Pinstripe Points – April 5
The chilly conditions in Northeast Pennsylvania seemed to stifle bats in last night’s game, as the two teams did most of their scoring in one inning apiece heading into extras. The big-frame theme continued thereafter, as Pawtucket put up five runs in the top of the 10th, highlighted by home runs by Jeremy Hazelbaker and Justin Henry.
Keep the Door Open
The left-field bullpen doors received a big workout on their opening night at PNC Field, as the two teams combined to use nine pitchers. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre ‘pen tossed five and one-third innings, allowing one run in the fifth and the five runs in the 10th. Preston Claiborne struck out three batters in his one and one-third inning of action. The PawSox bullpen combined to go six innings, only allowing two runs despite issuing seven walks.
Runnin’ Low on Red Ink
Each team struck out 14 times on the night while the clubs combined to issue 14 walks. Three wild pitches, two passed balls and 20 total hits made for a muddy scorecard.
Night of Firsts
On a night where everything is new in baseball, many new feats were accomplished at the re-imagined PNC Field. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Corban Joseph recorded the first base hit of the new ballpark, singling through the left side of the infield. Melky Mesa later notched the first RBI in the new digs, singling home Joseph from second base.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre spent the 2012 season as nomads while PNC Field underwent a $43 million reconstruction. As a result, last night marked the first true home game for the franchise since Sept. 5, 2011 and a 5-1 defeat of Buffalo. A standing-room-only crowd was on hand with paid attendance announced as 8,443.
The RailRiders’ rotation features a nice mix of big-league experience and up-and-coming prospect youth. Brett Marshall, the sixth-ranked prospect in the Yankees’ system according to Baseball America, will be a new face to the Triple-A level. His 13 wins last season led the Double-A Eastern League, while his 3.52 ERA ranked fifth on the Yankees’ farm. Tonight’s starter, Dellin Betances, has already made his debut for New York and should be a frontline starter for SWB. Vidal Nuno opened eyes with his stellar spring training. The lefty received the 2013 James P. Dawson Award, given annually to the outstanding Yankees rookie in spring training. The 25-year-old went 1-1 with a save and a 0.61 ERA in seven appearances (two starts) for the Yankees this spring. He allowed just one run in 14.2 innings, allowing 10 hits while walking four and striking out 13. Nuno’s performance on opening night included six strikes and only three hits allowed. Chris Bootcheck rounds out the true minor league rotation. He has mostly been a reliever since 2006, but has 136 career minor league starts. Major Leaguer Phil Hughes is scheduled to make a rehab start on Saturday to round out the first turn of the rotation.
Mark Montgomery forced his way onto the top prospect scene last year by striking out 99 batters in just 64.1 innings of work with Advanced-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Despite being an 11th-round pick, he has vaulted up numerous prospect rankings since his breakout 2012 season. He is expected to be a key figure in the backend of the RailRiders bullpen. His 15 saves in 2012 paced the Pinstripes’ minor leaguers. The former Longwood University star enters the season as the 11th-best prospect in New York’s system according to Baseball America. Jim Miller has appeared in 47 Major League games. That includes 33 with Oakland last season when he went 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA and finished 18 games. Sam Demel has two career saves over 72 big league appearances with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Juan Cedeno, Preston Claiborne, Ryan Pope, Josh Romanski and Josh Spence comprise the rest of the pitching staff.
Behind the Plate
The staff will be in good hands with the likes of catchers Austin Romine and Bobby Wilson. Romine, drafted in the second round in 2007 by New York, has nine big league games under his belt along with 21 SWB contests. He has been on numerous prospect lists since his professional debut and is rated as the “Best Defensive Catcher” in the Yankees’ system by Baseball America. Wilson has extensive big league experience with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. That includes 75 games with the Angels just last season. Jeff Farnham will also catch this season.
Inside the Infield
Dan Johnson headlines a talented group. An IL All-Star with Charlotte in 2012, he took 2010 league MVP honors with the Knights after hitting 28 homers before slamming three as a September call-up with the White Sox. He has played in 413 big league games, hitting 56 home runs. David Adams was released on March 26 to make room on the Yankees’ 40-man roster for Vernon Wells. He signed back by the organization three days later. His .306 batting average ranked sixth in the Eastern League last year. Luke Murton’s 25 homers in 2012 led New York’s farm system and had him finish runner-up in the Eastern League to the minors’ top home run hitter last season, Reading’s Darin Ruf. Corban Joseph played 84 games for SWB in 2012 as the team’s primary second baseman. He ranked third on the team in home runs (13) and RBIs (56) as the usual two-hole hitter. Gil Velazquez has 32 big league games under his belt including 19 with the Miami Marlins just last season. He has played in 674 Triple-A games over 11 such seasons for a number of teams. Addison Maruszak closes out the infielders.
RailRiders in the Outfield
Melky Mesa posted a solid SWB performance en route to a call-up from the Yankees last season. He hit 23 homers and drove in 67 runs between Double-A Trenton and SWB. His homer total ranked second among the Yankees’ minor leaguers. Thomas Neal made his big league debut with the Cleveland Indians last season, driving in two runs in nine games as a September call-up. Zoilo Almonte ranked among the top-five Yankees’ farmhands in home runs (3rd, 21) and RBIs (5th, 70). Cody Johnson is known for incredible power and tape-measure home runs. The game’s 24th-overall pick in 2006 hit 16 homers in just 221 at-bats with Trenton last season, slugging .520 along the way.