— So, for the past two days, I’ve heard about how you can’t judge a team based on just two games. Hoping everyone sees the irony there. Sure, the Thunder turned an awful 0-2 start into a not so bad 2-2 beginning to their 2012 season. But if you can’t judge them on two bad games, you can’t really judge them on two good ones, either. Especially against a Portland team that seems destined to be at the division cellar unless reinforcements arrive.
But it does, however, seem like this team can hit more than anyone anticipated. Every Thunder player reached base except for Rob Lyerly, and seven of the starting nine had a hit, with Cody Johnson drawing two walks on an 0-for-2 day.
The Almonte “brothers” had three hits a piece, and both Zoilo and Gustavo Molina each homered in an 8-3 win over the Sea Dogs on Monday night.
“So far, so good,” said Thunder manager Tony Franklin.
“We’ve had some pretty good at-bats over the last couple games. If that trend continues, we’ll be OK. We’ll be able to produce some runs; get some runners in scoring position and plate them. I’m not mad at them at all, that’s for sure.”
Zoilo Almonte’s 0-for-the first two games start of the season seems to have been quickly erased. His 3-for-4 day upped his average to .353, and he seems like the player who wowed Yankees manager Joe Girardi in big league camp.
“Two days don’t tell a whole lot,” Franklin said. “Sometimes it takes a couple days to get on track, get your feet on the ground and figure out what you want to do. He’s in a pretty good groove right now, I would say.”
According to Almonte, through unofficial team translator and ticket sales guy Jeremy Sanders, having ended up in Trenton at the end of last season has a lot to do with being able to perform well here at the beginning of this year.
“It certainly helped, because I not only got to see the level of pitching, but also their approach when they’re trying to attack hitters. It gave me a leg up this year,” he said.
The biggest adjustment Almonte had to make, however, had nothing to do with his swing or the opposing pitcher. Turns out he’d simply never played in conditions quite like this.
“I was just a little uncomfortable adjusting to the temperature and the weather up here more than anything,” Almonte said.
“It’s sort of an added thing on top of the difficulty of the level of play. I also have to feel comfortable at the plate, that was an adjustment.”
— Josh Romanski turned in a solid first start of the season. In 5 1/3 innings, he allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks. Franklin described his outing as “outstanding” and a “quality start,” but Romanski didn’t seem quite as enthused afterwards.
“I thought it was all right,” he said. “It was good enough for the win, so that’s what you want to do as a starting pitcher, give your team a chance to win. There were a few mistake pitches in there I’d like to have back, but sometimes that happens.”
The only big mistake Romanski made all night was a second inning home run off the bat of Dan Butler, but other than that, he looked pretty sharp through the duration of his 82 pitches (49 strikes). Perhaps making that all the more impressive was that this was the first game in which he was debuting a new arm slot.
“I thought it worked out all right,” he said.
“They didn’t have any lefties in their lineup, so I really didn’t get any feedback on that. But I felt comfortable out there, and made some pitches when I needed to, and overall I feel all right about it.”
— Chase Whitley was again exceptionally impressive out of the bullpen tonight. He struck out the side in the eighth and held on to get his first save of the year in the ninth. His slider looked excellent, and his fastball crossed the plate around 92 MPH. Nice effort by Cory Arbiso as well, who will start Friday’s game in place of Graham Stoneburner…
— Stoneburner went on the DL before the game with right groin tightness, something he says happened after avoiding a Mark Sobolewski line drive back up the box on Friday.
“I just kind of squatted out of the way, and got back out there, and pitched to the next batter,” he said. “Afterwards, it was kind of tight, so I said something to the trainer…it’s tough to say something. I thought maybe I could go out and pitch some more, but at the end of the day, I think I made the right call by saying something early and not hurting myself more.”
Stoneburner wasn’t sure how serious the injury was, but said he hoped he said something to the trainer early enough to where it didn’t become serious. He said the injury felt better than it did when it initially happened, which was encouraging, but it’s surely discouraging for him to experience another injury right out of the gate, just like he did last season.
“It’s frustrating. It’s always frustrating to be injured,” Stoneburner said.
“Especially when it’s a knick-knack injury like this, where it’s my first start of the year and I pitched OK, and now I’m going to have to miss a few just because of some groin tightness.”
— With Stoneburner off the roster, Michael Dubee got a spot on it. Dubee was released by the Pirates organization last Saturday and signed with the Yankees on Wednesday. He didn’t have to wait long for a place to pitch.
“There’s always some uncertainty that goes into it any time something like that happens,” said Dubee of his release.
“I was pretty hopeful and pretty confident that I would be able to get a job again. I think I’ve had some success the last couple years, and I’m still trying to get better and trying to build on that, but I guess you could say there was a little bit of uncertainty just because you don’t know what the future is going to hold for you and where you may end up.”
Dubee, who had spent nearly all of the past three seasons in the Pittsburgh farm system, said you can “never really be prepared” to be released but was happy to get another opportunity, this being his fourth organization in eight seasons.
“I was just hoping to pitch,” said Dubee, who throws a fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup. “My agent can deal with (what level I end up at). The phone rings, they tell me where to go, and I get a uniform and go to work.”
— Spent a good deal of time before the game with Red Sox prospect Bryce Brentz. Brentz, who is Boston’s second-best prospect according to MLB.com and their fifth-best according to Baseball America, hit 30 home runs between Low-A and High-A last season. He was picked in the first round in 2010 and had some interesting stuff to say about modifying his “all or nothing” approach that I’ll share with you when I have time to crank out a feature on him.
— Here’s some video from Romanski’s outing…
— And here’s an extra photo, too.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98