Monday, March 26, 2007

So much for easing into things!

As expected, it was a very busy first day of camp, and I couldn't fit everything that I learned into print (hence, one of the reasons for this blog). I got over to Legends Field at 9 a.m. to get my credential, then promptly headed over to the minor league complex. It was nice getting to see the players, coaches, instructors, and head honchos for the first time in months.

I also got to meet new Thunder manager Tony Franklin and pitching coach Scott Aldred. Both seem like nice people.

*Matt DeSalvo pitched in the Triple-A game, going two batters into the fifth inning while giving up two runs on three hits and three walks. In his typical elaborate but circuitous fashion, he talked about his problems last year, which were mental in origin but quickly affected him physically. Both he and the Yankee coaches feel he's back on track after his lost season. A week ago, I would have been very confident in him being sent to Trenton to start the season. But with the rash of injuries, there is a strong chance he'll start in Scranton.

*Despite the injuries, Phil Hughes will still start in Triple-A, as has been expected from the beginning. While his fastball and curveball are major-league ready, he still needs to work some on his changeup, as was evidenced by his uneven showing in major league camp. To Phil's credit, he understands this. Shows how mature he is, despite the fact that he won't even turn 21 until the end of June.

*All of the pitching injuries (Sanchez, Wang, Karstens, Jose Veras, Steven White, and J.B. Cox) have left the Scranton and Trenton pitching staffs in flux in the final week of camp. As I wrote on here before leaving, the starting infield appears mostly set, as does two of the outfield spots and the starting catcher. But the pitching, aside from starter Chase Wright and reliever Kevin Whelan, remains very wide open. One of the candidates for Trenton's rotation, Jeff Marquez, is slated to pitch in the Double-A game tomorrow.

*The Yankees decided not to retain 1B Randy Ruiz, but he may make an appearance at Waterfront Park after all. He was picked up by the Pirates, and could be assigned to the Double-A Altoona Curve if things break right. That would bring him to Trenton July 4-6.

Mark Newman told me that they didn't re-sign Ruiz because they wanted other players in their system to get those at-bats, not because of anything Ruiz did wrong, performance-wise or behavior-wise. In fact, he praised Ruiz for the way he helped turn Trenton's season around last year and his behavior.

*Another Thunder player who wasn't retained by the Yankees, pitcher Matt Childers, is in the Phillies minor league camp and will likely be assigned to Ottawa, the Phillies' temporary Triple-A locale. That franchise, which was purchased by a group led by Thunder president Joe Finley and Reading Phillies owner Craig Stein, will move into a new stadium in Allentown, Pa. for next season.

*The Thunder won the Double-A game, 7-5 over Reading, although most of the roster consisted of players who almost certainly will not be sent here. Half of my expected Trenton starting infield - Kevin Howard and Gabe Lopez - actually played in the Triple-A game today.

OK, enough blogging for tonight. Catch ya on the flip side.

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