Published: April 5, 2014
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Baseball fans in the Virgin Islands this year have some new adopted teams to follow.
Because in addition to their favorite Major League Baseball teams, local players also will be suiting up in the Minor Leagues for the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals, the Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats and the Lancaster (Calif.) JetHawks, with more to come.
Minor League seasons throughout the country got under way Thursday, and that means a fresh crop of assignments for a group of Virgin Islanders trying to make the big leagues.
Jabari Blash, the only V.I. player at the Double-A level, is back where he ended last season with the Generals, but after night's like Thursday night's opener, he might not last long.
The 24-year-old outfielder in the Seattle Mariners system smashed a grand slam in his third plate appearance of the season, helping his team to a 12-7 road victory in 11 innings in Chattanooga.
No V.I. player has made the big leagues since utility player Callix Crabbe's 21-game stint with the San Diego Padres in 2008. According to Baseball-Reference.com, 11 V.I.-born players have made the show.
After Blash, the next few V.I. Big league candidates are pitchers, currently serving as relievers in the minors.
Akeel Morris and Jamaine Cotton both received assignments for Single-A - Morris with the Sand Grants of the New York Mets organization, and Cotton with the High-A JetHawks of the Houston Astros organization.
Morris, 21, a right-handed pitcher, finished with a 1.00 earned-run average and 1.16 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) in 14 games last year for low-A Brooklyn.
Morris spent some of his offseason in the territory helping Blash and his Ballers in the V.I., and also training in California.
"We tried to promote baseball and that's part of the job. But I also got to the beach and hung out with friends," Morris said. "Now I'm working on just performing well when I pitch, work hard, and the rest will take care of itself."
Cotton, 23, was home on St. Thomas for some of the winter, but also played in the Venezuelan winter league, and trained at his alma mater, Western Oklahoma State.
He said spring training for the Astros, who are rebuilding at all levels under general manager Jeff Luhnow, was competitive.
"You have to compete regardless of the fact that you have a spot," he said. "It's mainly just consistency that I'm working on. And that goes for everybody. It's doing what you can do on a consistent basis. Every day you go out, you've got to continue doing your job to stay there."
Cotton helped the Quad City River Bandits win a Midwest League title, appearing in 26 games and posting a 4.77 ERA.
Both Morris and Cotton did not play in their team's opening games on Thursday, and have been told their role in the bullpen will be dictated by their performance.
Jamaine's brother, Jharel Cotton, is expecting a call to advanced the Single-A Rancho Cucamonga within the Los Angeles Dodgers organization soon.
The 22-year-old right-handed reliever ended the season with the Quakes, but is being held in an extended spring training in Arizona to recover from an injury. He also spent time last season in Double-A Chattanooga.
"When the Dodgers feel that it's time, they will send me," Cotton said. "I want to get back (to Double-A), and I'm going to work hard to get back there. What stood out is that baseball was calm and easy at that level.
"Basically like the Major Leagues."
Another V.I. Baseball prospect to watch is Micker Adolfo of the Chicago White Sox organization.
Adolfo was born in the V.I. but moved to the Dominican Republic as a 14-year old to develop.
Last summer, he was signed as a 16-year-old by the Sox for $1.6 million, the largest the organization has ever paid to an international prospect.
According to Futuresox.com, assistant general manager Buddy Bell said the outfielder will likely play with the Arizona League White Sox starting this June in rookie ball.
- Contact Daily News Sports Editor Matt Schoch at 714-9117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.V.I. player assignments
- Micker Adolfo, Chicago White Sox, waiting on assignment, possibly Arizona League White Sox, rookie ball, OF
- Jabari Blash, Seattle Mariners, Double-A Jackson (Tenn.) Generals, OF
- Jamaine Cotton, Houston Astros, Advanced Single-A Lancaster (Calif.) JetHakws, Houston Astros, RHP
- Jharel Cotton, Los Angeles Dodgers, extended spring training, waiting on assignment, RHP
- Akeel Morris, New York Mets, Single-A Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats, RHP