Archive for April 6th, 2012

Game 2: Pre-Game Notes

April 6, 2012

6:15 PM — No New Hampshire stuff for me today, so I’ll have much more stuff for you.  In-game updates will be on Twitter from here on out, I think, just like last season.  Not really worth updating it multiple places if nobody comments here anyway.

6:00 PM — Craig Heyer is not physically here just yet, but has been re-added to the roster and will start Tuesday.  Mitch Abeita has been released from the organization.  He was still in the clubhouse before the game.

“I can tell you from personal experience that you feel bad,” said Thunder manager Tony Franklin.

“I was released the same way back in 1976, and it hurts.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s two or three days in.  I think I was a week in.  It’s difficult for me to do it, and it’s difficult for me to tell the players.”

Asked Franklin about if putting Cody Johnson in the 7 hole tonight might take the pressure off him to begin with…

“I didn’t look at it like that when I was making the lineup,” he said.  “I was looking at it like Brewer hit in that position last night, and we just made a couple changes tonight.  The guys that got in there tonight assume the same batting slots that Brewer and Gil had last night.”

Also asked him if he was concerned that a younger player like Zoilo Almonte might take a bad first game (0-for-4, 4 K’s) too hard…

“I’m not worried,” he said.  “I do think about it, because I’m sure they think about it.  Nobody wants to play a bad game whether it be the first night or two weeks into the season, a bad game is a bad game.  He’s a young guy, and I think that’s the one thing maybe I do worry about, that hopefully this doesn’t affect him.  I hope he’s able to bounce right back and put a pretty good game together.”

2:45 PM — Thunder lineup: Almonte LF, Mustelier 3B, Adams 2B, Z. Almonte RF, Lyerly 1B, Mesa CF, Johnson DH, Molina C, Ibarra SS, Stoneburner P

Fisher Cats lineup: Howard DH, Diaz 2B, Jimenez C, Glenn RF, McDade 1B, Van Kirk LF, Sobolewski 3B, Goins SS, Jackson CF, Jenkins P

So, Brewer and Gil are out today, and Johnson and Molina are in.

2:40 PM — Video from yesterday…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Molina Upbeat Despite Demotion

April 6, 2012

Really, you couldn’t blame Gustavo Molina if he walked into the home clubhouse at Waterfront Park with a bad attitude.

As it turns out, the only thing “angry” associated with him were the birds he was flinging at various structures on his iPad on Thursday afternoon.

The 30-year-old Venezuelan-born backstop has spent parts of four out of the last five seasons in the big leagues with five different teams, and spent all but three games of his 2011 season with Triple-A Scranton.  When spring training started, it seemed like all but a foregone conclusion that he and Austin Romine would split time there this year as well.

But then all hell broke loose on the organization’s catching depth chart.  The Yankees claimed Craig Tatum off of waivers, traded for Chris Stewart, sent Francisco Cervelli to Triple-A and lost Romine for an as yet to be determined amount of time with a recurring back injury.  Molina was given the option of reporting to Double-A or going home. 

So, for the first time since 2007, Molina will be in Double-A.

“You never know what can happen,” said Molina, who occupied the locker usually reserved for rehabbing big leaguers.

“I think they know that they’re doing the best for the team.  For myself, I’m here to play ball and get better.”

He was at the airport in Tampa waiting to fly out to Lehigh Valley to meet the Triple-A team there when he got the news that he had the option of coming to Trenton instead.  But he insists it’s all just part of the game.

“Just being active and playing, that’s what it’s all about,” he said.  “If you’re healthy, you can do something.  If you’re hurt, you can’t do anything.  I just need to be here and enjoy my time here…the Yankees (sign) my checks, I have to go wherever they send me.”

For now, he’ll be playing at Waterfront Park, however.  And Thunder manager Tony Franklin is pleased his new catcher came in with the right attitude.

“We spoke earlier this afternoon, and I’m sure the move caught him by surprise.  It caught me a little bit by surprise this morning,” he said.

“It’s part of the dynamics of the game.  I’m sure that he’s a little disappointed, but you’ve got to get going, regardless of how you feel personally.  We talked about that issue, and he was OK with it.  Hopefully, he’ll be fine.”

Molina isn’t even guaranteed to be the starting catcher in Trenton this season — Franklin would not commit to that when asked — despite having MLB time with the Orioles, White Sox, Red Sox, Mets and most recently, the Yankees, for whom he played in three games last season.  Jose Gil was projected as the team’s regular catcher, and got the Opening Day start.

To his credit, while many are feeling bad for Molina, he refuses to feel bad for himself, instead thinking about former teammate Cervelli.

“He went through a lot of hurt in spring training,” he said.  “But he’s taken it like a man and he’s moved forward and is trying to get better out there.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Game 1: Post-Game Notes

April 6, 2012

– Well, it was certainly a tale of two different clubhouses after the game on Thursday night.  For Fisher Cats manager Sal Fasano, his biggest concern was his team’s questionable choice in celebratory music in the clubhouse.  Suffice it to say, he’s not a big Miley Cyrus fan.  In the much more quiet home clubhouse, however, Tony Franklin may have some very real concerns he has to address. 

Already.

It took about three innings for the optimism around the 2012 Trenton Thunder to slowly fade away.  Truth be told, things were looking pretty good early on.  Opening Day starter Shaeffer Hall had an easy 1-2-3 first inning, and Trenton was up 1-0 before even recording an out.

In their first Double-A at-bats, Abraham Almonte and Ronnier Mustelier each doubled, with the latter scoring the former to put Trenton up, 1-0.  Melky Mesa later singled to make it a 2-0 game, but Trenton let prized pitching prospect Drew Hutchison off the ropes, despite a 29 pitch first frame.

He needed just 35 more to get through the next four innings, and ended up retiring the last 13 batters he faced. 

“I started off a little rough, but settled down and got into a rhythm,” Hutchison said.

“I was just off early, it just wasn’t good. I don’t think it was jitters, I was just a little ahead of myself and didn’t make very good pitches.

Meanwhile, the wheels had started to fall off for Hall in the third.

With John Tolisano up and runners on first and second, Hall bounced a breaking ball that eluded catcher Jose Gil. Gil’s throw to third base bounced off of Mustelier’s glove, allowing Mark Sobolewski to score. A.J. Jimenez’s line drive single to center later that frame plated Justin Jackson to tie the game, 2-2.  The Fisher Cats got two more the following inning on a Sobolewski RBI groundout and Jackson broken-bat flare that didn’t so much as leave the infield.  But neither David Adams or Walter Ibarra could corral the ball. 

But perhaps the best example of how the night went as a whole for the Thunder came in the sixth inning.  Yohan Pino relieved Hutchison and allowed a leadoff single to Mustelier and walked Adams.  But Zoilo Almonte struck out with both Mustelier and Adams running, and Mustelier was out at third by a mile to essentially end the threat.

“If he doesn’t swing, we’re in pretty good shape,” Franklin said. 

“We’re trying to stay out of a double play.  Even if we don’t get a hit, we can stay out of a double play.  That’s the risk of the play with young hitters because there’s a tendency to swing at that pitch.  But this is what this level is all about.” 

The Fisher Cats got a seventh inning sac fly off of Preston Claiborne, who inherited the runner from Cory Arbiso, and the Thunder cut the lead back to two in the eighth after another RBI single by Mesa.  But that’s as close as they got.  And really, the game never felt that close.

– Not a banner night in many aspects.  Aside from the Gil error and Ibarra/Adams miscommunication, Mesa seemed to allow a line drive to center drop in front of him that he could have potentially charged and caught.  Trenton’s 3-4-5 hitters combined to go 0-for-9 with three walks and seven strikeouts (Almonte whiffed in all four plate appearances) and Hall only got through four innings with 72 pitches after using just 20 in the first two.

– Hard to see this being a playoff team.  Thought that before the first game, certainly think so afterwards.  63-79 doesn’t seem out of the question at all.

– Before the game, Franklin said he hoped to get all 14 position players into at least one of the three games before the Easter off day.  Gustavo Molina, Jose Pirela, Cody Johnson, Mitch Abeita and Addison Maruszak currently comprise the bench.

– There was, of course, some unexpected roster moves before the game.  The addition of Molina was one, but the subtraction of Craig Heyer was certainly another.  Heyer did very well in his Triple-A debut tonight, allowing just two hits in 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Manny Delcarmen.  Ray Kruml’s seventh inning single was the only thing preventing Empire State from being no-hit.

– As such, Heyer will obviously not start Monday.  Josh Romanski is in line to get the ball instead, which pushes him up a day and leaves Tuesday as a question mark.  Cory Arbiso would be the obvious in-house candidate, but he threw 42 pitches today.  In theory, that could be a bullpen session of sorts, and he’d be going on normal starter’s rest if he pitched Tuesday.  But Franklin told reporters it’ll be Heyer on Tuesday anyway, which will entail a roster move.

– Chatted a little bit with Ryan Flannery before the game.  Figured I’d might as well introduce myself if he follows me on Twitter…and you can follow him at @RyFlan86, of course…but really, I was curious to see how he was going to try to bring what worked for him in Tampa over to Trenton, since it didn’t seem to translate last season here.

“Hopefully I can turn it around from my short stint here last year.  I’m ready and confident this year,” he said.

“I got up here and was missing spots.  I left balls up to get hit.  I was walking a lot of people.  This year, I’ll settle down a little bit, hit my spots and try to limit those walks.”

Flannery, who did not pitch today, is unsure of his role going forward. 

– Spoke to Gustavo Molina at length before the game.  You’ll see a feature on him later tonight, or this morning, or whenever the hell you decide to read it.  If you decide to read it.  But you should.  It won’t suck.  Promise.

– Also, my attention admittedly wasn’t particularly where it needed to be today.  I found out this afternoon that I’d be covering the game for the New Hampshire Union Leader in place of Kevin Gray, who does a fantastic job as the team’s regular beat writer.  They needed an early story by 9 PM and a gamer by around 10:45, so those kind of deadlines had me scrambling like crazy, especially since I’d never really done that kind of writing before…basically plugging things into a feature and sending it before the game is over.

There’s a different version for print, which features quotes from Addison Maruszak on facing Hutchison last season, but the 10:45 gamer can be found here with quotes from Fasano and Hutchison.  Big thanks to Kevin for giving me that opportunity.  It means a lot to be trusted with coverage of Opening Day, and I hope I did Fisher Cats fans proud.

I certainly didn’t slack on Thunder stuff — I’ll have some videos from tonight to share with you tomorrow as well — but my focus tends to go towards my paycheck.  This blog pays zero.  That paper pays a bit more.  Such is the life of a freelancer.

You may have also seen, in addition to the ten million other things it feels like I’m doing, that I’m writing for the Hamilton Pulse now as well.  There will be some original stuff on there this season, but for right now it’s mainly just shorter versions of what you see on here.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com


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