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Round Rock opens 10th year with home game


Round Rock opens 10th year with home game
ROUND ROCK - After more than six weeks of spring training and a couple of exhibition games against Double-A competition, the Round Rock Express are ready to play ball.

Round Rock, the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros , will open its 2009 season tonight at 7:05 p.m. against the Iowa Cubs. Sixteen of the Express' first 20 games will be played at Dell Diamond.

"We're ready to go," Express first baseman Mark Saccomanno said. "We have a lot of good players, and it's going to be real competitive. We're going to have a good team."

Round Rock, coming off a 64-79 season, is looking to avoid its third losing season in five years at the Triple-A level.

As they celebrate their 10th season , the Express will have a new manager in the dugout. Veteran Marc Bombard replaced Dave Clark, who joined the Astros as third-base coach, in the offseason. Bombard, the third Express manager in the past three years, comes to Round Rock with a career record of 1,709-1,543.

Six position players who played in at least 48 games last season for the Express return, as do two pitchers who logged more than 25 appearances. Fourteen players on Round Rock's expected opening-day roster have major league experience.

There also are five players who have never played above the Double-A level , including two former No. 1 draft picks by the Astros .

Center fielder Brian Bogusevic was the 24th pick of the 2005 draft, and Baseball America ranks him as the best outfielder in the Astros' farm system. Last year, Bogusevic hit .371 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 42 games with Double-A Corpus Christi. Bogusevic also made 17 starts on the pitching mound for the Hooks before moving to the outfield.

Fellow outfielder Eli Iorg, the son of former major leaguer Garth Iorg, also was a first-round pick in the 2005 draft. He hit .268 with the Hooks last year while contributing a team-high four four-hit games. While he hit 11 home runs for the Hooks in 2008, Iorg also struck out 112 times .

Infielder Drew Sutton and pitchers Bud Norris and Ryan McKeller will be debuting at the Triple-A level.

"There is going to be some good team energy," Round Rock shortstop Tommy Manzella said. "I think there is going to be a different dynamic."

Bombard noted that the up-and-coming prospects have a big challenge ahead of them since it's a "big jump from Double-A to Triple-A." Bombard said only time will tell if the Express will be a contender in the Pacific Coast League.

"You don't know until the bell rings," he said.

After that bell rings, Round Rock will play home series against Iowa and Omaha before heading out for four games at Iowa. The Express then return home for eight games against New Orleans and Memphis.

danieldavis@statesman.com; 445-3952


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 10, 2009

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