As has been the case lately, the story after the game had little to do with the game. Even with another come-from-behind victory — a 4-3 Thunder win over Altoona in 11 innings — the story afterwards was the promotion of outfielder Melky Mesa to Triple-A.
The Yankees organizational outfield purge as of late — Darnell McDonald and Dewayne Wise jettisoned from the big leagues, Dan Brewer traded and the Wednesday night releases of Jack Cust, Ray Kruml and Colin Curtis — made the move a necessity. Before the game, Thunder manager Tony Franklin was beaming about the progress Mesa had made since last season in an area you might not necessarily expect.
“Mesa does a tremendous job (as a leader), and you wouldn’t think that because he’s not extremely verbal and doesn’t speak a lot of English,” Franklin said.
“But he shows up and does his job as well as anybody on this team out there, and that goes a long, long way.”
On the field, while there’s still work to be done for the toolsy 25-year-old, he did make marked improvements in many areas of his game. While his arm still profiles as his best tool, he upped his average from .251 in 2011 to .277 in Double-A this season, increased his power totals (14 HR compared to 9 in fewer at-bats) and reduced his K rate (129 in 386 AB in 2011; 75 in 332 this year). Anyone can look at numbers, but the on-field improvement has been noticeable to Franklin as well.
“From the physical aspect of it and the baseball aspect of it, he’s not chasing the breaking ball out of the zone as much. He’s not chasing the fastball up in the zone as much,” Franklin said. “He’s walked a few more times. He’s hitting more home runs. He’s having more quality at-bats.”
Franklin then provided an example…which was his at-bat against Gerrit Cole from last night.
“He got a hit to right field, and let’s face it, Cole was making some pretty tough pitches on him,” he said.
“He threw him a slider over the outer part of the plate, and he hit a ball to right field. I don’t know if he could have done that last year. So what do I tell him at the end of the inning? He comes in, and I say, ‘Hell of an at-bat.’ I don’t know if I could have told him that last year. To me, that’s such an improvement over what he would have done last year. He probably would have continued to try to hit the ball over the left field fence. Now, he recognizes what pitchers are doing to him and he’s going to try to take what they give him.”
There was, as of now, no back end of that transaction, leaving Trenton with a hole in their outfield and on their roster.
— The other buzz coming from this game was the outing of Mark Montgomery, who was filthy in his two innings of relief tonight. He didn’t allow a hit or a walk and struck out four, including a seventh inning in which he struck out the side using his devastating slider.
In five games and eight innings with Trenton, Montgomery has allowed one hit. No walks. 13 K’s.
Although it isn’t accurate stuff-wise, Montgomery gets compared with David Robertson a lot just in terms of how quickly he’s moved through the system. Robertson pitched in 11 games with Trenton between 2007 (2) and 2008 (9). It wouldn’t shock me at all if Montgomery never got to double-digits. If he isn’t big league ready right now, he’s damn close.