Former Kentucky stars Joe Blanton, Collin Cowgill and Scott Downs are each on opening-day MLB 25-man rosters, with Cowgill earning the opening-day leadoff and centerfield job for the New York Mets.
Blanton – a UK star from 2000-02 – is a member of the star-studded Los Angeles Angels, earning a spot in the starting rotation. While pitching with the Philadelphia Phillies and then the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012, Blanton posted a 10-13 record and a 4.71 ERA in 31 games and 30 starts, tossing 191 innings and striking out 166.
Cowgill, a UK standout from 2005-08, had a historic Mets debut after coming over to New York in an offseason trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. After a strong spring training, Cowgill won the opening day centerfield job and was hit No. 1 in the order on Monday against the San Diego Padres. Cowgill collected his first hit as a Met a double into the left-centerfield gap, then came up to the plate in a bases-loaded situation in the seventh inning, sending a laser over the leftfield fence for his first career grand slam. In Cowgill’s 75-game MLB career, the former UK All-America outfielder has hit .259 with six doubles, three homers, 22 RBI and seven steals.
Blanton joins Downs, who starred at UK from 1995-97, as a member of the Angels pitching staff. Downs has solidified his 12-year MLB career as one of the top left-handed relievers in baseball, earning a 1-1 record and a 3.15 ERA in 2012 for the Angels in 57 relief outings, saving nine games.
In 2012, a total of 36 former Kentucky stars played professional baseball, with former UK star Chris Rusin also pitching for the Chicago Cubs.