Anyone who wants to catch right fielder Bryce Harper in an official professional baseball game without having to travel to Georgia or Kentucky will have to wait until April 15. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to see as the minor league season begins.
Thursday is opening day in nine of the 10 full-season minor leagues. The only exception is the high Class A Carolina League, which starts Friday night with four games, including Lynchburg’s visit to Potomac. Left-hander Danny Rosenbaum, who helped the Nationals win the Carolina League’s Mills Cup last year, is slated to start against Arodys Vizcaino,ranked as the Braves’ No. 7 prospect by Baseball America. The P-Nats outfield of Destin Hood, Eury Perez and J.P. Ramirez will be a fun one to watch. (Adam Kilgore mentioned them in his update on the entire system Monday on Nationals Journal.)
Lynchburg’s roster also includes second baseman Phil Gosselin, whose home run off Stephen Strasburg started Virginia on its way to the 2009 College World Series. Rick Albert will be the Hillcats’ interim manager, but Luis Salazar, who lost an eye after he was hit by a foul ball during spring training, is expected to return for the club’s home opener April 15.
“We’ll see what he can do, and then go from there,” Albert said Wednesday. “He’s in extended spring [training], rehabbing. On the health end of it, he can take over managing the game, but as far as coaching third base [another task for minor league managers] and the physical side of it, we don’t know yet. He also hurt his throwing wrist and arm in the fall. It’s amazing that he’s alive, from everything we’ve heard.”
Elsewhere, Orioles No. 1 prospect Manny Machado will make his low Class A debut Thursday night at Delmarva (in Salisbury, Md.) against Greensboro. A shortstop who was taken third overall in 2010 (two picks behind Harper), he’ll be the highest-drafted player to ever suit up for the Shorebirds.
As for Harper, who will open the season in the South Atlantic League along with Machado, his Hagerstown Suns play at Rome, Ga., for four games starting Thursday night before a four-game series in Lexington, Ky. Nationals farm director Doug Harris said Wednesday morning that Harper is good to go Thursday night, which is no surprise after the display he put on Tuesday night at a public workout in Hagerstown. (Here’s a report on the event from the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.)
The grind of spring training is finally over for the minor leaguers, with the first game coming Thursday morning at 11:15 when Zach Brtton-less Norfolk visits Charlotte. Then at 3:05, Syracuse (the Nationals’ Class AAA team) plays in the second game in all of the minors when it meets host Buffalo.