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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Postgame Notes - Game 138

Final score: New Britain 5, Trenton 3

Synopsis: The Rock Cats got to Shaeffer Hall for a pair of runs in the first and fourth innings, and the Thunder couldn't catch up. They got three in the fourth inning on Addison Maruszak's 16th bomb of the year and a Walter Ibarra double, but were blanked in every other frame. 

Bright spots: The Thunder's bullpen allowed just a hit and walk over the final four innings. ... Kevin Mahoney had a pair of doubles. ... Zoilo Almonte put together his second straight two-hit game after going 1 for his last 16 entering Wednesday. 

Delayed Recognition: As I mentioned earlier, Maruszak has 16 home runs. That's the most by an everyday shortstop in franchise history. The previous record was held by Randy Brown, who manned the position in 1997. Maruszak's record-breaking longball came on July 27, off of Harrisburg's Kevin Pucetas. 

Two, it's a Magic Number: Trenton's loss, plus Reading's win means the Thunder's magic number to clinch the division stays at two. They'll send Brett Marshall to the hill tomorrow at NYSEG Stadium to try to slice that to 1 at the worst. 

Where's Pedro? Yankees rehabbing reliever Pedro Feliciano was slated to pitch on Thursday. That did not occur. In fact, he was gone and his locker cleaned out when the media got back to the clubhouse for the postgame. 

The Staten Island Yankees tweeted that he'll throw out of the bullpen for them on Friday, but it certainly was an odd turn of circumstances.

Speaking of Mr. Feliciano, he was here for four days and did not purchase a postgame spread for the players. It's certainly not required that he do so, but it is definitely bad form. It's a little like tipping your server at a restaurant. It's not mandatory (unless you're at a place where gratuity is factored into the bill), but there had better be a good reason not to leave a little something extra. 

So, unless the Thunder ruthlessly harangued Feliciano for the last four days, it seems a little stingy that he didn't throw a little Chipotle or Outback (the typical luxury meal) their way. Especially considering the man has collected a little less than $8 million in his Yankees career without throwing a pitch in the majors. 

Picks to click: I wrote stories on Thursday about the Yankees and Thunder extending their Player Development Contract until 2022, about Tony Franklin getting the Eastern League Manager of the Year award, and about the game

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Game 138 - Trenton vs. New Britain

Pitching matchup: LHP Shaeffer Hall (9-9, 3.56) vs. RHP B.J. Hermsen (10-6, 3.16)

In the standings: First-place Trenton is four games up on Reading and can clinch the Eastern Division with a win and an R-Phils loss. New Britain is seven games back of Reading and needs to win out and have Reading lose the rest of its game to get in to the playoffs. 

Aaron Hicks - CF
Chris Herrmann - C
Oswaldo Arcia - RF
Chris Colabello - 1B
Josmil Pinto - DH
Deibinson Romero - 3B
Nate Hanson - 2B
Rene Tosoni - LF
James Beresford - SS
B.J. Hermsen - RHP

Adonis Garcia - CF
J.R. Murphy - DH
David Adams - 3B
Zoilo Almonte - RF
Addison Maruszak - SS
Kevin Mahoney - 1B
Rob Segedin - LF
Jeff Farnham - C
Walter Ibarra - SS
Shaeffer Hall - LHP

NOTES: As you can see in previous posts, Trenton and the Yankees extended their Player Development Contract through 2022, an eight-year extension. ... Tony Franklin won the Eastern League's Manager of the Year award. ... From comments made on Wednesday by Mark Newman and then again by Franklin today, it seems a good possibility that there will be a little more roster shuffling when Sept. 1 comes along. ... Franklin said that they have not finalized their postseason rotation, though it seems likely that Brett Marshall will take the ball on Wednesday in Reading. ... Abe Almonte has not done any baseball activity since hitting the DL again early this month. That makes it very unlikely that he will be a part of the postseason. 

Tony Franklin wins the Eastern League's Manager of the Year

TRENTON – Finally.

After six seasons, 466 regular-season wins, 16 playoff victories, three Eastern League Championship Series appearances and two championships, Thunder manager Tony Franklin can finally clear a spot on his mantel for a Manager of the Year award.

In a semi-surprise, the team made the announcement on Thursday after announcing the team agreed to an eight-year extension of its Player Development Contract with the Yankees.

“We thought it would be incredibly poignant for him to be a part of this as well and for us to announce this during what is really the relationship between the Trenton Thunder and the New York Yankees,” Thunder general manager Will Smith said about Franklin, who was sandwiched on the dais between Yankees GM Brian Cashman and team CIO Felix Lopez. “The job that Mr. Franklin does is a huge part of that relationship as well.”

It’s been a long time coming for Franklin, who had been vocal in the past in wondering why, despite all his accolades here since 2007, he hadn’t been honored as the circuit’s top skipper. On Thursday, however, the waiting was over, and he could finally bask in what he’d earned.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he deferred credit those around him, including his coaching staff – pitching coach Tommy Phelps, hitting coach Tom Slater and coach Luis Dorante – and his players.

“Awards like this don’t happen just by me being down here,” Franklin said after receiving his trophy. “There are a lot of people that go into helping guys receive these awards. … (My coaches are) tireless workers, very passionate about what they do (and are) one of the biggest reasons I get to stand up here and accept all these accolades.

“And of course the people and the guys who make it all possible are the players that you see out there every single night. These guys have played tremendously well for us, and I can’t say enough about how they’ve played this season. And I know they’ll continue to do it and uphold the Yankee tradition.”

With that out of the way, there’s one last honor before Franklin seals his legacy as the greatest and most prolific franchise history, but he’ll have to wait a little longer for this one, after he’s finally rescinded the Thunder’s helm.

In a few years, Franklin will almost certainly join Ken Macha and DeMarlo Hale as the only former Thunder skippers to be inducted into the 15-member Trenton Baseball Hall of Fame.

When that day comes, he’ll finally be able to sit back and rest on his laurels. For now, though, his focus is the same as it has been since the day has hired – sending players to the big leagues and bringing another trophy to Trenton. 

Thunder, Yankees extend PDC through 2022

TRENTON – The Thunder just got an A-Rod contract.

The Yankees and Trenton on Thursday signed an eight-year extension of their Player Development Contract, which will keep the Thunder as New York’s Double-A affiliate until the year 2022.
The teams’ current PDC runs through 2014.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was on hand for Thursday’s announcement, and used the opportunity to emphasize just how much his club has enjoyed and benefited from its tenure in Trenton, which began in 2003, when the Red Sox left the capital city for Portland.

“It says a lot when you sign an extension longer than one of your most important players,” Cashman said. “We gave CC (Sabathia) a seven-year deal. So I think it’s a statement in itself about how long we want to be here in Trenton.”

In their 10 seasons with the Yankees, the Thunder have put together a regular-season record of 754-656, reached the playoffs six times and won back-to-back Eastern League championships in 2007 and 2008.

Team president Joe Finley was also on hand, and he, too, expressed his gratitude that the organizations would be sticking together long into the future.

"We are both honored and humbled to remain part of the Yankee family for the next ten years," Finley said. "We are proud to be an integral part of the premier player development system in all of Major League Baseball and look forward to remaining in that role for many years to come."    

Yet another Mark Newman interview

Mike Ashmore: As an organization, how do you determine which guys you send to the Arizona Fall League?

Newman: "Several factors.  First is who needs at-bats, and who is in a physical and mental condition at the end of the year where they can gain from another 50 games out there.  That's the major consideration.  We typically want to find players with upside that can make a step in their progress toward the big leagues in that 50-game pod or whatever you want to call it.  Those are the criteria. 

Pitching can really be difficult because you can't wear guys out.  You've got so many bullets, and you don't want to go beyond a certain limit with them.  That's a little trickier than position players."

MA: I know the pitchers haven't been announced yet, but what kind of names are you throwing around as far as guys who might be heading out there?

Newman: "We haven't announced it because we're not throwing the names around.  There's several, there's a group of ten or so."

MA: Is it typically guys who haven't had a lot of innings that you'll send out there?

Newman: "Right.  Relievers or starters that have been short on innings is basically it."

MA: With Betances, was there anything serious on the MRI?

Newman: "No.  Biceps tendinitis.  He's had it a couple other times in his life, no structural problem with his shoulder."

JN: So what's the next step for him?  I know he said he's going back to Tampa on Friday...

Newman: "He's got medication, then some treatment and arm exercise programs and then he'll start to throw."

JN: How much do you guys work with him on the between the ears side of the game?

Newman: "We've worked with him and everybody else.  We talk about three aspects of the athlete all the time.  Physical; bigger, stronger, faster...Fundamental; catch it, throw it, slide, hit...and mental and emotional.  Understanding the game from a strategical and tactical standpoint and then feel the right away about yourself and how you fit in this game at various times.  We deal with that with everybody and he's no different.  

Obviously, everybody thinks that he's a big guy with great stuff and shows flashes of brilliance.  We know he needs consistency, well it must be in his head.  Well, he needs to improve his ability to concentrate over extended periods of time, but there's other things that go with it too, there's a physical component.  We don't think you can isolate any one of those three things; fundamental, physical or mental/emotional.  That's the issue.  Typically, there's multiple issues with every player and there is with him too."

JN: Is that last aspect -- whether that's his problem or not -- is that the hardest to treat?

Newman: "The hardest thing to treat is no ability.  I can't tell you the number of kids I've seen over my lifetime in this business that have improved mentally and emotionally and gotten confidence and gained an understanding of the tactical side of the game.  Addy has made great improvement, and there's no reason Dellin can't do that.  Dellin's had moments where he's looked like a big leaguer and moments where he was less than that. 

He still has major league ability, and we still think he's going to be a major league pitcher.  A lot of times, watching these guys develop, it's like watching a guy walk up a flight of stairs with a yo-yo.  If you focus on the yo-yo, you get the up and down.  If you focus on the bigger picture, you see up and down, but overall an increase in performance.  You see that with a lot of guys, and with him it hasn't exactly been that way, but we have confidence that he's going to get it going and be consistent."

JN: You said he's a major league pitcher, do you still see him as a major league starter?

Newman: "We think he can pitch in either role.  It might be quicker for him to get there as a reliever.  Easier.  And we're not sure how we're going to pursue this in the long term, but right now he's a starter."

MA: Pardon my ignorance on the eligibility rules aspect of it, but is Dellin someone you could and/or would send to the AFL?

Newman: "Yes.  I'm not sure that we do because of the health issues, we want to make sure he's 100 percent."

MA: Could you foresee guys coming up from Tampa at the end of the year up here?  This team is a little thin right now...

Newman: "Yeah, that's possible.  Tampa's still in it, so we'll worry about that when it happens.  The thing that's going to drive all this is call-ups in New York on September 1st.  We're not sure what that's going to be, but that affects...we've got right Scranton right now, these guys have a good chance, Tampa's got a chance.  If all three of them in the playoffs, that could get hairy."

JN: How do you guys value minor league playoffs as far as development is concerned?  Does it help them to be in a postseason environment?

Newman: "Yeah, it does.  It's something we think is important.  They need to get used to playing in that kind of environment.  And we win a lot, we win a lot in Triple-A, and our doesn't hurt their development at all.  It's part of being a Yankee.  You go out and try to win."    

Monday, August 27, 2012

Game 135 - New Britain at Thunder

Pitching matchup: RHP Craig Heyer (2-4, 5.63) vs. LHP Luke French (2-1, 2.31)

In the standings: First-place Trenton leads the Eastern Division by five games over Reading. New Britain is two games back of the R-Phils for the wild card.

Aaron Hicks - CF
Chris Herrmann - C
Oswaldo Arcia - RF
Chris Colabello - 1B
Josmil Pinto - DH
Deibinson Romero - 3B
Rene Tosoni - LF
Nate Hanson - 2B
James Beresford - SS
Luke French - LHP

Adonis Garcia - CF
J.R. Murphy - C
David Adams - 3B
Zoilo Almonte - DH
Luke Murton - 1B
Addison Maruszak - SS
Kevin Mahoney - 2B
Rob Segedin - LF
Shane Brown - RF
Craig Heyer - RHP

Notes: The Thunder are planning a major announcement for Thursday at 1:30 at Waterfront Park. At the press conference -- which will be attended by Thunder GM Will Smith, Thunder President Joe Finley, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, Yankees COO Lonn Trost and Yankees GM Brian Cashman -- the two clubs will announce their extension of Trenton's Player Development Contract with the Yankees, which currently runs through 2014. 

It's not Alex Rodriguez or Andy Pettitte (again), but the Thunder have received left-hander Pedro Feliciano from High-A Tampa and will keep him through the duration of their final homestand, which runs through Thursday. The Yankees signed Feliciano before the 2011 season, but shoulder troubles have kept him on the sidelines for the duration of his contract. 

Feliciano is a MLB rehab, which means the team will not have to make a move to get him on the roster. To clear space on the Yankees' 40-man roster, however, former Thunder hero and Eastern League MVP and Rookie of the Year Brandon Laird was designated for assignment. 

With the Scranton Roaming Gnomes (note: not actually their name) this year, Laird was .254/.307/.414 with 31 doubles, 15 homers and 77 RBIs. He'll be missed by Scranton as it marches toward the International League playoffs. 

Ya know, Suzyn ... you just can't predict the Thunder

My, how things have changed in four days. 

When they left Waterfront Park for Akron on Wednesday afternoon, the Thunder looked like a team on the verge of an all-time meltdown. They had just been swept by the Altoona Curve, this time by a score of 14-2, and had reached the season's low point. 

Dellin Betances, in what will be his final start of the season, continued his series of grotesque implosions. The bullpen behind him wasn't much better, surrendering nine runs on nine hits over the game's final five innings. 

It was the third straight day that found the clubhouse somehow beyond silent postgame, an especially impressive feat considering the players had to quickly pack their things for an eight-hour root canal of a bus ride to Ohio. 

Manager Tony Franklin assessed his team's morale thusly: 

“It’s pretty low right now. We’re not playing very well. At this point, it’s not about winning and losing. It’s about our character. It’s about how we’re going to handle this, and we haven’t done a good job. We’re better than this.”

Over the last four games against the Aeros, the league's best team, they've proved it. 

Starting with two of the most clutch pitching performances this year, and perhaps in team history, from Vidal Nuno and Mikey O'Brien, Trenton took it to the Aeros at Canal Park. 

Overall, in 24 2/3 innings, Thunder starters surrendered just six runs -- all earned -- on 15 hits and nine walks and fanned 17. Considering how they'd been playing, that's pretty darn good. When the starters left, the relievers responded in kind. In 10 1/3 frames, Trenton's bullpen limited Akron to just eight hits and two walks while whiffing a dozen. 

The offense was led by one of the team's more unlikely heroes, catcher J.R. Murphy, who went 6 for 16 in the series. David Adams chipped in a 4-for-12 effort, including two doubles and the team's 151st longball of the year, breaking the record set by the 1999 and 1996 teams. 

They finished the series behind Brett Marshall's career high-tying nine punchouts and late longballs from Adonis Garcia and Rob Segedin -- a pair that had combined for just three homers this season -- to put the team back on the bus a game away from both the best record in the league and, more importantly, clinching a spot in the Eastern League playoffs. 

When they get to the park tomorrow, after what will almost certainly be a show-and-go day, the Thunder will be riding high and ready to pop the cork on some celebratory Champagne, something that seemed so improbable just 96 hours earlier. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Garcia, Marshall help Thunder take series in Akron

(Akron, OH) - Adonis Garcia tied the game with a seventh-inning home run, then put Trenton ahead with an RBI single in the ninth as the Thunder came from behind to defeat the Akron Aeros, 3-2, Sunday afternoon at Canal Park to move within one victory of clinching a playoff berth. Trenton pitching matched a season high with 14 strikeouts as the Thunder (76-58) lowered their magic number to one for getting into the playoffs and to five for clinching the division title.

The Thunder took three of four in the series against the playoff-bound Aeros (77-56) and held Akron to only seven runs in those four contests. Trenton now leads second-place Reading by 4.5 games with eight remaining to play in the regular season (Reading hosts Erie on Sunday night). Third-place New Britain dropped its eighth straight game Sunday and fell 8.0 games in back of the Thunder.

With the Thunder trailing 2-0 heading into the seventh, Rob Segedin led off the inning with a blast over the left field fence against reliever Bryce Stowell for his third home run of the season. Two outs later, Garcia clobbered a mammoth shot to dead centerfield, his second with Trenton.

The game remaining tied until the ninth, when pitcher Rob Bryson (5-5) walked leadoff batter Jose Gil. The next batter Shane Brown laid down a sacrifice bunt on which Bryson threw the ball away at first place allowing the runners to reach second and third. Garcia then grounded his winning single past a drawn-in infield on an 0-2 pitch.

Mark Montgomery (3-1) tossed two scoreless innings to earn the win, while Ryan Pope pitched around a two-out single in the ninth to finish his sixth save. Starter Brett Marshall tied his career-high by striking out nine batters in six solid innings, during which he allowed two runs on five hits.
Garcia paced Trenton's seven-hit attack by going 3-for-5 with a home run, double and two RBI. Adam Abraham homered for Akron while Jesus Aguilar started the scoring in the third with an RBI double.

Trenton next welcomes third-place New Britain for a crucial four-game series, with the Rock Cats desperately trying to snap an eight-game skid. Game one will be Monday night at 7:05 pm, with right-hander Craig Heyer (2-4, 5.63) expected to start for Trenton against lefty Luke French (2-1, 2.31). Limited tickets are available by contacting the Thunder box office at 609-394-3300 or online

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Game 130 - Thunder vs. Altoona

Pitching matchup: RHP Dellin Betances (3-3, 6.15) vs. RHP Gerrit Cole (3-5, 3.19)

In the standings: First-place Trenton is five games up on both New Britain and Reading in the East. Altoona is 14 games behind Akron in the West.

Adalberto Santos - LF
Ramon Cabrera - C
Andrew Lambo - RF
Matt Curry - 1B
Oscar Tejeda - 2B
Charlie Cutler - DH
Quincy Latimore - CF
Stefan Welch - 3B
Drew Maggi - SS
Gerrit Cole - RHP

Adonis Garcia - CF
David Adams - 3B
Zoilo Almonte - RF
Luke Murton - DH
Addison Maruszak - SS
Kevin Mahoney - 1B
Rob Segedin - LF
Jose Gil - C
Walter Ibarra - 2B
Dellin Betances - RHP

NOTES: Once again, Tony Franklin was very angry with his team last night. “I expect more,” he said after the game. “I expect a lot more than what happened out there tonight. If we continue to play that way, I don’t expect us to win a game. ... It comes down to this: either we are going to be a better team or we’re not,” Franklin said. “If we play better we’ll be better, but we can’t continue to make mistakes like that. Inexcusable.”

The Thunder will try to get things straightened out with Dellin Betances on the bump. Betances, who has allowed 15 earned runs in his last eight innings, is making his 11th start with Trenton since being bumped down from Triple-A. 

Altoona will counter with Gerrit Cole, the Pirates' top arm, who blanked the Thunder on July 31 at Waterfront Park and did the same on Aug. 10 in Altoona. In 11 1/3 innings against Trenton, Cole has allowed just six hits and has fanned a dozen against four walks. 

Cole's third outing against the Thunder comes a day after they were silenced by Jameson Taillon in his Double-A debut. Taillon, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft, fanned six and walked none over five innings. 

Below are strikeout reels from last night from both Taillon and Thunder starter Brett Marshall, who fanned seven, five of which I recorded. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Game 129 - Trenton vs. Altoona

Pitching matchup: RHP Brett Marshall (13-5, 3.12) vs. RHP Jameson Taillon (NR)

In the standings: Trenton is five games up on New Britain in the Eastern League East. Altoona is 15 games behind Akron in the West. 

Adalberto Santos - DH
Ramon Cabrera - C
Andrew Lambo - RF
Matt Curry - 1B
Oscar Tejeda - LF
Stefan Welch - 3B
Jarek Cunningham - 2B
Quincy Latimore - CF
Drew Maggi - SS
Jameson Taillon - RHP

Adonis Garcia - CF
J.R. Murphy - C
Zoilo Almonte - RF
Luke Murton - 1B
Addison Maruszak - SS
Kevin Mahoney - 3B
Rob Segedin - DH
Shane Brown - LF
Walter Ibarra - 2B
Brett Marshall - RHP

NOTES: This is Taillon's first Double-A start. He was 6-8 with a 3.82 ERA and 98 strikeouts  over 125 innings before the Pirates bumped him from Bradenton. He was selected one pick after Bryce Harper and one pick before Manny Machado in 2010.

Trenton is sitting on 150 homers, which is tied for the franchise best, set in both 1996 and 1999. Twenty-three of Trenton's 26 players this year have homered. That mark is also a franchise best. The only three who haven't gone deep are Shane Brown, Jose Toussen and Kyle Higashioka, and that trio has played a combined 30 games. ... Jeff Farnham, one of six players with a lone homer, hit the team's 100th way back on July 6. It was just the fourth homer of Farnham's career. 

Marshall has allowed nine earned runs in his last 11 1/3 innings. His 13 wins are the most from a Thunder starter since Jason Jones notched as many in 2008. ... Rehabbing Thunder pitcher Cory Arbiso tossed two scoreless innings in the GCL today.

I'm not covering this game. Nick Peruffo will be handling those duties for The Trentonian tonight and tomorrow afternoon, when Gerrit Cole takes the hill against Dellin Betances. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Scout's Notes on Tampa and Trenton

Because everybody seems to enjoy these very much, I spoke to a scout yesterday who had recently seen both Tampa and Trenton. It was his second view of Tampa and he's seen Trenton multiple times.

On Slade Heathcott: "Oh man, he can flat-out play. He's taking the fastball, he's turning on the fastball and going with it to left field. I saw him hit a 96 mile per hour fastball off the right-center field wall. He's got bat speed, he's got good rhythm to his swing, he plays hard. He plays a good center field -- he can stay in center. There's a lot to like."

Given a choice for the Yankees CF of the future, Williams or Heathcott: That's a great question, because they're both really good, but I'd take (Heathcott), and I like Williams. I think it's because of a couple of things: He's more disciplined than Williams at the plate, that's important. I think he's going to move quicker than Williams.

Gun to my head, I think they're both going to play in the big leagues and they're both going to good big league players, but if you're asking me which one I'd rather have, I think I'm taking Slade.

On Nik Turley: I like Turley. He's getting better and better every time I see him. He's starting to command his stuff much better, and I've seen him maybe four outings now over the last two years, and every time I see him he gets better. The breaking ball is nasty. Sometimes he doesn't get it, sometimes it doesn't click, but when it clicks, it's a 60 pitch, a plus breaking ball. If he can just learn to command that a little bit more, he's good.

He touched 94 twice. He pitches at 91, 92. It's a good arm and he has a feel for a change. He knows what he's doing. There's a lot to like there. He's really grown on me. The last two times, he's gotten better and better.

I thought originally that he was just going to be a lefty out of the pen, a reliever, but I think he has enough to start. Don't get me wrong. I don't think he's a No. 1, 2 or 3, but I think he could be a rotation guy.

On Matt Tracy: Tracy's not as talented as Turley, but he's got a chance. It'll be interesting to see how he does, because he doesn't have the stuff that Turley has.

On Tyler Austin: He's inconsistent for me. I think he's going to play in the big leagues, but I don't think he's an everyday guy.

On Gary Sanchez: He struggled a little bit the first game or two I was there, but then he hit a long home run to right-center field and you're like 'OK, that's what I want to see." You take that opposite-field power for granted.

On Branden Pinder: Pinder's an interesting guy, because he's big and strong and throws hard. He's inconsistent. He doesn't have a really good breaking pitch. It's inconsistent but it's OK. He's a fringe guy for me, but he's big and strong and he throws hard. He's got a shot.

On Tommy Kahnle: He's getting better. He's got a good arm. There's some hope there for a relief spot. He's got a big arm. He's getting better (command-wise). He's closing in.


On David Adams: He didn't have a great series when I was here last time. I like the strength to his swing. I'm a little bit concerned about the complication of his set-up and load. It's a little busy for me. He's not always on time. When he's on time, it's got some juice. He can barrel it and hit it far. I want to see more consistency before I really am sold on it.

I liked his hands at second. I think he's got good hands, so I don't think he can't play third. Third's a good spot for him, given what the Yanks have at second.

On Addison Maruszak: I know he's having a great year, but he's not a shortstop. He can't play shortstop, so that means he's got to move to the corner, but he's not going to hit. God bless the kid and congratulations on the great year, but I don't think he's a big leaguer.

On Jose Pirela: I'm not a Pirela guy. I see some of the skills. I see the bat speed. He can run a little bit. He can't play short, I think he proved that last year. Now he's playing second and he's going to have to hit more, but I'm not sold on the discipline and the pitch recognition. I'm concerned. He's an early-often guy, and sometimes the curveball gives him trouble. I think as he moves up it's going to be an issue.

On Zoilo Almonte: Until he shows me that he can be a better discipline guy, until he shows me that he can go deeper in counts and take walks and not get himself out, I think he's still an extra outfielder. If he could ever make that jump to having good plate discipline, then we're talking and now I'm starting to get really interested.

I like him, and he's got juice in that bat, but big league pitchers are going to carve him up. I like the juice and ball explodes off his bat, it's good stuff. You can come here some nights and he'll go 0 for 4 and look bad because he's chasing and the discipline's bad and he's swinging too early in the count. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Around the System - Aug. 18

Triple-A: Scranton 8, Pawtucket 5
Chris Dickerson: 0 for 2, R, BB
Corban Joseph: 2 for 4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI -- 11 bombs in 70 Triple-A games
Francisco Cervelli: 2 for 2, 2 R, BB
Melky Mesa: 1 for 4, HR, 2 RBI -- eight of his 13 AAA hits are for extra bases
Darnell McDonald: 1 for 4, HR, 3 RBI, outfield assist
Ramiro Pena: 2 for 4, HR
Adam Warren: 5 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO
Preston Claiborne: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO -- allowed just three HRs in 72 2/3 IP
Cory Wade: 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, BB, 2 SO

Double-A: Bowie 12, Trenton 6
Adonis Garcia: 1 for 5, 2B, R
David Adams: 1 for 5, 2B, R
Zoilo Almonte: 2 for 4, R, RBI, outfield assist -- .349/.382/.794 in August
Luke Murton: 2 for 3, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI -- first homers since Aug. 4
Rob Segedin: 1 for 4
Walter Ibarra: 1 for 4
Dellin Betances: 4 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 5 SO, 93/47
Francisco Rondon: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO (47/28) -- 22 Ks/5 BBs in last 10 outings
Craig Heyer: 0.2 IP, 2 H, R, ER, 0 BB, SO (22/16)
Josh Romanski: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 0 SO (15/8)
Jon Meloan: IP, H, R, ER, BB, SO (25/13)

High-A: Tampa 5, Daytona 2
Ramon Flores: 1 for 5
Slade Heathcott: 1 for 5, R -- .366/.422/.488 in last 10 games
Kyle Roller: 0 for 2, 2 BB, 2 R
Gary Sanchez: 2 for 4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI -- .405/.476/.622 and 2 HR in last 10 games
Zach Wilson: 2 for 4, SB
Hector Rabago: 1 for 4, RBI
Jose Toussen: 1 for 4, 2B
Shane Greene: 5 IP, 5 H, R, ER, BB, 4 SO
Jeremy Bleich: 2 IP, 2 H, R, ER, 2 BB, 0 SO
Tommy Kahnle: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO -- 28 hits and 66 Ks in 51.1 IP this year

Low-A: Augusta 6, Charleston 3
Ben Gamel: 2 for 4, SB
Cito Culver: 1 for 5, 2B
Dante Bichette: 1 for 4, HR
Saxon Butler: 2 for 4, 2B, 2 R
Rob Refsnyder: 2 for 4, 2 2B, RBI
Casey Stevenson: 1 for 3, RBI
Nick McCoy: 1 for 4, 2B
Bryan Mitchell: IP, 3 H, R, ER, BB, 2 SO
John Brebbia: 3 IP, 5 H, R, ER, BB, 4 SO
Charlie Short: 2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO
Adam Smith: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO
Rigoberto Arrebato: IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO

Short Season: Staten Island 10, Vermont 3
Matt Snyder: 2 for 5, 2B
Peter O'Brien: 2 for 3, 2B, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB
Matt Duran: 1 for 3, 2 R, RBI, BB
Daniel Lopez: 1 for 4, 2 R, RBI, BB
Isaias Tejeda: 1 for 4, 2B, 3 RBI
Jose Rosario: 3 for 4, R, 2 RBI, BB, SB
Evan Rutckyj: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO
Charles Basford: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO
Mariel Checo: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO
James Pazos: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO
Taylor Garrison: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, SO

Gulf Coast League: Yankees 5, Blue Jays 0
Mikeson Oliberto: 2 for 4, 2 2B, 4 RBI, BB, SB
Yeicok Calderon: 3 for 5, R
Jerison Lopez: 1 for 3, 2 R, BB
Eduardo de Oleo: 1 for 2, R, BB
Francisco Rosario: 2 for 3, BB
Cesar Vargas: 4 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO
Caleb Frare: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 4 SO
Luis Niebla: 3 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 3 SO

Postgame Notes - Game 125

Final score: Bowie 12, Trenton 6

Synopsis: Dellin Betances was awful again, and, aside from Luke Murton's two bombs, so was the rest of the team. About the only thing that went right for Trenton all night was that the rain held off until just after the game ended. 

Aftermath: That was second angriest I've ever seen Tony Franklin. You know that moment you make your parents so mad that they can't even yell at you? That's where Franklin was after this one. 

He said he was "infuriated" with the way his team played, but he said it so flatly that it was almost disturbing. He didn't chew out his team, for fear he might say something he regretted. When a manager is so upset he can't even read his team the riot act, that's rage, folks. 

How do you solve a problem like Betances: The young man's downfall this season has been as sharp as it was surprising. In the majors at season's end in 2011, Betances is beyond lost this year. His delivery is in tatters and, although he's not wont to admit it, his confidence can't be in good shape either. 

So what do you do? As of now, he's still scheduled to take his next turn in the rotation, which will come on Wednesday against Altoona's Gerrit Cole. 

"We send him out there every fifth day and let him pitch," Franklin said. "That's what they're supposed to do. That's what we do. Because you don't get any better unless you keep going back out there. You've got to go out there. I don't care well you're pitching or how poor you're pitching, you've got to back out there."

He certainly couldn't have been helped by being scratched -- then unscratched -- because of changing weather patterns. If the rain had come around game time as originally forecasted, Rondon would have started the game instead and Betances would have come in to the game after the delay. When they got word that the rain would hold off until much later, they plugged Betances back in. For a kid who's been through a lot this year, it would have been easy try to pin his poor start on the uncertainty. He didn't take that route.

"There's no excuses, man. I'm just not pitching well, bottom line," he said, before demurring about whether his problems continue to be between his ears. "Right now, I think things aren't going well for me. It's been tough this year. It's been a battle for me. I'm just trying to see if I finish these next couple of starts strong. I've just got to try to stay positive. I feel like I've had good ones, but at the same time I've allowed too many baserunners, and that's been affecting me."

Spiraling again: Beyond Betances, however, there were other issues. Jose Gil committed two passed balls and looked about as slow as I've ever seen a non-injured runner going down the line to first. Walter Ibarra botched a grounder. Rondon and Craig Heyer -- the latter thrown out there on consecutive nights for the first time this season -- couldn't get outs. The fifth through ninth spots in the order were 2 for 18 with a pair of singles. 

"It infuriates me," Franklin said. "It totally infuriates me, because I thought it was a very lackluster performance, a very uninspired performance on our part. There's no sense in it. We're professional athletes. These guys are two steps from the big leagues. They've got to have better performances than that when we play. We were outpitched, we were outplayed, we were outhustled. We were just outplayed in every facet of the game. It was very uninspired tonight, and I'm very disappointed."

He wasn't the only one. Addison Maruszak, sitting alone at his locker in a near-silent clubhouse, said he and his teammates feel the same way as their skipper, especially after coming off a pair of much-needed wins in Reading. 

"Frustrated. I think that's the best word you could use -- frustrated," he said. "It is what it is. All you've got to do is do your part individually, and we have some guys doing it and some guys aren't, but that's just the name of the game as a team. For instance, if we win I might not do a thing to help the team. We need more guys to do good and less guys to do bad at one point in time."

Fighting the calendar: It doesn't get any easier from here. The rest of the way, Trenton has two more games with Bowie, then three with Altoona, four with Akron and four more with New Britain before closing the season with four games at Binghamton. Every team except the B-Mets and Curve -- and they'll throw Jameson Taillon and Cole at the Thunder on Tuesday and Wednesday -- has a record better than .500. 

By moving back to even against Bowie for the year, Trenton doesn't have a winning record against any of the five best teams in the league. They are six games above Reading in the race for the playoffs, but they're going to have to hold on for dear life over the last 17 games. 

Picks to click: Mike Ashmore covered for me today. He wrote this sidebar about the team's players-only meeting after Tuesday's loss in Reading and a game story, which I'll link later, about tonight's maelstrom.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Get your videos here!

It took a while, but I've got plenty of videos for you from last night's marathon in Reading. I've got both of Zoilo Almonte home runs and his bases-loaded triple. I've got five strikeouts from Brett Marshall. I've got a homer and a knock from Kevin Mahoney. I've got three hits from J.R. Murphy. And, for you Phillies fans, I've got a handful of strikeouts from the mercurial Brody Colvin. 

Game 125 - Thunder vs. Bowie

Pitching matchup: RHP Dellin Betances (3-2, 5.36) vs. RHP Mike Wright (3-3, 5.08)

In the standings: First-place Trenton is five games up on New Britain in the East. Bowie is 7.5 games back of Akron in the West.

Antoan Richardson - CF
Jonathan Schoop - SS
Ty Kelly - LF
Robbie Widlansky - DH
Caleb Joseph - C
Rhyne Hughes - 1B
Buck Britton - 2B
Zelous Wheeler - 3B
Ronnie Wielty - RF
Mike Wright - RHP

Adonis Garcia - CF
David Adams - 3B
Zoilo Almonte - RF
Luke Murton - 1B
Addison Maruszak - SS
Kevin Mahoney - DH
Rob Segedin - LF
Jose Gil - C
Walter Ibarra - 2B
Dellin Betances - RHP

NOTES: Because the prospect gods are smiling on Trenton, the Pirates have promoted Jameson Taillon to Altoona in time for the upcoming series with the Curve. He'll spin against Brett Marshall on Tuesday. That means Gerrit Cole, who would have been slated to pitch in that slot on Tuesday, will move to Wednesday. He'll be opposed by Dellin Betances. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Game 124 - Trenton at Reading

Pitching matchup: RHP Brett Marshall (12-5, 2.91) vs. RHP Brody Colvin (1-1, 8.56)

In the standings: First-place Trenton is 4.5 games up on New Britain in the EL East. Reading is a half-game behind the Rock Cats for the wild card.

Tyson Gillies - CF
Cody Asche - 3B
Darin Ruf - LF
Brandon Tripp - DH
Tommy Joseph - C
Miguel Abreu - 2B
D'Arby Myers - RF
Jake Opitz - 1B
Troy Hanzawa - SS
Brody Colvin - RHP

Jose Pirela - DH
Adonis Garcia - CF
Zoilo Almonte - RF
Addison Maruszak - SS
Kevin Mahoney - 3B
J.R. Murphy - C
Rob Segedin - LF
Jose Gil - 1B
Walter Ibarra - 2B
Brett Marshall - RHP

Notes: Abe Almonte has been placed on the disabled list with left hamstring soreness. He missed from June 29 until Aug. 7 with a hamstring issue. ... Shane Brown has been activated in his stead. ... This is just the third time this season that Maruszak has batted cleanup. ... Darin Ruf against Trenton this year is .488/.542/1.163 with five doubles, eight home runs and 15 RBIs. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quick scout's notes about Charleston

On Gary Sanchez: Oh, I like him a lot. He really can throw. His thing is he can throw – 60 arm – his footwork on the throws is really good. He’s regressed a little bit for me in his receiving skills. I think he’s athletic enough. For me, he can catch. He’s not going to be a great defender, but he’s going to throw out some runners and he’ll be able to catch.

The bat’s good. The bat might be as good as Montero’s. I think he’s an everyday catcher at the least. I like him a lot.

Receiving for you, better or worse than Posada? Probably on par with Posada, but I think he might have a better arm than Jorge – at least the last few years of Jorge. He’s better than Montero. He’s definitely better than Montero.

On Mason Williams: Exciting, electric. He can play center field. He can run. He’s wiry strong. He’s got deceptive power. I think he needs to learn how to go deeper in counts, but he’s young. I think he’s an everyday center fielder.  He’s an everyday guy for me.

He can play center, he’s going to hit, he’s going to hit with some power. He still needs work on his baserunning, his jumps. The biggest thing is his plate discipline, but it’s not awful. It’s not like there’s no pitch recognition there, it’s just that he needs to be more patient. I think that will come. He’s an everyday guy for me.

He’s got an arrogance to his game, but it struck me as a good arrogance, like ‘Hey, I can do this. I can play.’ It’s like a good cockiness.

On Tyler Austin: I know he’s put up big numbers in that league, but I think he’s an extra outfielder. I don’t think he’s an everyday guy. There’s a little bit of a hitch in the swing. You can get above his hands and he swings and misses. I know he’s a young player, but he’ll swing and miss at average fastballs sometimes and it’s like, ‘Wow, he should have gotten to that.’

He’s a fringy defender. His routes were kind of inconsistent. With that said, he’s got juice in his bat. He doesn’t miss mistakes. He’ll drive mistakes. I think he’ll be a fourth outfielder but a productive guy. I don’t see everyday corner production out of him.  

On Cito Culver: He can really defend, but he can’t hit. Don’t really love the swing. Don’t really love the approach. He doesn’t drive the ball enough, but he can really defend. He can go get it, he can throw it. He’s got really quick hands. You’ve got a really good defender, but I don’t think he’s ever going to hit. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Three states in three days

Originally, I had mapped this weekend out with one goal in mind: Seeing Carlos Correa. If the No. 1 overall pick from this year’s draft had torn up the GCL, there was a scintilla of hope that the Astros might promote him to Short-Season Tri-City, and I couldn’t miss that opportunity.

Well, he hasn’t torn the cover off the ball in the GCL, and the Astros haven’t promoted him. Time for Plan B: Check out Salem at Wilmington for three games.

If I wasn’t going to see Correa, three games of Xander Bogaerts, plus the possibility of Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman would suffice just fine, thank you very much.

Womp, womp.

The Red Sox promoted Workman to Portland a week ago, and they bumped Bogaerts there just days before Salem invaded Delaware. Still, Barnes was scheduled to spin on Friday – against Wilmington’s Jason Adam, no less -- so that was an easy decision.

Womp, womp, womp.

After fighting an unusually trafficky I-95 to Wilmington, I hadn’t been in the Frawley press box for more than two minutes before word got out that Barnes was scratched in favor of reliever Manny Rivera. Barnes wasn’t hurt; the Red Sox just wanted to give him a few extra days. He’ll start Tuesday.

So, there would be no Barnes, no Bogaerts and no Workman. That left with me Adam, who, while an excellent prospect, I’d already seen twice this season. He was very nice once again, pitching at 92-94 with a nice slider. He fanned a half-dozen Salem hitters over his seven innings. You can see two of those strikeout victims – Brandon Jacobs and Sean Coyle, prospects both – below.

The big bonus of the night, though, came between innings when I got to see … THE ZOOPERSTARS. I had never seen them perform, and I’m a sucker for animals and bad puns, so you’ll have to pardon my joy. Below are two of the mid-inning diversions, first with Domenik HaShark and Harry Canary, second with the legendary Cow Ripken.

The joy to which this delighted me bordered on child-like. In fact, I’m fairly sure I was more entertained by the Zooperstars than the kids behind me.

Rivera was also pretty nice, for a reliever making a spot start. Lots of moving parts and long levers, but he brought it from the left side at 91-93 with a nice little change-up. Not quite a substitute for Barnes, good enough, anyway.

Day two brought Brooklyn and the A’s International Man of Mystery, Michael Ynoa. Standing at 6-foot-7 and having pitched just 24 1/3 pro innings since signing for a whopping $4.25 million in 2009, there was a lot of intrigue on the mound at MCU Park.

At that price, you knew the stuff would be there. The question was: Could he harness it? The answer: No, then yes, then no.

Ynoa was all over the place in the first, and the Cyclones, headed by Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Plawecki, the Mets’ first-rounder from 2011 and supplemental first-rounder from this year, took advantage and put a pair on Ynoa and the Monsters in the first inning.

The damage would have been greater were it not for a pair of stellar plays from Chris Bostick, who might have been the most impressive player on the field on Saturday. His diving catch robbed Jayce Boyd of a hit for the first out, and his quick thinking allowed him to snare Ynoa’s errant attempt at 1-6-3 double play and recover a force out.

Bostick also worked an 11-pitch walk off of starter Julian Hilario on Saturday. That’s impressive for anyone, but for a 19-year-old against a guy who’s about to turn 22 in the New York Penn League, that’s pretty darn special.

In the second inning, however, Ynoa looked like a new man. He whiffed ninth-hitter Eudy Pina on three fastballs down in the zone, showed brief command of a sharp breaking ball and got through the frame in less than 10 pitches. Still, he was on a limit of three innings or 50 pitches, whichever came first, and was yanked after walking two and uncorking a very wild pitch in the third.

There were flashes of the potential for sure, but it’s going to be a very long wait if Oakland hopes to get anything out of its investment in Ynoa.

Vermont also featured Addison Russell, Oakland’s first-rounder from this draft, who utilized a really smooth swing to collect three hits in five trips. Daniel Robertson, whom they plucked one pick before the Mets chose Plawecki, drew the collar.

And then there was Nimmo, the tartar-raw outfielder from Wyoming with tools for days. He showcased a short, quick swing and opposite-field power when he nearly missed a longball (settled for a double). His other hit, a single off of Ynoa, also went to the opposite side.

Note: Nimmo’s single drove in a run. However, the throw from left field had the runner, Phillip Evans, out by at least 40 feet. Catcher Bruce Maxwell, in a perfect example of why the Penn League is the Penn League, dropped the ball almost before Evans slid home.

Nimmo also lined hard to the second baseman and fanned in the eighth against Vermont’s Austin Healy.

Plawecki hit a longball and had an RBI single in four trips.

The final day brought afternoon baseball at beautiful Ripken Stadium and a chance to see Kevin Gausman, the fourth pick – and first pitcher selected -- in the country this year, make his second pro start with the Aberdeen Ironbirds.

He did not disappoint.

The delivery has crazy funk and deception, but his 92-94 mile per hour heat and plus change-up was clearly too much for the Connecticut Tigers. He fanned three over three innings of one-hit ball without walking a batter.

You can see all three of Gausman’s strikeouts below.

All in all, the weekend worked out pretty nicely, and the talent I saw made traveling to three states in three days well worth my time.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Game 117 - Trenton vs. Reading

Pitching matchup: RHP Mikey O'Brien (4-4, 4.71) vs. LHP Adam Morgan (NR)

In the Standings: First-place Trenton is 7.5 games up on New Britain in the Eastern Division. Reading is a half game behind the Rock Cats for the wild card.

Tyson Gillies - CF
Cody Asche - 3B
Darin Ruf - 1B
Tug Hulett - 2B
Tommy Joseph - C
Leandro Castro - RF
Brandon Tripp - DH
D'Arby Myers - LF
Troy Hanzawa - SS
Adam Morgan - LHP

Abe Almonte - CF
Jose Pirela - 2B
David Adams - DH
Zoilo Almonte - RF
Luke Murton - 1B
Addison Maruszak - SS
Kevin Mahoney - 3B
J.R. Murphy - C
Rob Segedin - LF
Mikey O'Brien - RHP

NOTES: This is Morgan's first start at Double-A. He replaces Austin Hyatt, who was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, in the Reading rotation. Morgan and Hyatt were rotation-mates at the University of Alabama. ... Tyson Gillies, the third piece of the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners, is back with the R-Phils. ... Trenton put playoff tickets on sale today. You can get them at this link or by calling 609-394-3300. Playoffs start on Sept. 5 with best-of-five series between (probably) Trenton and either Reading or New Britain. ... The Thunder are having a 3-D fireworks show tonight. Normally, I loathe fireworks, but this piques even my interest a little. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

So, you want to be a scout?

Scouting is one of the toughest jobs in all of sports. It involves thousands of hours spent on the road, away from your family, and it also comes with a massive amount of failure. A scout has hundreds of players to see, grade and project each year, and he is going to be wrong a great deal of the time. 

Think of how many Giants officials saw and wrote good things about a guy like Tim Alderson, who has spent the last four seasons in the Eastern League. Same goes for the Blue Jays, who spent a first-round choice on Kevin Ahrens, who, at 23, is on his fourth stint in High-A. 

Those are just two examples of big-money misses from clubs who otherwise have pretty darn good track records of identifying and developing talent. 

Those kind of mistakes happen all the time. Then there's the other end of the spectrum, when a club takes a chance on a guy and comes up aces. That brings us to Vidal Nuno, the Thunder's left-hander who has come out of nowhere to cut his way through the Eastern League. 

The Indians drafted Nuno in the 48th round but released him shortly thereafter, something not uncommon with a club's late draft selections. Nuno spent part of last year in the Frontier League before the Yankees signed him and sent him to Staten Island for eight games and before bumping him to Low-A Charleston to finish the year. 

He started the season with Tampa but was quickly bumped to Trenton after a spate of injuries to the Thunder's starting staff. With Trenton, he's exploded. He's just about eight innings shy of qualifying on the leaderboard, or else his 2.32 ERA would be the best in the Eastern League. 

He turned 25 late last month, and has struck out just better than three hitters for every walk he's allowed (78 to 24). He's also permitted just 77 hits in 85 1/3 innings and has put together a WHIP of 1.18.

The numbers are well and good, but they're superficial. The real question -- one that faces every scout who puts a radar gun, stopwatch and a pair of eyes on him -- is this: Will his stuff translate to the major leagues?

If yes, then the Yankees have a surprise prospect on their hands. If no, then the Thunder have a very nice pitcher for their playoff run, but one who probably won't do much -- if anything -- in the show. 

I get questions about Nuno and his viability in the major leagues nearly every time he starts. Today, when he fanned seven hitters over the first three innings, was no different. My answer today is the same as it has been: I just don't know. 

This is why I take tons of video -- so you, the fan, can put your eyes on Nuno (and many other players) and decide for yourself whether a prospect could help a big club down the road. I took video of five of Nuno's strikeouts today, which I've embedded below.

It's an incredibly small sample, I know, but I'm genuinely interested in what you think. So, take a look at the videos and tell me, either in the comments or @jnorris427 on Twitter, and answer me this: Is Vidal Nuno a big leaguer? If not, why? If so, where you do see him fitting in? Is he an ace or a mid-rotation starter? Does he fit more toward the back end of a rotation? How about in the bullpen?

I'm all ears. 

A long interview with Mark Newman

On Tuesday, Mike Ashmore and I talked to Yankees Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Mark Newman for about 25 minutes. We touched on a variety of subjects, and you can read the results here. Enjoy.

JN: We talked earlier about this team having a really outstanding season. Is there anyone who really jumps out at you as having a really surprising season?

MN: Vidal Nuno has made huge strides, and he’s probably pleasantly surprised a lot of people. Signed him last year out of the Independent Leagues. I think he went New York-Penn, Charleston (last year) and then this year (he had) a pen deal in the Florida State League and the rotation, and now he’s pitching better than anyone in the rotation here, and the team’s in the first place in the Eastern League. That’s a pretty good year.

JN: What does he do that sets him apart?

MN: He pitches. He’s not 6-foot-6, he doesn’t throw 95, but he throws hard enough. He pitches. He changes location, spins the ball, locates his fastball and has a feel for how to get hitters out.

JN: How much of a different pitcher is he then when you signed him?

MN: I think he’s made some improvements, but he was better than most people give him credit for. Basically he’s done a lot of this in response to the competition. He has all kinds of game awareness. I think he understands what’s going on and devises ways to get hitters out. It’s a simple concept but it’s not easy to execute, and he does.

MA: I know winning and losing isn’t the most important thing in player development, but have you been surprised by what this team has been able to do?

MN: Yeah. They’ve had a great season in a lot of different ways. A lot of people have had exceptional performances. A bunch of guys have improved at the same time, and they’ve put up numbers over the course of the year over an extended period of time, so you can’t say, at this point, that it’s randomness or chance or luck or any of that stuff. They’ve performed.

Addison Maruszak, he was basically an organizational utility guy who has created a strong role for himself. His situation is interesting because he hasn’t had consistent at-bats. He ends up playing a lot every year because he’s so versatile. He’s from Tampa. He works out all the time. He’s indefatigable. He does it day after day and with an extraordinarily optimistic outlook.

MA: Are there guys who didn’t just come out of nowhere, but guys who are just having better years than expected?

MN: They all are. From Murton to Pirela – who’s having an extraordinary year – David Adams fought back from all the injuries, Zoilo’s been really good. Melky Mesa was obviously good and now he’s in Triple-A and he’s off to a pretty good start in Triple-A. Abe was down for a while, but he’s doing pretty well also. I think Murphy’s adjusting well to the league. He’s 21. He’s one of the younger players in this league. He’s doing fine.

It would be difficult to find somebody who I would look at personally or we would as an organization and say (he’s performed) less than expected. … Most of these guys have performed beyond expectations.

JN: Where would Murton have been had Rob Lyerly not gotten hurt? Would he have been with Tampa, or would he have made his way to Double-A?

MN: He would have been here. One of them would have prevailed. Rob’s had an unfortunate injury, but the challenge for him was to profile as a first baseman. The challenge for Luke is to hit better. He has power. So they were like polar opposites. They both faced challenges. Lyerly’s chance to meet his challenge was cut short by the injury, but Luke’s done a nice job.

JN: You’ve got two former Thunder guys – Grant Duff and Tim Norton – as coaches. What did you see out of them that they fit well on your coaching staff?

MN: We’ve got an internal coaching program, and they’re both involved in that. They’re still presenting or displaying their potential to be coaches. Most guys get done playing and think they can immediately coach, and it’s a lot more difficult than that. They’re finding that out. They were high-character, high-work ethic guys as players, respected by teammates. We think they’re good people and that’s why we give them a chance. I think they’re both going to be successful.

JN: Same thing you saw from guys like Edwar Gonzalez, P.J. Pilittere and Carlos Mendoza?

MN: Absolutely. The same thing. We’re producing major league players and some guys that are going to coach in the major leagues, too. They’re all high-character guys.

MA: What kind of challenges have you guys faced as an organization with all of the injuries this year?

MN: Huge. Huge. That’s the single biggest issue. We’ve been lucky that over the last few years we haven’t had many at all. That’s a tremendous challenge. It’s a tremendous challenge. It’s a challenge in several ways: One is to recognize how much of this is randomness – and injuries tend to be random – how much can we prevent going forward, how can we improve rehab processes and diagnoses, prescriptions for rehab processes.

When you’ve had all the stuff we’ve had, you take a really close look at everything. We do all the time, and it’s a maddening thing for everyone in this industry to deal with injuries. The single most significant in player development and coincidentally in scouting also is pitchers’ arm injuries.

There was a group some years ago that believed in a principle – a group of analytics guys – they called TINSTAAPP. That’s a bit of an overstatement, but we’re dealing with Manny, we’re dealing with Campos, we’re dealing with Andy Pettitte, we’re dealing with Michael Pineda. That’s a lot.

My father used to tell me when I felt it necessary to complain to him about something, ‘Shut up and go back to work. Eighty percent of the people on the planet don’t care about your problems, and the other 20 percent are glad you have them.’ So all we’re going to do is shut up and go back to work and see where we can improve. First we have to identify what’s improvable and what’s randomness and what isn’t. That’s no easy task.
MA: Where did Betances lose his way this year?

Newman: It's command of his stuff, it's throwing his secondary pitches over, it's locating his fastball.  Some of it's confidence.  Most of it's confidence.  Some of it is delivery, some of it is fundamental.  But that's probably a 75-25 proposition.  He's not too good to struggle.  Roy Halladay is one of the great pitchers of this generation, and I saw him go from the big leagues to A-Ball.  I've seen a lot of great pitchers struggle, so that's part of it.  The German guy that said, 'That which does not kill me only makes me stronger' is dead on, and that's what he's going through.  And it's OK.  You've got to embrace it, learn from it and go forward.  He's got great stuff.  And how tough he is mentally will go a long way toward determining how well he does in the next few years.  Whether he's a major league pitcher or whether he's a highly talented guy who couldn't quite get over the hump.

MA: Long-term, do you think he's a reliever?

Newman: He may be, he may not be.  He's got enough pitches to start.  He's got an outstanding changeup when it's right.

JN: Do you expect him to stay here the rest of the year?

Newman: I have no idea, it depends on how he pitches.

MA: With Montgomery, is he a guy you could continue to see move quickly through the organization?

Newman: I think he's here for the remainder of the year, most likely.  Having said that, there aren't any guarantees.  He's done really well.  As he moves through the system, he needs to continue to build up the durability.  He's still transitioning from college where he had to relieve on the weekend and he'd have four or five days off to being a relief pitcher and going back-to-back and dealing with the physical challenges of the professional game.  It's a really different environment.

JN: What has Corey Black shown you so far?

Newman: He's been outstanding.  He has big-time stuff, quality sink, secondary...

JN: He’s a starter still for you?

Newman: Yeah.  We don't want to be moving guys to relievers too early.  Even guys like Dellin...Mariano Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher in the history of the game, and he was a starter.  Most of them were.  They get innings, they learn to pitch.  One of the things with Montgomery that's difficult is that he doesn't pitch that many innings, so he didn't get reps.

We wouldn't take a position player and say I think Jones Gomez is going to be fifth infielder, he's going to be a good one.  Our fifth infielder is a guy that can play short and multiple infield positions, so we'll start him in Double-A and play him now.  Joba went through as a starter except for three or four or five games in Triple-A.  David Robertson was a reliever in college and stayed there.

JN: Is there any way that's been proven to be more successful between taking a guy who's been a reliever or taking guy who's been a starter to develop a reliever more successfully?

Newman: Well, the long history of the game was relievers come from your starters.  Very few guys were developed as relievers.  Now, we see a few more.  But in general, if you look at the top relievers in the game today you're going to get a bit of both.

MA: Back to Montgomery for a second.  How does his slider compare to other pitches in this organization?  is that the best pitch you have in the organization?

Newman: It's probably got the highest swing and miss rate.  It's good, it's a power (slider).  Power defined as the ability to miss a bat, and it's a powerful pitch.

MA: I wanted to ask you about Brett Marshall.  He's always been a pretty confident kid, there's that famous story that he bragged to you that he'd hit 100 miles per hour one day.  How has he changed since you guys first got him?

Newman: He's still confident and boastful.  I don't think he takes himself all that seriously though.  He's a pitcher now.  I've seen him hit 98, and he probably could still.  But he pitches.  He's efficient, his breaking ball has improved and he throws a high-caliber changeup.  So, he's a pitcher now. 

JN: Nardi Contreras had mentioned that it was a bone issue for Jose Campos, and you told Andrew Marchand with ESPN New York it was a bone bruise for Manny Banuelos as well.  When did that happen for Banuelos?  Was that the original injury?

Newman: Yes.  It's just from throwing.  (A bone bruise) is ultimately what it was.  I don't think they would probably be diagnosed as bone bruises five or ten years ago, because you didn't hear about it.  I think the MRI's and CT scans and all that stuff allow us to be more precise in our diagnosis.  But we have to figure out how to prevent these things, just like we have to figure out how to prevent the Tommy John problem.  It tends to come from joint instability, and some of that is physical and some of that is fundamental with a funky delivery.  Some of it is not being strong and flexible enough, and some of it is genetic.  At some level, we have some control over mechanics, workload and conditioning.  But we cannot control the gene pool.

We had a pitcher some years ago who had an ACL surgery, and the operating surgeon, in trying to find replacement connective tissue, had to search longer than most and said he had the connective tissue of a 60-year-old man.  So this guy continued to have injury problems after.  There is a genetic component to this.  Injury-proneness is not black cat stuff, it's very often that guys are put together with more joint stability than others.  

You don't know that when you sign a guy.  In high school and college, their bodies aren't stressed to the extent they are here.  This is an extraordinary game in that you do this every day.  These guys come out and take BP and they throw pens and they run and they play games and run into walls and stand on slopes and throw 88 miles per hour sliders.  That ain't easy.

JN: With Campos, was it the same thing as Banuelos with a bone bruise?

Newman: It's similar, not exactly the same.  It's a bone issue.  That's probably the only way to put it.

MA: What was the issue with Ty Hensley's medical reports?

Newman: ought to talk to them about that, I'm not going to get into it other than his agent talked about stuff, and we don't...he hasn't had any problems.  We're treating him like a regular pitcher.  That's something you need to talk to them about. 

MA: I know it's unfortunately a pretty long list, but do you have any other injury updates?

Newman: I'm sure I do, but it is a long list...

JN: With Burawa, did he break a rib?

Newman: It's not exactly that, but he's got a rib issue.

JN: Different from the oblique?

Newman: Right, but I wouldn't say they're unrelated.  I'm not sure what to say about that other than it's a rib issue and he's been fighting that one since day one.

JN: So if he'd healed from the original injury, he wouldn't have missed the entire season?

Newman: You don't see obliques that last this long.  Whether the oblique caused the rib injury, I don't know that. 

MA: Williams had surgery recently?

Newman: Yes, non-throwing shoulder.  It's not different (from other labrum surgeries in the organization) other than that he doesn't have to throw with that shoulder.  He did it diving for a ball.

MA: Has Tyler Austin stood out the most to you in the organization this year in terms of a guy who's made the most progress?

Newman: Yeah, probably.  He can hit.  He hits it over the fence, he changed positions and plays right field well and throws well.  Tough guy, plays hard every day.