Blogs > Minor Matters

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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jay Burnham Interview

As promised, here is the second of the two interviews with I conducted yesterday with the new Thunder broadcasters. This installment features Jay Burnham, the team's new Director of Broadcasting. He's worked with the Asheville Tourists and the Pensacola Pelicans and has interviewed MLB greats Bernie Carbo and Sparky Anderson.

Here's the interview:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Justin Shackil Interview

I conducted a video interview today with new Thunder play-by-play man Justin Shackil, a Fordham graduate whose resume includes stops at the U.S. Open (tennis), XM Radio and the Academy Awards. He, along with new partner Jay Burnham (his video interview will be up here tomorrow) will take over for Steve Rudenstein and Jared Smith, who left for jobs at Rider University and Florida Atlantic University, respectively.

Without further adieu, here's the video:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Baseball America's Top 30

The New BA Prospect Handbook released today, giving fans an in-depth look at their favorite team's system. If you are a Thunder fan, then the system you're probably most concerned with is the Yankees. With that in mind, here's how BA stacks New York's top 30 prospects.

1. Jesus Montero
2. Austin Romine
3. Arodys Vizcaino (dealt to ATL)
4. Slade Heathcott
5. Zach McAllister
6. Manny Banuelos
7. Gary Sanchez
8. J.R. Murphy
9. Jeremy Bleich
10. Andrew Brackman
11. Bryan Mitchell
12. Mike Dunn (since traded to ATL)
13. Corban Joseph
14. Eduardo Nunez
15. Mark Melancon
16. Ivan Nova
17. D.J. Mitchell
18. Melky Mesa
19. Kelvin DeLeon
20. Jose Ramirez
21. Graham Stoneburner
22. David Adams
23. Caleb Cotham
24. Hector Noesi
25. David Phelps
26. Adam Warren
27. Kevin Russo
28. Dellin Betances
29. Jairo Heredia
30. Jamie Hoffmann

Of this list, eight players (Montero, Dunn, McAllister, Russo, Nova, Bleich, Nunez and Melancon) have seen time in Trenton, while five (Mitchell, Adams, Romine, Bleich, Noesi) are projected to open the season with the Thunder.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Question No. 4 - Reinforcements, anyone?

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.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jose Gil gets invite to camp

Per Chad Jennings this morning, Jose Gil, former Thunder catcher -- and author of one of last season's walk-off home runs -- has been invited to big league camp. He joins fellow catchers Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Mike Rivera, Francisco Cervelli, Kyle Higashioka, Jorge Posada and P.J. Pilittere in Tampa.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Question No. 5: How about the outfield?

So far in this series, we've covered shortstop and the bullpen as areas surrounded by question marks. Today, we'll add the outfield to that mix.

Center field, it seems, is all but guaranteed to Austin Krum, who did a solid job replacing the demoted Seth Fortenberry, who opened 2009 in Trenton. Fortenberry had major issues with the bat, though, and wasn't nearly making up for it in the field. Even his much-hyped arm -- honored by Baseball America as tops among the system's outfielders -- was nowhere to be found.

Krum came up in June and immediately acted as a sort of Brett Gardner Lite. He hit .272 with the team, drove in 14 runs and swiped 11 bases in 13 tries. He also flashed an above average -- if at times inaccurate -- arm.

The bigger question is: Who will serve as Krum's bookends in right and left fields?

Although I'm not terribly sure Thunder fans want to hear this, Edwar Gonzalez may once again fill one of those slots.

After a 2008 season during which he acted as a key piece in the middle of the Thunder's order, the 27-year-old had a big letdown in 2009. He hit just .232 with a paltry four home runs and 37 RBIs. Part of the reason for the downturn -- more, in fact, than Gonzalez may let on -- could have had to do with a shoulder injury he suffered in the season's early going.

Gonzalez was on the shelf from April 25 until May 14, and wasn't nearly the same after that. Consider that when he went down he was hitting .326, but was so sapped after resuming his season that the average dropped 94 points.

If the 2008 and early 2009 Gonzalez shows up, then the Thunder could be in for a pleasant surprise. If not, then it may be a return to the tepid that ultimately did them in last season.

Joining Krum and Gonzalez, I think, will be Dan Brewer, a 22-year-old from Illinois who split last season between Charleston and Tampa, seeing success at both stops. He accrued a season line of .306/.393/.828 with six home runs, 48 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 30 tries.

He also made just three errors in the outfield last season (adding one at first base) and threw out four runners attempting to advance.

Just looking at the stats, Brewer seems like another Krum type, but with a bit better bat.

Yankees invite five more to camp, including Laird, Pope and Vazquez

The Yankees announced today that they have invited five additional players to Major League spring training. The club has now invited 25 non-roster players to 2010 Spring Training in Tampa, Fla., including 13 pitchers, five catchers, two infielders and five outfielders. The total number of players now scheduled to report is 65.

INF Brandon Laird, 22, hit .266 (120-for-451) with 20 doubles, 13 home runs and 75 RBI in a career-high 124 games with Single-A Tampa in 2009, tying for third among all Yankees minor leaguers and leading the Florida State League in RBI. Following the season, played with the Surprise Rafters and was named to the Arizona Fall League Top Prospects Team. Laird was originally selected by the Yankees in the 27th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He is the brother of Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird.

RHP D.J. Mitchell, 22, made his professional debut in 2009, combining to go 12-7 with a 2.63 ERA in 25 appearances (24 starts) with Single-A Charleston and Single-A Tampa. Among all Yankees minor leaguers, ranked second in strikeouts (125), tied for second in wins and ranked fourth in ERA. Mitchell was selected by the Yankees in the 10th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and is attending his first spring camp.

RHP Ryan Pope, 23, spent the 2009 season with Double-A Trenton, going 5-12 with a 4.78 ERA in 26 appearances (25 starts) and striking out 106 batters with only 34 walks. Pope was selected by the Yankees in the third round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, becoming the first player ever drafted out of the Savannah College of Art and Design.

INF Jorge Vazquez, 27, was a 10-year veteran of the Mexican League prior to signing with the Yankees in December 2008. He made his Double-A debut in 2009, batting .329 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI in 57 games for Trenton before missing the final two months of the season on the disabled list with a left wrist sprain. He played for Team Mexico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic prior to the season, batting .294 (5-for-17) with one home run and five RBI in five games.

RHP Dustin Moseley, 28, made three starts with Los Angeles-AL in 2009, going 1-0 with a 4.30 ERA, before being placed on the disabled list in April with right forearm tightness. He also underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left hip in August. In 64 career appearances (23 starts)—all with the Angels—has gone 8-7 with a 5.41 ERA. Moseley was originally selected by Cincinnati in Compensation Round A (34th overall) of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yankees re-sign Gonzalez, Bush and Vechionacci

As per Baseball America, the Yankees have re-upped with former Thunder members Marcos Vechionacci (3B), Edwar Gonzalez (OF) and Paul Bush (P)

I'll have more on this later.

Question No. 6: Who will do the backup catching?

In a better-late-than-never addition to this blog's 10 Thunder questions series, today we ask: Who will be behind the dish when Austin Romine needs the day off?

As reported toward the end of 2009, Romine will be in Trenton in 2010. What we didn't realize then, however, was that Jesus Montero wouldn't be joining him. That means, obviously, that Romine -- just one in the Yankees' cache of catching prospects -- will see most of the time behind the dish.

The options at backup would seem to be twofold: Kyle Anson and Jose Gil, both of whom saw time with the Thunder last season.

Both were light hitters and excellent defenders, making them perfect candidates for a backup job.

Anson spent the entire season in Trenton, posting a .227 average with just a pair of home runs and 24 RBIs in the process. Gil, before being sent down to make room for Montero, hit .194 with two home runs -- one was a walkoff -- and four RBIs.

When you consider that Anson has experience working in Waterfront with nearly all of the pitchers who will make up the rotation in 2010, I think he gets the nod over Gil.
Photo Credit: Mike Ashmore

Thunder announce new broadcasting team

The Thunder have formally announced a new broadcast team for this season. Taking the departed Steve Rudenstein's place will be Jay Burnham, a 28-year-old graduate of Elon, worked for the Asheville Tourists for the past two seasons. Before Asheville, Burnham worked with the Pensacola Pelicans.

Joining him will be Justin Shackil, a Fordham graduate who replaces Jared Smith as the Thunder's color analyst. Smith left the Thunder to take a position at Florida Atlantic University.

On Shackil's resume are stints with the Frontier League's Gateway Grizzlies and the 2009 U.S. Open.
Photo Credit: Trenton Thunder (Burnham is at left, Shackil at right)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Yankees Invite 20 to Spring Training

The Yankees today released their list of non-roster invitees to spring training, and it includes nine players who saw time with the Thunder in 2009. Those eight are:

SP Zach McAllister
RP Kevin Whelan
C Jesus Montero
RP Wilkins Arias
OF Colin Curtis
RP Amauri Sanit
RP Grant Duff
C P.J. Pilittere

Also included is Austin Romine, who will be the Thunder's starting catcher in 2010. Bleich will re-join the Thunder, and Arias may come with him, too.

The other 10 invitees are:

OF Marcus Thames (signed today)
OF Reid Gorecki
OF David Winfree
OF Jon Weber
C Mike Rivera
C Kyle Higashioka
RP Royce Ring
RP Zack Segovia
SP Kei Igawa
SP Jason Hirsh

Any requests?

From March 31 - April 4 (when the Thunder break camp), I will be in Tampa for Thunder spring training. During that time I will be collecting as many interviews (both audio and video) as possible. I have several story lines in mind to pursue, but, because I cater to you, I'm looking for suggestions about what and who you would like to see covered.

Material collected from that trip will go toward The Trentonian's special season preview section (on newsstands April 8), daily coverage, as well as possible in-season features.

So far, here's what I have planned:

- Feature on Jeremy Bleich in re: How he can better himself after last season

- Rosters of all 12 Eastern League teams. Hopefully I'll have the Thunder's roster before I leave.

- Feature on the D'Arnaud brothers, Travis and Chase -- probably an in-season notebook thing

- Sit-down Q&As with Tony Franklin, Frank Menechino and Tommy Phelps regarding how the team is shaping up

- Live report from the Yankees vs. Future Yankees Stars game, to be held April 3 at Legends Field

Send any and all ideas you may have to, or leave them in the comments section.

Thanks for all your help.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Question No. 7

With opening day (featuring the World Series trophy) just 60 days away -- and pitchers and catchers reporting in just more than two weeks -- now seems as good a time as any to ask a few questions about what the Thunder might look like against the Erie SeaWolves come April 8.
Today marks the fourth of 10 questions about the Yankees Double-A affiliate.

7. Where does Ryan Pope fit in to the mix?

2009 was a year of extremes for starter Ryan Pope. He was the only starter on the Opening Day roster who stayed healthy -- and in Double-A -- all season long. Of course, that means he didn't earn a promotion at all, and there plenty of reasons for that. He gave up 155 hits in 141 innings (nearly 10 per nine innings pitched) and carded a 4.78 ERA and a putrid 5-12 record in the process.

There were, however, some positives.

He walked just 34 men and permitted just seven longballs, good for marks of 2.2 and 0.4 per nine, respectively. The best positive of all, however, came toward the end of the season, when pitching coach Tommy Phelps suggested he speed up his tempo to try to keep hitters off balance.

Boy, did it work. In the span of one bullpen session, Pope went from barely hanging on in Double-A to staff ace -- and he stayed that way until the season's end.

Entering 2009, however, there could be a little confusion about where he might fit. So far, the Thunder staff looks like this: Christian Garcia, Hector Noesi, Wilkin De La Rosa, Jeremy Bleich and more than likely Lance Pendleton.

In theory, Pope could simply move to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but I'm not terribly sure he's earned the right to pitch in the same rotation as the vaunted Kei Igawa, Jason Hirsh, Zach McAllister, Ivan Nova and perhaps Romulo Sanchez, who seems to have taken his triple-digit fastball back and forth between starter and reliever more than a few times over the past two seasons.

If De La Rosa, isn't fully healed come April, Pope should take his spot for a couple of months. However, if he is healthy on opening day, I think there's a good chance Pope begins 2009 as the Thunder's long reliever.

If he does become the long man, it could be a boon for the team, which -- for a few months at least -- will not have to worry about using their typically short relievers in uncomfortable roles, thereby limiting their effectiveness and possibly damaging them long term.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Question No. 8

With opening day (featuring the World Series trophy) just 61 days away -- and pitchers and catchers reporting in just more than two weeks -- now seems as good a time as any to ask a few questions about what the Thunder might look like against the Erie SeaWolves come April 8.
Today marks the third of 10 questions in 10 days about the Yankees Double-A affiliate.

8. Can this year's bullpen match the 2009 version?

One of the team's biggest strengths -- especially considering all the upheaval caused by injuries and mass rainouts -- was its bullpen. Time after time, when a starter got bombed or had to be scratched, someone was there to pick up the slack and put the team in a better position to win.

Want proof? Check the numbers. Here's a breakdown of how many spot starts each reliever made last season*:

Kanekoa Texeira - 6
Josh Schmidt - 5
Wilkins Arias - 2

* - I'm not counting Brian Bruney's rehab "start."

Texeira (taken by Seattle in the Rule 5 Draft) and Schmidt (almost certainly will be promoted) will not be back, and the same probably goes for Arias, too. So, who can Thunder fans count on to make the jog in from the right-field corner every night? Let's take a look at a few candidates.

1. Pat Venditte: This is the sexy name. By now, you've probably read all about Venditte and his switch-pitching exploits. If not, you can do so here, here, here (with video) and here.

Sure, the pure spectacle of a pitcher who throws with both hands will put some fannies in the seats, but will those paying customers be happy with what Venditte produces? If he performs like he did last year with Charleston and Tampa, you're darn right they will.

Between the affiliates, Venditte accrued a 4-2 record, a 1.87 ERA, fanned 87 in 67 1/3 innings and walked just 11 men. For a guy who, like Schmidt, struggles to break 90 with his fastball, those numbers are more than impressive.

He got hit around a little bit this winter with Venezuelan League's Aguilas de Zulia -- where he was teammates with Schmidt, but the extremely pitcher-friendly confines of Waterfront Park should help ease the transition to the upper levels.

2. Jonathan Ortiz: This 24-year-old could wind up being next year's closer, something the Thunder really didn't have once Amauri Sanit left early in the season.

With Charleston and Tampa last season, Ortiz posted a 3-4 record with a 2.91 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 55 2/3 frames. He walked just 10 in that span. For those keeping track, Ortiz and Venditte combined to issue just 21 free passes in 120 innings in 2009.

If Ortiz continues at last year's pace, he will give Tony Franklin a very powerful weapon toward the end of games.

3. Philip Bartleski/Adam Olbrychowski: If you paid attention toward the end of the 2009 season, then you know these names already. Both pitchers were called up during the last series of the season -- on the road against the eventual EL North Wild Card winners, the New Britain Rock Cats -- to help in what was ultimately a failed playoff push.

Both men offer something neither Ortiz and Venditte can: an intimidating physical presence on the mound, much in the same manner Grant Duff did for a few months.

Olbrychowski stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 205 pounds. Bartleski checks in at a mammoth 6-foot-7 and 240, both of which should play up in Waterfront Park.

Expect to see them both in the Thunder's late-game arsenal in 2010.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bobblehead Schedule, Broadcasting update

The moment every Thunder fan has been waiting for has finally arrived — the 2010 bobblehead schedule has been released.

This year’s list features six former Thunder players who helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series — pitchers Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, outfielder Brett Gardner, infielder Robinson Cano and catcher Francisco Cervelli.

After those five are given out, the Thunder will close the season by distributing a bobblehead of the Yankees top prospect, catcher Jesus Montero.

The 20-year-old Montero spent just 44 games with the Thunder, compiling a .317/.370/.909 line with nine home runs and 33 RBIs before suffering a broken finger that ended his season.
Below are the dates for each bobblehead’s release:

Chamberlain — April 23
Hughes — May 14
Gardner — June 11
Cervelli — July 2
Cano — July 16
Robertson — Aug. 6
Montero — Sept. 2


The Thunder have sifted through the applications and demo tapes, and are close to naming a replacement for former broadcaster Steve Rudenstein, who left the team to take a position with Rider University.
An announcement on his replacement should be made by next week, the team said yesterday.

Question No. 9: Who's on ... shortstop?

With opening day (featuring the World Series trophy) just 63 days away -- and pitchers and catchers reporting in just more than two weeks -- now seems as good a time as any to ask a few questions about what the Thunder might look like against the Erie SeaWolves come April 8.
Today marks the second of 10 questions in 10 days about the Yankees Double-A affiliate.

9. Who will fill Eduardo Nunez's shoes at shortstop?

Eduardo Nunez spoiled Thunder fans last season. By and large, Nunez was the most consistent offensive producer in Trenton's lineup from Day One until season's close. He produced a .322/.349/.782 line with 26 2Bs, nine HRs and 55 RBIs.

Sure, his 33 errors left much to be desired, but this guy (a four-time Gold Glover) had seasons with 21, 25, 29 and 56 miscues in the minor leagues.

Enough about the past. It's time to look ahead.

When I contacted Mark Newman a few weeks ago, even he couldn't give me a solid answer about who would play short at Waterfront Park in 2010. There are few candidates, but none who really jump out as someone who could play up to Nunez's caliber.

Candidate No. 1, Walter Ibarra: The 22-year-old from Los Mochis Sinola, Mexico played in 18 games with Trenton in 2008, getting 15 hits (including three doubles and a home run) in the process.
This season, with Charleston and Tampa, Ibarra put together .262/.294/.602 with 19 RBIs and swiped 12 bases in 17 attempts. This winter, with the Naranjeros de Hermosillo of the Mexican League, Ibarra compiled 16 hits in 64 at-bats.

The Double-A experience, I believe, gives Ibarra a little bit of a leg up on all the rest when it comes to his odds of being in Tony Franklin's lineup come April 8 against Erie.

Odds to win the job - 5:1

Candidate No. 2, Matt Cusick: Cusick joined the Thunder late last season, and despite his .240 batting average, seemed to hit the ball hard every time. He played second base with the Thunder, but, because of second basemen like Corban Joseph, Damon Sublett and David Adams making their way toward Trenton, Cusick could be asked (forced?) to switch positions.

His defense at second was solid if not spectacular, and I think more of that could be expected if he makes the switch.

Odds to win the job - 8:1
Candidate No.3, Addison Maruszak: This is a long shot, but a good performance in spring training could vault him out of the warm weather in Tampa into what should be a significantly less hospitable Trenton in April.

Maruszak earned a late-season promotion to Tampa last year, but struggled mightily upon arrival. His .148 average with the T-Yanks suggests that he may not be offensively ready for the upper levels. The sheer lack of candidates for that job, however, may necessitate an early promotion.

Odds to win the job - 20:1

Check back tomorrow for a look at the 2010 bullpen.
Photo Credits: Mike Ashmore (Cusick), Steinbrenner Drive blog (Maruszak)

Monday, February 1, 2010

10 Questions

With opening day (featuring the World Series trophy) just 64 days away -- and pitchers and catchers reporting in just more than two weeks -- now seems as good a time as any to ask a few questions about what the Thunder might look like against the Erie SeaWolves come April 8.

Today marks the first of 10 questions in 10 days about the Yankees Double-A affiliate.

10. After a dreadful start, can Jeremy Bleich rebound and make a positive impact on the Thunder's rotation in 2010?

For his first two years, Franklin was blessed with a ton of talent -- especially from the men on the mound. The 2007 and 2008 seasons saw Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, David Robertson, Alfredo Aceves and a host of other skilled moundsmen etch a path through Waterfront Park to The Show.

Last year's crop, although talented, simply could not match the pedigrees of their predecessors.

Probably the biggest name, at least from a long-term prospect standpoint, to pitch for the Thunder in 2009 was Jeremy Bleich. He, to say the very least, was extremely underwhelming -- especially for a first-round pick. His ERA with Trenton was 6.65, and he allowed a ghastly 84 hits in 65 innings.

Despite all those negatives, though, there still were a few positives that lurked behind the numbers.

For one, Bleich -- for all intents and purposes -- was in his first pro season last year. He doesn't turn 23 until midseason and, with the Yankees rotation pretty well-stocked for now, he'll have all the time he needs to develop.

Secondly, scouts still seem to like what they saw from Bleich as far as raw stuff is concerned. Frankie Piliere, a former Rangers scout who traded his JUGS gun for a laptop and now writes for AOL Fanhouse, projects Bleich will bounce back in 2010. He notes an uptick in velocity as a reason for optimism.

Bad 2009 aside, Bleich will be a big part of the Thunder's rotation two months from now. Whether that's a good thing remains to be seen.

Photo Credit: Mike Ashmore