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Published: Wednesday, 4/7/2010

Taking a look around the International League

BLADE STAFF

As the Mud Hens prepare for the coming season, here's a look at the competition they will face around the International League in 2010:

Columbus Clippers

Affiliate: Cleveland

Manager: Mike Sarbaugh

2009 record: 57-85

Top prospects: C Carlos Santana was the Eastern League MVP last year; RHP Jeanmar Gomez was Eastern League pitcher of the year.

Indianapolis Indians

Affiliate: Pittsburgh

Manager: Frank Kremblas

2009 record: 70-73

Top prospects: 3B Pedro Alvarez, the second overall pick in 2008, hit 27 home runs last year; RHP Brad Lincoln, a first-rounder in 2006, was 6-2 with the Tribe in 2009.

Worth noting: This season the Indians will celebrate their 15th anniversary at Victory Field.

Louisville Bats

Affiliate: Cincinnati

Manager: Rick Sweet

2009 record: 84-58

Top prospects: IF Todd Frazier hit .302 with the Bats last year and is the Reds' top prospect; 1B Yonder Alonso played for the Bats in the playoffs.

Worth noting: Sweet was named IL manager of the year, becoming the first manager in nearly 30 years to win the award in back-to-back seasons.

Charlotte Knights

Affiliate: Chicago White Sox

Manager: Chris Chambliss

2009 record: 67-76

Top prospects: RHP Daniel Hudson was 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA at three different levels last season; C Tyler Flowers hit 15 home runs and batted .297 between Double-A and Triple-A.

Worth noting: While the team wants to build a new ballpark, it signed a four-year lease extension. Knights Stadium will be renovated to expand the picnic area on the third-base side and increase the party deck on the right-field concourse.

Durham Bulls

Affiliate: Tampa Bay

Manager: Charlie Montoyo

2009 record: 83-61

Top prospects: OF Desmond Jennings, the Rays' top prospect, was MVP of the Double-A Southern League; RHP Jeremy Hellickson has a 2.71 career ERA.

Worth noting: The Bulls not only won the Governors' Cup last season, they also won the Triple-A National Championship over Memphis at Oklahoma City.

Gwinnett Braves

Affiliate: Atlanta

Manager: Dave Brundage

2009 record: 81-63

Top prospects: RHP Craig Kimbrel has a 1.98 ERA and 28 saves in two pro seasons; 20-year-old 1B Freddy Freeman may begin the season in Double-A, but he will eventually join the G-Braves.

Worth noting: The team's home field, which was called Gwinnett Stadium, was renamed Coolray Field for a local heating and cooling company that signed a 16-year agreement.

Norfolk Tides

Affiliate: Baltimore

Manager: Gary Allenson

2009 record: 71-71

Top prospects: The Tides could has as many as five of the Orioles' top eight prospects, including 3B Josh Bell, RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Kam Mickolio and 1B Brandon Snyder.

Worth noting: Allenson, the International League MVP in 1978, needs 76 wins to reach the 1,000 mark for his minor-league career.

Buffalo Bisons

Affiliate: New York Mets

Manager: Ken Oberkfell

2009 record: 56-87

Top prospects: 1B Ike Davis, ranked as fourth-best Mets prospect; OF Fernando Martinez, hit .290 for Bisons and ranked as third-best prospect.

Worth noting: IF Mike Hessman is with the Bisons after five seasons with the Hens in which he became the team's career leader in homers (130) and RBIs (373).

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Affiliate: Philadelphia

Manager: Dave Huppert

2009 record: 71-73

Top prospects: LHP Joe Savery, first-round pick in 2007 who won 16 games last year; RHP Drew Carpenter, led minors with 17 wins in 2007.

Worth noting: The IronPigs will host this year's Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 14 at Coca-Cola Park. ... Lehigh Valley has never had a winning record at any point in its first two years of existence.

Pawtucket Red Sox

Affiliate: Boston

Manager: Torey Lovullo

2009 record: 61-82

Top prospects: LHP Felix Doubront has struck out 239 in 250.1 innings in his career; OF Josh Reddick, hit .277 for Double-A Portland last year.

Worth noting: Former Mud Hen Lovullo takes over the PawSox after eight seasons with Cleveland, including the last four in Triple-A.

Rochester Red Wings

Affiliate: Minnesota

Manager: Tom Nieto

2009 record: 70-74

Top prospects: 3B Danny Valencia, career .299 minor-league hitter; RHP Anthony Swarzek, second-round pick in 2004 who has won 45 minor-league games.

Worth noting: Former Orioles manager Joe Altobelli will be honored with a statue at Frontier Field. Altobelli has been a player, manager, general manager and broadcaster for the team.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees

Affiliate: New York Yankees

Manager: Dave Miley

2009 record: 81-60

Top prospects: C Jesus Montero, the Yankees' top prospect, has hit .325 in his career; RHP Mark Melancon is being groomed to replace Mariano Rivera.

Worth noting: Miley needs 68 wins with the Yankees this season to reach 1,000 for his Triple-A career. He also has managed in Indianapolis, Louisville and Columbus.

Syracuse Chiefs

Affiliate: Washington

Manager: Trent Jewett

2009 record: 76-68

Top prospects: OF Justin Maxwell hit .307 in September with the parent Nationals; RHP Collin Balester won seven games last year and also made six starts for Washington.

Worth noting: RHP Stephen Strasburg, the top pick in last year's draft, begins the season in Double-A Harrisburg. The chances aren't good that he'll be with Syracuse when the Chiefs play in Toledo April 27-30.



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