04/07/2011 8:56 AM -
Opening Day for Minor League Baseball has arrived, and the Kansas City T-Bones and their fans have a number of familiar names to follow during the 2011 season.
Seven former T-Bones will start 2011 on an affiliated roster, headlined by former University of Missouri hurler Justin James (pictured). James began the 2010 season as the T-Bones closer before having his contract purchased by the Oakland Athletics on June 18. He quickly rose through the A’s system, throwing a combined 39 and one-thirds innings in stops at Class AA and AAA before making his major league debut at Yankee Stadium on September 3. In his debut, James struck out the first batter he faced, Robinson Cano, and later ended his inning of work with a strikeout of future Hall of Famer, Derek Jeter. With his appearance on September 3, James became the first player in Northern League history to begin the year in the independent leagues and reach the major leagues in the same season.
James began his T-Bones career as a starter, where he struggled in that position during the 2009 season. After being moved to closer by T-Bones’ manager Tim Doherty in 2010, James excelled with a 1.69 ERA and six saves in 11 appearances. He surrendered just six hits while striking out 10 in 10 and two-thirds innings before being acquired by Oakland.
During the offseason, James was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers. He will start the 2011 campaign at Triple-A Nashville.
Jacob Blackwood, James’ teammate for parts of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, will start the season with Fort Wayne, Class A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Blackwood was named 2010 Northern League MVP after a breakout year that saw him fall just shy of the league’s first Triple Crown in more than a decade. The Platte City native set a T-Bones single-season home run record in 2010, blasting 31 long balls in 99 games, a number that fell just two shy of the league’s single-season mark. Following the season, Blackwood had his contract purchased by the San Francisco Giants. He was later taken by the Padres in the Triple-A phase of the 2010 Rule 5 Draft.
Blackwood spent most of 2009 as the T-Bones’ third baseman before being moved to second base by Doherty in 2010. Despite playing just five career games at second before the 2010 campaign, Blackwood committed only nine errors in 415 total chances. In addition to representing the Northern League in the 2010 All-Star Game, he was also honored as the Player of the Month in August and received Player of the Week honors on three different occasions during the season: May 31, July 25, and August 15.
“We are very proud of our former players who have been able to advance into the affiliated ranks, especially in the case of Justin and Jacob,” T-Bones President Adam Ehlert said. “One of the first things Tim did when he took over as manager was to move Justin and Jacob to positions that were a more natural and better fit. That insight is a great example of the baseball eye Tim has, and helps illustrate how he led our team to a franchise-record finish.”
Below is a list of the seven former T-Bones on affiliated rosters to begin the 2011 season, including their current team, its class level and affiliated organization:
To follow your former T-Bones, and the rest of the affiliated minor leagues, visit www.milb.com.