Opening Day: Clippers season preview
Last year was really a tale of two seasons for the Columbus Clippers.
The elation was tangible as the team took the field April 19, new bricks and turf sparkling in the full sunshine of an unforgettable Sunday afternoon. It was a standing-room-only crowd, and even naysayers who lamented the move from Cooper Stadium to the Arena District had come around in appreciation of the stellar new digs.
Memories of the horrid Washington Nationals had all but vanished, and there was hope in the Cleveland Indians, who became the Clippers' parent club in 2009. It was a new era - and it felt like one.
Then, in the languid but steadfast manner of baseball, the Clippers lost ground in the West Division. A little bit at first, then a lot. By September, the team had fallen to 57-85, the second-worst mark in the International League.
Hope springs eternal in baseball, though, and the 2010 season should be another interesting one for the Clippers.
On one hand, they have some budding, hard-swinging prospects and new hitting and batting coaches. On the other hand, they'll likely be funneling significant talent to the Tribe, which will struggle all year to achieve mediocrity.
As the Clippers take the field tonight in a home opener against the Indianapolis Indians, here are some players and games to watch.
Players to Watch
Height:: 5 feet, 11 inches
Weight: 190 pounds
In 2009, Santana was named the player of the year in the Eastern League, a double-A organization. He's a power hitter from both sides of the plate, one reason MLB.com recently named him the No. 11 minor-league prospect.
Height: 6 feet, 3 inches
Weight: 170 pounds
After running hot and cold for a few years, this right-handed Venezuelan seems to have finally mastered his stuff. Last year with Cleveland's double-A affiliate, Gomez went 10-4 with a 3.43 ERA, 109 strikeouts and a perfect game on May 21.
Height: 6 feet, 3 inches
Weight: 221 pounds
The Clippers are hoping that an opening-day start gets this right-hander off to a good start. Since coming to the Clippers midway through the 2009 season, he went 5-1 with a .319 ERA and a .196 opposing average.
Games to Watch
Here's a look at the teams coming through town this season, and our picks for which matchups should make for good games.
Affiliate: New York Yankees
First time in town: Aug. 17-20
Affiliate: Washington Nationals
First time in town: May 1-4
Lehigh Valley IronPigs
Affiliate: Philadelphia Phillies
First time in town: May 27-30
Rochester Red Wings
Affiliate: Minnesota Twins
First time in town: June 8-11
Pawtucket Red Sox
Affiliate: Boston Red Sox
First time in town: July 23-26
Affiliate: New York Mets
First time in town: July 27-30
Affiliate: Tampa Bay Rays
First time in town: May 14-17
Since 1998, Durham has been the International League's winningest team and won the championship last year. Fan support is most necessary.
Affiliate: Atlanta Braves
First time in town: June 25-28
Affiliate: Baltimore Orioles
First time in town: June 12-15
Affiliate: Chicago White Sox
First time in town: April 27-30
Affiliate: Cincinnati Reds
First time in town: April 12-13
Contrary to the team name, the West Division champions didn't hit that well last year. Instead, Louisville had the league's second-best team ERA in 2009 - a good match for a strong Clippers lineup.
Toledo Mud Hens
Affiliate: Detroit Tigers
First time in town: April 14-15
The Mud Hens finished second in the West Division last year and always seem to bring an A-game when playing their Ohio rivals. This in-state series is always a good time.
Affiliate: Pittsburgh Pirates
First time in town: April 8-11
Affiliate: Cleveland Indians