Blogs > Minor Matters

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thunder release 2010 home schedule

Sorry for the delay lately; I just finished moving and have had limited access to the Internet. Anyway, as you can see by the title, the Thunder have released their 2010 home schedule. They begin the season on April 8 with the Erie Seawolves and end it on September 2 against the Akron Aeros.

Here's a link to the complete schedule.

On another note, I am at Yankee Stadium tonight and had a chance to speak with several former Thunder players, including Ramiro Pena, Alfredo Aceves, Michael Dunn, Phil Coke and Mark Melancon. Look for stories in the The Trentonian in the coming days, starting with a feature on Pena and his unexpected success in the big leagues.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Odds and Ends

Congrats to Ian Kennedy, who got back on the mound today against the Angels. It was his first Major League of 2009, and it came in a crucial eighth inning. Sure, he walked two guys and loaded the bases with one out, but he got out of it, which has to be a huge confidence boost for a guy who didn't fare too well the last time he took the hill.

Meanwhile, on the radio, John Sterling displayed one of the poorest examples in recent memory -- no small feat considering the source. When Kennedy was summoned from the pen instead of Brian Bruney, Sterling was surprised. How do I know? Well, he used the words "flabbergasted" "amazed" and "shocked" at least 30 times during the half inning.

We get it, John, you thought Joe Girardi should be going to someone else in the eighth inning of game with a potential playoff opponent, especially with the division not yet clinched. That said, Damaso Marte, Phil Coke and Jonathan Albaladejo were already used, Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves were unavailable and David Robertson is injured. That leaves Bruney, Josh Towers, Mike Dunn and Kennedy to try to get the ball to Rivera in the ninth. Given the options, Kennedy is as good a choice as any.

Once again, congrats to Kennedy on a successful comeback from an aneurysm.


Speaking of the Angels, what about the year Kendry Morales has had replacing Mark Teixeira at first?

Here are Morales' numbers this season: .305/.350/.913 with 42 2Bs, 31 HRs, 99 RBIs and 77 runs scored.

Now, here are Teixeira's: .292/.382/.949 with 42 2Bs, 37 HRs, 118 RBIs and 98 runs scored.

When you consider that Morales is doing this at 26, in his first full major league season and for just $1.1 million, it seems that the Angels have filled Teixeira's void quite nicely. Oh, and they got two first-round draft picks as compensation. Nice work, Angels front office.


Hope you enjoyed your trip to the Eastern League Championship Series, Connecticut Defenders fans, because your team has moved to Richmond starting next season. The move brings pro baseball back to Richmond after a one-year absence.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Dark Horse Cy Young candidate, perhaps?

There's a pitcher on a contending team in the American League who has put up some Cy Worthy numbers, but is getting little recognition in the media.

His numbers: 16-5, 3.65 ERA, 154 H in 170 IP, nearly 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 123 ERA+, 1.23 WHIP.

So, any idea who he is? CC Sabathia? No. Jon Lester? No. John Lackey? No.

Give up? It's Scott Feldman, of the Texas Rangers, who, at just 25, is quietly establishing himself as one of the better starters in the American League.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Two simple questions

With Derek Jeter tying Lou Gehrig's record for hits as a Yankee, where does he rank among all-time Yankees. If you ask me, it's sixth, right behind Yogi Berra and ahead of Whitey Ford.

Also, does anybody out there think he'll get to 4,000 hits? It was proposed on ESPN the other night and I thought it was an interesting question. By their math, all Jeter had to do was average about 150 hits a season for eight more years. Depending on his health and employment, that seems doable.

What do you all think?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009 Eastern Leaguers in the MLB

Just a quick roundup of some of the 2009 EL Alumni currently on Major League rosters:

Eric Hacker -PIT

One of the better guys I've gotten a chance to meet while covering the Thunder, Hacker went from Trenton's opening day starter to the show with the Pirates. Not exactly how he planned it when he got drafted in 2002, but I'll bet he's happy for the chance.

Jeff Manship -MIN

He was with the Rock Cats for 13 starts in 2009, during which he went 6-4 with a 4.28 ERA and 45 Ks in 75 2/3 innings. He's made his ML debut with the Twins on Aug. 15, when he fanned one in his lone inning of work against the Rangers in the Metrodome.

Marc Rzepczynski -TOR

Rzepczynski left the Eastern League early, pitching his final game for the Fisher Cats on June 18 against Akron. He made his MLB debut on July 7 and has compiled a 2-4 mark with a 3.67 ERA since then. He's struck out 60 in 61 1/3 innings with the Jays.

Junichi Tazawa and Josh Reddick - BOS

Tazawa and Reddick each put up fabulous numbers in their time in the EL in 2009. Tazawa, signed last offseason, went 9-5 with a 2.57 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 98 innings. Reddick hit .277/.352/.872 with 13 HRs and 29 RBIs for the Sea Dogs.

Here are their numbers so far with Boston:

Tazawa: 2-3, 7.46 ERA, 13 Ks in 25 1/3 IP
Reddick: Seven hits in 34 ABs, four 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs

Tobi Stoner and Josh Thole - NYM

Two Binghamton alums, Stoner and Thole represent a small bright patch on what has been an awful season for the entire organization. Stoner was 2-2 with a 2.68 ERA and 28 strikeouts in his seven starts with the B-Mets. Thole hit .325/.395/.816 with a home run and 46 RBIs with Binghamton.

Stoner hasn't gotten into a game with the Mets, but Thole scored his first MLB hit on September 5 at Colorado. Overall, the 22-year-old is 4-for-12 with a double and an RBI.

Madison Bumgarner and Waldis Joaquin - SF

With Bumgarner's near-win last night, that makes two former Defenders on the Giants' roster. Bumgarner was the Giants' top prospect entering the year, and he debuted last night when he replaced Tim Lincecum, who was experiencing back spasms. Overall, he went 5 1/3 innings with four punchouts and would have gotten the W had the bullpen held the lead.

Joaquin made his debut on August 4, giving up a pair of hits and an earned run against Houston. He's gotten into only one more game since then, a scoreless four outs against San Diego on Monday.

Here are the pair's numbers with Connecticut this season:
Bumgarner: 9-1, 1.93 ERA, 69 K in 108 IP
Joaquin: 4-5, 1 save, 2.77 ERA, 37 K in 52 IP

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Thunder stay alive

In one of the most drama-packed, heart-rending and downright poetic games they've played all season, the Thunder staved off elimination with a 4-3 win in 12 innings over the New Britain Rock Cats last night at New Britain Stadium.

Here's why I say poetic: On Friday night with the game on the line, Kanekoa Texeira -- who has been worked to the bone this season -- gave up the game-winning double to NB catcher Wilson Ramos, one the Twins' brightest young prospects.

Last night, in possibly the greatest display of managerial cojones all season, Tony Franklin summoned Texeira in the tenth inning last night ... with the season-ending run on second and two outs ... to face Ramos. The move worked out when Texeira got a weak popup to short to end the inning.

The game stayed tied until the twelfth, when Chris Malec's sac fly brought home Austin Krum with the eventual game-winner. Remember, though, this is on the road, so the Thunder had to close out the Rock Cats one more time.

Texeira was still on the mound.

He got two quick outs, but wound up walking his third hitter on what sounded like a very questionable ball four. That, of course, brought up Ramos again. Just like last time, Texeira won the battle with New Britain's catcher, getting a weak grounder to third baseman Marcos Vechionacci.

Now that that's over the Thunder have to win two more.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Huge series with New Britain starts tonight

Bottom line is this: Thunder need to win three of four to make the playoffs. By my modest calculations, there is no chance for a one-game playoffs, so this is it: Either get hot or go home.

As spelled out on the bottom of the Thunder game notes, here are the pitching matchups for the series:

Tonight: TRE LHP Jeremy Bleich vs. NB Deolis Guerra
Tomorrow: TRE RHP Ryan Pope vs. NB Matt Fox
Sunday: TRE RHP Jason Stephens vs. NB Mike McCardell
Monday: TRE RHP Lance Pendleton vs. NB Ryan Mullins

If the Thunder ever needed a solid start from Bleich, it's tonight. He allowed two earned runs in five innings against the Rock Cats in his last time out, and will probably need to repeat that performance tonight. The opposition, Deolis Guerra, has been equal parts dominant and dismal. He's allowed five or more earned runs three times in his last 10 outings, but held the Thunder to just one in his last turn.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

In Re: Around the Horn's Cy Young "debate"

Three out of four panelists just said CC Sabathia should beat Zack Greinke in the race for the American League Cy Young Award. They are wrong.

Here's why:

Categories in which Greinke leads the American League: ERA (2.32), Complete Games (6), Shutouts (3), ERA+ (189), WHIP (1.077), Hits/9 IP (7.8), HR/9 (.5)

Categories in which Sabathia leads the American League: Wins (16), Games Started (29), Innings Pitched (199 1/3), Batters Faced (807)

That should pretty much seal it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bartleski, Trahan join Thunder

After working with a very short bullpen yesterday, the Thunder have added Phillip Bartleski and David Trahan for the stretch run. Bartleski, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound right-hander came from the Tampa Yankees, where he was 4-1 with 2.62 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. He walked just nine in that time.

Trahan, on the other hand, took a decidedly different path. The Yankees purchased his contract from the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association. With the Explorers, Trahan, another right-hander, was 6-5 with a 2.59 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 59 frames.

Explorers' manager Les Lancaster offered this comment through a press release:

"I am very excited that David is getting this opportunity, as we have had several clubs contact us during the season about him and I was really surprised he was not taken prior to now based on the interest we received. The Yankees are getting a quality individual with a great work ethic and plus arm."

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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Per the Game Notes

Josh Schmidt will start in Game 2 of the Thunder's series with the Portland Sea Dogs. Because of rain last week, both Jeremy Bleich and Zach McAllister are on turn for Thursday's series finale. Manager Franklin has elected to go with McAllister, something that should surprise nobody.

What they do with Bleich is yet to be determined, although I wouldn't be surprised if he worked out of the bullpen. It all depends on who the team gets to replace promoted relievers Humberto Sanchez and Eric Wordekemper.

Tom Verducci on David Bachner and Greg Montalbano

New Jersey lost two of its brightest baseball players this month. David Bachner, West Windsor North's ace who was departing for Seton Hall; and Greg Montalbano, a former Thunder pitcher who at one time was the Red Sox's pitcher of the year, died 10 days apart.

Here's Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated's take on the two young men who died too soon.