— No matter what happened, or even how he pitched, Manny Banuelos was going to be the center of attention for today’s festivities. The 20-year-old (!!!) lefty made his first home start of the season and pitched fairly well, allowing just one unearned run on two hits and two walks over four innings of work. He also struck out four Flying Squirrels…much more impressive when you consider I’m referring to actual professional baseball players and not glorified airborne rodents.
Banuelos missed one start due to a blister issue on his left thumb, but said that although he was worried about it, he didn’t experience any issues with his troublesome digit.
“I feel great with my finger, I didn’t feel any bad things. It felt better than the time before,” Banuelos said.
“Before the game, when I start to warm up, every single pitch I just looked at my finger, but it looked the same. I didn’t have any pain, so it was good.”
Banuelos threw 64 pitches, 42 of them for strikes, and topped out at a fraction over 92 MPH on the radar gun. He’s touched 95 before, but when you consider the weather and that this was his first start back from a finger issue and it’s early in the year, and there’s no reason to be alarmed in a very slight downward tick in velocity.
It was Banuelos’ fastball that initially created the blister, so it was comforting to hear that he felt most comfortable throwing that pitch tonight, which is the offering he used the most over those 64 tosses.
“With my curveball, I didn’t have any control today, but I just kept on throwing it,” Banuelos said.
“Tonight, I felt good control (with my fastball), consistent.”
Thunder catcher Austin Romine said that he and Banuelos got a little too “offspeed happy” early in the game, but put that on himself.
“(Pitching coach Tommy) Phelps came down and told me to give him the fastball, and after we started doing that, he started getting some people out,” Romine said.
“He’s got a good changeup, and his curveball is great and he was throwing his sinker. I think he pitched well. Any time you can give up one run in (four) innings and give it to the bullpen, that’s not a bad thing.”
— As the game dragged into the tenth inning, it was Romine who would send everyone home happy. Austin Krum and Jose Pirela led off the first and only extra frame with back-to-back singles, and would advance a base each on a passed ball by Richmond backstop Johnny Monell. Romine then slapped a single through the middle, and got pummelled by happy teammates as Krum crossed the plate to a smattering of applause from the few dozen remaining fans who had braved the cold for three hours and 14 minutes.
“It was a good win for us,” said Romine, who went 3-for-4 on the day to up his average to .263 on the season.
“I was just put in a position where I got a chance to help this team out. But you’ve got to look at the rest of the game and how we kept it close…I was lucky to be in a situation to help us win the game.”
— The New York Post reported that Kevin Millwood is headed to Scranton…however, neither Tony Franklin nor Millwood himself would confirm the move after the game.
“You guys need to call him,” Franklin said, referring to Brian Cashman, who was referenced as saying Millwood was heading to Triple-A in the report. “As soon as I hear something, I can pass it on.”
My guess is that when Millwood does depart — he is not listed on the rotation posted in the clubhouse — Wilkins Arias will have magically recovered from that pesky mystery ailment and be added back to the roster.
— The bullpen, two days after struggling mightily, was mighty good. Naoya Okamoto (3 IP, 3 K), Tim Norton (2 IP, 1 H, 4 K) and Brian Anderson (1 IP) spun six innings of scoreless relief. Norton was getting his fastball up to 94 MPH, while Anderson was at around 92 MPH.
Anderson may very well be the most pleasant surprise on this team in the first two weeks, as the converted outfielder has yet to allow an earned run and has looked surprisingly sharp for someone with just a handful of professional games pitched.
— Kei Igawa’s headed back to Scranton. So, you know, if you ordered an Igawa Thunder jersey…might be time to cancel that.
— Romine painted the fingers of his non-glove hand with white-out. Truly the Double-A version of what Russell Martin does.
— Cody Johnson went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts tonight. His swing…there’s almost like a little hitch in it, it looks a little golf swingish to me. Expert analysis, I know. But I do have this fact: In 38 AB’s this season, he’s got 17 K’s. In 344 AB’s last season, he had 151…so he’s really right on pace for that kind of ratio.
— Omir Santos was called up to the big leagues by Detroit…combine that with Eric Hacker heading to Minnesota, and it was quite a day for Thunder alums. And then there’s this…
— Eric Duncan was picked up by the St. Louis Cardinals and assigned to Double-A Springfield…he’d been cut by the Colorado Rockies in spring. Safe to say he hasn’t exactly panned out for anyone.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com