Road to 'Betsy set to begin in Fort Myers

    The Gulf Coast League will be kicking into high gear on April 4 in a short rookie league season that every year is the training ground for the players that will wear the Elizabethton Twins uniform.
   The latest Twins squad will begin play in early June, and here is a sneak peek at some of the names we could be hearing from when Appalachian League play opens.
   One of the top hitters in the GCL last season was outfielder Garrett Guzman, a lefty swinger who hit .355 with two homers and 22 RBI. Guzman smacked 14 doubles on a team loaded with doubles hitters.
   Another lefty swinging outfielder is Jason Kubel, and he batted .331 with 10 doubles and 30 RBI for the Miracle in 2001. Trent Oeltjen opened with Ft. Myers in 2001, and his strong showing enabled him to make a late run with the 'Betsy Twins.
   Oeltjen hit .323 at Ft. Myers and hit .233 in nine games with 'Betsy, but is best remembered for his tremendous home-run robbing catch of Princeton's Jonny Gomes.
   Some infield possibilities include switch-hitting shortstop Inocencio Hiraldo, who hit a robust .282 with 12 doubles and 12 stolen bases, and could be patrolling the middle infield at Joe O'Brien this season.
   Alex Nunez, who hit .298 in a short, injury-plagued season in 'Betsy, did a fine job at second base and could also return. Other second base possibilities are Angelo Fermin (.279), Jose Morales (.248) and Sam Taylor (.261).
   The hot corner prospect could be Felix Molina (.286).
   Pitching is where the Miracle really shone last year, with two or more players possibly making the jump to Elizabethton this summer.
   Emilio Ferreira led the league with eight wins and just one loss, with a stellar 1.20 earned run average in 2001. Ferreira pitched 60 innings, striking out 47 while surrendering just 10 bases on balls.
   Save leader Jannio Gutierrez had 16 saves with an ERA of 0.31 in 28.2 innings of work and would be the next closer in a strong line of 'Betsy closers.
   Other possibilities include Edelyn Carrasco (3-4, 3.51), Brent Stentz (2-1, 1.93) and Rhys Wheldon (2-0, 1.17).
   Some of the guys that came up late may return, and these include Erik Lohse, who was shelled in his initial pro start, but bounced back to post a 1-1 record with a 4.15 ERA.
   Shawn Tarkington performed well at Fort Myers but struggled with the Twins, posting an 0-0 record with an 11.45 ERA. However, he pitched just eight innings for 'Betsy.
   Travis Bowyer may also need another year of seasoning in the Appy League after a 2-5, 6.10 season with the Twins in 2001. In 38 innings of work, Bowyer struck out 34 and walked 20 while the league batted .266 against him.