Charleston RiverDogs manager Luis Dorante understands the primary mission of his job is to develop young prospects within the New York Yankees organization.
Season Opener: Thursday at Augusta.
Home Opener: Monday vs. Greenville
Time: 7:05 p.m.
Where: Riley Park
While winning has always been a secondary concern to development in the minor leagues, Dorante figures that building confidence at a young age can't hurt when players eventually make it to the big leagues.
The Charleston RiverDogs open the 2014 season Thursday night on the road with a four-game series against Augusta. Charleston's home opener at Riley Park is set for Monday night against Greenville beginning at 7 p.m.
"I think building a winning culture down in the minor leagues is important, especially at this level," Dorante said. "I think the more you win in the minor leagues, the more you'll do it in the big leagues. Winning isn't our main focus, but I think it's important. If we're playing well, the winning will take care of itself. That's a part of any player's development."
The RiverDogs are loaded with talent this season.
Six of the Yankees' top prospects are on this year's opening day roster, including 2013 first-round draft pick Aaron Judge, an outfielder, and second baseman Gosuke Katoh and shortstop Abiatal Avelino. Luis Severino headlines the RiverDogs' pitching staff.
"I think we're a balanced team," Dorante said. "We've got some speed at the top of our lineup and we've got a little bit of power as well. We've got a good mix of players throughout the order and that plays into my style as a manager. I like to play the short game, and we've got the talent here to do that."
Severino made four starts with Charleston last year and has compiled an 8-4 career record along with an impressive 1.99 ERA in his first two professional seasons.
Luis Niebla, Cesar Vargas and Rookie Davis also return to Charleston with starting experience. Niebla pitched exclusively for the RiverDogs in 2013 and collected five wins and a save in a late-season relief appearance. Vargas started the past season with the RiverDogs before earning a promotion to Tampa in August. Davis gave up no runs or walks in two Charleston starts, including a 1-0 walk-off win in the season finale against the Rome Braves.