Spring Training camps include Cougar alumni
GENEVA—With warm thoughts of Major League Baseball spring training now underway, many former Kane County Cougars are gearing up for the 2013 season.
Here’s a brief snapshot of Cougars alumni at various spring training sites.
Building on 2012
It’s hard to fathom what Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera (’01 Cougar) could provide for an encore in 2013.
Last season, Cabrera was a Major League All-Star, was named American League Most Valuable Player, and won the league’s Triple Crown. The Triple Crown achievement was the first such occurrence in big league history since 1967. Cabrera finished the regular season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI.
Pittsburgh pitcher A.J. Burnett (’98 Cougar) opened last season with a 15-4 record before fading down the stretch. Still, Burnett’s 16-10 record meant that the right-hander reached the 10-win mark for his eighth straight season.
San Diego pitcher Huston Street (’04 Cougar) was a first-time Major League All-Star last season. Street recorded a 1.85 ERA (his lowest since twirling a 1.72 ERA during his rookie season in ’05) and saved 23 games for San Diego in 2012.
San Francisco pitcher Santiago Casilla (’03-’04 Cougar) saved 25 games last season and was part of the Giants’ World Series championship team, picking up his second ring in three seasons.
Minnesota outfielder Josh Willingham (’01 Cougar) is hoping to build on a career year. Willingham set career highs in home runs (35), RBI (110) and runs (85) while winning his first Silver Slugger Award in 2012.
Arizona pitcher Trevor Cahill (’07 Cougar) shed 15 pounds over the off-season and has won 10 or more games in each of his first four big league seasons. Cahill is just 24 years old.
Oakland pitcher Dan Straily (’10 Cougar) made his big league debut with Oakland last season, making seven starts.
A’s teammate Sean Doolittle (’07 Cougar) converted from infielder to pitcher and made the transition look easy last season as a big league rookie. Doolittle pitched in 44 games and posted a 3.04 ERA.
Ryan Dempster (’96 Cougar) is now with Boston after signing a two-year deal, while Joe Blanton (’03 Cougar) signed a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Former Cougar Mike Redmond (’93-’94) is a first-time big league manager with the Miami Marlins. Tyson Ross (’08 Cougar) was acquired by San Diego as part of an off-season trade with Oakland. Vin Mazzaro (’06 Cougar) was dealt from Kansas City to Pittsburgh. Dontrelle Willis (’02 Cougar) was signed to a minor league deal by the Cubs. Nate Robertson (’99-’00 Cougar) was signed to a minor league deal by Texas with an invitation to big league camp. Cliff Pennington (’05 Cougar) is now with Arizona.
Shaking the injury bug
Milwaukee infielder Alex Gonzalez (’96 Cougar) was the Brewers’ starting shortstop in 2012 before suffering a season-ending ACL injury in early May. Now 36 years old, Gonzalez re-signed with Milwaukee and will likely be the team’s backup shortstop or play an alternate infield position. Gonzalez has played shortstop in all 1,559 games as a major leaguer since making his debut in 1998 with the Florida Marlins. Boston reliever Andrew Bailey (’07 Cougar) is a two-time All-Star and former American League Rookie of the Year. Bailey spent much of last season on the disabled list because of a thumb injury and subsequent surgery.
Among the numerous former Cougars with the Los Angeles Dodgers are Josh Beckett (’00 Cougar), Ronald Belisario (’02 Cougar), Adrian Gonzalez (’01 Cougar), Andre Ethier (’03 Cougar) and Justin Sellers (’06 Cougar). Justin Friend (’08 Cougar) has been invited to Phillies big league camp; the right-hander reached as high as Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season. Jamie Richmond (’08-’09 Cougar) was signed by the Royals to a minor league contract. Jake Kuebler (’11 Cougar) was signed to a minor league contract by the Mets. Sugar Ray Marimon (’11 Cougar) and Yordano Ventura (’11 Cougar) are part of Royals big league camp. Max Stassi (’10 Cougar) was recently part of a trade that sent him from Oakland to Houston. Anthony Recker (’06 Cougar) is fighting for a roster spot with the New York Mets.