Flying Squirrels announce Opening Day roster

Posted at 4:36 PM, Apr 02, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-02 16:36:40-04

RICHMOND, VA – The Richmond Flying Squirrels, in conjunction with their parent-club, the San Francisco Giants, have unveiled their preliminary roster for the 2012 Eastern League season.  Highlighting a prospect-laden group are CF Gary Brown and C Tommy Joseph.  Brown is rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the San Francisco system, while Joseph is slotted right behind him at #2.  It marks the first time in the Flying Squirrels history that they have featured a prospect rated higher than fourth on BA’s list of organizational top-30 prospects.  Both Brown and Joseph will ascend to Double-A for the first time, and each is expected to make their Double-A debut when the Squirrels open their season on the road against the New Britain Rock Cats (Minnesota Twins) on Thursday, April 5th.

The two young prospects will be joined by a group of players familiar to Richmond, as the opening day roster includes 15 players who have appeared as Squirrels before.  Of those 15, 14 were with the team for at least a portion of the 2011 season as the Squirrels claimed the Western Division title and advanced to the Eastern League Championship Series.

The returning members of the 2011 Squirrels are RHP Justin Fitzgerald, RHP Daryl Maday, RHP Austin Fleet, RHP Edwin Quirarte, LHP Jason Stevenson, LHP Tom Vessella, C Johnny Monell, C Eliezer Zambrano, INF Joel Weeks, INF Jose Flores, 1B Wes Hodges, OF Chris Dominguez, OF Wendell Fairley and OF Juan Perez.  RHP Craig Westcott, who was a Squirrel during their inaugural season in 2010 will also return.

In addition to Brown and Joseph, the Squirrels will feature an additional three players who are included among BA’s top-30 Giants’ prospects.  Dominguez (#16) will be joined by two Double-A newcomers as Ehire Adrianza (#9) will take over at shortstop for the Squirrels and LHP Mike Kickham (#20) will become part of the starting rotation.

Starting Rotation: The Squirrels starting rotation will feature a mixture of veteran arms and exciting newcomers.  Fitzgerald will top the staff, and will be joined by former Squirrels Stevenson and Westcott.  RHP Chris Heston and Kickham will round out the five-man unit.  Fitzgerald was a mid-season Eastern League All-Star for Richmond in 2011, and posted a 3.51 ERA on the season.  He also started and won the clinching game three of the Western Division Championship Series.  Stevenson was also a member of the Squirrels postseason rotation after starting and winning the final regular season game of the year for Richmond that allowed the Squirrels entry into the playoffs.  Heston and Westcott were two-thirds of the big-three that led the San Jose Giants (A+) to 90 wins during the 2011 season.  Heston, a Floridian, was the California League’s ERA champion in 2011 (3.16) and also tied for third in the circuit with 12 wins (12-4).  Like Heston, Westcott was a mid-season California League All-Star. However, Westcott did him one better in a couple of categories.  He was also named a postseason All-Star and tied for the league-lead in wins with 13 (13-4).  Kickham, the only starter among the Giants top-30 prospects, will make a level jump to arrive in Richmond after spending his first full-season as a professional entirely with the Augusta GreenJackets (A).  The big lefty will complete the rotation as he makes his Double-A debut.

Bullpen: The relievers for Richmond will be an dynamic group of young arms, as five of the nine relievers will be appearing at the Double-A level for the first time.  The four that return include now three-year Squirrel Maday, Vessella, Fleet and Quirarte.  Maday was an Eastern League All-Star in 2010 with the Squirrels and also served as the team’s Opening Day starter in 2011.  He will convert to the bullpen full-time for the first time in his career and provide a veteran presence.  Vessella, a free agent find for the Giants prior to the 2011 season, opened the year with Richmond before eventually appearing at every full-season level in the system.  Fleet has put himself on the prospect map after he capitalized on a late-season call up from Augusta to bolster the Richmond staff for the 2011 postseason.  He shined in four regular season appearances and then turned in four scoreless innings in game two of the Eastern League Championship Series.  He also impressed in the Cactus League after receiving a spring invite from San Francisco.  Quirarte will open a second consecutive season in Richmond.  He made 35 appearances with the Squirrels at the beginning of 2011, compiling a 5.44 ERA.  He closed the year with a strong stretch for San Jose, posting a 2.13 ERA over 12 appearances.  RHP Brett Bochy will join Kickham in jumping over San Jose from Augusta to make his Double-A debut.  The son of Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy, the 24-year old made a smashing professional debut in 2011, logging a 1.38 ERA over 35 relief appearances with the GreenJackets.  He held South Atlantic League hitters to an average of just .161.  Hard-throwing RHP Jake Dunning, towering LHP Chris Gloor, RHP Andy Reichard and LHP Ari Ronick complete the Richmond bullpen.

Outfield: Brown will certainly garner his fair share of attention, and with good reason.  He broke the San Jose franchise record for hits (188) and led the California League in his first full-season, batting .336 in 2011.  He also displayed his tremendous speed by swiping 53 bases for the Giants.  The 2010 first-round draft selection will look to stay on the fast track as he holds down center field for the Squirrels.  Dominguez will join him at one of the outfield corners.  The cannon-armed slugger will return to the Squirrels and be looking to find a positional home.  He is also expected to see time at first and third base throughout the first half of the season.  Perez, who was the primary center fielder for Richmond in 2011 will also move to a corner to make room for Brown.  That should give the Squirrels a stout defensive group, as Perez is also a dazzling defender in the outfield.  He batted .256 over 131 games for the Squirrels in 2011 and drove in 40 runs.  He added the game-winning RBI in the Squirrels game two win over Harrisburg in the WDCS.  Fairley, a former first-rounder, will also return after coming up to Double-A for the first time in the second half of 2011.  Rounding out the outfield will be newcomer Nick Liles.  The 24-year old North Carolina native makes the jump after hitting .281 with San Jose in 78 appearances last season.

Infield: The Squirrels will be strong up the middle at the outset of 2012, as the slick-fielding Adrianza takes over at short.  The Venezuelan is thought of in the same defensive class as 2010 Squirrels’ shortstop Brandon Crawford.  His double-play partner will also be a newcomer, as Ryan Cavan takes over at second base.  Cavan led the California League in fielding percentage in 2011 while hitting a solid .270 and knocking in 90 runs.  Flores, who was the Squirrels Opening Day third baseman last year will return in a utility role at the outset of the season.  3B Daniel Mayora will make his organizational debut for the Giants after a strong season between Double-A and Triple-A in the Tampa Bay system last year.  With Double-A Montgomery in the Rays’ chain, the 26-year old Venezuelan hit .305 in 73 games.  Hodges, a mid-season pickup in 2011, returns to play first base, and will bring the fond memory of his game-winning home run on the final day of the regular season that vaulted the Squirrels into the playoffs.  Weeks, who will provide valuable depth on the infield and due to his versatility, will also be called upon to catch.

Catchers:  The power-hitting Joseph will lead a trio of Richmond catchers at the beginning of the year.  The 20-year old, who belted his way up the prospect-ladder with 22 home runs for San Jose last year, will be the youngest Squirrel and may be the youngest position player in the EL.  Monell, who batted a robust .478 in the 2011 EL playoffs, will spell Joseph behind the plate, and will almost certainly find ample time as both the DH and at first base.  Zambrano will serve as the third catcher, continuing to provide a valuable depth to the roster.

Field Staff:  Legendary manager Dave Machemer returns to guide the Squirrels for a second season in 2012.  He led the Squirrels to the ELCS and also claimed his 1,500th managerial win in 2011.  Ross Grimsley will serve his third season as the Richmond pitching coach, after molding the Squirrels into the top pitching staff in the EL in 2011.  Ken Joyce also comes back for a third season as the Squirrels’ hitting coach.  L.J. Petra takes over for Eric Ortega as the Squirrels’ athletic trainer, and the team will also welcome a new strength & conditioning coach as Jim Bose replaces Garrett Sherrill on the field staff.

2012 Preliminary Roster Breakdown:


SP – RHP Justin Fitzgerald

SP – LHP Jason Stevenson

SP – RHP Chris Heston

SP – RHP Craig Westcott

SP – LHP Mike Kickham


RP – RHP Brett Bochy

RP – RHP Jake Dunning

RP – RHP Austin Fleet

RP – LHP Chris Gloor

RP – RHP Daryl Maday

RP – RHP Edwin Quirarte

RP – RHP Andy Reichard

RP – LHP Ari Ronick

RP – LHP Tom Vessella


CF – Gary Brown

OF – Chris Dominguez

OF – Wendell Fairley

OF – Nick Liles

OF – Juan Perez


SS – Ehire Adrianza

2B – Ryan Cavan

1B – Wes Hodges

3B – Daniel Mayora

UTIL – Jose Flores

UTIL – Joel Weeks


C – Tommy Joseph

C – Johnny Monell

C – Eliezer Zambrano