Altoona Curve, New Skipper Open at Erie; 07 Mgr of Year Returns To Face Team He Led to Title


The Altoona Curve (65-77 last year) travel to Erie for their opener.  The roster has been set and it is full of another ‘P’ word.  Pride. Passion. Pittsburgh Pirates.  Add Potential and you have the Curve roster.  All eyes are on this roster as being full of components for the winning future of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Rest assured Rumbunter will be there to help this season with updates.

Jonah Nickerson will be the starter for the Seawolves, a 12-game winner with the Lakeland Flying Tigers in 2008, is entering his fourth season in the Detroit Tigers system.  Also for the SeaWolves, Garth Iorg’s son Cale has said to be the top rated prospect in the system.  Here is a season preview breakdown of the Eastern League.

The Curve roster is full of experience and each game in The Blair County Ballpark will be a showcase.  How long that talent remains in Altoona will be the big question.   15 players on the 24-man Curve roster finished the 2008 season in Altoona.   And all but six on the roster have experience playing at the Double-A level or higher.

Roster highlights include:

OF Jose Tabata–he will need to learn how to play in the cold weather was a comment I heard.  I feel the kid could play in a phone booth in a N’Easter on the Erie shore.  So we will find out rather quickly today. 

RHP Brad Lincoln (4th overall pick in 06), amd 2008 Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year Jeff Sues who went a combined 4-2 between Lynchburg and Altoona last year.  He struck out 72 batters in 64.1 innings.

1B Jamie Romak , SS Brian Friday , LHP Daniel Moskos (4th overall pick in 07), C Steve Lerud, and INF 2008 Pirates Minor League Player of the Year Jim Negrych.  Negrych finished fifth among all Minor Leaguers with a .359 batting average last season.

Altoona’s 2008 Team MVP Jonel Pacheco (.288, 12 HR, 52 RBI) and the 2008 Curve Pitcher of the Year Juan Mateo (7-1, 2.12) will be back to begin the ’09 campaign. 

Baseball America rated the following Curve players as having the best baseball tools throughout the Pirates farm system:

Best Strike-Zone Discipline:  Jim Negrych
Best Fastball:  Jeff Sues
Best Slider:  Daniel Moskos
Best Curveball:  Brad Lincoln
Best Defensive Catcher:  Steve Lerud

A big key will be the new leader of the club this year.  Tim Leiper (2006-08) is gone as Curves skipper.  New Manager Matt Walbeck enters his first season in the Pirates’ organization after spending 2008 as the third base coach of the Texas Rangers.  The switch-hitting catcher played 11 consecutive seasons in the major leagues from 1993-2003.  One of his career highlights came in 1994 with Minnesota, when he caught Scott Erickson’s no-hitter.

In 2007, Walbeck guided Erie to the Eastern League Southern Division title.  Walbeck also garnered honors from the Eastern League as the league’s top manager, and was also dubbed the Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America for all classes.

Walbeck has a team filled with potential.  How quickly can he move that potential up the ladder will be the focus of many Pirates fans.

Good Luck Curve.