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Local pros get ready to start new season

By Doug Gorman

dgorman@news-daily.com

The umpire's sound to play ball is about to be heard at Major League baseball stadiums around the country. Kansas City Royals pitcher Kyle Davies and Colorado Rockies outfielder Matt Murton will continue their major league careers in a matter of days when the 2009 season opens for real.

They both got their starts playing baseball in the recreations leagues in the Southern Crescent.

Davies, who played at Stockbridge High School for Bill Pate, was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the fourth round of the 2001 draft and worked his way up through the Braves' farm system before making his major league debut at historic Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox in May of 2005.

The former Stockbridge pitcher looked sharp in his debut, pitching six strong innings. Davies didn't allow a run in his first three starts.

But the Southern Crescent native has struggled with injuries and his record is 26-35 overall.

On July 31 2007, Davies was traded to the Royals.

In that first year with the Kansas City, he went 3-7. A year ago, Davies had one of his best seasons yet, going 9-7 overall.

Even through the adversity, Davies has still had command of his pitches, striking out 283 batters and walking 195.

If his performance this spring is any indication, Davies could be headed for his best season yet. In his first four outings this spring, Davies' ERA was .071.

Matt Murton: When Matt Murton was a player for Blake Lyons at Eagle's Landing High School, he was a power-hitting outfielder for the Golden Eagles.

Little has changed for Murton, except the venue, as the major league slugger now plays for the Colorado Rockies after a stellar career at Eagle's Landing and Georgia Tech.

Murton began is career in the Boston Red Sox organization after getting selected in the first-round of the 2003 draft, but was traded to the Chicago Cubs in a deal that also sent Nomar Garciapara to Wrigley Field.

Murton made is major league debut with the Cubs in 2005. In 2006, the former All-Southern Crescent First-Team member finished the year with the Cubs batting .297 with 13 home runs and 62 runs batted in.

Murton bounced back between the Cubs' minor league system and the majors in 2007 and 2008, and before getting sent to the Oakland Athletics at the end of last season.

In the off-season, Murton was signed by the Colorado Rockies. He's attempting to land a spot on Rockies' big league roster and is generating some stats to back it up this spring.

In 19 games, Murton is batting .306 with five RBIs and two home runs in exhibition action.

Murton and Davies might not be the only ones from their families to earn a big-league paycheck. Someday, Luke Murton and Jake Davies could also go into the "family baseball business."

Luke Murton and Jake Davies are teammates at Georgia Tech. Luke a senior for the Yellow Jackets, and Jake a freshman.

Jason Heyward: Former Henry County Warhawk slugger Jason Heyward will start his season at Myrtle Beach of the Braves' high-Class A affiliate, but he did get a taste of life in the majors, enjoying a solid camp with the big-league club.

Heyward finished his stint in the Atlanta camp batting .308 with two home runs and three RBIs for the spring.

Heyward was taken by the Braves in the first round of the 2007 draft.

Michael Rozier: Rozier was a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher coming out of Henry County High School and passed up a chance to play football at the University of North Carolina to sign a contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2004.

Rozier came out of high school with a fastball clocked at nearly 90 miles per hour, but the he suffered a setback when he was hit in the head on two occasions with batted balls in 2007.

The former Warhawk had trouble getting back in the groove ever since and has spent time in the Red Sox minor leagues trying to recapture his old form that made him a hot prospect when he was drafted by the Red Sox in 2004.

He's status is still unknown for the upcoming season, but he is expected to find out Sunday if he will begin the year in the Red Sox's A or double AA organization.

Jason Perry: After a stellar career with the Jonesboro Cardinals and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, he became a minor-league journeyman with several organizations after getting drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2002.

Last season, Perry was signed by the Atlanta Braves, and made his major league debut when the club sent Jeff Francoeur down to the minors.

Perry played four games with the Braves and became the first player in franchise history to triple in his first at bat. He also drove in a run.

He only went 2-for-17 the rest of his stay in Atlanta before being send back to Richmond, the Class AAA affiliate for the Braves until this year. The Braves top-minor league team will play close to Atlanta now as it begins competition in Gwinnett County.

He is now a free agent.