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Miley, Manto & Weber – Oh My!

Hearty congratulations go out to a deserving triumvirate of International League legends. That last qualification has been cemented with the circuit’s Tuesday announcement that longtime SWB manager Dave Miley, former SWB player Jeff Manto and the longtime Voice of the Toledo Mud Hens, Jim Weber, will be enshrined in the IL’s Hall of Fame in the Class of 2014.

Miley’s mention is one that has struck a chord with the grizzled baseball veteran. One of his many strengths is his ability to stay even on a day-to-day basis. Something most of the game’s best do with aplomb. Sure, he gets fired up in big moments, in necessary moments, but the long marathon that is baseball requires a consistent baseline that does not peak too high, nor dip too low.

However, while exchanging messages with the big man himself to coordinate a series of interviews yesterday, his excitement was clear. This means something to him. Perhaps the quotes that display this best came in THIS PIECE penned by the team’s beat writer with the Times-Tribune, Donnie Collins. History was delivered in THIS PIECE by the Times Leader‘s beat man for the squad, Dave Rosengrant, including a great nugget about Miley’s connection to Opening Day 2014.

But it’s his connection to this franchise, to NEPA, to the IL and to the game itself that resound when the eye-catching merits that make up his Hall-of-Fame résumé are broken down.

- Two-time IL Manager of the Year

- Winner of over 1,000 games

- Skippered both Louisville and SWB to their only respective Governors’ Cup titles

- In 2013, tied the all-time record by managing his third Triple-A All-Star squad

The ultimate competitor, Miley champions the mindset that all sports fans want their managers, coaches, players and front office personnel to possess. It’s a philosophy that can be summed up with a single word, but has a much more layered composition. It’s one that has helped separate the 27-time World Champion New York Yankees from the rest of the field. Win. That bleeds into every step of the process. From the individual handling of each player, to the designing of a daily preparation schedule. From crafting a lineup to those deep-into-the-night discussions of what the team needs to be successful, the focus goes beyond the end result to the very first step, and each subsequent one along the way, on a path to excellence that has been consistently achieved over decades.

Miley has, in many ways, come to represent SWB baseball. Since he arrived here along with the affiliation switch, many things have changed. The affiliation, the nickname, the colors, the ballpark, front office and game day personnel. Heck, even the food and drink options have vacillated. But the rock has been Miley. A man from Tampa who spent a lifetime within the Cincinnati organization – connects with NEPA. He does so in part due to his longevity, certainly. But it goes beyond that.

He connects because, while he’s a brilliant baseball man and a proven winner, he’s one of us. He’s a blue collar guy. He can be gruff, in a way that reminds us all of someone we spend the holidays with every year. However in that same vein he makes you smile with a wry, blunt and at times self-deprecating sense of humor. He’s human in a very real, day-to-day way. The emotions he displays inspire. Who can forget some of his greatest on-field fireworks? The gesticulation is all we need in the stands to know exactly the point he’s making to a man in blue on a given night. While it’s not done often, it’s seemingly always sparked with purposeful merit. And it’s done in a way that makes us all feel that he is “our” manager. That he is mentoring “our” team. In Minor League Baseball, that tether from skipper to stands does not always exist. In part due to the often high amount of turnover the minors lend themselves to. In part due to the disconnect some in the industry possess in today’s game; that internal buffer that will only allow you so close. But even when those elements are not present, what happens at PNC Field each night is somehow simply, different.

And that is why NEPA and her fans smile when they hear the words, much in the same way the man himself assuredly did. Dave Miley is a Hall of Famer.

On June 7, fans are welcome to witness Miley’s piece of history for the formal enshrinement ceremonies on the same night his team faces Toledo. Miley will receive the highly-sought after “Curtain Call” statue and the first 2,500 fans into PNC Field will get their own Miley statue. In town will be Weber, who has broadcast over 5,000 consecutive games for the Mud Hens. The wordsmith had one of the greatest quotes about reaching the Hall in THIS PIECE by The Blade‘s John Wagner.

Manto has his own ties to SWB. The 1993 Red Baron counts current Phillies GM Ruben Amaro among his teammates from that unit. He led the team in homers (17) and RBIs (88) while hitting .289 over 106 games played. The next year he was the league’s MVP. Jim Mandelaro of the Democrat & Chronicle has more in THIS PIECE on the former Rochester Red Wing.

Congratulations to all! Well-deserved honors for each of the three men, and a pleasant reminder to all of us. First pitch, is not all that far away…

Prospecting &’The Hall’ Calls

The hot stove has been burning for the New York Yankees of late. Robinson Cano is a Mariner, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann headline the additions to the Yankees fold, and for the minor league squads, prospect lists are hitting the interwebs.

The most historically esteemed of those lists comes from the good folks at Baseball America, the preeminent publication for this great game, particularly when it comes to the rising stars of tomorrow. The talented Josh Norris (@jnorris427), who had the Double-A Trenton Thunder beat for more than half a decade with The Trentonian, assembled these lists:

Baseball America’s Top 10 Yankees Prospects

1) C Gary Sanchez

2) OF Slade Heathcott

3) OF Mason Williams

4) C J.R. Murphy

5) 3B Eric Jagielo

6) OF Aaron Judge

7) LHP Ian Clarkin

8) 1B Greg Bird

9) RHP Luis Severino

10) 2B Gosuke Katoh

Baseball America’s Best Tools (New York Yankees Farm)

Best Hitter for Average: Greg Bird

Best Power Hitter: Gary Sanchez

Best Strike-Zone Discipline: Greg Bird

Fastest Baserunner: Mason Williams

Best Fastball: Jose Ramirez

Best Curveball: Nik Turley

Best Slider: Mark Montgomery

Best Changeup: Jose Ramirez

Best Control: Vidal Nuno

Best Defensive Catcher: J.R. Murphy

Best Defensive Infielder: Cito Culver

Best Infield Arm: Cito Culver

Best Defensive Outfielder: Mason Williams

Best Outfield Arm: Slade Heathcott

Baseball America’s Top 15 Players 25 & Under (New York Yankees)

1) C Gary Sanchez

2) OF Slade Heathcott

3) OF Mason Williams

4) C J.R. Murphy

5) RHP Michael Pineda

6) 3B Eric Jagielo

7) OF Aaron Judge

8) LHP Ian Clarkin

9) 1B Greg Bird

10) RHP Luis Severino

11) 2B Gosuke Katoh

12) LHP Manny Banuelos

13) SS Abiatal Avelino

14) RHP Jose Ramirez

15) RHP Jose Campos

For Baseball America subscribers, there are other pages of note: the top 10 prospects plus scouting reports and a chat session Norris had with fans.

DECK THE HALL

Big-time congrats go out to the incredible triumvirate of Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa on their shared, unanimous entrance into the Hall of Fame. Each of the three ranks among the top-five winningest skippers in Major League history in terms of total wins. As the Barry Bloom‘s article cites, “Only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763) won more games than La Russa (2,728), Cox (2,504) and Torre (2,326).” Mark your calendars – they formally enter the hall on the second day of the 2014 induction weekend (July 26-27) in Cooperstown.

You all know of Torre’s exploits with the Pinstripes. But some of our younger readers may not know that Bobby Cox only played a total of 220 games in the bigs. Every one of those was played as a New York Yankee. Furthermore, he later got his managerial start on the Yankees’ farm in 1971. FUN FACT: Perhaps his best year in that time came with Syracuse in 1976 when he led the Chiefs to a Governors’ Cup win. Some guys named Ron Guidry and Gil Patterson were on that team. Syracuse has not won the title since. Cox won another title the next year though, as first-base coach for the 1977 New York Yankees and manager Billy Martin. A few weeks later, he was hired by the Atlanta Braves as chronicled in this great piece by Patty Rasmussen (@patty_rasmussen) who co-authored Billy Wagner‘s memoir, A Way Out.

OFF THE RAILS

- Josh Norris authored a sincere and moving goodbye to his readers in mid-August.

- His successor, Nick Peruffo (@nickperuffo), has taken over the beat and authors a solid blog that covers the Thunder, Minor Matters. He is also covers college basketball and among his beats is one of PIP’s old gigs, Princeton men’s basketball. He blogs on that as well in FullCourtPress.

- The other day, Eddie Mata (@eddiemata), sent over this video interview clip with former Yankee Jesse Barfield telling a tale of another former Yank, “Prime Time” Deion Sanders. The first Yankees teams that I watched on a regular basis were the Barfield/Mel Hall/Steve Balboni/Roberto Kelly-era squads of the late ’80s/early ’90s. Really enjoyed their chat. The full interview is available online as well.

- Another notable signing with RailRiders ties had Curtis Granderson going to the New York Mets. He is one of the game’s best people on and off the field and was nothing but a gentleman during his stay in NEPA. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) fielded quotes from Granderson and Yankees GM Brian Cashman on the latest addition to the Yankees-Mets rivalry.

- Hoch had an interesting tweet on who teams are asking Cashman about for possible trades

Jeter is King, Canzler Returns & Santa is Coming

The RailRiders assembled the fields, but you decided their victors. Through month-long online voting, the greatest of the great were decided for each of the three different SWB baseball eras. For the betting man, the no-doubt-about-it pick was Derek Jeter to claim the four-man RailRiders bracket. And the No. 1 seed did just that, routing Dellin Betances and Curtis Granderson in succession. When it came to the Yankees bracket though, a surprise was in store. While the top two seeds advanced to the final, their match-up was not close – and the high seed lost. Shelley Duncan got smoked by the only man to ever manage SWB to Governors’ Cup greatness – Dave Miley. But that was nothing compared to what fan-favorite Jon Zuber did in the Red Barons bracket. The man who once rewrote the record books at his college alma mater, Cal, roared to glory as a 14-seed in the 16-man field, taking down a virtual Mount Rushmore of Red Barons – Ryan Howard, Andy Ashby, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino in the process. While that run is remarkable, someone called it. A consultant that was heavily involved in the selection and seeding process, Scranton Times-Tribune writer Donnie Collins, predicted exactly that via Twitter weeks before voting ended.

Donnie does a great job of covering the team through the paper, its website and this RailRiders blog. For more on the voting, check out the team’s release, visit the RailRiders, Yankees and Red Barons voting pages.  How did the SWB baseball experts’ picks stack up?  Check out the original selection show video, or witness the surprisingly accurate (with one notable exception) “presidential picks” video from RailRiders team president/GM Rob Crain. *******************************************************************************************************

Russ Canzler could very well be a RailRider in 2014. Well, I suppose the guy next door *could* be too, but this is grounded in a little more reality.  Not only is he a talented player, the 2011 International League MVP is also once again a member of the New York Yankees organization according to Baseball America‘s transactions hawk, Matt Eddy:

You may recall that Canzler was a Yankees’ commodity last year for nearly a month (Jan. 4-Feb. 5), but was claimed off waivers the week before spring training. Canzler had been DFA’d to make room for Travis Hafner, as we profiled here on PIP. The former Hazleton Area High School star was also the subject of this outstanding feature when he came to town with Norfolk this past June. Incidentally, Canzler crushed the RailRiders. In eight games against his hometown club, Canzler assembled slashes of .364/.400/.606/1.006 including a pair of homers and six RBIs. He also becomes yet another 2013 Norfolk Tide to sign with the Yankees this off-season, joining fellow infielders Zelous Wheeler and Yamaico Navarro. Considering Norfolk finished in a tie with Rochester for the IL’s wild-card spot, signing some of the Tides’ better players might not be a bad idea. Especially if part of the goal is to assemble a competitive Triple-A unit that will likely have its share of prospect outfielders during the course of the 2014 season.

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Arguably the Yankees’ best prospect outfielder might still be a few years away though. Pro scout Bernie Pleskoff of MLB.com breaks down the AFL exploits of Mason Williams. *******************************************************************************************************

In other RailRiders news, catcher Bobby Wilson has signed with the Diamondbacks per Matt Eddy:

With the big club inking Brian McCann and trading Chris Stewart to the Pirates, the trickle-down effect will be felt in SWB’s battery. *******************************************************************************************************

Earlier today, the Yankees officially announced a multi-year deal with defensive whiz, Brendan Ryan. Might that might mean the end of the road for Jayson Nix? *******************************************************************************************************

On Jan. 8, voting results for baseball’s Hall-of-Fame voting will be announced. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch examined two former Yankees who are on different ends of that spectrum. Right-hander Mike Mussina, who is eligible for the first time, and Don Mattingly, who first appeared on the ballot over a decade ago in 2001. Click to read more about Moose and Donnie Baseball. *******************************************************************************************************

Former New York Yankee Ted Lilly has retired due to chronic neck pain.

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Connecting with families is a huge part of the minor league baseball experience.  And it’s not one that’s beholden to the season proper. On Dec. 14, Santa Claus will be at PNC Field for an amazing family breakfast experience. Get the details here.

This Is 40: Roster Moves & Fun Facts

It’s that time of year. On Wednesday, the RailRiders’ parent club, the New York Yankees, made a number of moves to its 40-man roster. The highlight name as it relates to the RailRiders – Corban Joseph, who was outrighted to Triple-A. After blazing out of the gates and for a time filling what was an otherwise never truly filled leadoff role for Dave Miley‘s club in 2013, Joseph also enjoyed a two different stints with the big league team. His time with the Yankees included playing in a pair of games as the team’s 26th man for a May 13 doubleheader at Cleveland. He played first base in the opener, working a walk in three plate appearances, and doubled for his first Major League hit in the nightcap when he played second and Robinson Cano served as the DH. Alas, he would have trouble upon his return to SWB as his average dropped to .239 after an 0-for-4, 2K showing at Durham on May 31. He later hit the DL and did not return to game action on the campaign.

No surprise, the Yankees added a number of their highly-touted prospects to the 40-man roster including their top rising star, the offensively talented catcher Gary Sanchez who is ranked as the farm’s top chip by most entities. Sanchez is still just 20 years of age and comes off a solid split season between Adv.-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton where he hit a composite .253 with 15 homers and 71 runs driven in. FUN FACTS: Sanchez is considered by many to be the top catching prospect in baseball. However, scouts would often criticize his defense. In 2013, Sanchez led the Florida State League in caught-stealing efficiency, helping to nab 46% of would-be base stealers. The league’s runner up, Clearwater (Philadelphia Phillies) receiver and Scranton native Logan Moore, cut down men at a 41% rate while Matt Koch of Fort Myers (Minnesota Twins) ranked third at 27%. Sanchez kept his clip high even after his promotion to Double-A as he and Trenton’s pitching staff combined to gun down 39% of foes with a thieving mind. If he had enough games played to qualify, that would have placed Sanchez third in the loop just behind Andrew Susac (40%) of Richmond (San Francisco Giants). Sanchez, who did not receive his promotion to Double-A until August, was signed by the Yankees at the age of 16 for $3 million. At the time, that was the record for the international signing of a non-Cuban player.

The Bombers also added outfielder Slade Heathcott and three right-handed pitchers, Jose Campos, Shane Greene and Bryan Mitchell. Heathcott spent the season at Double-A, but played in just 103 games (.261/.327/.411) with 22 doubles, seven triples, eight homers and 49 driven in. He played mostly center field where he is know for giving maximum effort constantly, sometimes to his physical detriment. The left-handed bat oddly stroked better against southpaws (.298) than he did against right-handed arms (.246), but ended the year well hitting over .300 overall in both July and August. Due to his prospect status and solid conclusion to the season, he’s a name RailRiders fans should keep an eye on for possible time in SWB in 2014. FUN FACTS: A first-round pick (29th overall) in 2009, Heathcott’s decision to turn pro meant not going to LSU on a baseball scholarship in favor of a reported $2.2 million signing bonus. He was the first position player taken by the Pinstripes in the first round since 2005. The player taken after Heathcott by the Yanks that year? One of the RailRiders’ best players in 2013, catcher J.R. Murphy. The Yankees by the way were set to have the 25th-overall pick in the first round that year, but lost that choice to the Angels due to the Mark Teixeira signing. The man the Angels took with that pick? The 2012 A.L. Rookie of the Year and two-time MVP runner-up, Mike Trout.

Campos, who the Yanks netted in the Jan. 2012 Michael Pineda trade, was 4-2-2 with a 3.41 ERA in 26G/19GS for Low-A Charleston. While he mostly started, only once did he last more than four innings for the RiverDogs. However, like Heathcott, his second half was much better than his first. After the All-Star break, Campos was 3-0-2. His ERA dropped from 4.70 before the break to 2.09 after and his batting average against did the same (.267-.229). Diving a bit deeper, all six of his July outings were starts, his last nods of the season, and in those efforts he went 1-0 with a 1.44 ERA and just four walks against 18 strikeouts in 25.0 innings. FUN FACTS: The 21-year-old native of Venezuela is currently with Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League where one of the team’s catchers is former SWB receiver, Jesus Montero. Montero and righty Hector Noesi were dealt for Campos and Pineda.

Greene split the season between Tampa and Trenton, starting 26 of his 27 combined appearances. The 25-year-old’s numbers improved after his promotion. With Tampa, he went 4-6, 3.60 in 13G/13GS while eating innings. He lasted six or more frames eight times. He also showed strikeout stuff with as many as 12 whiffs in a single game, a May 8 road win against Fort Myers, and 69 in total against just 10 walks over 75.0 innings. For the eventual Eastern League champion Trenton Thunder, Greene excelled to the tune of an 8-4 record and 3.18 ERA. Half of those wins came in six August starts. That included a complete-game effort in his last regular-season outing, an Aug. 31 win at Portland (Boston Red Sox). Greene posted a pair of great playoff starts, going 2-0, 1.64 with 11K in 11.0 innings and an uncanny airout-to-groundout ratio of 19:1. He was the only Thunder player to earn more than one win in the playoff run including the victory in the title-clinching game at Harrisburg. FUN FACTS: A 15th-round pick by the Yankees in 2009, Greene was drafted out of Daytona Beach Community College. He originally planned to attend the University of West Florida, the Division II power that has had 18 players drafted and won the 2011 national championship. However, Greene required Tommy John surgery in May 2008 and the Argonauts pulled his baseball scholarship forcing his move to Daytona.

Mitchell, who struck out more than a man per inning with Low-A Charleston in 2012, spent most of the 2013 season with Adv.-A Tampa. There, the Reidsville, N.C. product went 4-11, 5.12 over 24G/23GS. Walks proved a problem (3.8/9 IP) as did bad single performances. While the numbers were not pretty, consider this – 10 times he lasted five innings or more and allowed two or fewer earned runs. He gave up five or more earned runs four times, walking 13 men in 15.1 innings over those nods to skew his season significantly. On the bright side, the running theme of strong finishes fits Mitchell as well. A 16th-rounder by the Yankees in 2009, Mitchell finished the year with three Double-A starts and a 1.93 ERA in those appearances. He also walked just five while whiffing 16 over his 18.2 Eastern League innings. The EL hit a modest .208 against him. FUN FACTS: Mitchell is still just 22 years old and is coming off of just his second full season of pro ball. He was a South Atlantic League All-Star in his first with Charleston in 2012, and in 2013 started a pair of playoff games for Trenton to add to his growing résumé. While he’s known for his high-velo fastball and devastating curve, Mitchell’s wrinkle in 2013 was the addition of a cutter.

The other surprise regarding the 40-man additions revolved around a trade. The Yanks shipped right-hander Ben Paullus to the San Diego Padres in exchange for versatile infielder Dean Anna, who was added to the 40. Paullus, who had a career 5.56 ERA entering 2013, split the season relieving for Charleston and Tampa. Starting in mid-May, he served in a closing role for the RiverDogs, posting nine saves in 13 tries. He logged a 2.54 ERA in the SAL and struck out 60 men in 60.1 innings while holding the league to a .208 contact clip. However, in his six appearances in the FSL, he posted a 5.56 ERA and .300 BAA. Anna, a 26th-rounder in 2008 by the Pads out of Ball State, has been a career minor leaguer to this point and a very solid one at that. In his first season at the Triple-A level, Anna was an All-Star for Reno where he led the league with his .331 average. FUN FACTS: He started at second, short and third for the Aces and ranked among the PCL’s top five in hits (3rd, 165), doubles (2nd, 38), OBP (3rd, .410), runs scored (T-4th, 90) and total bases (T-4th, 240). Anna spent time this off-season playing for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League where one of his teammates was Miguel Sano, considered one of baseball’s top prospects.

A few names that were not added to the 40 raised eyebrows as well including one SWB fans are quite familiar with – right-hander Chase Whitley. After injury forced a late start to the season, Whitley became a glue guy in the bullpen, a more-than-capable fill-in starter and one of the most positive people in the clubhouse. His name was mentioned often by scouts and swirled in the media as a possible piece in what became the Corey Black for Alfonso Soriano trade. Other notable omissions included southpaw Fred Lewis who spent time at three levels including one SWB appearance. He tossed 11 innings and did not allow a single run in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Right-handers Danny Burawa and Tommy Kahnle are hard-throwing relievers that should be appealing to teams looking for help via the Rule 5 draft. Burawa missed 2012 (torn oblique) and struggled with his command in 2013. While he went 6-3, 2.59 with Double-A Trenton, he blew five of his nine save tries and walked 42 men in 66.0 innings. Burawa did toss four scoreless innings with just one walk in the Thunder’s playoff run. Kahnle was Trenton’s stopper with 15 saves in 16 tries in the regular season. He struck out 74 men over 60.0 innings and allowed just four of his 14 inherited runners to come home. However, he also walked 45 men including a dozen over 14.2 innings in August. Kahnle made two playoff appearances, both saves, and did not allow a run.

OFF THE RAILS: No. 40 was worn by a Yankee at the end of the season…That man? Former SWB RailRider, Matt Daley…The number has also been worn as a Yankee by three other 2013 SWB players – Chien-Ming Wang (2005-09), Alberto Gonzalez (2013) and Thomas Neal (2013)…Former SWB catcher Francisco Cervelli wore it for the Yanks in 2012…Other notable names to wear the number for the Yankees - Tony Cloninger as a coach (1992-01), Gene Michael as a coach (1984-86) and Don Zimmer as a coach (1983, 86)…Thanks to YankeesNumbers.com for the jersey data.

PNC Field Saturated with Fans in 2013

Moosic, Pa. – The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple-A/New York Yankees) and PNC Field have concluded a fantastic first season for the reconstructed facility in 2013. In addition to the team’s best season at the gates since 2008, a franchise-record 61 special events beyond baseball buoyed the season-long attendance figure to 462,052.

While the RailRiders’ season concluded yesterday with a road game at Rochester, even more special events are planned.  PNC Field will continue operation throughout the off-season leading up to the RailRiders’ Opening Day on Thursday, April 10, 2014.

With the ability to host events year-round, RailRiders team president/GM Rob Crain was happy with the success of this year’s turnout and hopes for even bigger numbers in 2014.

“This has been such a special year at PNC Field, not just for the team, but for the entire community,” Crain said. “From the first Opening Night, to The Office Wrap Party; from new mascots to a whole new look, it’s really been a dream come true. Now we’ll get to work on bringing even more folks out next year.”

With 435,839 fans attending games over 68 regular-season home openings, the SWB saw its best total and per-game average (6,409) since 2008. The RailRiders posted 25 fixed-seat sellouts in 2013 and had a number of other highlight numbers including:

-          More kids came through PNC Field’s Family Fun Zone in 2013 than from 2007 to 2011 combined

-          There were 28,442 $1 Bud Lights/Pepsis sold this season over 11 home games on Budweiser Thirsty Thursdays

-          The team gave away 46,500 free items through its 18 giveaways

-          2,784 kids ate free over five Kids Eat Free Wednesday games

-          Dollar Dog Nights led to 14,626 $1 hot dogs getting sold over six such dates

-          The team shot off two hours and 20 minutes worth of fireworks

The RailRiders’ 2014 season begins on Thursday, April 3 when the club kicks off a seven-game road trip at Syracuse against the Chiefs (Washington Nationals). The home slate commences a week later on Thursday, April 10 when the Chiefs visit PNC Field for a four-game series and homestand. For season ticket information, call (570) 969-BALL (2255) or visit swbrailriders.com.

- SWB RailRiders – All Aboard! -

RailRiders Fall in Season-Finale to Rochester

Rochester, N.Y. – The 2013 season came to a tough conclusion for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple-A/New York Yankees) on Monday afternoon. A nine-run first inning sparked a 13-3 win for the Rochester Red Wings (Minnesota Twins) as the Red Wings clinched an International League playoff spot as the wildcard team.

The RailRiders went out in front early thanks to a lead-off home run by Corey Patterson in the first. It marked the third a RailRider had connected for a lead-off homer, and it was the second time Patterson had accomplished the feat.

The lead was short lived, as Rochester plated nine runs in the bottom of the first. With Antoan Richardson and James Beresford aboard, Eduardo Escobar began the scoring when he doubled to right-center field. It drove both runs home, and Escobar came around when Jeff Clement singled to right. Following a sac-fly by Eric Farris, and run-scoring plays by Ray Olmedo, Eric Fryer, Richardson, and Beresford, Escobar capped the inning with another two-run double.

SWB countered with two runs in the third. Addison Maruszak, Patterson, and Brent Lillibridge hit consecutive singles to load the bases. Ronnier Mustelier then singled through the left side to plate two runs. The inning came to a halt when Adonis Garcia bounced into a triple play that ended the inning.

Rochester scored three more in the bottom of the third. Escobar led off with a home run, and Farris and Olmedo later added singles that plated Chris Parmelee and Clement to push the lead back to nine.

Ryan Baker was very effective out of the RailRider bullpen, as he allowed just one run in his three innings of work. The lone run came with two outs in the eighth when Fryer hit a home run off the left-field foul pole. It gave the game its final margin of 13-3 in favor of Rochester.

Scott Diamond (4-0) allowed three runs over seven innings to earn the win. SWB starter Caleb Cotham (6-6) was handed the loss.

The RailRiders conclude the 2013 season with a 68-76 record, and finish fifth in the International League North Division. A total of 435,839 fans came out to the reimagined PNC Field. SWB will open up the 2014 regular season on the road, but will have their home opener at PNC Field on Thursday, April 10 against the Syracuse Chiefs (Washington Nationals).

- SWB RailRiders – All Aboard! -

Porcupine Points – September 2

9-2-13 Game Notes

FINAL DAY LUCK: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is looking for its first season-ending win since 2011, when they defeated the Buffalo Bisons at the old PNC Field, 5-1. The SWB franchise closed out last year’s season in Pawtucket, and took a 6-4 loss in 12 innings to the PawSox.

STRONG DEBUT: PNC Field experienced a strong debut after undergoing a $43 million renovation. A total of 435,839 fans strolled through the gates at PNC Field, which is an average of 6,409 per contest. The SWB franchise hasn’t drawn that high since the 2008 season, when they were in the second year of as the New York Yankees top affiliate. During the final season before the renovation, SWB drew just 298,098 fans, which was 13th in the International League. PNC Field features 7,115 fixed seats, and the RailRiders had 25 fixed seat sell-outs this season.

CONTINUE THE SURGE: Caleb Cotham looks to continue his second-half surge as he takes the final turn in the 2013 RailRider rotation. While he didn’t start the season with SWB, he fought his way into the rotation after losing a spot, and has been sensational in the second half. Since the break, he is 4-0 with a 1.83 earned run average. That spans nine outings (seven starts), and 44.1 innings pitched. Cotham recorded a 7.15 ERA before the break.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT: The RailRiders and Red Wings met for the first time since July 10, and the Red Wings held off a late Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rally for a 3-2 win. The RailRiders struck first in the top of the first inning, as Corey Patterson led off with a double, and would later score when Adonis Garcia grounded into a fielder’s choice. Jeff Clement singled for Rochester with one out in the fourth, and he came in to score on a triple by Aaron Hicks. Hicks scored when Ray Olmedo singled through the left side. The Red Wings added an insurance run in the eighth on a Clement single that scored Chris Parmelee. SWB cut the lead to one run when Neil Medchill singled home Brent Lillibridge, and the play put the tying run on third base. The rally fell short as Michael Tonkin converted his 14th save for Rochester.

CHANCE TO PLAY SPOILER: While the RailRiders are headed home for the off-season following today’s contest, they can play spoiler to Rochester’s playoff hopes. After Norfolk beat Durham last night, the Red Wings remain one game back of the Tides for the wild card spot in the International League playoff chase. With a win today, the RailRiders would eliminate their division foe from the race, but the Red Wings need a win and a Norfolk loss.

MASHING MUSTY: Ronnier Mustelier picked up last week’s IL Player of the Week Award, but had a 13-game hitting streak snapped on Aug. 26. He started a new one on Aug. 28, and has now hit in five straight (9-22, 2HR, 3RBI, 4R). His batting average dropped to .233 on Aug. 11, but now stands at .273.

FINISHING STRONG: Despite picking up the loss last night, Graham Stoneburner has finished his season strong. He allowed just two runs on six hits over five innings of work last night, and it was just one start after he held Pawtucket to one run on two hits over six frames. Stoneburner tossed 18.2 innings down the stretch for SWB, and conceded just eight earned runs. For the season, Stoneburner finishes 4-6 with a 4.57 earned run average.

Ninth Inning Rally Comes Up Short for SWB

Rochester, N.Y. – A night after clinching the inaugural IronRail trophy, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple-A/New York Yankees) opened a two-game series with the Rochester Red Wings (Minnesota Twins) trying to play playoff spoilers. The Red Wings entered Sunday night one game behind Norfolk for the wildcard spot, and they moved to within a half game with a 3-2 win over SWB.

The RailRiders entered the top of the ninth trailing by two runs. Michael Tonkin was brought in to close, and he gave up a one-out free pass to Brent Lillibridge. Ronnier Mustelier then singled through the right side to move Lillibridge to third and put the tying run on base. One out later, Neil Medchill followed with a base hit to right-center field that plated Lillibridge, and moved Mustelier to third. With the tying run at third, Tonkin recorded a strikeout to end the game.

Despite the loss, it was the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre offense that broke through first. Corey Patterson led off the game in the first with a double down the right-field line. He moved to third on a base hit by Mustelier, and then scored when Adonis Garcia reached on a fielder’s choice.

Rochester went in front for good with two runs in the fourth. Jeff Clement hit a one-out single to left, and came around to score when Aaron Hicks tripled to right-center field. Garcia broke in on the ball hit by Hicks, and it sailed over his head. One out later, Ray Olmedo singled through the left side to drive home Hicks, and put the Red Wings in front, 2-1.

An insurance run that proved to be decisive was added by Rochester in the eighth. Chris Parmelee tripled to right-center field. He would score when Clement singled to center field.

Starter Pat Dean (3-2) got the win after allowing one run in seven frames. Graham Stoneburner (4-6) took the loss. He allowed just two runs on six hits in five innings of work.

The RailRiders will now wrap-up their season on Monday afternoon. They’ll try to finish with a 69-75 record when they send Caleb Cotham (6-5, 4.66) to the mound. Cotham has been dominant since the All-Star break. He’s posted a 4-0 record with a 1.83 earned run average in nine outings. He’ll be opposed by left-hander, Scott Diamond (3-0, 2.12). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m., and pre-game coverage will get underway at 12:35 p.m. on NEPA Sports Radio – The GAME, Northeast PA’s largest sports radio network: 100.7 FM, 1340 WYCK-AM, 1400 WICK-AM, 1440 WCDL-AM and 106.7 FM.

- SWB RailRiders – All Aboard! -

RailRiders Clinch IronRail Trophy with 3-2 Win

Allentown, Pa. – The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple-A/New York Yankees) claimed the inaugural IronRail trophy as they defeated the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Philadelphia Phillies) on Saturday night, 3-2. Trailing 8-7 in the season-series, the RailRiders captured the final game between the two clubs of the season to bring the trophy to NEPA.

For the sixth time this season, the RailRiders hit back-to-back home runs. With one out in the top of the fourth, Ronnier Mustelier slammed his sixth home run of the season to left field. Randy Ruiz followed up with a round tripper of his own. It landed on the left-center field lawn. It was Ruiz’s 17th of the season, and he leads all active players on SWB.

The RailRiders extended their lead to 3-0 in the top of the fifth. Jose Gil led off with a base hit, then moved to second on a single by Addison Maruszak. He later advanced to third, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Brent Lillibridge.

Lehigh Valley plated their only two runs in the sixth inning. Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis began the inning with a single and double respectively, and both came home on a single up the middle by Josh Fields.

Brett Marshall was a late scratch, and Yoshinori Tateyama was pressed into starting duty. It was his first start stateside, and he stifled IronPig hitters over three innings. He gave way to David Herndon (1-0), and he proceeded to toss two perfect innings to record the win. Jairo Heredia made his Triple-A debut the day he was added to the SWB roster, and he worked the final four innings.

The RailRiders and IronPigs tied their season-series at eight games apiece, but the tie-breaker goes to the team that was victorious in the final matchup.

Raul Valdes (4-5) started the game for Lehigh Valley, and he received the loss. The left-hander allowed three runs (two earned) in seven innings.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre now travels to Rochester, N.Y. to play the final two games of their season. Sunday’s game against the Red Wings is set for a 6:05 p.m. first pitch, and Graham Stoneburner (4-5, 4.65) will take the mound for the RailRiders. He’ll be opposed by Pat Dean (2-2, 2.18). Pre-game coverage will get underway at 5:35 p.m. on NEPA Sports Radio – The GAME, Northeast PA’s largest sports radio network: 100.7 FM, 1340 WYCK-AM, 1400 WICK-AM, 1440 WCDL-AM and 106.7 FM.

- SWB RailRiders – All Aboard! -

Porcupine Points – August 31

8-31-13 Game Notes

WINNER TAKES ALL: Despite trailing in the series after last night’s loss, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders can still take the IronRail trophy to NEPA with a win tonight. The IronPigs hold an 8-7 series lead, but by rule, if the series finishes in a tie, the trophy goes to the team that won the last contest. That makes tonight’s game a winner takes all affair.

SAY HELLO TO MR. 72: The RailRiders will see a 72nd different player suit up in a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre uniform tonight, as Jairo Heredia was promoted to SWB from Advanced-A Tampa, bringing the roster to 25 players. Heredia was 3-1 with a 3.22 ERA in 36.1 innings in seven starts with Tampa, and has struck out a total of 65 in 65.0 innings when you include his numbers with Staten Island. Heredia was signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2006, but missed all of 2012 while recovering from shoulder surgery. The IL record for different players used in a season is 75, set by Norfolk last season.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT: The RailRiders jumped out to a four-run lead after just four innings of play. Three of the runs came in the third inning after left fielder Cesar Hernandez dropped what would have been the third out. Instead, Ronnier Mustelier ended up at second base, and J.R. Murphy scored on the play. That setup a two-run home run by Randy Ruiz that capped the inning. David Adams led off with a homer in the fourth, but that would be all for the SWB scoring. Lehigh Valley plated two in the seventh on a Michael Martinez triple, and he later singled home the winning-run in a three-run ninth inning.

WHITLEY THE WIZARD: Chase Whitley was sensational last night, but did not factor into the decision. He one-hit the IronPigs during his six innings of work. In addition to issuing just one walk, Whitley did not allow a run and struck out five. Whitley closed out the season in the rotation after being pressed into starting duty on Aug. 8 in Buffalo. He made a total of five starts, and posted a 1-0 record with a 1.64 earned run average. In 22.0 innings, he allowed just 15 hits, four earned runs, and struck out 18 batters.

POWER OUTAGE OVER: It had been 73 at-bats since Randy Ruiz last homered, but Ruiz ended his drought with a two-run blast in the third inning. He last homered off Bobby Korecky in game two of a doubleheader in Buffalo on Aug. 8. Despite the lack of power over the last three weeks, Ruiz is the active leader on the club with 16 home runs and 41 RBIs.

ADONIS WILL TAKE TWO: Since his batting average dipped to .258, outfielder Adonis Garcia has recorded multi-hit games in four out of his last six games to raise the mark a modest eight points to .266. Garcia started his RailRider career red-hot, and batted .333 (28-84) in the month of July. Entering tonight’s game, Garcia is only hitting .212 (22-104) in the month of August with just five extra-base hits.

BIG BOOST TO THE ‘PEN: Right-hander Dellin Betances hasn’t just given height to the RailRider bullpen, he’s been one of the most dominant relievers since being moved out of the rotation. He hit the 60.0 innings plateau as a reliever last night, and has posted a 1.35 ERA in 32 outings. More impressive, Betances has held batters to a .163 average, which is second among all relievers in the International League. His strikeout rate has also been outstanding (12.45 per nine innings), and it ranks fifth in the IL among relievers. Teammate Jim Miller is third with a 13.2 rate per nine frames.

MUST BE THE BACON: Reigning IL Player of the Week Ronnier Mustelier has enjoyed hitting off Lehigh Valley pitching. In his 11 contests, Mustelier is batting .395 (17-43) with four doubles and two home runs. For the season, Mustelier is batting .267, and is the only active RailRider with more than eight at-bats hitting above .300 against the Pigs.

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