Archive for September, 2009

Best. Call-Up. Ever.

September 30, 2009

It seems the Yankees September call-ups weren’t over with just yet.

Chad Jennings, who has done an excellent job as the Scranton Yankees beat writer, will be taking over for Peter Abraham, who’s leaving LoHud to go to the Boston Globe

That’s awesome news for Chad, who is very deserving of such a move.

Without Pete and Chad, I’d venture to guess that my career wouldn’t be where it is now.  Both have been instrumental in the success of this blog  — it’s always amazing to see what happens to the hits here when one or both link to something I’ve written — and their help and friendship has been invaluable.

In reading some of the comments on various posts about these moves, I’ve seen that a lot of you have had very kind words regarding myself serving as a possible replacement, and that’s very flattering and appreciated.  The fact that people feel like I should even be considered for the position shows how far I’ve come from a guy who stumbled onto this line of work by accident seven years ago.

I do believe that a knowledge of the alphabet is a prerequisite of moving up a level…so yes, I screwed up and posted the Matt Cusick piece before I posted the Colin Curtis one.  Curtis…Cusick…close enough, right?  So I’ll have the Curtis stuff for you later today.  OK? 

I appreciate everyone’s kind words, and I’ll keep trying to post new things every day on here to keep everyone interested and talking.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Thunder Home Schedule Unveiled

September 30, 2009

(PR) (TRENTON, NJ) The Trenton Thunder, the Double A Affiliate of the New York Yankees, released its 2010 home schedule on Tuesday afternoon.

The 2010 season will begin at Waterfront Park on Thursday, April 8 against the Erie SeaWolves (Detroit Tigers). Trenton will play 14 home games in April, 11 in May, 15 in June, 14 in July, 15 in August and two in September. The home finale will be Thursday, September 2 against Akron (Cleveland Indians).

The Binghamton Mets lead the way for Thunder rivals next year as the New York Mets will send their Eastern League affiliate to Trenton for ten games: May 13-16, June 11-13 and August 6-8. The Thunder will face the Double A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, the Portland Sea Dogs, seven times at home in 2010. The Sea Dogs will make their first trip to Trenton May 13-16 followed by June 1-3. Philadelphia Phillies fans can catch the Reading Phillies in Trenton for four games next season, July 15-18.

The newest team in the Eastern League, located in Richmond, VA (San Francisco Giants, formerly the Connecticut Defenders), will visit Waterfront Park for one series, June 4-6.

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto Blue Jays) will make the most appearances at Waterfront Park in 2010 as they will play 13 games in Trenton. They will be the visitors on April 27-29, June 25-27, July 29-August 1 and August 23-25.

Standard game times will remain at 7:05 PM for night games. The first Saturday of the season, April 10 will begin at 5:05 PM but all other Saturday games will start at 7:05 PM. Sunday games will start at 1:05 PM with the exception of July 4th which will begin at 7:05 PM and the three Sundays in August which will begin at 5:05 PM.

The Thunder will be home on Mother’s Day (May 9) and Independence Day weekend (July 3 and 4).

Mid-week “Educational Day” games will return beginning with an 10:35 AM start on Wednesday, April 14 against Akron. The Thunder will also start at 10:35 AM on Thursday, April 29 as they host New Hampshire and on Tuesday, May 25 against Erie.

Mid-week “Day Camp Day” games will be held consecutively on Tuesday, July 27 and Wednesday, July 28 and will begin at 12:05 PM. Both Day Camp Day games are against New Britain.

Group leaders are encouraged to reserve the Yankee Club and Conference Center, the Burlington Center Mall Bullpen Grill and the New Picnic Area at Waterfront Park early to get the best choice of dates. Group outings may be booked by calling 609-394-3300 ext. 105.

Full and Half season tickets are on sale now by calling 609-394-3300 or online at trentonthunder.com. Single game tickets will go on sale to the general public on February 1, 2010.

The schedule of fireworks and promotions as well as road games will be released at a later date.

AUDIO: Torii Hunter Talks Development

September 29, 2009

I recently was fortunate enough to be able to ask Angels star outfielder Torii Hunter about how beneficial it is for some of the younger players in the clubhouse to be involved in a September playoff chase, regardless of their roles.  While he may not be a Yankee, what he had to say is certainly applicable to the September call-ups in their clubhouse.

Download and listen to the AUDIO here.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

2009 Thunder A-Z: Matt Cusick

September 28, 2009

matthewcusick-tt

Photo courtesy: Mike Ashmore (2007)

Before 2009: Cusick was the Houston Astros 10th round draft pick in 2007, and debuted with their New York-Penn League affiliate, Tri-City, later that year. In 61 games, he hit .306 with three home runs and 35 RBI, and showed tremendous plate discipline by walking 38 times compared to just 25 strikeouts.

That performance put him on the prospect radar, and Baseball America rated him as Houston’s 29th best prospect heading into the 2008 season. It was a season he would finish in the Yankees farm system.

After spending the first four months of the season at Low-A Lexington — where he hit a career high 9 home runs — he was dealt at the deadline in exchange for LaTroy Hawkins. He finished the year at High-A Tampa, hitting just .174 in limited action.

2009: In just his third professional season, Cusick would start the 2009 campaign where he finished in 2008: High-A. He got off to a slow start, hitting just .204 in April, but his monthly average would raise until his call-up to Double-A Trenton in early August.  He hit .289 in May, .325 in June, .368 in July and .429 in August.  Overall, he ended up hitting .313 for Tampa with a home run and 17 RBI, walking 25 times and striking out just 23.

Cusick played every day at second base once he arrived in Trenton, and played solid defense and was adequate with the bat.  However, he exhibited very little power or speed, with just four extra-base hits (no home runs) and no stolen bases.

After 2009: Cusick is a disciplined hitter who has walked more times (115) in his career than he’s struck out (109).  But if he wants to stand out as more than just another solid middle infielder in the Yankees organization, he’s going to need to find the power he displayed while with the Astros organization.  In a year and a half with them, he went yard 12 times.  In the Yankees organization, he’s hit just one home run.

It seems very likely that Cusick will be the starting second baseman when the 2010 season gets underway at Waterfront Park.  If he can repeat his 2009 season — where a taste of High-A in 2008 propelled him to a good year at that level the following season — then he would seem to be capable of posting solid numbers in Trenton and moving on to Scranton late in the season.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

2009 Thunder A-Z: J.B. Cox

September 27, 2009

cox

Before 2009: Was there any doubt that J.B. Cox would be wearing pinstripes one day?  The former closer at The University of Texas, Cox was selected in the second round of the 2005 draft by the Yankees.  The club thought so highly of him, they sent him straight to High-A Tampa, and he rewarded them with a 2.60 ERA and a 27:5 K/BB ratio in 16 appearances.

Cox started his 2006 season in Trenton, and was essentially lights out.  In 41 appearances, he was 6-2 with three saves and a 1.75 ERA, holding the Eastern League to a .196 average against. 

But then he went to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament before the 2006 season ended.  For all intents and purposes, he never came back.  Cox would reveal several years later that he was pitching through elbow pain that year, and he the pain eventually became too much and he underwent elbow surgery.  He missed all of 2007, but came back strong in 2008. 

He started out in Tampa, made a brief stop in Trenton, and would spend the final four months of the year pitching out of the bullpen in Triple-A Scranton.  While his numbers were pretty average (5-4, 4.75 ERA, 36 IP, 17 BB, 16 K) the main thing he came away with that year was his health.  Cox seemed to have gotten himself back on the path to the big leagues, and would start the following year back in Scranton, just one step away from the Bronx.

2009: The righty reliever started the season with Scranton and struggled early and often.  He posted an 0-1 record with one save and an ERA over seven before going down with a shoulder injury.  When he was ready to come back, he found himself smothered by an overcrowded bullpen and subsequent lack of innings.  So he was sent down to Double-A.

I spoke to Cox when he came back, and he seemed optimistic about getting things back on track one more time. 

“I feel like I’m getting closer and closer,” he said.

“But it’s hard for me to say that, because I still don’t feel exactly like I was then, and maybe I never will. But there are instances and times where I’ll get that flash and it’s like, ‘wow, this feels really great.’ But other times, I’ll get out there and have to battle a little bit more. But the times are coming more and more together now, just in my bullpen sessions I’m starting to get a little bit better feel now. Hopefully I can just get a couple good outings in a row, get on a hot streak, and we’ll see what happens.”

What happened, however, was Cox was flat out not good.  In five outings, he went 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA, six walks and four strikeouts.  And he posted a WHIP of 2.54, which was clearly good for one of the worst marks on the team.  In the middle of June, Cox would leave the team and go into a temporary retirement, returning to his home in Texas.  It’s a retirement that may become permanent.

After 2009: Nobody knows what the future holds for J.B. Cox.  Just 25 years old, if he can ever return to the pitcher he was back in 2005 and 2006, his future is a bright one.  But if he feels like he just doesn’t have it anymore, there’s no telling if he’ll ever come back.  Personally, I think he got too close and was too good to hang it up without giving it at least one more shot.  But we may not know until Opening Day next year if that will actually happen.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Jerk.

September 27, 2009

Matt Carson recently hit his first big league home run.  Thing is, he doesn’t have the baseball.  Why?  Because the “fan” who caught it demanded an exorbitant amount of money for it.

Funny, I’d have traded him a punch in the face.  Amazing that people do stuff like that.  Now the so-called fan has a baseball sitting in his basement that means nothing to him or anyone else other than Carson himself. 

It’s just silly.

Read more in The San Francisco Chronicle here.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Which Feature Do You Want Next?

September 26, 2009

I’m honestly pretty shocked at the reaction the Phil Hughes Q&A got.  I knew it was good stuff, but at this point in the year, I don’t really know how many people are reading what I’m writing.

So I’ll post another poll seeing what feature you guys want to see next.  I’ve got a bunch of stuff in the can from this season that I’d be happy to post, I just need to know what you guys want.  I don’t do this for myself, I do it for the readers.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Alumni Q&A: Phil Hughes

September 25, 2009

hughes

Photo: Mike Ashmore (2007)

By popular demand, the first alumni feature of the off-season will be with Phil Hughes. During a recent trip to Yankee Stadium, I had a chance to catch up with the former Thunder pitcher, who was considered one of the best prospects in all of baseball when he was with the club back in 2006.

Mike Ashmore: I haven’t really had a chance to talk to you too much since you were last in Trenton in 2006.  You spent most of the season with the Thunder that year, what was your experience like over there?

Phil Hughes: “I loved it.  It was kind of my first experience in Northeast baseball.  And it was my first full season without being cut short with innings limits and that sort of thing.  I had a great time there.  I really felt like it gave me a building step towards becoming an improved pitcher.”

Ashmore: Was there something that you learned in Trenton that you’ve taken with you to this level?

Hughes: “Yeah.  It was my first time pitching on front of crowds, and you get not nearly the media that’s here, but you start to get the questions about when you’re going to go to the big leagues and all that sort of stuff.  So you start to handle that.  Just the overall experience of pitching there.  It really was beneficial to me to have Dave Eiland as my pitching coach there, and now he’s here with us.  That year, when I look back to ’06, I think it’s almost my best season as a professional baseball player.  I really took a lot of things from there that I use to benefit me.”

Ashmore: Were there still parts of that season that were kind of frustrating for you?  I remember you’d go five or six innings and allow maybe one hit or even no hits, and you’d get taken out…

Hughes: “A little bit.  I just kind of had to get past that.  I know sometimes I’d have no-hitters and I’d get pulled after five innings and stuff like that.  But it’s part of the growing up process, I guess you could say.  It’s something you deal with.  A lot of young pitchers don’t have those innings yet on their arm to build on, so you kind of have to go through that.”

Ashmore: How have you changed as a pitcher since you were with the Thunder?

Hughes: “I think I’ve grown up since then emotionally and even physically, sometimes.  I look back and it was only three years ago, but it seems like a while.  But I think I’ve come a long way.  I’ve incorporated a couple new pitches, and the command of my fastball…just the confidence with it is right where it was.  My breaking ball is definitely better, I feel like.  Just overall, I feel like I’ve come a long way since then.”

Ashmore: How nice is it to have finally been able to stick in the big leagues after going back and forth between here and Scranton a few times?  And you have a set role now as well…

Hughes: “It’s nice.  It’s kind of what your goal is, to get up here and find a role for yourself and try to find a comfort zone and know that you’re going to be here and stick.  A lot of guys get some time, but it’s really about contributing and being consistent and really proving yourself up here.  I didn’t do that the first couple of years, but fortunately I’ve been able to stay healthy so far and done a pretty good job here.”

Ashmore: Back when you were with the Thunder, the expectations of you were pretty crazy.  You were supposed to be the next everything; you were on the cover of prospect books and it seemed everyone was talking about you.  How difficult was that to deal with?  Did you find yourself trying to live up to all that?

Hughes: “I tried to just be myself.  Things worked out for me.  I’ve had some injuries and stuff like that, which were tough.  Coming back from injury, I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be.  It was tough.  I think people kind of wrote me off a little bit there.  But whenever you go through stuff like that, I took it as a learning experience.  It’s better to go through those things then and become a better pitcher going forward.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

2009 Thunder A-Z: Reegie Corona

September 24, 2009

corona

Before 2009: Corona was signed out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old in 2003.  Just 17 years old at the time, Corona debuted in the organization in 2004 with the Yankees affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .261 in 36 games.

Moved slowly through the system, Corona would spent parts of the next two and a half seasons advancing no higher than High-A Tampa.  But in the last week of July 2007, Corona earned his first promotion to Double-A Trenton, hitting .221 in limited action and earning  a championship ring.

Corona returned to Trenton in 2008, where he spent the entire season.  He played 129 games, including 30 at shortstop.  There, it became clear he was better suited as a second baseman, as he made nine errors at shortstop and just three at second base, despite playing 99 more games at that position.

He also put together a strong season from an offensive standpoint, hitting .274 with three home runs, 39 RBI and 24 stolen bases.  His combination of slick fielding, consistent hitting and speed caught the eye of the Seattle Mariners, who selected him in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 draft prior to the start of the 2009 season.

2009: Corona entered 2009 spring training with a legitimate chance to make the Seattle Mariners out of camp.  Of course, if he didn’t, he’d have to be offered back to the Yankees organization. 

He didn’t make it.  He was offered back.  They gladly took him back.

“It’s a little tough (to have to come back to Double-A), but you have to live with the bad things,” Corona said prior to the start of the season.

“I think it’s a great thing that they gave me the opportunity to spend most of spring training over there. But I come back to Double-A and hope to move forward and to try to do my best. (Facing more experienced pitchers) was a good thing. I think I proved I can play over there. Every day, you learn a lot, and in that last month I learned a lot.”

At the Double-A level, Corona put together a nice season.  In 85 games, he hit .287 with three home runs and 26 RBI.  And while his numbers might not show it, he seemed to develop a little more power to the right side of the field.  Corona also walked (56) more times than he struck out (50), and was pretty consistent throughout the season.

Corona was called up to Triple-A Scranton twice this year, once in May and once in August.  Neither one went particularly well.  Overall, his Triple-A numbers (.200, 3 HR, 14 RBI) aren’t particularly good, but he did seem to improve in his second stint.

After 2009: Corona is still just 23 years old, and has more value than people likely realize.  He profiles very, very similarly to Ramiro Pena, and you see where Pena started the season this year.  Thing is, Pena has proven he can play everywhere, whereas Corona is pretty much limited to second base. 

Reeginald would go a long way towards finally sticking in the big leagues if he could display some more versatility…but the question is, where will that big league opportunity come?

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

2009 Thunder A-Z: James Cooper

September 23, 2009

cooper

Before 2009: Cooper was selected by the Yankees in the 9th round of the 2005 draft, and has been in their organization ever since.  Always a disciplined contact hitter with little power or speed, Cooper was brought through the system somewhat slowly, spending parts of his first two seasons at Short Season-A Staten Island.

However, he spent all of 2007 in High-A Tampa, hitting .259 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 32 games.

He returned to Tampa in 2008, and hit .311 with a home run and 22 RBI in 66 games before earning a call-up to Double-A Trenton on the first day of July.  Cooper would bat .232 with no home runs and 17 RBI in 52 games for the Thunder, earning a championship ring along the way.

2009: Cooper, for the most part, was a part of the everyday lineup in Trenton in 2009.  At times used as a fourth outfielder and having missed over a month of the year with an oblique  injury, Cooper played in 81 games with the Thunder in 2009.  He hit .240 with one home run and 31 RBI.  However, he also committed just one error and struck out just 27 strikeouts in 258 at-bats.

After 2009: Cooper will be 26 years old when the 2010 season starts, and is likely to return to Double-A to at least start the season.  While none of his numbers will stand out, Cooper is very consistent and doesn’t really hurt you in any way.  If he can perhaps put together a little stronger start to his year next season (he hit .185 in April in 2009) he might be able to earn his first call-up to Triple-A Scranton.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com


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