Aberdeen opens with familiar faces

Ironbirds

June 17, 2008|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN REPORTER

There can never be a whole lot of stability on a short-season Single-A baseball team such as the Aberdeen IronBirds.

Even if Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is the owner.

However, the 2008 IronBirds are about as stable as any low-level minor league team can be. They will open the season tonight with nine players who spent either 2007 or both 2006 and 2007 with the IronBirds.

There's even returning experience at the manager position and two coaching jobs. Gary Kendall will manage the team, returning to the town where he was a field coach in 2002 and 2003.

"The hardest thing about managing at this level is you only get the guys half a season," Kendall said. "You don't even know some of these guys at first, and you only play 76 games."

Of course, there is always a delicate mix between player development and winning.

"Development comes first," Kendall said. "For instance, there are times we may leave a pitcher out there to try to get him to develop, to work through a jam to get the hitter out. If you take a guy out any time any little thing comes up, you don't really get a chance to see what kind of player he really is."

Former Oriole Scott McGregor rejoins the team as pitching coach, the same role he had in 2003, and Cesar Devarez is back for a fourth season as a coach.

Aberdeen is on the road for its opener, meeting the Hudson Valley Renegades, a Tampa Bay Rays affiliate, at 7.05 p.m.

The IronBirds return home to Ripken Stadium for the home opener, at 7:35 p.m. Friday against the Brooklyn Cyclones, a New York Mets affiliate.

william.free@baltsun.com

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