— You could argue that, at 13-13, the Trenton Thunder have exceeded a lot of people’s expectations. But for Tony Franklin, .500 baseball clearly isn’t good enough. The sixth-year skipper addressed his team before the clubhouse opened to the media after the game, upset about “the way we’ve been playing lately,” although he chose to keep the exact words of what was said between himself and his players.
“I think we’re better, that was the essence of it,” Franklin said. “I just want to let them know I think we’re better. It’s the whole season (not just this game). We’ve been hitting and missing, and we shouldn’t hit and miss as much as we hit and miss. I’m expecting some better things, and I probably mentioned them a couple times, but I just can’t give you specifics, that’s between us.”
The late innings had been kind to the Thunder as of late, but not tonight. Although Trenton dug out of a 5-2 hole they were in after five innings to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, mistakes eventually caught up with them, and reliever Ryan Pope allowed two runs in the tenth to put New Hampshire up, 7-5, a score they ultimately won by.
Pope, going into a third inning of work for the first time this season, allowed the first three men he faced in the extra frame to reach, the last of whom, John Tolisano, laced a single up the middle to account for the game-winning run. The second run was a bit more controversial, when Melky Mesa tried to throw out Mark Sobolewski at the plate after a Justin Jackson single. Sobolewski had stopped at third, but when Mesa’s arm was simply too strong and he threw the ball over both Jose Gil and Pope, who backed up the play, Sobolewski broke for home. He was going to be out by a good five feet, but chose not to slide and appeared from the press box to have sidestepped the tag of Gil.
Franklin did not at all agree with this assessment, or that of home plate umpire Nick Lentz, who called Sobolewski safe. But, while Gil was protesting the call, Jackson ran to second without a throw, despite Pope pointing towards the bag and presumably yelling towards Gil.
“I did disagree, but it doesn’t mean I’m right,” Franklin said. “It’s a close play, and he made the call as he saw it. I just kind of objected, because it put us behind even more and I was a little emotional on the play. The combination of (the run scoring and the runner getting to second) didn’t make me happy, so you go out there and you discuss the play. You don’t argue, you discuss the play…he let it stand the way it is.”
— Ronnier Mustelier had yet another good game in Double-A. Turns out, it may very well be his last. The 27-year-old was called up to Triple-A Empire State following a game in which he went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, a walk and a home run that gave him a longball in four straight contests. Simply put, it was time for a promotion.
“It’s well deserved, the kid has played well,” Franklin said. “He’s done a nice job. I think you might see him pretty soon in the big leagues, he can hit.”
His final line in Trenton will entail a .353 batting average with five home runs and 20 RBI in 25 games. A lot of people have asked me about Mustelier, and I’ll repeat my take on him here…
He’s 27. He should be putting up those kind of numbers in Double-A. If he does this in Triple-A, then you’ve really got something. I think the hope of the organization is that they’ve found a utility player at the big league level…someone along the lines of a Ramiro Pena or even an Eduardo Nunez, or perhaps what they were trying to do with Brandon Laird as well. Mustelier plays a real solid third base, and is average in the outfield. Saw him at second base once, that’s probably the last time he should be there for a while. But it takes more than a good bat to make it to the big leagues in this organization — see: Vazquez, Jorge — and he’ll need to refine his versatility, if that makes sense to you, to keep climbing the ladder.
— Not exactly a banner night for Brett Marshall. He threw 95 pitches — 59 for strikes — and lasted seven innings, which is certainly the kind of efficiency the organization is looking for. But he also gave up 11 hits and five runs (three earned) while walking two and striking out just two.
“He’s been better, he wasn’t sharp,” Franklin said. “He gave us a chance to win the game, and he kept us in the game.”
— Corban Joseph joined the team right before the game, but was not available in the clubhouse afterwards. There was some talk of him playing third base amongst the organization during spring training, but Franklin was unsure if he’d replace Mustelier there or play second — where Kevin Mahoney was tonight — but he did say that you’ll likely see him at second tomorrow night.
— Unfortunately, injury updates have been an everyday thing with this club. So, take a deep breath, because here goes.
Walter Ibarra has a swollen middle finger that he injured sliding into a base in Portland. Franklin said he’s available in emergency situations, but is unlikely to play this series.
Josh Romanski’s blister hasn’t healed 100 percent yet. The tip of his finger his still a little pink — yes, I asked to see it — but he should be back soon.
Jose Pirela is going through the MiLB protocol for head injuries, but no one will actually say it was a concussion.
Zoilo Almonte is “day-to-day” with his hamstring tweak. He is eligible to come off the DL at any time.
— David Adams is also on that list, but he’ll be heading to Tampa this weekend and presumably playing on Monday to, as Franklin put it, get some at-bats. The good news there, of course, is that Adams feels well enough to do any of this at all.
“Everything feels great,” said Adams of his stiff neck. “I’ve been able to do everything; full BP, full go the last couple days. I feel great, no restrictions.”
Given everything that’s happened over the past two seasons with his ankle, it’s clearly been frustrating to Adams to miss more time this season, even though it’s thankfully unrelated.
“I mean, especially dealing with this whole ankle issue, you come back thinking you’re good to go, and something like this happens, where I wake up and I can’t move my neck,” he said.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but that’s life. I didn’t do anything, I just woke up and I couldn’t move my neck.”
Although he’d surely like the, essentially, two years of his career that he lost back, he was able to gain perspective in a situation like this given what he’s been through.
“You know what, I’ve learned my lesson,” he said. “I have to be patient with it. At the same time, being on the DL this long, yeah you want to play. Especially because I played three games, and then this happened. I definitely want to get back in there. I already gelled with all the guys, so having that camaraderie and being out there with the guys, I miss that already.”
— I posted 20 videos from the game today. Go to the post below this one to view them.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com