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Tri-City ValleyCats Finalize 2011 Roster

Courtesy Tri-City ValleyCats

Opening Day for the Tri-City ValleyCats is just a day away and with that, means the Opening Day roster is set for the short-season Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros.

There will be 28 minor-league players in the Astros organization that will begin the summer in Troy as the ValleyCats look to defend their 2010 New York-Penn League title.

Five players from that championship team will return to Tri-City this season. Shortstop Jacke Healey, who hit five homers and drove in 21 runs for the ValleyCats, joins catcher Ryan McCurdy as the returning position players. Left-handed pitchers Travis Blankenship and Adam Champion, as well as righty Joan Belliard, will return to the Tri-City bullpen. Blankenship ranked second with a 2.35 ERA in 30.2 innings last year, while Belliard led relievers with 36.1 innings pitched.

Relievers Ryan Cole and Garrett Bullock, who were added to the Tri-City roster at the end of last season but never appeared in a game, will also be back in Troy for Opening Day. Right-handed pitcher Ebert Rosario played four games at third base for the Val­leyCats in 2008; he went back down the minor-league ladder to transition to a bullpen role last summer, and will spend his first full season on the mound with Tri-City.

Several college players selected in the 2011 MLB Draft will make their professional de­buts in Troy. Fifth-round draft pick Nick Tropeano, a pitcher from Stony Brook, and sixth-round selection Brandon Meredith, an outfielder from San Diego State, headline the crop of 10 ValleyCats drafted by Houston last week.

Tropeano, who was born in West Islip, N.Y., is not the only ValleyCat with experience playing baseball in the Northeast. Matt Duffy, a third baseman drafted in the 20th round out of Tennessee, was born in Boston and played for the Vermont Catamounts for two years before transferring, and Cole grew up in North Syracuse.

Six international players are on the Opening Day roster. The ValleyCats have four play­ers from the Dominican Republic, one from Venezuela and one from Columbia.

The team will be led by rookie manager Stubby Clapp, who spent the previous four seasons as a hitting coach in the Astros’ organization, most recently at Class A Lexing­ton. Hitting coach Mark Bailey is also new to the coaching staff after spending one sea­son as the hitting coach at Double-A Corpus Christi.

The ValleyCats begin their 2011 season at Joe Bruno Stadium on Friday, June 17, when they host the Vermont Lake Monsters at 7 p.m.

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