Blogs > Minor Matters

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

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rondon's transition going well

TRENTON – In the long term, the place a pitcher most feels the difference between starting and relieving isn’t in his arm. It’s in his wallet. With the exception of closers, starters make far more money over the course of their careers.

That’s why Francisco Rondon’s transition is so important. A reliever for almost his entire career, the Yankees decided late in spring training that his stuff – a low-to-mid-90s heater and a wicked slider – had a chance to play out of the rotation.

So, for the first time since 2009 with Staten Island, Rondon finds himself taking the ball every five days. His first start, Sunday in Portland, went well enough. He allowed three earned runs over five innings, struck out a half-dozen and, most important, walked just one.

“It’s a new position for him, a new role for him,” manager Tony Franklin said. “Being young in this role, knowing he’s young in this role, it’s going to take some time for him to make some adjustments. He’s had one start, and it was pretty good. I think the reason that he’s starting is that people in the organization feel he can be that good.”

More than anything, it’s going to take time for Franklin, Tommy Phelps and the rest of the coaching staff to figure out what they have in Rondon. His second look at the league will be one of the better gauges. If the hitters in Double-A can time his fastball – which will be a few ticks slower – and adjust to seeing more change-ups, then he may not be long for the rotation.

The positive numbers are nice, but the best indicators of his progress can’t be found in the box score. His comfort with pitching at less than 100 percent – a concept foreign to most relievers – and his willingness to incorporate his change-up will provide the most insight.

“He’s got a very good arm,” Franklin said. “He put himself on the map last year with his ability to throw the ball and showed a pretty good change-up. He’s going to have to grow, and as he grows and pitches we’ll find out more and find out where some of the flaws are and where some of the plusses are.”

Catcher J.R. Murphy, who has seen plenty of Rondon in his career and will see plenty more this year, was pleased by how well he did in his first turn.

“I was surprised (by) how good he did,” Murphy said. “I was real happy to see that. He has to learn how to not go full-bore like he does out of the pen. Out of the pen he’s mid-90s. This time he was low-90s. He was throwing the ball where he wanted to, throwing the slider, which is his out pitch, and then he had a change-up working that day too. If he has all three working, then he’s good.”

To be sure, there will be growing pains. He will get hit, and hit hard. But if he can put those bumps behind him and thrive in his new role, then his future will be that much brighter. Not to mention more lucrative.

NOTES: Yankees pitching coordinator Gil Patterson was in attendance. … Richmond starter Taylor Rogers was teammates for two seasons at Tulane with Thunder third baseman Rob Segedin. … Similarly, Thunder reliever Dan Burawa and Richmond second baseman Joe Panik overlapped for a season at St. John’s. … Infielder Kevin Mahoney was back in town after missing the New Hampshire to witness the birth of his son. He was not active for the game.


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