Blogs > Minor Matters

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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

With apologies to Peter King ....

Welcome to Five Things I think I think, a new (if stolen) segment here at Covering all the Bases. Let's jump right in.

1. George Kontos deserves to be promoted to Triple-A

Since his arrival last season, all Kontos has done has impress. He led the organization in strikeouts last season (152 in as many innings pitched) and at times showed the ability to dominate.

In four starts this season Kontos has fanned 24 in 20 1/3 innings pitched, allowing just six earned runs in the process.

With at least two rotation spots open at Scranton on Friday and Saturday, Kontos is most certainly due to join former rotation-mate Eric Hacker in Northern Pennsylvania in the coming days.

2. ESPN needs to keep its agendas to itself

I hate to finally jump on the ESPN-is-biased bandwagon, but the network sure seems to hate Joba Chamberlain.

During last night's start against the Tigers, Dave O'Brien and Rick Sutcliffe began the telecast by saying that in order for Joba to avoid going back to the bullpen, he needs to start consistently hitting 95 miles per hour.

He did that.

Then, not surprisingly, the standard changed.

Once it was clear that Joba's velocity had improved, Sutcliffe suddenly said that even that wasn't good enough, and that he needed to hit the 98-99 that he was at when in the bullpen.

Clearly ESPN has made up its mind (wrongly, I might add) that Joba belongs in the pen, and it is willing to go to any lengths to make its "point."

3. A-Rod is crazy:
We all knew about the steroid charges leveled against Alex Rodriguez, but the claims that he tipped pitches to opposing hitters with whom he was friendly is what bothers me the most.

He says he only did it in blowouts, and I believe him. He might be a crazy, self-absorbed weirdo, but I really don't think he wants to sabotage the team. That said, I hope he never pitch-tipped during a game where the Yankees made a crazy comeback try, only to fall one or two runs shorts.

If investigations can prove that he did that even once, then Rodriguez deserves to be suspended. If he did it on a regular basis, then he deserves the Pete Rose treatment.

4. Scranton is going to be the jumping this weekend:

Not only are the SWB Yanks 17-3, but this weekend they get to face ... wait for it ... the Norfolk Tides!!!

That's right, those Norfolk Tides, the Orioles' Triple-A affiiate -- the team that includes the should-be-in-the-majors-right-now Matt Wieters and the should-be-in-the-majors-by-the-All-Star-break Chris Tillman, who pitches tonight against Jason Stephens.

If you want to see two of the game's top prospects before the get really famous (or in Wieters' case, REALLY famous), then you should make the drive to PNC Field.

5. Weird stat of the day: The Yankees have been caught stealing just twice this season -- and both times the victim has been a center fielder (Gardner once and Cabrera once).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Not the first collision for James Cooper

While interviewing James Cooper after last night's 3-2 loss to the Defenders -- which ended when Cooper failed to jar the ball loose from catcher Jackson Williams -- it became clear that last night wasn't the first time he had been in a collision.

There is approximately a two-inch scar under the outfielder's right eye. This scar didn't come from baseball, or football, for that matter, although it could've -- he played high school football.

No, this scar came from well before Cooper ever considered a career in athletics. It happened when he was a baby, jumping from bed to bed.

"I was jumping between beds, and I missed. I hit my head on one of the bedposts, and now I have this scar," Cooper said.

With just three outfielders on the Thunder's roster, Cooper will get plenty of time to bounce back in the Trenton outfield and show off that bruiser's mentality that has taken him to this point.

Why'd you have to go and complicate everything, Phil?

Sure, Phil Hughes was brilliant last night against the Tigers, even without good command of his curveball. Unfortunately, his success only adds fuel to the put-Joba-back-in-the-bullpen fire. At this point, though, the argument is getting downright obnoxious.

I've got two reasons why Joba should stay in the rotation:

1. His performance last year.

2. His performance this year.

Once the Yanks flipped the switch from bullpen to starter last season, Joba was dominant. New York won 75% of the games (8-of-12) Chamberlain, while the man himself racked up 74 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings.

He was easily their best starter during that stretch, notching a little better than 10 Ks per nine innings just under than a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Yes, his numbers in both those categories were better as a reliever, but not by enough to make a demonstrative difference. Here, check his splits if you don't believe me.

Now, on to this year.

He just hasn't pitched very well -- not terribly, to be sure -- but not very well. He's had trouble getting his velocity cranked up to where it was last year: 95 mph or better consistently. Add that to a little bit of a control problem (10 walks in 16 innings) and what do you get? Better contact from the hitters, that's what. Specifically to the tune of a better than .300 batting average against and just under 11 hits allowed per nine innings.

Point is, why would you want that in the bullpen? Especially considering Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras, Phil Coke et. al. have been hit-or-miss this season. Do you really want another guy in there who's not gonna fool hitters?

I think not.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Look out, Chase and Derby, you might be next

To all the batdogs out there, beware: one wrong move might get you ejected. Check out this story via Deadspin, for proof.

Way to make history, Master Yogi Berra.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cychedelic Week

Wow, what a crazy week it's been.

In a span of six days we've seen three players -- Orlando Hudson, Ian Kinsler and Jason Kubel -- hit for the cycle. Four players accomplished the feat LAST YEAR, and I thought that was excessive. (It's totally not, though: Three did it in 2007, five in 2006, three in 2005 and six in 2004.)

So what does it take to be a cycler? Frankly, luck.

It helps to be powerful and fast, but it's not totally necessary. For example, Cristian Guzman, who has never hit more than 10 home runs in a season and has just 54 in a 10-season career, has a cycle (8/28/08).

Daryle Ward, who stole one base in his 11 seasons in the majors (and hit just five triples), has a cycle (5/26/04).

Chad Moeller, who has six triples, 28 home runs (career-high of 7) and two stolen bases, has a cycle (4/27/04).

So whether it's an outfielder missing a ball, a line drive bouncing around in the corner, or some other freak happening, these men, neither particularly powerful or fleet of foot, all have cycles. Just goes to show, I guess, that sometimes luck is all you need.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rainy Day Fungoes

Sitting here in the press box more than an hour before game time at Waterfront Park, it's clear there's just one thing to do ... FUNGOES!

First and most obviously, R.I.P. to Harry Kalas, Nick Adenhart and Mark Fydrich (wow, three obits in one week, unbelievable). The Trentonian published three stories about Kalas' death yesterday, including: One by sports editor Matthew Osborne, one by copy editor and longtime baseball writer Jay Dunn and one by yours truly.

As a baseball fan, it's almost embarrassing to say this, but my first real exposure to Kalas before I moved from Oregon to Pennsylvania was hearing him call the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet.

You can imagine my shock finding out that the man describing the movements of close to dozen puppies (and at halftime, kittens) in a pen decorated to look like a football field was also a member of baseball's Hall of Fame.

Along with Vin Scully, Marty Brennaman, Dave Niehaus in Seattle (who doesn't get NEARLY the credit he deserves) and Jerry Coleman and Ted Leitner in San Diego, Kalas was truly one of the game's giants.

He will be missed.

Welcome to Bizzaro Baseball: While the Rays were shocking the world last year, Sports Illustrated published this brilliant cover, illustrating just how shocking the the Rays' early success had been.

Don't look now, but a few teams for whom most predicted nothing but failure are defying the critics and have gotten off to hot starts.

First and foremost in my mind are the Seattle Mariners, who have jumped out to a 6-2 start in spite of their pop-gun-esque offense (their 1-2 "punch" at the top is Endy Chavez and Ronny Cedeno, and their cleanup hitter, some Griffey fellow, hasn't cracked .200).

So, obviously, their success has been borne out of their strong pitching. But who's been doing that pitching?

Erik Bedard, Felix Hernandez and Carlos Silva all are 1-0, and the first two on that list have combined for 29 strikeouts in 26.1 innings.

Fireballers Brandon Morrow (who should be a starter) and David Aardsma each have a save, and the latter has allowed just one hit in four innings of relief.

The trio of Miguel Batista, Mark Lowe and Shawn Kelley has combined to throw eight scoreless innings of relief.

Their Pythag says the Mariners are playing a little above their heads, but here's hoping they continue to shock the world and prove that you don't have to have a payroll of more than $100,000,000 to be successful.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Observations from the season's first week

The baseball season is finally here and I, for one could not be happier. Although my Yanks haven't started off so well, there have been plenty of exciting things to whet your roundball appetite.

-- In Toronto, guys like Adam Lind and Travis Snider have to give you hope for the future, even if your pitching resembles a M.A.S.H. unit.

-- Speaking of Toronto, there was a bit of history made there today when the Blue Jays' Ricky Romero and the Tigers' Rick Porcello both made their major league debuts.

Watching the first few innings, it's clear that Porcello has nasty stuff. His fastball hovers consistently around 92-94 mph, with plenty of movement and his breaking ball is quite nasty.

Combined, Romero and Porcello are 45 -- younger than Jamie Moyer.

-- The Marlins scored their first opening-weekend sweep in team history, even if it did come against the Nationals. One thing to note from that series: Emilio Bonifacio. The young third baseman has eight hits in his first 14 at-bats, including a triple and an inside-the-park home run on opening day -- the first since Carl Yaztrzemski did it in 1968. He's also stolen four bases in as many tries.

With Bonifacio, Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu around the infield, the Marlins should be pretty exciting to watch in 2009.

-- Jordan Schafer is giving Braves what they've been missing since Andruw Jones let himself go: a dynamic center field around which to build for years. After getting suspended for HGH early last season, Schafer is quickly making people learn his name for all the right reasons. His line early on: .300/.462/1.362 ... that's right, 1.362. He's got two home runs and three walks in his first 13 plate appearances, pretty nice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thunder final opening day roster is up

Instead of cutting someone, the Thunder decided to place Carlos Mendoza on the disabled list and keep Ivan Nova in Tampa until he is needed. The fifth starter won't be needed until the next trip through the rotation, and the Thunder will make the necessary alterations to their roster at that time.

To view a copy of the roster, go here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Well, the Trenton roster is here, and it's confusing

There were a few surprises regarding today's Thunder roster being announced:
1. No Tim Battle. This isn't a total shock, but most did predict him to be in the mix for a spot in the outfield.

2. The team's continuing trend of carrying three catchers. Last year it was Eladio Rodriguez, this year it appears to be Jose Gil (although the roster is preliminary and there will be two more cuts to get it from 26 to 24).

3. This is the big one. No Humberto Sanchez. After being "optioned to Trenton," Sanchez is not on the preliminary roster. Is he injured? Is he staying with Tampa? Is he moving to Scranton? Nobody really knows, and the Yankees aren't giving out much information.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bye, bye Berroa, hello Ramiro

In keeping with this year's tradition of keeping super-young prospects on big-league rosters (See: Porcello, Rick; Perry, Ryan; Cahill, Trevor; Anderson, Brett and Zimmermann, Jordan) Ramiro Pena has won the battle with Angel Berroa to be the Yankees' utility infielder.

Pena's a defensive wizard and had a surprisingly robust spring with the bat. Once Alex Rodriguez returns Pena, just 23, should head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for more season. Or, if he plays his cards right, he could stick and Cody Ransom could head down.

Either way, congratulations, Ramiro, knock 'em dead.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Guess who's back

Per Peter Abraham's blog, the Mariners have decided to return Reegie Corona to the Yankees, who assigned him back to the Thunder. The move just about finalizes a Thunder infield that should include Marcos Vechionacci, Eduardo Perez, Corona and a split of Jorge Vazquez and Kevin Smith at first.

Okay, so it's been a while ...

Yeah, so my Internet at the house has been, to use a baseball term, day-to-day. Everything seems to be resolved now, though, so let's get on with the baseball.

The season's almost here. In fact, the Yankees are supposed to break in their shiny new stadium tonight, which has me thrilled. For those who might want a little bit of an early peek, the New York Times has provided a wonderful, interactive panoramic view of the stadium on their Web site.

The Yanks are supposed to play the Cubs tonight in the Stadium's first action, but it's been raining pretty good today, both here and in the Bronx. It'd be pretty sad if the first game got rained out, but no worries, there's another one scheduled for tomorrow.

Last I checked, there were still plenty of tickets available for reasonable prices (get those while they last) on StubHub, so do what I can't: Go see the new park!


We're at five days and counting until the Thunder season opener (I'll be at media day on Tuesday, so check back then for notes, quotes and plenty of juicy tidbits).

Additionally, The Trentonian is putting out a preview section, authored primarily by yours truly, on Monday, so check the newsstands for that.

There will be an in-depth look at the rotation, bullpen, infield, scouting reports on the Eastern League opposition, and everything else your Thunder-loving heart desires (that I can think of, and that can fit in the section).


Speaking of the Thunder and their Eastern League foes, you can cross one name off the list of top prospects coming through Waterfront Park this season: Rick Porcello, who's gone and ruined everyone's fun by making the Tigers' rotation.

He doesn't have an inning of experience above High-A Lakeland, but his talent and the tattered state of Detroit pitching coupled with a whizbang performance in the spring was enough to convince Jim Leyland that he belonged with the big club.

Ryan Perry, who also was theoretically slated for Double-A Erie, was placed in Detroit's bullpen. It's a pair of gutsy moves by Leyland and a good show by an organization out to prove its commitment to a young core.

The Orioles, who have decided to send uber-prospect Matt Wieters to the minors, could learn a thing or two from them.


Speaking of gutsy moves, how about the Tigers releasing Gary Sheffield, thus eating his contract? That was, for me at least, the most shocking decision of the fall, especially considering the Tigers might have been able to sell extra tickets to see his 500th home run (he's only one shy, as you may have heard).

I mean, the Tigers' first home game is against the Rangers, who sport a rotation of Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Kris Benson, Matt Harrison and Brandon McCarthy. There's a group that might give up a longball or two, you think?

Detroit could have limited his at-bats in the first few games (Leyland would find a way) and unleashed him on the Rangers and White Sox a few days later. I know he's not what he used to be, but even old, broken down Sheff could reach Kris Benson, couldn't he?