The most pleasant news for the Independent Baseball crowd probably centers around three right-handed pitchers, all of whom made their big-league debut last season and now appear to have made the all-important 25-man rosters. It seems likely American Association (Grand Prairie, TX) product Chris Martin will be in the New York Yankees' bullpen, Frontier League (Rockford, IL) grad Drew Rucinski will be with the Los Angeles Angels and Jon Edwards will be part of the Texas Rangers' pen. The trio has only 28 combined major league appearances.
All have heart-warming stories, none better than that of Edwards, who emerged from the youth-oriented Pecos League (Alpine, TX) and the North American League (San Angelo, TX), which no longer exists.
Not only did Edwards move from the outfield to pitching to salvage his career, but he has overcome testicular cancer surgery when it was discovered a few days before Christmas and he has recently learned he will become a first-time father this fall.
"It was surprising how quickly the doctors wanted to move on it (the cancer) and the urgency of it (surgery) kind of showed the concern the doctor felt," Edwards' wife Katelyn told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram as part of a lengthy feature on the couple, who have a strong religious background.
Edwards has held opposing teams to only seven hits in 12.1 innings while striking out 18 in compiling a 2.92 earned run average this spring for the pitching-starved Rangers.
It appears as many as 22 former Independent players will be on Opening Day rosters although up to four of them may be on disabled lists including Aaron Crow, who is going to have Tommy John (with Tommy John (elbow) surgery and will miss the season. The players, with major league affiliation and previous Independent teams, with those who started in an Independent league identified with an asterisk:
Pitchers (17)—Craig Breslow, Boston (New Jersey, Northeast League); *#Aaron Crow, Miami (Fort Worth, American Association); Jon Edwards, Texas (St. Paul, American Association); San Angelo, North American League, and Alpine, Pecos League); Luis Garcia, Philadelphia (Newark, Can-Am League); *#Luke Hochevar, Kansas City (Fort Worth); Scott Kazmir, Oakland (Sugar Land, Atlantic League); *Chris Martin, New York-AL (Grand Prairie, American Association); Vidal Nuno, Arizona (Washington, Frontier League); *James Paxton, Seattle (Grand Prairie); *Tanner Roark, Washington (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Drew Rucinski, Los Angeles Angels (Rockford, Frontier); *#Tanner Scheppers, Texas (St. Paul, American Association); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth); *Joe Thatcher, Houston (River City, Frontier); Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle (Tucson, Golden League); Jerome Williams, Philadelphia (Lancaster, Atlantic, and Long Beach, Golden); Brad Ziegler, Arizona (Schaumburg, Northern League).
Position Players (5) –*2B Stephen Drew, New York-AL (Camden, Atlantic); OF-1B *Daniel Nava, Boston (Chico, Golden); David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association, and Rio Grande Valley, North American); #Antoan Richardson, Texas (Schaumburg, Northern); C Rene Rivera, Tampa Bay (Camden, Atlantic).
#Will be or likely to be on disabled list to start season.
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