Action-packed Opening Day for Minors

Action-packed Opening Day for Minors

Following tradition, it all began in Syracuse, when J.D. Martin threw strike one to Chris Duffy. It ended about 11 hours later with Inland Empire's win over Rancho Cucamonga. From start to finish, Minor League Baseball's Opening Day had plenty to write home about.

Top prospects

No one on the Top 50 prospects list had a better night than No. 11 Carlos Santana. It would have been festive anyway as it was the backstop's 24th birthday.

But he made it a true celebration by going 4-for-5 in his Triple-A debut with a pair of homers, a double and four RBIs as Columbus routed Indianapolis, 17-4. It goes without saying that Santana's performance overshadowed No. 8 Pedro Alvarez, who hit a two-run shot in that game for Indianapolis.

They're not the only pair from the Top 50 who flexed some muscles on Opening Day, though. No. 3 Mike Stanton went 3-for-4 with a homer and double in Jacksonville's 7-5 loss to West Tennessee. No. 9 Justin Smoak also homered in a losing effort, a solo shot in the fourth, as Oklahoma City lost in the 13th inning to Albuquerque.

It's not all about power at the plate, of course, and several Top 50 hitters contributed in other ways. No. 4 Buster Posey clearly wasn't sulking about not making the Giants roster. He had three hits in Fresno's marathon in Reno. No. 45 Jose Iglesias went 2-for-4 in his professional debut with a double, an RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base as Portland doubled-up Reading. Fellow shortstop, and No. 22 prospect, Starlin Castro also had a pair of hits in his Double-A debut, one of them being a three-bagger. He, too, stole his first base of the year.

And what of the pitchers? There were plenty to talk about. A total of six Top 50 arms made Opening Day starts on Thursday and most of them did what was expected.

• No. 17 Kyle Drabek got the win in his Blue Jays organization debut (with Double-A New Hampshire). He did give up four runs (three earned) over five innings, yielding four hits and two walks. He did strike out eight.

• No. 20 Jeremy Hellickson was impressive for Durham. Facing Chris Tillman, Hellickson went five innings for the win, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk while striking out six.

• No. 23 Christian Friedrich was a tough-luck loser in his Double-A debut. The lefty went six strong innings for Tulsa, allowing just one run on four hits while walking two and striking out five.

• No. 41 Aaron Crow didn't get the win because he reached his pitch count, but it's unlikely the Royals are complaining about his pro debut in Double-A: 4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R (unearned), 3 BB, 2 K.

• No. 43 Mike Montgomery might not be in the Carolina League for long if he comes out of the gate like this. The Royals lefty gave up one unearned run over five innings of work, yielding just two hits and a walk while striking out six.

• No. 44 Jhoulys Chacin may have had the line of the night: five innings of shutout ball, one hit allowed, one walk and six strikeouts. Oh, and he got the win.

2009 first-rounders

In Bradenton, No. 4 pick Tony Sanchez played host to No. 22 pick Kyle Gibson, who got the Opening Day start for Ft. Myers. He may have wished he didn't as the right-hander gave up five runs (three earned) on six hits over 3 2/3 innings. He did strike out seven. Sanchez went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.

No. 7 Mike Minor got the Opening Day start for Double-A Mississippi and got the loss, allowing four runs on six hits over five innings. He walked two and struck out six. Actually, his buzz may have been stolen by Cubs 2008 first-rounder Andrew Cashner, who struck out 10 in 4 1/3 innings of work, though he did give up three runs.

New teams, new leagues

When does a new team take the field on Opening Day, but not complete a game? When it's the Richmond Flying Squirrels. The Giants' Double-A affiliate that moved from Connecticut to Richmond for the 2010 season had its game in Bowie suspended in the top of the fifth. Never fear Flying Squirrels fans, they'll finish the game on Friday.

The Bradenton Marauders had no problem feeling right at home in the Florida State League. The Pirates moved their Class A Advanced affiliate there -- the organization's Spring Training hpme -- from Lynchburg in the Carolina League. The Marauders beat up on Fort Myers, 18-3.

A pair of teams that had been in the South Atlantic League made their debuts in the Midwest League, where they belong geographically. The Indians Class A affiliate in Lake County Ohio hosted West Michigan. The Captains had a thrilling first victory when Roberto Perez doubled in Bo Greenwell in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat the Whitecaps.

The other new team in the league, the Bowling Green Hot Rods, weren't as fortunate. The Rays affiliate lost in Fort Wayne, 7-2.

Mother Nature

In some cases, the weather was the only winner. The folks in Wisconsin made the most of it, as the Timber Rattlers clearly enjoyed the snow out against the Kane County Cougars. That was one of three cancellations on the day (Frederick at Lynchburg, Rome at Kannapolis).

The game in Bowie, as well as the Akron-Binghamton game (also in the Eastern League), the Salem-Potomac contest in the Carolina League and the Augusta-Greensboro tilt in the South Atlantic League were all suspended after play had commenced. One game, a Hagerstown 1-0 victory over Hickory, was completed early because of the weather.

Jonthan Mayo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.