ABERDEEN - Coming off the first playoff berth in the 12-year history of the franchise, the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds open a new season on Friday at Hudson Valley.
Aberdeen went 40-32 last year, going 20-11 over its final 31 games to charge to the playoffs before getting eliminated two games to none by Tri-City.
The 2014 IronBirds begin a new year with a season-opening roster that will include Dylan Bundy for at least two starts, along with 2013 third-round pick pitcher Stephen Tarpley and sixth-round pick catcher Alex Murphy from Calvert Hall in Baltimore. Catcher Jonah Heim, a fourth-round pick last year, is expected to soon join the team.
Two of the Orioles’ top 10 round draft picks from this year may also soon join the IronBirds as the club has reportedly agreed to terms with eighth-round second baseman Steve Wilkerson (Clemson), ninth-round third baseman Austin Anderson (Ole Miss) and 40th-round outfielder T.J. Olesczuk (Winthrop).
At today’s media day at Ripken Stadium, second-year manager Matt Merullo said Janser Severino, a 22-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, will start Friday on opening night when Aberdeen plays at Hudson Valley.
Tarpley will start the second game Saturday and Bundy will start Sunday. Bundy is then expected to make a second Aberdeen start at home on June 21 as his comeback from Tommy John surgery moves to the next step. Right-hander Nick Cunnigham, a 20th-round pick in 2013, will also be part of what will be a six-man rotation for the IronBirds.
As more draft picks come to terms and report to Aberdeen, the IronBirds rotation and roster could be changing a bit.
Merullo saw Bundy when he made his recent start at extended spring training.
“His last outing at extended, he dominated,” Merullo said. “I know it was extended spring, but he made his pitches, had velocity and a feel for his off-speed stuff. I could tell he felt good about executing the pitches he was trying to make that day and he went four innings in that game.”
The IronBirds will hold a press conference with Bundy on Thursday at 10 a.m. at Ripken Stadium.
Merullo said among several players that looked good during extended spring, one that stood out was 21-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Oswill Lartiguez, who hit .283 in the Gulf Coast League last summer.
“He is a right-handed-hitting outfielder with a true right fielder’s arm,” Merullo said. “He’s got some power and he is the classic guy that makes it look easy. I don’t think he knows how good he can be right now. He’s been injured in the past and probably only has 100 or 120 at-bats in his pro career coming into this season. But I like what I’m seeing with Lartiquez.”
A former big league catcher, Merullo seems to enjoy working with young players - players that are in the early stages of their pro careers and some that join the team coming right out of the draft.
“The players are getting out of college and some in their first full season of pro ball and we are helping to mold them into the types of players that we potentially see them when they sign,” he said, “I’m thrilled to be back, had a lot of fun last year.”
The IronBirds will open the season with a seven-game road trip before their home opener on June 20 at Ripken Stadium.
Below is Aberdeen’s break-camp roster.
Pitchers: Brady Adamek, Augey Bill, Derrick Bleeker, Garrett Cortright, Stefan Crichton, Nick Cunningham, Dariel Delgado, Dioni Dominguez, Eric Green, Ivan Hernandez, Nik Nowottnick, Elias Pinales, Alex Santana, Janser Severino, Stephen Tarpley.
Catchers: Alex Murphy, Tanner Murphy.
Infielders: Byron Capellan, Cameron Kneeland, Ronarsy Ledesma, Cory Segui.
Outfielders: Manny Hernandez, Oswill Lartiguez, Alexander Mercedes, Andrickson Zorilla.
Heim is going to be added to the roster and yes, Cory is David Segui’s son. He hit .211 in 33 games in the GCL in 2013.