TRENTON – After a surprise
assignment to Tampa to begin the year, Mikey O’Brien is back with Trenton.
The right-hander made 19 starts
with the Thunder last year, including a pair on the team’s run to the Eastern
League Championship Series. So it was a bit of a shock to see him re-assigned
to the Florida State League out of spring training.
In a half-dozen turns with Tampa,
O’Brien was 1-2 with a 4.39 ERA. He surrendered 33 hits in 26 2/3 innings. He
fanned 34 and walked eight.
“The fact of the matter is he is
coming,” manager Tony Franklin acknowledged Tuesday evening. “What we’re going
to do with the rotation I don’t know yet. We’ve got eight guys on our staff who
are capable of starting, so we don’t know what we’re going to do.”
And while an eight-man rotation
is obviously not up for discussion, the scenarios to get O’Brien into the
rotation are plentiful.
If the Thunder choose to stick
with a six-man rotation, they could simply slide O’Brien in on Friday, which
would normally be Francisco Rondon’s turn to pitch. Rondon, however, hasn’t had
a great time as a starter – he’s
sporting a 7.16 ERA in six starts – and Franklin admitted before Tuesday’s game
that his return to the bullpen is one of the options that has been discussed
with the organization’s pitching people.
Even if Rondon is removed, that
still leaves enough arms – O’Brien, Jose Ramirez, Nik Turley, Zach Nuding, Matt
Tracy and Caleb Cotham – to form a six-man rotation if the organization so
chooses. But one of the six-man rotation’s original purposes was to help limit
innings for guys like Rondon, who’d been a reliever for nearly all his career.
Another guy whose innings limit
for the season was on the lower side is Cotham, who pitched a career-best 101
1/3 frames last season. That low total means he’s probably not ready for a full
starter’s workload – Shaeffer Hall and Brett Marshall each threw more than 150
innings, plus playoffs, for last year’s team – this season and will likely have
to have his amount of work ramped down at some point.
His name has been bandied about
for a possible trip to Triple-A Scranton over the last few days, and even he
acknowledged on Tuesday that he doesn’t quite know where he’ll be doing his
pitching in the next couple of days.
And because his situation is
uncertain, so is the Thunder’s.
“I think Mikey’s going to come
and start for us. That’s what my understanding is,” Franklin said. “Whose place
he’s going to take and exactly what we’re going to do with the rotation –
whether we’re going to leave it as a six-man, if we’re going to have an
eight-man or if we’re going to have a five-man, I don’t know yet.”
This much is clear: O’Brien is on
his way to Trenton, and he’s going to start. Whatever happens around him
remains to be seen.
NOTES: The Thunder still have not
received final word on the severity of third baseman Rob Segedin’s injury. That
should come over the next couple of days. … In addition to Billy Hart, the
Yankees’ assistant director of baseball operations, roving infield coordinator
Carlos Mendoza and pitching coordinator Gil Patterson were on hand on Tuesday.
Mendoza played for the Thunder from 2007 until 2009.