Coming off their best season in five years, the New Orleans Zephyrs hope to carry that positive momentum into a new season. In 2012, under fi rst-year manager Ron Hassey, the team put together its fi rst winning season since 2007. The Triple-A team enters their 21st season in the New Orleans area and its fi fth as the affi liate of the MLB National League Miami Marlins: the same Miami Marlins that handed the Zs a loss in an exhibition game prior to the start of the 2013 season. Luckily for the Zephyrs, they won't be playing any big-league rosters again any time soon.
Joining Hassey on the bench this year will be pitching coach Charlie Corbell and hitting coach Damon Minor. Both Corbell and Minor return to the team for a third consecutive season. Hassey is in his fi fth season as a manager in the Marlins organization. The former catcher played 14 seasons in the majors for six different teams. Hassey batted .266 over his career and stands today as the only catcher in major league history to catch two perfect games (Len Barker in 1981 and Dennis Martinez in 1991). He's also been part of a World Championship and three American League pennant winners as a player. Corbell guided the Zs' pitching staff to the Pacifi c Coast League-leading 3.96 team ERA in 2012. He is in his 12th year as a minor-league pitching coach, and his seventh year in the Marlins organization. Damon Minor made his debut in professional coaching in 2011. In 2012, he helped make history by coaching a Zephyr offense that set a franchise record by belting 153 home runs.
Even with the history-setting numbers and return to winning ways, the Zs still fi nished third out of four teams in the PCL South division. But 73 is surely a big step forward in the right direction. The 2013 edition could improve upon that if they remain healthy and their experience takes over. The Zephyrs team's opening day roster for the 2013 season included 20 players with major league experience, 12 players with previous time with the Zephyrs, and two former fi rst-round draft picks.
The Zs return many familiar faces from the Pacifi c Coast League's top pitching staff. Tom Koehler will head the 5-man rotation. A year ago, the PCL All-Star registered 12 wins. Pitcher Brad Hand is also back in New Orleans to follow up on an 11-win campaign in his Triple-A debut last year. In fi ve starts with New Orleans in 2012, Jacob Turner posted a stellar 1.98 ERA. He'll begin the season in the Zephyrs' rotation alongside Elih Villanueva and free agent signee Mitch Talbot. The bullpen is led by Chris Hatcher, who set a Zephyrs record with a 0.77 ERA in 37 appearances last season. He was nearly fl awless in the saves department too, going 11 for 12. Also returning is Dan Jennings: he had a 3.14 ERA in 42 games with the club. Fellow southpaws Scott Maine and Zach Phillips will work out of the bullpen with right-handers Doug Mathis, Jordan Smith, A.J. Battisto, and Jonathan Albaladejo. Kyle Skipworth moves up to Triple-A as the primary catcher, and will be joined by veteran presence Koyie Hill. Bryan Petersen and Kevin Mattison are both back in the outfi eld and the top of the lineup. Petersen hit .321 in 64 games with the Zs and played in 84 games with the Marlins. Mattison, on the other hand, led the Zephyrs in doubles, triples, runs and stolen bases, and became the fi rst Zephyr since 2006 to swipe at least 25 bases. Longtime MLB player Matt Diaz will open the season, along with Jordan Brown.
The infi eld returns Nick Green, who hit .344 in 63 games. When healthy, Green was good. Ben Lasater also begins a second season with the Zs. He only played 10 games last year because of injury. Wilson Valdez has spent the last three seasons in the big leagues with Philadelphia and Cincinnati, while Matt Downs logged extensive time with Houston over the last two years; Ed Lucas has played the last three seasons at Triple-A in the Royals, Braves and Angels systems.
Fans looking for tickets can call (504) 734- 5155, visit the Zephyr Field box offi ce or any Ticketmaster location, or zephyrsbaseball.com.