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Locals get ready for new MLB season

With the Major League Baseball season officially under way, local products prepare for new year

Posted: April 6, 2009 1:42 a.m.
Updated: April 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
It's that time again.

Many people have been looking forward to Major League Baseball's opening day since Philadelphia's Brad Lidge struck out Tampa Bay's Eric Hinske for the final out of World Series Game five back on Oct. 30.

Probably few more than Rays starting pitcher and Hart High graduate James Shields.

He is one of six local products who saw time with big league clubs this spring.

Spanning 14 1/3 innings over four starts, Shields was roughed up to the tune of an 8.16 earned run average with a 2-1 record.

However, he returned to form in his final start of Spring Training, striking out four in four innings in the Rays' 2-1 win over Minnesota.

Shields will start the season in style, getting the opening day nod opposite Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox.

Former College of the Canyons left-handed pitcher Dana Eveland will also start the regular season on the active roster, slated to start for the Oakland Athletics in their third game against the Angels.

This spring, Eveland went winless (0-4) in seven starts.
Over 27 1/3 innings, he amassed 19 strikeouts, 11 walks and a respectable 4.28 ERA.

The 25-year-old heads into the 2009 season in his second year with the club and figures to temporarily move up in the rotation because of injuries to two-time All-Star pitcher Justin Duchscherer, who underwent surgery on his right elbow on March 27.

He is expected to be out a minimum of six weeks according to Oakland's official Web site.

Rounding out those starting the season on active rosters is Kevin Millar, an alum of the William S. Hart PONY League.

After three seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Millar signed a Minor League contract with Toronto during the offseason and currently stands to backup to Lyle Overbay at first base.

In 47 at-bats the 37-year-old hit .213, scoring four runs with two home runs, 11 RBIs, three doubles and one stolen base through 20 spring games.

Entering his 11th season in the bigs, Millar figures to compete with Jose Bautista, John McDonald and Joe Inglett for a spot on the Blue Jays' bench.

One player trying to break into the majors is another Hart grad, Chris Valaika.

Though he played both middle-infield positions this spring, the Cincinnati Reds shortstop hit .286 in 12 games.

Despite his four runs scored, one home run, six RBIs, one double, and a triple, Valaika is stuck behind Alex Gonzalez at short and potential All-Star-in-waiting Brandon Phillips at second base.

With Paul Janish and Jerry Hairston Jr. also in front of Valaika in both spots, last season's Reds Minor League Player of the Year will start the season with the Double-A affiliate Carolina Mudcats.

Also starting the season in the minors is Chicago White Sox outfielder and Hart grad Jerry Owens.

This spring Owens hit .230 in 61 at-bats, scoring 10 runs with two doubles, five RBIs, 11 walks and stealing three bases, but the former The Master's College Mustang starts with season with Chicago's Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte.

Canyon graduate Chris Seddon also finds himself in Triple-A to start 2009.

After receiving a non-roster invite by the Seattle Mariners heading into spring, Seddon was one of 10 cuts made by the club on March 18.

Appearing in five Cactus League games, he maintained a 7.84 ERA, striking out 10 and walking only two over 10 1/3 innings.

The left-hander is currently on the active roster for the Tacoma Rainiers.


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