Five former Bama baseball players open 2011 in Major Leagues

TUSCALOOSA, AL. - With the start of the 2011 Major League Baseball underway, six former Alabama Crimson Tide baseball players have been included on the league's 40-man rosters, with five of the six making the 25-man opening day rosters.

The five players that have been named to 25-man opening day rosters are; Alex Avila (2006-08), Detroit Tigers, Lance Cormier (1999-2002), Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Downs (2004-06), Houston Astros, Tommy Hunter (2006-07), Texas Rangers, and David Robertson (2005-06), New York Yankees. Wade LeBlanc, Pitcher, San Diego Padres, was named to the team's 40-man roster and will begin the season with the triple AAA club.

"We're really proud of the guys that have come through our program and represent the University of Alabama at the big league level," UA head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "They continue a tradition of outstanding players that have come though Alabama to reach the highest level in their profession. We are excited to watch them compete against the best the sport has to offer."

Alex Avila will play his third season in MLB with the Tigers beginning with the 2011 season. In his first two years, Avila's appeared in 133 games while posting a .237 average with 12 home runs and 45 RBI. Avila appeared in 104 games during the 2010 season, and was the starting catcher for the Tigers in the opening day game against the Yankees on Thursday.

Lance Cormier has the longest active tenure in the major leagues for a former Alabama player, and enters his eighth season overall. Cormier, who has pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, and Tampa Bay Rays, made the Los Angeles 25-man roster as a reliever. Cormier has appeared in 281 games in his career, including 24 as a starter. He has a career record of 24-27 with three saves and an ERA of 4.93.

Matt Downs returns to the major leagues after spending most of the 2010 season in the minors for the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros. After making 40 appearances in the big leagues last season, Downs made the Astros' 25-man roster to open the season. In two big-league seasons, Downs has seen action in 57 games, with a .200 average, two home runs and nine RBI.

Tommy Hunter begins his fourth season with the Texas, after helping the Rangers make the club's first ever World Series appearance last season. Hunter was the starting pitcher in game four of the 2010 World Series, becoming the sixth Crimson Tide player to appear in a World Series. In his three previous seasons, Hunter has made 45 appearances with 44 starts, all for the Rangers. He has a 22-12 overall record with a 4.45 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 251.0 innings pitched.

Dave Robertson will embark on his fourth season as a reliever for the New York Yankees. In his three previous seasons, Robertson has 134 appearances, all out of the bullpen, posting a 10-6 overall record with a 3.99 ERA. Robertson appeared in two games during the 2008 World Series for the Yankees.

Lefty Wade LeBlanc (2004-06) was named to the San Diego Padres 40-man roster and will begin the season with the AAA Tucson Sidewinders. Although LeBlanc did not make the Padres' 25-man roster, it is expected that he will join the major league squad early in the season. LeBlanc has appeared in 40 games over the past three seasons, and posted an 8-12 record in 25 starts for San Diego in 2010.

The Alabama baseball team will continue Southeastern Conference action tonight, with the first of a three game series against the No 13-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks. First pitch for tonight's game is slated for 6:35 p.m. from Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

INFORMATION SOURCE: University of Alabama Athletics