IL Oddities, Roster Battles & Shameless Plugs

A little more than a week from today the RailRiders will open their season up north against the Syracuse Chiefs. Last week we filled you in on the efforts the Chiefs were going through to make sure NBT Bank Stadium was in tip-top shape come Opening Day; however, Syracuse made some more noise this past week offering free tickets for life if fans get the team’s insignia tattooed on their body. While Syracuse may think it’s a good idea, ESPN‘s Keith Olbermann doesn’t seem to think Syracuse will come out on the right end of this deal.

We here at PIP are not likely to get inked up ourselves, but if you wanted to get a RailRiders tattoo instead, who are we to judge? Personally, we here at Porcupines in Pinstripes think this would make for a killer look:

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Speaking of International League counterparts, a hearty (and possibly heart-attack inducing) shout out to Toledo for one of the minors’ more tantalizing off-season announcements. One that drew the attention of ESPN’s sports business reporter, Darren Rovell:

The Mud Hens revealed a couple of their new menu options for the 2014 season. Among the items to choose from: chicken and waffle bits, birdcage sliders and chocolate chip funnel cakes.  Don’t mind me or John if you see one of us sneaking out of the radio booth during our visit to Toledo to partake in one of these mouth-watering dishes. Personally, for me, funnel cake has always been my kryptonite.

We like to give credit to those when it’s due, but if you didn’t catch our fearless leader Rob Crain‘s comments regarding the IronPigs giving the RailRiders some free advertising space, here’s a quick teaser on the article regarding the evolving rivalry between the two progressive clubs and their respective general managers.

“The relationship with Kurt (Landes) and I is wonderful, and this humor going back and forth is a lot of fun. Just because he did that, I have yet to respond, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to respond.” Rob Crain

Make sure you head on over and take a look at the full article. It’s a pretty fun read.

Earlier in the off-season we teased some upgrades were taking place here at PNC Field:

Well, pretty soon those upgrades will come to fruition. Make sure you keep an eye out for an announcement in the coming days on SWBRailRiders.com

While Opening Day is right around the corner, it is worth noting that Monday was an off-day for the big league club. But, just because there’s a break in Grapefruit League action, doesn’t necessarily mean the parent club doesn’t have some pressing decisions to make in the coming days.

One of the biggest uncertainties around camp has been when Yankees skipper Joe Giardi will announce the winner of the club’s in-house battle for final spot in the Bombers’ rotation. On Monday Lou DiPietro of YESNetwork.com noted (CLICK HERE) that a decision could come as early as today regarding the fifth starter, but stated Giardi would wait to announce the winner publicly until all parties could be informed. DiPietro noted that Chris Leroux, who appears ticketed to begin the season in SWB, will start Wednesday’s game in Dunedin.

Speaking of SWB, alumnus and power right-hander, Jose Ramirez, who has mostly been a starter throughout his career, will be converted to a reliever this season after laboring through injuries most of his professional career according to the same DiPietro piece. The most recent setback caused Ramirez to miss the entire spring due to an oblique issue.

Jose Ramirez is a power right-hander that’s been a starter throughout his minor-league career, but because of injuries we’re going to stick him in the bullpen,” –Brian Cashman

According to Cashman, Ramirez has the potential to move quickly through the system, excluding another in-season setback.

The fifth starter spot is far from the only pitching position many are fighting for in Tampa. SWB alumnus Dellin Betances took down some big names over the weekend as he continues to prove he’s ready for the bigs out of the gates. He drew high praise from his skipper as well in THIS piece by MLB.com‘s Phil Rogers.

As always, former SWB beat man/now Yankees’ reporter Chad Jennings is churning out goodies including THIS piece for the LoHudBlog that breaks down some injuries, rapid risers and more with plenty of possible short and long-term SWB impact.

Not to be outdone, Jennings’ more-than-capable successor on the SWB beat, Donnie Collins, has two pieces you must read. THIS one highlights the latest zeniths for Manny Banuelos and Mark Montgomery while also giving us the skinny on the versatile talents of Corban Joseph. THIS one offers his latest SWB roster projection and a possible hint to the RailRiders’ Opening Day starter.

Another interesting note out of camp has New York seemingly interested in shopping Ichiro Suzuki according to THIS piece by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The author’s sources say the Yanks would be willing to take on some of the 40-year-old’s $6.5 million contract under the right circumstances. What does this mean for the RailRiders? Well, it could mean that if a trade for Ichiro does take place, Zoilo Almonte could be a logical replacement for the fourth outfield spot. Almonte saw some time in New York last season, earning a mid-June promotion en route to 34 MLB games. The younger Almonte (24 on Opening Day) would seem to make sense for an aging Yankees roster, as the fresh legs of Almonte would allow the elder Beltran the opportunity to DH from time-to-time as noted by the author. As noted by, Jon Heyman his .

Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy each got good news Friday, as both catchers walked into the big league clubhouse and found Japanese learning software on their clubhouse chairs. While the software doesn’t necessarily scream, 25-man roster spot, it’s a flattering omen nonetheless. As NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty states both catchers might not know who bought the software, but its use is well-known as the organization currently sports three Japanese-speaking pitchers in Masahiro Tanaka, Huroki Kuroda and Yoshinori Tateyama.

Congratulations are in order for infielder Greg Bird and right-handed pitcher Shane Green, as the Yankees organization announced the winners of the 2013 Kevin Lawn Award, presented to the franchise’s 2013 minor league “Player of the Year” and “Pitcher of the Year.” Bird spent the 2013 season in with Low-A Charleston, grinding his way through 130 games while mashing 20 long balls and adding 84 RBIs. By the end of the season, Bird led all minor leaguers in walks; an impressive stat for such a young player, while leading the South Atlantic League in on-base percentage. Bird’s player profile can be found HERE.

Green split the 2013 season between Advanced-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Green struck out 137 batters throughout the season while pacing his way through 154.1 innings pitched. The Daytona State alum went 12-10 with 3.38 ERA, appearing in 27 games throughout the course of the season. For Green’s entire stat line, head HERE.

What did “The Boss” think of his portrayal on the hit series Seinfeld? According to Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman in THIS piece by Hunter Walker of Business Insider, he liked it quite a bit.

Robert Coello, a New Jersey native who has Major League service time with the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Angels, projects to begin the season in the RailRiders bullpen according to a number of outlets. While Coello has spent the majority of his verteran career bouncing from bullpen to bullpen, he is most well-known for what fellow hitters call, “The WTF”. For more regarding Coello’s unique pitch that has had big leaguers muttering far-from-family-friendly abbreviations, click HERE.

Random alumnus update – where in the world is David Adams? Why, he’s back in the AL East. Read more HERE from the Baltimore Sun‘s Eduardo Encina.

To wrap up today’s post we proudly present – SHAMELESS PLUGS!

- Click HERE for the release on our 2014 television broadcast schedule with My Network TV.

- Click HERE for news on the team’s open practice on April 1 – no foolin’.

- Click HERE for the latest on the return of the Adopt-a-Field program.

- And click HERE to buy single-game tickets, which went on sale this weekend.

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