ST. PAUL SAINTS season opener
7:10 p.m. at Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats • Radio: 93.3 FM
Saints start on the road
Preview: The Saints are coming off a third-place finish in the American Association’s North Division, posting a 48-52 record manager George Tsamis calls “embarrassing.” … Tsamis is 16 victories shy of 1,000 for his career, 801 of which have come as Saints manager, a position he has held since 2004. ... Gone are familiar faces (to Saints fans) Mark Hamburger, who is now pitching for the New Britain (Conn.) Bees of the Atlantic League; infielders Nate Hanson and Tony Thomas and outfielders Anthony Gallas and Breland Almadova. … The Saints announced Thursday the name of the 2018 ball pig: Porknite, a nod to the immensely popular video game “Fortnite.”
Players to watch: The most intriguing name on the Saints’ pitching staff is Tom Wilhelmsen, a 6-6, 235-pound righthander who spent two months with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017 before being released. He is slated to be the closer. The Saints also signed former Cretin-Derham Hall star Jake Esch, expected to lead the pitching rotation. He is one of six Minnesotans on the roster. Returning is first baseman Brady Shoemaker, who hit 21 home runs last season, becoming just the third player in team history to hit 20 or more in a season.
Numbers: 74-26; 61-39; 48-52. The Saints’ regular-season records in 2015, 2016 and 2017, showing a 13-game decline in each of the past two seasons.
Injuries: Pitcher Vinny Nittoli and outfielder Jordan Smith begin the season on the disabled list with minor injuries.
Saints roster: Catcher: Justin O’Conner; Infielders: Josh Allen, Dante Bichette Jr., Jayce Boyd, J.J Gould, Brady Shoemaker, Noah Perio; Outfielders: Kes Carter, Max Murphy, Richard Prigatano, Jordan Smith; Pitchers: Ryan Boelter, Mike Devine, Jake Esch, Ken Frosch, Jeff Malm, Jake Matthys, Eddie Medina, Vinny Nittoli, Ryan Schlosser, Matt Solter, Beck Wheeler, Tom Wilhelmsen.
Manager: George Tsamis
Coaches: Ole Sheldon, Kerry Ligtenberg