Two pitchers projected to spend time in Thunder's rotation this season -- Christian Garcia and Wilkin De La Rosa -- have proven recently to be a bit injury prone. To wit, since 2006, Garcia has been limited to just 140 2/3 innings, including a lost 2007 campaign.
Similarly, De La Rosa, despite being babied since his transition to the mound in 2007 (never more than 106 2/3 innings in a season) broke down toward the end of last year with issues in his throwing elbow. Those problems have carried over to this spring, however, and his bullpen sessions have been limited to just two a week (Tuesdays and Fridays, to be exact) in Tampa.
Garcia is projected to start the season in the rotation, while De La Rosa may be held back while his rehab continues. Based on the men's histories, however, there is a fair chance that they miss significant time in 2010. With that in mind, let's take a look at the exciting names who could get the first calls to Double-A.
1. D.J. Mitchell - RHP
In his first pro season, Mitchell showed a propensity to do two things every successful pitcher must: limit the walks, and keep the ball in the ballpark. In 140 1/3 innings, Mitchell allowed just 44 bases on balls and a miniscule two home runs. He doesn't strike out a ton of hitters, but his 1.20 WHIP will play just fine in Waterfront Park when he gets the call.
Mitchell's name came up during a conversation with Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras last season. Here's what he had to say.
"Mitchell just went from Charleston to Tampa. He’s a kid that during instructional league learned his change-up and learned the curveball. He’s got real power sink with his fastball, so I believe he’s going to come fast. He’s a very good athlete."
2. Andrew Brackman - RHP
A much-ballyhooed prospect since his selection in 2007, Brackman has largely flopped in pro ball so far. Still, he was given a four-year major league contract when he signed, so he'll continue to get chances. Despite his horrific season in 2009 (2-12, 5.91 ERA, 76 walks in 106 frames) and a stint in the bullpen toward the end, it appears he'll move to Tampa's starting rotation to begin 2010.
Contreras also mentioned Brackman during last season's chat.
"Brackman is learning delivery, learning what it is to be in professional baseball — this is his first year coming off the injury, so he’s learning. That’s where he’s at, he’s in Charleston learning the game of professional baseball."
Brackman worked on his mechanics in the offseason, and looked good in his first bullpen session this spring. If he straightens out his control -- not a small task when you're 6-foot-10 -- he could begin the quick ascent most thought him capable of three seasons ago.
3. Manny Banuelos - LHP
Brought over in the same deal that landed the Yankees Alfredo Aceves, Banuelos has drawn much hype this offseason. He's landed in the top prospects lists of both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America (No. 3 at BP, No. 6 at BA) and could be another quick mover with a hot start.
That said, however, Banuelos doesn't turn 19 for another 25 days, so the Yankees can afford to wait with him.
Contreras also spoke about Banuelos last season. Here's part of what he said.
"He’s going to be a very special pitcher. He’s a left-hander, we’re helping him with the four-seam fastball right now. He controls it in and out. He has a good curveball, not a real quality curveball right now but he’s got a real quality change-up and he throws strikes. He’s going to be real nice."
He held the opposition to a .219 average over 109 innings last season with Charleston (and one inning with Tampa), while fanning 106 and walking just 28. He allowed just four home runs during that time.
On the extreme off chance that none of these pitchers make their way to Waterfront Park in 2010, fans can still cling to the idea that the trio should help form one of the Eastern League's most feared rotations in 2011.