Results tagged ‘ Minor League Baseball ’

A Minor Assignment

Yesterday afternoon was almost awesome for the Yankees, in their series finale vs. the Los Angeles Angels. But what’s that old saying? “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

With the tying run on second base, the potential winning run on first base, and two outs in the ninth, Alex Rodriguez had a chance to channel his inner 2007 and walk off the Yankee Stadium field a hero. Instead he came up short, popping the ball up behind first base; the cowhide falling into waiting glove of Albert Pujols for a 10-8 loss.

Nonetheless, the Yankees still own the best record in baseball at 54-34, and remain in first place in the AL East, a cool eight games ahead of the second place Baltimore Orioles.

While the Yankees were taking two games out of three from the Angels this weekend, I had the opportunity to cover the same minor league team I interned for in 2010, the Hudson Valley Renegades, who are connected to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Since the high school sports scene is obviously voided for summer vacation, my editor thought it might be fun for me to cover some Renegades games, just to give me some work and a chance to cover some professional baseball.

Saturday evening I made my way to up Dutchess Stadium, much like I did every game day two years ago, to cover the Renegades’ game vs. the Mahoning Valley Scrappers – a minor league team affiliated with the Cleveland Indians.

It was a different feeling on the way to the ballpark, however, knowing I’d be sitting up in the press box rather than setting up for the game and handling all the oftentimes unpleasant tasks interns have to do. Like this…

When I walked into the Stadium, it felt surreal. Not having been there in two years and having so many memories – and all those memories coming back to me in that moment – was a little overwhelming. All of the players (including Robinson Cano’s cousin Burt Reynolds) and interns who were there in 2010 have moved on; it was so strange looking around and not seeing all the familiar faces.

Wearing my press pass, I made my way up to the breezeway, past the luxury boxes and into the press box, where a number of MiLB personnel and beat writers were.

A group of them were conversing about the recent draft, and speculating about which players were going to make an impact in the future. They also shared with each other some stories about traveling, going from city to city following their respective teams. It was a little intimidating for me, knowing these reporters are the real deal; not that I’m not the real deal, but they are writers that get to experience professional baseball on a daily basis.

I guess it was only natural to feel intimidated; me being just a fresh, relatively new high school sports reporter who was given an assignment – they being writers with years of experience in the business. I’ll admit I was nervous – nervous, but not scared. Believe it or not, a Tweet from one of my former co-workers at the Renegades put my mind at ease.

Thanks, Dan.

The other writers eventually left though, and took seats down the left field line in a designated area for press members. I elected to remain in the press box with another reporter, the official scorer, and the girl who runs the Renegades’ Twitter page. The group of us shared a lot of laughs and banter throughout the game.

Before the game started, I kind of soaked it in; took in the view.

The Renegades led off the bottom of the first with a home run from their center fielder Joey Rickard. They then took a 2-0 lead after two innings when their left fielder, DeShun Dixon, led off the bottom of the second with a home run.

Dixon would knock in a run on an RBI single in the third after an RBI single off the bat of Renegades’ shortstop Ryan Dunn (Yes, Ryan Dunn. I’m aware he shares the same name as Bam Margera’s late friend).

Leading 4-0 heading into the fourth, the Scrappers put up two runs on back-to-back RBI doubles off reliever Brandon Henderson. Renegades’ starter, 19-year-old Taylor Guerrieri – who was Tampa Bay’s top pick out of Columbia, S.C. a year ago – left the game after three innings, using up a lot of his pitches.  

Following the back-to-back RBI doubles, the ‘Gades bent but didn’t break. They held the score until the seventh when second baseman Tommy Coyle blasted a two-run homer, the Renegades’ third round-tripper of the night.

Trailing 6-2, the Scrappers threatened in the ninth. Mahoning Valley loaded the bases with nobody out, but again, the Renegades refused to fold. Reliever Ryan Garton induced a 6-4-3 double play, which allowed a run to come home, before notching the last out.

Final score: Renegades 6, Scrappers 3

It marked the Renegades’ eighth win at home this year, and they are only a game out of first place in their division behind the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ farm team.

I left the press box and went to the clubhouse where I caught up with Jared Sandberg, the Renegades’ manager, ex-Devil Ray, and nephew of famed Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg. I had to ask him what makes his team so good when they’re playing at home.

“We get the last at-bats, we make it exciting, and we get the chance to put on a show for the home crowd,” he said.

“The crowd comes out and supports us every night, with 4,000-plus, and it’s fun to play in front of a big crowd. They get behind us and it’s good energy.”

I then questioned him about the home runs, seeing as how a power surge led to the win. He admitted the long ball raised his eyebrows.

 “We haven’t hit many homers this year, so it was a little bit of a surprise,” he said.

“It was also good to see because guys aren’t trying to hit home runs and they’re hitting home runs. Any time Joey Rickard can lead off the game with a homer and give us that boost, that’s nice, and then DeShun Dixon hits a two-run homer with a flick of the bat. Then obviously Tommy Coyle’s late home run gave us some breathing room.”

With the top pick on the mound, and a decent job from the relief corps, I inquired about how well the Renegades’ pitching has been anchoring the team.

“The pitching is keeping our season going in the right direction,” Sandberg said.

“We can lean on the pitchers right now because they’re throwing strikes and competing extremely well. The team is playing relaxed but we’re going out there competing every night and that’s what a manager wants.”

Overall I was extremely satisfied with how it went. My editor thought I did a great job with the story, and I hope this is just serving as a warm-up; the start of what I pray is a long career covering pro baseball.

Perhaps I’ll be one of those beat writers in the press box, talking about the new draft picks and sharing stories about life on the road, covering pro baseball teams.

Maybe someday. Until then, I have this story: getting the chance to cover a pro baseball game for the first time.

Bottom line: I loved it.

The MLB Draft: What Does it Mean and Does Anyone Care?

At the end of April every year, football fans flock to Radio City Music Hall, bars, or friend’s houses to watch the spectacle known as the NFL Draft. College players eligible to be drafted by NFL teams, coaches, draft analysts, fans, and Commissioner Roger Goodell are all in attendance to watch the draft take place.

The MLB Draft takes place during the regular season (in June) and is hardly anything compared to the NFL Draft. This year’s draft is currently taking place this week and a number of high school players and collegiate athletes have been drafted to MLB teams.

To be honest, I had no idea the MLB Draft was happening until I saw it on Twitter. In fact, as I was writing this, ESPN acknowledged that there has barely been a word uttered about the MLB Draft, and right now it is in its third day.

There are so many reasons the MLB Draft is, in a lot of ways, meaningless.

First I will start with an obvious point: popularity. The MLB Draft does not get mainstream media attention because high school and college baseball is not nearly as recognized as high school and college football, basketball, and in some areas of the county high school and college hockey.

Simply put, more is known about prospective players in other sports than baseball.

To another point, many players who get drafted to MLB teams do not see an MLB diamond until years later. These kids get drafted but in no way make an immediate impact. In fact, some don’t make the majors at all.

Consider this:

31 of the first 53 picks in first round of the 1997 MLB Draft eventually made the majors. But only 13 of those 31 players appeared in more than 100 innings as of 2009.

In the sixth round of the ’97 draft, only five of the 30 players selected eventually made a big league appearance – and only two of those five (Tim Hudson and Matt Wise) have played more than 40 innings in an MLB game.

MLB drafted 64 players in the first round of the 2007 draft. At the end of the 2008 season, those 64 players – combined – totaled one inning of MLB playing time. What’s more, as of 2009, the majority of the players selected in the 2008 draft were still in the minor leagues.

Now compare that to the NFL.

Every first round pick in the ’08 NFL draft had played in the league by the end of the season.

On last night’s broadcast of the Yankees vs. Red Sox game, former Yankee Paul O’Neill made a great point when he and the rest of the commentators were discussing the MLB Draft:

“If you get drafted, you have a chance to make it,” O’Neill said.

“You go to minor league camp and find there’s 400 other guys trying to do the same thing you are.”

It’s such an excellent point. In baseball, you really are not guaranteed anything. You can be the best player on your high school or college team, but it doesn’t mean you are going to see an MLB diamond anytime soon. If a player gets drafted, they get a chance.

What the player chooses to do with the opportunity is up to them.

If a player gets drafted, tears through the minors, and demonstrates ability on and off the field, then he has a great chance at success.

However, if they falter in the minors and can’t keep up, the odds of making the majors are slim.

As far as first overall picks, there’s a little bit of a difference between baseball and football. For example, football has produced 28 players (drafted as the first overall pick) that have gone on to play in a Pro-Bowl, football’s version of the MLB All-Star Game.

12 football players who were picked first overall went on to become Hall of Famers.

21 overall first round baseball picks became All-Stars and two won Rookie of the Year.

Yet, what struck me is that two players in baseball who were drafted first overall retired without ever playing a Major League game.

That just proves the point: you can be as good as it gets, but still not make it to the show.

None of the first round overall MLB picks have gone on to the Hall of Fame, but keep in mind: the NFL Draft began in 1936. The MLB Draft only started in 1965, giving the NFL Draft 29 years on the MLB Draft, and thus more time to generate Hall of Famers.

Ken Griffey, Jr. was selected first overall (by the Seattle Mariners) in the 1987 MLB Draft, and in all likelihood, he will become the first player, taken first overall, to make it to Cooperstown. Alex Rodriguez was picked first in the 1993 draft, but with his admission of PED usage, his future in terms of the Hall of Fame is uncertain.

24 out of the 46 overall first round MLB draft picks were drafted out of college. In my mind, that demonstrates maturity. I have always maintained, whenever speaking about sports, that athletes who play in college are more mature than athletes who sign right out of high school.

Prime example: Tino Martinez, one of the more dominant players during the Yankee dynasty.

  

Martinez was drafted by the Boston Red Sox out of high school, but instead opted to go to the University of Tampa. His father always told him, “Anything can happen to you and you might not be able to play. Get a college education, and if they like you enough, they will draft you again.”

And that they did. But the second time he got the call it was from the Seattle Mariners. He was then traded to the Yanks, and the rest is history.

Bottom line: I respect those who play in college more than the players that sign right out of high school.

Another advantage football has over baseball in terms of the draft is the scouting combine. The NFL scouting combine takes place every year after the season ends, and coaches get the chance to see the draftees in action about two months before the draft – giving them ample time to see what their choices are before making their picks.

There is no equivalent in baseball. Scouts from different organizations go around to high schools and colleges across the country, with a book and a radar gun in hand. The scouts are the only ones who get to see the potential draft picks, the manager and coaches don’t see them first hand.

This spring season, I mostly covered high school girls’ lacrosse for the newspaper I work for. I did however get the chance to cover a baseball game last month. A Lakeland High School (Shrub Oak, NY) pitcher was two outs away from a perfect game, and he surrendered a home run.

I had the chance to cover him again last week, as he was named New York State Gatorade Player of the Year for the second year in a row. He became the first player from New York to win the award twice and on his senior night, Tommy John personally came to the game to watch him pitch.

Overall he tossed 40 innings this season and only issued five walks. He also racked up 59 strikeouts over those 40 innings and he only gave up seven earned runs all season. He finished with a 6-1 record and his ERA was 1.22.

Next year this player is going to Richmond to pitch.

Do all of his accolades mean he will get drafted?

Perhaps, but only if he keeps it up in college. He has a good chance to get a call from an MLB team and sign after his junior year.

Yet, does it mean he will see an MLB field and play Major League Baseball?

Who’s to say? Nothing is guaranteed in baseball.

Yanks Fall to BoSox Under the Lights, Bartolo Fans Five

     

 

First game Saturday.

Ramiro Pena’s grounder in the bottom of the ninth with two outs looked as if it had a one-way ticket to center field. If it had gotten through the infield hole, it would have tied the Yankees’ exhibition with the Red Sox tonight at five. Oscar Tejada made a great play to rob Pena of a game-tying single, ending the tune-up game and giving Boston 5-3 win over New York.

Tejada not only made the game-ending play on defense, but he helped out on offense, padding Boston’s 2-1 lead. In the top of the seventh he clubbed a two-run triple to give the Red Sox a 4-1 edge. They had scored earlier in the frame on an RBI single by Juan Carlos Linares, breaking a 1-1 tie.

The big night continued for Tejada in the ninth when he singled to score Linares, making it a 5-1 ballgame. Daniel Nava drove Tejada in to score in the sixth inning, accounting for Boston’s first run in the game.

Robinson Cano recorded his first hit of the spring in the bottom of the sixth, an RBI double which plated Pena. Before Pena made the final out, the Yanks tried to stage another comeback by scoring two runs. Jordan Parraz singled to score Austin Krum and Gustavo Molina drew a bases-loaded walk which plated Kyle Higashioka.


Bartolo looked..well..good. 

Bartolo Colon started for the Yankees and although he did not face most of the regulars, he put up a strong showing. The tubby right hander tossed three innings and scattered two hits while not allowing a run. He walked no batters and fanned five BoSox.

On the other side Clay Buchholz made the start for the Red Sox and also showcased good stuff. The 26 year-old righty pitched three innings and allowed only one hit. He walked two and struck out two.

Clay Buchholz returned the favor.

Tonight the Yankees and Red Sox met for the first time in 2011 and there will be a lot more where that came from. The rivals will meet again on Monday March 14 in another exhibition and will of course face off 18 times during the regular season. Not to mention they have a good chance to square off in the postseason.


Yankee notes!Things to Look Out For & Notes   

·         The Yankee starters are proving their worth. They have only allowed one run in the first 15 innings they have pitched this spring, and have registered 13 consecutive scoreless innings. So far they are probably making it difficult for Joe Girardi, since they have all been producing.

 

·         Russell Martin caught behind the plate tonight for the first time. After the game he told the YES Network that he feels good and felt comfortable catching. At the plate tonight he struggled, though; he was 0-for-3 and left three men on base.

 

·         In some bad new for the Yanks, Francisco Cervelli will be out of action for at least a month. The details of his injury became apparent and he has a broken foot. He worked hard in the off-season, slimmed down, and looked good through the first few games. But then he fouled a ball off his foot on Wednesday vs. the Astros, and now he can’t play for awhile. Tough break for such a great guy.


Poor Cervelli. :( 

·         Now that Cervelli is out of action, the chances that Jesus Montero makes the team are high. Contrary to what I originally assumed, Jorge Posada will not be catching at all this season, at least from the looks of things. That being said, this is Montero’s chance to impress and maybe make the team.

 

·         Robinson Cano has been pressing to begin the spring, but finally broke out with an RBI double tonight. Good to see the real Cano finally come out to play.

 

·         Alex Rodriguez was 2-for-3 tonight with a double, and he now has four doubles for the spring. His double tonight, on any other night or in any other ballpark, would have been a home run. The wind down there in Florida keeps pushing the ball back and he is just missing home runs. Wait until he gets back to New York. He won’t be missing many homers at Yankee Stadium.

 

·         I cannot believe I am even saying this, but Bartolo Colon is actually pitching very well to this point. When the Yankees signed him the headline in the New York Post read, “Cheap Colon.” Right now, that Colon smells pretty good. He does need to lose weight, however. He looks out of shape and that can eventually catch up to an athlete.

 

·         Yesterday I wrote about Mark Prior and what he has been through in his career. He impressed me tonight: one inning, no runs, no hits, one walk, two Ks. I am really pulling for him and I would like to see him make a solid comeback.

 

·         Manuel Banuelos pitched tonight and once again put up a strong showing. He worked two innings and gave up no runs on one hit. He walked a batter and struck out three. The 19 year-old lefty will probably not make the team coming out of Spring Training, but he is unquestionably turning a lot of heads and raising eyebrows. He topped out at 96 on the speed gun tonight and looks way ahead of his age.
Manny is impressing us all. 

 

·         I made a small comparison in my head tonight: before 2007 began the Yankees had three promising prospects – Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. Here we are just before 2011 and we have Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman.

 

·         Lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano pitched tonight, giving up an earned run on two hits. No walks and no strikeouts, but he did better than the other lefty reliever Boone Logan, who took the loss tonight. Feliciano might pitch more this season than Logan. When he was with the Mets, they gave him the nickname “Perpetual Pedro,” being that they used him almost every day to get the big left-handed hitters out.

 

·         The Red Sox left most of their stars at home. Only Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Jason Varitek and Josh Reddick made the trip to Tampa. Reddick had a great diving catch in left field to rob Cano of extra bases in the bottom of the second. I’m pretty sure Carl Crawford has that spot locked up, but Reddick could state a claim to be Boston’s fourth outfielder.

 

·         Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, and Curtis Granderson did not play.  

 

·         Actor Richard Gere threw out the honorary first pitch tonight. According to what they say, he is a big Yankee fan. I always liked that guy…

 

·         The Yankees will face the Washington Nationals tomorrow and the Houston Astros Sunday. The next televised game is on Monday against the Phillies and A.J. Burnett will start that game.

 

·         So far the Yanks’ Grapefruit League record is 2-4-1.      

 

Can Mark Prior be This Season’s Comeback Kid?

 

I love a good comeback story.

Some of the best stories in sports are the stories of comebacks. Most people are familiar with Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, who was a highly touted prospect but fell victim to temptation and drugs. He worked as hard as he could and made it back to become one of MLB’s best players.

If you are a football fan, David Tyree’s name comes to mind. He was arrested and lost everything, becoming another athlete with a drug addiction. Yet he exorcised his demons and eventually had the huge “helmet catch” to help propel the New York Giants to a 17-14 Super Bowl victory in 2008 over the undefeated New England Patriots.

The so-called “rise up from the ashes” tale is one everyone enjoys – not just sports fans.

At 30, life in baseball has seemingly not yet begun for Mark Prior. Stemming back to his debut in 2002 with the Chicago Cubs, he has a history of injuries and he has never really been able to recover from them. You name it, Prior has been through it.

Hamstring injuries, Achilles injuries, shoulder surgery, elbow strains, a tweaked oblique, tendinitis – he has not had an easy career considering all these problems.

Mark Prior has not had an easy career

Although he has been hurt most of his career, he still holds a lifetime record of 42-29 with an ERA of 3.51, and he has fanned 757 lifetime batters. He was the second overall pick (in the first round) by the Cubs in the 2001 draft and he even made the National League All-Star team in 2003. That being said, he has the makings of a very good pitcher.  

Now, if he can only find a way to translate it to his career without getting hurt.

Since leaving the Cubs after 2007, Prior has bounced around baseball. He tried to make it with the San Diego Padres, but never pitched a Major League game for them. He was released by the Padres in August of 2009 and in June of 2010 he went back to USC, where he had previously attended College.

He worked out for a Major League scout, but was deemed “just all right.”

Prior has bounced around baseball because of his injuries

In September of last year Prior agreed to a deal with an independent team – the Orange County Flyers of the Golden Baseball League. Exactly a month after he had agreed to play for the Flyers, he signed a Minor League contract to pitch for the Texas Rangers. He made it clear that he wanted to pitch for a Major League club and hoped to catch on with the Rangers in a middle or long relief role.

Obviously he didn’t get a roster spot on the Rangers, but that didn’t mean he was giving up.

This past off-season the Yankees signed Prior to a Minor League deal. He has only pitched one inning this spring- a perfect frame against the Detroit Tigers on Monday March 1. He has also been working out with the team consistently and hopes to accomplish what he didn’t with Texas – receive a spot in the bullpen as a middle or long reliever.

The Yankees signed Prior this off-season

In a recent interview with the YES Network, Prior described his arm strength as “good” and stated that he needs to prove that he can stay healthy. One of his goals this spring is to show everyone what he is made of.

“I want to show everybody that I can stay healthy and I can still pitch,” he told YES. “I know how to pitch. My stuff may not be what it used to be, but it’s still good enough to get guys out at this level.”

Prior added that he wants to get comfortable pitching in games.

At the trade deadline last season, the Yankees acquired Kerry Wood, who was Prior’s teammate for five years on the Cubs. At one time the two were considered a “dynamic duo,” if you will, being the Cubs’ top tier starting pitchers. Like Prior, Wood sustained a number of injuries and analysts and fans questioned his ability to return from them and effectively pitch.

At one time, Prior and Kerry Wood were the tops around the NL

Wood proved to everyone that he can indeed still pitch, as he went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA down the stretch for the Yankees. He was also instrumental in fortifying the Yankee bullpen, acting as the bridge to Mariano Rivera for the second half of 2010.

Prior was happy to see his former teammate succeed in pinstripes.

“I know Woody had a great time here, he really enjoyed himself here, and I think it revitalized him to continue on and keep playing,” he said.

“He pitched outstanding the last two months of the season for the Yankees and hopefully I can do just as good a job as he did.”

Everyone loves a comeback story. And this year Prior might be the guy the fans look at and say, “He’s the guy who rose above; the guy no one believed in, but he proved us wrong.”

The fans should be rooting for him. I am.

Down on the Yankee Farm

 


Bartolo. Ugh.Desperate times call for desperate measures. And right now, it’s really no secret the Yankees are turning to desperate measures. As reported yesterday, the Yankees signed Bartolo Colon to a deal worth $900,000 plus incentives. According to Buster Olney, Colon pitched for Tony Pena’s team this winter, which may have played into the Yankees’ decision to sign him.

This signing caused a little bit of an uproar from Yankee fans and analysts. One source said, “Bartolo? Maybe he can be Alex Rodriguez’s personal batting practice pitcher. 22-for-51 lifetime with eight home runs.”

Colon is 14-21 with a 5.18 ERA since 2005. His signing puts him in line with Mark Prior, another starting pitcher the Yanks acquired with a history of injuries. The Yanks inked Prior to a minor league deal this off-season and to my best estimate would be a bullpen pitcher, if he is healthy and makes the team.

On the edition of Yankees Hot Stove I watched tonight, the starting rotation and lineup for 2011 were both projected. As far as the rotation goes, the YES Network has CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and Sergio Mitre penciled in as the five starters.

Ivan Nova: Yay or Nay?

Nova in 2010 was 1-2 with a 4.70 ERA. He allowed 21 earned runs in 42 innings, which doesn’t seem bad. He also hasn’t really had the opportunity to showcase his stuff, but for some reason he doesn’t excite me. Nova will get the chance next year to show what he’s got.

I just hope that he doesn’t become another Ian Kennedy or Darrell Rasner.

Mitre was 0-3 in 2010 with an ERA of 3.33 in 27 appearances. Since becoming a Yankee, Mitre has only three wins under his belt and hasn’t been very effective, to say the least. The only start of note Mitre made was in August of 2009 against the White Sox when he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Eventually he ended the outing with 6 1/3 scoreless innings recorded with one hit allowed.

Aside from that outing, Mitre hasn’t done much to benefit the team.

The Yankees have now made several moves in terms of signing free agents. But judging by tonight’s Yankee hot stove report, they will be turning to the Minor Leagues this year. It seems as though they have a few youngsters who will be looking to make the team and from their own words, the Bronx is where they want to be come March 31 when the Yanks open up at home against Detroit.

Since we already know the so-called “Baby Bombers” might get a taste of the show this year, I have singled out five top Yankee prospects that we could see in the Bronx this season–and others we will surely see in the near future. Some of them may have to wait a few more years; others may get the call to the show in ’11.

Nonetheless, we’ll undoubtedly see each of them in Spring Training at the end of next month.

5) Cito Culver

Cito to succeed Jeter? 

He is a player I do not expect to see in the Bronx in 2011. However, we could be looking at the heir apparent to Derek Jeter’s shortstop throne.

I saw Cito Culver play this summer. The Hudson Valley Renegades, the Minor League affiliate of the Rays (and a team I interned for this past summer), played the Staten Island Yankees a few times, as both teams are in the McNamara Division of the New York Penn League. With that I was able to watch him play, but the only game he played in: 0-for-2 with a walk.

Not much to look at there.

Culver, who will be 19 this August, has played in 56 games since getting drafted in June of last season–51 with the Gulf Coast Yankees and 15 with the Staten Island Yankees. So far in his young career he has a .251 batting average and has only hit two home runs with 18 RBIs. He has shown ability to hit the ball in the gap, as he has legged out eight doubles and a triple over that span.

He is very young and is a work in progress. But by the time Jeter’s contract expires in 2014, Culver might be developed enough to succeed him. Culver will still be in his early 20s while Jeter will be in his early 40s.

If I were the Yankees I would start getting him ready now. If they play Culver wisely, he produces, and he doesn’t he injured, he can potentially be the next long-term Yankee shortstop. From the scouting reports I have read, he has great bat speed for a kid his age and can play above average on defense.

 

4) Manuel Banuelos

Manny in '11?

The majors in 2011? Maybe. Maybe not. Right now, I am thinking not.

Left-handed pitcher Manuel Banuelos is going to be 20 years old on March 13 and has risen through the ranks of the Yankees’ Minor League system. He has been down on the Yankees’ farm since 2008 and had his best season in 2009.

For the Tampa Yankees and Charleston River Dogs in ’09, Banuelos compiled a 9-5 record with a 2.64 ERA, making 19 starts and 26 appearances. In three Minor League seasons, he is 13-10 with an ERA of 2.59 which includes 37 starts and 215 2/3 innings.

An upside about Banuelos: he seems to be a strikeout machine while not allowing as many free passes. In the 215 2/3 innings he has logged in the minors, he has sat down 228 batters on strikes–only issuing 66 career walks.

228:66 strikeout-to-walk ratio: not bad.

Banuelos has only been up to the Double-A level, pitching three games in Trenton last year. He will have to prove himself worthy again with a tough 2010 (0-4 overall with a 2.51 ERA coming off his solid ’09 campaign) but expect good things from him in the future.

If he has a great bounce back year, he may be a September call-up. A scouting report said he features a smooth, easy delivery and he demonstrates the ability to repeat it. They say he throws a devastating 12-6 curve ball. His fastball has been clocked at 94 on the speed gun and shows tailing action on right-handed batters.

The same report compared him to Johan Santana.

 

3) Dellin Betances

Dellin in '11?

The Show in ’11? Yes. I can see him there.

I think what benefits the 6’8, 245-lb. right-handed starting pitcher is his age. Dellin Betances will be 23 by the time the 2011 season begins, unlike most of his comrades who are still in their late teens. Betances has been in the Yanks’ system since 2006 and has put together a career Minor League record of 20-14.

He has registered 349 strikeouts over that span, but has walked 135 batters. He has given up less than a run per inning, as he has thrown 299 2/3 innings for his career and has given up 134 runs.

One of his downsides is the fact that he has had reconstructive surgery, which was apparently a ligament reinforcement procedure. His surgery may have been what has stopped him from making it all the way to the majors this early in his career.

Scouting reports indicate Betances exhibits a fastball, a curve ball, and a changeup. His fastball has been gunned at 96-97 and he has the ability to pound the strike zone with it. From what they say, he starts most hitters off with his fastball and eventually finishes them off with it, using it as an out pitch.

His curve ball is said to stay down in the zone and he does not overuse it. The changeup is about 82-85 mph and if he can obtain better command of it, it will become faster over time.

Betances has the ability to be an ace. Look out for him. With the lack of starting pitching this year, he may finally get his chance to show Yankee Universe what he has got. I think it will all depend on how he performs this spring.

 

2) Austin Romine

Austin in '11?

Not only will he probably make a big league appearance this year, he has the possibility to make the team out of Spring Training.

Austin Romine, 22, was the Yankees’ second-best prospect in 2010 according to Baseball America. Drafted in 2007, Romine has been a solid catcher down on the Bomber farm. In 2007 he played one game for the Gulf Coast Yankees and had one hit, a walk, and two runs scored in that game.

From there on out, he has had at least 10 home runs in every season he has played and through four Minor League seasons, he has batted in 191 runs. He has played as high as Double-A Trenton and his overall batting average is .281. He also won the 2009 Florida State League Player of the Year Award and participated in the 2010 Futures Game.

Scouting reports say he is a well-rounded catcher, but his defense is a hair above his offense. They say his arm strength is very good and it will probably get better as he develops. What’s more, he is a gap hitter with 84 career doubles and four career triples.

“Expect those extra base hits to turn into home runs as he fills in his 6’1, 195-lb. frame,” one report suggested.

Romine said he hopes it comes down to the wire in Spring Training in terms of making the team. He would like to do battle for the final roster spot with…

 

1) Jesus Montero

Montero is the top-ranked Yankee farm hand.

The Yankees’ number one top prospect and the fifth best prospect in all of baseball.

 The cream of the crop. The sure thing? Perhaps.

Catcher Jesus Montero, 21, has already been declared ready for the majors by Yankee Hitting Coach Kevin Long. However, his defense is what has kept him down. His height (6’4) is what apparently makes him not a viable catcher. Some have even suggested that he switch positions, moving to first base or a corner outfield position.

While that remains to be seen, he has demonstrated stellar offensive numbers. In 380 career Minor League games he has recorded 449 hits with 58 homers and 251 RBIs. Last season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he averaged .289 with 21 home runs (a career-high) and 75 RBIs.

Montero obviously has it right on offense. A source called him the Yanks’ best hitting prospect since Jeter–that’s something that cannot be taken too lightly.

One scouting report said he is expected to eventually average .300 with 30 homers a year.

The Yankees have signed Russell Martin this off-season, which gives them the chance to continue to mold Montero on defense. I suppose they can try him out at different positions during the spring if his defense at the catcher spot is a major concern and will keep him down.

Either way, expect big things from him. And soon.

My Summer was Baseball

My summer....

If I could sum up my summer in one word it would be baseball. Then again, if I could sum up my existence in one word, it would probably be baseball.

Now that the summer is over and school is back in session (for most of us, but not all of us–I graduated college!) I thought I would reflect on everything that was special about this summer. Never in my life have I ever spent a summer that involved the sport of baseball so much. Here are a few reasons baseball has dominated my life for the past three months.

Yankee Games

 

Yankee games = FUN summer!What would a summer be without a few visits to Yankee Stadium to see the Yanks play? Well, it would be a very dull and sad summer. Thankfully that was not the case, as I was able to attend three Yankee games over the vacation.

 

Yanks/Phils on my birthdayThe first game I went to was on June 15, my 23rd birthday; a World Series rematch with the Philadelphia Phillies, in which the Yankees won 8-3. When I walked into the Stadium that night I remember thinking to myself, “The last time the Yanks and Phillies met at this ballpark, the Yanks hoisted the 2009 World Series trophy over their heads.” I felt very lucky to be at that game.

 

Yanks/Mets five days laterFive days later I made another trip to the big ballpark in the Bronx for the rubber game of the Subway Series. Yankees vs. Mets; CC Sabathia vs. Johan Santana; it doesn’t get any better than that. Mark Teixeira made it a special day by clubbing a grand slam home run, the only offense on the afternoon. The Bombers went on to beat their cross-town rivals 4-0.

 

First time in the new Monument Park

I once again experienced the thrill of Yankee Stadium on Aug. 18 when the Yankees played the Tigers. For the first time I got into Monument Park in the new house and it was nice to see Johnny Damon make his return to the Bronx–as a Tiger. The Yanks won, 9-5. Plus, before the game we got very close to the field. We could practically reach out and touch Joba Chamberlain!

Joba was so close to us! 

All of these games of course were over the summer. I also attended Opening Day, which was a great way to kick off my baseball summer.

The Yankees were 4-0 at games I went to this year and they are 8-0 at games I have been to in the new Yankee Stadium. My only hope is that they keep winning whenever I go to see them.

 

Trip to Cooperstown

 

Cooperstown was awesome

 

I don’t want to say this experience changed me at all, but in a way it did. On July 3, my friends and I took a day trip up to Cooperstown, N.Y. to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

I have already written about everything that happened that day, so I won’t re-hash every little detail of the trip. Yet, I will say that the trip increased not only my appreciation for the sport of baseball, but my love for the sport as well.

It was almost as if I was whisked back to the past; Cooperstown provides such a rich history and gives you an old-time feel.


Memories. 

What’s more, as a huge Yankee fan, it relieved me to see that about 80% of the museum was filled with Yankee memorabilia and historic artifacts. Everything from World Series rings and trophies to Babe Ruth’s jersey was on display for all to see.

Every baseball fan needs (and I stress the word NEEDS) to go to Cooperstown at least once in their life. If you do not go, you are truly missing out and history and quite possibly a life-changing experience.

 

Hudson Valley Renegades

 


A great experience; a step in the right direction.Working for a minor league baseball team all summer certainly played a huge part in how much I was involved with the sport of baseball this summer.
I have shared several stories about things I have done, players I have spoken to, and how much fun it was to get to know my coworkers.

The ‘Gades’ season ended on Sunday and it was a great way to go out: a win over the Lowell Spinners, who are a farm team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox. The Renegades finished with a winning record of 39-36 and it was pretty cool that I got to be a part of their family for the summer.

As it turns out, Rick Zolzer, one of the main bosses from the organization, took notice of “Yankee Yapping” and now wants me to take over the Renegades blogging. He also knows some writers at MLB.com and he said he would mention me to them, which makes me really happy; I would be ecstatic to get my foot in MLB.com’s door. After all, writing and working for them is my ultimate goal.

Working for the Renegades will undoubtedly pay dividends for me.

 

Interview with Brian Sweeney

 

Brian Sweeney and I graduated from the same college!

One of the best things about this summer was actually talking to an active player on an MLB team. Brian Sweeney of the Seattle Mariners talked to me about his life, his background, and his family; he shared some great stories with me and I feel truly blessed that I was able to conduct an interview with him.

I’ll always remember what Sweeney said when I called him to conduct the interview: “Sure we can do the interview now…as long as it doesn’t go longer than about an hour because I have to head over to SafeCo for the game.”   

In awe, I had three words in response: “Wow, that’s awesome.”

The way he said it just left me amazed. He just said it so “matter-of-factly,” if you will.

Sweeney became the first active MLB player I have ever interviewed. I interviewed and wrote a story on John Flaherty last year, but he is retired and now a broadcaster on the YES Network. It was a bit different, considering Sweeney is still playing and he pitched at Yankee Stadium this summer.

What also made it special was that Sweeney and I graduated from the same college. It was nice to discuss what our experiences were like at Mercy, and we were able to relate to one another through that common achievement.  

Hopefully Sweeney is not the last MLB player I interview. I’m hoping for a lot more where that came from.

Now that the summer is over, there is still more baseball to look forward to. The Yankees are playing for their postseason lives and need to pick things up. 1-5 in their last six games is not a good sign, but they can pick up the slack and regain their livelihood.

Tonight CC Sabathia toes the rubber against the Tampa Bay Rays in hopes of playing the role of “stopper.”

The Yankee ace is also looking for his 20th win of 2010.

A Nice Baby BoSox Player

The world might be ending. I never thought I would say nice things about a potential Boston player.

I am just about finished with my summer internship with the Hudson Valley Renegades these past two nights have been eventful, in terms of speaking with more players. I wrote the other night about the Staten Island Yankee who interestingly enough hates the big Yankees and how he wanted to go home.

The Renegades host the Lowell Spinners this weekend

To close out the season the Renegades are playing the Lowell Spinners, a farm team of the Boston Red Sox, in a three game series. In game one on Friday night, the Spinners beat the ‘Gades 11-3.

At one point in the game, the Renegades pitcher came set to deliver to one of the Spinners. Right before he was about to throw the pitch, the batter called time and stepped out of the box. Our man on the mound said, “Are you going to get in the box and hit or stand there and watch it all night?”

That didn’t go over very well.

After that exchange there was a little bit of a standoff between both sides. The Renegades stayed in their dugout (albeit their defensive players were on the field, obviously) but the Spinners looked ready to pounce. They all came out of their dugout and stared down the Renegades before order was restored.

However, one player toward the end of the dugout looked at me. I was working in the third base pit, standing less than five feet away from him. He smiled at me and some of the other interns who were working. One of my friends smiled back and jokingly said, “You guys need backup?”

He couldn’t help but laugh.

I wound up talking with him for the better part of the night. His name is Garrett Rau, an up-and-coming reliever. Honestly, he was a nice guy. He was asking me where the best local bars were, because he was contemplating a night out after the game. I told him about a bar down the street from the Stadium and gave him the drink prices.

“$3.50 for a bottle of Bud Lite,” I told him.

He nodded, as if to say, “Not bad.”

I saw Rau again tonight, as I was back in the third base pit for tonight’s game. The Renegades won 6-2.

“Did you go out last night?” I asked.

“No, I was just too tired to go out, so I nixed the idea,” he replied.

“I hear you,” I said, sympathizing with the exhausted feeling after last night’s game.

Garrett Rau: A Baby Bosock. A nice guy.

We chatted for a little while longer about the silly games that take place on the field in between innings. The Renegades have a different theme every night and tonight was (no joke) “Child Please Night.” We honored the end of summer and the start of the NFL season with different football style games on the field.

One contest was the touchdown celebration game. We picked contestants out of the crowd and gave them a football. They had to do their best touchdown celebration and the winner was decided by loudest ovation from the crowd.

None of the celebrations were all that original.

Rau looked at me said, “That was lame.”

I agreed.

“They should have come up with something cool, like Terrell Owens falling asleep on the ball,” I said.

Rau agreed. He then said that we at least change up the games every night. According to him, the interns at the Spinners’ ballpark in Massachusetts conduct the same contests every night and the players get tired of them.

It’s good to know we are at least providing everyone with new material on a nightly basis.

The ‘Gades and Spinners will play the rubber game tomorrow night to finish off their 2010 New York Penn League seasons. Rau was a little annoyed about the start time of tomorrow’s game. Before the game ended tonight, he asked me what time tomorrow’s game started.

“Seven, I think,” I answered.

“Great,” he sarcastically remarked. “It’s our last game of the season and we’re going to be starting later than usual.”

Normally Sunday games begin at 5:00 but since it’s the last game of the year, it starts later.

Perhaps I’ll see him again tomorrow, but driving home I got to thinking: is it bad that I was conversing and almost cultivating a friendship with a baby Red Sox player? After all, I am one of the most die-hard Yankee fans there is, so is it wrong for me to be talking to this guy?

I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s not his fault he was drafted by Boston. It’s just like the Staten Island Yankee who hates the Yankees–he is not playing for the team by choice, he is only playing for them because they drafted him.

Maybe one day Rau will make the majors. If he does happen to go all the way and he becomes a member of the Red Sox, I will not like him so much.

But for now, I’ll say that he’s not a bad guy.

A Baby Yankee Hates the Big Yankees

This isn’t going to be a long entry, to begin. This particular exchange happened tonight, I found it amusing, and I figured I would write a small blog about it–just to let everyone know what happened.

Tonight I was working at Dutchess Stadium, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades. I blogged earlier in the summer about the internship opportunity they afforded me.

The ‘Gades were hosting the Staten Island Yankees , the short season Single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, in a doubleheader.

At one point in the night I went with my buddy Dan Burckhard (A.K.A. “Crash”… it’s his nickname. Long story) to open up a gate behind the opposing bullpen for an on-the-field activity in between innings.

We wound up getting a chance to speak with some of the relief pitchers on the Staten Island Yankees. One of them looked right at me and then asked me a strange question.

Number 50 hates the Yankees.

“Do you have a gun? I’d like to shoot myself now.”

“No,” I responded. “I’m guessing you want to go home?”

He laughed and said, “Yes. We’ve been here for way too long.”

No argument from me. I wanted to leave, too.

He continued, “Can you get me a beer?”

I laughed and said, “If I could I definitely would. And I would have a drink with you, since technically you are a Yankee and I am a huge Yankee fan.”
Here’s when it happened.

“I F-(expletive) HATE the Yankees,” he said.

“But…you play for them,” I responded.

“Yeah, but not by choice,” he said.

Wow. I laughed pretty hard when he said that. A player on a team of baby Yankees hates the adult Yankees. I just found it rather ironic and it was quite interesting to me.
It made for good conversation, at least.

When I got home I looked him up. His name is Michael Recchia from Crestwood, Illinois. Maybe he’s a White Sox fan? Or maybe he likes losing. He could be a Cubs fan.

And if you were wondering, the Renegades beat the Yanks 2-1 in the first game and crushed them 15-1 in game two of the twin bill.

Hudson Valley Renegades: Fun Team is Fun

 

 

 

I am interning with the Renegades this summer

 

It’s about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. I got home from work about an hour and a half ago–well, my internship anyway. This summer I am a part of the Hudson Valley Renegades’ “Fun Team.” I have just completed my first week, and I can say that it is a well-rounded internship with a lot of work involved.

 

 

For starters, the Renegades are a Single-A, short season farm team affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays in the New York Penn League. A number of current and former Major League Baseball players have come from the Renegades, including Evan Longoria, Scott Podsednik, Wade Davis, and Josh Hamilton, among others.

 

So yes, we have produced some big-name big leaguers.

 

As for my internship: I really do like it, but there are some things that could be better. As a member of the “Fun Team” I feel as though I am an important person in making things happen. One of our main jobs is to entertain the fans in between innings with silly, ridiculous games which take place on the field. You may think it is easy just watching from the stands, but it’s actually pretty difficult.

 

Every game has to end within 90 seconds–that’s pretty much all the time we have before the half-inning begins. It’s hard to get everything on and off the field so quickly. Difficult yes, but I can’t say it’s not fun. It’s pretty cool to be on the field as the players are warming up!

 

Along with being on the field, I have had to help out with the tickets and even walk the mascots around, almost as their bodyguard. When it rained on Tuesday night when the Staten Island Yankees were in town (yes they’re a Yankee farm team!) I had to help pull the tarp over the infield with the grounds crew.

 

 


I helped pull that tarp! 

I can tell you (now from experience) that yes it is fun, but it’s pretty hard! There’s a reason so many people are needed to pull the tarp, because that job requires a lot of strength. It’s pretty much “all hands on deck” when it comes to rain delays at our ballpark.    

 

I also love hearing about the different backgrounds of the players. For example, the Renegades have a young infielder by the name of Burt Reynolds (no, he is not the actor, but his name is spelled the same!) As it turns out, Reynolds is Robinson Cano’s second cousin, and they have worked out together in the off-season.

 

In fact, Reynolds wears the number 24, just like Cano.

 

 


Burt Reynolds is Robinson Cano's cousin!!!! He also wears 24! 

I’d like to ask Reynolds if he wears 24 because of his cousin; in fact, I’d like to do a whole interview with him! But I don’t think I’m allowed to. The Renegades’ manager, Jared Sandberg (a member of the Devil Rays from 2001-03) does not want his players “fraternizing with any staff members.” So in other words, I can’t talk to the players.

 

Well, I at least can’t hold long conversations with them.

 

Today Geno Glynn, one of their backup infielders, said hi to me and one of the other interns while we were on the field before the National Anthem. I politely said hi back, nodded my head, and smiled. I wanted to say more and maybe start a little conversation with him about baseball, but I obviously didn’t want to get him or myself in trouble, so I didn’t.

 

Sandberg actually told his players that if they talk to the staff they will get fined. I think that’s kind of pushing it and honestly a little ridiculous. I don’t see the harm in talking to staff members, so the rule (to me) is stupid. Yet I don’t want them to get in trouble, so unless they speak to me, I won’t speak to them.

 

The last thing I want to do is to cause them any problems with their manager.

 

It’s been pretty exciting to this point and a number of neat things have happened. Consider Wednesday night when the Brooklyn Cyclones (a farm team affiliated with the New York Mets) were in town. My fellow Mercy College alumnus Mookie Wilson was at our game–signing autographs. He isn’t part of the Cyclones team, so I could have talked to him.

 

 
Mookie Wilson came to our game Wednesday 

 

I wanted to talk to him, but unfortunately I was so busy with work that I wasn’t able to. It would have been nice to ask him how he liked Mercy; if he enjoyed the school as much as I did. He also got his degree from Mercy 10 years after he won the World Series with the Mets in 1986, so I would have asked him why he went back to school.

 

Again, it could have made a great interview.

 

Speaking of the Cyclones, they have a player named Corey Vaughn. He is the son of Greg Vaughn (who played for the San Diego Padres) and the nephew of Mo Vaughn (who played for the Mets, Angels, and Red Sox as a journeyman). It’s pretty interesting that some of these youngsters have such a good baseball lineage. Again, it all goes back to the background of each player.

 


Greg Vaugh's son is on the Cyclones  

 

Tonight the Renegades beat the Cyclones 4-3, capping a three-run, ninth-inning comeback. The Stadium went wild for the walk-off victory. According to my boss and everyone else within the organization, not only was tonight the largest crowd in the team’s history, but it was their first walk-off win in three years.

 

Talk about a good night for the ‘Gades on and off the field.

 

 


Renegades win! 

It has been a week into this job. I have gotten to know a lot of new people and I have made some new friends. I am having a good time with the internship and I think it fits me perfectly, because I am such a “baseball buff,” if you will.

 

I can only hope the best is yet to come with this internship. I’d like to have more adventures over the summer and who knows…maybe when it’s all over they will offer me a full-time position. Many of the other interns are still in college. I just graduated from college, so I might have a good shot to stay on board after the season ends in the beginning of September.

 

Again, I can only hope. Until then, I’ll just be working as hard as I can.

 

Go Renegades! (If you’re wondering they are 4-3 this year, good for second place in their division–we haven’t lost a game at home yet, either. Maybe I’m their good luck charm…?)

 

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