Posts Tagged ‘P.J. Pilittere’

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 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


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

Late Mailbag Question…

March 19, 2008

Somehow, this one got cut off from the last post.

Mike, what happens to the catching situation in Trenton now that Cervelli’s out for a while?

All indications point towards P.J. Pilittere returning for a second season, with Jason Brown possibly backing him up.  The thought originally was that Pilittere would be heading to Scranton for 2008, but Cervelli’s injury seems to have created more of a need for his return to Waterfront Park.

I think the real question is what happens when Cervelli returns.  Do the Yankees get rid of Chad Moeller so that Jason Brown has a spot?  Does Pilittere stay in Trenton?  Does Joe Muich or Ben Blumenthal or any of the other organizational catchers factor into this?


Yankees Send Five Thunder Alums Down

March 11, 2008

Per Peter Abraham’s blog, the Yankees have assigned Juan Miranda to Triple-A Scranton, and reassigned Austin Jackson, Colin Curtis, Jose Tabata and P.J. Pilittere to minor league camp.

Chad Jennings reports that Pilittere might start the year in Trenton, now that the Yankees have signed Chad Moeller for organizational depth.  This was something I wrote about when it came out that Cervelli had broken his wrist…as I said then, Pilittere had a nice year, but I don’t think a Triple-A spot should have been set in stone for him.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT


All 15 Year Team: Catcher

February 26, 2008

Steve Lomasney / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

As promised, Thunder Thoughts look at the All 15 Year Team nominees begins today with a look at the four finalists at catcher.

Anyone who’s followed the Thunder throughout their history is certainly familiar with David McDonough, who has covered the team since its inception in 1994. Dave is one of the most well-respected and likeable people in the Thunder press box.  For what it’s worth, he was also one of the first people who would actually talk to me when I first started covering the team.  That sounds like nothing…but trust me, that’s something.

Similar to what I did with Steve Rudenstein and the Top 30 Prospects breakdown (which will return this week with prospects #21-25, by the way), Dave’s going to be our featured writer and the following are his thoughts on Walt McKeel, Steve Lomasney, Virgil Chevalier and Dioner Navarro.  With his experience in covering the team, he brings a unique and welcome perspective to Thunder Thoughts, and I hope you all enjoy both his analysis and mine for the Trenton Thunder’s All 15 Year Team.

The following is Dave’s breakdown, mine will follow after all of his are done…

Walt McKeel: Walt McKeel was never going to be an impact player, and he never did get much big league time, only 11 games in parts of three seasons. In his second year at Trenton, in 1996, he was arguably the MVP on a first-place team. The 24-year-old batted .302 with 16 home runs and 78 RBIs and handled the pitching staff in excellent fashion, including Minor League Pitcher of the Year Carl Pavano. When the Red Sox rewarded McKeel by sending him up to Boston just in time to miss the Eastern League playoffs, the Thunder sputtered without him, and lost in the semi-finals. The killer was that McKeel sat on the bench in Boston, and got into one game without an at-bat.

It was McKeel’s best year in professional ball. He stayed around until he was 30 with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers and Rockies organizations, but never did much. But the Thunder would not have been in first place in the Southern Division of the Eastern League in 1996 without him.

Steve Lomasney: The pride of Peabody, Massachusetts, Steve Lomasney was always going be the Red Sox catcher of the future. The future never happened. Lomasney was a 21-year-old power hitting backstop when he got to Trenton in 1999. He had crunched 22 homers in Single-A in 1998, but he had also struck out 145 times. He hit 12 homers in 47 games for the Thunder in 1999, and everyone thought he was on his way. The Red Sox even brought him up at the end of the season, and let him get into one game, to the delight of all his family and friends in Peabody. Turns out, that was his only big league game.

Injuries on and off the field and struggles at the plate did him in. He was hurt for part of 2000. After he hit 10 home runs for Trenton in 58 games in 2001, he got the call to Pawtucket. When he floundered at the start of the 2002 season, he was back in Trenton. A completely demoralized Lomasney struggled badly, batting .210 in 109 games with an astronomic 133 strikeouts. That was pretty much it for him. He hung around for a few more years but never got out of AAA. His lifetime Minor League batting average for 12 years was .229. Just a reminder to us all how hard this game really is.

Virgil Chevalier: Every team has one or two guys you look at and think, “Well, he’ll probably never make the majors, but baseball sure could use someone like that coaching or managing.” Guys like former Thunder players Gavin Jackson (96-98), Nate Tebbs (97-99), Tom Sergio (02), Andy Cannizaro (03-05) and Anton French (02), who, as it happens, is now a minor league instructor for the Phillies. And from last year’s club, Jason Brown and Noah Hall.

Chevy was like that, too. Over the 3 ½ seasons (98-01) he played for Trenton, he grew from a shy guy to a confident veteran, to whom the young players could go for guidance. The first Native American to play for the Thunder (sorry, Joba), he had been signed by the Red Sox as a free agent after an open tryout at Fenway Park. He was originally a catcher, but played only 9 games there for Trenton. He was mostly a first baseman and outfielder. In 1999, he hit .293 with 13 homers. In all, he played nine minor league seasons, and got mentioned in “Moneyball”, although not as prominently as Youkilis. I think the exact quote was, “Who is Virgil Chevalier?” I can tell you he is, Billy Beane – a class act all the way.

Dioner Navarro: He was a top prospect for the Yankees when he joined the Thunder in 2003. He had good hands, a good arm, and when he batted .341 in 58 games for Trenton, at the age of just 19, he was considered, along with teammate Robby Cano, to be a future regular at the Stadium. Some how, it never happened. In 2005, Navarro went to the Dodgers in a three-way deal that saw Randy Johnson got to the Yankees. He never did much with the Dodgers, and last year, with the Devil Rays, he was the victim of a freak accident in June and ended up batting .227. The Rays still call him their starting catcher, and he’s only 24, but so far, he has been one more example of the fact that the Thunder have never had a catcher who went on to be a big league impact player.

Not on the ballot: Joe DePastino: Joe hit 17 homers in 79 games as the Thunder catcher in 1997, and hit .295 in 73 games in 1998. All told, in 158 games for Trenton, he had 29 homers and 103 RBIs. He’s now the manager of single-A West Michigan in the Tigers organization.

But my favorite story about DePas comes from 2000, when he was a back-up catcher for the Bowie BaySox. The BaySox hosted the Double-A All-Star game. One of the catchers voted to the team was late, and Joe was in the stands, about to watch the game. So they hoisted out, gave him his shin guards and told him he was on the squad. He didn’t play, of course, but it is written now for posterity that a catcher batting .215 in 19 games was a member of the American League AA All-Star team. Surely an inspirational story for us all.

Dave’s Vote Goes to: Walt McKeel.


Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: As some of my regular readers may know, I started regularly following the team as a fan in 1999 before eventually covering the team as a writer in 2006.  In terms of catchers, I came in somewhere around the Steve Lomasney era, if you want to be so generous as to call it that.

With that said, here’s my look at each of the four catchers.  Also, to borrow Dave’s idea (see: steal) I’m going to take a look at someone who stands out for me who isn’t on the ballot.

Walt McKeel: McKeel was picked in the third round of the 1990 draft by the Red Sox, and became just one of 10 players selected in that round to make the big leagues.  He went from prospect to suspect to journeyman pretty quickly, as five years came between his penultimate and final Major League cups of coffee in 1997 and 2002, with the Red Sox and Rockies, respectively.

McKeel caught for parts of three seasons in Trenton, and was eventually succeeded by Joe DePastino in 1997.

Steve Lomasney: Rather than essentially recap what I’ve written about Lomasney in the past, I’ll simply include my 2006 feature on Lomasney from when he came back to Waterfront Park as a member of the New Britain Rock Cats.  After that, I’ll share my two favorite memories of Lomasney’s career as a fan…


Steve Lomasney enjoyed his finest season in 1999 as a member of the Trenton Thunder. The starting catcher of the most successful team in franchise history, Lomasney parlayed his year into a September call-up from the Boston Red Sox, where he got into the last game of the season against the Orioles and got two at-bats.

Seven years later, and all Lomasney has is that taste of what his career could have been.

After being named the Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year, Lomasney went into the 2000 season with lofty expectations. Baseball America considered him the number one prospect in the entire Red Sox organization and he seemed to be in line for another September call-up at the very least. But injuries ended his season two months early, so that call-up would have to wait.

In 2001, the Peabody, Mass. native was up with Triple-A Pawtucket, an injury away from getting another chance at wearing the uniform of his hometown team. But it was another injury of his own that altered the course of his season and ultimately his career. Lomasney was struck in the eye with a line drive during batting practice, fracturing his orbital bone and damaging his cornea.

As a result, the call-up he was waiting for never came, and the chance of wearing a Red Sox uniform again went away with it after not re-signing with the organization following his fourth straight season in Double-A in 2002.

He caught on with the Orioles organization in 2003 and with the Reds for 2004 and 2005, spending all three seasons with their Triple-A teams. But Baltimore and Cincinnati didn’t see anything from him that warranted a big league call-up either, his struggles being capped by a meager .160 batting average in limited action with the Louisville Bats last season.

Lomasney only played for a few innings in his only big league appearance in Camden Yards, but it served as a microcosm of the reason why he‘s never been able to stick in the show. He threw out both base runners who tried to steal against him, but also struck out in both of his plate appearances.

“Three-two counts both times,” Lomasney said. “I was swinging hard, but I had a little bit of the jitters in me.”

Always known more for his glove than his bat, Lomasney entered the 2006 season with 2,790 professional at-bats. He’d struck out in 961 of them, an alarming rate of one strikeout per 2.9 at-bats.

Numbers like that won’t get you anywhere, especially the big leagues, and that’s why the 28 year-old Lomasney finds himself in the visiting dugout of Trenton’s Waterfront Park, spending his fifth season at the Double-A level.

Now with the New Britain Rock Cats, the Eastern League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, Lomasney is again struggling, hitting just .194 with no home runs and three RBI. Having gone from the next Carlton Fisk to the next Crash Davis, he returns to the site of that breakout 1999 season at a very different stage of his career.

“When I first got here, I said I’d never been on this side of the field before,” Lomasney said, across the diamond from the home dugout he spent four seasons in.

“We had great fans and great players here, it was a great organization to be with.”

Even with his slow start, his teammates and coaches seem to be behind him.

“He’s a veteran presence behind the plate,” said Rock Cats manager Riccardo Ingram, who noted that Lomasney was working well with his other catcher, Jose Morales.

“Steve knows his role here, and his role is basically to be a veteran leader. I think he’s fitting the bill well.”

Lomasney, who’s already accumulated seven strikeouts in thirty-one at-bats this season said he’d been contacted by several independent league teams over the past few seasons, but feels his best chance to get back is by staying in the minors.

With his chances in affiliated baseball quickly diminishing, this is one opportunity where Steve Lomasney can’t afford to strike out.

My two favorite Lomasney moments involve a bench clearing brawl and a broken bat walk-off home run. 

The first occured on my Dad’s birthday in 2000 and was against the Binghamton Mets.  We were sitting on the first base side, and prospect at the time Leslie Brea was on the mound for the B-Mets.  Brea had already hit Lomasney once in the game, and then proceeded to drill him again in his next at-bat.  In what is still the only bench clearing brawl I’ve ever seen in over 400 games, Lomasney charged the mound, but never really got to his target.  Mets catcher Jimmy Gonzalez got to Lomasney before he was able to charge Brea, and after a few minutes order was restored.

I asked Lomasney about this during our 2006 chat, and he said the following:

“Well, earlier in the year, Leslie and I…he was pitching a really good game, and I hit a home run off of him and it ended up being the game winning run, but it was earlier in the game.  I don’t know if he took that too well.  I got to know Leslie after all this, and he’s a good guy, but he hit me twice.  He hit me twice, and they were both definitely intentional.  After he hit me, I kind of just looked at him, and he yelled something to me, and I basically just snapped and charged him.  I didn’t get to him, the catcher caught me, Jimmy Gonzalez.  But we cleared it and had a pretty good one for a little bit.  But that’s the nature of the game.  Guys get hit, you get hit twice, and you’ve got to have your respect.  You can’t just lay down for people.  That was the only time I ever charged the mound.  It happened, and it was just one of those things.”

The broken bat walk-off home run was against Bryan Malko and the New Britain Rock Cats.  I was sitting behind the home dugout, and I can remember watching a part of the bat go flying instead of the ball…which of course went sailing over the wall for the game winning home run.

Again, I was lucky enough to ask Steve about this as well a few years back…

“I don’t really tell a lot of people about that, because a lot of people don’t believe it.  It was unbelievable.  I knew I hit the ball good, and the bat kind of exploded in my hands.  I think part of it actually went in the New Britain dugout.  I had the handle in my hand, and I was watching the ball and I remember thinking, ‘I think I hit a home run.’  I was jogging slow, and finally it went out for a walk-off home run, and I took the handle and put it in my back pocket and finished my trot.  After the game, everyone couldn’t believe that just happened.  I didn’t know if the bat was already broken or what, but I hit the ball good and the bat just exploded.”

Virgil Chevalier: I actually don’t remember Chevy as a catcher at all.  I actually remember much better as an outfielder, where he permanently switched to in 1999.  For someone his size, he wasn’t that bad of an outfielder either.  At the plate, Chevy had some of his best years for the Thunder, hitting .293 in 1999 and .309 in 2000.  He was one of the guys who would always sign autographs for fans, and was always very friendly.

As someone who had followed the team for three seasons at the time, I can remember how weird it was to see Chevy in a B-Mets uniform in 2002.  One of his game used, signed red Thunder hats sits on one of my shelves back home as a memory of my days as a Thunder fan.

Dioner Navarro: Navarro was one of the more hyped prospects the Thunder had at the time he first put on a Trenton uniform in 2003.  Following the somewhat painful switch in affiliations from Boston to the Yankees, both Navarro and Robinson Cano gave the Thunder the star power they hadn’t had in several years.

He played pretty well behind the plate in Trenton, and was usually pretty accessible to the media by all accounts.  Unfortunately, he never really lived up to the hype that was placed on him, and has bounced around a few teams since being dealt by the Yankees in the ill-fated Randy Johnson trade.

Not On The Ballot: Damian Sapp.  Sapp’s friendly nature, willingness to sign autographs, and occasional tape measure blast made him one of my favorites from the 2000 team.  The 1996 Boston Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year, Sapp seemed destined to play in Fenway after quickly rising through their farm system in first three years.

Turns out, the only time he would seet foot in Fenway Park would be to pick up that award.

Injuries, specifically to his knees and back, wrecked any chance Sapp had at a Major League career.  He eventually ended his career with Nashua Pride of the Atlantic League, where I got to ask him about his time with the Thunder… 

“Oh, I loved Trenton. The fans, the place, the atmosphere, everything about that place I just loved. I mean everywhere from the front office to every last fan was nothing but warm and welcoming. Anything you ever needed, if they could help in any way, they would. Very faithful fans. It was a pleasure to actually get a chance to play there.”

Still only 32 years old, there had been rumors as recently as last year that he might return to professional baseball.  Oddly enough, those rumors were preceeded by one that he was contemplating a career in professional wrestling.

Mike’s Vote Goes To: Virgil Chevalier.  He deserves to be on the team somewhere, and if he isn’t going to be on there as an outfielder, then let’s stick him behind the plate… 

Other Thunder Catchers: Pedro Gonzalez, Tim McConell, Joe Perona, Matt Brown, Alex Delgado, Dana LeVangie, Jeff Martin, Richie Borrero, Bill Haselman (rehab), Chris Madonna, Chad Epperson, Damian Sapp, Shea Hillenbrand, Luis Rodriguez, Mike Figga, Kelly Ramos, Michael Rose, Andy Dominique, Andrew Larned, Dan Mooney, Omar Fuentes, Dave Parrish, Sandy Madera, Nathan Griffin, Jason Brown, Omir Santos, Tommy Rojas, P.J. Pilittere, J.T. LaFountain, Dan Conway, Joe Muich

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT 


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


Brown re-signs with Yankees, DeSalvo to Atlanta

January 5, 2008

Jason Brown / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2007)

Baseball America is reporting that catcher Jason Brown has re-signed with the Yankees.  Additionally, pitchers Scott Strickland, Billy Traber, Heath Phillips and second baseman Nick Green have joined the organization as well, but the only move that would appear to have a potential impact on the Thunder roster would be the Brown signing.

The 11-year minor league veteran came to the Thunder in 2005 with two championship rings (’99 San Bernardino and ’01 Brevard County) to his name, and completed his Lord of the Rings style trilogy as a member of the first championship team in franchise history last season.

Brown is a leader in the clubhouse, and provides a veteran influence to not only the pitching staff, but also the catchers he’s mentored while with the Thunder, namely P.J. Pilittere and Omir Santos. 

In 2006, everyone’s favorite pitching prospect at the time, Phil Hughes, had this to say about Brown.

“He calls a great game,” Hughes said.

“It always seems like we’re on the same page. He’s got a lot of experience in this game, and he knows a lot of the veteran hitters and knows what he wants to do out there. It’s always good when I get to throw to him.”

Brown will likely receive a Spring Training invite, just as he has the past few seasons as a member of the Yankees organization. 

“The goal isn’t to see how long you can play in the minor leagues, the goal for me is to get to the big leagues,” Brown once told me.

The 33-year-old has never played in the Majors, and in all honesty is unlikely to ever achieve that goal.  He has just 29 hits in his last 145 at-bats (.200) in a Thunder uniform over the past two seasons, and spent much of last season on the disabled list.

Brown could theoretically be the backup in Scranton, but the much more likely scenario is for him to backup either Francisco Cervelli or Pilittere in Trenton or possibly be the third catcher if both are on the roster.

I will say that if making the big leagues was based on how good of a guy you are, Brown would have never spent a day in the minor leagues.  One of the nicest people I’ve met in my six seasons of covering the game.

Also noteworthy to Thunder fans is that Matt DeSalvo has signed a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves. 

He spent part of 2004, all of 2005 and the second half of 2006 with the Thunder, with his best season easily being the middle one.  He went 9-5 with a 3.02 ERA in 25 appearances for Trenton, and his 151 strikeouts were good for third best in the Eastern League that season.

He put up similar numbers for the Scranton Yankees this year, and earned a few starts with the big league club as a result.

I’ll have a little more on DeSalvo as the countdown of Top 20 Trenton Thunder Moments continues to count down throughout the off-season.

The popular Andy Phillips, yet another Thunder alum, has signed a deal with the Cincinnati Reds. 

Phillips suited up for the Thunder in just 10 games in 2004, which was before when I started covering the team on a regular basis.  Head on over to Chad Jennings’ Scranton Yankees blog, where he was a better breakdown of the move.

Additionally, shortstop Caonabo Cosme, who played on the 2004 and 2006 incarnations of the Thunder, has inked a deal with the Detroit Tigers.  The Cosme Show was somewhat of an error machine early in his career, has pretty average tools and really wasn’t that impressive during his most recent stay in 2006.  He was most recently in Triple-A with Cincinnati last season. 

It’s very possible he could make a return to Waterfront Park when the Erie Seawolves come into town on June 23rd.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT