At first glance, a look at the 2012 Trenton Thunder roster would show that 17 players from last year’s team will be returning this season. That team went 68-73 and, realistically, probably wasn’t even that good.
But when Thunder manager Tony Franklin, who returns for an unprecedented sixth season in the capital city, was asked at Media Day why fans should believe this year’s team will be any better, he provided a thought-provoking answer.
“(They have) one year’s experience,” he said.
“I think that one year or even half a season that you could spend at this level gives you a pretty good idea of what you’re going to be facing the following year. Let’s face it, the first year here is a little unnerving for guys who are coming out of A-Ball. At this level, you start to find out who you are and what you’re all about as far as a baseball player is concerned. This is a very good proving ground for a baseball player.”
And for many of those returning players, this will be a make or break season in their careers. After an injury-riddled campaign that saw him get taken off the Yankees 40-man roster, 25-year-old reliever Ryan Pope returns to Waterfront Park for a fourth season. It’s now or never for the personable righty.
“You never want to be in the same spot for that many years,” he said. “But it’s not my decision. It’s one of those things where you just go out and do what you have to do and let it take its course. For right now, you have a chip on your shoulder and you think you did enough to get out of here. But I’ll go out there and pitch and do what I have to do and let the organization do what it has to do.”
Pope is joined by fellow returnees Cory Arbiso, Ryan Flannery, Shaeffer Hall, Craig Heyer, Josh Romanski, Graham Stoneburner and Chase Whitley on this year’s pitching staff. Whitley is considered the biggest prospect of the group, and could move quickly if he can build off his 19 game stint in Trenton last year.
“Last season was such a year where I was learning so much, with it being my first season,” said the Yankees 15th round draft choice in 2010.
“This year, it’s taking what I learned last year, putting it on the field and seeing what happens. I learned how to be a professional and how to go about how to work and how each and every day is just a grind. It’s the first time I’d ever played that many games in a season, so I just need to go out there and see how it goes.”
Jose Gil is the lone returning catcher, but both the infield and outfield will each feature four familiar faces with Rob Lyerly, Addison Maruszak, Yadil Mujica and Jose Pirela manning the dirt and Zoilo Almonte, Dan Brewer, Cody Johnson and Melky Mesa out by the fences.
“We’ve got a lot of guys here, we’ve got the potential to be very good,” Johnson said.
“But it’s only on paper until you go out and play that first game. I’ll tell you in September, but on paper right now, we’ve got a great team.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98