The Nashville Sounds start off their 2008 season tonight with a trip to New Orleans with a group of players highlighted by several returnees from last season’s division championship squad and seven players who were All-Stars in their respective leagues in 2007.
The Sounds have seen a number of key prospects come through Nashville recently on their way to starring for their parent club, the Milwaukee Brewers.
Key newcomers to the manager Frank Kremblas’ squad this season include reliever Luis Pena, a 25-year-old fireballer who tied for second in the Brewers organization with 18 saves last season and outfielder Brendan Katin, a 2007 Southern League All-Star who led his circuit with 24 home runs and 94 RBIs last season and who was rated by Baseball America as having the “best outfield arm” in the Brewers’ farm system.
Also starting in Nashville this season is Hernan Iribarren, a member of Milwaukee’s 40-man roster who ranked 5th in the Southern League with a .307 average last season and is making the transition from second base to the outfield.
Ten players return to the team from the 2007 Sounds squad, including starting pitchers Mark DiFelice, Lindsay Gulin, and Zach Jackson; relievers Steve Bray, Tim Dillard, and Mitch Stetter; catcher Vinny Rottino; infielders Ozzie Chavez and Brad Nelson; and outfielder Laynce Nix. Bray and Rottino represented the Sounds in the 2007 Triple-A All-Star Game, and Nix led the Milwaukee farm system with 25 home runs a year ago. DiFelice was a starting pitcher in the Southern League All-Star Game before earning a mid-season promotion to Nashville. Gulin, who opened last season in Nashville before being reassigned to Double-A Huntsville, ranked 3rd in the Brewers organization with 12 victories and a 3.41 ERA during an All-Star campaign for the Stars. Also, Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo will be active for the Sounds, who will hand the ball to Gallardo on Friday in New Orleans. It will be the first of at least two Minor League rehabilitation starts for Gallardo, who is also penciled in to start a game when the Sounds travel to Oklahoma City from April 7-10. If the team deems it necessary, Gallardo also could start in Nashville during an April 11-14 series against the Iowa Cubs.