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

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Millwood to start; Banuelos, Betances on the shelf with blisters

TRENTON – It’s out with the new and in with the old for the Thunder – again. Kevin Millwood, whom the Yankees signed late this offseason, will make his 2011debut on Sunday at Waterfront Park. He’ll take the place of Manny Banuelos, who was placed on the disabled list yesterday with a gnarly blister on his left thumb.

Dellin Betances, the other of the team’s pair of high-echelon starters, was also placed on the shelf yesterday with the same blister problem. In his case, the right pointer finger was the offending digit.

Millwood signed with the Yankees on March 25, less than a week before big league camp broke. He stuck around the minor league complex, along with veteran Mark Prior, and threw bullpen sessions in front of team pitching guru Billy Connors, who will accompany Millwood to Trenton.

No specific rules for Millwood were spelled out yesterday by Thunder manager Tony Franklin or pitching coach Tommy Phelps. It’s a safe bet there will be rules coming, however. Millwood pitched against Phillies minor leaguers earlier in the week.

If he makes it to the major leagues with the Yankees, it will be his sixth major league organization. He’s pitched for Atlanta, Cleveland, Texas, Baltimore and Philadelphia. He pitched a no-hitter for the Phillies on April 27, 2003 against San Francisco.

As for Banuelos and Betances, the blisters don’t seem to be a product of the cold. Banuelos says his troubles began during his last work of the spring, an intrasquad game between the Tampa and Charleston work groups on April 2. Although he was slated for Trenton all along, Banuelos started and pitched 4 2/3 innings for the Tampa group.

Afterward, he says, he noticed the thumb beginning to flare up but he kept it to himself.

“I didn’t tell (anyone) nothing,” he said. “Just after the game, I showed it to the trainer and he was surprised. I didn’t show him before the game. It was hard (to pitch with), especially my fastball.”

He pitched with injury on Monday in the first game of the Thunder’s series with Portland, and made it out of four innings unscathed. His pitch count, not the blister, was the reason for his removal that night, and he didn’t expect to be put on the shelf.

Despite its yellow, exposed appearance, Banuelos says he feels better, and will begin throwing tomorrow, starting with a casual game of catch. If that progresses as planned, he’ll throw a bullpen session on Saturday.

Betances is also expected back next week, possibly as early as Monday, if his rehab measures go as planned.

For his part, Franklin doesn’t seem concerned about losing his two top pitchers before his team has even played its first home game. It is, after all, only April 14.

“How many more games are there this season,” he asked. “There’s no reason to panic being 2-4 right now. I get a little bit concerned over the two pitchers we lost, because they have pretty good futures ahead of them and they need to be pitching. I’m not that concerned about (the start) right now.”

NOTES: Gary Sanchez, the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America, was placed on the disabled list yesterday in Charleston. The severity of his injury is unknown, but the team called up backstop Nick McCoy from the Charleston roster to take his place. … Brian Anderson, a former outfielder with the White Sox, was called to Trenton to take a spot on the roster. He’ll work out of the bullpen, and operates with a low-to-mid 90s fastball as well as a pair of breaking pitches. ... The rotation after today's game is Graham Stoneburner, Craig Heyer, Kevin Millwood and Steve Garrison.

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