Archive for January, 2008

Ensberg Signs With Yankees

January 31, 2008

Just heard that the Yankees have signed former Houston Astros slugger Morgan Ensberg.  Looks like a minor league deal.  Ensberg will be in the mix for the first base job in New York, and it may have an effect on the Trenton roster.

Depending on how things turn out, the move may force Juan Miranda to start the year with the Thunder.  Now, that may have happened anyway, but it seems the majority of people who follow the Yankees farm system think he’s slated to start his season in Scranton.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Welcome to our new readers…

January 31, 2008

Peter Abraham, who has the only Yankees beat writer blog I check every day, has been kind enough to link to this site. 

For those new here, this will be my third season of covering the Trenton Thunder for the Hunterdon County Democrat.  I’m very fortunate to get to see and get to know a lot of the organization’s best prospects before they make it big, and I’m happy to do anything I can to bring you guys closer to the team.

I check and frequently respond to all the comments left on the site, and can always be reached via e-mail at mashmore98 AT

Looking Back: The 2007 Top 30…

January 31, 2008

OK, so we’re obviously not looking that far back here.  Today, I’ll be taking a look back at Baseball America’s Top 30 Prospects from the 2007 season.  Apparently, it wasn’t a bad year to be in the Yankees farm system, as this seemed to be the first season where…gasp, they actually gave their minor leaguers a legitimate opportunity.  In fact, six of the 30 players on this list made their big league debuts with the Yankees last year.

Make sure you also check out my looks back from the 2004, 2005 and 2006 lists.

1. Phil Hughes, P

Anyone wondering how highly regarded Hughes was before the start of the 2007 season needed to only look at the cover of the Prospect Handbook.  Hughes’ picture, taken by Thunder team photographer Dave Schofield, graced the front of the annual publication.

Hughes made his highly anticipated MLB debut about a month into the season, and had a no-hitter going deep into his second game before injuring his hamstring.  That and a subsequent ankle injury derailed his season for a few months, but after a few rehab appearances back in Waterfront Park, Hughes was good as new and ready to show the world what he can do for 2008.

And, on a side note, he really is as good of a guy as he seems.  Always incredibly giving of his time, not only during the 2006 season with Trenton, but also in the Yankees clubhouse as well. 

2. Jose Tabata, OF

Tabata did very little to hurt himself last season, spending all of last year in the Florida State League with Tampa.  He hit .307 with 5 home runs and 54 RBI, and helped lead the team to an impressive 83-56 record.

However, he still hasn’t developed a lot of power, and only had 23 extra-base hits last season.  One of the more intriguing stories of 2008 might just be Tabata’s adjustment to Eastern League pitching, and if he can increase both his home run and walk totals.

3. Humberto Sanchez, P

With the Yankees being shut out of the Johan Santana sweepstakes, some people might forget that they were victorious in the “getting rid of their aging outfielder for prospects” contest last season.  Sanchez was the key player in the Gary Sheffield deal that sent him to the Yankees along with Kevin Whelan and the essentially forgotten Anthony Claggett.

The problem with all that is that Sanchez hasn’t thrown a single pitch for the Yankees on any level, out for all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  During the parts of three seasons he spent on the hill for the Erie Seawolves, he’s never faced the Trenton Thunder.  However, it’s very possible that his rehab tour will take him to Waterfront Park at some point in 2008.

4. Dellin Betances, P

Betances is listed anywhere between 6′ 7″ and 6′ 9″, but the more important numbers would involve how many starts he’s made over the past two seasons: 13.

The lanky New York native made just six appearances last season for Staten Island, battling a forearm injury that shelved him for the majority of the year.  He’s been impressive when he’s been out there, but he needs to be healthy for all of 2008 to shake any sort of “injury prone” label.

5. Joba Chamberlain, P

What else is there to say about Joba Chamberlain?  He sailed through three levels of the minors, Trenton included, to make a huge impact on the Yankees out of the bullpen following his early August call-up.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t even hear himself get drafted.

“I stopped watching the draft in the middle of the first round,” Chamberlain told me in June.

“I started playing with my son upstairs, but then I got a bunch of calls from my teammates and friends saying that I’d been picked at 41 by the Yankees. It couldn’t have happened with a better organization, so I was pretty lucky to get picked there.”

The same enthusiasm that endeared him to fans in the Bronx was also very evident even in Trenton.

“I’m going to give you 110 percent every time I go out there,” he said.

“I’m going to be excited out there, I’m going to show emotion out there. I want to keep my teammates involved and keep everyone in the game.”

I wrote a column about a week before his big league call-up saying how the Yankees were rushing him, and how people were expecting too much out of him and so on. I obviously now look like an idiot.

6. Ian Kennedy, P

Ian Kennedy / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Kennedy was another pitcher who sailed through the various levels of the minors relatively quickly.  He made the same three stops Chamberlain did — Tampa, Trenton and Scranton — but he stayed in each a little longer.

He goes after hitters with a repertoire that includes a fastball that sat at 88 MPH in his Thunder debut, a sinking changeup, a slider and a curveball.

“I command my pitches a lot like (Tyler) Clippard does, that’s who a lot of people compare me to,” Kennedy told me in June.

But Kennedy rocketed past Clippard in the system, to the point where Clippard was sent down to Trenton to make room for Kennedy, who was on his way up to Scranton.

7. Tyler Clippard, P

Clippard told me in September that he felt like his 2007 season was a mixed bag, and it’s hard to argue with that assessment.  Sure, he made his Major League debut and ended up going 3-1 in six starts for the Yankees, but he also went all the way back down to Trenton and didn’t really pitch all that well in the process.

Following the season, he was shipped to the Nationals for reliever Jonathan Albaladejo, and many people think he could figure prominently in the mix for a spot in Washington’s starting rotation.

8. J. Brent Cox, P

Like Humberto Sanchez, Cox has not pitched since late in the 2006 season.  But what might be more frustrating than anything else for the Yankees is that the former Texas Longhorn actually injured himself pitching for Team USA in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which they perhaps foolishly allowed him to pitch in during the Thunder’s 2006 playoff push.

What’s worse is that Cox was well on his way to becoming a prime candidate for the Yankees bullpen at some point in 2007, but instead finds himself thrown into a category with other rehabbing Bronx prospects.

9. Kevin Whelan, P

Kevin Whelan / Photo by Mike Ashmore

At the start of the season, Whelan was the highest ranked Yankees prospect in Trenton.  Accordingly, I made him the subject of one of my first features.  I’d post the audio if it weren’t for the numerous f-bombs I dropped in it, but Whelan very narrowly avoided injury during our first chat in the home dugout, thanks to a stray BP ball that rocketed off the dugout wall between both of our heads.

That was an odd situation, and it was an odd year for Whelan.  The numbers look good, but his walk totals were a bit of a concern, and he was inexplicably sent down to Tampa to start in the middle of the year before being sent back up as a reliever.

10. Brett Gardner, OF

Gardner spent the first half of 2007 in Trenton, hitting .300 in 54 games with the Thunder.  However, the power that everyone hoped he’d develop didn’t appear, and he didn’t hit a single home run and drove in just 17 runs.  Since his five home runs with Staten Island in 2005, he’s hit just one since.

11. Marcos Vechionacci, 3B

Vechionacci was called up to Trenton just in time for the postseason, and he hit .242 with two RBI in eight postseason contests.  He spent the majority of the season in Tampa, however, where he hit .266 with two home runs and 39 RBI.

12. Jeff Marquez, P

Marquez did a lot to improve his status in the Yankees organization in 2007, posting a league leading 15 wins while with the Trenton Thunder.  It looks like he’ll be joining the Scranton rotation for 2008, and could be a candidate to make the jump to the Bronx at some point in the year.

13. Eric Duncan, 1B/3B

Duncan hasn’t excelled as people hoped he might, struggling for a good part of last season with the Triple-A Scranton Yankees.  He hit .241 with 11 home runs 61 RBI in 111 games, although he did continue his trend of keeping his strikeout totals much lower than the career high of 136 he set while with the Thunder in 2005.

14. Chris Garcia, P

Garcia did not pitch in 2007 due to an injury suffered while in the Hawaii Winter League.  Once compared to Phil Hughes, Garcia now needs a big 2008 to even be in the same conversation with some of the less prominent pitchers in this list.

15. Mark Melancon, P

Melancon also blew out his elbow in Hawaii, and didn’t pitch either in 2007.  So let me get this straight…Sanchez, Cox, Garcia and Melancon all didn’t pitch last season, and Betances only lasted for six games?  Yikes.

16. Alan Horne, P

Horne was probably the most consistent Thunder pitcher last season, dominating Eastern League batters to the tune of a 12-4 record, 3.11 ERA and league leading 165 strikeouts.  However, there are widespread concerns and rumblings about his control, and he still has to prove himself to some of those people while in Scranton this year.

17. Angel Reyes, P

44 walks compared to 49 strikeouts last year?  Uh-oh.  Reyes appeared in 16 games at three different stops last season, and the 20-year-old southpaw wasn’t particularly impressive at any of them. 

18. Austin Jackson, OF

The numbers — .200, 0 HR, 4 RBI — don’t necessarily tell the true impact that Austin Jackson had on the Trenton Thunder’s postseason run.  He made several impressive and clutch throws that showed why this guy is considered to be one of the best, if not the best athlete in the entire system.

19. Chase Wright, P

Outside of the getting traded part, you could pretty much write the same paragraph about Chase Wright as the one above about Tyler Clippard.  Wright received national attention in his second big league start after getting rocked by the Red Sox for four consecutive home runs.  But that was after he made an impressive jump to the Yankees right from Trenton, a place he would unfortunately be sent back down to after the Yankees needed to make room for Kennedy and Chamberlain in Scranton.

20. George Kontos, P

Kontos has been picking up a lot of steam as someone to keep an eye on in the Yankees farm system as of late, and may be one of the more polarizing pitchers in the organization.  With Tampa in 2007, he went 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA.  His 15 home runs allowed were the fourth highest in the FSL last year as well.

21. Jesus Montero, C

After an overall lack of catching depth in the system for the past few years, it seems the Yankees have made great strides in that department with both Francisco Cervelli and Montero.  Just 18 years old, he made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League last year, hitting .280 with three home runs and 19 RBI.

22. Steven White, P

In a year where it seemed like everyone was getting a shot in the Yankees starting rotation, Steven White’s 6-4 record and 3.34 ERA apparently weren’t good enough.  He doesn’t have outstanding stuff, but he deserved a shot in the show just as much as nearly anyone else who got one last year did.

23. T.J. Beam, P

After struggling in an extended look in the big leagues in 2006, Beam spent all of 2007 in Triple-A Scranton.  He did all right, but also did little to distinguish himself from the other relievers in the system.  He’s since signed a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

24. Zach McAllister, P

Zach McAllister / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2007) / Taken in Brooklyn, NY

McAllister went 4-6 with a 5.17 ERA in 16 appearances for Staten Island of the New York-Penn League last season.  I was fortunate enough to see one of his starts in Brooklyn, and it seemed to be a microcosm of his season.  The numbers were pretty good, and I thought he showed some flashes of what he could do, but it was a pretty inconsistent start.

25. Colin Curtis, OF

If I were to entirely base my assessment of Curtis on games I saw him play last year, it might not be so great.  After all, he was 9-for-58 in games I covered.  But his overall numbers were solid, and I saw enough to where I’ll give him a pass.  I think that with a full year in Trenton and some experience against Double-A pitching, he could be somewhat of a sleeper this year.

26. Jeff Karstens, P

Karstens has become somewhat of an afterthought in the system.  He ended up in the Yankees rotation early last season, but broke his leg and never really factored in the discussion after that.

27. Josue Calzado, OF

Calzado hit .271 with nine home runs and 55 RBI at Single-A Charleston last year, showing his first real consistent burst of power.

28. Bronson Sardinha, OF

Seriously, Sardinha must have set some sort of record for most years spent in the Prospect Handbook with the same organization.

29. Tim Norton, P

Norton came out of nowhere to light up the NYPL with Staten Island in 2006, but lasted all of five starts with Charleston in 2007 before going down with a shoulder injury.  Any pitcher in this system simply cannot afford an injury, but a guy who turns 25 in May that the team has very little money in has even less margin for error.

30. Daniel McCutchen, P

Daniel McCutchen / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Do you remember when the only time people talked about Tyler Clippard, it was to discuss him being kicked off his high school team for a drinking and driving incident?  Well, there was also a time when McCutchen was known as the guy who tested positive for ephedra in 2006.

His 2007 season went a long way towards him removing that label, and the Yankees agreed, going as far as to include him as a part of their developmental program at Yankee Stadium. 

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Eastern League Past, Present and Future: Part One

January 31, 2008

Here’s part one of my Eastern League Past, Present and Future series…it’s a little different than how it ran in today’s Hunterdon County Democrat.  Space issues kind of prevented me from turning this into what I wanted it to be, so it’s not all that great…but still, I suppose it’s worth checking out.

Over the past two seasons, Democrat sportswriter Mike Ashmore has been talking to Eastern League alumni, players currently in the league and players expected to join the league for this feature. In part one of the three part series, he takes a look at some of Major League Baseball’s brightest stars with Eastern League experience.

C.C. Sabathia

Before C.C. Sabathia was a Cy Young Award winning pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, he was one of the top prospects in the Eastern League during the 2000 season, pitching for the Akron Aeros.

Sabathia went 3-7 with a 3.59 ERA in 17 games for the Aeros before making the jump to the big leagues the following season.

“Akron was nice, we had a pretty good team,” Sabathia said.

“I don’t really remember pitching that well for them, but I had some good games and some good memories. It was definitely a tough league, a lot of guys that were in that league then are in the big leagues now.”

Sabathia also pointed to some similarities between his old stomping grounds and his current one that helped him along the way.

“Akron helped me because it’s kind of like Cleveland,” he said.

“It’s a big city with a lot of fans, and there’s a lot of attention. That definitely gets you ready for the big leagues.”

An added benefit for Sabathia was that he got to play for current Indians manager Eric Wedge, who at the time was making his way up through the system and serving as Akron skipper.

“I grew up with Wedgie, I’ve been playing for him my whole life,” said Sabathia, who also played for Wedge in Single-A Kinston the previous season.

“If you look at the relationship we have now, it’s a great relationship. He got a chance to see me as a kid, and to develop into a grown man now. It just makes our relationship a lot better.”

And about the jump from Double-A to the big leagues, which few players are able to and even fewer are able to do as successfully as the three-time All-Star ultimately has, Sabathia said it wasn’t as difficult as you might think.

“The Eastern League was pretty tough, so it really wasn’t that different to be honest,” he said.

“I hate it to say it like that, but it wasn’t for me. I just kind of fell into a good team, and had some good veterans around me, and they helped me get off to a successful season.”

Doug Mientkiewicz

After coming up with the Minnesota Twins organization, Doug Mientkiewicz has bounced around the big leagues quite a bit lately, playing for five different teams over the past four seasons.

He also famously caught the last out of the 2004 World Series for the Red Sox, and eventually donated the ball to the Hall of Fame.

But before all that, he put up solid numbers in 1998 and 1999 for the New Britain Rock Cats, and it seemed like all his days in the big leagues might not ever happen.

So what was his experience like there?

“Too long,” Mientkiewicz replied.

“I felt like that league prepared me more for the big leagues than Triple-A did. Having to go back there twice wasn’t fun, but the people there were great and they had a new ballpark, so it was a nice experience.”

Lenny DiNardo

Lenny DiNardo might be best remembered so far in his short career as one of the pitchers who helped Boston break their long drought and win a World Series in 2004.

But just a year prior to that, he was making a name for himself with the Binghamton Mets of the Eastern League. He tells a spooky tale of life in the minor leagues.

“I lived at the Grand Royale, right off of State Street,” DiNardo said.

“It was supposed to be haunted, and every time I got off the elevator, there were old black and white pictures of judges. And I swear to God, the eyes followed you when you went down the halls. It was kind of like staying at the Magic Kingdom haunted house.”

OK, so life in the big leagues is a little different than it is in the minors. You knew that already. But what about the league itself?

“It was fun, I guess I spent not even half the year in Double-A there,” he said.

“I had Bobby Ojeda as my pitching coach, and Howard Johnson was there as well. John Stearns was the had coach, he used to catch for the Mets. It was a good experience, and it was my first taste of Double-A. It was challenging, it was very challenging to go out there.”

Next month, Mike takes a look at players who spent 2007 in the Eastern League. For quotes that didn’t make this article and extended Trenton Thunder coverage, visit

Contact Mike at mashmore98 AT

Pending Pinstripes: Roundtable Part Two

January 30, 2008

Click here to see part two of Pending Pinstripes minor league roundtable, in which they asked some people who follow the Yankees minor league system and their various affiliates a few burning questions.

Thunder fans should take particular interest in the excitement a lot of the panelists have about Trenton this season, myself obviously included.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 At

How Was The Yankees Offer Not Enough?

January 30, 2008

It’s been rumored in numerous places that the Yankees final offer for Johan Santana included Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and a prospect.  Some places say Jeff Marquez was involved, others say it was Marquez and another prospect — reported that Mitch Hilligoss was in the deal at one point.

Whatever the deal was, how is any combination of that not enough?  It certainly isn’t that the Yankees are going down the tubes and needed Santana to survive, it’s far from that.  But what team couldn’t use Johan Santana?

But in any event, it’s widely believed that the Twins took a lesser offer from the Mets instead.  And I’d have to agree to an extent.

There isn’t one player in that deal that is definitively ready for a full season in the big leagues this year.  Humber and Gomez are the closest of the bunch, but Humber has yet to re-gain the lights out stuff he had before Tommy John surgery and Gomez didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first stint at the highest level, hitting just .232 in 125 at-bats.

But you can’t say either player is an absolute lock to play in the big leagues this year.  Best case scenario, Gomez sees some regular time in the outfield, and Humber ends up in the back end of your rotation.

Mulvey, who grew up a Mets fan, would be best suited to spend his 2008 season in Rochester, home of the Twins Triple-A affiliate.

And Guerra, who spent all season in High-A ball despite being just 18 years old, will likely throw the majority of his pitches in a New Britain Rock Cats uniform.

With what the Yankees were reportedly offering, the Twins would be getting two players who were definitively ready for Major League play right now.  Nobody who’s ever seen him pitch has any doubt as to what Phil Hughes is capable of, and he’s shown glimpses of that at the big league level so far.

As for Cabrera, he’s been a regular big leaguer for the past two seasons now, so there’s really no question he could have been an everyday guy in Minnesota.

Perhaps the issue with the deal, at least in the Twins eyes, was with the depth of it.  But Jeff Marquez is highly regarded in baseball circles, and has the numbers to prove it — after all, he did lead the Eastern League in wins with 15.  I’m not drinking the Jeff Marquez Kool-Aid just yet, but it’s hard to argue with what he’s accomplished so far.

As for Mitch Hilligoss, the scouting reports I’ve seen on the kid have all been impressive, and I think everyone knows about his lengthy hitting streak with Charleston last year.  You could easily see him in Trenton this year, no doubt about it.

So where was the issue with the New York Yankees offer?  And what possessed them to take the Mets deal?

Nobody knows how this deal will ultimately turn out, but for right now, it does look like the Twins got robbed.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

How they did in Trenton, ’06 Humber Interview

January 29, 2008

Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey / Photos by Mike Ashmore

To me, one of the most fascinating things of a trade such as the one that has tentatively sent Johan Santana to the Mets for four prospects is hearing baseball personalities and writers go into great detail about the minor leaguers involved.  The problem with that is that a lot of these guys have never seen any of them play.

But if you regularly attend games at Waterfront Park, as I know many of you reading this do, you got to see three of the four players the Twins will be getting; Kevin Mulvey, Carlos Gomez and Philip Humber.  The other, Deolis Guerra, is likely to appear at some point with New Britain this season.

Mulvey was the only one who set foot in Mercer County in 2007.  He faced the Thunder three times last season, all of which came in Waterfront Park.  In fact, if Mulvey ever makes it big, you might have been fortunate enough to say you saw his last Double-A start, which came on August 26th.

He faced Alan Horne that day, and struck out 10 batters in six innings of work without factoring into the decision.

His first appearance in Trenton was on April 19th, where he earned the first of his 11 wins on the year.  He went just five innings, but allowed only two runs on four hits.

His other stint on the bump in Waterfront Park was a memorable one, as his June 5th start saw him opposed by Ian Kennedy, who was making his Double-A debut.

Neither hurler pitched particularly well, and Mulvey came out on the losing end after allowing six runs in four and a third innings.  He also set a season high with five walks.

Thunder fans got to see plenty of Carlos Gomez, as he manned center field 11 times in Waterfront Park during the 2006 season.

He made his Waterfront Park debut on May 26th, and went 0-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base.

Overall, Gomez was 16-for-39 (.410) in his 11 contests in Trenton, hitting one home run and driving in three runs.

Phil Humber has made just seven starts at the Double-A level in his career, including six in 2006.  Thunder fans were lucky enough to witness one of them, which occured on August 10th, 2006.  Making just his second Double-A start of the season, Humber put together his best outing of the season to date, scattering six hits and striking out seven in a season high seven innings fo work.

But he was outdueled by Jason Jones, and Humber would pick up his first loss of his 2006 campaign in Binghamton.

On the basis of Humber being a former Yankees draft pick — and me finally having somewhere I can use this interview — here’s my complete August 2006 chat with Humber, which includes him discussing why he never signed with the Yankees.

Ashmore: The Mets picked you third overall in the first round of the 2004 draft. Take me back to draft day, what was your experience like?

Humber: It was a lot of fun, man. Actually, we were probably coming off of the lowest moment in my college career, we got beaten out of the regional. I gave up a grand slam in the eighth inning, and we ended up losing the game. I was down going into the game, but getting picked third by the Mets is a pretty good pick me up. My whole family was there, and it was a lot of fun, an incredible moment.

Ashmore: Your Rice teammates, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend, also got picked in the first round that year. Have you thought about the significance of “The Big Three” getting picked together like that?

Humber: It was really cool to play with those guys all three years I was there. We became really close by playing with each other and pushing each other. There was a lot of competition, because we all wanted to be the best, and that brought out the best in all three of us. We were all excited for each other when we got picked in the first round. That’s something that will probably hit home more when our careers are done. We’ll look back, and that’s something that’s only happened one time before, and never actually that high in the draft. But it was really cool and that’s something we’ll always be connected by.

Ashmore: You signed for $3.7 million, far more money than I’m ever going to see. What was the first thing you did with the check?

Humber: I put most of it into investments, and then I picked out a car that I wanted and I bought that. I got a Yukon Denali. It’s not too flashy, but it’s very comfortable. I like it, it’s worked out good. I actually just bought a town home in Texas, so that’s really the only two big purchases I’ve made so far.

Ashmore: Do your teammates ever give you an earful about signing for that much money?

Humber: You know, they’ll rib me every once in a while about being a first rounder and stuff like that, but it’s all in fun.

Ashmore: The Yankees picked you in the 29th round in 2001. Was there ever any thought put into pursuing that?

Humber: At the time, I’d signed with a junior college out of high school. They picked me thinking I was going to go to junior college, and they’d have a chance to follow me and maybe sign me after that. I ended up having a really good summer after my senior year of high school, and they wanted to sign me before I went to Rice. But I had it in my mind that that’s where I wanted to go. I thought I could improve my position in the draft, and three years later it worked out that way. It would have been nice to be with the Yankees, but I’m happy with the Mets.

Ashmore: You were on the mound for the decisive game of the 2003 College World Series, which your Rice team won. Tell me about what it was like to be such a big part of winning the College World Series…

Humber: I pitched a complete game in the championship game, and that’s probably the biggest thing I got out of going to Rice. All three years were fun, but that was just a really special season and a really special team; a lot of guys that played together for a while. That’s something I’ll never forget, actually getting a chance to pitch in the championship game was the biggest thrill of my baseball career. That was awesome.

Ashmore: Another thrill for you must have been pitching in Spring Training with the Mets last year, where you got into one game and pitched two innings. What was your first Spring Training like?

Humber: I don’t remember many names, I wasn’t paying attention to who was batting. It was late in the game, and it was against the Nationals. I don’t think there were any Major League regulars in the game at that time. It was still cool to get on the field with the Mets regulars that are up there now and get a chance to show what I can do. Especially with that being my first glimpse of pro ball in a big league environment, it was really neat. It was fun to get out there and not give up any runs or do anything real stupid.

Ashmore: Did you seek out anyone in particular when you were up there? Guys like Pedro, Glavine…

Humber: Coming in and not even having thrown a pitch in pro ball, I didn’t really feel comfortable going up to a lot of people, I just kind of kept my mouth shut. With a lot of them, they’d come up to you and give you advice, they were real friendly. Especially Pedro, he offered some advice on my changeup and a lot of different things, like being confident with my pitches and knowing that you can get big league hitters out. It’s a great atmosphere up there, those guys were real cool.

Ashmore: 2005 wasn’t all great for you, as you ended up having Tommy John Surgery and are only now starting to come back from that. Take me through what that put you through and what you had to do to get back…

Humber: Well, that season was tough because I’d taken six or seven months off from baseball because of the holdout. I came in feeling real strong, I was in shape. But I think as the season went on, my arm began to wear down. I’ve pitched for a long time, so I’ve pitched with pain before, but the pain got pretty much unbearable to where it was affecting the way I was pitching. I came up (to Binghamton) for one start, and I couldn’t take it anymore so they took me out. (I went to some) doctors and got several opinions and found out I needed Tommy John, so I went ahead and had that. Thankfully, there’s a procedure to fix that and it’s pretty successful, so I had that. I was never really scared or worried that I was never going to pitch again. I had faith in the doctors, and it was easier knowing that a lot of people had it and came back successfully. I had faith in God throughout the whole thing, and so far I haven’t really had any setbacks, so it’s been good.

Ashmore: Baseball America had you ranked as the number three prospect in the Mets organization coming into this season. Do you put any stock into something like that?

Humber: No, I really don’t pay attention to much of that stuff. I’ve seen too many guys get hyped up and not really pan out, and then I’ve seen a lot of guys not get hyped at all and become really good Major Leaguers. That’s really for the fans, and for them to have fun with. It’s nice for that to be said, but I want to be the best.

Ashmore: Mike Pelfrey, who was the number one pick of the Mets in 2005, recently got called up to the big leagues. I heard you guys are pretty tight…

Humber: We keep in touch. Coming in, we had a similar background. Both first round picks, both coming out of good college programs, and both right handed pitchers. We had a lot in common, and during Spring Training this past year, we got pretty close. I went through with him what I’d went through, and I told him not to go down the same path, because I ended up getting surgery. But I was real excited for him earlier when he got called up. I tried to watch all the games that I could, and I kept in touch with him as much as I could. I was real excited, because him and Henry Owens I’m real close with. Those guys being in the big leagues was fun for me too.

Ashmore: You started the year in St. Lucie, and you did really well in your first action since your surgery. Were you almost surprised at how well you did?

Humber: I wasn’t really focused on the results. I had a couple of rough outings, I knew my command wasn’t going to be there when I first started out, and it’s still not where I want it to be. But I was fortunate in my last four or five times out there, I was making really good pitches and my stuff was pretty much back. My arm strength was there, so when I make the pitches I wanna make, I’m going to be tough out there. And that’s what I’ve been working on; there with Ricky Bones and here with Mark Brewer, just being more consistent with my pitches. That’s something that everyone coming off of major surgery has to deal with. Hopefully, every single start, I’ll be as consistent as I want to be.

Ashmore: As you mentioned, two of your close friends, Mike Pelfrey and Henry Owens, got to the big leagues this season. When’s it going to be your turn?

Humber: I don’t know man, that’s in God’s hands. All I can do is go out and work every day as hard as I can. The most important thing to me is to mentally focus on the right things, and right now I think I’m in a good place as far as that goes. Whenever there’s an opportunity, I want to be ready for that and hopefully take advantage of it.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Santana NOT going to the Yankees

January 29, 2008

Peter Gammons just came on ESPNEWS to reveal that Johan Santana has been dealt to the Mets for Kevin Mulvey, Philip Humber, Carlos Gomez and Deolis Guerra.

So those Yankees rumors are pretty much over, yes?

Pending Pinstripes: Minor League Roundtable

January 29, 2008

Make sure you check out Pending Pinstripes today, where you can see the results of a Q&A that E.J. did with a few people who have minor league Yankees blogs, yours truly included.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Woodward Signs With Yankees

January 29, 2008

After several days of rumors, utility infielder Chris Woodward has agreed to terms with the Yankees.  While it seems unlikely he’ll ever play for Trenton, don’t rule it out entirely.  I mean, who could ever forget the Felix Escalona era in 2006?

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT