— Much like the home opener, there would be a lot to discuss before the day was over. This time, let’s start from the beginning.
— Prior to the game, outfielder Damon Sublett was placed on the disabled list. He is, of course, perfectly able…but the team needed a roster spot to add Kevin Millwood, and Sublett was the odd man out yet again. Sublett was briefly active — for a whopping two days — but did not play.
–Manny Banuelos’ blister has healed to the point to where he’s been penciled into the team’s rotation that’s posted in the clubhouse. He’s slated for Tuesday…but another roster move would need to be made to make him active as well.
Banuelos was, uhhh…kind enough to show me his left thumb inbetween games. The blister has healed significantly, but not completely. It’s sort of a crusty, yellowish blob at the moment. For those of you eating dinner, my apologies.
— I guess that report about Millwood looking “terrible” wasn’t too accurate, eh? Millwood carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and ultimately fired a one-hit, complete game shutout to lead the Thunder to a Game 1 win over the Senators.
Thunder catcher Austin Romine isn’t far removed from big league spring training, where he caught virtually every Major League pitcher the Yankees have to offer. So his answer to my question regarding whether Millwood is ready for the big leagues right now should hold some water…
“I think he could, yeah,” Romine said.
“He has the experience, he has the mindset. He’s been there, he’s done it. His stuff, it’s good. It was an honor for me to catch him with all the stuff he’s done in his career, it was real fun for me today. To almost get a no-hitter — even though it was seven innings — but to only give up one hit, those are always fun to catch. It was awesome.”
Despite a lack of velocity, Millwood topped out at 87 MPH on the radar gun and was consistently at 86, Romine was impressed with the command the Major League veteran showed today.
“Nothing’s straight, everything’s moving,” Romine said.
“He’s a big league pitcher. You see a lot of guys in the big leagues who don’t throw 98, but they hit their spots. When they miss, they miss because they wanted to. In my experience catching a lot of the big league pitchers, especially in big league spring training, they don’t miss. They’re very locked in and accurate in where they want to throw the ball. That’s what he was doing today, he was doing what he wanted.”
Count manager Tony Franklin among those who walked away pleased with Millwood’s performance.
“Just the way he pitched, all the young pitchers on the bench were watching him,” Franklin said.
“I was pretty impressed with the way he went in and out. When he got ahead, he displayed the hitters weaknesses. I think he’d be the first to tell you he’s no longer a flamethrower, I think at one time he threw fairly hard. But he read swings very well. We were talking on the bench about how he was pitching guys and after the game was over, and it was pretty impressive. He reads swings really well and not only pitches to his strengths, but to the hitters weaknesses. I was impressed.”
— There is, as of now, no plan for Millwood going forward. Where he is four days from now is anyone’s guess. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see him make one more start with Trenton…Scranton also obviously an option.
— It’s usually only customary in rehab appearances, but Millwood purchased the entire clubhouse a Famous Dave’s spread. I’ll be honest, I’d heard varying reports about how Millwood was to deal with…but from our Friday chat to dealing with him after the game to seeing the way his teammates took to him, I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the man.
— Millwood’s efforts aside, the Thunder put together a pretty solid all-around game in the first half of the doubleheader. Austin Krum, Austin Romine and Brad Suttle combined to drive in all eight runs, and four players had multi-hit games.
— The second game? Yeah, that didn’t go as well. Craig Heyer more or less did everything he told me he was going to do the other day. He went five innings, he kept his team in the game, and he did a nice job sliding into a spot start. When he left, it was a 3-2 deficit for Trenton to overcome. The bullpen turned it into an 8-2 laugher. Pat Venditte and Fernando Hernandez got knocked around — Venditte for two runs on a LONG home run and Hernandez for the other three — and it was more of the same from a bullpen that, as a whole, has arguably been one of the weakest points of the team over the first ten games.
“I think they’re all reliable, I do,” Franklin said.
“We’ve given up a few runs, no question about it. Someone’s going to emerge down there, as they always do. Here again, we’re only a few games into the season and roles will be defined. We’ll know more about them as we continue to play more ballgames. I think our bullpen’s OK. I’m not overly concerned, but I am concerned.”
As for Heyer, his first Double-A start was fairly impressive. He allowed just one earned through five innings of work, giving up four hits and no walks. He struck out two.
“I’d be lying if I said I was happy with the results,” Heyer said.
“But, I’m happy about some of the pitches I made. I’ve been developing my slider and developing that changeup, and getting good command of that fastball. Fastball command was OK today, but I’m going to work this week to make it better. I’m going to get back to the pen and go back to square one with that.”
Heyer threw 64 pitches, 44 of them for strikes. He held his own and could emerge as a possible full-time starter down the road.
“Whatever they need me to do, I’ll be happy with,” Heyer said. “If they need me to start, if they need me to be in the bullpen, (it’s fine). But yeah, I’m glad that they know I can start now at this level…and I’m one of the guys they think about when they need a guy like me.”
Heyer, who was topping out at 90 MPH on the radar gun today, told us after the game that he learned a lot from Millwood’s outing, going so far as to pick his brain after coming into the clubhouse after his start.
“It was great, after I came out of the game today, he was in the clubhouse and I was trying to pick his brain a little bit on how to pitch guys,” Heyer said.
“He gave me some advice after the game. It was kind of neat to have a guy like that around. He just said I’m kind of the same type of pitcher he is, just location, sinkers. He said when the ball was down, it has a lot more movement on it than when it’s up. Obviously, sinkerballer. But I told him I got in trouble today when the ball was up, and he noticed that from the side, he noticed I was pulling with my front shoulder and said stay on it. So I’m pleased that he’s recognizing some of that stuff.”
— It was ultimately, a tale of two games with the bats and the arms…both were solid in Game 1, not so much in Game 2.
“That’s the way we’ve been going from time to time,” Franklin said.
“We’re anemic for a few games, and then we bust out and get some runs. We’ll have to find our level of consistency. Hopefully, it’s four, five, six runs on the board a game. I think that’s what will win us some ballgames.”
— Not sure I’ve mentioned this yet, but the Yankees are using the Pitch FX system in Trenton. I’m not sure I could accurately describe what I’m seeing on the monitor that’s a few seats to my left…but I will try sometime soon. Some very advanced stuff, put it that way.
— Spoke to Steve Garrison about getting to make his first start at Waterfront Park since pitching here in high school. Stay tuned for a story on that later tonight or before gametime tomorrow.
— Is that enough video for everyone? 27 of em’. Good number for Yankee fans, right?