Carlos Mendoza does it all
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:
Date OPP IP H ER BB SO
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