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Monday March 31, 2014Seven Former Gator Baseball Players On MLB Opening Day Rosters

Gainesville, Fla.

Seven former University of Florida baseball players appear on Major League Baseball Opening Day rosters as the 2014 season kicks off in full swing on Monday. Left-hander Kevin Chapman (Houston Astros, 2007, 09-10), left-hander Nick Maronde (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 2009-11), right-hander Darren O’Day (Baltimore Orioles, 2003-06), infielder Ryan Raburn (Cleveland Indians, 2000), left-hander Steven Rodriguez (Los Angeles Dodgers, 2010-12), catcher David Ross (Boston Red Sox, 1998) and catcher Mike Zunino (Seattle Mariners, 2010-12) opened the campaign on the 25-man roster for their respective clubs. In addition, infielder Mark Ellis (St. Louis Cardinals, 1996-99) was placed on the 15-day disabled list to start the season.

 

Chapman made 25 appearances last season for the Houston Astros and was 1-1 with a 1.77 ERA. Over 20.1 innings, the southpaw had 15 strikeouts and held opponents to a .183 average. Chapman was a third-team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) in 2010, becoming the first Gator pitcher to earn All-America status since Justin Hoyman in 2004. He also garnered second-team All-South Region accolades as the Gators captured the SEC title and advanced to the NCAA College World Series for the first time in five years.

 

Maronde saw action in 10 games last year for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and was 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA and had five strikeouts in 5.1 innings. Over 79 career appearances at Florida, including 12 starts, the lefty was 5-2 with a 3.99 ERA and four saves and had 151 strikeouts in 130.2 innings. UF’s leader with 36 appearances in 2011, the southpaw was 0-1 and registered a 2.09 ERA as the Gators shared the SEC title and finished as the runner-up at the CWS. In 43 innings, Maronde totaled 55 strikeouts, issued nine walks, collected a pair of saves and was part of five shutouts. In addition, he limited opponents to a team-low .178 average, including a .086 performance with runners on base.

 O’Day appeared in 68 games for the Baltimore Orioles last year and was 5-3 with a 2.18 ERA. The righty registered 59 strikeouts in 62 innings of action with two saves and opponents batted just .210 against him. The reliever ranks third in appearances (117), fourth in saves (20) and tied for eighth in victories (23) on the Gator career pitching lists. Not only did he pace the team in lowest ERA three-consecutive seasons, O'Day was the Orange and Blue's leader in saves during two of his last three campaigns, highlighted by the 2005 SEC title and a runner-up showing at that season’s NCAA College World Series. A finalist for the prestigious H. Boyd McWhorter SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award in 2006, he was a two-time Academic All-American in 2005 and 2006, was a member of the SEC Good Works Team and was chosen to the league's Academic Honor Roll on three occasions.

 

Raburn saw action in 86 games for Cleveland last year, tallied 55 RBI, scored 40 runs, contributed 18 doubles, belted 16 homers and a .272 clip. He was a member of the 2000 Gator squad that was the runner-up at the NCAA Waco (Texas) Regional.

 

Rodriguez appeared in 76 games for the Dodgers last year and was 3-4 with a 2.32 ERA in 54.1 innings, with two saves and a .164 batting average against. A 2012 All-American by Perfect Game and a first-team All-SEC pick, the left-hander had a 3-2 record in 34 appearances and paced UF’s pitching corps with 81 strikeouts in 62 innings. Over his three-year career in Gainesville, Rodriguez made three-straight trips to the NCAA College World Series, captured back-to-back SEC titles in 2010 and 2011, compiled a record of 9-4 (.692), totaled seven saves and registered a 2.19 ERA in 86 appearances (seventh on the school’s career list) and two starts. Rodriguez’s career ERA is the lowest by a Gator pitcher since aluminum bats were introduced in 1974 and his total of 10.64 strikeouts per nine innings ranks No.1. He notched 151 strikeouts and allowed 30 walks in 127.2 innings, while holding opponents to a .227 performance, tied for the ninth-lowest by a UF hurler.

 

Now in his 13th Major League season, Ross played in 36 regular-season games last year and hit .216 with 11 runs, 10 RBI, five doubles and four homers for the World Champion Boston Red Sox. In the A.L. Divisional Series triumph over Tampa Bay, he was 1-for-5 (.200) with a double and scored a run and then went 2-for-4 (.500) against Detroit in the A.L. Championship Series, highlighted by an RBI double in Boston’s 4-3 win in Game 5 that secured a 3-2 series advantage. In the World Series versus the Cardinals, Ross started the final three games of the Fall Classic behind the plate and delivered a tie-breaking double in the seventh inning of the Sox 3-1 win in Game 5 at Busch Stadium. He caught the final out of the World Series when Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter to trigger a massive celebration.

 

Ross batted .332 with 69 RBI, 21 doubles and 19 round-trippers in helping the Gators to the 1998 SEC Championship and a berth at that season’s College World Series. He joins six other former Gator players who have earned World Series rings – David Eckstein (2002, 2006), Witt “Lefty” Guise (1940), Steve Lombardozzi (1987), Randy O’Neal (1984), Lance Richbourg (1924) and Al Rosen (1948).

 

The third pick of the 2012 MLB Draft who was called up by the Seattle Mariners last June, Zunino batted .214 in 52 games, with 22 runs, 14 RBI, five doubles and five homers. The 2012 recipient of the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, the Dick Howser Trophy and the Johnny Bench Award, he became the first Gator catcher to be voted as a first-team All-American twice. Zunino batted .327 in 193 career games, including 188 starts. His total of 17 sacrifice flies matches Mario Linares’ (1988-91) for the most by a UF player, he ranks fourth on the school’s all-time list in both doubles (58) and homers (47), occupies sixth in slugging percentage (.620) and RBI (175) and rates seventh in total bases (425). Zunino also totaled 224 hits, scored 159 runs, drew 72 walks and was 24-of-30 on stolen-base attempts. His sterling fielding percentage of .995 is second on the school’s career chart, as well as his 1,340 putouts. He committed just eight errors in 1,473 total chances. The Gators posted a 147-56 (.724) record over his three seasons, the top three-year performance in the program’s existence.

 

A four-year letterwinner at UF who was part of two SEC Championships and two trips to the NCAA College World Series in 1996 & 1998, Ellis begins his 12th season in the Majors. He batted .270 with 48 RBI, 46 runs, 26 walks, 13 doubles and six homers for the Dodgers last season and will be a member of the St. Louis Cardinals this season.

 

Ellis still remains among the top-10 on several of the school’s all-time charts: first in runs scored (240), second in at bats (941), total bases (500), hits (319) and doubles (61), fifth in fielding assists (624), tied for seventh in games started (211) and homers (36), eighth in RBI (164) and stolen bases (56), eighth in sacrifice bunts (20), tied for ninth in sacrifice flies (12) and 10th in games played (224). He was the NCAA South I Regional Most Valuable Player in 1998.

 

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