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Your 2007 Huntsville Stars -- Latest: Katin Ready for Camp

Mass Haas

Don't get too excited -- while this does kick off our "Your 2007 __________" series of threads, where all feature non-game stories will be posted throughout the season, this doesn't include a finalized roster (yet).


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It's time for Lou to do at plate

Palmisano could reach bigs if he picks up offense


Huntsville Times Sports Staff markcolumn@aol.com


First of a four-part position-by-position series


The past half-dozen years, an impressive collection of prospects has been yielded through the Milwaukee Brewers' minor league system, from Ben Sheets to Prince Fielder to Rickie Weeks to the next can't-miss kid, Ryan Braun .


There is a glaring exception - catcher. Milwaukee hasn't had a home-grown catcher to start opening day since Dave Nilsson in 1999.


Lou Palmisano has been the Brewers' most noteworthy catching prospect in recent years, the one they hoped would break the trend after a series of injuries, bad decisions and lack of performance at that position.


However, Huntsville Stars manager Don Money said, "This is a big year for him. He's got to pick up some offense."


Palmisano, a 24-year-old native of Utica, N.Y., was a third-round draft pick in 2003 out of Broward (Fla.) Community College.


However, his rating as a prospect has fallen along with his batting average - from .391 in the 47 games of rookie ball to .293, .255 and then .241 last year. It's somewhat expected, though, considering the level of competition and quality of pitching has increased with each move, coupled here with the grueling task of catching in the heat and humidity and tough travel of the Southern League.


Despite the offensive struggles, Palmisano is considered the Brewers' best defensive catching prospect.


"His strength is calling games," Money said. "But if he can pick up some offense, if he hits .260, .270 and plays good defense, he'll move right along."


Rest of the field: Maxim St. Pierre, a 28-year-old Canadian acquired in a trade Tuesday, could land in Huntsville as the backup.


Until that time, it seemed that 23-year-old Carlos Corporan, who saw action in three games at Huntsville last season after playing at Class A Brevard, would get the nod.


Jeff Eure, the 26-year-old multitasker, is expected to return as utility man and would be the No. 3 catcher.


Down the road: Angel Salome, a diminutive (5-foot-7) Dominican Republic native, is the No. 11 prospect in the system. He should start at Class A Brevard. He batted .292 at low-A last year and broke an ankle late in the year. ETA in Huntsville: Spring 2008.


Stars schedule: The Stars' season opener is Thursday, April 5 against Mississippi. They face UAH in an exhibition game on April 3 at 6:05. They play San Diego's Double-A team today.


Starbrites: It's a fresh start for Ben Hendrickson, the former Star who was a minor league ace but never had big league success (1-10, 7.41 ERA in 12 starts with the Brewers). He was traded Tuesday to Kansas City for St. Pierre. ... It's shaping up to be a choice between ex-Stars Vinny Rottino and Tony Gwynn Jr. for one remaining roster spot with Milwaukee. ... The Stars opened spring training with a 4-4-1 record, losing one game in the ninth and two in the eighth.

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Stars' Iribarren in swing of things

Despite corked bat incident, second baseman can hit


Huntsville Times Sports Staff markcolumn@aol.com


There have been moments of better timing. Any of us ever caught with a straw to our lips a second after the spitwad hit the teacher in the neck, or caught doing 55 in a 35 know something of the feeling.


Hernan Iribarren, who'll be the Huntsville Stars' second baseman this season, was caught last season with a corked bat.


Double-whammy: It was while Milwaukee farm director Reid Nichols was at the game in Brevard County, Fla.


"It was drilled and corked through. He apologized to his teammates and the staff, but this is inexcusable. It's embarrassing to him and it's embarrassing to the organization," said Nichols at the time.


For what it's worth, after the incident took place in late May, Iribarren batted .344.


He finished the season with a .319 average - the fourth time in five years he batted above .300 - and drove in 50 runs.


"He should hit a little bit here, too," said Stars manager Don Money.


According to Money, he's also a capable defensive second baseman.


Though the buzz is he became a little lax on defense a year ago, working with Money, a brilliant defensive infielder during his playing days, should pay off.


Iribarren is a 23-year-old native of Venezuela who was originally signed by Epy Guerrero, father of Stars coach Sandy Guerrero. He hits from the left side, a slap-hitter style that should take advantage of his speed.


Though he had a three-run homer in a spring training game earlier this month, a power hitter he is not: Iribarren hit only two homers last season at Brevard and has only 15 for his career.


Not the sort of numbers for a man who has made a habit of corking his bat.


Rest of the field: Third baseman Adam Heether, who showed such promise in a late call-up in 2005 after batting .305 at Brevard, will start the season with the Stars. He began 2006 in Huntsville and struggled, batting .213 in 70 games and was leapfrogged on the organizational chart by Ryan Braun.


Yohannis Perez, a 24-year-old Cuban defector, is the likely shortstop, though he hasn't played organized ball in two years.


First base is still yet to be determined. Steve Sollman, 24, a Notre Dame grad and brother of ex-Star Scott Sollman, was Brevard's utility man last year but is getting extensive work at first base in Maryvale.


Jeff Eure, who can play anywhere, and the light-hitting Guilder Rodriguez could be back as utility players.


Down the road: Mat Gamel, who has more power-hitting potential than any '07 Star except Brendan Katin, will start at third base in Brevard. He hit 17 homers and drove in 88 runs at West Virginia - and lost in the South Atlantic League home run derby despite 15 homers in the final round.


Stars schedule: The Stars' season opener is Thursday, April 5 against Mississippi. They face UAH in an exhibition game on April 3 at 6:05. They're playing Nashville in an intra-camp game today in Maryvale, Ariz.


Starbrites: Travis Ezi, the speedster outfielder who seemed a potential returnee, was released. ... Ria Cortesio, the woman umpire who has worked the Southern League the last four seasons, will be on the bases for today's Chicago Cubs-Arizona Diamondbacks exhibition game, the first woman to work a major league game since 1989. Cortesio will be back in the Southern League, where she has not always been a favorite of managers.

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Stars need Moss to be special, but without K's

With outfield getting crowded, Californian faces pivotal year


Huntsville Times Sports Staff, markcolumn@aol.com


Steve Moss is the man in the middle. He will again be the Huntsville Stars' center fielder.


Brendan Katin will be on one side. It's TBD on the other.


Moss is also the man in the middle in Milwaukee's minor league center field hierarchy.


Charlie Fermaint, the organization's No. 12 prospect, according to Baseball America, looms behind him, at Class A Brevard County, and he's being pushed by Darren Ford, the No. 13-rated prospect. Meanwhile, Tony Gwynn Jr. is ahead on the ladder, likely to stick with the Brewers as a reserve.


So, after a .242 average last season, some question marks on his throwing and too many K's, it's a no-brainer to say this will be a pivotal year for the 23-year-old Moss, from Sherman Oaks, Calif.


"He has to come back and cut down on strikeouts and pick the average up," said manager Don Money. "It's an important year for him."


Moss came to the plate 564 times last season. Nearly 40 percent of the time, he left the plate without putting the ball into play. The good news: 71 walks, second-most in the Southern League. The bad news: 136 strikeouts.


However, the Brewers are hardly giving up on Moss. They sent him to the Arizona Fall League, a postseason league for highly regarded players to hone their skills a little more.


And, said Money, "They've already mentioned the first outfielder they'd call up (to Triple-A) could be Moss, because he's the most experienced."


Rest of the field: Katin, who had four homers in 15 late-season games at Huntsville, will move from left field, where he was a defensive liability, to a more comfortable spot in right.


The candidates for left field and the backup outfielder spot include Mike Carlin, a 25-year-old obtained from Pittsburgh in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, Ron Davenport, 25, formerly of the Toronto organization, and Mel Stocker, 26, an ex-Kansas City farmhand who played independent ball last year.


Carlin was 10th in the Carolina League in batting last season and had 15 homers and 84 RBIs in 132 games. Davenport batted .321 in the Florida State League and Stocker swiped 56 bases last year at Long Island and led the league in triples.


Down the road: The aforementioned Fermaint is a power prospect, but keep an eye peeled for Cole Gillespie, who led Oregon State to the NCAA title last year and was a third-round pick last year. He batted .344 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 51 rookie-league games, and he'll be on the fast track.


Stars schedule: The Stars' season opener is Thursday, April 5 against Mississippi. They face UAH in an exhibition game on April 3 at 6:05.


Starbrites: Another ex-Star sticking with the Brewers this year is pitcher Carlos Villanueva, who'll be in the Milwaukee bullpen. He had yielded only nine hits and struck out 14 in 12 innings before a nightmarish three-hit, three-walk, four-run inning earlier this week against the Giants. ... The Stars' final roster may be set at the last minute since the Brewers are playing exhibition games today and Saturday in Texas against the Rangers, including one at the Rangers' Double-A affiliate, and were taking some minor league players along.

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Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com:


Left-hander Joe Thatcher traveled with the team to Texas but has been told he will start the year at Double-A Huntsville, assistant general manager Gord Ash said.


"I enjoyed it," said Thatcher, who was promoted to big-league camp on March 15. "I think I came out and was aggressive, and that was important to me."


Thatcher got a rare mid-spring invitation to big-league camp and did not allow a run until his fourth appearance, on Tuesday against Oakland. He surrendered back-to-back home runs.


"It looks to us like he's going to have a future as a left-handed reliever at the Major League level," Yost said. "He's not young in terms of age, but in terms of experience, we've never seen him. We figured, let's take a look at him."

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A turn to the left

Stars staff looks to be dominated by left-handed pitchers


Huntsville Times Sports Staff, markcolumn@aol.com


For a brief period last season, the Huntsville Stars didn't have a single left-handed pitcher. Now, it looks as if they'll be loaded with lefties.


The Stars eventually could have a five-man starting rotation with four left-handers, so abundant they are.


Steve Hammond is among them, a starting pitcher who merely whetted the appetite for Huntsville fans last summer.


He'll be joined in the rotation by fellow lefties Manny Parra and Sam Narron. Mike Jones and returnee Corey Thurman are the other likely starters.


Another lefty starting pitcher, Jeff Housman, will begin the year on the disabled list, headed to Huntsville for the fourth season. He pitched in 12 games for the Stars last season but suffered a torn labrum, and is coming off surgery.


Hammond, a 24-year-old from Vallejo, Calif., arrived with a flourish in mid-season, pitching a two-hit shutout against Mississippi on July 12 in only his third Huntsville start.


Hammond finished at 5-6, but had a stingy 2.93 ERA in 13 starts.


"Wins and losses," said manager Don Money, "were not indicative of how he pitched."


Alas, he wasn't available in the crunch time of postseason. Hammond had reached a predetermined number of innings of work, as determined by the Milwaukee Brewers, and was a spectator as the Stars reached the Southern League championshp series.


"He won a couple of big games for us," said Money. "He pitched well.


"He needs a better breaking ball because he's not overpowering, but he's got a good changeup. He need to go out and be consistent with his innings and go a little bit further this year."


Rest of the field: Lefty Joe Thatcher made four relief appearances for Huntsville late last year, allowing only two hits and striking out six in 51/3 innings. He would appear to be the leading candidate for closer, though Money said, in the early stages of the season "it'll probably be closer-by-committee."


Luis Villareal, who led the independent Northern League in ERA last season, is the other lefty on the staff.


Down the road: Some of Milwaukee's best pitching prospects in recent seasons have been derailed by arm injuries (Mike Jones, Nick Neugebauer, J.M. Gold, Manny Parra, etc.).


The arrival in Huntsville of the 2004 No. 1 pick, righty Mark Rogers, has been delayed indefinitely. He has a high 90s fastball (and collected a $2.2 million bonus) but recently had shoulder surgery.


Ever since draft day, the Brewers were concerned about his mechanics and worked with him to change them to, ironically, avoid injury.


Stars schedule: The Stars' season opener is Thursday against Mississippi. They face UAH in an exhibition game on April 3 at 6:05.


Starbrites: Stars pitcher Grant Balfour, 30, is a native of New South Wales, Australia.


He was acquired from the Reds, who put him on waivers after Balfour made only nine appearances in 2006 in the wake of Tommy John surgery.

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Star power is in pitching

Offensive punch may be in shorter supply this season


Huntsville Times Sports Staff, paul.gattis@htimes.com


Spring training is finally over and now, for the Huntsville Stars, it's almost time to start playing games that matter.


The Stars broke camp in Maryvale, Ariz., over the weekend and are scheduled to arrive in town today with the season opener Thursday against the Mississippi Braves.


"I think everybody's ready," manager Don Money said over the weekend from Arizona. "I think the players are ready to go. Some of the players have been here six weeks."


The roster will include a mix of some familiar names and new faces this season at Joe Davis Stadium.


Players who have spent extensive time with the Stars back for another season include center fielder Steve Moss, catcher Lou Palmisano, infielders Hernan Iribarren, Adam Heether, Guilder Rodriguez, Jeff Eure and pitchers Steve Hammond, Mike Jones, Manny Parra and Corey Thurman.


And Money will be back for his third season along with hitting coach Sandy Guerrero and pitching coach Rich Sauveur.


The Stars, according to Money, won't hit a lot of home runs and aren't blessed with speed on the bases.


That means that a pitching staff - featuring four lefties in the five-man rotation - may have to carry a heavy burden for the defending Southern League North Division champs.


The top run producer will likely be right fielder Brendan Katin, who hit four home runs in 15 games with the Stars late last season. He also hit 13 at Single-A Brevard County before joining the Stars.


"We're still looking," Money said when asked about the offense. "I don't think we're going to have a lot of power."


Adam Pettyjohn will be the opening night starter but Money said the rest of the rotation was unsettled. Hammond, Parra, Jones and Sam Narron will round out the rotation.


The bullpen is also a work in progress. Relievers will be Thurman, Jeff Housman, Luis Villarreal, Mark Difelice, Marino Salas, Bo Hall and Robert Hinton.


Jones will be the only righty in the starting rotation.


"Well, if it works, it's a good thing," Money said. "If it doesn't work, it's a bad thing. Hopefully, it will be OK."

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Brewerfan has enjoyed since its inception the near-daily in-season reports, first-hand for most home games, of Huntsville's David Weiser. David will also listen in to most road games via Voice of the Stars Brett Pollock, and will thus provide reports on those games as well. Again this season, we will link to David's site here, and invite you to visit. Because David's site doesn't archive his reports, we also copy the text here, which allows David's reports to be "saved", a benefit for him, while we get to enjoy all his insights -- whether they be eyewitness reports of game action, detailed statistical analysis, or anecdotal stories -- a benefit for all of us. Thanks again, David!




Just four days to Opening Day and counting, and here is the latest....... The weather for Thursday's opener looks to be the coolest temperature-wise since 2002 when first pitch was thrown on a 50° night. those record 80° temperatures of a week ago won't be back for awhile....... Instead, falling temperatures that will start out in the upper 50's are forecast along with partly cloudy skies for the 7:00 PM start against the Mississippi Braves......... The weekend gets worse, with nighttime temps expected to go near 50°.... Brrrrr! Not my kind of weather for baseball. Take your jacket and pray it doesn't go into extra innings.


Former Huntsville Stars (A's organization) 2nd baseman David Newhan picked up his first hit as a New York Met in the 9th inning of Sunday night's major league opener........ Newhan hit .316 for the Stars in 1997 after a June 27 promotion......... Jorge de la Rosa was named the Royals' #4 starter. De la Rosa came to the Stars on a rehab assignment last year that turned out to be the longest re-hab ever spent by a Stars pitcher -- six starts!...... Didn't do badly either -- 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA, 23 Ks in 30 innings and only three walks.


The boys are expected to arrive in Huntsville shortly after 2:00 PM on Monday. They'll head to the stadium to be issued uniforms, then the Boosters will be there to provide sandwiches, chips, and drinks in the clubhouse for them. Still up in the air was the decision by GM Tom Van Schaack to allow some of the boosters in the clubhouse, which is nearly complete after off-season expansion. It's probably twice the size it once was.......... Scott Martens, the Brewers' business manager for Minor League operations came to see it and remarked that the new clubhouse rivals many major league ones.


The first general membership meeting is scheduled for April 20th during the Stars' 2nd homestand. The Welcome Banquet will be a little late this year -- May 6 -- because the Stars only have two five-game homestands in April --- the first against Mississippi, with a Sunday game that falls on Easter, and then one in the middle of the week against Jacksonville.


The Boosters have already received three calls from players who are looking for host families.


The Huntsville Stars are holding their media day Tuesday at Joe Davis Stadium at 2:00. The players and coaching staff will be available for interviews and photos, and then one hour before beginning their pre-game routine prior to their game against the University of Alabama-Huntsville squad.


In the Stars' final warm-up game of the season, Manny Parra hurled five innings of one-hit ball to beat the Seattle-affiliated Diamond Jaxx, 8-1....... Grant Balfour, Jeff Housman, and Robert Hinton followed in relief to hold West Tenn to just three hits and a run the rest of the way..... Mike Carlin scored twice and drove in two runs... The Stars finish the tune-up 7-5-1.


Just prior to the close of camp, Gerrit Simpson was released........ Gerrit had been a pretty valuable member of the Stars' pitching staff the last two seasons....... Simpson, 27, was an emergency pick-up from the Brewers in the August of 2005. He went on to pitch 13 games in relief and log a 2.29 ERA and post five saves. The next season, he led the bullpen with 51 appearances, and had a 2.61 ERA. So, in 95 2/3 innings as a Star, he was 4-3, finished 33 of his 64 games, and had an ERA of 2.54, and held Southern League hitters to a .227 average....... Not bad at all, and certainly worthy of keeping.


The final composition of this 2007 team was known sometime Sunday after the Brewers played their last exhibition game, Saturday, against the Texas Rangers. They brought some minor leaguers to Arlington, including Joe Thatcher, who is expected to be our closer this year......... Also joining the Stars is Australian right-hander Balfour, who signed a minor league contract after being released by the Reds. Balfour pitched for the Twins in 2001, 02, and 2004, when he appeared in 36 games in relief, going 4-1 with a 4.35 ERA. Balfour is 36-25, 3.48 in eight minor league seasons, most of them in the Minnesota's farm system........ Also joining the Stars this season is pitcher Marino Salas, who was outrighted to Huntsville last Monday. Salas made it to Double-A for the first time in his career last season, saving 19 games for Bowie (Eastern), the Orioles' AA farm team. He was 2-6 with a 2.92 ERA. In six seasons, he is 13-19 with a 3.91 ERA and 54 saves. For those of you deep into stats, his career WHIP is 1.38 and was a career-best 1.11 last season...... His first appearance for Huntsville will be the 200th in his career.


According to MLB's web site, and mind you this is not a final roster, the Stars' pitching rotation includes Mike Jones, Parra, Steve Hammond, and Thurman with a bullpen of Hinton, Luis Villareal, Thatcher, Bo Hall, Salas, and Balfour........ Joe Valentine, who played so important a role in last year's miraculous August drive to the playoffs, has signed to play in Japan. Matt Yeatman was released, and Travis Phelps has signed a minor league contract with the Astros......


Behind the plate, Lou Palmisano returns. His offensive game needs to balance out his defensive one. His average has declined in each of his four seasons. Joining him will either be Carlos Corporan, who came up to the Stars for the final series of the regular season against Birmingham, or Max St. Pierre, acquired from Kansas City in last week's trade for Ben Hendrickson........ Across the infield, 1st base is anybody's guess. Eure could play there, but he's more of a utilityman. Steve Sollmann, brother of former Star Scott worked a lot there this spring, so he would be more likely, if he sticks......... In the middle, there's no question, though. Hernan Iribarren will be our 2nd baseman and his double play partner will be Yohannis Perez and sometimes Guilder Rodriguez....... Iribarren is a lefty spray-hitter with some power who needs to get on base more. He would make a fine # 2 hitter, but I have no idea where Don will put him in the order........ Perez is a Cuban defector, who I believe hasn't played in a couple of years, but he has good defensive cred....... A hopefully improved offensively Adam Heether will replace Ryan Braun at 3rd base. Braun set a club record for having the worst fielding average in one season for a player w/50 or more games played (.869). Heether hit .214 in 70 games last year before being sent down to Brevard County on June 22. Heether committed only nine errors in 67 games for the Stars, compared to Braun's 16 in 57 games........


In the outfield, Steve Moss will be back in center, flanked on his right by Brendan Katin, who had an outstanding spring, hitting .395 with nine RBIs and one of three free agents in left -- Carlin, Ron Davenport, or Mel Stocker........ Stocker hit .279 in camp with eight RBIs. He's is a speedy former KC farmhand who hit .303 for the independent Long Island Ducks (Atlantic) last year, and stole 56 bases. For Class A-Wilmington (Carolina) in 2004, he stole 44 bases and was caught just 15 times --- but --- he hit just .212........ Davenport, whose first name is Ulysses (I'd want to be called Ron, too), is a former Blue Jay farmhand going into his 8th season. He consistently hit in the .270's for three straight seasons in Class A and Class AA-New Hampshire (Eastern), then dived to .181 in 41 games before being sent down to Class A - Dunedin (Florida State). He hit 40 doubles for Dunedin in 2004. He spent most of spring with Nashville, then went 3-for-17 for the Stars in their camp...... Carlin is in his 5th pro season. He comes out of the Pirates' organization. Was an undrafted signee. Never had a look at Double-A before......... Struggled at the plate with the Stars this spring, hitting just .195........ He played most of last season for Lynchburg. (Carolina) where in 116 games, he hit .274 (10th in the league) with 13 HRs and 74 RBIs. He has some power, and like Davenport, can play some 1st base, too....... When I get the official roster, Monday or Tuesday, I'll post it up on my site where the standings usually are.


Vinny Rottino was the final player cut from the Milwaukee Brewers' camp. He's been assigned to Nashville, and no doubt, he'll be in the majors sometime this season. He hit .250 in 25 Cactus League games this spring. He made the cut over Tony Gwynn, Jr....... Rottino played in nine games for the Brewers last year, hitting .214. Gwynn hit .260 in 32 games....... Nine former Stars are on the Brewers' Opening Day roster: Ben Sheets, Carlos Villanueva, Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks, Geoff Jenkins, Bill Hall, Corey Hart, and Gwynn, Jr.


The Stars released pitchers David Bradley, Benito Baez, and Yeatman, 1st baseman Mike Huggins, and outfielders Travis Ezi and Kennard Bibbs....... Also released by the organization was outfielder Nate Yoho, who spent some at-bats in the Stars' spring camp recently, pitcher John Novinsky, who pitched for the Stars in 2004, went up to Indianapolis, then never came back to pro ball after a shoulder injury, pitcher Mike Meyers, and farmhands Grant Richardson, a 14th round pick in 2004, and Brandon Parillo, an 8th round pick....... Another Class A farmhand, left-handed utilityman Tony Festa, called it quits........ The Rockies released former Huntsville pitchers Tim Bausher and Matt Ford........ The Phillies released former Stars catcher Jeff Winchester......... The Nationals released pitcher Luis Martinez, but outfielder Cristian Guerrero signed for a 3rd year in the Washington Nationals' organization. Figure that one out......... A couple of former Stars are staying in the independent ranks: Jason Belcher, who hit .289 for the 2004 Stars before being traded to the Montreal Expos on June 7, and Matt Hammons, who was released from the Stars in May 2003......... Hammons will be pitching for the New Jersey Jackals and Belcher will be playing for Fargo-Moorhead........ Also Jason Shelley, who set several Northern League records for the Gary SouthShore RailCats before the Brewers signed him and deposited him in Huntsville, will be coming back to Gary in 2007....... Shelley's debut with the Stars was an auspicious one on July 20, 2003, hurling a 7-inning three-hit shutout and striking out 10 to come away with a 1-0 win over the Diamond Jaxx in the 2nd game of a double-header, the same day Jeff Housman made his debut with a 10-0 shutout.


Brett Evert has signed with the independent Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League. Evert, last year, had a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings for the Stars, but was 0-4. He was released on July 15 and wound up with the Portland (Eastern) Sea Dogs, the Red Sox' AA farm team.......... Left-hander Andy Pratt, who was released at the end of last May after going 1-2 with a 5.64 ERA in 16 appearances, has retired....... He'll be joining the Texas Rangers' organization as a scout....... The Padres have released pitcher Mike Adams.

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Here's the Huntsville site's introduction (first link) and roster list (second link):






And here's Your Brewerfan Huntsville Stars Page:




LHP Jeff Housman, RHP Bo Hall (congrats on reaching AA after three full years at high-A), and first baseman Michael Carlin begin the season on the disabled list.

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Stars hope they're as hot as their finish

Players say lessons of 2006 pennant race still valuable


Huntsville Times Sports Staff, markcolumn@aol.com


Rain coming down in sheets. Hail like popcorn. Followed by sunshine and smothering humidity. Now a depressing forecast for night-time temps that'll make a polar bear go through an L.L. Bean catalog for help.


Must be baseball season.


Into this meteorological mishmash, the 2007 Huntsville Stars have arrived for work.


Already, they've had a false start. The scheduled exhibition game with UAH was washed out by Tuesday afternoon's brief but vicious rain. The Stars will open the regular season Thursday at 7:05 p.m. against the Mississippi Braves.


The Stars of '06 accomplished what pitcher Manny Parra called "the most remarkable run I've ever been a part of."


It was a worst-to-first resurrection in the span of only a few weeks. "Night and day," said outfielder Steve Moss.


They were 20-20 to begin the year. Then they went 4-25. ("As bad a half as you could ever have," said manager Don Money.) They won 32 of their last 40 regular-season games, then swept Chattanooga in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Montgomery in the championship round.


"It was fun," said outfielder Brendan Katin. "Every game made a difference. It mattered."


Is that ancient history? Is there momentum? Are the lessons to be carried over from what Moss called "really a self-revelation" for the players? Or is anything else carried over?


"Hopefully, attitude," said Katin, to the latter. "Guys wanting to be here and playing, and being positive."


"There's quite a few guys that are back," said pitcher Steve Hammond. "We realize the atmosphere we had. We're trying to bring that winning atmosphere back this season."


Hammond was a mid-season addition to the club and Katin arrived in August for the pennant drive. Katin, Moss and catcher Lou Palmisano are the only players in the everyday lineup who were here for the pennant race; Jeff Eure, the team's RBI leader and key utility man, and versatile infielder Guilder Rodriguez are the only other position-player holdovers.


What G-Rod remembered from last year was the sense of accomplishment, and even in losing to Montgomery "everybody was happy because everybody gave 100 percent and we tried."


"It's a whole new team, a whole new season," Eure said. "It's like you're starting from scratch. It'll take a few days for everybody to get to know each other. We've only had a few days in spring training when the roster was set.


"The next few days," Eure continued, "will be important for us to get on the same page. The guys who were here last year, we can learn from that. Hopefully this team will jell and we can win some ball games."


Forecast: Not as gloomy as last year's first half. Long-range, it's much too early to tell.


Starbrites: Corey Thurman, a mainstay of last year's pitching staff, is suffering from food poisoning and remained behind in Arizona. He'll begin the season in the bullpen, having gotten minimal work while spending much of the spring in the big league camp. ... Pitchers Bo Hall and Jeff Housman begin the season on the disabled list here. Outfielder Mike Carlin is also listed on the Stars' DL, but remains in Arizona. ... The team will work out today at 3 p.m.

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David Weiser's




In speaking with manager Don Money, I found out that a decision won't be made on pitcher Bo Hall and 1st baseman Mike Carlin until probably the end of the month or thereabouts. Everything comes from the top......... Also in a league decision that came as a surprise to many, including Don, league rosters will remain at 24 throughout the season, rather than dropping to 23 after about a month as had been the past rule.


Pitcher Mike Jones told me his shoulder felt GREAT and he was very happy in saying that to me....... Jeff Housman didn't feel as cheerful, saying he's "eight months behind." Housman, reportedly, is starting the season on the DL, with Hall and Carlin.


Huntsville's 2007 roster has been released. It's now up on the "STANDINGS" link for the remainder of the season:




Several new faces on this team. Of the 12 pitchers, eight are new:


? GRANT BALFOUR: An Aussie. The first we've had. Previous major league experience with the Minnesota Twins in 2001, 2003, and 2004, mainly as a long reliever. Has a 94 mph fastball, a heavy sinker, and a solid slider. Holds runners well.


? MARK DiFELICE: Oldest member of the Stars at 30. Southern League All-Star when he was with the Carolina Mudcats in 2001. In two seasons with the Mudcats (2000-01), he was 13-9, 3.38, 4 CGs in 40 starts and 2 relief appearances. Faced the Stars twice in his past, beating them, 7-2, June 7, 2000 and losing 7-0, July 18, 2001, when Derek Lee extended his scoreless streak to 21 innings.


? BO HALL: First Bo we've had on this team since pitcher Bo Kent in the '80s. Was 5-5, 5.80 at Brevard County last year. Is at a crossroads after three years in high A-ball.


? ROBERT HINTON: Another middle reliever. A 40th round pick in 2003. Jeff Eure was a 44th-rounder in 1998, so he's not the lowest round pick on this team, but he is the lowest round pick from that draft that produced Rickie Weeks and Tony Gwynn, Jr.. Now Hinton's the 24th-ranked prospect on the Brewers according to Baseball America. 5-4, 3.33 ERA and 1.28 WHIP at Brevard last year.


? SAM NARRON: Cousin of Reds' manager Jerry Narron. Tallest Star at 6'7". Nice fella to talk to, too. 5th man in Stars' rotation. Had a 2-4 record, 3.27 ERA and even better, a 1.14 WHIP at Brevard County last season.


? ADAM PETTYJOHN: To start the opener for the Stars Thursday night. Started 28 games for the Jacksonville Suns in 1999 and 2000, yet never faced the Stars. Pitched in 16 games for the Detroit Tigers in 2001, seven in relief. Career was sidetracked in 2002 by ulcerative colitis, for which he underwent a colectomy, First major league strikeout was Ken Griffey, Jr.


? MARINO SALAS: Claimed by the Brewers off waivers, February 1. Has saved 48 games over the past three seasons for Orioles' farm teams, 19 last year for Class AA-Bowie (Eastern) as their closer. 1.11 WHIP last year was his career-best. Ranked 18th among the Orioles Top 30 minor league prospects by Baseball America this year, up from 25th in 2006......93-95 mph fast ball, a plus slider. Held Eastern League hitters to a .215 average last year. If he gets a good start, expect a quick trip to Nashville..... His first appearance for Huntsville will be the 200th in his career.


? LUIS VILLAREAL: Has beaten the indy tracks since 2004. Prior to that, was in the Red Sox organization for two years, getting as far as the SAL........ 21-18, 3.58 in 3 seasons with five different independent league teams.


? MAXIM ST. PIERRE: From Quecec. Obtained by the Brewers from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Ben Hendrickson about a week ago. 10 years in the Tigers organization, getting as far as Class AAA - Toledo (Int.) in 2002 and 2006. History similar to Ron Acuna, who spent nine years in the Mets' chain and one with the Blue Jays. He went on to lead Southern League outfielders in fielding as set a Stars season record for outfield assists. Has four at-bats with the Tigers in a 2005 exhibition game.


? MIKE CARLIN: Getting his first taste of Double-A when he gets off the DL, hopefully by the end of the month. Acquired by the Brewers in last winter's Rule V draft. .285 hitter after four minor league seasons in the Pirates farm system. 13 HRs, 74 RBIs last year in Class A-Lynchburg (Carolina).


? HERNAN IRIBARREN: Hernan the Hurricane. Second baseman. Lefty bat, well-below average power, and good speed makes him an ideal #2 hitter. Venezuelan. Ranked #21 among the Brewers' Top 30 minor league prospects by Baseball America. Florida State League All-Star last year. 3rd among FSL batting leaders.


? YOHANNIS PEREZ: Will start at short. Cuban refugee, now living in the Dominican. The Coast Guard got him the first time. Jailed and sent back, but he was successful the second time, making his way to Mexico on a rickety fishing boat. Was considered Cuba' top shortstop not too long ago. Out of baseball the last two years, so the curiosity factor is high. Soft hands, excellent range, but the rust has to come off.


? STEVE SOLLMANN: Brother of former Huntsville Stars outfielder Scott Sollmann, Class of '99. Will play 1st base. Not much power in a position traditionally reserved for a power hitter, but can hit, run, and doesn't strike out much. I see him as a #6 or #7 hitter, who can hopefully carry a .280 average.


? RON DAVENPORT: Seven years in the Blue Jays' chain, last year with Class AA-New Hampshire (Eastern) and Class A-Dunedin. hit just .181 for New Hampshire. Hit .270 for the Fisher Cats in 95 games in 2005. A free swinger who usually makes contact. Holds down the strikeouts. Went 3-for-17 for the Stars in spring tune-ups. Signed by the Brewers, November 28, 2006. Will share left with


? MEL STOCKER: Came to steal bases. Hit .303 and stole 56 bases, while being caught just 8 times for Long Island (Atlantic), an independent team last year, but has carried a light stick in six years in the Kansas City chain. Got a lot of playing time for the Stars this spring, hitting .279 (12-for-43) with eight RBIs.

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Stars lean to the left

As season begins, team feels right with four left-handed pitchers


Huntsville Times Associate Sports Editor, bruce.mclellan@htimes.com


A day after jokingly imitating a spitball pitcher during a Huntsville Stars photo session, Rich Sauveur declared that he's not an oddball left-hander.


But the Stars coach - a former left-handed pitcher in the major leagues - did admit to non-conformist actions as a player.


"I used to sprint onto the field and off the field," Sauveur said Wednesday. "And I raced a horse in Mexico."


Obviously, the Stars' 2007 pitching staff is in the right hands - a left-hander's.


Four of Huntsville's five starting pitchers are left-handers, including Adam Pettyjohn, who'll start tonight's season opener at 7:05 at Joe Davis Stadium against the Mississippi Braves.


Sauveur insisted that the Stars' lefties, including three relievers, don't fit the stereotype of nutty left-handers such as former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee.


"Hey," Sauveur said, "I've seen some weird right-handers."


But Pettyjohn said, "This is my 10th professional year, and I've met very few normal left-handers. All left-handers have something quirky.


"This group of left-handers is no exception."


Sam Narron, the lefty who'll start Monday night in the final game of the opening series, is the "jokester" of the starting staff, according to Pettyjohn.


The other two lefty starters, Manny Parra and Steve Hammond, are quiet and reserved, Pettyjohn said, much like himself. But he's sure they'll eventually get to know their teammates and show their left sides.


"You see a lot of left-handers wearing their hats out to the left, not wearing them straight - just kind of goofballs," Pettyjohn said.


He'll be serious about his business tonight as he continues trying to rebuild his career at the age of 29. Originally drafted by Detroit in the second round in 1998, Pettyjohn went 1-6 in the major leagues in 2001 with the Tigers.


But a bout of ulcerative colitis resulted in colon surgery in 2002 and he missed that entire season. He's been trying to regain his health since.


He pitched for an independent team in Long Beach, Calif., in 2005 before starting last season with Seattle's Double-A team in San Antonio, Texas. He had a solid 2.91 earned run average and 2-4 record there when the Mariners released him in late June. He then went back to Long Beach to stay in shape before finishing the year with the Oakland A's Triple-A team where he was 3-2 with a 4.57 ERA.


The Milwaukee Brewers - parent team of the Double-A Stars - signed him as a free agent in December.


"I really felt like I made big strides last year with getting my strength back," Pettyjohn said, "and I look forward to picking up where I left off last year."


Left off?


While left-handers make up only about 10 percent of the general population, they'll make up 90 percent of the starting pitchers in the five-game opening series. Matt Harrison will start for Mississippi tonight as the first of five lefty Braves starters in the series.


Huntsville's Mike Jones, scheduled to start Saturday, will be the token righty.


And Huntsville manager Don Money said the abundance of left-handed pitchers might negate the advantage they traditionally have over left-handed hitters used to facing right-handers.


"If you see them enough, it doesn't have the lefty-on-lefty effect it used to have years ago," he said.


Meanwhile, the Stars enter tonight's game trying pick up where they left off last year, too. After going 24-45 in the first half of last season, they went 43-26 in the second half to make the Southern League playoffs.


"We should be much, much better," Money said. "Our pitching should be good. Defensively, we should be better.


"I'm ready to go. I think everybody's ready to go."

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No minor test case

Katin tries to focus on playing as irregular drug test investigated

Contact Mark McCarter at markcolumn@aol.com

Huntsville Times


You see my new glove?" asked Brendan Katin, managing a weary, self-effacing smile. Sitting on the steps of the Stars' dugout was a well-worn frying pan.


Welcome to Baseball Humor 101.


Twice in Wednesday morning's game, Katin missed fly balls in right field. Another time, on a sensational diving attempt, he caught the ball only to have it bounce from his glove.


He already looked like he was using a flat hunk of metal instead of leather, so his teammates made it official and presented it to him on the bench.


What an up-and-down week for Katin.


On Monday, he was 0-for-7 and left the winning run on base in extra innings with a double-play ball.


On Tuesday, he blasted a grand slam and totaled six RBIs to lead a Stars win.


On Wednesday, he was 0-for-3, with the two errors.


"It's a funny game," he said with a sigh. "I wish I was better at something else."


On Sunday, it wasn't so funny.


On Sunday, Brendan Katin's week turned into a surreal, nightmarish journey. He learned that his spring training drug test showed irregularities.


A "high testosterone ratio," they call it.


A red-flag for possible performance-enhancing drugs.


Katin flatly denied using anything illegal. "I know I haven't done anything wrong," he said. "I don't even take protein vitamins."


There are plausible reasons for the test result. It could have natural causes, he said. It could be a tainted sample.


The test is being reviewed and he's been assured "a team of doctors is paying special attention to my case," he said.


Dr. John Greco, the Huntsville orthopedist, said that "there are conditions that can cause relatively small increases or decreases" in the ratio and that "upper-level athletes in their prime have a much higher ratio than you and I." In rare cases, he said, there can be natural causes.


On the other hand, he said any numbers "off the charts" could be evidence of juicing.


Greco cautioned it was unfair to play judge-and-jury without knowing more about Katin's physical conditions and how high the ratio was compared to acceptable levels.


Similar cases have involved Floyd Landis, the Tour de France winner, whose testosterone level was possibly raised by overzealous celebration, since alcohol can impact the test, and Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, who is expected to be cleared any day after an investigation of the testing that revealed a high hormone level.


Katin admitted he might have had a drink or two the night before his test. He also underwent surgery a month before, and residual medicine in his system could have also caused what he says is an anomaly.


"He's trying to stay positive," said Steve Sollman, his roommate. "It's definitely a tough situation, especially when you've got a game to play. I truly believe he hasn't done anything wrong.


"You look at him, he's the same size he was last year (235 pounds), the same size he was when he was at (University of) Miami."


Indeed, Katin shows none of the traditional tell-tale swollen neck and face of steroid users, nor any mood swings (except for fluctuating performance at the plate). With an automatic first-time-offender 50-day suspension, "you'd have to be very, very, very stupid" to do anything illegal, he said.


Major League Baseball, which administers the testing and has jurisdiction over minor leaguers in drug testing, initially suspended Katin. He appealed and was permitted to play.


"Monday, I was thinking about it at the plate. I was thinking about it in the field," he said. That was the 0-for-7 night.


Katin learned Tuesday he can play until the review is complete, with results expected in mid-May. "It was a relief, knowing I could play for a while," he said. That was the grand slam night.


"It's tough, but I'll get through this. The truth will come out," he said. "I know what I have put in my body. I know a lot of people won't believe me, but the people who know me, they know I haven't done anything wrong."


On Wednesday, Katin went from the fire to the frying pan. The heat, he knows, will remain.

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Katin is the exact type of fringe player that would use. Not to say that he is guilty, but it make sense, and I wouldnt fault him for it. I mean, you had to think that at his age coming into this season he had to either show something serious or he might be done.
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Star in the spotlight: Mel Stocker

Mark McCarter, Huntsville Times


Position: Outfield

Age: 26

Hometown: Tucson, Ariz.

College: Arizona State


Stats: .182, 3 RBIs, 7 SBs, .333 OBP in 15 games


Years with Stars: First


Equipment: Louisville Slugger C243 model, 33-inch bat. Akadema glove AMJ34.


Current residence: Panama City, Fla. "My wife (Diane) had an offer from a local aquarium to be a sea lion and dolphin trainer."


How much do you know about sea lions and dolphins?: "A little bit. I've helped her a little bit in college and how they kind of act like children and when you're trying to teach them things you have to teach them like you're teaching kids. I swam with dolphins on our honeymoon at Discovery Cove (at Orlando's SeaWorld)."


Favorite player growing up: Rickey Henderson and Kirby Puckett. "Henderson because he was a leadoff guy with power and speed can kill you when he gets on. And Kirby Puckett for the way he went about his job. He always gave 100 percent and was a happy-go-lucky guy."


What skills do you have in other sports: "I played about every sport. I don't like to toot my own horn, but being a short guy (5-foot-9) dunking is a pretty good accomplishment. I can actually dunk two-handed."


If you weren't a baseball player: "I'd probably still be pursuing something in sports. In the offseason I'm a personal trainer, so I'd probably still be in sports, a coach or trainer."


Best baseball movie ever: "Major League"


Worst baseball movie ever: "Rookie of the Year"


Most annoying celebrity: Paris Hilton


Funniest person on earth: Chris Tucker or Dave Chappell


Favorite TV show: "Baseball Tonight" on ESPN


How do you pass time on a long bus trip: Reading. "The Essentials To Strength and Conditioning" is the current book.


The schedule:


The Stars' next home game is May 2 against Chattanooga.

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Stars GM to Take a Leave of Absence


The Stars announced Friday that General Manager Tom Van Schaack has taken a leave of absence, effective immediately.


Van Schaack, 43, is scheduled to have double by-pass surgery within the next 7-10 days to repair significant blockage to his heart?s main artery. Van Schaack, a native of central New York, will have the medical procedure done in Syracuse, NY.


Statement by Tom Van Schaack: ?This has obviously come as quite a surprise to me and my family. I am confident that the operation will be successful and that I will be able to return to my duties with the Stars in the very near future.?


Brewerfan.net staff, and I'm sure all Brewer fans, wish Tom a speedy recovery.

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Stars spotlight: Manny Parra

Mark McCarter, Huntsville Times


Position: Pitcher


Age: 24


Hometown: Sacramento


Stats: 2-1, 2.59 ERA in four starts, 24 Ks, 5 walks in 24 innings


Years with Stars: Fourth


Equipment: Rawlings Trap-Eze pocket


Best thing about Sacramento: San Francisco to the west and "Lake Tahoe is to the east. It's the most beautiful place I've been to."


Favorite player growing up: Will Clark, Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson


If you could trade places with another athlete for a day: "Michael Jordan, back in his day."


First baseball memory: "Going to a Giants game and Barry Bonds hit two home runs."


Do you want Bonds to break Hank Aaron's record: "Not really, no. Not anymore."


If you weren't a baseball player: "A student right now, a business major."


Skills in other sports: "I don't have any. I tried playing football and basketball growing up, but I wasn't any good. I was real small, a late-bloomer."


When did you bloom: 5-foot-5 to 6 feet tall as a high school junior


Best baseball movie ever: "Sandlot"


Worst baseball movie ever: "Major League: Back to the Minors"


Best movie you've seen lately: "Wedding Crashers"


Most annoying celebrity: Britney Spears


What did you listen to on the way to the ballpark today: A mix CD with rock and rap


Funniest person on earth: Will Ferrell


Favorite TV show: "Everybody Loves Raymond"


How do you pass time on a long bus trip: Listen to music, reading


Currently reading: "Three Nights in August," by Buzz Bissinger


The schedule: The Stars open a 10-game homestand Wednesday night, hosting Chattanooga at 7:05. The Stars are 11-12, tied in first place with Tennessee in the Southern League North.

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A Star's ready to shine again

After two seasons of pain, Housman cleared to pitch

Contact Mark McCarter at markcolumn@aol.com

Huntsville Times


Imagine that you can't turn a doorknob, it's so painful.


Imagine that what you do best, what you've loved most, you start hating.


"I was dreading throwing instead of being excited about it," Jeff Housman said.


For more than two seasons, Housman's left shoulder hurt two different ways: (1) When he was pitching. (2) And when he wasn't pitching. He'd talk to friends and tell them, "I don't know if it's worth it."


Then, last July 20, Housman underwent surgery. Dr. William Raasch removed 40 percent of his rotator cuff ... and gave him back 100 percent of his hope.


On Wednesday, after Luis Villareal was promoted to Triple-A Nashville, the 25-year-old Housman was returned to the Huntsville Stars active roster. He'll likely pitch tonight for the first time in more than 10 months.


"It's about time," he said.


"I want the ball pretty bad right now. I want to throw, even if it's just an inning or to one hitter, the first time to go out there again," he said before Wednesday's game against Chattanooga.


He did get some work in six spring training appearances, "but you don't have the adrenaline and intensity of a game, actually playing somebody else that counts."


Housman's pro career began in 2002, and quickly put him on the fast track. After 16 games in rookie ball, he started 2003 at low-A in Beloit, then leapfrogged all the way to Huntsville late that season, playing a key role in the Stars' drive to the championship round.


He got a promotion to Triple-A during next year, then wound up on the Brewers' 40-man roster in 2005, which he spent in Nashville. And in pain.


"It was a weird year," he said. "My velocity was fine. It was one of those injuries where the first thing to leave me was control. I walked a lot of guys and gave up a lot of home runs."


And, because he was on the big league roster, he admitted, "I was hiding a lot of stuff."


When it got no better after 12 games in Huntsville last year, he opted for surgery, then spent his time in Arizona in the monotony of rehab.


He was far removed from his home in Visalia, Calif., which may not be full of picture-postcard scenes, "but it's close to some pretty places," he said.


A chamber of commerce interlude, about the Sequoia National Forest: "I don't think people realize General Sherman (275 feet tall, 82 feet around) is the biggest living thing in the world. There are trees on the side of the road 30 feet around and they're not even named anything."


Housman was a mere sapling as a pitcher when he first arrived in Huntsville in 2003. He had barely pitched in his amateur days, just his senior year in high school, very little as a college freshman, then 100 innings or so as a sophomore, and had only 36 pro appearances when he made his debut on July 20.


He pitched a seven-inning one-hitter, the first half of a doubleheader. David Krynzel and J.J. Hardy made spectacular defensive plays. The offense got him ten runs. It was the first of three wins in three starts.


You can't imagine how easy it all seemed then, when 100 percent of his rotator cuff was 100 percent, when every time he turned a doorknob, it seemed it was leading him to greater places.

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From this past Tuesday --




Catcher called up to AA

Lauren Farrell


Viera Fl. - The dream of most is to make it under the bright lights and the roaring crowd on the expansive field of the big leagues. Manatees catcher Carlos Corporan became one step closer to that dream Monday night as he was called up to AA-Huntsville. "This is what I was looking for," said Corporan of the call-up.


Corporan, second in the Florida State League in batting with a .360 average, 29 hits, 11 runs, and 19 RBI's, had a career performance in a 13-6 win at Vero Beach Monday. The catcher hit the team's first grand slam of the year and went 2-for-5 with two runs and five RBI's. The game was just one of many stellar nights on the season for the 23-year-old. "Carlos' clutch hitting has been outstanding. He has provided us with at least eight go-ahead runs this year," said hitting coach Ken Berry. "His instincts in catching, throwing, hitting and base-running have been above and beyond. He will do a great job in Huntsville and his promotion is well deserved."


Corporan spent the better part of last season with the Manatees until a September 1st call-up to Huntsville. This season the Manatees have made great strides as they are first in the Florida State League and coming off a seven game winning streak. "I've had a great time, and had fun," said Corporan. "This is probably the best team I've been with in my life."


Corporan has a lot to look forward to in Huntsville as the team is tied for first in the Southern League North division. "I expect the same in AA [as single A]," said Corporan, "I will have to work hard."


Tony Diggs, Assistant Director of Farm Development, said "His play thus far has been outstanding, it is refreshing to see Carlos play with enthusiasm and pep in his step. He has been a pleasure to watch and his promotion is well deserved."


The move of Corporan to Huntsville brings catcher Angel Salome to Brevard County.

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Mark McCarter, Huntsville Times


Position: First base


Age: 25


Hometown: Cincinnati


Stats: .333, 1 HR, 12 RBIs, 9 stolen bases in 27 games


Years with Stars: First


Equipment: Louisville Slugger C271 bat and contract to use Akadema glove


How many gloves do you have in your locker? Four - first baseman's mitt, third baseman's glove, outfielder's glove, middle infielder glove


Which is the favorite position? "Whichever position will get me on the field the most."


If you could trade places with another athlete for a day: Tiger Woods


If you weren't a baseball player, you'd be: "Probably be in marketing somewhere, or maybe a financial trader. That's what I do in the offseason."


What was your offseason job? Working at M&N Trading, trading futures on the Chicago Board of Trade. "I'm a go-fer boy. I get the guys lunch. I don't do any trading, or get any of the money. (The market is) really comparable to baseball. Sometimes you have bad days and you have to look past it. It's a competitive nature, a lot of risk and a lot of reward."


First baseball memory: "It wasn't even me playing. It was my brother (Scott, a former Huntsville Star) playing. He played a lot for years before I got into it. So it was going to games, traveling with my family, to watch him."


You went to Notre Dame. What kind of loyal fan are you? "I'm not nutso, but I love the place. It was four of the greatest years of my life."


Did you anguish for hours for Brady Quinn on draft day? "Not at all. He's a first-round draft pick in the NFL. You can't anguish much. I don't know him, but I've heard a lot of good things about him, that he's a good guy."


Best thing about Notre Dame: The people.


Worst thing about Notre Dame: The weather.


Best baseball movie ever: "Bull Durham"


Worst baseball movie ever: "Major League: Back to the Minors"


Most annoying celebrity: Paris Hilton


What did you listen to on the way to the ballpark today? "Some rock station."


Funniest person on earth: Jerry Seinfeld


Favorite TV show: "24"


How do you pass time on a long bus trip: Read a lot of books and watch movies


Currently reading: "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton


What are your or what's your history in other sports: "I played football and basketball in high school. I was on a state championship team in high school. I played point guard in basketball and was a running back in football."

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Stars' owner: Attendance a concern

Despite small crowds, Prentice says he has no plans to move team


Huntsville Times Sports Staff, markcolumn@aol.com


Only 918 fans were at Joe Davis Stadium on Tuesday night for the Huntsville Stars-Mobile BayBears game. Sprinkled among them were four members of the team's ownership group, including principal owner Miles Prentice.


The meager numbers - nine of the 17 home dates have had triple-digit attendance figures - are "absolutely" a concern for Prentice, who bought the club in the fall of 2001 from a group of local owners.


"I'd like to see more people at the stadium," Prentice said. "We have a good product. It's a great family outing, and I think it's a diamond in the rough. It's very important for a community to have a professional franchise like this, one that's affiliated with Major League Baseball."


However, despite struggles at the gate and an aging ballpark (Joe Davis Stadium was opened in 1985), Prentice said he has no plans to sell or move the franchise.


"I'm not looking for either buyers or movers, as the case may be," he said.


Prentice was asked if he had hopes for a new stadium in Huntsville.


"I can dream," he said.


"We got one in Midland (Prentice owns the Midland RockHounds, Oakland's Double-A team in the Texas League). It took a while. And I believe the community has embraced it. That was a partnership (in construction) between public and private."


Prentice, an attorney based in New York, only infrequently visits Huntsville. This was his second game of the season, and was prompted by an emergency situation with the club.


Tom Van Schaack, the team's 43-year-old general manager, has taken a leave and returned to his home in upstate New York, where he's scheduled to undergo heart bypass surgery this week.


Monty Hoppel, the general manager of the Midland club, was here, and spent much of Tuesday meeting with the Stars staff. Prentice was joined by co-owners Jerry Gold, Hank Amon and Steve Long; the latter is a new partner, replacing Joe Coughlin.


"We have enough people (in the front office) in terms of numbers," Prentice said. "We're looking at people picking up a lot of responsibilities. We have some interns coming in to do some of the legwork. We've had my general manager from Midland looking at things, and we're going to see if we can get a guy or two to come in on an interim basis."


Prentice beamed when talking about the Stars' new clubhouse and noted that more improvements are forthcoming, depending upon "priorities" and the Brewers' "punch-list." Among possibilities: an improved visitors' clubhouse, a walk-in concession stand and improved skyboxes.


In a wide-ranging interview with The Times, Prentice touched on other subjects:


More on attendance: "That's something we need to work on. Tom and I and other members of the staff have worked on a format to get more groups in. That's where we feel we have to go.


"The season ticket base is going to be within a few numbers of what it is every year. We want utilization. We want to improve group sales and emphasize to corporations to have their picnics out here, have your parties out here."


On private funds from the owners being used for stadium construction: "It would depend on what we decided needed to be done and how it needed to be done and what the cost was. We don't rule out a combination of choices. Certainly if there were a new facility, if we were to go that far, there would be some contribution from private."


Is the team on the market? "No. In this case I have eight other owners, so I can't make that decision myself."


On an opportunity for local partners: "That's hard to say. I wouldn't rule anything out. But at this point we have our ownership group. If someone wanted to see, I would consider a local owner. Right now, everybody is pretty comfortable."

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Milwaukee's rise no surprise after looking into Stars

Contact Mark McCarter at markcolumn@aol.com

Huntsville Times


Here's Doug Melvin's analogy: "It's like standing in line at Disney World, one of those lines where you're (waiting) an hour and a half. They bump you up 15 minutes. But an hour and 15 minutes is still a long wait," said Melvin, the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.


Here's our analogy:


It's like talking about a no-hitter in the fourth inning. It's premature, and you fret you might jinx something.


There's a long way to go. Almost 130 games. It's not even summer. "Get back with me," laughed Melvin's aide, Dan O'Brien, "in September or October."


Still, six weeks into the major league season, and the best record in baseball belongs to the Milwaukee Brewers, at 24-10, with a six-game win streak and a seven-game lead in the NL Central.


It's surprising to everyone, except maybe those who have seen this construction in progress, when it was raw materials. And even those folks have found this breathtaking.


"I think we had a good team," said Melvin. "But 14 games over .500, I think we're a little bit surprised. We believe in the players. I'm not totally shocked, but to be 14 over instead of six or seven (is a surprise)."


"Did we expect .700 baseball? No," said O'Brien, one of the top men in the Brewers' hierarchy, with the business-card-filling title of "Special Assistant to the General Manager/Baseball Operations."


Melvin and O'Brien were both at Joe Davis Stadium Thursday night to watch the Huntsville Stars.


At that ballpark, much of the groundwork for these Brewers was done.


We were told for years that Milwaukee would build the nucleus to a good team from talent that came through Huntsville. We were told the truth. In a typical lineup, half the starters or more are ex-Stars.


Shortstop J.J. Hardy, a precocious 19-year-old when he was a Southern League All-Star, is batting .331 with nine homers and 27 RBIs. First baseman Prince Fielder is third in the NL in RBIs. Tony Gwynn Jr. is hitting .370 in a reserve role. Rickie Weeks has five homers.


"We knew these young kids, Hardy, (Corey) Hart, Fielder, Weeks, were going to be a big part down the road," Melvin said. "We wanted to build around those kids."


"It's been an effort we've invested in, and we're just now beginning to see the fruits of that labor," said O'Brien, who noted that the farm system "has always been the No. 1 priority in Doug's eyes."


With the home-grown talent, Melvin has also made some risky trades that have panned out nicely and has done efficient, thrifty free-agent shopping (pitcher Jeff Suppan, 5-2, 2.63 ERA, and infielder Craig Counsell, most notably).


Ask Melvin and O'Brien where the credit falls, it's like listening to an Academy Award thank-you speech.


Manager Ned Yost, who instilled a one-for-all, all-for-one attitude. The amateur scouting department. The pro scouting department, instrumental in trades and free agency. The player development department. Front office personnel. Ownership.


And players. Pure and simple, "We're a more talented team," O'Brien said.


"The winning," said Melvin, "has given our fans some enthusiasm and excitement, and it's changing the culture. Ned has done a good job with that."


To have followed this organization for much of a decade, it has been a long wait in line.


We'll see what happens come September and October. But you can't help be eager to see what that ride will be like.

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