Laird's injury is costly, but it may not spell doom for the Thunder
BOWIE, Md. — It started on Opening Day when Christian Garcia tore a ligament in his elbow. Then, three weeks later, Damon Sublett needed season-ending thumb surgery.
A month passed before the Thunder’s next big blows, labrum surgery for No. 3 starter Jeremy Bleich and a high ankle sprain to David Adams that so far has cost the second baseman nearly two months.
From the last day in June until July 6, center fielder Austin Krum and late-inning relievers Grant Duff and Tim Norton each took their place on the shelf.
Then yesterday came what could wind up being the biggest blow of all, an ankle injury to Brandon Laird, the Thunder’s cleanup man and the circuit’s leader in RBIs.
Still, even with all that star power gone, Trenton finds itself just 1 ½ games behind New Hampshire for first place in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division.
After closing the first half yesterday with a series-salvaging win over the Bowie Baysox, the team believed that in order to retain its postseason, the starting pitching had to right itself.
“We need to pitch well,” Lance Pendleton said. “I think that, really, is the first step, making sure our starters to take of some business and hope (the offense) scores a few runs for us. That really is the thing.
Over their six road losses to close the first half, Thunder starters haven’t exactly given the team a lift. They’ve allowed 23 earned runs on 34 hits and 12 walks over 25 2/3 innings.
For those counting, that’s an ERA of 7.71 and a WHIP of 1.79, ghastly marks both.
“The last week or so, we haven’t commanded our pitches as well,” pitching coach Tommy Phelps said before yesterday’s game. “We’ve gotten behind in the counts, left some pitches in the zone and we haven’t pitched as well. We went through a stint like this early in the season for about 10 days, but we’ll get back on track after the break.”
Knowing Hector Noesi and Andrew Brackman — the latter of whom is throwing much better than his numbers indicate — will be in the rotation from the jump adds an element of certainty.
Add in the probability of receiving Adam Warren, the Florida State League’s ERA leader shortly after the break to join All-Stars Pendleton and D.J. Mitchell — whose seven wins lead the staff — and the starting five seems like it could be ready to improve quickly.
“We have a lot of younger guys throughout our organization who have stepped up, and come in and filled those guys’ shoes” Phelps said, referring to younger pitchers like Brackman and Noesi who have filled the holes left behind by Garcia, Phelps and Bleich “That’s the whole thing with development and everything — when a guy leaves, we have a lot of depth in our organization.”