BRADENTON — They hail from Canada, Venezuela and nearly everywhere in between.
Some are homegrown products, others were plucked from elsewhere.
Now they are all Bradenton Marauders.
The 25-player roster for the high Single-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates was announced during Monday afternoon’s civic luncheon at Pirate City. The team takes the field beginning with today’s 7 p.m. intrasquad game for season-ticket holders at McKechnie Field and Thursday’s season opener against the Fort Myers Miracle.
The Marauders compete in the Florida State League.
“I think what we have in this room, player-wise, is kind of a melting pot, a microcosm,” said Marauders manager P.J. Forbes, in his second season in the organization after leading the Lynchburg Hillcats — the Pirates former high Single-A team — to the Carolina League championship last year.
The Pirates, Forbes said, are trying to build a championship organization through the draft and trades.
The roster includes 12 pitchers, three catchers, five infielders and five outfielders. Sixteen of the Marauders were either drafted or signed by the Pirates, while others, such as pitcher Bryan Morris, were acquired through trades. A first-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006, Morris came to the Pirates in ’08 as part of the deal that sent Jason Bay to the Boston Red Sox.
Morris is one of 10 players who were with the Hillcats last year. He will start Thursday night’s opener.
“As spring training went along, you started to hear more and more about the team,” Morris said of the Marauders. “It’s going to be exciting. I’m excited to see the fan base and stuff, because I’ve always heard the Florida State League is a little shallow in the fan base. But Bradenton’s a good city, and they’re behind the Pirates. So hopefully, they’ll be behind us.”
Rounding out the starting rotation is Jeff Locke (second round pick of the Atlanta Braves in ’06), Aaron Pribanic (third round pick of the Seattle Mariners in ’08), Nathan Adcock (fifth round pick of the Mariners in ’06) and Brian Leach (25th round pick of the Pirates in ’08).
Locke came over as part of the June trade with the Braves for outfielder Nate McLouth, and Pribanic and Adcock were part of the package that sent pitcher Ian Snell and shortstop Jack Wilson to the Mariners.
Locke began ’09 ranked as the Braves’ seventh-best prospect by Baseball America.
Tony Sanchez, a catcher and the Pirates’ first pick of the ’09 draft, will be in Bradenton after playing two games with the Pirates during spring training. Sanchez homered during his first at-bat of the spring and batted .309 with three different Single-A affiliates last year.
The players’ next goal is a call to Altoona, Pa., home the of the Pirates Double-A affiliate.
“Our goal as a staff is now to develop some guys, to accomplish what the guys we had last year did, and get them prepared for the next level,” Forbes said. “Eventually, as that builds, we bring what everybody wants, and that’s a World Series championship back to Pittsburgh.”