The Montgomery Biscuits have announced their opening day roster, which features OF Desmond Jennings, RHSP Jeremy Hellickson, and RHSP Heath Rollins. Jennings, a native of Birmingham, AL, will make his Double-A debut with the Biscuits in surprising fashion after injuries limited him to just 24 games with Vero Beach (A+) in 2008. A former Alabama football signee and 10th round draft choice in 2006, Jennings arrives in Montgomery at the age of 22.
Hellickson will also begin the season in Montgomery, and as announced by the Rays, will serve as the Biscuits opening day starter. Hellickson, a fourth round draft selection in 2005, was promoted to Double-A Montgomery on June 24th, 2008 and posted a 4-4 record and 3.94 ERA in 13 starts to finish the season. He had been dominant in 14 starts with Vero Beach prior to his promotion, boasting an ERA of 2.00
Rollins completes the trio of top-15 Baseball America prospects and joins Hellickson in the Biscuits starting rotation. An 11th round draft selection of the Rays in 2006, Rollins made his Biscuits debut on August 13th, 2008. He put together a record of 1-1 with an impressive ERA of 2.88 in four late-season starts.
The Biscuits opening day roster features 13 players that have appeared for the Biscuits prior to 2009. 12 of those wore the butter and blue in 2008, with the lone exception being RHP Chris Mason. Mason, who recorded one of the finest single-seasons in Biscuits history in 2007 when he went 15-4 and was named the Double-A Pitcher of the Year, will be looking to rebound from a tough 2008 season in Durham (AAA), where he compiled a record of 3-10 and an ERA of 6.21.
The 12 returning Biscuits from 2008 include: RHP Richard De Los Santos (begins season on the roster, but will rehab in Port Charlotte at start of year), RHP Neal Frontz, RHP Hellickson, RHP Eddie Morlan, RHP Ryan Reid (begins season on Biscuits roster, but will rehab in Port Charlotte at start of year), RHP Rollins, LHP Mike Wlodarczyk, C Craig Albernaz, C Matt Spring, 1B Rhyne Hughes, OF Rashad Eldridge and OF J.T. Hall.
The Biscuits starting rotation will feature Hellickson, Rollins, LHP Ryan Morse, RHP Brandon Mann and RHP Rayner Oliveros. Morse and Mann will each make their Double-A debut after anchoring the Vero Beach rotation in 2008, while Oliveros joined the Rays as a minor league free agent in the off-season.
In the bullpen for Montgomery on opening day: RHP Brian Baker, RHP Frontz, RHP Mason, RHP Calvin Medlock, RHP Morlan, RHP Paul Phillips and LHP Wlodarczyk. Morlan returns to the Biscuits, where he spent the entire 2008 season, after being reclaimed from the Milwaukee Brewers, who chose him in the Rule 5 Draft. Medlock spent the entire season in Durham along with Mason, making 41 relief appearances and recording a 3-3 record and 4.57 ERA.
The catching corps for the Biscuits include two familiar faces in Montgomery. Spring and Albernaz were each members of the 2008 Biscuits, with Spring spending his entire season with the club, hitting .248 with 9 HR in 70 games. C Ian Paxton will start the year on the Biscuits roster, but will be inactive to begin the season.
The Biscuits infield returns only 1B Hughes from 2008. Joining Hughes are: INF Drew Anderson, INF Jason Bowers, 1B Chip Cannon, UTIL Brandon Chaves and 3B Cesar Suarez. Bowers, Cannon and Chaves all signed with the Rays as minor league free agents in the off-season. Suarez hit .258 in 123 games as the everyday third baseman for Vero Beach. Anderson came over in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds a little over a week ago after finishing the 2008 season at Louisville (AAA) in the Reds chain.
Jennings highlights an outfield that also includes Eldridge, Hall and John Matulia. Eldridge had an outstanding campaign for the Biscuits in 2008, stealing 24 bases while hitting .290 and driving in 55 runs. Hall split the season between Vero Beach and Montgomery, notching 5 HR at each stop. Matulia advances from Vero Beach for the first time after batting .282 in 82 games in 2008.
Brian Baker, Richard De Los Santos, Neal Frontz, Jeremy Hellickson, Brandon Mann, Chris Mason, Calvin Medlock, Eddie Morlan, Ryan Morse, Rayner Oliveros, Paul Phillips, Ryan Reid, Heath Rollins, Mike Wlodarczyk
Craig Albernaz, Ian Paxton, Matt Spring
Drew Anderson, Jason Bowers, Chip Cannon, Brandon Chaves, Rhyne Hughes, Cesar Suarez
Rashad Eldridge, J.T. Hall, Desmond Jennings, John Matulia
Manager: Billy Gardner Jr.
Pitching Coach: Neil Allen
Coach: Ozzie Timmons
Trainer: Lee Slagle
Strength and Conditioning Coach: Pat Trainor