SYDNEY, 2 April - The 2013 Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball seasons are at hand in the United States, and Australians are once more contributing across the board. A pair of Aussies have broken spring camp with their MLB clubs, notching places on Opening Day rosters, and a host of others are waiting in the wings at the Triple-A level to take their step to the big leagues.
Pitchers Grant Balfour and Liam Hendriks headline Australia’s contingent in the US as the country’s two big leaguers to open 2013. Oakland Athletics closer Balfour played an integral role in last year’s surprising American League West Division-winning season for the A’s. The Sydney native pitched in 75 games for the Athletics a year ago, posting a 3-2 record, a 2.53 ERA, and recording 24 saves including his final one on October 3 when Oakland clinched their division title. Balfour will fill the same role for the Athletics this season, serving as his club’s closer and one of their most experienced players .
Hendriks looks to capitalise on his long-anticipated promise at the major league level in 2013. Following a frustrating 2012 in which the Minnesota Twins right-hander went only achieved one win against eight losses while racking up a 5.59 ERA, Hendriks turned in a strong spring in March. In seven starts, the Perth-born hurler went 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA and was named to Minnesota’s starting rotation. It is anticipated that Hendriks will make his 2013 debut in the Twins’ Friday tilt at Baltimore.
Waiting in the wings of the big leagues are eight players from Down Under who will begin 2013 at the Triple-A level, the highest tier of Minor League Baseball. Seven of those players are active and one, Perth Heat catcher Matt Kennelly, will begin his season on the disabled list with the Gwinnett Braves (Triple-A affiliates of the Atlanta Braves). Kennelly will be joined on the G-Braves roster by Melbourne Aces reliever Andrew Russell.
Joining Russell in the Melbourne contingent at Triple-A are Aces shortstop James Beresford with the Rochester Red Wings (Minnesota Twins) and Victorian pitchers Josh Spence with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (New York Yankees) and Peter Moylan with the Albuquerque Isotopes (Los Angeles Dodgers).
Perth pitcher Cameron Lamb is also at the highest level of minor league ball, beginning 2013 with the Oklahoma City RedHawks (Houston Astros), and a pair of New South Welshmen round out the list. Pitchers Josh Spence and Ryan Rowland-Smith will be on opposite sides of the legendary Red Sox-Yankees rivalry; Spence with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (New York) and Rowland-Smith with the Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston).
Over 50 other Australians and New Zealanders dot the Minor League Baseball landscape from Double-A down to rookie ball levels, and soon, the MLB Australian Academy Program will embark on its 13th year, showcasing the best young players in Australia and giving them a chance to take part in high-level competition against their peers with MLB scouts in attendance.
Just like a year ago, the Australian Baseball League will keep fans updated all season long with an updated player database on TheABL.com.au following Aussie players and former ABL imports in their current baseball careers.