Blogs > Minor Matters

Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Early line on Rookie of the Year

With Orioles uber-prospect Matt Wieters scheduled to debut today, it seems as good a time as any to run down a couple of early candidates for Rookie of the Year in the American League. Tomorrow, the National League.

1. Rick Porcello, SP, Detroit Tigers: If the voting were held today, there's a good chance Porcello would be the unanimous choice in the Junior Circuit, and deservingly so. To be totally honest, I was amped to get a chance to see the Seton Hall Prep product filling one of the rotation spots for the Erie Seawolves.

That, of course, didn't happen. Porcello knocked the socks off the Tigers' brass in spring training and was placed in the rotation to start the season. The 20-year-old got off to a bit of a slow start, but has won his last five starts and is making it look like Detroit pulled off a heist when they took him with pick No. 27 in 2007.

2. Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers: At 20 years old, all Andrus has done is fill in for Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star Michael Young at shortstop. Granted, he's not exactly a hitter of Young's caliber, but his superb range and Howitzer arm more than make up for his offensive shortcomings.

His .841 revised zone rating makes him second to Jhonny Peralta in that category, and only Marco Scutaro and Jason Bartlett have gotten to more balls out of their zone than has Andrus. Of his half-dozen errors, just one has come during the course of fielding.

Of course, he's not David Eckstein with the bat, either -- he's just not Michael Young. He's needs to work on plate discipline (just eight walks in 142 PA) but, again, he's 20 years old.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's been a long time, I'm sorry I left you ...

... Without a strong post to step to [end 80s hip-hop reference]

So yeah, the Internet has been giving me fits over the last 11 days, but that doesn't mean I don't have a wealth of opinions. So, instead of dumping them all at once, I've decided to disperse them over the next week.

First up is a comparison of the new Yankee Stadium against Citizens Bank Park.

In a span of 30 days I witnessed my first games at each stadium. Both were massive, packed and wholly impressive, but in this humble Yankee fan's opinion: CBP blows the billion-dollar frieze off of Yankee Stadium.

I arrived at CBP before the gates opened, giving me ample time to peruse the stadium and take in its various displays of history. I looked at all the plaques, read the timeline/picturscape displaying various high points in the team's existence, all while having my ears pleasurably flooded with the voice of the late Harry Kalas.

Although it is very clear that CBP is indeed the Phils' ballpark, it's not overly aggressive. If I were Nationals fan, I more than likely would have felt welcome -- not intimidated -- in enemy territory.

The only negative of the pregame was the realization that if one is going to arrive early and watch BP at a night game from the right-field bleachers, one would also be wise to bring sunglasses.

As far as Yankee Stadium goes, that thing is well, massive. The outside has giant photos of each player posted between each of the stadium's gates. Between Gate 6 and Gate 8 (my gate) I was greeted by A.J. Burnett (that night's starter), Chien-Ming Wang (who came on in relief of Burnett) and Nick Swisher (who did nothing).

My friend and I arrived just before the national anthem/God Bless America, so there was no time to check out Monument Park, or any of YS's other various displays of history. I'm already pretty versed in Yankees lore, so that wasn't a total loss.

What was a total loss, though, was the fifteen minutes I spent in line waiting for a sausage and a Pepsi.

From my position in line, one could clearly see the Pepsi bottle displayed as an option for purchase, along with the spinning hot dogs and sausages on the grill. Despite the visual evidence to the contrary, once I reached the front of the line I was informed that neither sausages nor Pepsi were not available.

Once again, this is before the game has started. The stand was out of Pepsi and the sausages were not ready. For shame, whoever is in charge of that stuff, for shame. I guess the thinking is: No real fan wants to spend a sunny May evening at a ballgame with a sausage and hot dog. No, the real fan wants to spend, spend, spend at the sushi bar, butcher shop or Hard Rock Cafe.

Being extremely thirsty after a long set of rides in the subway, I settled for a 20-ounce lemonade at the parallel-universe price of five dollars.

Compare that to CBP, where I was able to walk up to Bull's Barbecue and with almost no waiting walk away with a delicious sandwich and a Pepsi (albeit for $11). Mind you, this was also several hours before game time, and lo and behold there was food available.

Even the seating itself provided an excellent insight into how each team views the fans for whom premium seating is not an option.

At CBP, the fans are given actual, movie-theater style folding seat made of green plastic. They're not the swankiest places to sit, but hey, they're yours -- and they come with a cupholder.

Not so at Yankee Stadium, where they seem to have upgraded everything but the bleachers. As in the old park, the cheap seats are not seats at all. Instead, the fans are given hard, metal, backless benches -- just what you need on a humid summer night. To put this oversight into perspective, even the Thunder got rid of their metal benches and installed individual plastic seats this offseason.

Hey, Yankees, take a tip from Hank Steinbrenner and join the 21st century.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A long weekend in Thunderland

Tough weekend in Binghamton for the Thunder. Let's see, they lost a game on a walk-off error by new second baseman Justin Snyder, had another series interfered with by rain, then got swept in a doubleheader this afternoon.

Thank goodness for the mediocrity of the Eastern League North. Let's put it this way: The last-place team in the North (Rock Cats) is four games out of first. The second-place team in the South (SeaWolves) is 5.5 games out.

The Thunder will get a taste of a little Southern discomfort when the Aeros come to town starting Tuesday. They get a little bit of a break though, as they will miss ace Hector Rondon (5-1, 1.95 ERA, .242 BAA). They do, however, get Jeanmar Gomez (3-0, 1.45, .136) and Chuck Lofgren (3-0, 1.59, .153)

***STAT ONLY INTERESTING TO ME: There are six players named Rondon in the minors, but only one named Lofgren***

One good thing to come out of the weekend, though, was the breakout of Jorge Vazquez. My goodness did he have himself a doubleheader, his line today: 5-7, four 2B, a HR and three of the team's four RBIs on the day. He also raised his batting average by 31 points, from .292 to .323.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Are you kidding?

Over the last two Yankees broadcasts an incredible story has been woven.

Apparently, according to Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay, outfielder Brett Gardner visited a children's hospital yesterday, where he met a young girl who was battling heart problems. The girl asked Gardner if he would hit a home run for her in last night's game. He agreed, but only if she promised to keep battling for him and try to get better.

Well, last night Gardner held up his end of the bargain, notching a inside-the-park home run against Minnesota.

Sounds awesome, right? Right out of a fairytale, yeah?

Wait, it gets better.

The girl, who had waited 107 days (again, numbers according to Kay) for a heart transplant, found her donor this morning and is undergoing transplant surgery as we speak.

In a game caught in the grip of an ever-widening steroid net, you won't find a better story.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Series Preview

OK, I'm going to abandon the previous format for these things and just tell you a few things the Thunder need to do to win the series with the B-Mets.

+ They need a good start from De La Rosa tonight. As sad as it may sound, after his dazzling debut last time out, De La Rosa is the team's ace. Recording your first six outs on Ks has a way of earning you that role.

He'll match arms against Binghamton's Dylan Owen, who's had a rough go of it so far -- sporting an ERA above 5.00.

+ Someone -- anyone -- other than Jorge Vazquez (where would this team be without him?) needs to hit. The Thunder have the worst slugging percentage in the league -- a putrid .347 --and have hit just a dozen home runs, five by Vazquez. Four regulars are hitting less than .215 (!).

Tony Franklin is right when he says this team can make a move, but only because the division is so bunched. If Trenton were in the Southern Division and had to deal with Akron all year, it might be over by now.

+ The defense needs to stay solid. After a very rocky first few weeks, the Thunder's gloves have started to come around. Staying that way would be very helpful in putting together a good road trip in advance of a home series next week with the mighty Akron Aeros, who are 23-7.

Also, nice to see that two recent Thunder members made the covers of the New York dailies today.

Brett Gardner on the Post, and Ramiro Pena on the Daily News. Way to be, guys.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Carlos Mendoza does it all

On Monday night, Carlos Mendoza got two hits in the Thunder's loss to the Sea Dogs.

Before Tuesday night's game, he acted as the interpreter for my colleague Eleazer Gorenstein's interview with shortstop Eduardo Nunez.

Then, in the ninth inning, he came in a new role -- pitcher.

Noel Castillo (more on him later) had allowed a hit and three walks to the first four Sea Dogs he faced, and Tony Franklin needed to keep some relievers available for tonight's series finale with Portland.

So, how did the three-year Thunder veteran do? Very, very well.

Colleague David Fenster of WIMG told me that Mendoza asked reliever Kanekoa Texeira how to throw a two-seam fastball before racing down to the bullpen to warm up. When he entered, Mendoza threw five (!) two-seamers to get three outs, including a 1-2-3 double play and a grounder back to the mound.

Three outs on five pitches -- that makes him easily the most efficient Thunder reliever this season.

Afterward (also via Fenster), Mendoza said the emotion most prevalent when he was on the mound was fear -- of getting hit by the ball. He said it was a little frightening being so close to the action, much closer than when he plays on the infield.

Needless to say, if the Thunder's quality outs are coming from Mendoza, then something needs to be done.

First and foremost, Noel Castillo needs to go back to Tampa, he's clearly not ready for Double-A. Franklin said last night that he was talented and had some very good stuff. My question, then, is: Where is it?

Castillo's stint so far with Trenton:
Apr 26 NBR 2.1 5 4 1 3
Apr 30 CON 1.0 0 0 0 0
May 02 @NBR 2.0 3 3 2 4
May 08 BIN 1.2 1 0 2 2
May 11 POR 1.0 1 2 2 3
May 12 POR 0.0 1 1 3 0
Totals 8.0 11 10 10 12

Yeah, with the exception of one outing, that's not good. Problem is, it's not like Franklin can just demand the Yankees send him new pitchers. Trenton is just a cog in the Yankees' player development machine. If the hierarchy decides that Double-A is where Castillo needs to be, then that's where he'll be.

Also, if he does stay here, there are two options: Use him, or put him on the disabled list. The Thunder's bullpen is already without Amauri Sanit, and Wilkins Arias may have to start again should Alan Horne have to hit the DL after last night's injury.

Apart from Castillo's ineffectiveness, the Thunder's other glaring weakness is in center field, where Seth Fortenberry has just 11 hits in 87 AB's this season, good for a .126 average.

Again, though, the Thunder do not have many options in this area. In fact, the only real choice they have is to push Colin Curtis to center and play Justin Snyder in left field.

These are just two of many problems the Thunder need to correct in order to make a push for a third consecutive North Division crown

Monday, May 11, 2009

Series Preview

Who: Thunder vs. Portland Sea Dogs
When: Today - Wednesday; all games at 7:05 p.m.
Pitching Matchups:
Today: Thunder RHP Ivan Nova (2-1, 3.86) vs. Portland LHP Felix Doubront (2-2, 3.42) Tomorrow: Thunder RHP Ryan Pope (1-2, 5.47) vs. Portland RHP Junichi Tazawa (3-2, 3.34)Wednesday: Thunder RHP Alan Horne (0-1, 6.23) vs.Portland RHP Blake Maxwell (0-2, 9.15)
Thunder scouting report: For the first time the season, the Thunder finally have a little bit of momentum coming into a series. They took all three games from Binghamton, and showed the ability to hit for power. Jorge Vazquez had a pair of home runs, Reegie Corona had one, Jose Gil went deep and Colin Curtis hit triples on back-to-back days.

The streak vaulted the team from last place all the way to second place in the EL's Northern Division, just ahead of the Sea Dogs, so a good series this week would help greatly in distancing themselves from the pack.

Portland scouting report: This team is chock full of prospects, including first baseman Lars Anderson (#1 in Boston's system according to Baseball America), Josh Reddick (#5) and tomorrow's starter, Junichi Tazawa (#7). Despite the star power, though, Portland sits at just .500.

Reddick seems to be the team's leader so far, hitting .288/.644/1.002 with six home runs and a mystifying seven RBIs. Two-thirds of the center fielder's hits this season have been for extra-bases. Keep that up, and Jacoby Ellsbury -- steal of home and all -- will look mighty expendable.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Look out Trenton, here comes Wang, maybe

There are rumors flying around that Chien-Ming Wang may be headed to either Trenton or Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make a start as he works his way back from hip and foot injuries to try and turn around his season.

This article, found at, has all the details.

Because of the Thunder's short rotation and Jose Molina's upcoming DL stint, Trenton may make perfect sense for last year's 19-game winner to rehab.

Molina going on the shelf will more than likely force the Yankees to call up either Chris Stewart or Kevin Cash (ewww), meaning P.J. Pilittere will be transferred back to SWB's roster, opening a spot on Trenton's roster for a fifth starter.

That's where Wang comes in. The only thing stopping him, I think, would be the fact that both Alan Horne and Ryan Pope would be ready to go on Tuesday, but if the Yankees come a'callin ... you'd better believe Tony Franklin will answer.

I won't be covering on Tuesday, but rest assured the Trentonian will have all the details.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

BREAKING: Manny Ramirez suspended 50 games for positive drug test's Tom Verducci has the story, but this is just getting sad. It's another one of our generation's greatest hitters tarnished by steroids.

As Verducci points out, while players like Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens have had past use exposed, Ramirez is the first major player under the new testing rules to get caught. He also says that substance may not have been a steroid, per se, but was definitely banned.

I'm sure Ramirez will play the "I didn't know what I was taking," or "I didn't know it was banned," or "I got a tainted supplement" card, but we all know that's just an excuse at this point.

Players know what they are putting in their bodies, period. There is zero chance Ramirez, J.C. Romero, Sergio Mitre or anyone else caught in the new testing just made an innocent mistake.

1:02 p.m: There's an interesting twist here from Deadspin, which has been working on a story involving Manny, steroids and a woman named Jennifer Navoy, whose husband was busted for selling steroid copycats out of their home.

The story says Navoy's husband, Christian, has cooperated with the Federal government and has Ramirez as a client, and contains a copy of the results obtained when the Federal search warrant was executed on the Navoy's home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Couple of interesting notes before I head out ...

Two things were posted elsewhere on the blogosphere in regards to Joba Chamberlain's performance last night:

1. Via the New York Times Bats Blog, Chamberlain's 12 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings make him just the fifth pitcher since 1954 to fan so many in that time frame. The other four? You may have heard of them -- Curt Schilling, Cole Hamels, Kevin Appier and J.R. Richard.

2. Then there's this, according to the AP: Chamberlain becomes the youngest Yankee to fan 12 or more hitters since Trenton's own Al Downing, who did it in 1964, when he was just shy of his 23rd birthday.

3. The last Yankee to strike out 12 or more in a game was -- you guessed it -- Mike Mussina -- in 2003.

That is all for now, time to head out to Bowie, where the Thunder -- and probably more rain -- await.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chain Reaction with a capital C

Well, more bad news for Yankees fans: It looks like Jorge Posada is seriously injured.

Via Pete Abraham's blog: The bad news for the Yankees is that Jorge Posada appears to have a serious hamstring injury. This strain is located above the last one that kept him out of the lineup for two days last week. He told the Yankees he felt something grab.

Posada will get an MRI today. The only other catcher on the 40-man roster is Francisco Cervelli, who is in AA. I would guess that the Yankees would call up one of the catchers from AAA and make a 40-man move.

With Kevin Cash on the DL in Scranton since April 4, one would suspect Chris Stewart would be the man to get the call from Triple-A -- in spite of the fact that he is hitting just .178 in 45 at-bats.

That's good news for former Thunder backstop P.J. Pilittere, who would become the starter by default. Pilittere is hitting .317/.349/.837 with Scranton, including .556 so far this month.

And where do the Thunder figure in all this, you ask? Well, that's unclear at this point, especially considering it might involve a 40-man move. If I had to guess, though, here's how I suspect it would play out:

The Yankees call up Stewart, necessitating a 40-man move, which my *TOTAL* guess would be Juan Miranda, based on questions involving his age and the fact that Mark Teixeira is locked and loaded for eight years. Then, Cervelli gets the undeserved but necessary call to Triple-A and Kyle Anson becomes the Thunder's everyday catcher, with Jose Gil serving as his backup.

The Thunder then are a man short, again, on their 24-man roster, which, based on how it has played out so far, is how I suspect it would remain for a while.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Well, someone's been reading this blog...

Thunder pitcher George Kontos has finally gotten the much-deserved call to Triple-A. Taking his place on the roster will be catcher Jose Gil, who was transferred to Scranton last week.

Unfortunately for the Thunder, though, it was Kontos' day to start, which means it's another bullpen start. We all know how that went last time out in the finale of a New Britain series ...

This time it will Wikins Arias, one the team's two left-handers, against New Britain's Jay Rainville.

Also unfortunately for the Thunder, the move means the team is STILL playing a man short. Gil replacing Kontos means they'll stay at 23, and with just three outfielders (Curtis, Fortenberry, Cooper) while Edwar Gonzalez is on the DL.

Now, however, they have just four starters, too, in Alan Horne, Ryan Pope, Ivan Nova and Zach McAllister. Hopefully that situation will be rectified once the team returns home to start their series with Binghamton.