Blogs > Minor Matters

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Game 109 - Thunder vs. Altoona

Pitching matchup: RHP Brett Marshall (11-4, 2.90) vs. RHP Gerrit Cole (2-4, 4.85)

In the Standings: Trenton is 20 games better than .500 and is 6 games above New Britain in the Eastern Division. Altoona is tied for third in the Western Division and is 10.5 games behind first-place Akron. The Curve are just one game back of Harrisburg for the wild card. 

Evan Chambers CF
Brock Holt SS
Adalberto Santos DH
Matt Curry 1B
Oscar Tejeda LF
Ramon Cabrera C
Jarek Cunningham 2B
Stefan Welch 3B
Quincy Latimore RF
Gerrit Cole RHP

Jose Pirela 2B
Addison Maruszak SS
David Adams 3B
Zoilo Almonte RF
Melky Mesa CF
Luke Murton 1B
Kevin Mahoney DH
J.R. Murphy C
Rob Segedin LF
Brett Marshall RHP

NOTES: So, you may have noticed the matchup. It's pretty good. Cole vs. Marshall pits New York's first pick from 2008 against its sixth-round pick from the same year. In between, the Bombers took Scott Bittle (unsigned), David Adams, Corban Joseph and outfielder Chris Smith. ... This is Adams' third start at the hot corner. He didn't field a grounder in his first game. ... Defensive coordinator Torre Tyson is still here. ... Abe Almonte was scheduled to play in the GCL again today but the game was rained out. ... Cody Johnson took BP today for the first time since blowing out his hamstring in mid-June. 

I'll have tons of video of Marshall, Cole and whoever strikes my fancy. I'll have a large feature on Cole in tomorrow's Trentonian, so look out for that in addition to my gamer. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chamberlain coming back for a return engagement with Trenton

(Trenton, NJ) The season's premiere pitching matchup will take place Tuesday at Waterfront Park as Thunder ace Brett Marshall is slated to face last year's number one overall draft pick Gerrit Cole. In addition, New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain, who is recovering from a dislocated ankle, is expected to make a rehabilitation appearance for the Thunder.

Eastern League All Star Brett Marshall has shined this season posting an 11-4 record with a 2.90 ERA with Trenton. Marshall leads the Eastern League in wins (11), and is 3rd overall in ERA (2.90). Entering the season Marshall was rated the #11 prospect in the Yankees organization by Baseball America.

Tuesday Marshall will face Altoona's RHP Gerrit Cole, the 2011 No. 1 overall draft pick and #1 rated prospect in the Pirates organization. Cole was originally drafted by the Yankees in the first round (28th overall) in 2008 out of Orange Lutheran High School but opted to attend UCLA. Cole started the season at high Class A Bradenton, where he began a smooth transaction into minor league baseball posting a 5-1 record and a 2.55 ERA in his first 13 starts. 

Leading up to this year's Futures Game, the 6'4", 200-pound right handed hurler was promoted to Double-A Altoona where he has posted a 2-1 record in his first three appearances. Cole was recently ranked #8 in's top 100 prospects list after showcasing his 95 mph fastball and backdoor slider throughout this season.

Joba Chamberlain pitched 1.1 innings of relief and struck out three for the Thunder on Sunday evening against Harrisburg. Chamberlain was the 41st overall pick by the Yankees in the 2006 draft and in 196 games since his Major League debut in 2007 he has a 20-13 record and 3.70 ERA and four saves. In 2007, Chamberlain was a member of the Trenton Thunder, going 4-2 with a 3.35 ERA.

All Trenton Thunder tickets are available at 609-394-3300 or online at

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Betances makes strides in Trenton's split with Harrisburg

TRENTON -- The first game of Friday night’s doubleheader, a 7-4 loss to the Harrisburg Senators, marked the latest installment in the ever-continuing saga of Dellin Betances’ 2012 season. 

The results were mostly positive save for a few rough stretches, but for the pitcher whose mental game has come under question both inside and outside the organization, the biggest positive was how he felt after his outing. 

“I feel like it’s kind of gone back to being more fun,” he said. “A lot of times when you put too much stress on yourself, sometimes you don’t enjoy the game as much. This is something that I love – I’ve done it for a long time now. I’m happy to be back to a good state of mind.”

In throwing seven innings of four-run (one earned) baseball, Betances occasionally reminded those who attended why the Yankees continue to hold him in high regard. He struck out seven – including the side in the seventh inning on just nine pitches – but walked three. 

The Thunder took the nightcap, a seven-inning affair, 5-1, behind longballs from Addison Maruszak and Kevin Mahoney and superb work from spot starter Ryan Pope and two relievers.

With the split, Trenton gains a half-game on New Britain, which lost to Reading on Friday night, and now holds a three-game lead for the division.

For Betances, the mid-90s heat was still there, as was the plus curveball and promising change-up. Problem was, each pitch was only there in spurts. For every sharp hook he threw, another stayed flat and up in the zone.

His evening was hurt by four errors from his defense – including three from first baseman Luke 
Murton and a rare catcher’s obstruction call on Jose Gil that allowed a run to score. Despite those issues, Betances finished the game’s final seven innings on 98 pitches, 59 of which were strikes.

It was just his second outing of seven innings or more in Thunder uniform, including his tenures here in 2010 and 2011. 

“I thought he was very good – very good,” manager Tony Franklin said. “I can’t say enough about his performance, to be honest with you. He was down in the zone. That was about as good as he’s been since he’s been back. It’s very encouraging.”

Since being demoted from Triple-A toward the end of June, Betances has pitched six times and has notched a 1-1 record with a 4.28 ERA, a 1.40 WHIP and 3.6 walks per nine innings. 

When asked last week, Yankees roving pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras posited that Betances’ struggles might be rooted in a desire to do too much at once, rather than letting the power of his arsenal do its work. 

“His stuff is great,” Contreras explained. “It’s just what happened at the Triple-A level is that he tries to do more. Delivery-wise, he’s very solid. You watch him in the bullpen and he commands and throws strikes with his three pitches. He stays within himself.

“He gets in the game, especially when someone into scoring position, he tries to do too much and he loses his delivery, which loses his release point, which makes a lot of walks. That’s what he was doing at Triple-A ball.”

That assessment matched up with that of a scout on hand for Friday night’s game who also saw Betances work at Triple-A this season, where he walked 69 in 74 2/3 innings over 16 starts before the Yankees sent him back to the Eastern League. 

“There’s no denying the stuff,” the scout said. “When he hits on that curveball, that’s really good. It’s just the command – I’m really worried about the command. There’s always been a stiffness to his arm, it’s not a real smooth, loose arm.”

That stuff the scout referred to, despite the numbers, is why Betances is still a commodity, albeit one whose value has been depressed over the last 12 months. Still, with the non-waiver trading deadline just days away, his name has come up in discussions with other clubs. 

The White Sox had a scout tail Betances for three starts earlier this month, as was first reported by The Trentonian. The Yankees also had a pair of scouts, including their special assignment scout, in the stands on Friday watching Betances. 

After playing 14 innings on Friday, Trenton and Harrisburg will do it again on Saturday, this time with a little more star power. 

Former Yankees ace and Thunder hurler Chien-Ming Wang will take the ball in the first game for the Senators. He’ll oppose Vidal Nuno, who started the year in Tampa’s bullpen but has been dynamite since he started helping plug Trenton’s leaky rotation in late May. 

Wang is returning from a strained hip, the latest in a series of injuries he worked through since breaking his foot while rounding the bases at Houston’s Minute Maid Park in 2008. 

Former Thunder starter Joba Chamberlain will appear on Sunday, though it is unclear in what role. 
Reports on Friday indicated that Chamberlain, who pitched for Trenton in 2007, would enter at some point with men on base. Sunday will be Chamberlain’s first rehab appearance since Wednesday, the second of back-to-back outings with High-A Tampa. 

NOTES: The stars from Fox’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” visited Waterfront Park during the second game on Friday night. Zach Gordon, who plays Greg, and Robert Capron, who plays Rowley, signed autographs for fans on the concourse just adjacent to the press box. The author of the books upon which the film series is based, Jeff Kinney, also signed for fans. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Adams readies for a possible test at the hot corner

TRENTON – When Eduardo Nunez made his major league debut in 2010, he had just 17 games of experience at third base over six seasons in the minors. He’d also played just 19 times at second base and had no outfield experience.

So when Nunez, already a shaky defender, finally reached the show as a utilityman helping fill in when needed for Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, he was ill-equipped to handle positions other than his familiar shortstop.

“Once you get to Double-A, we just like to make guys a little more versatile. You have a guy like 
Eduardo Nunez, where he was a shortstop all the way through the minor leagues, and now they need a third baseman in the big leagues two years ago. It was kind of like a crash course for him,” said Torre Tyson, the Yankees roving defensive coordinator. “We don’t want that to happen again. 
We want to make sure everybody down here that has the offensive capability to play in the big leagues is not going to hurt the New York Yankees at another position.”

Now, with Rodriguez out for up to two months with a broken hand and the brittle Eric Chavez in line to fill the gap, the Yankees are doing their due diligence to make sure they have better options waiting down on the farm.

David Adams, easily their best infield prospect at the upper levels this summer, began taking grounders at third on Thursday. He’s likely to make his first start at the position since 2009 in one of the two games on Saturday.

Tyson, who managed Adams with Charleston in 2009 when he last started at third, has been overseeing Adams’ preliminary work at the hot corner. He noted that the biggest transition for his former charge will involve an adjustment in reaction time.

“He was really good over there,” Tyson said on Friday. “Right now, an adjustment going back and forth is just angles. He’s got to kind of train himself that he’s got very few options as far as the angles go because it’s more of a one- or two-step reactionary position instead of second base, where you can make mistakes, not take good angles and still get the guy at first.”

Of course, if you’ve watched Trenton at all this season, it’s plain to see that the team is littered with versatile players. Addison Maruszak has played all four infield positions this year. Kevin Mahoney has manned third, second and first base. Jose Pirela has sprinkled a few starts in left field in with his steady schedule of second and third base.

The difference between Adams and the others on the roster, however, is the esteem in which the organization holds him. He was their third-rounder in 2008 and, despite missing nearly two years between 2010 and 2011, the team placed him on its 40-man roster over this past offseason.

After a slow start, plus a lengthy absence with a sore neck, Adams has rewarded the organization’s patience. Currently riding a 13-game hitting streak, he’s hitting .320/.388/.438 with 14 doubles and four longballs. Even more impressively, his splits against lefties and righties are minimal. The right-handed Adams hits .305 against right-handers and .353 against southpaws.

Despite those gaudy numbers, Adams doesn’t appear satisfied with his performance. He admits that he’s been getting away with mistakes that won’t go unchecked at the upper levels.

“It’s getting better. I still think there are kinks that I need to work out,” he said. “I think all of us would agree. There’s room to improve. There’s always room to improve. I’m getting results, but I look at it this way: I don’t think I would have the results I’m having now at another level. I’ve gotten infield hits through the six-hole, little rollover that guys at next level, they’re probably going to make those plays.”

As players in the minor leagues, everybody in the clubhouse is aware of what goes on in the majors. If someone gets hurt, they know there’s an opening that will need to be filled somehow. And while it’s light years away from a certainty that Adams will get a big-league look while Rodriguez is on the shelf, the Yankees have learned from the past that it pays to have someone in-house ready if the need arises.

“I want to play,” Adams said. “Anything it takes to get me to the next level, I’m going to do it. So, if that’s why we’re doing it, so be it. If not, it makes me a little more versatile.”


Although it was strongly rumored on Thursday, the Yankees confirmed on Friday that Joba Chamberlain will start in Trenton on Sunday. Chamberlain, who is coming back from both Tommy John surgery and a dislocated ankle, pitched in High-A Tampa on Tuesday and Wednesday and threw a bullpen for the Yankees’ coaching staff on Friday.

Chamberlain pitched eight games – seven starts – for Trenton in 2007 before reaching the major leagues later than year amid the now-infamous Joba Rules. With Trenton, Chamberlain, Baseball America’s onetime No. 5 prospect, struck out 66 in 40 1/3 Double-A frames that season.

NOTES: Along with Tyson, Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras and pro scout Gary Denbo were on hand on Friday. … The Thunder activated reliever Ryan Flannery and infielder Walter Ibarra from the disabled list on Friday and placed outfielder Neil Medchill on the shelf with an injury to his left leg. He left the clubhouse on crutches after Thursday’s rainout. Reliever Lee Hyde was promoted to Triple-A. He’ll meet the team in Pawtucket. … Outfielder Abe Almonte, out since the end of June with right hamstring issues, got two at-bats Friday in his first rehab game in the Gulf Coast League. 

Game 104 - Trenton vs. Harrisburg

Pitching matchup: Dellin Betances (1-1, 4.88) vs. TBA

In the Standings: First-place Trenton is 2.5 games up on New Britain. Fifth-place Harrisburg is 12 games behind Akron in the EL West and 2.5 games behind Bowie for the wild card.

Brian Goodwin - CF
Jeff Kobernus - 2B
Chris Rahl - LF
Jimmy Van Ostrand - DH
Zach Walters - SS
Destin Hood - RF
Justin Bloxom - 1B
Tim Pahuta - 3B
Kris Watts - C

Jose Pirela - DH
Addison Maruszak - 3B
Zoilo Almonte - RF
Luke Murton - 1B
Melky Mesa - CF
Kevin Mahoney - 2B
Rob Segedin - LF
Jose Gil - C
Yadil Mujica - SS
Dellin Betances - RHP

NOTES: This is the completion of a suspended game from Thursday. Trenton is down 3-1 heading to the bottom of the second. Mikey O'Brien started the game, and Betances will take the ball to begin the continuation. ... It is the first time Betances and O'Brien have pitched in the same game. ... Abraham Almonte played in the Gulf Coast League today. He went 0 for 2. ... Walter Ibarra is still on the roster but did not play today. ... Neil Medchill left the clubhouse yesterday on crutches, so I'd expect him to be DLed and either Shane Brown on Damon Sublett activated. ... Lee Hyde was promoted to Triple-A today and will meet the team in Pawtucket. Ryan Flannery was activated.

UPDATE: I got it half right. Medchill was DLed and Walter Ibarra, who still is on the GCL roster for some reason, is activated. 

Here are three awesomely shot videos of David Adams taking grounders at third base today. 

Around the System - July 26

Triple-A: Scranton 8, Charlotte 7
Chris Dickerson: 4 for 6, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI
Corban Joseph: 1 for 4, 2 RBI
Eduardo Nunez: 1 for 5, SB
Brandon Laird: 2 for 5, 2B, R
Kosuke Fukudome: 1 for 5, 2B, RBI
Francisco Cervelli: 3 for 5, 2B, 2 R
Darnell McDonald: 1 for 4, 2 R
Kevin Russo: 2 for 4, R, RBI
Ramon Ortiz: 6 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, BB, 3 SO
Juan Cedeno: 2 IP, 3 H, R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO
Manny Delcarmen: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

High-A: Tampa 6, Palm Beach 4
Ramon Flores: 3 for 5, 2B, 3B, R
Adonis Garcia: 2 for 4, R, 2 RBI
Slade Heathcott: 3 for 4, R, 2 RBI
Tyler Austin: 1 for 4, RBI
Gary Sanchez: 1 for 4, 2B, RBI
Austin Romine: 3 for 4
Anderson Feliz: 1 for 4
Jose Mojica: 1 for 4, R
Caleb Cotham: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO
Sean Black: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO
Tommy Kahnle: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 2 SO

Low-A: Rome 7, Charleston 4
Cito Culver: 1 for 3, 2 R, 2 BB
Ben Gamel: 2 for 5, 2 R, outfield assist
Rob Refsnyder: 1 for 3, 2 RBI, outfield assist
Cody Grice: 1 for 4
Jamiel Orozco: 1 for 3
Bryan Mitchell: 5 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO
Ben Paullus: 2 IP, 2 H, R, ER, BB, 2 SO
Pedro Guerra: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB, SO

Gulf Coast League: Blue Jays 5, Yankees 3
Jerison Lopez: 1 for 4, R, BB
Walter Ibarra: 1 for 4, 2B, R
Austin Aune: 2 for 3, 2B, BB
Ericson Leonora: 1 for 3, RBI
Eduardo de Oleo: 1 for 4, HR
Joey Maher: 0.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, BB 0 SO
Kenedy Agramonte: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 0 SO
Chaz Hebert: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO
Dayton Dawe: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Dominican Summer League 1: Nationals 10, Yankees 2
Sandy Brito: 2 for 4, 2B, R
Renzo Martini: 2 for 4, 2B, R, RBI
Wilmer Romero: 2 for 4, 2B, RBI
Miguel Mojica: 1 for 3
Rafael De Paula: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO
Samuel Garcia: IP, H, R, ER, 0 BB, SO
Daury Aquino: 3 IP, 2 H, R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO
Francis Joseph: IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO

Dominican Summer League 2: Pirates 10, Yankees 5
Freite Marte: 2 for 5, RBI, outfield assist
Wascar Rodriguez: 1 for 3, R, SB
Alvaro Noriega: 2 for 4, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB
Abraham Pierret: 1 for 4, RBI
Yohanny Castillo: 1 for 4, 2B, RBI
Daniel Barrios: 1 for 4, R
Edwin Rivera: 2 IP, H, R, ER, 4 BB, 3 SO
Jose Pujols: 2.1 IP, 4 H, R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO
Maikel De La Rosa: 3.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, ER, 2 BB, 0 SO
Francisco Duran: 0 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO
David Rodriguez: 1.1 IP, H, R, ER, 2 BB, SO

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Gerrit Cole Show

As part of my ever-loving quest to see as many awesome pitching prospects as possible, I journeyed to Reading on Wednesday to see Gerrit Cole (y'all may remember him from such films as: The 2008 draft) do his thing for the Altoona Curve against the R-Phils. 

After three years at UCLA, the young man showed on Wednesday that he has all the makings of a top-flight starter, although that future may be a little farther off than Pirates fans would like. He showed a four-seamer that hit 98 multiple times, a very nice mid-80s slider and a two-seam fastball that he toyed with to try to coax grounders. 

His command was a little off on Wednesday, as evinced by his walk of pitcher Jonathan Pettibone, especially considering he got ahead of Pettibone at 0-2. He also got a little bit unlucky with some shaky defense behind him and the BABIP dragon coaxing Pettibone's soft grounder to third inside the line and past the third baseman. 

Still, the BABIP dragon could do nothing about Cody Asche shellacking a 95 mph fastball for a three-run homer in the fifth inning. Cole got the fastball in, but probably not quite in far enough. 

Here are all five of Cole's strikeouts from the evening, plus one of most vicious broken bats I've seen in quite some time. Please excuse the endless parade of people walking in front of me, as well as the unruly children and parents lending their audio to the proceedings.

Update on Austin Romine

Austin Romine, who, were it not for an inflamed disk in his back, would have been in the running for the backup job in New York this spring, is done with the Gulf Coast League portion of his rehab.

I asked his agent Bill Rose about Romine's next steps. Here's what he said, via text message: 

"All I can tell you (is) he's feeling great, and ready to help the Yankees. He is working exceedingly hard and is probably in the best shape of his life. He will play for Tampa next and then we'll see. It's up to the Yankees to decide how fast they move him."

Rose said he expects Romine to be active with the T-Yanks either today or tomorrow.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thunder release 2013 schedule (PR)

(TRENTON, NJ)   The Trenton Thunder may have 20 home games remaining in the 2012 season and a potential run into the Eastern League playoffs but the first glimpse of the 2013 schedule was released on  Monday afternoon.

The Thunder will begin the 2013 season in Portland against the Sea Dogs (Red Sox) on Thursday, April 4.  The team will host their first home game on Thursday, April 11 at 7:05 pm against the Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants), and will play their last home game on Thursday, August 29 at 7:05 pm against New Britain (Minnesota Twins).  The season will end in Portland (Red Sox) on September 2.

The Thunder will face their top rivals 24 times at home.  The Double A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, the Portland Sea Dogs, will visit Trenton 10 times in 2013. The Sea Dogs will make their first trip April 26-28 followed by June 21-23, August 22-25.  Philadelphia Phillies fans can catch the Reading Phillies in Trenton for eight games next season, July 4-8 and August 2-4. The Binghamton Mets (NY Mets) will visit Trenton May 6-8 and June 11-13.  

The Thunder will play 12 home games in April, 15 in May, 12 in June, 14 in July, and 18 in August.  The team plays 71 home games against all 11 Eastern League teams.

2013 Schedule in Color FINAL

The standard game time will remain at 7:05 pm for night games. The first Saturday of the season, 
April 13 will begin at 5:05 pm, and all other Saturday games will start at 7:05 pm.  Sunday games will start at 1:05 pm with the exception of the final three Sundays of the season, August 4,11, and 25, which will begin at 5:05 pm.

Mid-week day games continue in 2013, with the first one, a 10:35 am "Education Day" slated for Wednesday, April 17.  Education Days will also be held on on Thursday, May 2 and Wednesday, May 29.  Popular 12:05 pm day games are scheduled for Wednesday, June 26, Monday, July 8, Wednesday, July 24, and Wednesday, July 31.  

The schedule of fireworks dates and promotions will be released at a later date.

Fans can join a waiting list for 2013 ticket packages or inquire about ticket packages and group outings by calling 609-394-3300.  

Portland - 21 games
New Hampshire - 18 games
Richmond - 14 games
Akron - 12 games
Erie - 13 games
Binghamton - 17 games
Altoona - 9 games
Bowie - 7 games
Harrisburg - 9 games
Reading - 11 games
New Britain - 11 games

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Game 100 - Trenton vs. Reading

Pitching Matchup: RHP Dellin Betances (1-1, 2.92) vs. RHP Julio Rodriguez (5-4, 4.01)

In the Standings: First-place Trenton is 2.5 games up on New Britain. Third-place Reading is 7 games back of Trenton and 4.5 games behind New Britain for the wild card.

Jiwan James - CF
Cody Asche - 3B
Cesar Hernandez - 2B
Leandro Castro - RF
Tug Hulett - 1B
Sebastian Valle - DH
Miguel Abreu - SS
D'Arby Myers - LF
Bob Stumpo - C
Julio Rodriguez - RHP

Jose Pirela - LF
Addison Maruszak - SS
David Adams - 2B
Zoilo Almonte - RF
Melky Mesa - CF
Luke Murton - 1B
J.R. Murphy - C
Rob Segedin - 3B
Neil Medchill - DH
Dellin Betances - RHP

Notes: Rodriguez was a Futures Gamer this year. He allowed three runs on three hits and a walk in his one inning. Nick Castellanos, the game's MVP, reached him for a three-run blast. With three strikeouts today, he'll move past Zack Wheeler and teammate Trevor May for the Eastern League lead. ... Whatever was ailing David Adams in the early portion of the season clearly is gone. This July he's hitting .419/.463/.516, good for first, first and 16th in the league. ... Addison Maruszak is hitting .329/.381/.553 in July. ... Luke Murton and Maruszak's slugging percentages of .652 and .553 are fourth and 10th in the EL, respectively. ... Vidal Nuno's 25 Ks are tied with Richmond's Justin Fitzgerald for the best on the circuit. 

Around the System - July 21

Triple-A: Scranton 13, Gwinnett 8
Chris Dickerson: 1 for 4, 3B, 2 R, RBI
Kevin Russo: 4 for 6, 2 R, RBI
Corban Joseph: 2 for 5, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Brandon Laird: 3 for 4, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI
Francisco Cervelli: 1 for 4, R, RBI, BB
Cole Garner: 2 for 4, grand slam, 3 R, 4 RBI, BB
Ramiro Pena: 1 for 5, R
Ramon Ortiz: 5 IP, 8 H, 6 R, ER, BB, SO (87/61)
Cory Wade: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, BB, SO (50/31)
Danny Farquhar: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO (14/11)

Double-A: Reading 7, Trenton 1
Jose Pirela: 1 for 4
Zoilo Almonte: 2 for 4, SB
Luke Murton: 1 for 4, 2B, R
Melky Mesa: 2 for 4, 2 SB
Rob Segedin: 1 for 4
Mikey O'Brien: 6 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 6 SO (103/65)
Lee Hyde: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 0 SO (19/12)
Craig Heyer: 2 IP, 3 H, R, ER, BB, 0 SO (41/23)

High-A: Bradenton 5, Tampa 3
Mason Williams: 2 for 4, R
Ramon Flores: 1 for 4
Adonis Garcia: 1 for 3, RBI
Slade Heathcott: 1 for 4, HR
Zach Wilson: 1 for 4, HR
Sean Black: 3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO (53/32)
Kramer Sneed: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 0 SO (47/21)
Tommy Kahnle: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO (25/18)
Branden Pinder: IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO (14/11)

Low-A: Charleston 8, Kannapolis 5
Ali Castillo: 1 for 5, R
Cito Culver: 2 for 5, 2 R, RBI, SB
Ben Gamel: 2 for 5, 2 R, RBI
Dante Bichette: 3 for 4, R, 2 RBI
Casey Stevenson: 2 for 5, 2B, R, 3 RBI
Rob Refsnyder: 1 for 4
Francisco Arcia: 1 for 2, BB, RBI
Eduardo Sosa: 1 for 4
Bryan Mitchell: 4 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO
Ben Paullus: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO
John Brebbia: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, SO
Pedro Guerra: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO

Short Season: Staten Island 3, Brooklyn 1
Claudio Custodio: 1 for 4
Saxon Butler: 1 for 4, HR, 2 RBI
Peter O'Brien: 2 for 4, 2B
Fu-Lin Kuo: 1 for 4
Jose Rosario: 1 for 3, R
Danny Oh: 3 for 3, 2B, RBI, SB
Evan Rutckyj: 7 IP, 3 H, R, ER, BB, 6 SO
James Pazos: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO

Gulf Coast League: Pirates 9, Yankees 0
Eduardo Nunez: 1 for 3
Walter Ibarra: 0 for 2
Austin Romine: 0 for 4
Yeicok Calderon: 2 for 4
Luis Niebla: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO
Chaz Hebert: 3 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO
Kelvin Castro: IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, SO
Andury Acevedo: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, ER, BB, SO
Yoelly Bello: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO

Dominican Summer League 1: Yankees 12, D'Backs/Reds 0
Jose Javier: 0 for 3, R, 2 RBI, SF
Chris Tamarez: 2 for 5, R, RBI
Wilmer Romero: 1 for 3, grand slam, 3 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB
Abraham Ramos: 1 for 1, R
Melvin Aquino: 3 for 5, R, RBI, SB
Miguel Mojica: 1 for 3, R, RBI, BB, SF
Rainiero Coa: 1 for 4, 2 R, 2 RBI
Jose Figueroa: 2 for 4, 2B, R, BB
Erick Canela: 5 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO
Gean Batista: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 5 SO
Luis Cedeno: IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Dominican Summer League 2: Marlins 2, Yankees 0
Freite Marte: 1 for 4
Wascar Rodriguez: 1 for 4
Daniel Barrios: 1 for 3
Abraham Pierret: 0 for 2, 2 BB, SB
Cristofer Cabrera: 5 IP, H, R, ER, 2 BB, 3 SO
Hector Bello: 3 IP, 4 H, R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pitching updates from Nardi Contreras

Although I didn't cover the game yesterday, I carved a little time out of my desk schedule to come by and talk to Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras about what has gone on in the organization since the last time we spoke.

Contreras touched on injuries to some of the organization's premier prospects, why Vidal Nuno's success isn't surprising, the future of a few Thunder hurlers, and just what he believes has gone wrong with Dellin Betances thus far. 

Q: Let's start with some injury updates. What's the status of Manny Banuelos?
A: Banuelos is now on the mound. I think he did a 25 fastball/change-up (session). He's getting close.

Q: How about Jose Campos? 
A: Campos is now on a throwing program. He's at 60 feet. This week he's throwing nice and easy. Next week he's just going to be a little further, a little bit more. I don't see him pitching the rest of the summer. He'll probably be an instructional league guy. 

Q: And how about Dan Burawa?
A: Burawa is not throwing. His back is still sore. 

Q: Did you expect him to be back at this point?
A: No. MRIs come and they tell us. We hadn't had anything set for him to throw till the doctor cleared him, and the doctor hasn't cleared him. 

Q: I've seen a couple of minor leaguers go on 60-day disabled lists over the last few weeks. For a minor leaguer, what does a 60-day DL stint signify?
A: I think you can only have two or three, something like that, that you can hold, and you can have a person on the roster, just like the major leagues. But the major leagues there's no limit.

I think in the minor leagues there's two or three, and that means the rosters are full. But you can have that 60-day, and that doesn't count toward that roster spot. 

Q: Has this been a frustrating year for you guys from a player-development standpoint?
A: No. It's just part of our game. If you look at our Tampa team, there's five tremendous starters. Nuding went down, I think Tracy was down at the beginning of the season, but we have innings (caps) anyway. Like earlier I gave Marshall a 10-day stretch without pitching. He'll have a couple of times with five innings. Shaeffer Hall will be doing that here shortly, because he's got a lot of innings. 

The injuries are always a part of this game. You can't cry about it, because it just happens. But I think we've been fortunate, because you've got the five starters at Tampa and you've got the reliever, Kahnle, and now we have Montgomery here, and Pinder to go along with everybody else. 

The kid we got in the trade got hurt -- Campos -- and that hurt, but when you trade for them you really don't know what you're going to get out of a minor leaguer. Nothing structural (is wrong), he's just sore and we're going to make sure he's healthy, strong. We don't know how much strength and conditioning he's done in the past. So there's some weakness, and he's getting all that strength worked on now to make sure ... everything is strong, and that lessens the chance of injury.

Q: Let's transition a little and talk about Mark Montgomery. How good is his slider?
A: Remember George Kontos' slider? His is just a little better than Kontos. He has one that goes straight down -- and I'm not sure if he really knows when he's going to do it, it's all according to how he gets on top of the ball -- but it's really wicked, and I've seen it. It's a bona fide strikeout pitch, and he also is capable of throwing the ball hard.

We're a little a slower with him. We're getting him to pitch a game on, game off, game on, and then back-to-back games. Last year if we pitched him two innings we shut him down for two days. Now, he's been pitching two innings, so we've got something there. Now he's at Double-A and he'll probably be pitching the seventh and eighth innings and not close for a while as he gets acclimated to the Double-A level.

Q: What about Montgomery's change-up? How is that developing?
A: It's OK. It's still his third pitch, but he's using it. If you're coming in to close a game and you've got a one-run lead, you may not see his change-up. If you've got a three-run lead, you might see his change-up, because you don't want to lose the game on your third pitch. If you've got a three-run lead going to the ninth inning and a guy gets a base hit on your change-up, so what?

Q: How do you view closing as opposed to the seventh and eighth innings, from a development standpoint. Is there a distinction made in that regard?
A: Yes. That ninth inning is different. Major leagues for sure, here and in the minor leagues. It's the pressure, the stress, and we're just going to be easy on that with him. Later on there might be three guys closing when you get Kelvin Perez and you get Montgomery and you get Stoneburner. Guys who are pitching seventh and eighth innings (now) will get a chance.

Q: How do you evaluate whether a guy has what it takes to be a closer?
A: Usually there's got to be some type of out pitch. The ability to go back-to-back days. The ability to forget what happened yesterday, because you're not always going to be successful. If you get 50 outings, there might be three or five or maybe five where you blow saves. You've got to be able to forget that. That's all part of it. 

Around the System - July 20

Triple-A: Scranton 11, Gwinnett 3
Kevin Russo: 2 for 4, 2B, R, 3 RBI
Francisco Cervelli: 1 for 3, 2B, R, RBI, BB
Jack Cust: 1 for 2, 3 R, BB
Brandon Laird: 3 for 4, R, 2 RBI
Kosuke Fukudome: 2 for 4, 3B, 2 R, RBI
Cole Garner: 1 for 2, 2B, R, 2 RBI, BB
Ramiro Pena: 2 for 4, 3B, R, 2 RBI
John Maine: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO (84/53)

Double-A: Reading 8, Trenton 3
Jose Pirela: 2 for 4, 2B, BB, SB, outfield assist
Addison Maruszak: 0 for 4, BB, R
David Adams: 1 for 4, 2B, R, BB
Luke Murton: 0 for 3, R, 2 BB
Melky Mesa: 2 for 4, RBI
Kevin Mahoney: 1 for 4, RBI
Rob Segedin: 1 for 4
Neil Medchill: 1 for 4
Brett Marshall: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB, 7 SO (92/64)
Graham Stoneburner: IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, BB, 0 SO -- Walk was intentional (33/18)
Mark Montgomery: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO (15/9)

High-A: Bradenton 3, Tampa 2
Mason Williams:
1 for 4
Ramon Flores: 1 for 4
Adonis Garcia: 1 for 4, 2B, R
Slade Heathcott: 3 for 4, 2 2B, R, RBI, SB
Kyle Roller: 1 for 3, RBI
Joba Chamberlain: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, ER, BB, SO (32/19)
Caleb Cotham: 5 IP, 4 H, R, ER, 5 BB, 0 SO (73/40)
Aaron Dott: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO (11/9)

Low-A: Kannapolis 5, Charleston 3
Ali Castillo: 1 for 4
Cito Culver: 2 for 4, 2B, RBI
Ben Gamel: 2 for 4, 2B, R
Tyson Blaser: 2 for 4, RBI
Dante Bichette: 1 for 4, 3B, R
Eduardo Sosa: 1 for 3
Scottie Allen: 5 IP, 3 H, 4 R, ER, BB, 9 SO
Joel De La Cruz: 2 IP, 4 H, R, ER, 2 BB, 2 SO
Nick Goody: IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 3 SO

Short Season: Staten Island 4, Brooklyn 2
Taylor Dugas: 0 for 2, R, 2 BB
Matt Snyder: 2 for 4, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Fu-Lin Kuo: 1 for 4, RBI
Jamiel Orozco: 1 for 4, HR
Claudio Custodio: 1 for 4, R, 2 SB
Gabe Encinas: 5 IP, 6 H, R, ER, 4 BB, 4 SO
Evan DeLuca: 2 IP, 4 H, R, ER, 0 BB, 0 SO
Stefan Lopez: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO
Taylor Garrison: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, SO

Gulf Coast League: Pirates 6, Yankees 2
Eduardo Nunez: 0 for 3
Austin Aune: 0 for 1, BB
Walter Ibarra: 0 for 2
Francisco Rosario: 1 for 3
Austin Romine: 1 for 1, 2 BB
Ericson Leonora: 1 for 4, RBI
Austin Jones: 1 for 4, 2B, RBI
Mikeson Oliberto: 2 for 3, 2B, BB
Hayden Sharp: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO
Joey Maher: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB, 4 SO
Edison Mejia: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, BB, SO
Melvin Mercedes: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO

Dominican Summer League 1: Yankees 4, D'Backs/Reds 2
Jose Javier: 3 for 5, HR, 2 R, RBI
Abiatal Avelino: 2 for 4, 2B, 2 R, RBI
Sandy Brito: 2 for 3, RBI
Jose Figueroa: 1 for 4
Jose Lopez: 1 for 4
Rafael De Paula: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO
Daury Aquino: 3.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO
Samuel Garcia: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO

Dominican Summer League 2: Marlins 10, Yankees 5
Freite Marte: 2 for 5, R
Angel Aguilar: 1 for 5
Wascar Rodriguez: 1 for 4, 2B, R
Barfil Munoz: 2 for 5, R
Abraham Pierret: 1 for 4, R, RBI
Allen Valerio: 2 for 3, 3B, 2 R, RBI
Jhoan Gomez: 2 for 4, RBI
Edwin Rivera: 4 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO
Josias Sanchez: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO
Miguel De La Rosa: 1.1 IP, 2 H, R, ER, BB, SO

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Corey Black, plus more Staten Island guys

Went out for another look at Staten Island last night, this time to see Corey Black, the Yankees' fourth-rounder from this year, and some more of guys like Claudio Custodio and Ravel Santana. 

On one view, it's pretty easy to see that Black has a future as a pretty darn good reliever. He worked from 92-95 miles per hour for the first three innings before his velocity dipped to the 89-91 range. 

He also showed off a tight if inconsistent slider, and flashed a very nice change-up with both fade and run. You can see the change-up on first pitch of the at-bat against Anthony Vega below.

Of course, Black wasn't the only player I shot. I also got some more of Santana, Taylor Dugas, Matt Snyder and Evan DeLuca. You can see all those videos below. 





Monday, July 16, 2012

A Few of my Favorite Arms

Over the last few months, through a combination of advance scheduling and luck, I've had the pleasure of seeing nearly every top-flight arm who's made a start at either Trenton, Lakewood or Wilmington. I scheduled trips to see Greenville (Matt Barnes) sometime over the winter. That worked out. 

I did the same thing with Delmarva, however, and missed on seeing Dylan Bundy. Parker Bridwell wasn't a bad consolation prize, however. But because Bundy's next stop was Frederick, which plays at Wilmington a great deal, I lucked out and saw him matched against Yordano Ventura in early June. 

Among the other arms I've watched this year: Jose Fernandez (Greensboro at Lakewood), Zack Wheeler (Binghamton at Reading), Trevor May (Reading vs. Portland, Reading vs. Bowie), Henry Owens (Greenville at Lakewood),  and Jason Adam (Wilmington vs. Carolina, Wilmington vs. Myrtle Beach). 

After thinking about it for a while the Futures Game and various All-Star Games were going on, I've decided to take a few minutes and rank the big-name pitchers I've seen, from most impressive to least. 

1. Jose Fernandez

This was easy. Fernandez had the most dominating stuff I've seen all year. He worked in the mid-to-upper 90s with the fastball, which had excellent boring action. More impressive, though, was the degree to which he commanded his breaking ball. As you'll see in the video, Fernandez showed the ability to both throw the pitch for a strike or add video-game action and bury it at the hitter's feet. Lakewood simply did not have a chance. 

2. Zack Wheeler

Wheeler threw about a dozen or so fastballs in the first inning against Reading this evening, none of which hit lower than 97 miles per hour on the gun of the scout sitting in front of me. In fact, he hit 100 on one heater, the first time I've seen triple-digits in person. The breaking ball, as you can see, was also incredible. He's got the potential, I think, to be a No. 2 at worst in the major leagues.

3. Dylan Bundy

That Bundy is third on this list speaks only to the caliber of pitching I've witnessed this summer and not to his future potential. As a 19-year-old in High-A, he made Wilmington's hitters look downright silly (although Wilmington's hitters have been putrid this year) with the high-end heat and a spectacular breaking pitch that he commanded at will. He gave up one unearned run during this start, earning himself his first professional loss.

4. Yordano Ventura

Ventura opposed Bundy that afternoon in Wilmington in the opener of a doubleheader. He showcased the same knockout stuff that made him a Futures Gamer, although with decidedly less command. Still, the stuff is there, and he's just 21 years old (and now in Double-A), so there's plenty of time for him to refine his command and harness his potential as a top-end starter. 

5. Matt Barnes

Barnes breezed through Lakewood on this afternoon, but he did it using primarily a fastball. The few breaking balls I did see weren't commanded terribly well, which, for me, separated him from the top end of this group. He's destroyed the competition in High-A, but could run into trouble in Double-A if what I saw in Lakewood persists.

6. Henry Owens

On a pure stuff level, I loved Owens. He throws a pair of breaking balls, one tight and one loopy, both of which are nasty as hell. The problem with him, as you can see by looking at his stats, is command. He's walked 29 in 68 2/3 innings -- although he hasn't issued more than two walks in a start since May 18. If he can continue that trend, he has monster potential.

7. Jason Adam

With a mid-90s fastball, sharp breaking ball and a prototypical pitcher's body, Adam has all the makings of a big-league innings eater. It's not particularly flashy, but it's very effective and should serve him well as he moves into the upper levels. 

8. Trevor May

Unbelievably disappointing. If this is Philly's top prospect, then there truly is trouble brewing. I've seen May twice this season, and the results were the same both times. Good stuff, but no idea how to command it. On more than one occasion May got ahead of the hitters with two quick strikes but couldn't -- or wouldn't -- use a breaking pitch or a change-up to put them away. Instead, he kept trying to reach back for something more on his fastball, which doesn't always work in Double-A.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Four Trevor May strikeouts

As part of my neverending baseball vacation, I spent last night in Reading watching Trevor May versus Bowie, which included, among other, Orioles top prospect Manny Machado. Here are videos of all four of May's strikeouts, including one of Machado. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Scenes from Hickory and Lakewood

I'm in Reading tonight to watch Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Trevor May. In the meantime, here are A TON of videos from Lakewood and Hickory over the past few days:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Eastern League All-Star Game Lineups

Western Division
Eury Perez - CF
Jeff Kobernus - 2B
Niuman Romero - SS
Jordan Lennerton - 1B
Thomas Neal - DH
Tommy Joseph - C
Chris Rahl - RF
Robbie Widlansky - LF
Daniel Mayora - 3B
Chris Heston - RHP

Eastern Division
Ryan Goins - SS
Cesar Hernandez - 2B
Darin Ruf - 1B
Mike McDade - DH
Mark Sobolewski - 3B
Leandro Castro - LF
Bryce Brentz - RF
Sebastian Valle - C
Melky Mesa - CF
Brett Marshall - RHP

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reading once again stakes its claim as Baseballtown, USA

READING, Pa. – In the sports world, many cities have become synonymous with one thing or another. Detroit is Hockeytown. Eugene is Tracktown. Green Bay is Titletown. And on Tuesday, in one glorious amalgamation of absurdity, Reading once again staked its claim as Baseballtown, USA.

Instead of a series of hitters trying to send BP fastballs out of the yard, Reading turned the traditional home run derby on its head. Each player was given 2 minutes to hit as many as many of the targets – a mascot in a crane (200 points), a driving range golf ball collector(100 points), and a series of pink lawn flamingos (20 points) were just a few examples – to try to rack up the highest point total.

The more targets the batter hit, the more points he earned. A home run carried a value of 25 points. 
The only ways to earn zero points were by swinging and missing, hitting a foul ball, or landing a ball in the cocktail party happening on the infield dirt.

That’s right, there was a cocktail party happening on the infield dirt.

Vendors from the area set up tables on the field to showcase their wares to the more than 9,000 fans in attendance to witness Tuesday’s spectacle. Pepsi and All-Star Distributing provided drinks, Berks Packing grilled hot dogs and burgers, Adelphia Seafood shucked a wall bar near third base, and Sweet Street Desserts feted the crowd with tasty after-dinner treats.

As if that weren’t enough, Grammy-winning guitarist David Cullen, a native of Reading, serenaded the stadium all evening from the pitcher’s mound.

In all, 31 hitters stepped up and took their cuts in an effort to raise money for the United Way. The more points a hitter earned, the more money was donated in his name to a branch of the charity.

This being Reading, there were a few surprises in store during the course of the evening. Shuffled among the All-Stars were a few special guests swinging for the fences. In fact, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, a fan-favorite for years among the denizens at FirstEnergy Stadium, earned himself 80 points before Thunder center fielder Melky Mesa had the misfortune of trying to follow his act.
Longtime R-Phil Michael Spidale was also part of the festivities, as was former Phillies closer Ricky 

Bottalico, who closed the evening with a 128-point performance. Bottalico also served as the evening’s guest broadcaster.

Trenton’s Brett Marshall, who was tabbed on Tuesday as the Eastern Division’s starting pitcher for Wednesday’s game, even took his turn. He hit one home run, but finished with just 60 points, or 20 fewer than the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.

Mesa, the Thunder’s other representative, earned 300 points and finished 40 points behind winner Chris Rahl, the slugging outfielder for the Harrisburg Senators. Mesa hit seven home runs, but his big-money ball came when he struck the base of the cherry picker just to the right of dead center field. That drive was worth 100 points.

For more than five decades, the Reading Phillies have been responsible for some of the finest and most innovative shows in all of minor league baseball. And on a picture-perfect summer evening, they once again showed the sport exactly how it’s done. 

More Photos and Videos from the Eastern League Home Run Derby

Here are Melky Mesa and the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor's rounds at the Home Run Derby, plus some great photos from the pregame ceremonies.

The Thunder's Eastern League All-Stars

They get cupcakes to hit, so why not cupcakes to eat?

Melky Mesa (far left) poses with a few of his friends

All-Star starter Brett Marshall

In all, Harrisburg's Chris Rahl finished with 340 points, 40 ahead of the Thunder's Melky Mesa, who finished in second place overall.

Afterward, Mesa had this to say about his effort and whether he was going for the win:

"Absolutely. If you try to do something, you try to win every time possible. I just tried to do my best and win."

He did think the 300-point mark was going to stand. On whether he had a strategy, he said:

"I just tried to see the ball and hit the ball the farthest I can," before adding. "I don't think (I tried to hit the crane). It was going to be so hard to hit that thing. Home runs were going to be easier. I just tried to do that."

Lastly, about the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor's swing, Mesa summed it up pretty simply:

"Like you said, crazy, just that."

Hello from the Home Run Derby

Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium, from above
Welcome to Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium, the site of the 2012 Home Run Derby and Eastern League All-Star Game. 

While what's going on tonight is being called a home run derby, that's a bit of a misnomer -- it's a hitting challenge.

Instead of the top five or so power hitters from each league trying to swat BP fastballs out of Reading's friendly confines, every hitter will get his chance at glory. 

Each player gets 2 minutes to hit as many of the on-field targets -- pink lawn flamingos, a golf ball retriever like you'd see on a driving range, and interns on a trampoline and suspended from a crane are just a few of the examples of where the 31 assembled hitters will be aiming. 

Here's how the hitters will line up, starting at 7:15 -

Group 1 - Pitcher: Dusty Wathan, Reading manager
Leandro Castro - Reading
Chris Herrmann - New Britain
Crazy Hot Dog Vendor
Melky Mesa - Trenton 
Bryce Brentz - Portland 
Ryan Goins - New Hampshire
Eric Campbell - Binghamton
Mike Spidale - Reading legend and current IronPig

Group 2 - Pitcher Dave Machemer - Richmond manager
Ramon Cabrera - Altoona
Tommy Joseph - Richmond
Thomas Neal - Akron
Robbie Widlansky - Bowie
Eury Perez - Harrisburg
Chris Rahl - Harrisburg
Buck Britton - Bowie
Brock Holt - Altoona

Group 3 - Pitcher: Bob Milacki, Reading pitching coach
Sebastian Valle - Reading
Surprise hitter 
Troy Hanzawa - Reading
Jefry Marte - Binghamton 
Cesar Hernandez - Reading
Mike McDade - New Hampshire
Mark Sobolewski - New Hampshire
Darin Ruf - Reading

Group 4 - Pitcher: Ken Joyce - Richmond pitching coach
Jeff Kobernus - Harrisburg
Jordan Lennerton - Erie
Daniel Mayora - Richmond
Niuman Romero - Erie
Ricky Bottalico - former Phillies closer
Surprise hitter 
Jonathan Schoop - Bowie

As a bit of a happy bonus, each hitter is playing for charity. The more points he earns, the more money is donated on his behalf to one of the many United Way Partner Agencies. For example, Melky Mesa is playing for the Family Guidance Center, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor is hitting for the American Red Cross and Erie's Jordan Lennerton will earn money for the Salvation Army.  

For more details on what is going to be a crazy evening, here's a YouTube video posted by the R-Phils in February explaining how everything will be run: 

I'll have some video later of Mesa, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, and plenty of other footage from tonight's festivities, so check back often.

Update - 6:30: There's quite the party going on on the infield dirt. Here are a few pictures from the action.

Batman guards the Mountain Dew

Hotdogs and sausages sizzling on the grill

Alcohol, if you're in to that sort of thing

Cupcakes and cookies and brownies, oh my

Italian food 

Some quick videos from Staten Island

I'm about to head out the door to go to Reading for the Eastern League hitting challenge, so here are a few quick videos of Staten Island Yankees Saxon Butler, Ravel Santana, Claudio Custodio, Peter O'Brien, James Pazos and Exicardo Cayones. Enjoy!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Game 89 - Trenton vs. Portland

Pitching Matchup: RHP David Phelps (NR) vs. RHP Caleb Clay (3-2, 5.45)

In the Standings: Trenton is a game up on second-place New Britain. Portland is in last place, 14.5 games behind Trenton.

Jackie Bradley Jr - CF
Jeremy Hazelbaker - LF
Marquez Smith - 3B
Reynaldo Rodriguez - DH
Matt Spring - 1B
Dan Butler - C
Peter Hissey - RF
Derrik Gibson - SS
Ryan Dent - 2B
Caleb Clay - RHP

Jose Pirela - LF
David Adams - 2B
Zoilo Almonte - RF
Luke Murton - 1B
Melky Mesa - CF
J.R. Murphy - C
Rob Segedin - 3B
Neil Medchill - DH
Yadil Mujica - SS
David Phelps - RHP

NOTES: The Thunder's rotation out of the All-Star break, starting with a crucial four-game set in New Britain, will be Dellin Betances, Vidal Nuno, Shaeffer Hall, Brett Marshall and Mikey O'Brien. ... The Thunder's two newbies, J.R. Murphy and Rob Segedin, are a combined 0 for 24 since their arrival in Trenton. 

Mike Ashmore will be covering for the Trenton today, but I'll be here for video purposes. I'll also write a column about why the easy part ends for the Thunder after  today. I'll also be in Staten Island later taking my first look at the Baby Bombers.

VIDEOS: Here are three strikeouts from David Phelps, all from the first inning

Around the System - July 8

Triple-A: Buffalo 8, Scranton 3
Corban Joseph: 1 for 4, BB
Ronnier Mustelier: 1 for 4, R, BB
Jack Cust: 1 for 5
Brandon Laird: 1 for 3, RBI, BB
Ramiro Pena: 2 for 4
Doug Bernier: 2 for 3, 2B, RBI, BB
John Maine: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 6 SO
Preston Claiborne: 2.1 IP, 3 H, R, ER, 0 BB, SO
Justin Thomas: IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO
Manny Delcarmen: IP, 3 H, R, ER, 0 BB, 0 SO

Double-A: Portland 3, Trenton 2
Addison Maruszak: 1 for 2
Zoilo Almonte: 1 for 3, R, BB
Luke Murton: 1 for 3, R, BB
Melky Mesa: 1 for 3, RBI
Neil Medchill: 1 for 3, BB
Yadil Mujica: 1 for 4
Shaeffer Hall: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, ER, BB, 3 SO
Francisco Rondon: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO
Craig Heyer: 1.1 IP, H, R, ER, BB, 2 SO
Lee Hyde: 0 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO
Ryan Flannery: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO

High-A: Dunedin 4, Tampa 2
Mason Williams: 0 for 3, BB, R
Ramon Flores: 1 for 2, 2 BB
Adonis Garcia: 1 for 4, RBI
Gary Sanchez: 2 for 4, HR
Kyle Roller: 1 for 2, BB, SB
Caleb Cotham: 5 IP, 4 H, R, ER, 2 BB, 2 SO
Manny Barreda: IP, H, R, ER, BB, SO
Tommy Kahnle: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO

Low-A: Charleston 8, Savannah 4
Ali Castillo: 1 for 6, R, SB
Ben Gamel: 2 for 6, 2 R
Tyson Blaser: 4 for 6, 2 R, 2 RBI
Dante Bichette: 1 for 6, 2B, R, RBI
Casey Stevenson: 2 for 6, 2B, 4 RBI
Cody Grice: 1 for 6, R, SB
Scottie Allen: 5 IP, 2 H, R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO
Joel De La Cruz: 1.2 IP, H, R, ER, 2 BB, 2 SO
Phil Wetherell: 1.1 IP, H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB, 2 SO
Nick Goody: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO
John Brebbia: 3 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Short Season: Williamsport 11, Staten Island 8
Taylor Dugas: 1 for 5, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Exicardo Cayones: 1 for 4, 2B, R, RBI, BB
Peter O'Brien: 1 for 4, RBI
Saxon Butler: 2 for 5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
Ravel Santana: 1 for 4, BB
Matt Snyder: 1 for 4, RBI
Jose Rosario: 1 for 4, R
Matt Duran: 1 for 3, R, BB
Claudio Custodio: 3 for 4, R, RBI, SB
Taylor Morton: 2 IP, 8 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO
Derek Varnadore: 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO
Evan DeLuca: 2 IP, 2 H, R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO
Dietrich Enns: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Summer Vacation

Monday will mark the beginning of my 10-day vacation. Instead of going someplace exotic, however, I'll be staying within the region and doing what I love to do most: watching baseball. 

The itinerary isn't quite final, but here's how I see it playing out from July 9-18. 

July 9 - Trenton vs. Portland, then Staten Island vs. Williamsport
July 10 - Either Lakewood vs. Hickory or the E.L. Hitting Challenge, at Reading
July 11 - Lakewood vs. Hickory, then the E.L. All-Star Game in Reading
July 12 - Lakewood vs. Hickory
July 13 - Bowie vs. Reading
July 14 - Baltimore vs. Detroit at Camden Yards
July 15 - In Baltimore, no game (I know, slacker, right?)
July 16 - Lakewood vs. Savannah
July 17 - Lakewood vs. Savannah AND either Staten Island vs. Aberdeen OR Brooklyn vs. H.V.
July 18 - Staten Island vs. Aberdeen

All told, that's a possible 12 games in 10 days at six sites throughout the region. Sounds like a pretty damn fun time to me. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

What to make of Dellin Betances (with eight strikeout videos)

Dellin Betances' stuff is still there. He still has a mid-90s fastball. He still has a hammer curveball. And he still has a change-up he can mix in when needs to give the hitter a different look. 

All he's missing right now is confidence. 

That much was evident in his outing on Thursday during Trenton's 7-1 loss to New Britain. He fanned nine hitters in seven frames but came unraveled during a big sixth inning that, truth be told, didn't have to be so big. 

After a hiccup in the first, Betances mostly cruised through the next three innings. Then, with one out in the fifth, shortstop Addison Marsuzak booted a grounder. After a single put runners at the corners, Betances whiffed Aaron Hicks for what should have been the third out.

Instead, the Rock Cats reached Betances for three more hits (none of which were struck particularly hard), a run-scoring walk, a hit batsman and, ultimately, five more runs that put the game out of reach for the Thunder. Betances, obviously frustrated, slammed his glove on the top of the bench upon returning to the dugout.

"I was happy with my outing," Betances said, "but I was a little pissed off that fifth inning got a little bit carried away. I felt like I was in control the whole game. Other than than fifth inning and couple of mistakes up, I felt good."

This version of Betances looked eerily similar to the nights when Andrew Brackman, a former member of the Yankees' ballyhooed Killer B's, couldn't harness his stuff. When something didn't go Brackman's way, he wilted. Instead of re-grouping and focusing on the next man, Brackman kicked himself over the mistake, which usually only compounded the problem. 

Asked afterward how much of his struggles he believes are mental, Betances had this to say: 

"I feel good, so it's been a little mental. I think it's just a matter of repeating my mechanics when I'm in the game. My bullpens have been good, games I've had troubles. In Portland and today I felt real good. I felt, for the most part, like I was keeping the ball down. It was just that rough fifth inning."

It's clear, too, that the Yankees believe his struggles are mostly between his ears. The team's mental conditioning coach, Chris Passarella, was in the stands, and afterward two books from the team's mental conditioning department were on the kitchen island in the Thunder clubhouse. 

Those books were "Mind Gym: An Athletes Guide to Inner Excellence," by Gary Mack and David Casstevens (with a foreword by Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez), and "Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity," by Saints quarterback Drew Brees. 

Whether self-help books can clear Betances' head is anybody's guess, but at this point it certainly behooves the Yankees and the pitcher himself to give it a shot. He still has the body and the arsenal to be a major leaguer. The question now is: Does he have the mind?

Here are eight of Betances' nine strikeouts from Thursday evening:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Game 85 - Trenton vs. New Britain

Pitching matchup: RHP Dellin Betances (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP B.J. Hermsen (4-4, 3.60)

In the standings: First-place Trenton is a game up on Reading in the E.L. East. Third-place New Britain is 1.5 games behind the Thunder.

Aaron Hicks - CF
Chris Herrmann - LF
Oswaldo Arcia - RF
Chris Colabello - 1B
Evan Bigley - DH
Deibinson Romero - 3B
Nate Hanson - 2B
Daniel Rohlfing - C
James Bereford - SS

Jose Pirela - LF
Addison Maruszak - SS
David Adams - 2B
Zoilo Almonte - RF
Melky Mesa - CF
Luke Murton - 1B
J.R. Murphy - C
Rob Segedin - 3B
Neil Medchill - DH
Dellin Betances - RHP

Notes: So, David Phelps will pitch on Monday. That's something, huh? He'll start. It's obviously to keep him on turn while the Yankees are on the All-Star break. Scranton will also be on the All-Star break, so Trenton was the sensible destination.

To make room, Mikey O'Brien will go on the DL for one start. It's a bad toe, but he'll miss one start. Take that as you will. ... Abe Almonte says he'll be out two to three more weeks with his hamstring issue.

There's a Cubs scout here. He's not the normal Cubs scout I see here, but I'll find out later if he's on regular coverage.

Mike Ashmore is on Trentonian duty this evening. I'll be in the stands taking video of Betances and others. I'll post that here later.