ROCHESTER - Second-year Rochester Red Wings manager Joel Skinner announced Tuesday that Houston, Texas native Kohl Stewart, a 2013 first round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins, will take the ball when the 2019 season begins at Lehigh Valley against the IronPigs.
The right-hander Stewart told a group of assembled media at the team's annual Media Day that a lot has happened to him in the past year. "I was the fifth guy starting the 2018 season in Double A" at Chattanooga, he said. Now he has the honor of leading off for his team at Triple A.
The 6-foot, 3-inch Stewart saw time last year in Rochester, starting "I think eight times here" as well as with the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Twins. The 24-year-old credited Red Wings pitching coach Stu Cliburn with assisting him in reaching the point where he will start this season at the top of the Rochester rotation.
During his session with the media, Skinner discussed this team's mix of veterans and youngsters; the use this season of the Major League in the International League, and now that he is in his second year in Rochester, "I don't have to introduce myself to everyone."
Skinner said while he hopes the pitching staff experiences the same level of success this season as last - when Rochester hurlers led the IL in having the lowest ERA - "we need to score more runs."
Once their season begins April 4, the Red Wings will face four teams. They will open with a seven-game road grind, starting with four games at Lehigh Valley before three games in Syracuse against the newly affiliated Mets. Lehigh Valley then comes to Frontier Field for four games followed by the Syracuse Mets for three. On April 18 Rochester goes back to Pennsylvania for three more games against the IronPigs. The first off day of the campaign falls on Sunday, April 21. The next day Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders, the IL affiliate of the New York Yankees, come to Rochester for four games followed in by the Pawtucket Red Sox, top farm club of the Boston Red Sox.
The month will conclude with the Red Wings on the road at Scranton Wilkes-Barre. That trip will continue into May, concluding with a visit to Pawtucket for games May 3, 4 and 5. Rochester's Western New York rival, the Buffalo Bisons, don't meet the Wings until May 21.
Youngsters set to see their first AAA action for Rochester are right handed pitcher Austin Adams, infielder Randy Cesar, and outfielders Brent Rooker and Luke Raley. Adams, who stands 5'11", was signed as a free agent Aug. 21, 2018. A native of Montgomery, Alabama, he pitched last season with AA Chattanooga and with Sugar Land of the ALPB. Rooker was a second round pick by the Twins in the 2017 amateur draft. He is 6'3", 215 lbs., and is a native of Germantown, TN. He saw action last season with the Lookouts. Raley was acquired July 31, 2018 from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Last season the 6'3" 220 pounder played for Tulsa (AA) in the Dodgers organization and finished the year at Chattanooga.
Among the veterans is 35-year-old infielder Adam Rosales who spent the 2018 season with the Cleveland Indians and Columbus of the IL. Back this season in organized ball is Jordany Valdespin, 31, who last played for Long Island in the Independent League.
General Manager Dan Mason also addressed the media. He is hoping to improve his "batting average" for guaranteeing a certain game time temperature on opening day. This is his fifth season of guaranteeing a temperature of 50 or above, and he was right only once out of the first four times. "That's a .250 batting average, and I know a lot of Major League players would be happy to hit .250," he said. This year the "Duke of Doppler" raised the stakes on himself by guaranteeing a game time temperature of 51 degrees. If the game time temperature on the right field scoreboard is 50 or lower, all fans attending will receive a free ticket to any other home game in April or May.
Weather forecasters as of April 3 are calling for a high temperature of 47 in Rochester on April 11.
Mason also talked about his favorite topic, the food offerings at Frontier Field. Home Thursday games, except for the April 11 home opener, will again be Plates Nights.
One new addition to Frontier Field this year will be a special seating area beyond the visitor's bullpen in left field. The terrace area was being put in place April 2. There will be 10 tables with four chairs per table (a specific ticket for that area will need to be purchased, as well as a drink rail that can accommodate another 20 fans. Both the tables and drink rail with have phone charging stations. "It will be a great vantage point to sit at a table and watch a game," Mason concluded.