Posts Tagged ‘Chase Wright’

Getting To Know: Chase Wright

April 21, 2008

In trying to maintain a balance between providing hard news and getting you as close to the players as I can without actually physically taking you into the clubhouse, I decided to try a new series of “getting to know you” type features with the Thunder roster.

You guys have access to the same stats I do.  You see them make the same pitches and swing the bat just as many times as I can.

But one thing the majority of fans don’t know about is what these guys are like off the field, and that’s truly one of the best parts of my job, is getting to know some of these guys as people and not just athletes.

With that said, I thought one of the best candidates for something like this would be one Sebern Chase Wright.  The soft-spoken Texan is always a friendly face in the clubhouse, and is always willing to give a few minutes of his time to the media, even for a goofy feature like this one.

So, without further ado, here’s the first of hopefully many “Getting To Know” features…

TT: So tell me something about Chase Wright that might surprise some people…

CW: “Ooh, let’s see.  I’m a big sports guy.  I’m an outdoors guy, I like to hunt and golf.  Any sport, I’m down.  I like any sport activity or outdoor activity.”

TT: Chase is actually your middle name.  When did you end up going with that as your first name?

CW: “That’s just what everybody always, always called me even though my first name was Sebern.  Now I think more people call me Sebern here than Chase.”

TT: Just to bust on you a little bit?

CW: “Yeah, a little bit…”

TT: Do you have an iPod?

CW: “Yup.”

TT: So if I’m going through Chase Wright’s iPod, what am I finding?

CW: “We’ve got a little bit of everything.  I’m more of a hip-hop guy than anything.”

TT: Really?  I would have had you pegged as a country guy myself…

CW: “That’s probably second to that, yeah.  But I got a lot more hip-hop than anything on there.”

TT: What are some of your favorite artists on there?

CW: “Gotta go Bone Thugs N Harmony, they’re one of my favorite.  Then, let’s see…what’s some other good ones on there?  We gotta go Danity Kane.”

TT: All right, all right.  That works for me.  Did you like the new album?

CW: “Yeah, I liked it.  That’s definitely my top two, right there.”

TT: No love for the other group from Making the Band 4, Day 26?

CW: “Nah, they’re not me.  I’m more into girls (laughs).”

TT: Are you into video games at all?

CW: “Oh yeah.  I got an XBOX 360, and I’m a big Madden guy.  That’s my main game.”

TT: Who’s your team?

CW: “Gotta go Cowboys.  Dominate everybody with the Cowboys.”

TT: T.O., Romo.  Yeah, that’ll get the job done.  Are you a Cowboys fan?

CW: “Oh yeah.  Big time.”

TT: Do you get to go to any games during the off-season?

CW: “Yeah, I’ve been to a few.  But it’s kind of hard to get to.  I’m waiting for the new stadium to open and try to get some tickets there.”

TT: What do you think about the new stadium?  I heard the old one was kind of crappy…

CW: “Yeah, the stadium they’re in now, it’s old.  It’s in bad shape, everything’s all packed in together.  But the new stadium, I heard it’s supposed to be really nice, so I’m looking forward to catching some games there.”

TT: During the off-season, what’s a typical day like for you?

CW: “Let’s see.  Golf.  I usually get up and get a workout in, but golf’s definitely the main thing.  A little hunting, depending on what season it is.  And then some fishing.”

TT: Do you hunt deer, or…

CW: I’m more of a bird hunter than deer.  But I did go for the first time this off-season, deer hunting.  Got my first deer.”

TT: Do you fish around here at all?  I saw Cutch walking out of the park after one of the day games with a fishing rod in his hands the other day…

CW: “I haven’t, but I might.  I need to.  But I don’t think they got a bite or anything, so I’m going to wait until they start getting bites because I’m pretty impatient out there in the water.”

TT: Percentage of interviews you do where the Fenway Park “incident” from last year doesn’t come up…

CW: “(Laughs) Oh man.  Zero.”

(Trust me, I pointed out that number includes this interview as well, since I had to be a jackass and bring it up too…)

TT: You talk about it all the time with whoever asks, and you’re always good about it, but aren’t you just kind of like enough already?

CW: “Nah, not at all.  I feel like I was very fortunate to be put in that situation.  That’s something that happened.  But that’s not a negative thing.  I’m not going to be down or be frustrated about it.  It doesn’t bother me at all.”

TT: Before a start, what do you do to get pumped up?

CW: “Yeah, I’ve definitely got the hip-hop going on the iPod, trying to get going.  But I try to keep it on an even keel.  I don’t try to get too high or too low, just sort of keep it even.  But about an hour before, I’m trying to get a little pumped up in there.”

TT: Who do you room with on the road?

CW: “Steven Jackson.” 

TT: Anything you can tell me about him that he’d hate you for telling me?

CW: “I don’t know!  Jack’s a pretty straight guy, I haven’t got much dirt on him.”

(At this point, Eric Wordekemper walks by…)

“If you ask me about Wordy or somebody, I can give you some dirt.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Game 6: Trenton @ Altoona

April 8, 2008

Game 6 – Trenton Thunder @ Altoona Curve
April 8, 2008
Blair County Ballpark – Altoona, PA

Pitching Matchup: TRE Chase Wright (0-1, 3.00) vs. ALT Kyle Bloom (0-1, 14.73)

Starting Lineups:

Trenton (3-2) (3-2 road record, 1-0 vs. Altoona)

1 – Ramiro Pena, SS
2 – Austin Jackson, CF
3 – Jose Tabata, RF
4 – Colin Curtis, LF
5 – Matt Carson, DH
6 – Cody Ehlers, 1B
7 – P.J. Pilittere, C
8 – Marcos Vechionacci, 3B
9 – Reegie Corona, 2B

Altoona (1-4) (1-4 home record, 0-1 vs. Thunder)

1 – Boone
2 – Cruz
3 – Pacheco
4 – Corley
5 – Delaney
6 – Bowers
7 – Webster
8 – Perez
9 – Finegan

Farm Fresh: In Charleston, Zach McAllister picked up the win last night.  Brad Suttle is smokin’ hot in the first week of the season, hitting .474 with a homer and three RBI.  The River Dogs have five other regular players hitting .300 or better: David Williams (.444), Justin Snyder (.357), Wady Rufino (.333), Austin Krum (.300) and Abe Almonte (.300).

Dellin Betances is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA after a five-inning start, and Jesse Hoover has made two scoreless relief appearances, collecting a win along the way.

Edwar Gonzalez is hot in Tampa, hitting .278 with two home runs and seven RBI in his first five games.  He has accounted for all of his team’s longballs, and half of their RBI.  Mitch Hilligoss is also doing well for the T-Yanks, hitting .273, but he has made two errors already.

Mark Melancon, who all eyes will be on in Tampa until he’s inevitably shipped north to Trenton, is 0-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two games and 3.2 IP.

In Scranton — home to the lovely Pam Beesly, by the way — Jason Lane’s already got three home runs in the first five games of the year.  Brett Gardner has missed the past two games, but is 4-for-11 with one steal in his first three.

Alberto Gonzalez is hitting just .091 in his first four games, and Juan Miranda is 2-for-17 (.118) for the SWB Yanks.

Pre-Game Notes: The Thunder have announced that their new puppy will be named Derby.  Derby was the puppy the team kept from the litter that came from Chase, their bat-collecting, ball-delivering, loveable mascot.

Despite the Thunder playing Altoona ten million 17 times last year, Chase Wright did not face the Curve last year.  Kyle Bloom was picked in the fifth round by the Pirates in 2004, and is making his fourth career Double-A start. 

Starts one and two, made last year, went really well. 

Start three did not, as he comes in with a loss and 14.73 ERA next to his name. 

Of players considered prospects in the Pirates system, Baseball America has him dead last on the depth chart for lefty starters.

As expected, Daniel McCutchen has been pushed back a day, and will now go on his regular four days rest…meaning he gets the ball for the home opener on the 10th against Harrisburg. 

George Kontos is now slated to get the start tomorrow. 

The problem with that, of course, is that he’d now be going on three days rest.  He only went three innings on April 5th against Binghamton, so that may be the reasoning…but if he didn’t start, I wouldn’t be surprised either.

Remember Juan Francia?  He hit .198 in 31 games for the Thunder last year.  He’s resurfaced in the independent Atlantic League, signing with the Lancaster Barnstormers.  That’s the same team that Scott Patterson came from.  Jason Bowers, an infielder on Altoona, is a former teammate of Scott’s in Lancaster.

Radio Links: Click here for the links to each team’s broadcast.

Live Box Score: The MILB.com direct link is here.

Around the Eastern League: For scores from around the EL, go here.

In-Game Updates: I’ll be at the ballpark again starting Thursday, but these updates are from the comforts of the couch.  Anyway, it’s 4-1 Thunder in the top of the 5th.

The only big mistake Chase Wright has made so far was a second inning home run to Jason Bowers.

Reegie Corona’s got his first two RBI of the year, and Jose Tabata and Marcos Vechionacci have got the others.  Both Tabata and Austin Jackson have stolen a base as well.

Not a real great outing out of Altoona’s Kyle Bloom so far.  Four runs on five hits through four innings of work so far.

Bottom 7th, and Trenton is up 5-1 now.  Colin Curtis has driven in a run.  Chase Wright is out, Steven Jackson is in.  Wright’s line: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR. 

You’d like to see him go a little deeper, but that’s two straight solid performances out of Sebern Chase Wright.

A-Jax is the only Thunder player with two hits so far.

Final Score: 5-2, Thunder.

Post-Game Notes: Steven Jackson, ladies and gentlemen.  Three innings of relief, no hits, seven strikeouts.  Wow.

Two-hit nights for the top three in the order: Ramiro Pena, Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata. 

Another 0-fer out of Matt Carson, who has had two straight rough games now.

0-for-2 with two walks and two K’s for Cody Ehlers.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Thunder Thoughts Tuesday Power Rankings

April 8, 2008

Every Tuesday, for the purpose of creating discussion and giving you an idea of my thoughts on how each member of the Trenton Thunder roster is performing, I’ll be posting power rankings.

This has nothing to do with a player’s prospect status, it’s just my take on how the guys have been doing, 1 through 24 on the roster.  I’ll use stats, what I’ve seen and heard on my own, and opinions to compile these.  

I encourage you to agree, disagree…something, some sort of reaction.

NOTE: At this point of the season, previous season’s performance and player pedigree will play some sort of role, especially with me having only seen some of these guys at the exhibition game thanks to the road start.

1 – Daniel McCutchen, SP

Three hits and seven strikeouts in five scoreless innings is enough to get Mr. McCutchen the top spot for now.  Probably the top candidate to get called up to Triple-A if a starter is needed.

2 – Colin Curtis, OF

Leads the team in runs with five, and has one of just three home runs that the Thunder have hit in five games.

3 – Matt Carson, OF/DH

Carson has one of the other ones, and is second on the team with a .879 OPS.  Making a strong case to get the call to Scranton if someone is needed.  Leads the team in RBI with five.

4 – Ramiro Pena, SS

Leads the team in OBP with a .467 mark.  He also is tied for the team lead in walks (4) with Austin Jackson.  Needed to get off to a good start to open some eyes, and has.

5 – Jason Jones, SP

No earned runs in his first start of the year, but only one strikeout as well.  Then again, he had no walks.

6 – Cody Ehlers, 1B

Would be a little higher if I weren’t a little skeptical based on last year’s performance.  But he leads the team with a .953 OPS, and is 5-for-15 in his first four games.

7 – Bo Hall, RP

Has only made two appearances so far, but has allowed just one baserunner in two innings of work while striking out four of the seven batters he’s faced.

8 – Chase Wright, SP

It must be frustrating to be back in Double-A again, but neither his words or his pitches have shown it.  Gave the Thunder their longest start of the year so far, and was a mistake away from having a real solid start.

9 – David Robertson, RP

The reliever who’s seen the most work, Robertson leads the bullpen guys with 4.2 innings.  He has yet to allow a run, despite walking two and giving up four hits, and has collected five strikeouts as well.

10 – Marcos Vechionacci, 3B

It’s hard to argue with a .333 batting average, tied for the team lead.  But three errors aren’t helping his case, either.  Leads the team with two doubles, and is tied with a few others for the extra-base hits lead.

11 – Austin Jackson, OF

Not a lot of great things to say just yet.  Tied for the team lead with four walks, but that’s about it.

12 – Steven Jackson, RP

One game, two innings, two hits, two strikeouts, one save.  Not spectacular, but certainly not bad.

13 – Reegie Corona, 2B

Is tied for the team lead in steals with two.  Has played five error-free games so far.

14 – P.J. Pilittere, C

Would have thought he’d have played more than three games at this point.  Hitting .300 in ten at-bats with two RBI.

15 – Michael Gardner, RP

Has one of two Trenton saves.  Two hits and two walks in 2.1 innings, but he’s managed to avoid anything big.

16 – Jose Tabata, OF

Is playing like a 19-year-old kid making the jump to Double-A for the first time.  That’s not a knock, it’s the truth.  Has the lowest average on the team, and is tied for the lead in strikeouts.  Does have two steals, but would have more if he got on base more.  I wonder when this kid will start hitting his stride, because I can’t wait to see him when he’s on.

17 – Josh Schmidt, RP

Looked nasty while wearing Scranton’s uniform during the exhibition game.  Allowed two unearned runs in 2.1 innings so far this year.  One hit, two strikeouts.

18 – Phil Coke, SP

Pitched pretty well in the exhibition game, and even in his Double-A debut, but had more walks than strikeouts and could only go four innings.

19 – George Kontos, SP

Only went three innings in his first start.  Four hits and three walks.  It’s only one so-so outing, though.

20 – Carlos Mendoza, 3B

Played one game.  Got one hit.  Made one error.  Hard to say much else, but it isn’t a good sign that he was the guy who was going to get sent away before Kevin Russo’s health concerns.

21 – Chris Malec, 1B

Got no hits in his only game.  People are expecting some big things out of this guy at some point this year, but he just hasn’t had the opportunity to do it yet.  I fail to see where this kid gets regular at-bats.

22 – Joe Muich, C

Not a real great start to the year for Muich.  Only six at-bats to base his offensive numbers on…but he allowed quite a few steals in his first game of the year.

23 – Zach Kroenke, RP

It’s only one game, but it wasn’t his best.  Two runs on two hits and a walk in one inning.  That will give you a team-high ERA of 18.00

24 – Eric Wordekemper, RP

Is under Kroenke because his numbers are over two games, not one.  Has allowed as many baserunners (5) as the amount of outs he’s nailed down.  WHIP is 3.00

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

AUDIO: Aldred talks about pitching in cold weather

March 26, 2008

Got a few e-mails from people wanting “more legit” audio clips.  And again, as I said, I will have that for you this season.

But I went through some older stuff looking for something appropriate to post, and came up with this short clip from Trenton pitching coach Scott Aldred, in which he talks about pitching in cold weather.

If you’re curious, this is from a chat I had with him after Chase Wright’s 2007 Opening Day start…

AUDIO CLIP 

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 #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

Best of 2007: Moment #17

January 15, 2008

Jason Varitek’s Bat In Cooperstown / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2007)

Moment #17 – Chase Wright’s MLB Debut
April 17, 2007
Bronx, NY

It seemed to be a pretty common misconception in Trenton last year that Chase Wright’s Major League debut was the infamous game in Fenway Park where he gave up four consecutive home runs to the Boston Red Sox.

While it was a historic one, it certainly was not a best moment from last season.

But his actual debut, a five inning outing at Yankee Stadium against the Indians on April 17th, could certainly qualify.

After just two starts in a Thunder uniform, both at Waterfront Park, Wright was summoned to the big leagues by the Yankees after a very stunning and unexpected injury to former Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Carl Pavano.

While Wright and since-traded reliever Jeff Kennard were the only members of the Thunder on the Yankees 40-man roster at the time, the move was still somewhat unexpected since he’d be getting his chance before the likes of Phil Hughes, Tyler Clippard, Matt DeSalvo, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain. 

Granted, Kennedy and Chamberlain were known to very few at that time, but when you consider how many rookie pitchers made an impact with the Yankees in 2007, the fact that Wright got the first shot is impressive.

Perhaps more impressive was how Wright handled himself in his debut, collecting his first big league win while allowing three runs on five hits.

“He went after people. There was a lot of quality there,” Yankees manager Joe Torre told reporters after the game.

“He has a presence about him that makes you feel pretty comfortable.”

But Wright got rocked in his next game to such an extent that the bat that Jason Varitek used to hit the fourth consecutive home run off of him currently resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

“I felt good, I felt more comfortable for that game than I did at Yankee Stadium,” Wright said after his return to Trenton.

“I just made some bad pitches, and they took advantage. But I felt fine, I felt as prepared as I could be. I was revved up as it is, it was Sunday Night Baseball versus Daisuke (Matsuzaka).”

However, Wright’s self-destruction at Fenway worked out well for the Thunder, as he was eventually sent back down to Double-A and played a large role in helping the team win their first championship.

“It’s been a wild ride, I never expected to get up to the big leagues that early,” he told me in August.

“The way I looked at it was I thought I’d be in Double-A all year. If I put up good numbers and pitched well, maybe in August I could get a chance in Scranton and then get an opportunity to go up.”

Wright did go back up in September, but went back up to the big leagues instead of Scranton. He appeared in one more game, picking up his second Major League victory in relief on September 30th against the hapless Baltimore Orioles.

What does 2008 hold for Wright?  It would seem very likely he’ll be at the top of the rotation in Triple-A Scranton, and most likely near the top of the list for another Major League call-up.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Best of 2007: Moment #18

January 11, 2008

Chase Wright / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Moment #18 – Chase Wright’s Opening Night Start
April 5, 2007
Trenton, NJ

It seems safe to assume that Chase Wright didn’t pitch in weather this cold while becoming the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year in 2006.

The game time temperature was 38 degrees, but it felt much colder with brutal winds coming in off of the river behind the outfield fence.  The crowd was announced at 5,830, but there’s no way more than half of that number were actually in their seats as Waterfront Park opened for a 14th season.

Wright was spectacular, needing just 76 pitches to strike out nine Bowie Baysox batters over seven innings, allowing just two hits.  Unfortunately for Thunder fans, Bowie’s Beau Hale was also up to the task, giving up one hit through six innings.

The Thunder extended their home opener losing streak to four games after Val Majewski scored the winning run in the ninth after Matt Carson couldn’t cleanly field a ball hit by top Orioles prospect Nolan Reimold.

But Wright was clearly a bright spot, and gave Thunder fans a reason to believe that the horrific start of the previous season wouldn’t be repeated in 2007.

“It took me an inning or so to settle in with the weather the way it was,” Wright said. “I was nervous out there at the start, but after that I think I settled down well.”

Pitching coach Scott Aldred was impressed with Wright as well.

“I’d say if he can do that about 25 more times, he’ll be all set,” Aldred joked.

In fact, Wright needed just two more outings like that to earn a promotion to the big leagues, the first Thunder player who had been called up straight from Double-A since Sean Henn.

He eventually came back down from Triple-A later in the season and played a large role in Trenton winning their first championship in franchise history, but he also went a long way in further establishing himself as a player to watch in the Yankees organization.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Best of 2007: Moment #19

January 8, 2008

Endy Chavez and Paul Lo Duca / Photos by Mike Ashmore

Moment #19 – Paul Lo Duca and Endy Chavez rehab in Trenton
August 25 and August 26, 2007
Trenton, NJ

It’s amazing how two different players can handle the same situation so differently.

Four-time Major League All-Star catcher Paul Lo Duca and outfielder Endy Chavez, a folk hero after making “The Catch” in the NLCS a year earlier, both rehabbed for the Mets on the road in Trenton back-to-back days.

Waterfront Park has seen a handful of rehab assignments from players on the opposing squad — Tony Armas, Jr. comes to mind as perhaps the most recent besides these — but none of the players had such a high profile as Lo Duca and Chavez.

Lo Duca had just rehabbed in his hometown with the Brooklyn Cyclones, and was initially expected to spend two days in Trenton.  Fans hoping for an autograph, a smile, a wave, or anything resembling an acknowledgement of their presence on Earth were probably glad he cut his stay short.

The former Dodger and Marlin was all business during his stay, going straight to the bullpen to catch starter Jose Sanchez after leaving the visiting clubhouse, and going right back into the dugout to exchange a few fist pounds with his teammates for a day after returning.  Fans who lined the third base side of the field hoping for an autograph from one of their favorites would go home disappointed.

He was greeted with a warm round of applause from the large Saturday crowd, many of whom were decked out in Mets apparel.  He got almost as loud of a reaction when Thunder starter Chase Wright struck him out swinging in his first at-bat.

Lo Duca made two more plate appearances that day, collecting a single in Binghamton’s 7-0 loss to Trenton.

Following the game, Lo Duca kept his comments brief to the regular group of reporters in Trenton — no Mets writers came to cover the event.

“I feel great, I’m ready to go,” Lo Duca said.

“There were no tweaks at all, it’s just a matter of getting the rust out a little bit, but I felt good.”

As I mentioned, Lo Duca was initially expected to play in the next day’s game, but told us after the game that his hamstring felt good enough to skip the game, and that he’d be going straight to Shea Stadium.

For Wright, who’d get called back up after the season had ended, it was a good experience to face his first big league caliber hitter since he briefly appeared for the Yankees in April.

“I talked to him in the tunnel after the game, and he said that I did a good job and had good stuff,” Wright said.

“It’s exciting when you get to face a guy like that who’s been in the big leagues and knows how to hit. It’s a good challenge.”

With Lo Duca gone, it came as a surprise when I arrived at the ballpark to learn that the Mets had sent Chavez to rehab with their Double-A squad.  While Lo Duca’s appearance was expected, nobody had thought Chavez was coming.

He was also recovering from a hamstring injury, and looked good after reaching base twice while playing about half of the game that the B-Mets won in 14 innings.

He also got some rather loud cheers, perhaps thanks to his taking about ten minutes before the game to sign autographs for some happy Mets fans.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com