The Fort Myers Miracle are excited about their 2014 Opening Day roster that features 12 pitchers, three catchers, seven infielders, three outfielders and seven on the disabled list, including top prospect Byron Buxton.
The Miracle open the season Thursday night on the road against the Jupiter Hammerheads. Fans in Fort Myers get their first glimpse of the team on Saturday when the Miracle host the Hammerheads in a 6:05 p.m. game.
Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Fans can pick up complimentary general admission tickets to Saturday's home opener, which includes postgame fireworks, at Wendy's restaurants and HESS Express locations in Lee and Collier counties. For an additional $2, fans can upgrade to a box seat at the Hammond Stadium ticket office.
Outfield prospects Adam Brett Walker and Max Kepler highlight a lineup that will display some of the top talent in the Minnesota Twins organization. Walker, a third round pick in 2012, was named the Topps Player of the Year in the Midwest League in 2013 after hitting .278 with a league-best 27 home runs and 109 RBI over 129 games. Walker was also a midseason and postseason All-Star in the Midwest League.
Kepler, an international free agent signing in 2009 from Germany, was added to the Twins' 40-man roster in the offseason. After hitting .297 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI during the 2012 season at rookie level Elizabethton, Kepler was injured last year and appeared in 61 games with Single-A Cedar Rapids. A top-10 prospect in the Twins organization entering last season, Kepler launched nine homers and drove in 40 runs while playing first base and outfield.
Walker and Kepler lead a group of 12 players that are making their Miracle debut this season.
Beginning the season with a six-man pitching rotation, Jason Wheeler will start the opener in Jupiter after posting a 9-4 record with a 3.70 ERA in 26 starts for the Miracle a year ago. Wheeler is joined in the rotation by two other Miracle returnees Alex Wimmers and Tyler Duffey. Duffey, Wimmers and Wheeler are joined by Brett Lee, Mason Melotakis and Jose Berrios.
Up the middle, the Miracle have a strong infield with returnees A.J. Pettersen and Levi Michael combining for 248 Florida State League games. Niko Goodrum, a second round pick in 2010, makes his Miracle debut after hitting .260 in 103 games with Cedar Rapids.
Jorge Polanco will split time at shortstop and second base after an All-Star season in Cedar Rapids.
At first base, the Miracle have a pair of sluggers with Dalton Hicks and Mike Gonzales. Hicks led the entire minor leagues in RBI last season with 110 and finished the year with the Miracle. Gonzales has played parts of each of the last two seasons in Fort Myers.
Doug Mientkiewicz returns to manage the Miracle for his second season. Mientkiewicz's pitching coach is Gary Lucas and longtime hitting coach Jim Dwyer returns.
Opening Day Roster
Pitchers - Jose Berrios, Madison Boer, Tyler Duffey, Brian Gilbert, Steven Gruver, David Hurlbut, Brett Lee, Mason Melotakis, Tim Shibuya, Matt Tomshaw, Jason Wheeler, Alex Wimmers.
Catchers - Tyler Grimes, Jairo Rodriguez, Stuart Turner.
Infielders - Mike Gonzales, Niko Goodrum, Travis Harrison, Dalton Hicks, Levi Michael, A.J. Petersen, Jorge Polanco.
Outfielders - Max Kepler, John Murphy, Adam Walker.
Disabled List - Tyler Jones, Zack Jones, Corey Williams, Byron Buxton, Lance Ray, Nate Roberts, J.D. Williams.