For the first time in their five-year history, the Salt Lake Buzz will open a season at home. Left-hander Dan Serafini will throw the first pitch of 1998 shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday at Franklin Quest Field against Tacoma.
"I think it's great," Salt Lake manager Phil Roof said as the Buzz completed spring training in Florida. The team flew to Utah Monday where it will take batting practice and interact with fans at Franklin Quest Field. Admission to the 6 p.m. workout is free. "I'd just as soon open the season at home."The schedule, however, isn't the only change ahead for the Minnesota Twins' top affiliate. Not only has their league grown from 10 to 16 teams and scrapped its split-season format in favor of a 144-game schedule, the winner gets to face the International League's champion in the Triple-A World Series this September in Las Vegas.
Roof, who encouraged Twins general manager Terry Ryan to approve the latter, has mixed feelings about the new PCL. The league has added an expansion team in Memphis, transferred its Phoenix franchise to Fresno, Calif., and added Iowa, Nashville, Oklahoma and Omaha from the now defunct American Association.
"I see good and bad," Roof said. "Playing new organizations and visiting new cities is good, but I would prefer it be a split-season. It's tough for a team to bounce back if it gets off to a slow start."
The early outlook for Salt Lake is positive. Roof expects his club to be offense-oriented, but that's not all.
"This might be the best pitching we've had since I've been there," said Roof, who is entering his fourth season in Salt Lake.
He'll be joined initially by 23 players. The opening day roster includes:
Catchers (2): Jayhawk Owens, Jeff Horn.
Infielders (6): Chad Rupp, Scott Stahoviak, Jeff Ferguson, Jon Shave, Esteban Beltre, Corey Koskie.
Outfielders (4): Jamie Ogden, Chris Latham, Marc Lewis, Brian Buchanan.
Starting pitchers (5): Serafini, Ricky Bones, Travis Baptist, Travis Miller and Benj Sampson.
Relief pitchers (6): Chris Cumberland, Kevin Ohme, Dan Naulty, Shane Bowers, Fred Rath, Gus Gandarillas.
BEE LINES: Buzz uniforms appear prominently in the motion picture "Major League III: Back to the Minors." The movie, which will be released April 17, features the fictional South Carolina Buzz taking on the Minnesota Twins in the Metrodome . . . Tickets are still available for Tuesday's opener. For information call 485-3800 . . . After four games with Tacoma (Seattle Mariners), Salt Lake concludes its first homestand with four against Fresno (San Francisco Giants).
The new PCL
Calgary Cannons (White Sox)
Edmonton Trappers (Athletics)
Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners)
Vancouver Canadians (Angels)
Freesno Grizzlies (Giants)
Las Vegas Stars (Padres)
SALT LAKE BUZZ (Twins)
Tucson Sidewinders (Diamondbacks)
Albuquerque Dukes (Dodgers)
Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Rockies)
Iowa Cubs (Cubs)
Omaha Royals (Royals)
Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals)
Nashville Sounds (Pirates)
New Orleans Zephyrs (Astros)
Oklahoma RedHawks (Rangers)