Blogs > Minor Matters

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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Coming North

After weeks of machination and discussions, the group the Thunder will send north is finally set.
A source on Saturday told The Trentonian that the following players will help open Trenton’s 20th anniversary season and christen the new Arm & Hammer Park.

1 - J.R. Murphy
2 - Kyle Higashioka
3 - Tyson Blaser
4 - Kyle Roller
5 - Jose Pirela
6 - Walter Ibarra
7 - Rob Segedin
8 - Kevin Mahoney
9 - Reegie Corona
10 - Tyler Austin
11 - Slade Heathcott
12 - Ramon Flores
13 - Neil Medchill
14 - Shane Brown
15 - Nik Turley
16 - Francisco Rondon
17 - Matt Tracy
18 - Caleb Cotham
19 - Zach Nuding
20 - Dan Burawa
21 - Aaron Dott
22 - Shaeffer Hall
23 - Tommy Kahnle
24 - Kelvin Perez
25 - Josh Romanski
26 - Graham Stoneburner
27 - Branden Pinder
28 - Jeremy Bleich

Most of those names were easy to figure out. Austin, Heathcott and Flores, for example, were long rumored to be slated to form an all-prospect outfield.

The Trentonian reported last week that the rotation would be Tracy, Cotham, Turley, Rondon  and  Nuding.

Likewise, Burawa, Pinder and Kahnle were always a likely trio begin in Double-A. Jeremy Bleich’s return made a lot of sense, too.

The returns of Stoneburner and Romanski are also unsurprising, but Perez was a bit unexpected, considering he was promoted to Scranton in early August last year.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day 9 -- A rotation is named, trip wrap-up

I might be the only media member out there who likes spring training more than the regular season. Everything is so informal during the spring, and it's always helpful to see virtually every player in one place at once. I genuinely enjoy getting to the field at 8:30, watching warm-ups, running drills and BP, breaking for lunch and then watching a highly unorganized game until 4:00ish. 

Plus, the accommodations at the Howard Johnson, while not exactly plush, provide exactly what I need to get my job done with the greatest of ease. Quite simply, spring training is my favorite week (or so) of the year. 

Now, on to the baseball. Pitching coach Tommy Phelps told me after today's game that Thunder's rotation to begin the season will include the following five pitchers (though not necessarily in this order): 

- Nik Turley LHP
- Francisco Rondon LHP
- Matt Tracy LHP
- Zach Nuding - RHP
- Caleb Cotham - RHP

The obvious absence here is Jose Ramirez. He's dinged up a little bit and won't start the season with Trenton. He's slated to throw on Saturday (or so he told me the other day), so he shouldn't be too far behind. 

Plus, Nardi Contreras insinuated the other day that the Yankees were already considering holding him back to keep him away from the cold weather that awaits the Thunder in Portland and New Hampshire (high of 48 is slated for Portland on opening night). 

I wrote more about the rotation, plus a few words on Mark Montgomery and some notes from my final day here, in this piece for the paper. 

Here are a few videos I shot this afternoon, including some J.R. Murphy, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin: 

Day 9 - Heading to Dunedin

Good morning. After yesterday's unbelievably cold (it was 48 with a strong wind in the morning) day, here's hoping it warms up a little. It's supposed to be a high of 60 this afternoon, when I'll head to Dunedin for the last game of my trip.

Yesterday's news centered around two things: Tyler Austin's health, and the completion of the Vernon Wells trade. You can read about all of those things in the notebook I wrote for today's edition of The Trentonian. 

If you don't, the summary is this: Austin is feeling fine. He took batting practice on three different fields yesterday afternoon and said that he would be fine if he were inserted into today's lineup against the Blue Jays. 

Sounds like he'll be ready for Opening Day, when, by the way, it will be in the 30s for the Thunder-Sea Dogs tilt at Hadlock Field. 

As for the Wells trade, we finally found out the cost (besides roughly $14 million) of the deal: Outfielder Exicardo Cayones and lefty Kramer Sneed, and the 40-man roster spot of David Adams, who was released on Tuesday. 

That last transaction caused the biggest stir around the Internet. Adams is fine prospect who can hit the ball into the gaps all day long. Problem is, he just can't stay healthy. He's played just 154 games since 2010. 

Additionally, if you're going to look at him as a third baseman going forth, you're going to want more power. He's hit just 23 homers during his career, including a career-best eight last year with Trenton. Doubles power is fine as a second baseman, but not so much as a third baseman unless you play absolutely outstanding defense. 

Moreover, because Adams was released rather than DFAed, he doesn't have to go through the waiver process. That's a signal, perhaps, that the Yankees might be willing to keep him if he were inclined to re-sign on a minor league deal. 


It looks like Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova will work in minor league games today at the complex, which makes me pretty happy to be going on the road to Dunedin, although the mix of pitching I'll see should be pretty interesting, considering there are A-ball starters who need to get their work in, too. How that shakes out depends on how many innings Hughes and Nova are scheduled for. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

As expected, Austin out of today's lineup

Just as Tony Franklin alluded to yesterday, Tyler Austin's ankle tweak will keep him out at least for today's action. I wouldn't worry too much, though. Austin himself believed he could play to day if asked, and the trainer agreed. 

This is just the Yankees being very cautious (as they should be) with a very important part of their farm system in spring training. He was OK enough to take batting practice this morning, and his ankle didn't look to be wrapped. 

Franklin also indicated that he believed Austin would be ready for the regular season when camp breaks in a few days. 

- In other news, reliever Shawn Kelley will come across the street and start for the Trenton group against Phillies farmhands I suppose that's retaliation for the Phillies starting Chad Durbin on Monday. (sarcasm). Dan Johnson also will get a few at-bats with the Scranton group, and Juan Cedeno will throw an inning for them before giving way to Dellin Betances in the second. 

Zach Nuding and Shaeffer Hall will follow Kelley for the Trenton group. Based on how he's been used this spring, it seems pretty clear that Hall his becoming a reliever. Either that, or whichever team he winds up with will have some serious stretching out to do once the season starts.

- The New York Post's George King reported this morning that the Yankees will send two players not on the 40-man roster to the Angels as part of the Vernon Wells deal. I suppose we'll find out their identities this afternoon once Wells passes his physical. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 7 - Austin's OK, Flores keeps hitting

On Sunday morning, Tyler Austin clubbed two home runs in an intrasquad game. On Monday, he added another bomb and an RBI single in his first two at-bats. 

Then came the trouble. 

After he'd hit the single, Rob Segedin hit a slow grounder to the left side. Austin, who is a better runner than most catchers-turned-third basemen-turned-right fielders, beat flip to second. His slide was late and hard, however, and he got tangled up a bit with second baseman Albert Cartwright.

Austin came up holding his hands on his knees, wincing with discomfort. After a quick meeting with Tony Franklin and trainer Scott DiFrancesco, Austin stayed in the game and eventually scored on catcher J.R. Murphy's RBI double.

Because it's spring training, however, Franklin decided to remove Austin from the game after the inning. Daniel Aldrich took his spot in right field, and Austin got his left ankle wrapped for a few innings. That's the same left ankle that was barking toward the end of last season. 

By the time the game was over, the wrap was gone, and Austin seemed to be in good spirits. He said he would be able to play on Tuesday, but Franklin made it sound as if they would probably hold him back at least a day to be careful. 

I wrote a bit more about that, plus some other notes from Monday's action here. I also uploaded a nice little video of the havoc Austin's caused over the past two games. Check it out below. 

You'll that someone scores on each of the four Austin hits included in that clip. That someone is Ramon Flores, and all he does is hit. His bat control and plate discipline are excellent for someone who'll spend all of his first full Double-A season as a 21-year-old. 

I uploaded this video of his two singles and a triple, plus some BP, from Monday in Clearwater. I'm honestly not sure whether he or Austin has impressed more. One thing's for sure, they're both outstanding young prospects who Trenton fans should be very excited to see in a few weeks. 

Trenton stays at home on Tuesday to battle the Phillies again. I'll also be heading over to the big league game at night to hopefully chat with Vidal Nuno. Talk to you in the morning.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Day 6 - Could Rondon make the rotation?

Donnie Collins and I spoke with Mark Newman after the games finished, and he had a few interesting things to say about the Thunder's probable rotation. All along, I'd figured that Jose Ramirez, Zach Nuding and Nik Turley were going to be a part of Trenton's staff. 

Three names I didn't expect to hear were Francisco Rondon, Jeremy Bleich or Graham Stoneburner. Of the three, I'd say Rondon came the most out of left field. He hasn't started a game since 2009 with Staten Island, and looked pretty darn good during MLB camp coming out of the bullpen. Given the Yankees' ever-constant search for a complement to Boone Logan out of the bullpen, I'd figured they'd go with the guy with the low-to-mid-90s heat and the plus slider. 

With Vidal Nuno looking more and more like a viable option, however, perhaps the Yankees thought it might be best to take a chance. In any case, Newman said that if they decide to keep Rondon as a reliever, he'll go to Triple-A. If he's a starter, he could go to either Scranton or Trenton. 

As for Bleich, he hasn't started for Trenton since May 2010, and pitched no more than three innings in any of his 16 outings -- eight starts -- at GCL, Staten Island and Tampa last season. He pitched one-hit innings for the Trenton group on Saturday, so they're at least stretching him out. After just 74 innings since 2010, he definitely does need to put a bit of mileage back on his left arm. 

Stoneburner began last year as a starter, quickly injured his leg, came back, then quickly re-aggravated the same injury. When he returned, Mikey O'Brien and Vidal Nuno had established themselves in Trenton's rotation, and Stoneburner was forced into the bullpen.

The stuff for Stoneburner has always been fine -- a low-90s heater, a slider and a change-up -- it's staying healthy that's given him fits. Personally, I think he works better out of the bullpen, where his heater can play up a few ticks. 

Sunday was the first of what I expect to be many impressive displays from Tyler Austin. The Thunder's right fielder launched two long home runs in an intrasquad game versus the Scranton group. I don't know the final score of the game, but I'd have to guess it was something like 15-0 based on how much loud contact I heard and saw. Below are videos of both home runs. 

You'll notice that Ramon Flores scored on both longballs. The left fielder, who turns 21 on Tuesday, smacked two singles and a double in the intrasquad game. He's looked absolutely spectacular since I've been here. Excellent eye, bat control and a short, quick stroke which should produce plenty of excitement at Arm & Hammer Park this season. 

More notes on the rotation, plus stuff on Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott (whom you can see running in the videos below) and J.R. Murphy can be found in my story for today's Trentonian. That's all for today. The Trenton group (and I ) will head to Clearwater tomorrow for a game against Phillies kids. Talk to you then. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My day in Bradenton (with lots of video)

Instead of staying in Tampa to watch Derek Jeter, I ventured over to Bradenton for the second day in a row. On Friday it was to watch the Trenton group. Saturday it was to get to see Jose Campos for the first time since last spring's final day. 

However, while talking to Nardi Contreras on Friday afternoon, he mentioned that while Campos is fine and dandy, a newly 19-year-old fireballer named Luis Severino was the one I should watch. Boy, was he right. 

Campos was definitely very good. He sported a fastball that sat between 89-91 all day and touched 92 once. He coupled that a pair of nice breaking pitches that he used to keep the Pirates' farmhands off-balance. He worked quickly and threw effortlessly. He'll probably wind up back at Charleston to start the year. You can watch his entire outing below. 

Severino, however, was magnificent. Easy 92-96 mile per hour gas over 2 1/3 scoreless innings, coupled with a power slider and a change-up that hit as high as 90 miles per hour. At one point, a Pirates coach walked by and said that "when he releases the ball, it seems like it's already five feet closer." Once again, you can watch his entire outing below. (Yes, it's 12 minutes long, but it's worth it.) He got $225,000 as part of the Yankees' class of international signees and allowed just 46 hits in 64 1/3 DSL innings last season. He's not on any prospect lists I've seen, but he will be very soon.

Also saw lefty Rony Bautista for the first time today. My thoughts? That is a massive human being. Absolutely massive. Here, take a look for yourself.

He was paired in the pen next to Corey Black, who is a damn fine prospect himself. However, he's not very tall, so it was kind of funny to watch them throw side by side. Here's a few pitches from Black.

In news from the higher minors, David Adams got into his first game all spring. He hit in the morning, which you can see below, then played with the Trenton squad. Worth noting that he also played the field, as good an indicator as any that he'll be ready to go once the season kicks off.

Other videos of note, which can be found below, include Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez and Brady Lail. Williams and Sanchez were in the Tampa game, and Lail finished out the Charleston game. Weather permitting, there will be a camp day tomorrow at 10 a.m. over at the complex. Jeter might be there again, so that could be interesting.

Day 5 - Let's see what happens

Good morning. It poured cats, dogs, giraffes, lemurs and aardvarks last night. I can't imagine the fields are in terribly good shape after that. Even if the infields were tarped, the outfields are probably lake-like. 

Even so, I'll head over to the complex shortly to see what's up. The Yankees beat reported last night that there's a chance Derek Jeter might come by to get some work in. I doubt they'd risk it on a watery field, but who knows. Here are the options as I see them: 

1. Today's scheduled games are cancelled and the players have a light workout. 

2. Today's scheduled games with the Pirates are cancelled, so the players have a camp day (three intrasquad games at the complex), which would start at 10 a.m.

3. Today's games are on in Tampa and Bradenton, but Derek Jeter stays at GMS and does his rehab work there. 

4. Today's games are on in Tampa and Bradenton, and Derek Jeter gets some ABs against Double-A or Triple-A pitchers. 

If scenarios 3 or 4 occur, I'm heading to Bradenton to watch Jose Campos and Luis Severino throw in the Charleston group. If scenario 2 happens, I'm staying in Tampa to do the same. I don't think I have to explain what I'll do in the case of scenario 1. 

I spoke with someone Friday morning about how the pitching might shake down in a week or so when it's time to break camp, and then I wrote an article about it. You can read that article by following this link

Friday, March 22, 2013

A few questions with Gene Michael

TAMPA, Fla. – Gene Michael has just about done it all with the Yankees. He’s played in their system, managed the team twice, and was their general manager twice. Currently, he’s a senior vice president and special adviser with the team, and can quite often be found in the stands at Arm & Hammer Park.

The Trentonian caught up with him at Steinbrenner Field before Thursday’s game with the Twins and asked a few questions about how things have changed in the decades since he first started evaluating players.

JN: Since you started doing this, how has player evaluation changed?

GM: The more games you see a player, the better off I think you are. You always look for the tendencies, and if you’re doing advanced scouting, you’re looking for tendencies on how to pitch them, how to play against them. If you’re doing player evaluation, you’re looking for the assets of a player. In other words, how much he can help your team or how valuable he is. Those are the things you look at, basically.

You look at the arm, what kind of runner (he is), what kind of power. You grade all these, but then you have to look at the numbers that they put up. That means a lot. That’s a big indicator. I like players that take a lot of pitches at the plate. I like players that walk a lot. High on-base, naturally, is a huge thing. Slugging percentage is another one. You add them up and get the OPS. That’s important, to add up the on-base and the slug. That tells you a lot about the value.

Then you look at players to find out, if you can guess at it and (your view) tells you enough, what kind of concentration they have. Can the play in New York? That’s a big thing, and you never know for sure. That’s for the players.

Then for the pitchers, you look at the numbers. Those are very important. Then you look at the durability. You look at what kind of ballpark they were pitching in before. That’s the same thing with hitters – you get your hitters out of pitchers’ parks and get your pitchers out of hitters’ parks. That’s a big thing.

You always look at how you think they’ll do in the future, and then you look at it and see if you can guess at it intelligently and see if they can concentrate deeply. That’ll tell you something (about) if they can play in New York.

JN: What kind of measure do you use to gauge whether a player can concentrate in New York?

GM: It takes time. If you look at a player and you watch and see how he reacts – I think I could look at Youkilis, and I’ll just go out on a limb and say he can play in New York. He played well in Boston. That helps you. I just watch his concentration. He has big concentration. He can play anywhere.

JN: Let’s take it the other way. Say you’re watching Player X. What would be a sign that he couldn’t concentrate in New York?

GM: I don’t like to say, but I think of players who look like they’re not concentrating in the dugout. They look like they’re not necessarily concentrating when they’re on deck. Players who are in the bullpen who are watching the game intently (can make it). I read into some things I probably shouldn’t read into them with, but I do it anyway. 

It takes time. I think it takes a little time to watch a player. It’s important to big media markets to get to understand this and to see it, and you can’t always be right.

\We’ve been fortunate with the players we’ve had over the years. We’ve had some failures with players that didn’t have concentration, but I always look back and I remember Greg Maddux. He could have played anywhere. He didn’t choose New York. He didn’t come with us, but he should have. He’s a player that could have pitched anywhere.

JN: We talked a bit ago about stats. Which stats have you come to weigh more heavily over the past few decades doing this?

GM: All of it. How they handle the pressure. You can see them coming. You could see Cano coming, but anyone who could envision he was going to be as good a hitter as he’s become isn’t being quite truthful. I thought he would be a big leaguer, and I thought he had a nice stroke, but you didn’t know if he was going to develop the kind of power he developed. 

I saw concentration in Derek Jeter when Derek Jeter was young. I saw it when he didn’t have it, and I saw it when he did have it. And I saw him when he was at Greensboro when didn’t have big concentration and he made 56 errors in one year, but I relate back to that because I made 56 errors in one year, and I remember I had no concentration. Derek didn’t have it back then, but Derek improved vastly over the next year and a half. 

A few videos of Tracy and Austin from Day 4

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Trentonian Q &A: Gil Patterson

Patterson, long ago.

TAMPA, Fla. – Over the winter, the Yankees made several changes to their player development. They beefed up their scouting department by hiring former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and former Phillies coach Pete Mackanin. They replaced hitting coordinator Rick Down with Tom Slater, last year’s Thunder hitting coach.

Considering the recent woes developing pitching, their biggest move may have been installing Gil Patterson, a former Yankees player and two-time coach in the organization, as their new pitching coordinator for the minor leagues. He replaced Nardi Contreras, who remains in the organization and spend most of his time mentoring pitchers in the Dominican Republic.

The Trentonian sat down with Patterson on Thursday for a one-on-one interview on topics ranging from mechanics to genetics to prospects. Here’s what he had to say:

JN: This is your fourth stint with the Yankees. What brought you back again?

GP: For the most part, for me, it’s really home. As a matter of fact, Mr. Steinbrenner, after I got hurt pitching for them – they might have hurt my arm a little bit … 300 innings two years in a row – and Mr. Steinbrenner said I have a job for life. It’s just taken four times to get my ‘for life.’

JN: If I remember the story, he saw you at a car wash and gave you the job?

GP: What had happened was, I was parking cars and he came into the place where I was parking them and he said ‘What are you doing here?’ and I said ‘I’m working.’ And he says ‘You’re a Yankee, and you’ll always be a Yankee. You’ll have a job for the rest of your life. He was always very good to me.

JN: Which surgery did you have? Tommy John?

GP: Tommy John and rotator cuff.

JN: How far along was Tommy John surgery at that point?

GP: I was the third one ever for the rotator cuff. Tommy John came a number of years later, but I was only the third one ever with the rotator cuff surgery.

JN: I’ll assume there was much more risk back then with both surgeries.

GP: They didn’t know how to do it (yet). They’d take the whole muscle, the deltoid muscle, off the bone, and do all the work. Later on they found you could go in with little scopes and things like that.

JN: How does what happened to you during your playing career influence the way you coach pitchers today?

GP: I think a couple of different ways. One, just the caring for the players on and off the field. And I’m not saying it was – it certainly was – however, we keep trying to raise the bar. I think everyone really does, every organization does, every organization and coach. They’re just trying to figure out a way to get better. For me, making sure that players know that we care about their careers on and off the field.

Second, the knowledge of throwing mechanics. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of good coaches around me that even to this day continue to help me. The evolution of the throwing programs, pitch counts, all those things I think, to some degree, formulated me into what I am and what I do.

Then also, there’s the idea of always trying to get better, always trying to get different and new ideas and letting the players have some feedback and autonomy in decisions that we make in their careers. I think the learning curve just went from just thinking there was one way to knowing that there’s many different ways of getting input and information from lots of people before I make a decision.

JN: With that in mind, when you’re dealing with a kid’s mechanics, is there anything you look for that’s either universally wrong or universally right?

GP: With all the technology (available), you just go around the American and National Leagues, and even in the minor leagues, and you see so many different deliveries. And you see deliveries that you would think, ‘This guy will never get hurt,” and he breaks down. And then you see someone else who you think has no chance, and he pitches for 10 years.

I think ultimately there is some general position that a body should be in mechanically, but ultimately a good delivery is anything that someone can repeat to throw quality strikes and hopefully stay injury-free.

We have videos of the 35 best command guys in baseball, and when you watch them you can pick them apart. But, since they throw quality strikes, you just make sure they’re doing their exercises, and (sticking to) their pitch loads.

Genetics plays a large part in it.

JN: That’s where I was going next. Is genetic analysis the next frontier?

GP: There are exceptions to everything, but I think it’s a very valid point. That’s why you try to gather as much information. There is no guarantee that someone’s not going to break down.

JN: How do you go into a kind of uncharted territory like that without putting the pitcher at serious risk in the process?

GP: The biggest reason you make some changes is that, either a guy has had an injury and/or he can’t command the baseball. So, even if you’re healthy and can’t command it, you’re most likely not going to pitch in the big leagues. In that case, you’re kind of forced into trying to make a change that might help him command better. Hopefully, that continues to keep them healthy. I think sometimes the biggest key is not overwhelming guys. Trying to make it one step at a time rather than trying to make three or four different changes. Maybe (instead) try to find the one change that’s going to help.

JN: Speaking of mechanical changes, what have you done with Dellin Betances this season to help him become more consistent?

GP: Dellin was here even when I was here in 2007. It’s the same thing. When you watch his delivery, he collapses at the end a little bit. He overstrides some, and doesn’t finish out front. Honestly, if he could command the ball, we wouldn’t say a word to him. But he has struggled with it, and so we are trying to get him to feel strength and power in a shorter stride, and to feel like he has some extension to home plate instead of collapsing so much. For the last week, he’s done it very well. Today in the game it’s more of, just trust your delivery and go.

JN: Let’s talk a little bit about Jose Ramirez. Here’s a kid who’s kind of tall and skinny, yet he throws in the upper-90s. What allows him to get that kind of velocity?

GP: Let’s ask Ron Guidry and Pedro Martinez. It’s just like you and I were saying – it’s a gift, it really is. With all these things out there about, I can do this to make you throw harder, God makes you throw hard. I’m not going to say there isn’t anything that we can’t do throwing program-wise, mechanically, (or through) strength and conditioning.

I think David Price once said in an interview something like, I throw hard because I throw hard. With anything that everyone’s ever done, from all the power guys, if we all try it, why don’t we throw as hard as them? It’s because someone has decided that we don’t have the ability.

JN: With Ramirez, he has that change-up, which seems pretty advanced for someone his age. Why is it that the change-up is usually the last to develop in a young pitcher?

GP: We’re talking about genetics and the gift of being able to throw hard. A breaking ball, I would put right in that same mold. There are so many different grips to teach, and if you ask me what is the hardest thing to teach, it would be a breaking ball. I’ll take my chances with a guy to get them fixed a little bit mechanically, but a change-up is the same arm speed as a fastball. All you have to do is get a guy to trust it and throw it. It’s a fastball with a different grip. That’s why I think guys can develop a major league change-up.

The hardest part, I have found, is the development of the breaking ball. That’s why, when the Yankees scouts see a guy with a breaking ball, they say, grab him.

JN: How do you decide whether a curve or a slider is a better breaking ball for a young pitcher?

GP: Sometimes data is a very important factor when making baseball decisions. It’s shown that sliders are swung and missed at a higher rate than curveballs. However, if you have a good curveball, I’m not going to try to give you a poor slider. I think overall, the quality of the breaking pitch will determine which one you’re going to use.

JN: What have you thought of Rafael DePaula and Jose Campos this year?

GP: If you’d say anyone is in the same mode as Ramirez, DePaula might be it. DePaula’s got some strength to him. The arm whips through. Good delivery. Good change-up, and the slide is a work in progress.

Campos, coming back from the injury, has been throwing the ball pretty well. We’re going to limit him a little bit this year to how many innings, but for the most part we’re very happy with his progress as well.

JN: Which do you think is a better way to limit a pitcher’s workload: A pitch count or an innings limit?

GP: In general, probably just the innings pitched. And I’m not going to say because it’s easier to monitor, because it’s just as easy to monitor a pitch count. For the most part, I try to increment a certain amount of innings per year.

News and notes from Day 3

I've got 40 videos to upload once I get back to the room, but the GMS wireless is misbehaving right now, so they'll have to wait. Instead, I can give you a few notes from the afternoon at the Himes Complex. 

- Mark Newman said this afternoon that Mark Montgomery is not in the mix for the Trenton bullpen, meaning he's ticketed for Triple-A. I figured all along that he had earned a spot there based on his gangbusters performance with the Thunder, and it seems I got this one right. I mean, you'd have to figure  they wouldn't hold back the organization's minor league Pitcher of the Year, would they?

- Shaeffer Hall threw one inning today in relief of Dellin Betances in the Triple-A game. Newman said he might be used out of the bullpen this year, which would create another hole in the Scranton rotation to potentially be filled by, say, Chien-Ming Wang, if his tryout goes well. 

- Jeremy Bleich isn't sure, but he figures he's headed to Trenton to continue working out of the pen. That makes sense to me. 

- Manny Banuelos was in camp today. He wasn't doing much of anything, but he was there. So that's something. 

- Shane Brown, whose homer accounted for the only run Scranton got off of CC Sabathia on Wednesday, was sick today and stayed home. I believe Kevin Mahoney did the same. 

- Gil Patterson and the coaching staff here have worked with Betances to shorten his stride and keep him from collapsing at the end of his delivery. He had a few blips in his game today, but for the most part he kept the ball down and threw quality strikes. 

- Jose Campos is throwing pain-free, Nardi Contreras told me this morning, and it's a "coin-flip" as to whether he heads to Charleston or Tampa this season, though it sounds like they're leaning toward Charleston. 

- Ramon Flores looks excellent. He was ripping balls to right field with some serious authority in the morning, and he used a magnificent inside-out swing to flip a single to left in the game against the Phillies. The young man has some serious bat control. 

Day 3 from Tampa

Good morning. The weather looks both clear and cool today, so I assume we'll get some baseball in this afternoon. More importantly for me, there will actually be batting practice to watch (and video) in the morning. 

Here's what I have on the docket today:

- I'll ask around to see how Chien-Ming Wang's tryout went. I assume plenty of people who watched him throw will be around the complex this afternoon. If he does sign, the affect he'll have on the Triple-A rotation will be interesting. 

As I've mentioned many times before, I think Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, Shaeffer Hall and Brett Marshall are virtual locks for spots in the RailRiders' starting five. Brian Cashman told reporters yesterday that there are "some vacancies" in the rotation in Scranton, which leads me to believe that the Yankees might just take both David Phelps and Ivan Nova north with them, with one serving as a long man. 

- In that same vein, I'd like to sit down and chat a little bit with new Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson. He replaces Nardi Contreras, who will work mostly with Dominican pitchers from here on out. This is Patterson's third stint with the Yankees, and I'd like to see what's changed since his first time around. 

- In the evening, I'm heading over to GMS to talk to Vidal Nuno about his impressive spring thus far. I'll also chat with whichever minor leaguers are around. Mostly, though, I'm there for Nuno. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Day 2 wrap-up

Today didn't quite go as planned. I was looking forward to taking some BP video this morning, then heading over to Clearwater, where Trenton was scheduled to tangle with Phillies minor leaguers. Instead, it rained last night, and the Yankees opted for a camp day instead. 

To make matters more interesting, CC Sabathia started for Trenton instead of a minor leaguer. Nik Turley did start for the opposing Scranton group, so at least I got a brief look at one probable member of Trenton's rotation.

Here are some videos from the day that was:

Trenton is scheduled to stay at home tomorrow against the Phillies' minor leaguers, so I'll have coverage of that. Plus, afterward I'm heading over to the big league to talk with Vidal Nuno about his excellent spring. 

I filed two stories today, one on Chien-Ming Wang's tryout and possible return to the Yankees, and the other about Cody Johnson envisioning himself aiming for Yankee Stadium's short porch. I'll link those when they're online. 

Other news and notes from around the fields today: 

- Nardi Contreras, newly deemed senior pitching instructor, will work mostly with the Dominican pitchers. He'll spend 12 days a month in the Dominican Republic and the rest of the time in Tampa working with pitchers. 

- Infielder David Adams was on hand for the intrasquad games, but was not in uniform. 

- Jairo Heredia threw in one of the other intrasquad games. He missed all of last season with an injury that has been described as "internal." His velocity sat between 88 and 90 miles per hour, according to a charting pitcher. 

- Briefly saw Bryan Mitchell, a strong-armed youngster who, if he improves his command, could be with Trenton in the second half of the year. His fastball was at 94 and his curveball was in the high-70s. 

- Talked briefly with Thunder manager Tony Franklin today. It's too early to cement much of anything yet in the way of full-season assignments, but he mentioned names like Tyler Austin, Rob Segedin and Kyle Roller among those who could be here this season. None of those names are surprising, but it helps to hear them mentioned by the manager. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Healthy Segedin heads back to third

TAMPA, Fla. — Once he was promoted to Double-A, things just never got on track for Rob Segedin.
The leg kick he’d implemented only threw off his timing and weighed down his performance. And at some point in August, the pain in right shoulder that kept him from putting his full force behind his throws from the outfield became too much to bear.
“It just kept getting worse and worse,” Segedin recalled on Tuesday after the Thunder’s game with the Double-A Blue Jays. “I wasn’t really able to get full range of motion in my arm. I decided to say something in case something big was going on.”
The doctors who looked at him found tendinitis at three different spots in his shoulder, as well as an enlarged acromion bone, which he says can be treated fairly easily through preventative exercises.
He finished his rehabilitation work toward the beginning of November and says he has a clean bill of health heading into this season. That’s good, because after his showing with Trenton last season, he could use a blank slate.
In 48 games with the Thunder, Segedin, a native of Teaneck, hit just .188/.253/.279 with three longballs and 13 RBIs. That’s hardly what you’re looking for out of someone who bounces between both corner outfield positions, which is what the natural third baseman found himself doing last season.
He won’t have to worry about the outfield this year. Instead, the Yankees decided in January to switch him back to the hot corner. Whether that’s because of the presence of Ramon Flores this season or because Segedin didn’t take to his new role as easily as his bosses would have liked is unclear, but the result is the same.

And although he wasn’t out of place in the outfield, he admitted on Tuesday that he wasn’t always entirely comfortable with his new position. That held especially true in left field, where he had particular issues measuring the slice on a fly ball from a left-handed hitter.

Compound both problems, and what you get is a player looking to prove he can hold his own at the upper levels.
“I feel comfortable there,” said Segedin, who arrived in Tampa in mid-January to give himself a quick refresher course on the infield. “I’ve played there my whole life, so it wasn’t that much of an adjustment period.”
With that out of the way, he can focus entirely on returning his offense to where it was with Tampa, when he hit .297/.362/.448 with seven bombs and 41 RBIs through the season’s first 73 games.
He blames a mechanical change, which was installed during his time at Tampa, for his woes with Trenton.
“Before I came up, I was experimenting with a leg kick,” he explained. “Now that’s gone. I’m keeping my feet on the ground the whole time. I got into a hole and just never got out of it. It was mostly on me. The pitchers are obviously better up there, but it wasn’t like I was overmatched.”
If changes to his approach and a return to third base help bring Segedin’s numbers to their slugging norm, then what is shaping up to be a powerful Thunder lineup will gain that much more juice.
NOTES: The Thunder and the Fisher Cats tied on Tuesday at the Himes Complex, 3-3. The game was halted after nine innings at the request of the managers. … Alex Smith, Tommy Kahnle, Dan Burawa and Matt Bashore each tossed two innings, and Edison Mejia pitched the ninth. Of those five, only Kahnle and Burawa are expected to open at Double-A. Kahnle struck out three with a combination of mid-90s gas and a mid-80s slider. Burawa, who missed all of last season with a torn abdominal muscle followed by a cracked rib, hit 95 miles per hour with his fastball. … Tyler Austin, one of the Yankees’ brightest young players, collected two hits, including a double on the first pitch he saw and an RBI single through the middle. … Infielder Jose Rosario hit a game-tying longball in the eighth inning. He is expected to open in extended spring training before returning to Staten Island in June. … Harlan Chamberlain, the father of Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain, took in the games. … The Yankees have installed Trackman software, which monitors pitch movement and velocity, on Field 2 at their minor league complex.

Thunder live chat

Monday, March 18, 2013

Trentonian. Tampa. Tomorrow.

At this time tomorrow, I'll be decompressing from watching the Double-A Yankees take on the Double-A Blue Jays at the Himes Complex. I expect to write a story or two, post a ton of videos and host a live chat at 8 p.m.

For those of y'all who missed it, here's the schedule of games. I'll be at every game from tomorrow through March 27. All games are at 1 p.m. except the camp days, which are at 10 a.m.

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

Before I get there, Chad Jennings spent the day at the complex and picked up a few tidbits relevant to Thunder fans. Among them:

- Mark Newman says David Adams' back is improving and he should still open as the Triple-A third sacker.

- Although he got hit by a pitch the other day, and X-Rays were negative, Tyler Austin looks like he'll open the year and Double-A.

- Angelo Gumbs will open the year back at Charleston.

- Of the players cut from MLB camp, Tom Kahnle, Zach Nuding, Mikey O'Brien, Jose Ramirez, Nik Turley, Kyle Higashioka, JR Murphy, Kyle Roller, Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores and Rob Segedin have been placed in the AA work group.