Posts Tagged ‘Alan Horne’

McCutchen’s Thoughts On A Possible Call-Up

April 11, 2008

After the game last night, Trenton starter Daniel McCutchen was hesitant to discuss his thoughts on a potential call-up to Triple-A Scranton after word got out that Alan Horne had been injured, instead focusing his attention on the well-being of his friend and former teammate.

“I hope and pray Alan’s all right,” said a soft-spoken McCutchen.

“Alan’s a good buddy of mine, and I just heard about it a little while ago.  He’ll be in my prayers tonight.”

When I rephrased my original question, choosing to ask him about whether he thought he could compete at the Triple-A level based on where he felt like his stuff was after this start, he said:

“Yeah, I definitely do.  I feel like I can compete pretty well here.  I’m ready at some point in the year to get up there.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

2008 Baseball America Top 30 #11-15

March 25, 2008

The Thunder Thoughts breakdown of Baseball America’s Top 30 Yankees Prospects for 2008 returns today with a look at prospects #11-15.  As you know by now, the Thunder’s new lead broadcaster, Steve Rudenstein, is on board to provide some analysis for this.

Steve’s done a great job of providing his expert analysis on each player, and I’ll throw my “Thunder Thoughts” in there after each of his player breakdowns.

As for Steve’s work, you should definitely know by now that the below commentary are opinions solely from Steve Rudenstein, and do not represent the opinions of the Trenton Thunder (Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees) and the New York Yankees.

#11 RHP Mark Melancon – Another selection with enormous potential but limited experience, Melancon did not pitch in 2007 due to Tommy John surgery in November 2006. At 23 years old, and only eight professional innings under his belt, this is a crucial year for Melancon. As a closer at the University of Arizona, he displayed an incredible level of competitive fire. His work ethic and fastball/curveball combo give the Yankees hope they can groom him into a closer-of-the-future, but keeping him healthy is the primary objective. If Melancon performs well early in the season, he could end up in Trenton some time during the summer.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Melancon and Jose Tabata are the two kids I can’t wait to see play this year.  But while Tabata will start the season with the Thunder, Melancon is ticketed for Tampa to start the year to avoid the cold weather up here at the start of the year.  So, perhaps as early as May, Melancon will get promoted to Double-A, barring any injury.  And for someone coming off of major surgery like he is, that’s not necessarily a given.A lot of people are projecting a Joba-esque meteoric rise through the system for Melancon, but as of right now, he’d seem to be blocked by more than a few pitchers currently vying for bullpen spots.

#12 RHP Humberto Sanchez – There was much more buzz about Sanchez a year ago. He was the most highly regarded prospect the Yankees received from Detroit in the Gary Sheffield trade. However, Sanchez never made it to the mound in 2007. He suffered forearm tightness in spring training and eventually would have Tommy John surgery and miss the season. He won’t be ready for game action until mid-season 2008. Sanchez had a live fastball and a nasty slider prior to the injury. He put great numbers at Erie (Double-A) and Toledo (Triple-A) in 2006. Will his conditioning and health allow him to get back to a high level at the end of 2008? We will wait and see.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Sanchez is another guy you could see in Trenton this year…in fact, I’ve heard it’s a very strong possibility.  As Steve mentioned, Sanchez had a lot of hype around him last year, but the fact is he’s yet to throw a meaningful pitch under the Yankees employ.  The Yankees will take it easy with Sanchez’s rehab schedule, but it will be interesting to see what effect his injuries have had on him.  One of the more electric pitchers in the league during his first stay with Erie, I wonder what kind of shape he’ll be in when he comes back…both his arm and his whole body.  Conditioning has always been an issue for Sanchez…and the Yankees have little tolerance for such issues regardless of your numbers, just ask Paul Thorp. 

#13 RHP Dellin Betances – Like Brackman, the sizeable Betances has as high a ceiling as any pitcher on this list. A New York native, the 6’7” Betances was taken in the eighth round of the 2006 draft. Unfortunately, he only threw 25 innings at Staten Island last season before being shutdown with forearm tightness. It is unclear whether or not he will need Tommy John surgery. Betances will turn 20 in mid- March and is still learning how to pitch and is still growing into his body. The Yankees are hopeful he won’t be shutdown with surgery in 2008, and will log more innings and continue to develop.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Betances is probably a few years away from appearing in a Thunder uniform, and that’s something that could be delayed even longer if his injury problems continue to persist.  Betances quickly emerged as one of the most discussed prospects in the New York-Penn League last year, but the Yankees have received just 48 innings over a season and a half out of one of their brightest young stars.Phil Hughes, Brien Taylor, or somewhere inbetween?  Waaaaaaaaay too early to tell.

#14 RHP Daniel McCutchen – McCutchen, who exhibits a bulldog mentality on the mound, burst onto the Yankees’ radar in 2007. With a 50-game MLB suspension behind him from the previous year, he ranked second in the Minor League System with 14 combined wins between Tampa and Trenton with a 2.47 ERA. He won two post-season starts for the Thunder including the Eastern League Championship clincher against Akron. His fastball runs up to the plate in the low-mid 90s and has an excellent change-up as an out pitch. As with Marquez, McCutchen’s confident demeanor on and off the mound, makes him someone to keep your eye on going forward.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: There’s no doubt that McCutchen benefitted from last year’s experience in the Bronx after helping the Thunder win their first EL title.  No, he didn’t get into any games, but he was a part of a development program last September, joined by Alan Horne and Jeff Marquez.McCutchen is very likely to return to the Thunder as their Opening Day starter, and will probably be the first pitcher called up to Scranton if an opening pops up.  And if last season is any indication, an opening will pop up…

#15 RHP Kevin Whelan – Another prospect the Yankees acquired from the Detroit in the Gary Sheffield trade, Whelan had an uneven year in 2007. Coming off a 27- save season in Lakeland (High-A), he got off to a good start in Trenton. His splitter had Eastern League hitters completely baffled. Once mid-season hit, the Yankees decided to send him to Tampa and give him an opportunity to start. When Whelan returned to Trenton, his command deserted him. He ended up with 42 walks in 54 IP by season’s end in Trenton. The Yankees are still high on Whelan. A former catcher at Texas A&M, he is probably best suited to stay in the bullpen with his split-finger fastball.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: It was just an odd year for Whelan last year.  The decision to send him down to Tampa to start was somewhat puzzling, as was his return to the bullpen when he came back to Trenton.Whelan certainly had some things he needed to work on, as the numbers probably didn’t indicate just how much he was struggling.  Likely to start the year in the Scranton bullpen, it’s very possible Whelan could be back with the Thunder at some point as well…but that picture will be clearer when the Yankees determine just how many of the pitchers they sent back to minor league camp they’ll actually keep.

Ashmore Note: At one point or another, the hype machine has been working overtime on all five of these pitchers.  I know everyone loves to think that all these guys are going to pan out…but what are the odds that all five make the big leagues by 2010?

Click on the appropriate links for prospects #16-20, #21-25 and #26-30.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Trenton’s Big Three Sent Down, Other Notes…

March 10, 2008

The Yankees have their big three: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy.

But last season, Trenton’s talented trio of Jeff Marquez, Alan Horne and Chase Wright anchored the team’s rotation and led them to their first Eastern League championship in the team’s 14-year history. 

This year?  They all got a look in big league camp, and Peter Abraham reports that all three got sent down together.  All three appear likely to anchor another rotation, this time in Triple-A Scranton.  Maybe one of them will pitch an inning or two in the April 1st exhibition game…

Abraham also reports that Francisco Cervelli will be out 8-10 weeks.  8-10 weeks!  That would have him out until some point in May.  Not good for the Thunder fans hoping for their first big name catcher since Dioner Navarro.

If you’re a fan of checking out other team’s prospects, however, Baseball America has some good news for you.  BA’s top Toronto Blue Jays prospect, Travis Snider, appears to be headed straight to Double-A New Hampshire. 

“It’s almost completely decided that he’s going there,” Blue Jays farm director Dick Scott told the publication.

How will you know which guy to look for?  At 5′ 11″, 245 pounds, he’ll be the guy who looks like a house in a baseball uniform.

The BA Prospect Handbook says some scouts considered him the best hitter in the ’06 draft — he went 14th overall and signed for $1.7 million — and that he’s “extremely advanced for a young hitter.”

His career numbers are pretty mind-boggling.  In two seasons, he’s a career .316 hitter with 27 home runs and 134 RBI.  He won the Appalachian League MVP in his first pro season in 2006, too.

He can hit for average and for power?  Yikes.  Snider is certainly someone to keep an eye on when the Fisher Cats come to Waterfront Park on May 16th.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Best of 2007: Moment #8

March 6, 2008

Moment #8 – Alan Horne wins Pitcher of the Year
August 25, 2007
Trenton, NJ

Brad Taylor (left) hands Alan Horne the 2007 EL Pitcher of the Year Award / Photo by Mike Ashmore

The following is an excerpt from my August 30, 2007 article in the Hunterdon County Democrat

Two days before his start, Trenton Thunder pitcher Alan Horne was named to the Eastern League postseason All-Star team.

One day before his start, Alan Horne was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.

During his start, Alan Horne showed why he deserved both of those honors.

With a chance to clinch the Northern Division title on the line, Horne spun six masterful innings in Trenton, holding the Binghamton Mets to one run on four hits, giving his team a chance to win a game they eventually lost in fourteen innings, 3-2.

However, with the team’s magic number at one before the start of the game, and with Portland losing their game to New Hampshire, the Thunder secured the division with eight games left to play in the regular season.

“The guys have been fantastic all year, they’ve played well,” said Thunder skipper Tony Franklin.

“I congratulated them and I thanked them, because they really came to work with a purpose every day.”

But where would they be without Horne?

In a year where the Thunder have used no fewer than 25 pitchers, Horne is one of just four to have stayed the entire season.

With a 12-4 record, a 2.91 ERA, and league leading strikeout total of 161, there seemed to be no other choice for Pitcher of the Year honors.

“I’m very excited about it, there are a lot of other very good pitchers in this league they could have given it to,” Horne said.

“I’m definitely proud to represent our team on the All-Star list, and now as Pitcher of the Year. It’s just awesome, I don’t really know what to say about it.”

Horne is only the second pitcher in Trenton Thunder history to win the award, with the much-maligned Carl Pavano being the first.

“Well, hopefully I’ll have a little better path down the road than that one,” joked Horne.

With his breakout 2007 season behind him, Horne looks to 2008 with a chance to crack the big league roster at some point.  It would appear as though he’ll start his season in the rotation at Triple-A Scranton.

Recapping the Top 20 so far…

#8 – Alan Horne wins Pitcher of the Year
#9 – Trenton finally beats Portland in the playoffs
#10 – Shelley Duncan’s impact with the Yankees
#11 – The emergence of Austin Jackson
#12 – Tony Franklin named Thunder manager
#13 – Matt DeSalvo’s MLB debut
#14 – Phil Hughes rehab appearance
#15 – Tyler Clippard’s MLB debut
#16 – Brett Smith’s no-hitter
#17 – Chase Wright’s MLB debut
#18 – Chase Wright’s opening night start
#19 – Paul Lo Duca and Endy Chavez rehab in Trenton
#20 – Jeff Karstens rehab appearance

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Best of 2007: Moment #9

February 29, 2008

Moment #9 – Trenton finally beats Portland in the playoffs
September 8, 2007
Portland, ME

In their first 13 seasons, the Trenton Thunder not only had never won a playoff series, they’d never had a 2-1 series lead.

With the first two games between Trenton and the Portland Sea Dogs at Waterfront Park split down the middle and making the series little more than a best-of-three, it was obvious that Game 3 at Portland’s Hadlock Field would be the turning point.

Daniel McCutchen got the nod in the pivotal third game for the Thunder, the first postseason start of his brief professional career.

“You have to take the same approach, even though it’s going to be a little more intense than a regular season game,” McCutchen said.

“I know (Portland) has some pretty good hitters, and we have a pretty good scouting report on them. I just have to pitch to my strengths, and go right at them.”

That’s exactly what the 24-year-old righty did, allowing only one run on three hits over six innings of work, leading the Thunder to a tight 3-2 victory and their elusive two games to one series lead.

The 30th ranked prospect in the Yankees system, according to Baseball America, McCutchen retired 11 straight batters at one point in the game.

With Jeff Marquez on the mound for Game 4 with the Thunder on the brink of advancing to the championship series for the first time in franchise history, there was little doubt that Trenton would break their 13-year curse.

The 15-game winner continued the domination of Thunder starting pitching in this series, combining with Eric Wordekemper and Justin Pope on a five-hit shutout. In fact, Thunder starters allowed just three earned runs over 26.2 innings pitched (1.02 ERA).

And just like that, the Trenton Thunder would be headed to the Eastern League Championship Series.

The first two games of the series, held in Trenton, seemed to be where the Thunder needed to make their mark. Chase Wright, who made two starts for the Yankees earlier this season, started the series opener, and Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Alan Horne was on the bump for the second game.

Wright outdueled top Boston prospect Justin Masterson in the first game, getting a little revenge against the Red Sox — who hit four straight home runs off of him in his last big league start.

“I’ve faced them a couple of times since I’ve been back, and they’ve roughed me up a little bit, so when I saw that I was going to get a rematch, it was nice to be able to go out there and beat them,” Wright said.

Masterson, drafted in the second round out of San Diego State just last year, looked like the inexperienced pitcher he is, having a difficult time locating his pitches in his five innings of work.

It was an assessment he didn’t necessarily agree with.

“I did exactly what I wanted to do,” said Masterson, who picked up the loss after allowing two runs on seven hits.

He also walked a batter, hit another, and threw a wild pitch.

“I actually felt pretty good out there. I gave up seven hits or something like that, but four or five of those never left the infield. Every hit was at least a ground ball, and that’s exactly what I want to do,” said Masterson, who got 10 of his 15 outs on the ground.

Noah Hall, who started the season with the independent Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League, found his way back into the starting lineup after a long stretch on the bench late in the season, and provided a key run scoring single in the win.

“It feels good,” Hall said.

“This season has really worked out well. Having done well in my short time playing, maybe I’ll get another opportunity next year.”

In Game 2, Horne and Sea Dogs knuckleballer Charlie Zink matched each other frame for frame, with the Thunder ace carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and Zink giving Portland seven strong innings of his own.

The contest lasted over four hours, with Portland scoring the eventual game-winning run on a wild play to give them the 3-2 win.

With two outs in the 13th Inning and a runner at first Base, Portland right fielder Jay Johnson singled to give the Sea Dogs runners on the corners. Andrew Pinckney then hit a ball off the glove of the diving first baseman, Cody Ehlers. The ball deflected back to the pitcher, Kevin Whelan, who flipped the ball back to Ehlers, who dropped it, allowing the runner on third to score.

The Thunder’s first playoff series victory helped get rid of the bitter taste left in the mouths of Trenton fans after the past two seasons, as they’d lost to the Sea Dogs in the first round of the playoffs in 2005 and 2006.

What made that pill even more difficult to swallow was that Portland was the affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.  Even at the Double-A level, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is an intense and important one.  And this time, it would be the Yankees who’d come out on top.

Recapping the Top 20 so far…

#9 – Trenton finally beats Portland in the playoffs
#10 – Shelley Duncan’s Impact With The Yankees
#11 – The emergence of Austin Jackson
#12 – Tony Franklin named Thunder manager
#13 – Matt DeSalvo’s MLB debut
#14 – Phil Hughes rehab appearance
#15 – Tyler Clippard’s MLB debut
#16 – Brett Smith’s no-hitter
#17 – Chase Wright’s MLB debut
#18 – Chase Wright’s opening night start
#19 – Paul Lo Duca and Endy Chavez rehab in Trenton
#20 – Jeff Karstens rehab appearance

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

NY Post: Joba’s a Reliever

February 12, 2008

I have frequently disagreed with how the Yankees have handled Joba Chamberlain.  Regardless of the results, I still think they rushed him to the big leagues.  They took their time with Phil Hughes, and that seemed to work out relatively well for them…

Now, the New York Post is reporting that Chamberlain is set to start the season as a setup man to Mariano Rivera.  But he’s still going to prepare in Spring Training as a starter.  Then, after they eventually find someone to replace Chamberlain as setup man (the article mentions EL Pitcher of the Year and Thunder alum Alan Horne as a candidate), Joba will be sent to the minors to be stretched out and will return as a starter.

Does that not sound ridiculous to anyone else?  I get what they’re doing…they can say it’s to solidify the bullpen all they want, but it’s really to keep him under his innings cap for the year.  If he’s going to be a starter, keep him in the rotation.  If he’s going to be a bullpen guy, keep him there.  How long is it going to be before the “Joba Rules” become a thing of the past?

Not any time soon, apparently…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

How they did in Trenton, ’06 Humber Interview

January 29, 2008

Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey / Photos by Mike Ashmore

To me, one of the most fascinating things of a trade such as the one that has tentatively sent Johan Santana to the Mets for four prospects is hearing baseball personalities and writers go into great detail about the minor leaguers involved.  The problem with that is that a lot of these guys have never seen any of them play.

But if you regularly attend games at Waterfront Park, as I know many of you reading this do, you got to see three of the four players the Twins will be getting; Kevin Mulvey, Carlos Gomez and Philip Humber.  The other, Deolis Guerra, is likely to appear at some point with New Britain this season.

Mulvey was the only one who set foot in Mercer County in 2007.  He faced the Thunder three times last season, all of which came in Waterfront Park.  In fact, if Mulvey ever makes it big, you might have been fortunate enough to say you saw his last Double-A start, which came on August 26th.

He faced Alan Horne that day, and struck out 10 batters in six innings of work without factoring into the decision.

His first appearance in Trenton was on April 19th, where he earned the first of his 11 wins on the year.  He went just five innings, but allowed only two runs on four hits.

His other stint on the bump in Waterfront Park was a memorable one, as his June 5th start saw him opposed by Ian Kennedy, who was making his Double-A debut.

Neither hurler pitched particularly well, and Mulvey came out on the losing end after allowing six runs in four and a third innings.  He also set a season high with five walks.

Thunder fans got to see plenty of Carlos Gomez, as he manned center field 11 times in Waterfront Park during the 2006 season.

He made his Waterfront Park debut on May 26th, and went 0-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base.

Overall, Gomez was 16-for-39 (.410) in his 11 contests in Trenton, hitting one home run and driving in three runs.

Phil Humber has made just seven starts at the Double-A level in his career, including six in 2006.  Thunder fans were lucky enough to witness one of them, which occured on August 10th, 2006.  Making just his second Double-A start of the season, Humber put together his best outing of the season to date, scattering six hits and striking out seven in a season high seven innings fo work.

But he was outdueled by Jason Jones, and Humber would pick up his first loss of his 2006 campaign in Binghamton.

On the basis of Humber being a former Yankees draft pick — and me finally having somewhere I can use this interview — here’s my complete August 2006 chat with Humber, which includes him discussing why he never signed with the Yankees.

Ashmore: The Mets picked you third overall in the first round of the 2004 draft. Take me back to draft day, what was your experience like?

Humber: It was a lot of fun, man. Actually, we were probably coming off of the lowest moment in my college career, we got beaten out of the regional. I gave up a grand slam in the eighth inning, and we ended up losing the game. I was down going into the game, but getting picked third by the Mets is a pretty good pick me up. My whole family was there, and it was a lot of fun, an incredible moment.

Ashmore: Your Rice teammates, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend, also got picked in the first round that year. Have you thought about the significance of “The Big Three” getting picked together like that?

Humber: It was really cool to play with those guys all three years I was there. We became really close by playing with each other and pushing each other. There was a lot of competition, because we all wanted to be the best, and that brought out the best in all three of us. We were all excited for each other when we got picked in the first round. That’s something that will probably hit home more when our careers are done. We’ll look back, and that’s something that’s only happened one time before, and never actually that high in the draft. But it was really cool and that’s something we’ll always be connected by.

Ashmore: You signed for $3.7 million, far more money than I’m ever going to see. What was the first thing you did with the check?

Humber: I put most of it into investments, and then I picked out a car that I wanted and I bought that. I got a Yukon Denali. It’s not too flashy, but it’s very comfortable. I like it, it’s worked out good. I actually just bought a town home in Texas, so that’s really the only two big purchases I’ve made so far.

Ashmore: Do your teammates ever give you an earful about signing for that much money?

Humber: You know, they’ll rib me every once in a while about being a first rounder and stuff like that, but it’s all in fun.

Ashmore: The Yankees picked you in the 29th round in 2001. Was there ever any thought put into pursuing that?

Humber: At the time, I’d signed with a junior college out of high school. They picked me thinking I was going to go to junior college, and they’d have a chance to follow me and maybe sign me after that. I ended up having a really good summer after my senior year of high school, and they wanted to sign me before I went to Rice. But I had it in my mind that that’s where I wanted to go. I thought I could improve my position in the draft, and three years later it worked out that way. It would have been nice to be with the Yankees, but I’m happy with the Mets.

Ashmore: You were on the mound for the decisive game of the 2003 College World Series, which your Rice team won. Tell me about what it was like to be such a big part of winning the College World Series…

Humber: I pitched a complete game in the championship game, and that’s probably the biggest thing I got out of going to Rice. All three years were fun, but that was just a really special season and a really special team; a lot of guys that played together for a while. That’s something I’ll never forget, actually getting a chance to pitch in the championship game was the biggest thrill of my baseball career. That was awesome.

Ashmore: Another thrill for you must have been pitching in Spring Training with the Mets last year, where you got into one game and pitched two innings. What was your first Spring Training like?

Humber: I don’t remember many names, I wasn’t paying attention to who was batting. It was late in the game, and it was against the Nationals. I don’t think there were any Major League regulars in the game at that time. It was still cool to get on the field with the Mets regulars that are up there now and get a chance to show what I can do. Especially with that being my first glimpse of pro ball in a big league environment, it was really neat. It was fun to get out there and not give up any runs or do anything real stupid.

Ashmore: Did you seek out anyone in particular when you were up there? Guys like Pedro, Glavine…

Humber: Coming in and not even having thrown a pitch in pro ball, I didn’t really feel comfortable going up to a lot of people, I just kind of kept my mouth shut. With a lot of them, they’d come up to you and give you advice, they were real friendly. Especially Pedro, he offered some advice on my changeup and a lot of different things, like being confident with my pitches and knowing that you can get big league hitters out. It’s a great atmosphere up there, those guys were real cool.

Ashmore: 2005 wasn’t all great for you, as you ended up having Tommy John Surgery and are only now starting to come back from that. Take me through what that put you through and what you had to do to get back…

Humber: Well, that season was tough because I’d taken six or seven months off from baseball because of the holdout. I came in feeling real strong, I was in shape. But I think as the season went on, my arm began to wear down. I’ve pitched for a long time, so I’ve pitched with pain before, but the pain got pretty much unbearable to where it was affecting the way I was pitching. I came up (to Binghamton) for one start, and I couldn’t take it anymore so they took me out. (I went to some) doctors and got several opinions and found out I needed Tommy John, so I went ahead and had that. Thankfully, there’s a procedure to fix that and it’s pretty successful, so I had that. I was never really scared or worried that I was never going to pitch again. I had faith in the doctors, and it was easier knowing that a lot of people had it and came back successfully. I had faith in God throughout the whole thing, and so far I haven’t really had any setbacks, so it’s been good.

Ashmore: Baseball America had you ranked as the number three prospect in the Mets organization coming into this season. Do you put any stock into something like that?

Humber: No, I really don’t pay attention to much of that stuff. I’ve seen too many guys get hyped up and not really pan out, and then I’ve seen a lot of guys not get hyped at all and become really good Major Leaguers. That’s really for the fans, and for them to have fun with. It’s nice for that to be said, but I want to be the best.

Ashmore: Mike Pelfrey, who was the number one pick of the Mets in 2005, recently got called up to the big leagues. I heard you guys are pretty tight…

Humber: We keep in touch. Coming in, we had a similar background. Both first round picks, both coming out of good college programs, and both right handed pitchers. We had a lot in common, and during Spring Training this past year, we got pretty close. I went through with him what I’d went through, and I told him not to go down the same path, because I ended up getting surgery. But I was real excited for him earlier when he got called up. I tried to watch all the games that I could, and I kept in touch with him as much as I could. I was real excited, because him and Henry Owens I’m real close with. Those guys being in the big leagues was fun for me too.

Ashmore: You started the year in St. Lucie, and you did really well in your first action since your surgery. Were you almost surprised at how well you did?

Humber: I wasn’t really focused on the results. I had a couple of rough outings, I knew my command wasn’t going to be there when I first started out, and it’s still not where I want it to be. But I was fortunate in my last four or five times out there, I was making really good pitches and my stuff was pretty much back. My arm strength was there, so when I make the pitches I wanna make, I’m going to be tough out there. And that’s what I’ve been working on; there with Ricky Bones and here with Mark Brewer, just being more consistent with my pitches. That’s something that everyone coming off of major surgery has to deal with. Hopefully, every single start, I’ll be as consistent as I want to be.

Ashmore: As you mentioned, two of your close friends, Mike Pelfrey and Henry Owens, got to the big leagues this season. When’s it going to be your turn?

Humber: I don’t know man, that’s in God’s hands. All I can do is go out and work every day as hard as I can. The most important thing to me is to mentally focus on the right things, and right now I think I’m in a good place as far as that goes. Whenever there’s an opportunity, I want to be ready for that and hopefully take advantage of it.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Links Updated…

January 23, 2008

A special welcome to our new friends from the great Yankees blog River Ave. Blues, who did a little shout-out to Thunder Thoughts recently.

The links section has been updated to include their site, so make sure you check them out on a regular basis.  You can also find a link at their site to a recent Q&A that the Trentonian did with 2007 EL Pitcher of the Year Alan Horne.

Best of 2007: Moment #16

January 22, 2008

Brett Smith / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Moment #16 – Brett Smith’s no-hitter
July 4, 2007
Trenton, NJ

It’s incredible when you think of just how far Brett Smith fell after throwing the first no-hitter by a Thunder pitcher in the history of Waterfront Park.

You would have thought he would have followed the path that Alan Horne or Jeff Marquez did based on what he did early in the season, but his season fell apart after he was somewhat unexpectedly sent down just two games after his Independence Day no-no.

Smith started the season on fire, leaving after seven innings with a no-hitter intact on April 21st against the Binghamton Mets…which at the time was the most impressive performance I’d seen by a Thunder pitcher since Tyler Clippard had taken a perfect game into the 7th inning in 2006.

After that, he had two consecutive starts where he allowed one hit over eight innings of work in the month of May.

But even during his no-hitter, Smith struggled with his control late in his stay with the Thunder, walking a mind-boggling seven during the five innings of the rain-shortened contest.

He made just one more start for Trenton, but was pulled after just three and two thirds innings.  After that, he made a brief appearance out of the bullpen, but faced eight batters in one inning of work.

Smith was then sent down to Single-A Tampa, where he more or less imploded.  He went 0-6 in eight starts, and his ERA was a robust 7.68.  He had more walks than strikeouts, and had at least two free passes in every start.

In a farm system absolutely overflowing with pitching prospects, Smith had a year he couldn’t afford to have, and may have fallen off the prospect map.  It’ll take a huge 2008 to re-gain his status as someone to keep an eye on, and it’s a season that will likely see him return to Mercer County.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Breaking News: Yankees Spring Invite List

January 15, 2008

Just got this list of non-roster players the Yankees have invited to Spring Training…

C Kyle Anson, C Jason Brown, INF Bernie Castro, OF Justin Christian, OF Colin Curtis, INF Eric Duncan, OF Brett Gardner, RHP Daniel Giese, INF Nick Green, RHP Alan Horne, OF Austin Jackson, RHP Steven Jackson, OF Jason Lane, RHP Daniel McCutchen, RHP Mark Melancon, C Jesus Montero, LHP Heath Phillips, C P.J. Pilittere, OF Greg Porter, INF Cody Ransom, RHP Darrell Rasner, C Austin Romine, RHP Scott Strickland, OF Jose Tabata, LHP Billy Traber and INF Marcos Vechionacci.

If my math is correct, 11 Thunder alums are on the list — Brown, Christian, Curtis, Duncan, Gardner, Horne, A. Jackson, S. Jackson, McCutchen, Pilittere and Vechionacci.

It’s interesting to me that Kyle Anson got an invite.  Although Anson has only played at low-A Charleston last season, he’ll turn 25 a few weeks into the 2008 season, so it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that he could be a candidate to catch in Trenton if the Yankees don’t think Francisco Cervelli is ready for the jump — although that seems like a very unlikely scenario.

I also wonder if this is Eric Duncan’s last chance to make an impact when it matters.  I think the fact that he was unprotected for the Rule 5 draft and went unclaimed speaks volumes as to how far he’s plummeted in baseball circles.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com