Lexington Legends preview

By: Ethan Levine

The Lexington Legends, the single-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros, will begin their 2012 South Atlantic League campaign Thursday on the road against the Greensboro Grasshoppers. This year’s roster was announced Tuesday at the team’s annual media luncheon, one day after players reported to Lexington from spring training.

The 2012 Legends will be managed by Ivan De Jesus, who managed the team in 2004 before taking a job with the Chicago Cubs. De Jesus addressed the media during the luncheon and expressed his excitement in returning to Lexington. Here is what he had to say:

The Legends return a handful of players from last year’s team and welcome a few new faces to the Bluegrass this year. Most notable of the returning players is second basemen Delino DeShields Jr., the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft. DeShields, who moved from the outfield to second base as a rookie in 2011, will remain in the infield in 2012 as he tries to work his way up to the big leagues.

“I got some experience (last season). I got my feet wet a little bit,” DeShields said. “I know what it’s like, I know what to expect, and now I just have to go ahead and do what I know I can do.”

Also among those returning is relief pitcher Jason Chowning, the lone Kentucky native on the Legends’ opening day roster. Chowning, a Louisville native and Eastern High School graduate, struck out 60 batters in just under 59 innings in 2011, finishing the year with a 4-4 record and a 2.45 ERA.

“It’s great to be home again and to be able to throw in front of my family and friends and people I haven’t seen in a long time, that haven’t seen me play in a long time,” Chowning said. “It’s just a great experience.”

The Legends also return starter Carlos Quevedo, the team’s leader in pitching victories a year ago with eight, outfielder Emilio King, the team’s MVP a year ago and catcher Mike Kvasnicka, a South Atlantic League All-Star in 2011 who is moving back to catcher after spending a year at third base.

Those familiar faces have also been supplemented with new talent including outfielder Jordan Scott, the team MVP of the Greeneville Astros (Appalachian League), and pitcher Dayan Diaz, who went 7-3 with a 1.98 ERA in 2011 for the Tri-City ValleyCats (New York Penn League).

With spring training come and gone and the season just days away, De Jesus says he expects his guys to “be consistent, play hard, play aggressive, play smart (and) learn from their mistakes.”

“When you do that, you do everything with fire, with passion and with the attitude to improve and be the best player you can be,” De Jesus added.

The team’s new president Andy Shea, in keeping a tradition started by former team president Alan Stein, guaranteed a win in the team’s home opener, and promised fans if the team did not back up his guarantee they would receive free admission to the next day’s game. With that being said, the Legends home opener is April 12 against the Kannapolis Intimidators, with first pitch slated for 7:05 p.m.

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