Del Rosario gets opening nod for Ponies
Of The Gazette Staff

Though the Billings Mustangs' roster remained a fluid situation as late as Monday evening, manager Joe Kruzel could make at least one decision regarding tonight's Pioneer League opener against the White Sox in Great Falls: Enerio Del Rosario gets the assignment on the hill.

Other than that, Kruzel had yet to determine a starting lineup. With players still arriving in town as the team went through their final preseason workout Monday, Kruzel said a full lineup would be close to a game-time decision. He did lay out a few "likely" starters, however: Jake Long (37th round in 2005) at catcher; returning Mustang Michael McKennon at first base; Justin Tordi, who played last season in Billings and was just recalled from Class A Dayton on a short-term basis, at shortstop; and 2007 seventh-round selection Brandon Waring at third. The outfield mix included Kel Jones (27th round, 2006), Michael Jones (8th round, 2005), Kyle Maunus (free agent, 2006) and Brandon Menchaca (13th round, 2007.)

As for Del Rosario, the 6-foot-2 right-hander was signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a free agent in 2005. He spent the last two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He went 5-5 with a 1.78 ERA there last season. Del Rosario threw 122 2/3 innings over the past two years in the DSL, going a combined 9-9 with a 2.35 ERA and 94 strikeouts.

He'll be facing Great Falls' Juan Moreno, a 6-4 right-hander who was 7-5 with a 4.60 ERA in the Appalachian League last season. Kruzel said the starting assignment fell on Del Rosario simply because he was the most ready among the Mustangs' pitchers.

"He had a very good extended spring (training)," said Kruzel, who is in his first season as the Mustangs manager. "He's a strike-thrower and we really think he's a guy who can go deep into the game."

The Mustangs have been working out at Cobb Field since Thursday in preparation for tonight's opener and Kruzel said everyone is ready for the regular season to start.

"These kids are just so eager to play right now," he said. "It's time. Most of these guys have done nothing but extended spring, the college guys have been off for a month and they're all just eager to get started. As we all are. We've all been preparing for this day and finally tomorrow's here."

NOTES: Jake Kahaulelio, who injured a knee during a rundown drill Sunday afternoon, suffered a torn ACL and meniscus. The Cincinnati Reds' 20th-round draft pick from Oral Roberts is expected to undergo surgery and then go to the Cincinnati Reds' minor league facility in Sarasota, Fla., for rehabilitation. ... Great Falls has two of the White Sox's top-five picks on their roster: Pitcher Aaron Poreda (1) and pitcher Leroy Hunt (4). The top Reds pick on the Mustangs roster is pitcher Andrew Bowman, a fifth-round selection from Nebraska. ... The White Sox also have two Montana players on their roster: Pitcher Josh Fields of Columbia Falls, a 2001 draft pick who is on a 30-day rehab assignment with Great Falls; and pitcher Ronnie Morales, a Great Falls native who was selected in the 45th round this year out of Wichita State. ... Other Pioneer League openers tonight: Helena at Missoula, Idaho Falls at Casper, and Ogden at Orem.