— Well, there’s a lot to get to, so let me get started. I suppose that in doing this, I cater to two crowds. There is the smaller contingent of folks who only care about the Thunder and whether they won or lost, etc. And…well, they won, 7-1. So, yay for that. But I think the majority of people come here for updates on prospects and roster news on who’s coming and going and whatnot…so let me focus on that for a bit.
— Dellin Betances. He was good. Feels odd that it was May 4th and it was my first time seeing him pitch this season, but I couldn’t make his first home start and this was only his third start of the season overall due to blister issues that are now clearly behind him. The thing that struck me the most was how he got a lot more aggreesive in attacking hitters the second time through the lineup. Granted, he did most of his damage in the first two innings — he struck out the side in the second and four of his five K’s on the night through his first six outs — but, he needed just 19 pitches to get through the third and fourth innings, and threw 14 of them for strikes.
Betances threw 73 pitches on the night — 49 of them for strikes — with his fastball around 94 MPH. He had good command all night, walking no one, and was pleased with his outing as a whole.
“I felt good, I felt like me and Romine were on the same page the whole game,” Betances said.
“I was trying to just get ahead, because I know I had a short pitch count, so I wanted to go as much as I could. But I definitely felt good.”
Betances said he felt like he could have gone longer in the game and wasn’t “gassed” by any means, but understands the situation he’s in with pitch counts. He estimated that with Charleston in 2008, he’d thrown as many as 100 pitches in a game, and it isn’t out of the question to think he may get there in a few weeks with Trenton once he continues to get stretched out.
Betances also said that while there were some games last year where he felt tired towards the end of his outings, he simply hasn’t gone long enough this season to encounter that.
“I’m sure I’ll get tired one of these days,” said the Bronx-born Betances with a smile.
“I’m just trying to go out there and pound the strike zone and get quick outs as much as I can. I just try to do the same thing mechanically and be consistent. When I’m not consistent, that’s what hurts me.”
Not surprisingly and understandably, Thunder manager Tony Franklin was pleased with prized prospect’s outing…
“He did a nice job for us,” he said.
“We needed something like that to get us back on track, and he certainly was very strong throughout his outing. Of course, that’s what we expected of him from the beginning of the season. It’s unfortunate that he got off to the slow start because of his finger, but hopefully that’s behind him and we can concentrate on what’s left this season. If it’s like it was tonight, it’s going to be pretty good.”
— Steve Garrison is very much so on people’s radars as well, although not at the level of say Betances or Manny Banuelos, who is set to pitch tomorrow. Garrison, who is about as nice of a kid as you could want to chat with, was placed on the disabled list with a left groin pull. He and Graham Stoneburner will be sent to Tampa to rehab, but Garrison stressed that he didn’t think the injury was anything significant, although he did have an MRI.
“We’re just kind of seeing what the next step is and just kind of going from there,” Garrison said.
“Everything came back and it’s just a slight little strain, nothing serious. It should be a fairly quick recovery. (I feel) better today, much better. It’s just one of those things where you take it day-by-day, but it’s definitely going in the right direction. It’s definitely nothing major.”
There is no timetable set for Garrison’s return. Garrison, and I apologize if I’m rehashing old news, but I wasn’t at Tuesday’s atrocious idea of a 10:35 AM start, said the groin had felt a little bit tight prior to warming up, but he didn’t think anything of it. He said that during the second or third at-bat of the game, he felt “a little twinge” and some discomfort and wasn’t getting any better, so he knew he then had to say something.
— Josh Schmidt hadn’t even changed out of his street clothes by the time the clubhouse had closed to the media at 6 PM. By the time the night was over, he’d thrown three shutout innings in relief of Betances, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out one.
Schmidt spent part of 2008, and all or the majority of the past two seasons in Trenton. Despite a strong start in Scranton, he’s back at Waterfront Park…
“He didn’t say anything negatively one way or the other about coming back,” Franklin said.
“He’s here and he understands our situation…Schmitty’s been around the game for a while…there’s not much I can say (to him). I think we’re all going to understand that he’s not going to feel great about it, why would you? I wouldn’t expect him to feel great about coming back here. He’s been here two years, three years now with us. He deserves an opportunity to pitch there, but we’re in a bind, and for the good of the organization and the ballclub and to help us, he’s back. For that, I’m forever grateful.”
— Corban Joseph…while I wouldn’t say he’s gunmetal hot (inside joke of sorts), he has gone on quite a run. He’s carrying a 15-game hitting streak and a 19-game on-base streak into tomorrow’s contest against Portland, the former of which is slowly approaching Freddy Sanchez’s franchise record of 27 games, set in 2002.
“I try to play the game hard every day. If I have a streak going, I don’t really try to think about it very much,” he said. “I just try and stay with my approach, and whatever happens.”
As far as that approach goes, Joseph said that all the cliche stuff like the ball seeming bigger or the game slowing down…not so. Being more comfortable though? Check.
“I think that especially tonight, I was a little bit more relaxed at the plate,” Joseph said.
“In the past, I’d really want to jump on the first pitch. The past few games, I’m trying to kind of buy into the system and say I’m going to keep my zone the same and really just try to work on that.”
Joseph went 2-for-3 with a run scored, a triple, a home run, a walk and a strikeout tonight, continuing his recent hot stretch. Last season, the 22-year-old second sacker struggled in his first call-up to Double-A, but that can largely be attributed to wrist issues, which eventually resulted in season ending surgery. But there were positives that he took out of his time in Trenton last year.
In terms of putting together a gameplan and an approach at this level, Joseph says the experience was invaluable.
“Last year was, I was dealing with my wrist and stuff, but I was a little anxious at the plate and trying to get back into what got me there,” he said.
“This year, it’s starting to come around gradually. Everyone wants to hit the ground running, and sometimes time just tells. I’m really just focusing on what I need to improve on, and a big thing was just late movement for me. I spent the whole off-season getting bigger and stronger and seeing the ball deeper and having the same reaction.”
Joseph explained that he accomplished that by focusing on his back leg while hitting off a tee, getting comfortable driving pitches that were away to left field instead of reach out and hit the ball on the outer half of the plate and letting it get deep.
As for the wrist issues, Joseph says they’re a thing of the past, and says he’s been working on strengthening them to get some more pop in his bat and get quicker bat speed in general. He also refused to use the wrist as an excuse for his team-leading eight errors this season.
“I’m playing the game hard, and stuff like that happens. It’s the game of baseball, no one’s perfect,” he told me.
“It’s one of the things I take personal, making plays. When I do make an error, it’s frustrating. But I think everyone knows that it’s part of the game, and you have to rebound from that and get another ground ball and make the play.”
— Sunday’s starter is still TBD. My guesses are Cory Arbiso and Kei Igawa. Perhaps some sort of Ar-gawa hybrid.
— Jack Rye, gone but not forgotten. I remarked, likely on Twitter, that I found it odd that a guy who was a Florida State League All-Star last year was released from the organization entirely while those with lesser resumes are kept around…the subject finally came up with Franklin today.
Franklin, as he should, directed a question about Rye’s release towards Mark Newman and Erik Schmitt…but I did ask if he was surprised that he got the call that Rye was gone.
“Nothing surprises me in this game,” Franklin said.
“You can’t keep everybody, especially when you’ve only got so many spots, locker spots, seats on the bus. It’s costly, it’s costly to the organization, it’s costly to the franchise. You’ve got to make a business decision one way or the other. Sometimes, it affects people that you feel maybe should stay. I know that the Cincinnati Reds never should have let me go when they let me go, and we all feel that way. But it has to happen and it’s going to happen to someone. I’m not the guy who makes those decisions, I’m the guy that has to pass on the information. That’s not always easy, especially when you have to release a guy.”
— Since chirping at me is OK on occasion, I can chirp back a bit…I find it extraordinarily curious that the camp day start in this series was Tuesday instead of tomorrow. Trenton goes to Akron on Friday, Portland goes back home. Neither of those are short trips. Don’t know who makes that decision — and boy, am I willing to bet I find out tomorrow — but it seemed ill-planned to me.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com