Archive for June, 2013

Andrew Clark: One Man’s Trash…

June 26, 2013
About the only job Andrew Clark didn't have last year was landscaper...but he's made up for that by raking for the entire 2013 season (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

About the only job Andrew Clark didn’t have last year was landscaper…but he’s made up for that by raking for the entire 2013 season (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

This time last year, Andrew Clark was picking up trash. The Yankees are hoping he’s their hidden treasure.

A 13th-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers just three years ago, the 25-year-old first baseman found himself out of baseball completely just last year. But, a career .308 hitter, the move was by choice.

“To be honest with you, I started off in High-A back in 2012 and just kind of walked away from it,” he said. “I played baseball for 20 years, and I got married in the previous off-season, so I felt like maybe it was time to do something else. Obviously, the grind over time just kind of gets to you. Being a little bit older of a guy and playing in High-A still, it was just kind of overwhelming. So I felt like it was time for me to walk away from it, so I did.”

Clark earned his degree from Louisville in Exercise Science, but found it was of little use to him when it came to finding a job in the “real world.” So he took the first job he could find near his Bowling Green home: Garbage man.

“It was definitely an eye opener,” he admits. “That was months ago, really not that long ago. I did it for probably three months before I decided I’ve got to do something else. It was just rough, but it was the only job I could get in Bowling Green starting off. It worked out good for me, because I was able to get some money. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys, but this right here makes it that more special to be a part of this.”

This right here? This is the stuff movies are made of. Maybe not this one starring Tony Danza, but something close to it. After all, this season, Clark has been “The Boss.”

He started the year in the independent Frontier League and put up video game numbers right away, batting an absurd .421 with seven home runs and 24 RBI in 24 games. Those kind of numbers will get you noticed anywhere, and the Yankees were among several teams to come calling on the 6-foot-2, 220 pounder.

“I looked at the numbers briefly, I did,” said Thunder manager Tony Franklin.

“He’s had some time off. That kind of sets you back, but now he’s got an opportunity to play. Evidently, he’s played well in the Frontier League, and we thought enough of him to sign him. He’s got a pretty nice swing, that’s pretty evident. We’re happy to have him, glad he’s on our side.”

Clark would have been on a different side had things worked out differently. The Rangers agreed to bring him back, but let him go after he failed to pass a physical. The White Sox signed him approximately a month ago, but also released him without playing a game in their system due to a bone spur in his shoulder that will require surgery.

“I was set on being in Evansville for the remainder of the season,” Clark said.

“Evansville was going to pay for my surgery at the end of the year, so I was set on staying there. It was fun, and it was convenient for me being I had family that lived in Evansville and Bowling Green is where I live now with my wife, and it was only an hour and a half away from us. It was real convenient for me, and it was just a good setup all around. Then obviously, this happened. So I’m thrilled to be here and be a part of the Yankees.”

Clark’s wife, Brittany, has been a lifelong Yankees fan, so that made the blow of leaving his days of being back at home with her easier to take. Semi-retirement, which also entailed working as an unloader at UPS and at a Nissan dealership, just wasn’t for him.

“You could ask her, after a couple weeks, I was miserable to be around,” Clark said. “I just realized about a month into it that trying to do this normal lifestyle, it just wasn’t for me. I felt like I had too much drive left in me. Being away from it made me want it that much more. I think just over time, realizing how much I missed it. I missed hitting. I gave lessons to some kids here and there, but just watching the game on TV and realizing that could be me. And I didn’t want to live my life looking back 20-30 years from now, wondering if I’d have stuck it out, what would have happened. So I really just wanted to get back into it.”

It wasn’t so much Clark’s signing by the Yankees that was curious at the time, it was his assignment. During his brief career in affiliated ball, he’d never advanced past High-A, but was assigned directly to Double-A Trenton upon agreeing to terms with New York.

No sweat. In his first five games, he’s hit .429, and he stroked his first two Double-A home runs last night in Trenton’s shutout win over Erie.

“To be honest with you, there’s not much difference in the pitching from where I was coming from in Indy ball,” he said.

“There’s a little bit better curveballs, and the miles per hour are coming in a little bit harder, but for the most part it’s still the same game. Now, it’s just one of those things where you join a new club and you want to bond and get to know everybody and try to fit in with everybody. I’ll be honest with you, my first at-bat, I was as nervous as could be. But then afterwards, I kind of settled down a little bit…being in a new atmosphere was just a little bit stressful at first.”

But Clark has fit right in with his hew teammates, and could start to make some noise in the organization if he continues his torrid pace.

“If he can play, he can play. If you’re a player, you’re a player,” Franklin said. “Clark has played in an organization before, he’s aware of what this is all about and how things kind of go. The one thing they do well is play baseball, so I’m not worried. If the kid’s a good enough player, he’ll play well here.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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VIDEO: Michael Pineda Press Conference

June 25, 2013

Michael Pineda Rehab Headquarters

June 25, 2013

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Game 76: Pre-Game Notes (Michael Pineda Rehab)

June 25, 2013

5:50 PM — Just got back from Boston. Lineups…

TRENTON

Corona 3B
Heathcott CF
Austin RF
Roller 1B
Angelini SS
Clark DH
Pirela 2B
Arcia C
Brown LF

Pineda P

ERIE

Johnson CF
Suarez SS
Perez 2B
McCann C
Collins DH
Gaynor 3B
Robbins 1B
Castillo RF
Lemon LF

Larez P

Talked to Tyler Austin a little bit about the rehabbing Pineda…

“It’s still the same game. We still have to go out, play hard, do the right things and try to get a W tonight. But I’m excited about having him here pitching for us. It’s going to be a fun time, I’ve never seen him pitch.”

“You just try to see what (big league P’s) are doing, what their tendencies are. Hopefully, I’m not facing him any time soon. But it’s always fun to watch these guys pitch and try to learn a few things here and there.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Thunder Offense Explodes In Home Win

June 23, 2013

(PR) TRENTON, NJ – For a second consecutive night, the Thunder offense used a big inning to secure a victory at ARM & HAMMER Park—this time in an 8-3 win over the Portland Sea Dogs.

The Thunder offense mashed out 12 hits one night after connecting for 11 hits. Trenton has now gone 23-for-71 (.324 BA) with 17 runs in the first two games of this three-game series.

Kyle Roller’s 3-for-4 night paced the offense including providing the bookends of the 8-run onslaught. Roller hit a dribbler up the first base line with Slade Heathcott on first. The ball kicked high up off the bag for the first baseman Travis Shaw who had to leap to snag it. By the time he flipped to starting pitcher, knuckleball Charlie Haeger covering the bag, Roller won the footrace.

Five innings later with the Thunder already leading 7-1, Roller smashed a homer to left-center field that cleared the 32-foot high wall of billboards traveling well over 400 feet to the opposite field for the lefty Roller.

Mikey O’Brien gets the win for the Thunder to move to 5-2 on the season. He tossed six innings of one-run ball and didn’t give up a run until the 6th. He finished the night with five hits allowed, one walk and five strikeouts on 87 pitches.

The Thunder win streak is at five games and they have won the five games by a combined score of 28-9. With the win, Trenton has now moved into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Division- one game ahead of the Sea Dogs.

The Thunder complete their three games series against the Portland Sea Dogs (Game 3 of a six-game homestand) Sunday at 1:05 p.m. The game features a starting pitcher matchup of RHP Sean Black (1-0, 1.50) against RHP Matt Barnes (3-4, 5.46) for Portland. Limited tickets are available through the Thunder box office at (609) 394-3300 or online at http://www.trentonthunder.com/tickets. Radio coverage on 91.3 FM (WTSR) and also streaming online begins at 12:45 p.m.

Game 73: Pre-Game Notes

June 22, 2013

6:20 PM — Spoke extensively with Andrew Clark, who was signed by the Yankees out of the Frontier League and assigned to Trenton yesterday.  His story is absolutely remarkable.  You’ll see it tomorrow.

3:35 PM — Thunder lineup: Flores LF, Heathcott CF, Austin RF, Roller 1B, Angelini SS, Clark DH, Corona 3B, Pirela 2B, Arcia C, O’Brien P

Portland lineup: Hissey LF, Wilkerson CF, Cecchini 3B, Almanzar DH, Shaw 1B, Thomas 2B, Linares RF, Vazquez C, Gibson SS, Haeger P

Hey, remember when I covered this team?  Yeah.  It’s been a little while since I’ve been here…I missed my old spot in the press box.  But it’s been a blast covering the Stanley Cup Final — I’m taking Game 5 off since there’s no chance of covering the Cup itself — and I can’t wait to get back to Boston on Monday for Game 6.

Anyway, a LOT has changed since I was last at the ballpark.  In are/were: Scottie Allen (sent to Tampa already), Rigoberto Arrebato, Andrew Clark, Francisco Arcia, Jeff Farnham, Sean Black, Cesar Cabral and Shane Greene.  Out are/were: Jose Ramirez, J.R. Murphy, Matt Tracy, Neil Medchill and Caleb Cotham.  Got all that?

Oh, and Michael Pineda rehabs here on Tuesday.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Pineda To Rehab In Trenton On Tuesday

June 22, 2013

(PR) (TRENTON, NJ) – All-Star pitcher Michael Pineda is expected to pitch in Trenton on a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday, June 25 (7:05pm) as the Thunder face the Erie SeaWolves (Detroit). The assignment is contingent on the weather and Pineda’s continued progress with his rehab work at the Yankees Minor League complex in Tampa.

Pineda broke into the Major Leagues with Seattle in 2011, going 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA. He was named an American League All-Star and finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Following the season, he was traded to the Yankees with Jose Campos in exchange for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.

During his first Spring Training with New York, Pineda developed tendinitis in his right shoulder, then during the rehab process, suffered an anterior labral tear in the same shoulder. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on May 1, 2012, and was out for the rest of the season. The 24-year-old has yet to pitch for the New York Yankees.

Pineda made his first rehab appearance for Class A Tampa on June 9, giving up two hits in 4.1 innings. He then pitched in a simulated game in Tampa last Friday and gave up two runs in four innings for Tampa on Thursday.

Tuesday’s game will feature a special appearance by Spider-Man from Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark at the Foxwoods Theater in New York City. The Super Hero will throw a ceremonial first pitch and be available for photos with fans on the concourse. It’s also Kids Eat Free and Dollar Dog Night Presented by Black Bear Franks.

Rowson Enjoying First Taste Of The Bigs

June 14, 2013
James Rowson hits ground balls in Trenton two years ago (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

James Rowson hits ground balls in Trenton two years ago (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

CHICAGO — James Rowson’s story is a remarkable one, even if his playing career was anything but.

So how, exactly, does someone with only four years of experience in pro ball that never advanced past High-A make it all the way to the big leagues 15 years after he retired? Because none of that matters.

Rowson, who finished his stint as a player in affiliated ball with the Yankees with a 45-game stay between three teams in 1997, now serves as the Chicago Cubs hitting coach after six seasons as New York’s minor league hitting coordinator.

The 36-year-old Mount Vernon, New York native initially joined the inhabitants of the “friendly confines” prior to the start of the 2012 season as their minor league hitting coordinator, but took over for Rudy Jaramillo when he was fired from his post as hitting coach midway through the year.

“I was excited,” Rowson told The Democrat in a one-on-one interview at Wrigley Field.

“I waited a long time just to say you’re a part of a Major League club, because obviously I wasn’t able to do it as a player. But I continued to work and I continued to learn from a lot of good people, and I got an opportunity to do it as a coach. So I was really grateful, and I was excited for the opportunity.”

There can, perhaps, be a stigma surrounding coaches who didn’t reach the higher levels of the game, as is the case with Rowson. But, just as having Major League experience doesn’t necessarily make you a great coach, a lack of it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad one, either.

“I think it’s on an individual basis,” Rowson said. “So as a teacher, I wasn’t hired to start in center field, I was hired to be the hitting coach. It’s just coming in, learning each guy and getting to learn what they do well. I think if you’re confident in what you teach and you know how to build relationships with players…players want to do things that are going to help them hit better, so it doesn’t matter what you did specifically as a player. It matters how you can help these players with their talent, and I think guys understand that. They’re looking for anything that can help them hit better.”

Rowson learned his craft as the Yankees minor league hitting coordinator from 2006-2011. During that time, he came to Trenton frequently, and even filled in as hitting coach there for a time after Julius Matos was fired following an altercation with Tony Franklin. His time in pinstripes, he says, was simply invaluable.

“I can honestly say that I couldn’t do this job without that experience,” he said. “To be in that organization and to learn how to be organized and how to do things the right way and just all the skills I’ve learned and all the good people I’ve gotten to work with over time, it’s definitely helped prepare me for this situation. (I learned about) just the way to carry yourself, the way to work hard, the way to stay dedicated. I learned great things over there, great lessons that I carry in baseball and also in life.”

There is, of course a difference between refining — as you could argue Rowson has to do with a group of hitters that aren’t much younger than he is — and teaching, which is a large part of the instruction he’d be performing at the minor league level. But he simplifies it a bit more than that regardless of his surroundings.

“I think you always consider yourself a teacher, no matter what level you’re at,” he said. “I think it’s more learning the differences between players. Every year, whether you’re a hitting coordinator or a Major League hitting coach, you’re trying to learn what’s going to help each player the best.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Wang Struggles In First Start With Toronto

June 11, 2013
Former Thunder pitcher Chien-Ming Wang allowed five runs in his first Blue Jays start.

Former Thunder pitcher Chien-Ming Wang allowed five runs in his first Blue Jays start.  (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

CHICAGO — While Chien-Ming Wang put up solid numbers with Triple-A Scranton this season in his return to the Yankees organization, he couldn’t seem to get a big league opportunity.  Anywhere.  He let several opt-out dates in his contract come and go, the likely result of a big league deal never materializing.

The reason, despite a 2.33 ERA in nine starts, was believed to be that scouts felt his stuff wasn’t Major League caliber anymore, perhaps evidenced by only 25 strikeouts in 58 innings.  But while Toronto finally took a chance on him, the 32-year-old Taiwanese-born righty did little to dispel those notions in his first start with the Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday night, allowing five runs on ten hits, three walks and two home runs through 7 1/3 innings en route to a no-decision against the White Sox.

Wang was only taken off the hook for the loss on a two-out, two strikes home run by Jose Bautista in the top of the ninth inning that tied the game at 5-5.

The outing marked his first in the big leagues since he was a September call-up last year with the Washington Nationals.  His stint in the nation’s capital was largely deemed a failure, as he pitched to a 6.68 ERA in ten appearances with the club.

In an interesting twist, Wang was matched up against another former Yankees farmhand, Jose Quintana.  The talented lefty spent four seasons in the Yankees system, but despite a 10-2 record and 2.91 ERA with Low-A Charleston in 2011, he was not re-signed by New York.

Quintana lasted 6 1/3 innings, and allowed four runs (two earned) while walking one and striking out five.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

It’s A Walk-Off

June 9, 2013

(PR) TRENTON, NJ – Tyler Austin’s double to left center field brought home Slade Heathcott for a 3-2 Thunder win Sunday afternoon at ARM & HAMMER Park.

Heathcott walked with one out off Richmond reliever Phil McCormick. McCormick was then replaced by Richmond closer Daryl Maday. Austin was the next batter and on the third pitch of the at-bat he plugged the left-center field gap with a long fly ball that nearly was a walk-off homerun. Instead, the shot sent Heathcott sprinting around the bases and into a headfirst slide into home for the victory which pushed Trenton to a 33-30 record on the season.

Starting pitcher Zach Nuding went five innings in a no-decision effort. He exited with the ballgame tied after allowing six hits on 82 pitches. Caleb Cotham gets the win in his return from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with four innings of one-run ball. He allowed a homer on the second pitch he threw, but then retired the final 12 batters he faced to keep the Thunder in the game.

With the win, Trenton avoids being swept for the first time this season. The win also means that Trenton finishes the season with a winning record (8-6) versus the Flying Squirrels this season in 14 games.

The Thunder get a day off Monday before hosting the East Division-leading Binghamton Mets for three games starting Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. The game features a starting pitcher matchup of RHP Mikey O’Brien (4-0, 3.71) against RHP Erik Goeddel (5-2, 4.40) for Richmond. Limited tickets are available through the Thunder box office at (609) 394-3300 or online at http://www.trentonthunder.com/tickets. Radio coverage on 91.3 FM (WTSR) and also streaming online begins at 6:45 p.m.