Bowling Green, Ky. – A long winter is about to be put to bed, and that became more evident on Sunday when the Bowling Green Hot Rods announced their Opening Night roster in conjunction with their parent club, the Tampa Bay Rays. On the heels of a franchise-record 82 wins in 2013, the Hot Rods are headlined by a solid pitching arsenal that features 2011 first-round pick, Blake Snell. The Hot Rods open the season at Bowling Green Ballpark on Thursday, April 3, and Citizens First Opening Night is set for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch.
Snell will lead a young but talented pitching staff into the 2014 season. The 21-year old left-hander was the 52nd overall pick in 2011, and while with the Hot Rods last season, Snell struck out an astounding 106 batters in just 99 innings of work. He is ranked amongst the top ten prospects in the Rays system across multiple scouting publications.
Aaron Griffin should also feature in the rotation after an outstanding season with Hudson Valley in 2013. He posted a 2.02 earned run average for the Renegades in 17 games, 12 of them starts. Griffin is the younger brother of A.J. Griffin, who won 14 games for the Oakland Athletics last season. Jacob Faria, who won’t turn 21 until July 30, makes the leap to Bowling Green after dominating the Appalachian League with Princeton. Faria recorded a 2.02 earned run average, and struck out 71 batters while walking just nine in 62.1 innings.
A familiar face is expected to handle most of the backstop duties at Bowling Green Ballpark this season. Oscar Hernandez spent the last few days of the 2013 season with the Hot Rods, and he’s expected to be a powerful bat in the lineup this season. He has hit 11 home runs in 95 games since arriving stateside, and Hernandez was the Venezuelan Summer League Most Valuable Player in 2011 after he captured the league’s Triple Crown, batting .402 with 21 home runs and 66 runs driven in.
James Harris, a 2011 first-round pick by the Rays, highlights the Opening Night Hot Rods hitters. The speedy outfielder was picked 60th overall out of Oakland Tech High School, the same school as Hall of Fame member Rickey Henderson. Harris batted .258 in 67 games with Hudson Valley in 2013, and he stole 16 bases. At just 18, infielder Kean Wong will be the youngest Hot Rod to open the season. He was selected in the fourth round by Tampa Bay in last year’s draft, and he led all Rays minor leaguers with a .328 average with the GCL Rays. Wong is the younger brother of current St. Louis Cardinals infielder, Kolten Wong.
Manager Michael Johns is very familiar with the roster, as he managed 13 of the current Hot Rods with Hudson Valley last season. First pitch on Thursday for Citizens First Opening Night is slated for 7:05 p.m. against the South Bend Silver Hawks (Arizona Diamondbacks). The first 1,000 fans will receive an Opening Night t-shirt, and a double fireworks show will follow the game. There is still time to purchase money-saving ticket packages for the 2014 season. Fans can do so by calling the Hot Rods at 270-901-2121, or by visiting BGHotRods.com for more information.