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Provo roster includes Angels from Utah

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PROVO — Angels are descending on Utah County.

The Provo Angels baseball team was scheduled to assemble and begin working out today in Provo in preparation for its inaugural Pioneer League season-opener Saturday (7 p.m.) at Larry H. Miller Field against the Ogden Raptors.

Tuesday, the Angels released their projected roster, which includes a pair of former University of Utah players — pitcher Ryan Bailey and outfielder Sam Swenson.

Most of Provo's players, like Bailey and Swenson, are rookies who have recently completed their collegiate careers and signed with the parent club, the Anaheim Angels. The majority of those players were selected in last week's Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft.

Casey Kotchman, Anaheim's first-round draft pick, remains unsigned. Once the highly regarded first baseman from Seminole (Fla.) High School is signed, he may be assigned to the rookie developmental team in Mesa, Ariz. Depending on how he fares there, he could be promoted to Provo at some point during the season. Kotchman's father, Tom, is the manager of the Provo Angels.

The Angels will be highly competitive, said Anaheim Angels director of player development Darrell Miller. Winning, though, isn't the highest priority at this level — turning college players into pro players is. Short-season rookie ball features a demanding schedule (76 games in 79 days) and the regular-season finale is set for Sept. 2 at Idaho Falls.

"There's a lot of things you're asking these players to do," Miller said. "There are adjustments that have to be made, starting with going from aluminum bats to wood bats.

"They play almost every day, and it's a different game playing almost every day rather than playing 2-3 times a week. We have to teach them about being away from home for the first time. These are guys from all sorts of backgrounds and nationalities and they're thrown into a mix.

"We're not concentrating on winning, though — that's a by-product," Miller continued. "They have to learn how to be a professional baseball player. This is the first time a lot of these guys will experience failure. Baseball is a lot like life, and they have to learn how to handle failure. Fans will see a team that hustles, works hard and doesn't make mistakes."

Tom Kotchman, Miller said, is the right man for the job of turning rookies into pros.

"He's a very intense individual," Miller said of Kotchman, who led Anaheim's former rookie league team, Boise, to several league titles. "He understands how to teach baseball fundamentals. He loves baseball. He's a great guy. The fans will love him."

E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com