The Tampa Yankees had played their last game of the season yesterday, and Mike Dunn had every intention of heading into his truck and driving to Las Vegas.
Instead, he ended up on a flight up north and arrived in the Thunder clubhouse at 9:30 in the morning, carrying a Yankees equipment bag with his name embroidered in white script lettering on the top.
Unexpected for sure, but certainly a pleasant surprise.
“After the game, the manager called me in his office and goes, ‘When are you planning on driving home,’” recalled Dunn.
“We were in Fort Myers, so I said, ‘As soon as the bus stops in Tampa, I’m getting in my truck and heading for Vegas.’ And he goes, ‘Ahhh, no you’re not.’ and I was like OK. I kind of was hoping for it to happen.”
While he wasn’t one of the first names you’d think of you heard someone was coming to Trenton from Tampa, he was still pretty confident that his season wasn’t over just yet.
“I thought I had a pretty good chance being that they only had one lefty in their bullpen,” he said.
Dunn, who made the majority of his appearances this season as a starter, will be coming out of the bullpen in the postseason for the Thunder. He told me that he prefers being a reliever, saying he loves it.
He utilizes a fastball that tops out at around 94 MPH, a slider and a changeup.
“I just like going at guys, if they beat me, they beat me. But I’m going to throw my best pitch to them,” he said.
Just a few years back, it was Dunn who was trying to hit the opposition’s best pitches, as he was drafted as a first baseman/outfielder. He joins Kevin Whelan in the bullpen as former position players making the transition to the mound.
“In May of ’06, they converted me to the mound,” he said.
“It’s been going real well ever since. For me, it wasn’t really that difficult because I’d pitched in the past, so it wasn’t like it was the first time I’d ever got on a mound. I had a pretty good idea mechanically and what pitches I would throw.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com