'Alternative fats' and much more for opener

The Saints open the regular season at CHS Field with a four-game series against the Gary SouthShore RailCats for the second consecutive year in a row. Some things to know:

When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7:05 p.m.; Sunday, 5:05 p.m.

Tickets: Prices range from $28 for prime box seats to $5 day-of-game-only admission to sit on the grassy berm beyond left field.

2017 Ball-pig: "Alternative Fats" is the team mascot's name for its 25th anniversary season, beating out name plays on other topics du jour including Mary Tyler Boar, Super Boar LII, Boar'd of Trump and Pigimir Putin.

2016: The Saints went 61-39 in the regular season but lost to Winnipeg three games to two in the first round of the American Association playoffs.

Returning offense: Nate Hanson and Tony Thomas are the Saints' top returning hitters. Hanson hit .304 with 12 homers and 63 RBI while Thomas hit .296 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI last year. Breland Almadova was second on the team with 29 stolen bases.

Returning pitching: The top three starters in the 2016 rotation are back: Mark Hamburger (12-6, 3.29 ERA), Robert Coe (11-3, 4.23) and John Straka (10-3, 4.48)

Gone: Alonzo Harris (.307, 15 HR, 58 RBI) and Angelo Songco (.285, 13, 45) have moved on, as has closer Ryan Rodebaugh (23 saves, 1.84 ERA).

One team leaves, another arrives: The Laredo Lemurs suspended operations. They will be replaced on the schedule by the Salina (Kan.) Stockade.

G'day, Mark: Hamburger spent the winter pitching for the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League. He compiled a 5-1 record with a 1.90 ERA for the Aces, who were managed by former Twins batting coach Joe Vavra.

Jim Paulsen