When the Quad-City River Bandits arrive Saturday from their spring training camp in Florida, there will be no shortage of familiar faces.
"The way things shook down, it looks like we're going to have quite a few guys who at least got a taste of what the Midwest League was like last season," Quad-Cities manager Steve Dillard said.
Although the roster remains subject to last-minute changes, 11 of the 59 players who saw action for the River Bandits in 2008 are part of the roster St. Louis minor-league officials put together during meetings with managers earlier this week.
Infielder Domnit Bolivar and pitcher Chuckie Fick have the most Midwest League experience among the returning players.
Bolivar began and finished the season with Quad-Cities, hitting .257 in 91 games in addition to spending part of the year with the Cardinals' New York-Penn League affiliate.
Fick went 6-5 with a 3.17 ERA in 20 appearances for the River Bandits and finished third on the team in strikeouts.
Other returning position players include infielders Niko Vasquez, Osvaldo Morales and Aaron Luna, outfielder Jon Edwards and catchers Roberto Espinoza and Blake Murphy. Pitchers Deryk Hooker, David Carpenter and Scott McGregor also played for Quad-Cities a year ago.
Luna and Carpenter are returning at new positions.
Luna played the outfield for Quad-Cities a year ago but spent most of spring training working at second base with high-A Palm Beach before being reassigned to the River Bandits this week. Carpenter hit .280 in eight games as a catcher with Quad-Cities, but began a transition to the mound shortly after a late-April promotion to Palm Beach.
The remaining roster spots are primarily filled with players who played with short-season clubs at Batavia, which won the New York-Penn League pennant last season, or Johnson City.
The exceptions are Gary Daley, a pitcher at the high-A level the past two seasons who is working his way back from an injury, and Cuban-born outfielder Ryde Rodriguez, a .329 hitter who was picked as a Gulf Coast League all-star last season with the Cardinals' affiliate.
"There has been some movement up and down like always and that could continue before we get up there, but we've had most of the guys with our club for most of the spring," Dillard said. "They're a competitive group and we've gotten plenty of work in."
Quad-Cities will continue to use the tandem-starter system with its pitchers early in the season and expects to open with 13 pitchers on the roster.
The group includes Hector Cardenas, Arquimedes Nieto and Ramon Delgado, three pitchers who combined for a 17-2 record with ERAs of 2.96 or below at Batavia, and Kevin Thomas, who went 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA at Johnson City.
Charles Cutler, a left-handed hitting catcher who hit .303 as a New York-Penn League all-star last season, is among the position players on the River Bandits roster.