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

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Last week, I conducted an interview (with the help of Thunder Thoughts correspondent Mike Ashmore) with Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' Director of Scouting. Here is part two of that interview. Part one is posted earlier on this blog.

Q: What are your impressions of Eduardo Nunez?

A: There's no question that the kid has a lot of natural tools. He can really throw. That's as good of an arm as you're going to see in some parks in all the minor leagues and some of the big leagues. He's got the ability to square up a ball and hit. That's why he's here: He's got to get more consistent, and I think he'll do that. There's life to him, and with his athleticism, I think he'll be a pretty good player.

Q: Is there any concern with all the errors he's made, and what do you think is leading to them?

A: I can't really answer that because I've only been here a couple of days. So I can't tell you why, but I can tell you he needs to work on that. We're addressing it, and we're going to help him get better.

Q: This year's draft class seemed to have a heavy focus on college pitchers. Was that something done consciously, or was it more of a coincidence?

A: Well, I wouldn't say that. The first two picks were high school position players (Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy) and then you get a college pitcher. So, no, the emphasis for us is not on trying to attack this or attack that, it's trying to get what we think is the best. If that happens to be a college pitcher, great.

Q: You mentioned Jesus Montero earlier in the interview: What are the reports on him staying at the catcher position long-term?

A: I think that will take care of itself. The game will tell us whether he's going to stay there. Right now, he's doing everything he can to say, yes, he can stay there. The work that Julio (Mosquera) has done with him has been tremendous. If you asked me right when we signed him if he was going to stay at catcher, I would have said 'probably not.' But now, after seeing what they've done with him, I'd say, yeah, he can probably stay at catcher.

Q: Speaking of catchers, you've got some other guys in the system who could be here in a couple of years: Kyle Higashioka, Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy, Gary Sanchez. Can you give us a rundown on those guys?

A: Romine, I don't know if you guys have seen Romine, but he'll be here next year. He can really catch, he can really throw and he can hit. He uses the whole field. I think he's advanced. He could probably handle being up here (in Trenton) right now. He's having a really good year (in Tampa) and a heck of a playoff run there, so let's let him stay there and enjoy the success. He's a really advanced kid mentally and stuff. He has a really professional way about him. He grew up in a professional baseball atmosphere and he's pretty darn good.

Higashioka is in Staten Island and he's really learning how to catch well. He needs a little more arm strength, but he can swing the bat and he's really bright. He really picks things up in a hurry.

Murphy is a kid from this year's draft who can flat hit. He's a really good hitter and a really good athlete. There's been talk that he can play other positions, and he can, but he's really getting to be good defensively and he's got a solid-average arm.

I haven't seen enough of Sanchez to give you a real good feel on that one. I'd rather not comment on that one, but I've seen him take BP, and it looks like he can swing the bat pretty good.

Q: So Romine's going to be here next year.

A: That's my guess. It's just a guess, but he's definitely ready for this.

Q: Can you give us any other players who you believe will be here next year?

A: That's probably more for (Mark) Newman and (Pat) Roessler, but (Romine's) the one that really sticks out to me. I'd hate to say. Those guys, Pat and Mark, they get such a better feel for all the players. Once I sign them or our staff signs them, we're not around them in the same way. The coordinators and the coaches and the managers and Roessler and Newman, they really know what's best for them after that. They'll send me out to see these guys just to get an idea of what I've seen and how things are going in terms of progress.

Q: What have you seen from Andrew Brackman that leads you to believe he's on the right path?

A: Well, since we've taken him and stuck him in the bullpen and said 'go out there and go get 'em,' I think we've seen some improvement. There's been less thinking about things so much and less worrying about stuff. We're seeing good things coming from him. It's a learning year for him; it's not easy coming off of that surgery, and it's not easy being that tall. We've seen good stuff, that's the thing. Now it's just this offseason and next year, we're really hoping to see him explode.

Q: Does he still profile as a starter, in your eyes?

A: Yeah, it's just that sometimes you have to deviate from the plan a little bit and take a step backward to go forward, and that's where we needed to go with him.

Q: Have you been tracking player rehabs? Any word on how Dellin Betances is doing?

A: Some of them. He's in Tampa, but he just got the surgery; he just had the Tommy John, so he will be rehabbing down there in Tampa.

Q: Is there a player in the organization who is maybe flying under the radar of the mainstream a little bit?

A: Well, I think you guys had one in Kevin Russo here. He's made a lot of progress and he's done a good job. I don't know if he's under the radar anymore. He's hitting .330-something in Triple-A, but he isn't a big-name guy. Kevin's a guy people should keep their eye on. He can play and he's performed.


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