to conceal his competitive nature. “I just feel like I deserve a shot. I should at least get the chance,” he explained. Bateman got off to a good start in the beginning of the year, but has struggled as of late. He did, however, strike out four Grizzly batters over two innings the previous day. Bateman seemed overly eager throughout the conversation, and at one point he had inquired to see if we had heard his name get brought up in any trade rumors. We laughed and joked about it even though his request was somewhat serious. The conversation eventually ended and I returned back to the hotel having gained a new perspective on the world of baseball.
In business school, we always talked about the importance of developing good contacts and maintaining healthy professional relationships along the way. I saw over that weekend that this is not a foreign concept in professional sports, regardless of how you are affiliated with the industry. What I learned and experienced could not necessarily be achieved in a classroom setting, I had to see it for myself. I don’t know if there is any real conclusion to a baseball story, but I am excited to say that my story is just beginning.