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Time to play: Who's going to be a Dust Devil?

Roughly one month from today, Fred Ocasio will return to the Tri-Cities in June for the tenth straight season. He’s been a fixture with the Tri-City Dust Devils since Day 1, when the team first opened camp in Pasco on June 16, 2001.

He has managed Tri-City to its first two East Division championships and last year became the team’s all-time winningest manager with 158 career victories. Ron Gideon is second with 149 wins from 2002-2005. Plus, he’s tied with Stu Cole (2001, 39-36) for career winning percentage at .520.

But even though Ocasio has become synonymous with Dust Devils baseball, he still doesn’t know which players will begin in Tri-Cities for the 2010 Northwest League season. Still, a recent conversation with Freddie gave me a few hints as to might start out with Tri-City this season.

Here are a couple of names Tri-City fans might remember from last year: OF Leonardo Reyes and P Brad McAtee. Yes, both have struggled, but both are coming off years in which they showed enough significant improvement to bring them back. Also, Ricky Testa, who pitched in six games for the Dust Devils last season, is still in camp.

Apparently, Charlie Blackmon, who set the Rockies’ short season record for hits in 2008, is still in Tucson nursing a sore hamstring. Ocasio said he was on the verge of returning but re-injured the leg.

Actually, I did a little bit of research of last year’s Casper Ghosts, the Colorado Rockies’ rookie league team in Wyoming, and I came up with a list of several players who could comprise as much as half the Dust Devils roster next year.

Here they are (with last year’s stats):

Pitchers: (*in starting rotation at Casper)

*RHP Ricardo Ferrer, age 19, 6-2, 174 (2-8 record, 6.95 ERA, 43 Ks, 27 BB, 66 IP)

*RHP Kyle Hancock, age 21, 6-3, 185 (3-5, 5.01, 45 Ks, 14 BB, 50.1 IP)

*RHP Clint Tilford, age 21, 6-2, 195 (2-4, 6.94, 27 Ks, 19 BB, 35 IP)

LHP Edwar Cabrera, age 21, 6-0, 160 (0-0, 3.38, 28 Ks, 12 BB, 21.1 IP)

RHP Tyler Gagnon, age 20, 6-2, 175 (0-1, 6.19, 20 Ks, 5 BB, 16 IP)

LHP Steve Junker, age 22, 6-5, 195 (0-2, 6.23, 14 Ks, 17 BB, 17.1 IP)

RHP Clinton McKinney, age 22, 6-2, 190 (0-3, 6.00, 14 K, 8 BB, 21 IP)

RHP Juan Rodriguez, age 20, 6-2, 186 (0-0, 12.79, 4 Ks, 17 BB, 6.1 IP)

RHP Billy Vopinek, age 23, 6-3, 200 (0-1, 4.09, 13 Ks, 9 BB, 22 IP)

RHP Coty Woods, age 21, 6-2, 190 (2-1, 4.43, 19 Ks, 10 BB, 22.1 IP)

Batters: (*played 25 or fewer games)

*C Dustin Garneau, age 21, R/R, 6-2, 195 (.250, 11 R, 1 HR, 13 RBI)

C Nick Valdez, age 23, R/R, 6-0, 175 (.231, 1 HR, 13 RBI)

1B Chad Jacobsen, age 23, 6-1, 210 (.262 avg., 26 R, 3 3B, 3 HRs, 17 RBI)

*2B Jose Rivera, age 19, 5-10, 170 (.175, 3 R, 2 SB)

IF Dominic Altobelli, age 22, 6-2, 195 (.233, 13 R, 16 RBI, 6 SB)

*IF David Hernandez, age 21, 6-1, 160 (.200, 8 R, 2 SB)

*OF Juan Crousset, age 20, R/R, 5-11, 193 (.288, 4 RBI, 1 SB)

OF David DiNatale, age 22, 6-1, 200 (.193, 2 3B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 3 SB)

OF David Kandilas, age 18, 6-2, 185 (.205, 10 RBI, 5 SB)

OF Chandler Laurent, age 21, 5-10, 180 (.292, 12 2B, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 8 SB)

Of the above names, Ocasio said Garneau and Laurent are having great springs. I was thinking they might move Laurent, a 21st-round pick in last year’s draft, up to Asheville, but you might see him in Tri-City after all. He’s got a good power bat, but pitcher-friendly Gesa Stadium might help add to his perspective at the plate. Ocasio also talked about another catcher, Georgia product Bryce Massanari, who was a 30th-rounder last year. He’s got great size at 6-2, 220 and hit 19 homers his senior year at Georgia.

More updates from extended to come.

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