Cyclones To ‘Slime’ Fans, Benefit ALSA Sans Ice Buckets Wednesday

Cyclones All That JerseysIn the world of minor league baseball, the Brooklyn Cyclones play in very rarefied air, and we are not talking just about the smell of the sea that wafts in from Coney Island over the outfield fence. The Mets’ New York Penn League affiliate has to constantly find ways to come up with promotions that have enough value to pull from the millions of other choices New Yorkers have to spend their discretionary income. They aren’t even the only show in Brooklyn any more, with the Nets at the Barclays Center. But they are a completely unique, and still very fun and affordable subway ride away for tens of thousands of fans and families.

So with that challenge as a backdrop, the Cyclones have sought to raise the minor league promo ante again this year, succeeding with promotions like “Seinfeld Night,” which draw not only a big crowd but big exposure through the media for the team and the event. This Wednesday night they will have yet another, when Nickelodeon, treading further into the fun mix of kids and sports, has their ’90s Are All That Night, when the Cyclones take on the Staten Island Yankees at 7 p.m. Kel Mitchell, star of iconic Nickelodeon ‘90s shows “All That”and” Kenan & Kel,” will throw out the first pitch.

It will be a great night of slime, double dare, giveaways and even a stop by by Keenan Mitchell, star of the hit show “Keenan and Kel.” However the biggest moment of the night will come from the Cyclones themselves, who will done orange and green custom jerseys for the night, and then will auction them off for the charity of choice this month,  the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALSA), and no ice bucket challenge is need.

While some may say the Mets are in need of a sliming now and again (Nick did have a night at Citi Field earlier this year by the way), this Cyclones promo is again all in fun, with a national partner that once again shows how Major league Brooklyn can be in the promo department. Another homer for the Cyclones, who constantly play to a higher level off the field.

Gotham Baseball Minors: Quiroli: Trenton Thunder Notebook

Entering their 20th season in existence, the Trenton Thunder are off to a solid start.

In their first 11 games, they went 8-3, overcoming offensive issues and shaky pitching. They’ve come together as a team, with some unexpected players emerging early.

Manager Tony Franklin, returning for his seventh season to the newly named Arm & Hammer Park (formerly Waterfront Park), came back to new digs down the hall from the clubhouse. The office, equipped with a new larger flat-screen TV, was a gesture the longest-tenured Eastern League manager expressed appreciation for.

But on the night of the home opener, all the new gadgets and surroundings were only the backdrop to the real story: a team with a few highly regarded prospects, and returning guys that are developing at a promising pace.

“[Nik] Turley’s second game, he got off to a bit of a slow start. But he’s settled down. That indicates to me that he has enough to pitch here and beyond. We jumped out of the box with a tremendous offensive attack. That puts a scare in me a little bit, because you think, ‘Hey, are we going to be able to do this every night?’”

Turley’s start on the 15th was an exercise in patience. He worked it out as he went along, struggling at times, but mixing in a healthy dose of first-pitch strikes. He also consistently got the Akron Aeros to swinging and miss. But he was unable to pitch deep, lasting just 4 innings. He allowed 3 runs, two earned, on 4 hits. He gave up three walks, striking out 7. In the first inning, he threw all his pitches for strikes. But his inconsistency was an issue, and he often missed spots where catcher JR Murphy set him up. He threw a wild pitch in the 2nd.

“They’re youngsters at this level and they’re trying to find their way. It’s an adjustment period. The weather is a little bit cold. And baseball players just don’t like cold weather. They keep themselves above water until the weather gets better. It doesn’t get any warmer in New York.”

The three-game string of losses on the road didn’t seem to concern Franklin much. But he’s clear about what Yankees baseball is, and expects his players to know as well.

“We’re looking for a certain type of player,” Franklin said in matter-of-fact tone. “It takes determination.”

Murphy and Austin Bring High Expectations To Trenton

Baseball America ranked #4 Yankees prospect Tyler Austin and #15 ranked JR Murphy are the two names that jump off the roster.

But put the hype aside.

There is a lot of learning ahead, and Austin and Murphy are finding that out.

Austin’s results have fluctuated. Following a couple of multi-hit games, the right fielder went hitless for the next three. In four games, he’s followed that up with six hits total, including a five-RBI night. Franklin, for the record, mentioned the outfielder’s name first when asked who impressed him in Spring Training.

“I just haven’t been trusting my work, honestly,” said Austin. “I’m doing the right things during BP, and doing my work in the cage and I just haven’t been trusting it. The results haven’t been there. But yesterday I did it a little bit and hopefully I continue that.”

He’s coming off a season in which he was named the Yankees Minor League Player of the Year, after hitting .322 combined at three levels, including Trenton. He also set career highs in hits, runs, and doubles. This season has challenges out of the gate, but Austin is on it with a simple approach. Outside of taking more swings than he normally does, he’s keeping his routine the same.

Behind the plate, Murphy is also improving his skill set and continuing to learn himself at the plate in his first full season with the Thunder.

The catcher humorously commented on the cold weather playing a part in getting comfortable.

“The guys who are out there with no sleeves on, it’s like, ok, what does that guy have upstairs that I don’t. If you tell yourself it’s not cold, it’s not cold. But it’s still cold.”

Murphy has begun the season hitting .308 in the first ten games, 10 RBI, a home run, 2 doubles, and 6 walks.

His approach to catching echoes former Thunder catcher Austin Romine.

“I do a lot more studying of the defensive side. My job is to keep runs off the board for the other team. I pride myself on that.”

Austin clarifies that getting better at the Double-A level really is about working the process. In the end, the weather is a small part of that.

“They’re throwing some tough pitches up here. I’m not being patient. But I just need to carry what I’m doing in the cage, onto the field,” Austin said.

Tommy Phillips on Caleb Cotham, Thunder Pitching

“The main thing with Caleb is being healthy,” said Thunder pitching coach Tommy Phillips. “he came back last year and monitored his innings. He’ll throw a few more innings this year. The key is just for him to get out there and compete.”

Phillips said his slider is already a solid pitch, but the curveball, which he’s recently added, is still in the early development stages. His command of the pitch hasn’t come yet.

“He’s very good delivery-wise. The curveball is a new pitch. You have to see it and evaluate, but, I tell you what, it’s very good. It’s just a matter of him finding consistency with his path and his release point with it.”

Cotham sees a connection between all the aspects of his game. He talked about the focus that all that learning requires, certain that there is a key.

“For me, it’s about being a consistent person in general. I think if I take it day to day and have a consistent routine, be a consistent teammate, and my effort is consistent, then I think it’ll show up on the field. It’ll help me be a consistent pitcher. I don’t want to think a whole lot big picture-wise,” Cotham said.

Cotham is 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA. In two starts, he’s allowed just two earned runs on nine hits with eight strikeouts in nine innings.

“I’m working on the curveball. Eventually I’d like it to be a duel-pitch [combination]- curveball and slider. But I like to lean on my fastball. Last start was the first time I consistently used the curveball in a game.”

Phillips, in his fifth season as the Thunder’s pitching coach, has seen a lot of the Yankees top young pitchers come through the doors at 1 Thunder Road, and he sizes up what he’s already seen this year.

“It’s young…feels really young. They have to mature and learn how to face better pitchers. Here, it’s about learning how to command your pitches, learning when to change speeds. But a lot of good young arms.

With all that young pitching, there’s a young catcher in Murphy behind the plate. The importance of having a leader such as Murphy to work with the pitchers is paramount.

“Makes my job a lot easier,” Phillips said. “That’s the pitching coach out on the field. He’s the psychiatrist, so to say. He helps them get focused on the task at hand. It helps a lot, because he can communicate with you. JR is all those things. He’s intelligent and he’s going to help them mature as a group.”

NOTES:

Outfielder Shane Brown took the mound on April 9th, marking the first time since 2010 a position player has pitched for the Thunder. He didn’t allow a hit.
The Opening Day roster included three players on the Yankees 40-man roster: Outfielder Ramon Flores, and pitchers Turley and Francisco Rondon.
RHP Zach Nuding got the ball for the home opener, tossing the first quality start of any Trenton pitcher this season. He pitched six innings, allowing one earned run on six hits.
The newly named ballpark underwent renovations that include the addition of a 21’ x 68’ LED display in right field. Pitch speed is now displayed, as is instant replay. There are also new audio speakers, as well as an expanded production room in the press box.
Franklin’s two requests for his new office were pictures of Jackie Robinson and tennis player Arthur Ashe. The team presented him with a life-size movie poster of the new movie ‘42’, about the life of Jackie Robinson. He said he’s still waiting on the picture of Ashe.

Gotham Baseball’s Minor League Awards: NYPL

The Cyclones and SI Yankees have finished August fighting to reach very different goals.

Brooklyn has solidly battled for a playoffs spot, while Staten Island is hoping to finishg the season in third, not dead last. Both are playing very good baseball to make those things happen.

For all Staten Island’s woes, they weren’t short on talent. Nothing ever quite clicked and inconsistency dogged them. Player of the Year was 1B/DH Saxon Butler’s to lose, but, because he was so good, the Yankees promoted him to Class-A Charleston. After he was out of the contest, the decision was more difficult.

On the Cyclones side, their pitching was outstanding both in relief and in the rotation. There was plenty of excellence to choose from.

Overall, both teams had their extreme weaknesses and solid talent.

Brooklyn Cyclones:

Player Of The Year

Brandon Nimmo, Outfielder – The Mets 2011 first round pick (13th overall) has been through the fires in his first full professional season after playing just ten games in the GCL in 2011. His difficulties have not kept him from putting up the numbers to lead the team in a number of offensive categories. And on a team that struggled at the plate all season, he stood way out. In 65 games played, he knocked in a team-best 39 runs, 64 hits, and 45 walks. He also hit 5 home runs and collected 20 doubles. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts. His 73 K’s were third in the league. But he’s shown an ability to adjust with each at-bat and exhibit patience and maturity in his approach.

Starting Pitcher Of The Year

Hansel Robles – The M, L, and R train was hard to stop in 2012. Luis Mateo, Rainy Lara, and Robles led the league in strikeouts, with Robles 66 K’s third in the pack. The RHP’s 1.11 ERA leads the league. In 72.2 innings (second by a tick to Mateo’s 73.1) he walked just 10 batters and gave up zero home runs. His 0.78 WHIP is also the league’s lowest. In 12 games started he went 6-1.

Relief Pitcher Of The Year

John Mincone – The lefty led the team in saves with 5 and could be counted on to pitch in long or short relief. He finished July 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. Left-handed hitters had a tough time getting anything off of him, with his ERA a superb 0.71. In 28 innings he walked 5 batters, allowed no home runs, and struck out 28.

Staten Island Yankees:

Player Of The Year

Taylor Dugas, Outfielder – Dugas .471 OBP leads the league and, in conjunction, so do his 48 walks. He led the Cyclones with a .318 BA as does his 64 hits and 37 runs scored. In 56 games the righhander made just 4 errors on a team that struggled defensively. He has remained a consistent contact hitter, with 30 hits in August, and 21 in July. He closed out August with a .883 OPS in 25 games played.

Starting Pitcher Of The Year

Evan Rutckyj – The LHP led the rotation in innings pitched with 72.1 under his belt and also led the way with 60 strikeouts. He lowered his ERA from 5.19 to 3.72 between July and August. He only surrendered an impressive 3 home runs all season.

Relief Pitcher Of The Year

Taylor Garrison – Garrison led the Yankees with 8 saves in 24.2 innings of work. The righty ended August with a 0.70 ERA, allowing just one walk and striking out ten. Lefthanders hit just 0.86 off of him. He did not allow a home run all season. He went 0-2 with a 2.55 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP

*All stats current at time of publication..

Staten Island Yankees Notebook

Staten Island, NY – The Staten Island Yankees (15-26) have struggled in a number of key areas, but the raw talent has also been on display throughout July.

Early in their development, struggling with consistency, they’ve got the same energy of their college playing time that’s only a few months behind many of them. They’re learning under the steady hand of manager Justin Pope, who’s guiding them both delicately and with discipline and encouragement.

Three players have been impact offensive producers and shown their individual strengths. Matt Snyder and Saxon Butler, who’ve shared the 1B/DH role, have hit consistently. Butler has hit .309 with a league leading 10 home runs, while Snyder has hit .304 and his .403 OBP is fourth overall. Outfielder Taylor Dugas .476 OBP leads the NYPL, as does his 29 walks.

The pitching has struggled, but, lately, picked it up a bit.

With a 4.10 team ERA, they are in the bottom five in the league. They got a strong outing this week from Gabriel Encinas (3-2, 2.77). And Derek Varnadore (1-3, 2.39), working long relief, has been solid in 26 innings. He’s struck out 23 and allowed just six walks.

Here are quotes from some of the players, as well as hitting coach Ty Hawkins.

Ty Hawkins

On… Wes Wilson

He’s not one of those guys that’s playing everyday, but when he gets in there, he performs well. It’s his second year and so we’re continuing to work on what we worked on then. It seems like it’s really taken hold.

Saxon Butler

I think what it is for him is that when he stays relaxed and doesn’t press, he’s able to let things happen more for him. He’s faced some pretty good pitching the last few days and it’s been a good test.

Home runs: Yeah, that’s the one thing we gotta keep on him about. Just make sure he’s not trying to do too much.

Matt Snyder

He’s another one that in the beginning of the year he was 1-30 and I give him a lot of credit for working everyday and trying to get everything right. He’s more relaxed. It was a transition from the first part of the season back into it for these college guys. But he’s finding his groove now. If he gets a little excited about not performing, I gotta stay on him and help him calm down.
Taylor Dugas

He came with that [patience]. He’s one of the leading hitters in Alabama’s history. He’s got a gift. He doesn’t get all nervous. He’s a pretty even keel guy. He knows what he has to do to hit. Trust is a lot of it.

Matt Snyder

“I feel more comfortable, more relaxed. I know what to expect now. I was on the tip of my toes worrying about everything, but I realized it’s more laid back.“ Matt Snyder

“Ty Hawkins helping make sure I don’t lunge at the ball.”

“Getting to the field so early and all the stuff we have to do before games.”

“I’ve been trying to gain a lot more weight. Eating and drinking a lot more water. I’m working with our weight coach a lot. JOE. Last summer I weighed 222 and I’m like 208 right now, so I need to get that back.”

Yankees: “I can’t possibly put into words how special it is for me to be on the Yankees. Ever since I was little, I’ve been a Yankees fan. My dad and my grandparents and my uncle always talked about the Yankees and so I grew up a Yankees fan. Like if you have a tough day, you go out there and you don’t hit, after the game, you’re upset, then you realize you’re a Yankee still.”

Wes Wilson

“It’s been a blast. It’s my second year here and I know the ropes a little bit. Even De Luca and I are two of the returning guys so naturally at the beginning of the season, guys are kind of asking you questions and we’re able work closely with the coaching staff a little bit.”

“It’s a lot easier to get up when you’ve got 5,000 fans here.”

“You want to be the best team in New York. Whether you’re in short season A-ball or in the big leagues. And these fans don’t care about the difference. These Yankees fans just want to see the Mets pounded into the ground.”

Looking for Nimmo

Staten Island, NY – Wyoming, a state without high school baseball, hasn’t had success in producing top baseball talent. Brandon Nimmo could change that.

He made his professional debut last year, appearing in ten games between the GCL and Appalachian Leagues. In June, Nimmo truly began life as a New York kid, after being assigned to the Class-A short season Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York Penn League.

“It’s a big culture shock,” said Nimmo at MCU Park, home of the Cyclones.

It’s 36 games into the season and the Cyclones have played outstanding baseball. The team has dominated their division and, largely, the entire league, going 21-15.

For his part Nimmo, 19, has hit .228 with 20 RBI, 2 home runs and 26 walks. Four weeks into the season he had a .500 OBP and a .750 SLG.

“It’s been great, I’m enjoying it. It’s all different, but I’m adjusting to it and getting in a routine.”

He mentions Cyclones catcher Kevin Plawecki as someone he’s particularly close to, but is quick to point out that the team is overall a close-knit group.

“I’m the rookie guy, I haven’t played as much as a few of them. But the nice thing is some of them just got drafted. I’ve been in the system for a year, so I can help them out too. We’re all trying to help each other out.”

This is a league filled with players drafted together, many who played with or against one another, but despite familiarity, there’s still been challenges. Playing professionally and in new surroundings took some getting used to.

But from June to July, Nimmo feels he’s gotten into a comfort zone.

“A lot different. Beginning of the season, [I was] nervous. I was still trying to adjust to the speed of the game. Now I’ve settled in a little bit. Adjusted to the new team and the rhythm of the game. I feel like two different players. A lot more confidence.”

His development is being closely followed by Mets fans, much like Zack Wheeler and, despite the injury woes, still, Reese Havens. But whatever his expectations, he exhibits a mix of patience and ambition when asked about the distant future.

“I expect to be here [in 2013]. I think [starting at higher level] is a good goal to put in my head right now, but we’ll see.”

Gotham Baseball Minor League Report: Brooklyn Cyclones P Rainy Lara

(Editor’s Note – Gotham Baseball is pleased to welcome back Jessica Quiroli to our pages, as she’ll be covering — along with award-winning author and longtime Gotham Baseball writer Ed Shakespeare — the Staten Island Yankees and Brooklyn Cyclones for Gotham Baseball this season. – MH)

The Brooklyn Cyclones faced the Wilmington Crosscutters in Game 2 of a three-game series last Thursday, with Rainy Lara on the mound for Brooklyn. The Crosscutters won 5-4.

Here’s a report on Lara’s third start for the team this season:

Strong points: Lara consistently got bats swinging largely due to effective fastball location; First pitch strikes were plenty in this outing; Consistently got guys out with a 3-2 fastball that looked to be mid-nineties; Impressive confidence when he got into trouble. Even with baserunners on first and third, he never appeared frustrated and for the most part continued to attack hitters on the inside part of the plate.

Weaknesses: Lara struggled to get the corners for strikes, when he tried to get around hitters, he paid for it, including the booming three-run homerun he gave up to DH Chris Serritella in the fifth; He was more distracted by the runners on base that time and a conference on the mound was called by manager Rich Donnelly just before the home run that gave the Crosscutters a 4-1 advantage; He allowed a walk to Brian Pointer after missing outside for two pitches to the Crosscutters centerfielder. When he struggled to work off his fastball and pound the strike zone, he hurt himself.

Overall there was little to dislike about the outing, despite one very big mistake. Truthfully, to the trained eye that mistake was inevitable if he was to continue to try to go away from hitters with a less than effective slider. When he did that, hitters either stayed away or made contact. The raw material is there. It was good to see him allow contact and trust his fielders.

Lara was tagged for his first loss of 2012.

The righty is continuing to find his confidence as a starter. In 2011 he was a solid closer for the GCL Mets, going 4-2 with a 1.97 ERA in 16 appearances. Despite a difficult start Thursday night, he’s had a great start to the season entering Thursday’s contest 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA.

Gotham Baseball Minor League Report: SI Yankees’ Saxon Butler

(Editor’s Note – Gotham Baseball is pleased to welcome back Jessica Quiroli to our pages, as she’ll be covering — along with award-winning author and longtime Gotham Baseball writer Ed Shakespeare — the Staten Island Yankees and Brooklyn Cyclones for Gotham Baseball this season. – MH)

(Staten Island, NY) Saxon Butler has just begun his professional baseball career, but his maturity and intensity level has already been noted.

“He’s just fearless,” said Staten Island Yankees manager Justin Pope. “Not being afraid of going out there and sticking with his plan. He’s not playing to the lights, playing it different because it’s New York or the Yankees. It seems like nothing fazes him. He has an at-bat, forgets about it, and goes up next time and it’s a completely different at-bat.”

The infielder was drafted in June in the 33rd round out of Samford University. There he played the majority of games at first base, hitting .355 in 60 games and hit a university record-setting 26 doubles. After being drafted, he was quickly assigned to the New York Penn League SI Yankees, Class-A affiliate of the Yankees. Mostly batting third for the team, he’s hitting .367 in 30 at-bats.

He’s also hit two home runs, something Pope stresses the 6’2, 239 pound twenty-two-year old might be inclined to attempt fairly regularly.

“[He's learning] staying under control. Sometimes he takes some really big swings. He has to trust himself and not try to hit the ball to the city. Could be his size, could be that he’s getting a little anxious. He needs to stay relaxed and short to the ball.”

Butler’s anxiety could be a product of a game that, naturally, moves at a different pace in pro ball.

“It speeds up on you,” Butler said. “Eventually I’ll get the hang of it. You just have to stay in shape.”

The Yankees, they of the big power numbers, know what they’re getting in Butler. Their ability to develop high quality players has often been overlooked. But while they’ve fallen under criticism for sloppiness in the development department, Saxon seems tailor-made for the Yankees.

Mentality matters a lot. But with the Yankees there is a heightened expectation, a required appearance and an overall understanding of the high standard they place on their players. You cannot melt under those hot lights generated by the attention on the team.

“He’s very coachable. He’s still getting there, as is everybody. It’s more teaching him how to become a professional. Teaching him to come in and get your dailly work in and what it takes. What we do here and what we expect with the Yankees,” said Pope.

So far, the former Alabama All-State infielder has been effective, possibly due to his quick adjustment to the pitching, which, he acknowledges is actually not much of one at all.

“Most of the guys in this league came out of college, so basically we’re seeing a lot of the same pitching we’ve seen the last four years.”

He’s picked up on some differences that have more to do with the little white ball.

“There’s really no seams on these balls. You get a lot more backspin on them. Pitchers breaking balls can be better, but you can also hit the ball further. The only thing is adjusting from aluminum to wood. You have to make sure you stay on it. You can’t pull off.”

In Pope, the SI Yanks appear to have found the perfect equalizer and guide through this growth process. He’s clear on how he must approach a player of Butler’s ripe age and experience.

“They’re just young. You have to keep repeating yourself. They say it’s the ‘say it again league’. Sometimes they may be messing around, but it’s because they’re young. They don’t know any better. So I’m not going to be out there ranting and raving and being impatient. I’m just letting them know I’m hear for them. To teach them.”

Defensively Butler is making the bigger adjustment, he explained that, “They have me playing more off the line here than in college. I’m just playing further off. So it’s a longer trip to the bag. You’ve got make sure you get your reads.”

For now it’s baby steps. To the bag and at the plate. That fearlessness ought to help.

Everything is on the internet. These guys get done and right when they get done BP, they go in there and get on the internet. Check out their buddies and seeing who did what. They want to be good. They want to get their confidence.

Gotham Baseball Q&A: Cory Arbison, Trenton Thunder

Reliever Cory Arbiso is entering his fourth season in the Yankees organization, after being drafted by the team in the 22nd round in the 2008 Draft. The twenty-six-year old right-hander pitched for the Double-A Trenton Thunder in 2010 and 2011, logging 166 innings combined. In 2011 he went 5-5 finishing with a 5.23 ERA.

He begins the season with a strong sense of who he is on the Thunder ballclub, as well as learning confidence with a new pitch. he spoke with Gotham Baseball Tuesday during the Thunder’s media day/fan fest.

On working with Thunder pitching coach Tommy Phelps:  I’ve worked with Tommy the last two years and he’s helped me tremendously, especially with mechanics and my skills, as far as getting ahead in counts.
On the new pitch in the arsenal: I added a curve ball just to give myself that fourth pitch. It will really help in the role they’ve had me in [long relief/spot starter]. It’s helped me in changing hitters eye levels.

On whether he was disappointed to be back in Double-A for a second year: It’s not a bad thing being back here and I wasn’t entirely surprised. There’s nothing wrong with working on the same stuff and trying to improve in all areas [at this level].

On being a ‘veteran’: I do feel that way and I don’t mind it. I’ve always liked the leadership role. I want the younger guys to feel free to ask me anything.

Looking ahead to the first half: I’m not a big strikeout guy. It’s all about getting my command and getting quick outs.
On his relationship with former Thunder catcher Austin Romine:  Austin caught me when we were in California, for the first time, when he was sixteen. He said mine was the first fastball he ever caught, which now is not what it was because I am a command guy. He really understood me. We had a good sense of what pitch to call and were usually on the same page. He’s a smart catcher and a good receiver. It’s a big part of the reason I want to get up there to Triple-A; to work with him again.

Spring Training Report: Checking In With Yankees Prospect Corban Joseph

Infielder Corban Joseph was optioned to Triple-A camp this weekend. He spent 2011 with Double-A Trenton hitting .277 in 131 games, leading the team in hits (138) runs batted in (58). With that kind of success it was hard to imagine him returning to Trenton, despite a need to improve defensively.
Here’s what he had to say when he spoke to Gotham Baseball Sunday:

On what he’s working on this spring: “I am really working on a lot of defensive situations/ range plays/ and routine plays, Approach to the baseball- really trying to smooth things out. Hitting wise really just getting back into the swing of things. Trying to be more define with my approach at the plate and really stay focused on the pitch I want to hit. The swing is always a bit slow to come around but I am getting a lot of at bats so hopefully it will Speed up the process.”

The offseason: “I really needed the rest. I played in the Arizona fall league and enjoyed that. Really just recovered from a long season and hit the weights hard. Worked a lot in the cage with my swing focusing on hitting line drives.”

Influential coach at camp: “I had the privilege to work with Kevin Long when I was at big league camp. I think we spoke the same language and he showed me a lot of good drills to work to make me a better player. I enjoyed that time.”

On whether he was concerned where he’d start 2012: “I really don’t worry about those things. I can’t control where I go or where I play, but I can control how I play the game every time I step on the field. So I try and stay focused on that. It’s everyone’s dream who plays, to play in the big leagues. My dream is the same wherever I am. I am going to work hard at both places.”

Staten Island Yankees Announce 2012 Coaching Staff

The Staten Island Yankees announced their 2012 coaching staff on Thursday, naming Justin Pope as the manager for the upcoming season.

Pope made his coaching debut in 2010, serving as pitching coach for the Staten Island Yankees, where he guided a staff that issued the fewest walks in the New York-Penn League (204).

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to manage in such a beautiful ballpark in front of the great fans of Staten Island,” Pope said. “I’m very happy to be back and I look forward to putting a team of very good players on the field.”

Carlos Chantres, who hasn’t been seen in a Staten Island Yankees uniform since 2006, returns to the Island as pitching coach in 2012. In the summer of ’06, Chantres’ staff led the Baby Bombers to a league best 45 wins, and the fourth New York-Penn League Championship in team history.

Ty Hawkins returns for his seventh consecutive season as the hitting coach in Staten Island. Hawkins has led the Staten Island Yankees to the second best batting average in the NYPL in four of the last five seasons, and a NYPL-most 52HR in 2009. He guided the 2006 Staten Island offense to a league-best .267 average and 365R en route to the club’s second consecutive New York-Penn League Championship.

Also joining the staff will be coach Danilo Valiente, who returns for his second consecutive season with the Baby Bombers. Last season, he helped lead Staten Island to their sixth NYPL Championship.