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Five Bulldogs play in minors

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Locante

With opening day for Minor League Baseball set for Thursday, five former Cumberland players will begin their seasons with Major League affiliated organizations, including Luis Martinez, Will Locante, Aaron Wilkerson, Chipper Smith and Josciel Veras.

Martinez and Wilkerson are both members of the Boston Red Sox organization, with Martinez beginning his ninth professional season with the Double-A Portland [ME] Sea Dogs in the Eastern League. He spent last year in Salt Lake City and Sacramento in Triple-A with the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A's clubs. Martinez is the only former Cumberland player to ever reach the big leagues, seeing action with the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers in 2011 and 2012.

Wilkerson is starting his second year with the Red Sox with the Advanced Single-A Greenville [SC] Drive in the South Atlantic League. He was signed last July from the independent Grand Prairie [TX] AirHogs and posted a 5-1 record and 1.62 earned-run-average with the Single-A Lowell [MA] Spinners, limiting opponents to a .183 batting average. He struck out 54 in 50 innings pitched, walking just 11.

Locante wowed in Major League camp this spring with the Arizona Diamondbacks with his upper 90's fastball. The lefthander earned a Postseason All-Star nod in the Midwest League for the South Bend [IN] Silver Hawks in 2014. During the regular season he worked 53.0 innings, registering a 3-0 mark with a 1.53 ERA in 43 outings. The Memphis, Tenn., native had 57 strikeouts with 23 walks and allowed just 31 hits with a .168 opponent batting average. He will begin this season in Double-A with the Mobile [AL] BayBears in the Southern League.

Smith is returning to Double-A with the Jacksonville [FL] Suns, also in the Southern League. The lefthander posted a 3-4 record in 14 starts in Jacksonville last season, tossing 65.1 innings with 57 strikeouts and a .217 opponent batting average. The Suns are part of the Miami Marlins organization.

Veras started last season in the Arizona Rookie League in the Cincinnati Reds organization and moved up to the Billings [MT] Reds in the short-season Single-A Northwest League. He batted .272 overall in 28 games between the two stops with two doubles, three homers, 12 RBIs and 12 runs scored in 28 games. He is scheduled to begin the year in Billings again.

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Aaron Wilkerson, baseball, Chipper Smith, Cumberland baseball, Cumberland University, Josciel Veras, Luis Martinez, Will Locante
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