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04/07/2009 11:33 AM ET
Iowa Cubs Announce Opening Day Roster
Atkins, Samardzija to anchor pitching staff
Jeff Samardzija returns to the I-Cubs roster to start the 2009 season.

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The Iowa Cubs have released their 2009 Opening Day roster. The roster includes top pitching prospect, Jeff Samardzija.

The 2009 roster also features nine players from Chicago's 40-man roster and 15 returning players from last season.

Among the returners is Chicago Cubs' 2008 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Mitch Atkins, who led the farm system with 17 wins and 132 strikeouts last season. Atkins is tabbed to get the Opening Day start for Iowa on Thursday at Round Rock. Jose Ascanio, who led Iowa with 11 saves in 2008, Esmailin Caridad, Samardzija, and Randy Wells will join Atkins in the starting rotation.

The Iowa bullpen will consist of right-handers Justin Berg, Jesse Estrada, Chad Fox, Kevin Hart, Greg Reinhard and Jeff Stevens. Iowa's 2008 Pacific Coast League All-Star, J.R. Mathes, and Jason Waddell will be the lefties out of the bullpen.

Handling catching duties for the Cubs will be veteran Mark Johnson, who hit .266 with Iowa in 2005, and Chris Robinson.

The versatile infield includes Andres Blanco, 2008 Southern League Player of the Month for August 2008, Jake Fox, Matt Matulia, Luis Rivas, Nate Spears and Bobby Scales, who set career marks with 15 homers, a .320 average, and 94 runs in 2008.

Sam Fuld will be joined by Doug Deeds, Jason Dubois, Brad Snyder and So Taguchi in the outfield.

Manager Bobby Dickerson enters his first season as the I-Cubs skipper, while hitting coach Von Joshua returns for his fourth season and Mike Mason begins his second season as Iowa's pitching coach. Trainer Matt Johnson begins his second season in Des Moines.

The Cubs open the 2009 season Thursday, April 9 at Round Rock. The Cubs' home opener will be April 17, when the Cubs host Round Rock at 7:05 p.m. A fireworks show will follow the game.