Some News and Notes on a Rainy Friday

On a cold and chilly day in Syracuse, the RailRiders and Chiefs were forced to postpone today’s ballgame and instead will play a doubleheader Saturday afternoon. The first game will begin at 2:00 p.m. with right-hander Chase Whitley taking the hill for the local nine, while Taylor Hill goes for the Chiefs. The second game will begin approximately 30-minutes after the conclusion of game one. Both contests will be seven-inning affairs (LINK).

If you didn’t catch it, the Times-Tribune produced a special preview in advance of this season’s campaign. Here are a couple of notes and links from some of the hard work the Tribune’s staff put in on media day at PNC Field.

Russ Canzler, one day removed from his two-hit afternoon on Opening Day against the Chiefs, officially became the first hometown product to wear the SWB pinstripes. Canzler, who won IL MVP honors in 2011 with the Durham Bulls and has a handful of appearances at the big league level, sat down with Donnie Collins of the Times-Tribune to discuss how the first basemen has grown as a player since his professional debut (LINK).

Not to give Donnie too much credit, but Mr. Collins had another fine write-up on yesterday’s starting catcher, John Ryan Murphy. In his story, Murphy speaks about being the final catcher to receive a delivery from Mariano Rivera in Yankee Stadium and discuss how special of a moment that was for him. Murphy also speaks about the current position battle with Austin Romine and himself, as well as how he is working on developing his leadership abilities (LINK).

With both Murphy and Romine on the squad, one of the most important qualities of skipper Dave Miley that will be tested this season is his ability to manage relationships. For more on how Miley plans to approach this season from a relationship-managing standpoint, click HERE.

It’s not just a just a new year for the RailRiders baseball team; it’s also a new one for the club’s front office. Here’s a solid Q&A with SWB’s fearless leader, Rob Crain (LINK).

If you haven’t gotten a chance to digest this year’s Opening Day roster just yet, no worries, the Times-Tribune has you covered. Checkout their player profiles HERE.

This week the RailRiders officially unveiled a welcome addition to PNC Field as Lackawanna County and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders front office staff unveiled the mural design created by Evan Hughes. Hughes was the top vote-getting of the mural design contest held earlier this year by the club. To checkout Evan’s work, click HERE.

It’s worth noting that Miley, who is slated to be inducted into the International League’s Hall of Fame on June 7, is nearing another milestone as a member of SWB’s field staff. With just eight more victories, Miley will pass Marc Bombard on SWB’s all-time list for managerial victories. The Times-Leader’s Paul Sokoloski spoke with Miley about the upcoming achievement and what it means to him (LINK).

Sokoloski also sat down with RailRiders third baseman Scott Sizemore. Sizemore continues to work his way back to a major league promotion and, after a 3-for-3 afternoon yesterday, hopes to have put his injury plagued career in his rearview mirror (LINK).

And finally, here’s some highlights courtesy of WBRE of yesterday’s Opening Day victory (LINK).

Media Day and Meet The RailRiders

A big thank you goes out to everyone that attended yesterday’s media day festivities here at PNC Field and for all our friends that joined us up in the Mohegan Sun Club Level for last night’s Meet The RailRiders event. It was one of the best-attended events we’ve had in recent memory and the excitement of Opening Day in Syracuse tomorrow makes it that much more exciting.

In case you didn’t get a chance to stop by the ballpark yesterday and partake in the public gathering, here are some news and notes from yesterday to get you caught up.

It was announced yesterday that the New York Yankees had designated infielder Eduardo Nunez for assignment in order to clear a spot on the club’s 40-man roster for fellow infielder Yangervis Solarte. It was originally reported that Nunez could be ticketed for duty with SWB, but yesterday’s announcement now means New York has 10 days to either trade or outright release the veteran. Hypothetically, if Nunez does clear waivers, the Yankees could then re-sign him to a new contract, but the chance Nunez clears the DFA limbo process is minimal. Here is a nice story from the Times-Tribune’s Donnie Collins regarding the relationship between Nunez and the parent club, Bruce Billings getting the nod on Opening Day, and who could close come April 3 (LINK).

Another big story from yesterday’s slew of events include how Preston Claiborne is adjusting to life outside of spring training. Claiborne had a rough spring and as Paul Sokoloski notes HERE, the obvious goal for Claiborne is to work his way back to the bright lights of New York, something he seems determined to do.

RailRiders president/GM Rob Crain stopped by during yesterday’s events to answer a few questions with WBRE’s Eyewitness News regarding this upcoming season and some improvements that are on the horizon for PNC Field. You can find a link to Rob’s interview HERE.

 

Perhaps the biggest new yesterday that was announced is that Billings will get the nod for the RailRiders on Opening Day against the Syracuse Chiefs. Dave Rosengrant of the Times-Leader has a nice recap of yesterday’s festivities and what some fans can expect as the club’s home opener draws near (LINK).

Finally, if you missed yesterday’s Meet the RailRiders event here at PNC Field, no worries. Our good friends over at WNEP have you covered. Here are some links for you to get to know some of the guys that will be calling NEPA home over the next couple of months.

Media Day: http://wnep.com/2014/04/01/swb-railriders-media-day-at-pnc-field/

Meet Dave Mileyhttp://lackawannacounty.wnep.com/news/news/1204343-meet-manager-dave-miley-railriders

Meet Bruce Billings: http://wnep.com/2014/04/01/meet-bruce-billings-of-the-railriders/

Meet Preston Claiborne: http://wnep.com/2014/04/01/meet-preston-claiborne-of-the-railriders/

Meet Matt Daleyhttp://wnep.com/2014/04/01/meet-matt-daley-of-the-railriders/

Meet Corban Josephhttp://wnep.com/2014/04/01/meet-corbin-joseph-of-the-railriders/

Meet Jim Millerhttp://wnep.com/2014/04/01/meet-jim-miller-of-the-railriders/

Meet John Ryan Murphyhttp://wnep.com/2014/04/01/meet-john-ryan-murphy-of-the-railriders/

Meet Antoan Richardsonhttp://wnep.com/2014/04/01/meet-antoan-richardson-of-the-railriders/

Meet Austin Rominehttp://wnep.com/2014/04/01/meet-austin-romine-of-the-railriders/

Meet Scott Sizemorehttp://wnep.com/2014/04/01/meet-scott-sizemore-of-the-railriders/

Meet Chase Whitleyhttp://wnep.com/2014/04/01/meet-chase-whitley-of-the-railriders/

Joseph and Russ Canzler each met with the media: http://wnep.com/2014/04/01/joseph-and-canzler-speak-with-the-media/

Fan also had their opportunity to meet individual players yesterday: http://wnep.com/2014/04/01/baseball-fans-get-to-meet-the-railriders/

Tweet This, Hearty Farewells & Fortune Telling

Opening Day can be a majestic feeling. It’s a time of hope and sanctuary, combined with optimism and uncertainty. Every new campaign offers the prospect of wiping the slate clean and starting anew. Players open the season with barren stat lines waiting to be filled, while fans have the privilege of dreaming what could be once October swings around.

When the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders take the field this Thursday against the Syracuse Chiefs, they will do so with a new-look roster, a roster that could be exciting once all the pieces eventually come together.

One of the most rewarding aspects of spring can be for guys who finally earn that big break – a spot on the Opening Day roster. Earlier this week it was revealed that Dean Anna, due to a timely injury by New York’s, Brendan Ryan, had made the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. Anna is expected to relieve Derek Jeter at shortstop on days the future Hall of Famer has penciled in to sit. Yankees manager, Joe Giardi, said the club did not expect to release an announcement, but due to an untimely tweet, the Bronx Bombers had to make an adjustment to their press release schedule. Anna feels like he has rightfully earned a spot on the Yanks’ Opening Day roster, and he rightfully has. For more, click HERE.

While Anna had rightfully earned a spot on the 25-man roster, it could be short-lived as Ryan is expected to begin the year on the 15-day disabled list, but will likely be backdated a week, giving Anna a ticking clock of roughly a week after today’s game against Houston. As always, Brendan Kuty has the complete story HERE.

Anna wasn’t the only tough decision Girardi was forced to make. In fact, one of the more difficult rulings may have come when the Yanks’ skipper had to decide between Eduardo Nunez and Yangervis Solarte on the final infield slot. Solarte had a standout spring, batting .429 (18-for-42) while ripping two homers and adding nine RBIs to lead the club in hits while also tying for the lead in RBIs. According to Hoch, Anna will serve as the club’s primary backup to Jeter while Solarte will more than likely draw duty at second base (LINK).

The RailRiders’ organization would like to extend a hearty congratulation to long-time New Yorker and Yankee farmhand, Dellin Betances. Betances, after spending six games in Yankee pinstripes last season, learned earlier this week that he had earned a spot on the club’s Opening Day roster as a reliever. Betances’ hard work has apparently paid off after the hard-throwing Betances made the move from the RailRiders’ starting rotation in 2013 to the bullpen. Betances twirled a sparkling 12 1/3 innings pitched this spring earning a 0.73 ERA while impressing a lot of New York’s decision makers along the way.

It was also announced that after initially competing for the club’s fifth starter position, a job that was easily won by Michael Pineda, Vidal Nuno has claimed a spot on the Opening Day 25-man roster as well. Betances and Nuno will join a new-look relief corps that includes David Robertson, left-hander Matt Thornton and Shawn Kelly.  Giardi seems to enjoy the flexibility that his new-look bullpen possess, with a couple of guys that could give the Yanks multiple innings if need be.

“Our bullpen has some flexibility because three guys can really give you some good distance,” Girardi said, referring to Phelps, Warren and Nuno.”

For the complete write-up, click HERE.

Earlier this week it was announced that New York had signed veteran right-hander, Alfredo Aceves, to a minor league contract. According to multiple sources, Aceves is expected to begin the season with the RailRiders and could very well be an integral piece of the squad here in SWB.

Aceves, 31, originally signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles, but opted out of his contract on March 27.  Aceves has bounced around throughout his big league tour, earning service time with the Yankees from 2008-2010, including being an instrumental piece during the 2009 championship tour, before signing with the Boston Red Sox from 2011-‘13. Aceves has a career win-loss record of 16-14 while fighting his way to 3.94 ERA in 135 big league appearances.

Big league clubs are always looking for opportunities to stockpile their minor league systems in case a situation presents itself. The signing of Aceves could provide insurance for the Yankees if newly cemented Michael Pineda doesn’t pan out in the starting rotation, or simply serve as an insurance piece in case of an injury. Jorge Castillos has the story on the Aceves on the acquisition HERE.

Speaking of Pineda, it appears velocity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Pineda, who prior to undergoing tommy john surgery in 2011, appears more focused on making quality pitches and working hitters at the plate, rather than over-throwing. Pineda spent the offseason working on his craft while developing his repertoire of pitches and it appears it has really paid dividends. Checkout how Pineda’s approach on the bump has changed HERE.

Life in the minor leagues can be difficult at times, especially for relief pitchers that are on the fridge of making the major league club, and the glitz and glamour that comes with it. It can be a lot of lost nights, shuttling between the Triple-A and Major League ranks, and countless nights wading through airport security.

For right-hander Jim Miller, life over the last couple of years has been just that: hectic. Miller pitched in SWB throughout the 2013 campaign working his way to a 3-5 win-loss record, tossing 63.1 innings pitched. Miller signed with the Yankees after spending life in baseball’s version of Davey Jones’ locker, before eventually agreeing to terms on a minor league contract in January of 2013. Miller appeared in just one game in 2013 for the Bronx Bombers, tossing 1 1/3 while issuing three base hits and allowing three earned runs. Miller’s big league time includes service days with Baltimore (’08), Colorado (’11), Oakland (’12) and New York (’13), totaling 48 games while pitching to an ERA of 2.78.

Miller will continue his long odyssey back to New York this season when he begins the grind of the season here in SWB. The Times-Leader’s, Paul Sokoloski, turned out an excellent read on Miller and some of the struggles and adjustments the right-hander has made throughout the offseason and in camp. We highly suggest you checkout Sokoloski’s feature on Miller by clicking HERE.

Speaking of feel-good stories, it’s no surprise almost everyone here NEPA is excited for the opportunity to see hometown-product, Russ Canzler, on a day-to-day basis. Life for Canzler is different these days as the former International League MVP tries to make his way back to the bigs, this time as a New York Yankee. For Sokoloski’s latest piece on Canzler, click HERE.

With the RailRiders Opening Day just a couple of sunsets away, don’t let the lack of baseball here in NEPA bring you down. Here’s a parting gift from us here at Porcupines in Pinstripes as the NJ.com’s, Jorge Castillo, provides one final look at the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup and bench HERE.

Baseball Fun on a Dreary Friday

If there is one consolation to the less-than-ideal weather on this dreary Friday, it’s that the Yankees will officially conclude their spring training schedule with a pair of contests against the Miami Marlins at Steinbrenner Field today and Saturday – which means the real games for the Yankees and RailRiders alike are right around the corner. The Bronx Bombers currently reside 3.5 back in the Grapefruit League standings with just two to play, for whatever that’s worth. HERE is a look at how the spring standings shape up as clubs get ready to break camp.

One of the off-the-beaten path stories this spring had little to do with baseball and more with how Yankees farmhand John Ryan Murphy was attempting to shed an unwanted nickname. Paul Sokoloski of the Times-Leader has a great write-up on the young catcher who is recently adjusting from life in big league camp back to the rigors and structure of life in minor league ball HERE.

Sokoloski also caught up with NEPA’s own Russ Canzler for his thoughts on coming home, his spring training showing and his expectations for the 2014 season HERE.

It’s worth noting that one of the more feel-good tales out of camp, especially in the era of big free-agent acquisitions, was the extension and commitment the parent club made to the 30-year-old Brett Gardner. Gardner, who spent time in SWB from 2007-09, received a hefty four-year $52 million extension that will begin at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Brendan Kuty of NJ.com has a nice write-up on the former NEPA resident’s spring and how the commitment New York made to him helped clear his mind. For the complete story, click HERE.

Speaking of the big league club, it appears the Yankees continue to pursue any and all avenues in order to improve their roster, such as scouring the waiver wire, but don’t feel the need to acquire players just to fill out rosters. We learn more from the main man himself, general manager Brian Cashman, in THIS article by ESPNNewYork.com’s Wallace Matthews.

“Last year, we were living off that. This year, we really have some people we can look at right in front of us at least. We’re not desperate right now, like we were last year, and I hope it stays that way.” – Brian Cashman

Matthews states the Yankees continue to remain quiet on who the club has had conversations with regarding potential trades, but confirmed teams have called about acquiring Austin Romine or Murphy, both of whom were optioned to Triple-A once word broke that their fellow SWB alumnus Francisco Cervelli was awarded the back-up catching role to Brian McCann.

“We’re certainly hearing from a lot of people about these guys,” Cashman said. “They’re assets. We’re not in any position where we have to do anything, but if something made sense, we’d consider it. But right now, we’re happy with what we’ve got.” – Brian Cashman

Cashman is right, the club should be confident in their plethora of depth behind home plate as the split between Romine and Murphy could be one of the more intriguing position battles throughout the International League. The problem will be finding enough playing time for a couple of guys in Romine and Murphy who could be playing every day with other clubs. PIP believes IL Hall of Famer Dave Miley is just the man to solve that problem.

An interesting note broke this week out of Camelback Ranch and it has an intriguing tie to SWB. Adrian Nieto (bio), who was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the Rule 5 draft this December, has reportedly made the White Sox’s 25-man roster to back up incumbent, Tyler Flowers. Nieto, prior to his selection by the White Sox, was a fifth-round pick of the Washington Nationals in the 2008 draft out of high school. The interesting note here is that while Nieto will suit up for the Chicago this season, the young backstop has never played a regular-season professional baseball game past Advanced-A ball in Potomac. It’s a tale rarely told. The most recent example of a catcher going from A-ball to the bigs in one season? RailRiders hitting coach Butch Wynegar who made the leap in 1976 and made a splash as an All-Star that rookie season when he was runner-up for A.L. Rookie of the Year to the Tigers’ Mark FidrychMatt Cassidy of ChicagoNow.com has an interesting write-up on some of the struggles Nieto may face as he tries to become a mainstay HERE. To PIP’s knowledge, the Adrian, a native of Cuba, is not related to former SWB catcher Tom Nieto who has served on the Yankees’ Major League staff and currently serves as a rehab coach for the franchise.

It’s not fair to write a blog post without referencing some of the great work Donnie Collins continues to churn out on a day-to-day basis. Donnie, who is competing for an opportunity to have his own bobblehead night at PNC Field, appears to have some solid competition as WNEP’s, Sharla McBride, launched her campaign video earlier this week (HERE), while RailRiders’ radio partner, Bold Gold Media, produced an outstanding promotional video for Jose the Leprechaun. You can watch their sales pitch below.

Now that you know some of the competition Collins faces, head on over to SWBRailRiders.com to vote for who you think deserves to be immortalized in bobblehead form. Hopefully Collins and friends over at the Times-Tribune have something clever up their sleeves that we can add here sometime soon.

Speaking of PNC Field, the RailRiders announced some pretty nifty upgrades to last year’s Ballpark Digest Ballpark of the Year. The list of enhancements includes a new Oak Grove Deck. Designed by DX Dempsey, the 1,145-square-foot-destination will be used for private picnics on game days, as well as a casual gathering space for fans. The list of improvements includes a new mural specially designed to provide a little color to the team’s premier area, the Mohegan Sun Club. The family-friendly display was commissioned in part with the Lackawanna County Arts and Cultural Center. For a complete list of the wide array of improvements and additions this season, click HERE.

Shenanigans and self-promotion aside, Collins had a great write-up the other day regarding some of the struggles Jim Miller (bio) hopes to avoid in 2014. Miller spent most of the 2013 campaign in the RailRiders pinstripes along with brief time in the bigs at the close of the year. The 31-year-old right-hander appeared in eight big league games this spring, allowing a single run and striking out four in 8.2 innings of work. As he enters 2014, he does so with a bit of a different approach and a wrinkle pitch. For Collins’ complete write-up on the veteran, head HERE.

In the spirit of cross promotion, Porcupines in Pinstripes found out earlier this week that Bold Gold’s new show, The CK Sports Blitz, has a blog! Today’s post includes the always comical photo of president/general manager, Rob Crain, suiting up as one of America’s finest cuisines and, just as  a reminder, Crain joins the CK Sports Blitz every Friday at 4:15 p.m., while play-by-play man John Sadak stops by Mondays at 4:15 p.m. During the season we will archive each of their respective interviews right here. But, for now, feel free to stop by the Sports Blitz by clicking HERE. You can also listen to Rob and John by tuning in HERE.

Major League Baseball finally announced what fans can expect from its replay operations center in New York, a 900 square-foot room at the offices of Major League Baseball Advanced Media. MLB’s release formally states that every play of every game, beginning with Sunday’s action, will be analyzed in the operations room by at least one umpire and one trained technician. It’s a pretty impressive setup for something that was just implemented this off-season, but the key here is it appears that MLB got this right, which is important. Below is a look at the replay room, or click HERE for the full release.

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A general look at MLB’s Replay Operations Center, which was introduced earlier this week.

Forbes magazine recently published its list of most valuable Major League Baseball franchises and, to no surprise, the Yankees topped the list once again at $2.5 billion. The Yankees have now owned the top spot for 17 consecutive years. While the Bombers may not be the top spenders in baseball this year in terms of payroll, Forbes reports the $2.5 billion is a 9% increase from the club’s value from the 2013 season. For a complete list of all 30 clubs click HERE.

Some parting notes today include Bryan Hoch‘s preview of the parent club HERE, and whether or not the new-look Yankees can produce a winning campaign after last season’s injury-plagued run.

One year after one of baseball’s most highly regarded films celebrated its 25th anniversary in Bull Durham, another cult classic is set to make its anniversary tour. Major League, released in 1989, and one of baseball’s most popular movies, celebrates the illustrious careers of speedy outfielder Willie Mays Hays, veteran catcher and team leader Jake Taylor, and Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the no-name Indians made a charge for an A.L. pennant, but Rant Lifestyle provides a pretty cool look at the cast of Major league then and now HERE.

 

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Major League will celebrate its 25th anniversary this season.

 

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.

There’s a Buzz Around Camp and Spring is Finally Here

If you didn’t know, Thursday was the official start of spring. Now, what does that mean to the average baseball fan? Well, if you are a frequent visitor on twitter and other social media outlets, it means you’ve probably been seeing a lot of these:

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Here at PNC Field, we’d like to think the season started today, but since we are still a little less than two weeks away it means our pals up north have a little more time to fix their snowy situation as the Chiefs are trying everything thing possible to get NBT Bank Stadium ready for our Opening Day tilt on April 3.  We hope by then all the snow is gone, but it wouldn’t be  April baseball without having to worry about the elements.

It’s worth noting that come Saturday, March 22, the RailRiders’ front office will be hosting their first Family Fest, presented by WVIA, in the Mohegan Club level at PNC Field from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Curious George will be on hand for a 30-minute meet-and-greets at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m.

Family Fest

The fun goes beyond monkey business too. Guests will also have the opportunity to participate in a behind-the-scenes tour of PNC Field, which claimed national Ballpark of the Year honors this off-season from Ballpark Digest. Festivities include the opportunity to tour the home and visiting clubhouses as well as the dugouts and the pristine field, weather permitting. The team store, SWB Station, will be open and concessions will be available. Memberships for the Quills Kids Club presented by Hildebrandt Learning Centers will be available for purchase and available seats will be marked for the multiple ticket packages the RailRiders offer. This offers fans the chance to pick their seats for multiple games at great rates – the packages start at only $35.

 

With that said, let’s move on to some more baseball-specific content. It seems the competition for the Yankees’ fifth starter position could be coming to a close as multiple journalist covering the team seem to believe that prospect, Michael Pineda, should be in line for the honor, and the spot could be his to lose.

Originally thought to be beginning the season in Triple-A, as noted by Donnie Collins. Pineda pitched his previous spring outing against a pseudo Red Sox lineup and was impressive in his 60-pitch limit. Pineda’s appearance wasn’t the only buzz of the day as a swarm of bees took over left field. It you haven’t seen the footage of the incident quite yet, it’s worth taking  a look at.

Pineda winning the fifth starting spot could have a drastic impact on how the RailRiders’ rotation and bullpen iron out. Originally thought to at least be starting the year with both Pineda and Dellin Betances, it appears both of them have worked their way on to the Yankees’ 25-man roster, as per @MLBDepthCharts.

It appears the Yankees are ready to trim the competition for the fifth starters spot down as Daniel Barbarisi of the New York Times notes, Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren have both been told they will no longer start games and instead are being regulated to bullpen duty the rest of spring. Barbarisi notes that Warren could potentially end up in the big league bullpen, while Nuno could be ticketed to make starts for the RailRiders.

Speaking of Mr. Collins, if you don’t frequent his blog daily, you really should. With the season just two weeks away, Collins began his countdown of the top 15 Yankees prospects. It’s a great read and Donnie includes a lot of valuable information about Nik Turley who was optioned to RailRiders camp earlier this spring and today takes a look at third base prospect, Robin Segedin.

On Tuesday, we provided a quick snippet on whether Scott Sizemore could potentially begin the year in Triple-A instead of breaking camp with the big league club. It turns out, Chad Jennings, provided a little more fuel to fire Thursday when he included his opinion on Sizemore during his Thursday notes:

Joe Girardi has been hesitant on whether Sizemore has enough time to play in games and actually break camp with the team. At this point, it seems — just my opinion — that it might make more sense to send him to Triple-A to get back in a game routine for a month or so before deciding whether he’s ready to play a big league role.”

That does it for today’s blog and, just as a general reminder: Think Spring.

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.

We’re No. 11! Rob = Roberta? And some actual baseball stuff…

Today we take the time to thank you, our readers, for your loyal following of Porcupines in Pinstripes. Earlier this week we officially learned that because of your dedication, our humble site was recently named one of the top 15 blogs in all of minor league baseball by our friends over at MLB.com. Better yet, if you are really a numbers person, Porcupines in Pinstripes came in at No. 11 overall in terms of team-specific blogs. We are both extremely proud of the honor and hope to climb even higher this season. We have some fun and exciting things on tap for the 2014 campaign that should help propel us towards the promised land and hope that you’ll join us along the way as our purpose here to both educate and entertain.  For the complete list of the top 100 Major League and minor league blogs, click HERE.

It’s been a fun week overall to be a RailRiders fan. It all started off with our fearless leader and president/general manager, Rob Crain, standing outside the chilly snow here at PNC Field wearing nothing but a t-shirt, flippers and some pretty snazzy snorkel gear. Crain issued imaginably one of the boldest guarantees in minor league baseball, stating if the temperatures fails to reach 60 degrees for Opening Day on April 10, the RailRiders will issue every fan that passes through the turnstiles a free ticket to a later date. Furthermore, Crain took his shenanigans a step further, asserting if the team loses its home opener, he’d dress like a female until the team won its next game. We hope Rob says yes to the dress, but sometimes you just have to sit back and marvel at his courage and be glad it’s him making the announcement – not me and John.

Speaking of snow, check out the look of PNC Field today after last night’s snowstorm provided PNC Field with a nice little wintry mix this morning. The hope is that Rob’s 60-degree guarantee comes to fruition, but right now this makes for some pleasant still frames.

photo 2

Winter continues to show its presence at PNC Field with this added snowfall

Down the first base line, you can get a little more of a glimpse of the melting snow at PNC Field.

Minor league baseball is one of the more enjoyable occupations but, sometimes, it’s a little more rewarding when the national media takes notice of all the hard work that our front office here in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre puts in on a day-to-day basis. It started with the fellas on MLB Network’s daily telecast, Intentional Talk, speaking very highly of Rob’s guarantee video…

…followed with @SWBRailRiders tweeting some pretty clever literature that may have found its way into your mailbox this week:

Succeeding those announcements on MLB Network, the RailRiders announced some more noteworthy news that the staff here has eclipsed its season ticket sales from the 2013 season. Last year’s run marked a banner year for SWB with the newly reimagined ballpark as over 435,000 fans made their way through the turnstiles; the most in SWB since the 2008 season. Here’s a link to Donnie Collins’ article about the milestone HERE. A landmark achievement like this is not only a tribute to our team here in SWB, but also you, the spectators, for making PNC Field a must-visit during the summer months.

You can’t have a post about baseball without an update from life in the Grapefruit League. If there are “dog days” of Spring Training, the middle of March fits into that classification. The big league club is beginning to trim their roster, which means the RailRiders personnel is finally starting to take shape, and spring training still involves another couple of weeks in the steamy Florida sun. New York made a pair of transactions yesterday, optioning the speedy outfielder, Slade Heathcott, and left-handed pitcher, Nik Turley, from major league camp to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. On the heels of those two roster movements came the proclamation that top Yankees catching prospect, Gary Sanchez, has been sent to Double-A Trenton; check out Collins’ blog for a little more in-depth information HERE. You may not see Heathcott on an active roster to begin the season according to the man himself, but you’ll see a definitely different version than the one the Yankees drafted. Click HERE for a great piece that fleshes out those thoughts from Chad Jennings.

RailRiders alumnus Francisco Cervelli continues to stand out in Tampa as the 28-year old catcher persists to make front office personnel take notice. The long-time Yankee farm hand is currently clubbing his way to a successful spring, batting .500 (8-for-16) with three homers and four RBIs and six runs scored. Paul Hagen of MLB.com has an excellent write-up about Cervelli’s spring and takes an in-depth look at the numbers game that is currently the Yankees catching position HERE.

A Look at Player Options and the Yankees Farm System

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of minor league baseball can be following the number of option seasons a player has remaining. Recently, it was revealed that a quip in Yankees’ farmhand, Dellin Betances’, contract awarded the parent club an extra option season, which could mean Betances may possibly be sent to Scraton/Wilkes-Barre to at least start the campaign (LINK). Big league clubs are always looking to protect inventory and ,while Betances seems to have found his niche since being moved to the bullpen, the Yankees could give someone else an opportunity to begin the season in New York without the risk of losing the hard-throwing right-hander. Betances, who has just a handful of games at the big league level, has been one of the more impressive arms this spring, tossing  6 1/3 scoreless frames over four appearances, while showing signs that he at least deserves to be in the conversation for one of the final bullpen spots (LINK).

SWB RailRiders vs Columbus Clippers

Due to a quirk in Betances’ contract, the New York product could begin the season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Player options are an interesting concept; they are put in place in order to prevent clubs from stockpiling their minor league system, as well as to give a player the opportunity to catch on with another organization once all of their options have been exhausted. Players are awarded three option seasons once they are placed on the 40-man roster. As Fangraphs notes HERE, the keyword is option seasons, meaning once a player’s option is used throughout the season, he can then be transferred freely among the Major League and minor league levels without using additional options.

MLBTradeRumors.com, one of the best sites around to help keep you up on all the daily news and notes around Major League Baseball, provided an outstanding look at players within the American League East that are on the team’s 40-man roster, but out of options. If a player is out of options, said individual must then clear waivers, allowing other clubs the opportunity to claim them before he can then be out righted to the minor leagues (LINK).

Players of note that are currently out of options  on the Yankees’ 40-man roster include Francisco Cervelli, who more than likely will win the back-up catcher’s position out of camp, and Ivan Nova, who looks to be a key cog in the Yankees rotation. Only Nova spent time in the SWB pinstripes during the 2013 odyssey, starting three games last season for SWB while going 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA.

Speaking of options, the Yankees made their first official moves of spring, reassigning players from big league camp to the minor league complex across the way. For more information regarding the players reassigned, head on over to Donnie Collins’ blog HERE.

A little more food for thought: while SWB suffered through one of its more challenging year’s during the Yankees affiliation era in 2013, the overall farm system looks to be in good shape as Jonathan Mayo (@JonathanMayoB3) points out HERE.

Mayo states that due to injuries in both Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, combined with hopeful rebound years from  Slade Heathcott and Manny Banuelos, the Bronx Bombers could be in good shape for a positive crusade at all levels. Mayo’s article also includes interviews with Yankees’ vice president of baseball operations, Mark Newman, and 2013 college-draftee, Eric Jagielo.

-Aaron

Recapping Thursday , Position Battles and A Look At Former RailRiders

It’s hard to believe Opening Day is less than 30 days away, but with the excitement of spring and Grapefruit League action now in full swing, the general perception is that the season isn’t too far down the road.  With nearly four weeks until the season opener against Syracuse (Washington), it’s still hard to predict exactly what the RailRiders’ 25-man roster will look like for the club’s first road trip. So, with that said, let’s get you caught up on some of the latest news and notes from around the Yankees’ camp.

Thursday in the bay area proved troublesome as teams attempted to fight through the dreary and showery conditions that paved their way through the Gulf Coast. Five teams eventually cancelled play, while a handful of others waited for the Florida rain to pass.  In big league camp, the Yankees traveled to Bright House Networks Field for a date with the Philadelphia Phillies. For a complete wrap-up and box score of yesterday’s action, click HERE. If you want a more in-depth look at guys that are projected to start the season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Donnie Collins always does a fantastic job churning out information. You can find that info HERE.

One of the marquee position battles in camp is who will eventually serve as the back-up to the Yankees’ primary backstop, Brian McCann. Three principal names battling for the final catcher’s spot are Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy. As Rant Sports kindly points out, Cervelli, as it stands today, is more inclined to claim a roster spot on the big league club based on his production this spring (HERE). With the continued development of high-level prospect, Gary Sanchez, the Yankees may look to deal from their plethora of talent behind the dish to provide assistance elsewhere as the New York Post points out HERE.

Another interesting battle taking place is what the Yanks outfield situation will look like when the club breaks camp for Opening Day. New York spent big this season  acquiring marquee names in Jacoby Ellsbury in a free-agent signing from the Boston Red Sox, Carlos Beltran from the Cardinals and extending Brett Gardner. How does that affect guys within the organization? Zoilo Almonte, after spending eight seasons in the minor leagues, finally got his chance to contribute with the parent club last year. Almonte appeared in 34 games for New York and hit to slash line of .300/.364/.400.  Doug Williams of YES put together a nice piece on Almonte analyzing his strengths and weakness. You can access that information HERE.

It’s always fun to take a glance at the guys in camp, but sometimes it’s more enjoyable to see where guys who have worn the SWB pinstripes in the past ended up in the baseball agate, commonly referred to as the transactions report. Today we take a glimpse at Brett Marshall who started 25 games in 2013 for the RailRiders while pitching to the tune of a 7-10 record and 5.13 ERA. Marshall, a 2008 sixth-round selection by the Yankees, entered 2013 ranked as the No. 16 overall prospect in the Yankees organization by some very smart individuals over at MLB.com.  For a complete look at his minor league history within the Yankees’ organization, jet on over to Milb.com, you can click HERE for you convenience.

Marshall was designated for assignment by the big league club on Dec. 19, 2013 in order to make room for the recently signed slugger,  Beltran.  The following week, the Cubs claimed Marshall on Dec. 23 before eventually releasing the righty 51 days later to open up roster space for Cubs’ pitcher, Jason Hammel, before being acquired by the Cincinnati Reds on Feb. 12. George Nunnelly of Lousiville has a nice recap of the chaotic time frame HERE.

The agate can be a scary thing for many players, but it looks like Marshall is getting a legitimate shot in Arizona to make an impression on the Reds’ front office. To check out the former Yankees’ farmhand production thus far this spring click HERE.

That does it for today; make sure to check out what’s on deck this weekend by taking a look Grapefruit League schedule  HERE. Minor league games don’t open up until March 14, but here’s a quick glace at the schedule courtesy of Mr. Collins HEREOpening Day is just around the corner at PNC Field and we couldn’t be more excited about it. Make sure to get your ticket packages today by visiting our website SWBRailRiders.com. All Aboard!

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