One of the things I pride myself on as a Thunder beat writer is my knowledge not only of Trenton's players, but of those up and down the entire Yankees system. From the Dominican Summer Leagues up to Scranton, I want to know every name I can. So when I saw Lee Hyde's name on the roster on the Friday before spring training concluded, I was confused. I had never heard of Hyde before. Not in reference to the Yankees, and not in reference to any other team.
My first thought was that he must related to Yankees scout Matt Hyde, and the team was bringing him as a favor. I was quickly assured that was incorrect. Who, then, was this pitcher suddenly cracking the Double-A roster, and how did he get here?
As for the who, Baseball Reference quickly filled in the details: He's a 6-foot, 2-inch, 27-year-old native of Fayetteville, Ga., on whom the Braves spent their fourth-round selection in 2006. Oh, and he's a Valentine's Day baby.
As for how he got here, I'll let him explain:
"A little over a week ago, I got released by the Nationals. Kinda just a waiting game for me. It was kind of a first. Called my agent, he made some calls and said the Yankees might be interested. They had to check and see if there'd be room. He called me back last Thursday and said they had a spot for me here in Trenton, and they wanted to give me a job. I was super excited.
I was staying down in Viera, Fla., which is where the Nationals spring training is. I had an apartment there, and I didn't want to drive back (home) to Atlanta and then to Orlando if I got picked up. Me and my wife packed the car up and drove over to Tampa Thursday and then I had my first workout Friday. It's been a crazy week or so, but it's been exciting."
Have you noticed a difference between the organizations in your week or so with the Yankees?
"There's definitely an aura about the Yankees. Everybody knows the Yankees are America's Team. There's definitely a different aura about it. I felt really welcomed here. I'm just really excited to be here."
Hyde throws a fastball, a two-seam fastball, a cut fastball and a slurve. The fastball, he said, operates between 88 and 92 miles per hour. He says the biggest moment of his career, so far, was when the Braves put him on their 40-man roster on the strength of a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League.
He blames an average year, coupled with an average season, for Atlanta taking him off its 40-man. He spent last year in Washington's system, and called 2011 "the worst year of my career, by far."
To explain last year's downturn, Hyde cites a desire to impress his new teammates and his new organization -- a simple case of trying to do too much. With that in mind, he's in the same scenario again. It's a mistake, he says, he won't repeat with the Thunder.
"I'm in a lot better place mentally. I went and just kind of cleared my head this offseason. I'm just trying to play the game for the right reasons and enjoy the game instead of trying to impress people and trying to do too much. I worked really hard this offseason so, going into the season, whether it was with the Nationals and now, being here with the Yankees, just knowing that I can do it and just letting myself do it instead of trying to do too much."
And although he'll start the year in Double-A, a level back from this time last year, Hyde says he's still confident that there's going to be a spot for him in the show one day.
"I know I can pitch at that level. I just have to prove it by going out and pitching well."