Blogs > Minor Matters

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Orta nearly called it quits before winding up with the Thunder

At some point, nearly every player in the minor leagues is going to give up his dream of playing in the majors. He’ll have to pack his things, head home, and begin the unenviable task of finding a new line of work.

If the player is lucky, he’ll have some college experience – and some idea of a new career path – on which to fall back.

That’s the case for Ricky Orta, the newest member of the Thunder, who, until about a month ago, looked like he might have to leave bullpens, side sessions, radar guns, charting and, yes, pitching, behind.

“I had registered and everything,” Orta said, referring to the University of Miami, after earning the win on Tuesday in his Thunder debut.

After he’d completed three years of study at Miami, Orta was taken by the Mariners with their fourth-round selection in 2006. He lasted four seasons in their system before tearing ligaments in his pitching elbow, which meant a trip to the office of Dr. James Andrews for Tommy John surgery and a long recovery process.

Orta was 24 and in Double-A when the elbow went haywire. He had the operation in April of 2010, and the Mariners released him about a month later. Problem was, Seattle had let him go with the intention of re-signing him as soon as he cleared waivers. They told him as much, and wanted him to know they still saw him as part of their plans.

“The Rays picked me up pretty quick,” Orta recalled. “But the Mariners were telling me to deny their offer. They were telling me ‘No, don’t go with the Rays.” If you’re on (a team’s) 40-man and you get picked up off waivers, you can still say no and become a free agent and just go back to the (original) team, but I decided to go with the Rays.”

A big reason he decided to head to Tampa Bay was familiarity. Although he was born in Venezuela, he only lived there a month before moving to Miami, where he grew up. Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez grew up in the same area, and the pair played together from Little League on up.
The Rays signed him on May 17 and waited for his elbow to finish healing. When it did, Orta found himself back at the beginning, in the GCL, where he made four rehab starts.

Even after all he went through with his elbow, a sore back in spring training this season cost him his spot with Tampa Bay and left him scrambling for a job. He went through about three weeks of teams telling him they didn’t have any spots at either Double-A or Triple-A.

That meant Orta had to wait and hope someone would call. As those weeks went by without locking down a tryout, he thought seriously about going back to the University of Miami, where he would complete his study and work to become a physician’s assistant, which pulls in a median salary of just more than $90,000 a year. That’s nowhere near the minimum major league salary of better than $400,000, but it’s a pretty nice fallback option.

Just like making it to the major leagues, however, a job as a physician’s assistant would be a long time in the making. He’d first have to complete his bachelor’s degree, then head to medical school before he could even think about landing a job.

“I had a tough time,” Orta said, “because everybody thought I was hurt. I had to start doing tryouts, so to speak. I was already enrolled in school and all that, and I was thinking ‘Maybe it’s time (to go back),” but I was lucky enough that the Yankees called me to (their minor league complex) and they signed me.”

Five or six teams saw Orta throw that day, and all of them made offers. That left him with the always-welcome problem of picking your own employer from a host of suitors. As it has countless times before, the Yankees’ reputation preceded it, which led Orta to a contract with the Bombers.

“When I did my tryout, I really liked what they had to offer,” Orta, who peaked at 97 miles per hour in his Thunder debut on Tuesday, said. “I liked the coaching staff and I liked how they do things. It felt like a good place.”


Manager Tony Franklin was selected to the coaching staff of his fifth Futures Game on Wednesday. He’ll be on the staff of the U.S. team, where he’ll work under manager George Brett at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.

And although he’s been there four times before, this one is particularly special. His family lives in Kansas, and a trip out there would mean a chance to see them.

“I’m going to make time to see my mother, who is in a nursing facility with Alzheimer’s, and I haven’t seen her in about a year or so,” Franklin said. “So that’s basically why I’m pretty excited about going. I get a chance to see my mother.”

Minor league managers Duane Espy (Tulsa), Mike Jirschele (Omaha) and Jim Pankovits (Jackson) will join Franklin on Brett’s staff.


The Thunder announced on Wednesday that current Yankees and former Trenton stars Robinson Cano and David Robertson will come to Waterfront Park on July 26 to promote their charitable organizations, the RC 24 Foundation and the High Socks for Hope Foundation.

Trenton’s team chiropractor, Dr. Thomas Haveron, who runs the MVP Foundation, helped coordinate the event and will present checks to each player to go toward their respective organizations.

"This is a great opportunity to publicly thank Robertson and Cano for all the work they do for our communities here and elsewhere," Haveron said in a press release. "I wanted to host the event in Trenton as a way of thanking the Thunder for allowing me to be part of the team and the greatest baseball family ever."


NOTES: Former Yankees hero Bucky Dent signed autographs on Wednesday at Waterfront Park. … Pitcher Cory Arbiso saw a doctor on Wednesday and was cleared to begin throwing. He’s been on the disabled list since May 18 with a strained back. 


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October 10, 2012 at 3:28 AM 

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