TV Schedule Announced, Roster Moves, and Who’s Who in Spring Training

With the season just two weeks away we here at Porcupines in Pinstripes get to announce some pretty exhilarating things with each passing day. If you haven’t heard, our colleagues over WQMY have partnered with us once again to televise RailRiders baseball on My Network TV. The 2014 television schedule includes an increased slate this year, touting 22 home games to be broadcast from the reconstructed PNC Field. And, if you haven’t heard, John Sadak, Ballpark Digest’s 2013 minor league Broadcaster of the Year (LINK) will bring you the play-by-play for all 22 telecasts, while new booth addition and former University of Kansas baseball voice, Aaron Berlin, will join Sadak throughout the telecasts providing the color commentary. For the team’s full release click HERE.

If our propaganda is too much for you, it’s worth surfing over to our newspapers’ websites to read their write-ups. For the Times-Tribune click HERE and for the Times Leader head over to HERE.

On the evenings Sadak and Berlin vacate the friendly confines of their radio booth, longtime area voice Jim Riley will fill in on NEPA Sportsradio The GAME. Riley is no stranger to the booth here at PNC Field. He has worked on SWB broadcasts many times in the past along with Major League on-air work for the old Montreal Expos. **SIDENOTE** The Expos once sported one of PIP’s favorite uniforms in baseball history. Isn’t that beautiful?

We’d also like to extend a special congratulations to Chris Kucharski on his new sports talk show with our broadcast partner, NEPA Sports Radio The GAME. “The CK Sports Blitz” runs daily throughout the week from 4-6 p.m. and will have RailRiders flavor guaranteed on the bookend days. RailRiders president/GM, Rob Crain will be on each Friday at 4:15 p.m. and Sadak chats SWB baseball with Kucharski each Monday at 4:15 p.m. Follow Kucharski on Twiter HERE and read the station’s release on the new show HERE.

That does it for the promotional aspect of today’s blog and, with that said, let’s go ahead and shift into high gear regarding some interesting tidbits from the parent club and, conceivably, some roster adjustments that may have an impact here at PNC Field.

The RailRiders roster is slowly beginning to take shape as earlier today the Yankees announced that Ramon Flores has been optioned to SWB. In a handful of other roster moves,  New York also announced the assignment of the following players to minor league camp:

C Francisco Arcia

OF Tyler Austin

RHP Bruce Billings

RHP Robert Coello

RHP Brian Gordon

INF Corban Joseph

RHP Mark Montgomery

C Pete O’Brien

INF Jose Pirela

OF Mason Williams

RHP Chase Whitley

One of the more attractive reassignments this weekend came in the form of the Yankees electing to option left-handed pitcher, Manny Banuelos, to Advanced-A Tampa.

It’s worth noting that Banuelos’ disappointing spring shouldn’t warrant too much of a worry as the highly-touted pinstripe prospect is participating in his first live-game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012. Banuelos’ current assignment in Tampa could be due to weather concerns as Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman stated HERE.

We’re still talking about that, so whatever I team I assign him today, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the team he’ll be with,” Cashman said. “We’ll take into account weather and everything else that’s best. Obviously, the arm strength is there. I think he’s a little rusty, which is understandable. We’ll see how the rest of minor-league camp goes before the actual placement will take place.”

NEPA product, Russ Canzler, fired some warning shots this weekend after being a late scratch from the lineup in Friday’s big league game due to what was deemed a stiff hip. Canzler is currently battling for a corner infield spot, but as noted in this excellent Q and A with Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger, the Berwick, Pa. product will be a longshot to make the club with the Yankees trying to find more time for Kelly Johnson and Alfonso Soriano by trying them out at first base (LINK).

Dellin Betances continues to work towards a spot in the Yankees bullpen and could very well find himself hurling for the Yankees when the team begins regular-season play in Houston. As Chad Jennings notes in his 25-man roster projection, there may only be only one actual bullpen spot remaining for a handful of competitors if Betances does make the squad. For more from Jennings and his interesting projection that could send Scott Sizemore to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, click HERE.

As Jennings notes, Yankees manager, Joe Girardi may have tipped his cap as to the two guys who have made the strongest impression this spring and may be ticketed for bullpen duty:

“Girardi talked this morning about how well the pitching staff has done this spring. Asked for specific guys who have made a strong impression, Girardi mentioned two names: Dellin Betances and Fred Lewis.”  

Betances isn’t the only Yankee hopeful as a handful of roster invitees await their looming fate. Some of the biggest surprises of camp thus far have been Chris Leroux, Yoshinori Tateyama, and Vidal Nuno.

Leroux has shown flashes this spring tossing nine innings in big league action, yielding four hits while striking out nine. Leroux, who has compiled nearly 70 innings of big league time with the Marlins and Pirates, has shown flashes this spring with a strong fastball and heavy slider, but may be the odd man out. He could begin the year in SWB, but quickly make his way to New York if a situation presents itself. His nine strikeouts in camp rank fourth on the team at press time for this blog. Check out all of the team’s spring training stats HERE.

Tateyama continues to turn heads as opponents have compiled a batting average against of just .182. Tateyama’s only struggle came in the form of a two-hit outing that included a walk. His last appearance came on March 15, hurling six pitches, all for strikes, while recording a punchout. In six full innings this spring still has not surrendered a run.

Nuno has strongly inserted himself in fifth-starter conversation with Michael Pineda and, more than likely, one of them will start the season with the RailRiders. Nuno recorded another resilient outing Saturday in a 2-1 loss to the Orioles in Sarasota. The lefty heaved four innings of scoreless ball while striking out three, giving way to one base knock.  For the spring Nuno has started two games, compiling a 1.50 ERA in six total frames, giving up three base hits and one run. According to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com, acting manager Rob Thompson (**proud Kansas Jayhawk by the way**) was impressed with Nuno’s workload this spring:

“He works fast, changes speeds behind in the count, throws all his pitches for strikes,” Thomson said. “And he’s a valuable guy because he can pick up a lot of innings out of the bullpen. He can start and he can get lefties out.”

To read more from Kuty regarding Nuno’s last outing click HERE.

One final note today comes from the man at the top as Cashman sat down with the YES Network’s Lou DiPietro for a Sunday Q & A session. Among the topics discussed – Michael Pineda.

“His first outing was really impressive, the command of his stuff and the stuff itself. The second outing, the stuff was still impressive even if command was off, but the results were still the results. I thought we saw the natural cutter show up there a lot, so he was pulling people off the ball. Both outings you feel good about given where he was, but it’s only two outings and five innings so it’s not much to talk about, but he feels good, and his stuff looks good. That makes us feel good. He’s just knocking the rust out, and it’s exciting to think that at some point we’ll be seeing a guy who can help us on the major-league level. Obviously we know what he was before the injury, and he’s making us believe we have a chance to get back to seeing that again.”

For the complete transcript of Cashman’s question-and-answer session, click HERE.

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