The Aberdeen IronBirds will open their New York-Penn League season tonight playing at Hudson Valley and the IronBirds will host the same team in their home opener Wednesday night at Ripken Stadium.
Aberdeen's manager is Gary Allenson, the Orioles' Triple-A skipper the last five seasons at Norfolk. His pitching coach is former Oriole Alan Mills and the batting coach is former Double-A Bowie manager Brad Komminsk.
Right-hander Sebastian Vader, the Orioles' 18th-round pick in 2010, will be the IronBirds' opening night starting pitcher. Vader, who turned 20 on June 3, was drafted out of San Marcos (Calif.) High School and went 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA in the Gulf Coast League last summer.
Right-hander Jaime Esquivel will pitch Game 2. Others expected to be in the rotation are Mark Blackmar, Juan Guzman and Cameron Coffey.
Here are some of the position players playing with Aberdeen and the 2012 draft picks are shown with the round where they were selected:
1B - Doug Bream, Joe Velleggia, Cameron Edman
2B - Jerome Pena, Creede Simpson (round 25)
SS - Dudley Leonora, Joel Hutter (round 10)
3B - Torsten Boss (round 8), Ryan Zrenda
OF - Roderick Bernadina, Will Howard (round 22), Chris Clinton, Anthony Vega (round 30), Roberto Ortiz.
C - Sam Kimmel (round 18), Pedro Perez
After managing at the minor leagues' highest level, this will be a change for Allenson, who managed some of these players during extended spring training.
"I've done this level before, but it's been a few years," he said. "It will be a little different. You know one thing about it, you won't have to put up with the headaches of the 3-A and 4-A guys wondering why they are not the one that got called up and stuff like that. These guys, especially the new guys, will want to impress you. I don't think you'll have to worry about telling someone to run it out to first."
Allenson said he realizes it will take some time for him to learn about the 2012 draft picks as they join his team throughout the season.
"They did something successful to get drafted, so you just let them go out and play. They are in pro baseball for the first time and things are going a mile a minute for them right now," he said.
Bernadina, whose older brother Roger plays for the Nationals, is an intriguing prospect from Curacao. He hit .239 with four homers and 28 RBIs in the GCL in 2011 and after the season was ranked as that league's 12th-best prospect by Baseball America.
"He's got some tools and is a young kid that will turn 20 in August," Allenson said. "When you manage at extended spring, you see a lot of young guys chase breaking balls. He'll chase a few, but if you leave one around the strike zone, he can do something with it. Plus he uses the whole field, hitting line drives to left and right. Not saying he won't struggle here some, but I think he has a bright future and he has some good baseball instincts."
Bernadina played right field last summer but will likely get some time in center field with the IronBirds.
Managing players that are young and inexperienced, Allenson said that there is really only one thing he will demand from those players and that is 100 percent daily effort.
"I try to manage the way I played. I played hard. I played for Frank Robinson one year in winter ball and probably hit just .250, but he liked me because I played hard. That is all you want, the effort. Everyone's ability is different but it's not hard to run to first base four times a game," he said.
"As long as the effort is there and the guys play hard and run the bases hard, that is important. We want to be aggressive on the bases."
Allenson can't be sure just how good his team can or will be until he see them compete against some of the other league clubs beginning tonight.
"You always get the question, 'How are you going to be this year?' It's kind of tough to tell since we haven't seen the rest of the teams in the league," Allenson said.
He said he will lend his young players support, understanding that some are playing in pro ball for the first time and others may be in just their second or third pro seasons and have yet to play full-season ball.
"Baseball is not getting too high when you are going good or too low when you are going bad. When the guys are struggling, I need to remind them it's happened to all of us, you'll get out of it," Allenson said.