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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thunder release part of promotional schedule

(TRENTON, NJ) - With promotional giveaways featuring the likeness of alums Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Youkilis and Robinson Cano, the 2013 Trenton Thunder Promotional Schedule will celebrate the team's 20th season in New Jersey's capitol city.

The Thunder, the Double A Affiliate of the New York Yankees, announced a portion of its 2013 Promotional Schedule on Thursday afternoon in advance of single game tickets going on sale for the first time on Friday, Feburary 1. Additional promotions are still being finalized and will be announced at a later date.

The 2013 promotional slate includes seven giveaway items themed around the the team's 20th season in Trenton. These promotions include T-Shirts (April 26), Mini Bats (April 28), Pennants (May 17), Banners (July 23 thanks to TD Bank), Dodge Balls (August 4) and Bucket Hats (August 14 thanks to ARM & HAMMER). The team will also give away All-Time Team Card Sets, featuring outstanding players from franchise history on August 2.

The Thunder will host five Bobblehead Doll giveaways this season with each one featuring a player who wore the Thunder uniform in their careers. The first will feature New York Yankees Infielder Kevin Youkilis (Thunder 2002) on May 10 thanks to Capital Health. The next will be team golden retriever Chase on July 5 thanks to ARM & HAMMER, followed by Robinson Cano (Thunder 2003-04, rehab 2006) on July 19 thanks to Hyundai and a Nomar Garciaparra (Thunder 1995) "Mini" Bobblehead on August 9. On August 23, the team will give away bobbleheads featuring Joba Chamberlain (Thunder 2007) thanks to TD Bank. There will also be a to be determined Player Statue giveaway thanks to Verizon Wireless on August 28.

The 2013 promotional slate is loaded with traditionally popular giveaway items as well. On Opening Night, (April 11) the Thunder will commemorate the first game played in the newly renamed ARM & HAMMER Park with a Logo Baseball giveaway. More giveaways include Magnetic Schedules (thanks to MCIA on April 12 and 15), Replica Jerseys (April 13 thanks to TD Bank), Webkinz dolls (May 12), Thunder Caps (thanks to RAI on June 7), Thunder Posters (thanks to White Eagle Printing on June 12), Team Card Sets (thanks to Verizon Wireless on June 21) and Youth T-Shirts (July 21).

Some new items fans will take home this season include Inflatable Thunder Bats (May 19), Thunder Stixx (July 7) and Thunder Foam Fingers (August 10).

On April 15, all fans in attendance will receive free hot dogs, hamburgers and cheeseburgers as the popular FREE All-You-Can-Eat Night returns for a fourth season. A second FREE All-You-Can-Eat Night will be held on August 9.

Dog-friendly promotions will return to ARM & HAMMER Park on Sunday, August 25 at 5:05pm with Bark at the Park presented by Dogs and Cats Rule. This event allows fans to bring their canines with them to the stadium. On Friday, July 5 dogs are invited once again as the Thunder will celebrate the birthday of its Golden Retriever, Chase.

As previously announced, the Thunder will host 19 fireworks shows after games including on May 9 which marks the date of the first Thunder game played in Trenton in 1994. The Thunder will also light up the sky with fireworks on July 4 thanks to Andrews Federal Credit Union. 3D Fireworks will return on August 15 as the NJSOP will provide special 3D glasses that fans can wear during the show.

Once again, every Tuesday night game will feature Kids Eat Free presented by On The Border & $1 Hot Dogs thanks to Black Bear Franks. Thirsty Thursdays will return and fans can enjoy a great beer special until the middle of the 5th inning. A new addition to the daily promotions is Bottom Dollar Wednesdays where fans can show their Bottom Dollar Food receipt at the ticket window to receive a special rate for tickets (based on availability, restrictions apply).

Also added to the schedule are a slew of theme nights including Nurse Appreciation Night (May 9), Special Olympics Night (June 8) and Irish Heritage Night (August 15) . Many community events will also be returning to the ballpark including the Second Annual Trenton Thunder Charities Treasure Hunt presented by First Choice Bank (August 10), the Fourth Annual Good Deed Game (August 24) and Community Blood Council of NJ Blood Drives on April 27, June 22 and August 24.

All fans should note that the distribution of promotional items is for fans in attendance only. Promotion dates, items and distribution quantity is subject to change and/or cancellation. Please visit for quantity and age restrictions specific for each giveaway/promotion.


The 2013 season will begin on Thursday, April 4 at Portland with the home opener slated for Thursday, April 11 vs. Richmond. Single game tickets go on sale for the first time on Friday, February 1 online at, by phone, 609-394-3300 or in person at ARM & HAMMER Park.

Yankees announce Spring Training invitees

JANUARY 31, 2013



The New York Yankees today announced that they have signed five players to minor league contracts with an invitation to Major League Spring Training: OF Matt DiazINF Dan JohnsonOF Thomas NealOF Juan Rivera and C Bobby Wilson. The club has also invited 39 additional players to 2013 Spring Training, bringing the total number of invitees to 44 (20 pitchers, six catchers, nine infielders and nine outfielders).  The total number of players now scheduled to report is 84 – 17 more than 2012’s total of 67.

The list of invites includes Yankees first-round draft picks OF Slade Heathcott (2009) and SS Cito Culver (2010), and 2012 South Atlantic League All-Stars OF Tyler Austin and C Gary Sanchez.

Diaz, who turns 35 on March 3, is a career .291 (543-for-1,863) batter with 211 runs, 97 doubles, 14 triples, 45 home runs and 225 RBI in 726 games over 10 seasons with Tampa Bay (2003-04), Kansas City (2005), Atlanta (2006-12) and Pittsburgh (2011).  He is a career .324 (306-for-945) batter with 31 home runs against left-handed pitchers, and has appeared defensively at all three outfield position. Diaz grew up in Lakeland, Fla., played baseball at Florida State University and was selected by Tampa Bay in the 17th round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft. His last name is pronounced Dye-ez.

Johnson, 33, has appeared in 413 combined Major League games over parts of seven seasons with Oakland (2005-08), Tampa Bay (2008, ’10-11) and Chicago-AL (2012), batting .237 (313-for-1,320) with 59 doubles, 56 home runs and 194 RBI. He also played a season in Japan in 2009 with Yokohama. He spent most of the 2012 season with Triple-A Charlotte (.267, 127-for-476, 28 home runs), before appearing in 14 games with the White Sox as a September call-up (.364, 8-for-22). He hit three homers in the team’s regular season finale at Cleveland. He was originally selected by Oakland in the seventh round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.

Neal, 25, made his Major League debut in 2012 with the Cleveland Indians, going 5-for-23 (.217) in nine games. He spent the majority of the season with Double-A Akron, batting .314 (127-for-405) with 77 runs, 24 doubles, 12 home runs and 51RBI in 117 games for the Eastern League champions. Among Eastern League leaders, he ranked third in on-base percentage (.400), fourth in batting average and tied for fifth in runs, appearing in games at all three outfield positions. Neal was originally selected by San Francisco in the 36th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, and acquired by Cleveland on 7/30/11.

Rivera, 34, batted .244 (76-for-312) with 14 doubles, nine home runs and 47 RBI in 109 games with the Dodgers in 2012. He made 30 starts in left field, 39 at first base, five in right field and one at DH. Originally signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent in 1996, Rivera appeared in 88 games with the Yankees over parts of three seasons (2001-03), hitting .262 (68-for-260) with eight home runs. He has collected 67 outfield assists in his career, tying for 12th-most among active players in the Majors since his debut in 2001.

Wilson, 29, has spent his entire career in the Angels organization, after being selected by the Angels in the 48th round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft out of St. Petersburg College. He hit .211 (36-for-171) with five doubles, three home runs and 13 RBI in 75 games in 2012 with the Angels, and caught 15-of-60 stolen base attempts (25.0%) – the seventh-highest percentage among AL catchers. A native of Dunedin, Fla., Wilson is a career .208 (81-for-389) batter in 191 Major League games with a .994 fielding percentage behind the plate, and catching 23.0% of potential base stealers (29-of-126).

OF Abraham Almonte
C Francisco Arcia
OF Tyler Austin
INF Greg Bird
RHP Corey Black
LHP Juan Cedeno
RHP Preston Claiborne
INF Cito Culver
RHP Matt Daley
OF Matt Diaz
OF Adonis Garcia
RHP Shane Greene
RHP Nick Goody
OF Slade Heathcott
RHP David Herndon
C Kyle Higashioka
INF Walter Ibarra
INF Dan Johnson
RHP Tom Kahnle
INF Addison Maruszak
RHP Jim Miller
RHP Bryan Mitchell
RHP Mark Montgomery
INF Luke Murton
OF Ronnier Mustelier
C J.R. Murphy
OF Thomas Neal
INF Jayson Nix
RHP Zach Nuding
LHP Vidal Nuno
RHP Mike O’Brien
RHP Kelvin Perez
RHP Branden Pinder
INF Jose Pirela
RHP Ryan Pope
OF Juan Rivera
INF Kyle Roller
C Gary Sanchez
OF Rob Segedin
LHP Josh Spence
LHP Matt Tracy
INF Gil Velazquez
RHP Chase Whitley
C Bobby Wilson

Yankees sign Smith, Barroso, re-up with Romanski

Via Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Yankees have added two new pieces from the world of the Independent Leagues: RHP Chris Smith (Washington Wild Things), SS Leugim Barroso (Rio Grande WhiteWings). They've also re-signed lefty reliever Josh Romanski, who spent a good chunk of last year recovering from a blister on his pitching hand.

Smith also spent the winter with the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League, where racked up 69 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings, including games with 11, 12 and 15 Ks and two shutouts.

The Yankees have caught lightning in a bottle from the Wild Things before, namely Vidal Nuno, who tore through Trenton before ending the year in Scranton for the playoffs. Nuno spent part of 2011 with Washington before hooking on with New York in the middle of the year.

Barroso is the rare Cuban import by way of the Midwest. Between Rio Grande and Lincoln, he produced a .317/.345/.364 line with 10 doubles, no longballs and 38 RBIs. He struck out just 23 times in 413 plate appearances.

Romanski's season, which started as the Thunder's fifth starter, was interrupted by blister problems that limited him to just 36 innings, including rehab stints with Staten Island. He finished with a 1-2 record and a 4.00 ERA.

Update: I spoke with Washington Wild Things manager Chris Bando a few moments ago, and he had some very complimentary things to say. He praised Smith -- a converted outfielder -- for his ability to throw three pitches, sinking fastball, slider, and change-up, for strikes.

Smith throws his fastball typically from 90 to 91 miles per hour and tops out at 93, Bando relayed.

"He has an incredible feel for how to pitch," Bando said. "If I had to compare him to any current major leaguer, it'd be Jake Peavy. His slider and change-up right now are plus Major League pitches." 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Other coming attractions

In my previous post, I went over Baseball America's top 30 Yankees prospects and which of them fans might see in Trenton this summer. With Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores and a cast of others set to see time here, fans will have plenty to look forward to 71 times throughout the summer. 

But what about the opposition? What prospects will the other 11 Eastern League affiliates put forth in 2013? Thanks to the BA Handbook, I've put together lists of the top players can expect to root against at Arm & Hammer Park starting on April 11.

AKRON (April 15-17, Aug. 9-11)
Ronny Rodriguez - SS
Jesus Aguilar - 1B
Tony Wolters - 2B
Shawn Armstrong - RP
Giovanny Urshela - 3B

BOWIE (May 17-19)
Kevin Gausman - SP
Jonathan Schoop - SS
Tim Berry - SP
Clay Schrader - RP
Devin Jones - SP
Oliver Drake - RP

PORTLAND (April 26-28, June 21-23, Aug. 22-25)
Xander Bogaerts - SS
Matt Barnes - SP
Brandon Workman - SP
Anthony Ranaudo - SP
Christian Vazquez - C
Travis Shaw - 1B
Sean Coyle - 2B
Stolmy Pimentel - SP

ERIE (May 28-30, June 24-26)
Nick Castellanos - 3B/OF
Tyler Collins - OF
James McCann - C
Daniel Fields - OF

NEW BRITAIN (Aug. 26-29)
Oswaldo Arcia - OF
Alex Meyer - SP
Trevor May - SP
Daniel Santana - IF
Madison Boer - SP
Jason Wheeler - SP
Michael Tonkin - RP

BINGHAMTON (May 6-8, June 11-13)
Jacob DeGrom - SP
Cory Mazzoni - SP
Cory Vaughn - OF
Cesar Puello - OF
Jack Leatherisch - RP
Logan Verrett - SP
Darren Ceciliani - OF

READING (July 4-8, Aug. 2-4)
Jesse Biddle - SP
Adam Morgan - SP
Austin Wright - SP
Kenny Giles - RP
Cameron Rupp - C
Brody Colvin - SP
Zach Collier - OF

ALTOONA (July 22-24)
Jameson Taillon - SP
Alex Dickerson - OF
Brandon Cumpton - SP
Gift Ngoepe - SS

RICHMOND (April 11-14, June 7-9)
Joe Panik - SS
Adam Duvall - 3B
Jack Osich - RP
Ehire Adrianza - SS
Ricky Oropesa - 1B
Jacob Dunnington - RP

NEW HAMPSHIRE (April 29-May 2, May 9-12, July 18-21)
Marcus Stroman - RP
John Stilson - SP/RP
A.J. Jimenez - C
Sean Nolin - SP
Kevin Pillar - OF

HARRISBURG (Aug. 13-15)
Anthony Rendon - 3B
Brian Goodwin - OF
Matt Skole - 3B
Nathan Karns - SP
Sammy Solis - SP
Rick Hague - SS/2B
Destin Hood - OF
Paul Demny - SP

Baseball America's full top 31, plus other notes

After days of me waiting impatiently by my mailbox, Baseball America's annual prospect handbook has arrived. The top 10 prospects were announced months ago, but I had to wait until today to see prospects 20-31. Here they are, with videos linked to as many players as I can find on my YouTube channel

13 - Bryan Mitchell 
17 - Austin Romine
18 - Melky Mesa 
20 - Austin Aune
22 - Greg Bird
24 - Adam Warren
26 - Matt Tracy 
29 - Tommy Kahnle

Of those 21 players, I think eight could see time with Trenton this year. I'd expect Flores, Turley, Murphy, Ramirez, Kahnle and perhaps Tracy to start here. If everything goes well, Mitchell and Black could find their way into the rotation by season's end.

That's saying nothing of top 10 prospects Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin and Angelo Gumbs, all of whom could see time at Waterfront Park. BA posits that Jose Campos and Rafael DePaula could start as high as High-A Tampa, though I'd imagine Campos starts back at Charleston. DePaula could start at either Staten Island or Charleston.

Speaking of Tracy, I'd more or less forgotten about him when doing my roster projections. Frankly, I didn't realize he'd got as many innings as he did. Plus, when Tampa's season ended he earned a spot start with Triple-A Scranton. He's plenty qualified for a jump to Trenton in April. 

With that in mind, there are now six names in the mix for five Double-A rotation spots: 

1. Mikey O'Brien
2. Nik Turley
3. Jose Ramirez
4. Zach Nuding
5. Matt Tracy
6. Shane Greene

If the Yankees take both David Phelps and Ivan Nova on their opening day roster, then there's a chance O'Brien would be bumped to Scranton to start things. If not, then either Greene or Tracy could start the year at Tampa, or someone (Greene would be my best guess) could start the year as a multiple-inning guy in Trenton's bullpen. 

- - - 

Old friend Andrew Brackman found another home today, reports Baseball America's Matt Eddy. The towering right-hander signed on with the White Sox, who last year did a fine job of taking a former Yankees farmhand and turning him into something worthwhile. 

Sources around last year's trade deadline told me the White Sox also had interest in acquiring Dellin Betances and turning him over to Triple-A pitching coach Richard Dotson, whom the organization holds in high regard for his ability to work with young arms. 

I'd imagine that'd be the same plan with Brackman, who, for all his issues, still has intriguing stuff. If Dotson -- not to mention big league pitching coach Don Cooper -- can do something with Brackman, it could be a small coup. 

Former Scranton reliever Manny Delcarmen has also found a new home. The Orioles, again according to Eddy, snatched him up. Delcarmen was 3-5 with a 4.42 ERA over 39 appearances (two starts) with Scranton.


The Thunder's shortstop situation seems to have gotten a lot clearer over the past few days. Baseball America's Minor League Free Agent Tracker shows that the Yankees have re-signed Walter Ibarra, who was slated to be Trenton's everyday shortstop entering 2012. 

Two finger injuries and an Addison Maruszak breakout put the kibosh on those plans and relegated Ibarra to just 44 games. His return ends any thought of Jose Mojica at Arm and Hammer Park and would seem to push Reegie Corona out of the picture. 

-- released its list of its top 100 prospects on Tuesday evening. As was to be expected, three Yankees were named. Sanchez checked in at No. 36, Williams at 41 and Austin at 75.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Could Zoilo return to Trenton? Plus an updated roster guess

The Thunder's outfield this season will feature three of the Yankees' top prospects. That much is a certainty. The identity of those prospects is a different story altogether.

When Tyler Austin and Ramon Flores closed the season with the Thunder, it seemed a good bet that they'd return to flank Slade Heathcott in Trenton once April rolled around. Flores should still be here, but Austin might open the season in High-A.

That's because Zoilo Almonte is looking more and more likely to start the season (and probably spend the first half) back in right field in Trenton. 

After swatting 23 doubles and 21 homers last season, the obvious question is: Why? It's all about the on-base percentage, and the lack of walks contained within. In 642 Double-A plate appearances, Almonte has been unintentionally walked just 37 times. That works out to a 5.1-percent clip, or one walk per 17 or so plate appearances.

Those numbers included walk-free stretches of 11 games (May 29-June 12 -- 50 plate appearances) and 19 games (July 18-Aug. 9 -- 79 plate appearances).

Almonte also fanned 22.7 percent of the time, third worst on the team, behind Cody Johnson (35.6 percent) and Luke Murton (22.8 percent)

In other words, his plate discipline could use some more work. The at-bat that perhaps most exemplified his problems came on Aug. 16 at Reading, in the middle of a banner day for both Almonte and the Thunder. 

Trenton thrashed Reading starter Brody Colvin that afternoon for 11 runs in just more than five innings. Almonte was right in the middle of that carnage, tagging Colvin for two homers. In the midst of all that, however, he put together this ghastly strikeout, at a time when Colvin was begging for any out he could find. 

If you're counting, that's three pitches -- two breaking balls and a heater -- none in the strike zone, for three swings and misses. That's a good way to make a bad pitcher (or a decent pitcher having a bad day) look very good. 

Make no mistake, pitchers at Triple-A and above will exploit that aggressiveness to no end. 

There is precedent for the Yankees to hold back a young player after a decent season that, on the surface, seems worthy of promotion. Look no further than Melky Mesa last year. 

In 2011, Mesa spent all season with the Thunder and put forth a .251/.329/.404 line with 24 doubles and nine longballs in 105 games. He also walked just 8.1 percent of the time and fanned at a nearly 30-percent clip. 

Those numbers earned him a trip back to Trenton to open 2012. His walk rate went down a tick, but he cut his strikeouts by almost 10 percent and in August earned a promotion to Triple-A. This all happened during his age-25 season. Almonte won't turn 24 until June of this year, so he still has plenty of time to polish the rough edges of his game, which also include his oftentimes suspect defense.

Signings by the Yankees over the last few weeks also seem to offer clues to Almonte's future. In recent days they've added Matt Diaz, Thomas Neal, Russ Canzler and Dan Johnson to a Triple-A picture that already included Ronnier Mustelier and Mesa. 

Even if you figure that one of Neal, Diaz or Canzler could make the big club, that still leaves five players for three outfield slots and a designated hitter (likely Johnson). It also doesn't leave much room for Almonte with the RailRiders.

With all that in mind, it seems pretty likely, at least from where I'm sitting, that fans at Arm & Hammer Park will get a third dose of Zoilo Almonte this season.


1. J.R. Murphy - C
2. Jeff Farnham - C
3. Kyle Roller - 1B
4. Jose Pirela - 2B
5. Reegie Corona - SS
6. Kevin Mahoney - 3B
7. Slade Heathcott - CF
8. Ramon Flores - LF
9. Zoilo Almonte - RF
10. Rob Segedin - OF
11. Cody Johnson - DH
12. Jose Mojica - IF
13. Shane Greene - SP
14. Nik Turley - SP
15. Mikey O'Brien - SP
16. Zach Nuding - SP
17. Jose Ramirez - SP
18. Dan Burawa - RP
19. Tommy Kahnle - RP
20. Branden Pinder - RP
21. Kramer Sneed - RP
22. Craig Heyer - RP
23. Graham Stoneburner - RP
24. Cory Arbiso - RP
25. Jeremy Bleich - RP

Changes from last time: Tyler Austin is bumped out by the return of Zoilo Almonte. If Almonte, Flores and Heathcott are going to be here, then Austin is far better served by returning to Tampa to get regular at-bats. Even though he cleaned up in his time in High-A, there's no harm in sending back a kid who won't turn 22 until September.

Same idea with Adonis Garcia. Flores, Heathcott and Almonte (or Austin, if I'm wrong on the above theory) are sure bets to play every day. That would make Garcia no more than a fourth outfielder here. If the Yankees want him to get regular at-bats, then Tampa (especially if Mason Williams starts the year on the DL) will be the place to do it.

The Yankees signed Reegie Corona, who would make a lot of sense as the Thunder's everyday shortstop, especially considering that Mojica, even though he hit just .225/.265/.305 with High-A, was far and away the best in-house option. If Corona is here, then Jose Toussen, whom I had penciled into the utility infielder's role, would head back to the Florida State League.

Rigoberto Arrebato and Manny Barreda are also pushed back to High-A by the presence of Jeremy Bleich, who should see his first action at the upper levels since tearing his labrum in 2010. Another case of simply no room at the inn. That said, there are a few pitchers who seem to be candidates for release toward the end of spring. If that happens, then someone like Barreda could get the bump up. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Yankees minor league spring schedule and brief primer

As I posted on Twitter last week, I've booked my spring training trip for this season. Because there are now direct flights from Trenton to Tampa, I was able to accomplish a little more on roughly the same budget. Instead of my usual week at the Himes Complex, I'll be staying from March 19-28 and thus will catch nine games. 

Here's how spring games work. The Yankees divide their prospects into four groups - Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A*. Two groups will stay at the Yankees complex to play their games, and the other two will travel to their opponents. This rotates daily.

Thanks to the good people at the Phillies complex, I have a copy of this year's Thunder spring slate. I've bolded the games I'll be attending. There are three camp days this year, when all the groups stay at the complex and play against one another. Those games typically take place at 10 a.m., whereas all the others are at 1 p.m. My schedule includes two games apiece against the Pirates and Blue Jays farmhands, four with the Phillies and one camp day.

March 15 - at Pirates
March 16 - CAMP DAY
March 17 - vs. Pirates
March 18 - at Blue Jays
March 19 - vs. Blue Jays
March 20 - at Phillies 
March 21 - vs. Phillies 
March 22 - at Pirates 
March 23 - vs. Pirates
March 24 - CAMP DAY
March 25 - at Phillies
March 26 - vs. Phillies
March 27 - at Blue Jays
March 28 - vs. Blue Jays
March 29 - vs. Pirates
March 30 - at Blue Jays
March 31 - CAMP DAY

Some of the non-roster invitees and 40-man farmhands will still be with the major leaguers, meaning that some players will be slotted higher than they will wind up come April. For example, if Zoilo Almonte is still in big league camp on the 19th, then someone like Slade Heathcott will likely be playing in the Triple-A group, or a level ahead of where he'll start the year.

Consequently, that would push someone like Mason Williams or Kelvin De Leon or Ben Gamel up to the Double-A work group. If Nik Turley or Jose Ramirez are still playing their games at Steinbrenner Field, then Caleb Cotham or Matt Tracy might be slinging for the Double-A group.

*These designations are purely nominal; they have no bearing, especially in the beginning, on what the actual rosters will look like come April.