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Birmingham Barons ready for 2017 season

Manager Julio Vinas returns after spending last season as the skipper of Triple-A Charlotte. Vinas led Birmingham to the Southern League title in 2014 (abc3340.com)

The Birmingham Barons go into the 2017 season with a mix of familiar and fresh.

Manager Julio Vinas returns after spending last season as the skipper of Triple-A Charlotte. Vinas led Birmingham to the Southern League title in 2014.

The Barons also return outfielder Courtney Hawkins, who had team-high 12 home runs in 2016, and first baseman Jake Peter, who earned a spot on the Southern League All-Star team before getting called up to Triple-A.

"I felt really good last year," Peter said. "Obviously it was a good season for me. I'm just looking to build on that this year and try to come out here every single day and get better and try to build on what I did last year and let other things fall into place as it may."

Pitcher Michael Kopech will begin the season in Birmingham, after acquired from the Boston organization in the deal that sent pitcher Chris Sale to the Red Sox. Kopech's fastball was been clocked at 110 mph in workouts and he hit 105 mph on the radar gun in a game last July while pitching for Class-A Salem.

The Barons open the season on the road, against the Jackson (TN) Generals on Thursday. Their home opener is April 12th against the Montgomery Biscuits.

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