Suns' roster filled with familiar faces

March 28, 1997


Staff Writer

The word is out. The 1997 Hagerstown Suns won't be part of the "in" crowd.

In the past, the first word used to describe the Class A team's opening-day roster was usually "inexperienced." Friday, the first two letters of that word were dropped.

The Suns were given one of their most veteran clubs in five seasons as a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate in the South Atlantic League. Nine returning players - including five pitchers - will lead Hagerstown into Thursday's season opener against the Macon (Ga.) Braves.

"I really like this team and it's makeup," said J.J. Cannon, the team's second-year manager. "The players on this team complement each other. They will be solid and have a maturity level about them. They should do very well in this league."


Leading the pitching staff is Clint Lawrence, who will be the opening day starter. The left-hander started six games

for the Suns last season, finishing 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA.

Also returning are John Crowther, Rusty Volkert, Ernie Delgado and Joe Davenport. It will Crowther's third stint with the Suns. He was 2-3 with 10 saves in 41 games last season. Davenport pitched briefly with the Suns in 1995.

The Suns also have four returning position players in catcher Luis Rodriguez, third baseman Andy Shatley and outfielders Robby Hampton and Damon Johnson.

Even though the Suns have a number of familiar faces, the new kids on the roster are creating the most excitement.

The starting shortstop will be Joe Lawrence, Toronto's second selection in the 1996 amateur draft. First baseman Tim Giles, who starred at Arundel (Md.) High, and second baseman Ryan Stromsburg, last year's most valuable player at Medicine Hat, are projected to start in the infield.

Peter Tucci and Jeff Maloney will round out the outfield. Tucci, another first-round pick in last year's draft, hit .254 with seven home runs at St. Catharines. Maloney is a switch-hitter with speed.

The Suns have three catchers, including Luis Rodriguez. Mike Rodriguez hit .269 in 46 games at St. Catharines. Joshua Phelps hit .241 in 59 games at Medicine Hat.

Cannon listed John Bale and Clayton Andrews as possible starting pitchers. With Clint Lawrence, the Suns have three left-handed starters in the rotation. James Mann, who had 17 saves at St. Catharines, is projected as the closer.

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