Zehner Learning the Value of Being in the Moment

Zack Zehner (Bryan Green)

“You play the game to win the game and not worry about … [visit site to read more]

Yankees Release Former First Round Pick Slade Heathcott

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Pinstriped Prospects to Host Fan Q&A Event at World Famous Foley’s NYC

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Pinstriped Prospects is pleased to announce that we will be hosting our first ever Q&A fan event at Foley’s NYC  on Monday, June 27 from 7-9 PM. Fans of the New York Yankees and their farm system are invited to come out to the premiere baseball bar in New York City to talk baseball and ask some of the most connected writers in the system about the Baby Bombers on the horizon.

Just a few weeks after the MLB Draft and the trade deadline just weeks after, this gathering will give our faithful readers the opportunity to meet us face-to-face in an intimate setting and find out about what the Yankees have in their plans as the team enters the dog days of summer.

There will be no cover charge and a plethora of various giveaways and Yankees merchandise raffled off at the event. It is sure to be an evening of good fun so grab a friend and head out to Foley’s on June 27 to find out all you need to know about the Yankees of the future!

 

A-Rod Homers, Ready to Return to Yanks

Alex Rodriguez returns to the Thunder dugout after belting a two-run homer in the second inning. (Photo by Martin Griff)

TRENTON, NJ = Rehabbing Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run home run to help lead the Thunder to a 6-4, series clinching, victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Wednesday night at ARM & HAMMER Park.

The Thunder offense grabbed all six of their runs across the first two innings of the game against Casey Lawrence. The Thunder used three straight two-out hits from Tyler Austin, Kyle Higashioka, and Mark Payton to take a 3-0 lead.

In the second, Juan Silva led off the inning with a scorched double down the right field line. After a pair of groundouts, Dustin Fowler drove in Silva with a single and Rodriguez followed with a two-run home run to dead center field to give the Thunder the 6-0 lead.

Dietrich Enns improved to 4-2 with his six-inning effort on Wednesday night. He allowed just two runs, a two-run homer to Dwight Smith Jr. in the fourth, on nine hits and a pair of walks. The left-hander kept his ERA at a tidy 1.99 and added seven strikeouts in the game.

New Hampshire added two in the ninth inning against Caleb Smith, in part due to an error committed by Tyler Wade with two outs. Smith recovered and got Rowdy Tellez to bounce out to Wade to end the game.

Rodriguez finished his rehab assignment 3-for-6 with a home run and three RBI’s. Dustin Fowler added a three-hit game for the Thunder and scored a pair of runs.

The Thunder will go for the sweep tomorrow morning against the Fisher Cats at 10:30am. RHP Eric Ruth will start for the Thunder, RHP Luis Santos will go for New Hampshire. Pre-game coverage begins at 10:10am on 91.3 FM WTSR and online at Trentonthunder.com. Tickets are available by phone at 609-394-3300 or online at TrentonThunder.com.

 

A-Rod Contributes to Thunder, To Play in Trenton Wednesday

Ales Rodriguez runs to first after popping up to second in the first inning Tuesday. (Photo by Martin Griff)

TRENTON, NJ – With New York Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez rehabbing with the Thunder, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, his replacement, Juan Silva, sent 6,217 fans home happy with a 3-2 walk-off win in 11 innings over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats  Tuesday night at ARM & HAMMER Park.

Following the game, Rodriguez confirmed he would be playing in Trenton Wednesday as well. He has been out since May 4 with a hamstring injury. This is his second rehab appearance with Trenton, having done so previously in 2013.

“Tomorrow is another day, another step,” he told reporters. “I’m playing here tomorrow (Wednesday). That is the plan right now.”  The Yankees want him to get some at-bats before he is reactivated, likely later in the week.

Rodriguez popped out in his first at-bat, but stepped to the plate with runners on first and third base in the third inning. The 40-year-old DH lined a single back through the middle to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead.

That 1-0 lead held for the Thunder into the seventh inning when the Fisher Cats broke through with a pair of doubles from Rowdy Tellez and Dwight Smith Jr. tied the game.

The Thunder offense rallied back in the bottom half of that inning and put two on with one out. Rodriguez stepped to the plate for his final at-bat of the night and singled to left, loading the bases. Tyler Austin worked a bases loaded walk after that to take a 2-1 lead for the Thunder.

In the ninth, New Hampshire saw each of its first three men reach base against Tyler Jones. The tying run came across on Smith Jr’s RBI single with nobody out. The Thunder had a chance in the bottom of the ninth when Silva, pinch-hitting for Rodriguez, wasn’t able to bring home the winning run and neither was Austin.

Cito Culver, who scored all three runs for the Thunder in the game, led off the eleventh inning with a single and got to third with two men out. Silva stepped to the plate and lined a 1-0 pitch into right-center for Trenton’s second walk-off win of the season.

LHP Daniel Camarena threw six shutout innings for the Thunder on Tuesday night, however, he took a no-decision thanks to the late-game lead changes. Camarena allowed three hits, two walks and struck out seven.

Another lefty, Dietrich Enns, back from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, will start for the Thunder at 7 p.m. Wednesday. RHP Casey Lawrence will counter on the mound for New Hampshire.

 

A-Rod Set to Rehab in Trenton

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The New York Yankees announced on Tuesday morning that designated hitter Alex Rodriguez will be playing with the Trenton Thunder at ARM & HAMMER Park as part of a rehabilitation assignment. 

It had been widely speculated that Rodriguez was going to be activated for the teams series opener against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night in the Bronx. Instead, the slugger will dawn the pinstripes in Trenton. 

Rodriguez landed on the DL in early May with a strained right hamstring . The 40-year old, 14-time all-star had struggled mightily in the early part of his season; in 20 games he was hitting just .194 with five homers. 

[Interview] Caleb Frare’s Journey Back From Tommy John Surgery To Dominance

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Caleb Frare, now of the Tampa Yankees, has gone through just about everything one could imagine as he tries to climb the ranks in the New York Yankees farm system. Frare missed the 2013 season with Tommy John surgery and the 2014 season after being hit by a car in Tampa. Despite all the set backs, it hasn’t slowed him up since returning at full health. In 2015 he split time between Charleston and Tampa combining for a 2.91 ERA in 55 2/3 innings of work. In Tampa  he specifically gave up six earned runs in his 9 2/3 innings, but this season he’s been shutting down nearly anyone who comes to the plate.

To this point Frare is still sporting an ERA of zero after 18 2/3 innings. He’s given up six hits, struck out 23, and the only knock would be his 10 walks. Of course everyone will give up an earned run at some point, but pitching a collective of two games worth of innings without giving one up is no small accomplishment. I talked to the Montana native about his journey from Tommy John, to his dominance now and how he’s been able to stay positive throughout the process.

What were some thoughts when you found out you needed Tommy John surgery? What were you feeling? Was there anyone who had Tommy John previously to help you prepare for the surgery or during the recovery process?

“Pretty depressed, you know I’m 19 year-old and didn’t quite know what to expect, first year of pro-ball and I never dealt with an injury like that. Danny Burawa (now with the Braves organization) helped me, he talked me through a lot. Other than that not many guys I talked to have had it.”

What was the process in returning from Tommy John? How long was it until you could even start to workout or throw a ball again? Were there any bumps along the way? When did impatience start to put a toll on you?

“First off after surgery it’s four months with no throwing period. Then you go through a three-month throwing progression until you get on the mound and every time during those three months I kept getting shut down, I had extra tightness, nerve pain, I just kept having pain for those three months and continued about six cycles of that. It was tough. There were talks about going back and cutting it open again trying to fix it, but it’s all good now. As far as impatience about Spring Training 2013. You know seeing my buddies that I jsut got drafted with being able to play and I’m sitting there not being able to play.”

Was it harder to come back from the surgery mentally or physically?

“Mentally. When I finally got to play last year in 2015 I’d almost forgotten how to pitch. My first month I pitched terrible, walked everybody, got hit, and Norty (Tim Norton) was the pitching coach there in Charleston. He told me just throw your fastball, they’re not going to hit it. So that really helped me turn it around.”

Up to this season now, what do you think is your strongest asset? What’s something you’re also working on? 

“On the mound I feel like I want it more than the hitter wants it and I’m not going to give up to the hitter no matter who it is. Whoever I face I’m not afraid of them. Command with everything. Finding the changeup, finding the slider, fastball command. They believe I have three quality pitches and just working on command with all three, being able to throw all three in any count to any hitter. Pitching behind, off-speed, pitching ahead with my fastball. Just everything with command.”

I don’t know if you’re aware, but you haven’t allowed an earned run this year. Is it something you think about when you take the mound? Is it something you try to continue to challenge yourself?

“I think it’s every pitcher’s goal to go out on the mound and not give up a run. I’ve just been fortunate and blessed to not be able and give up one. It’s going to come eventually, I’m just going out and focusing on making my pitches.”

What are your goals for the rest of the season? Is Double-A in your mind at all?

“That’s out of my control. I can control how quality my outings are, but I can’t control where I go where I am. I can just control how quality my pitches are and hopefully the Yankees value that.”

Frare has been a nightmare for hitters this season and after the interview I finally understand why. The thing that stuck out to me was his aggression on the mound. This season he’s shown his aggression, but also hasn’t tried to force anything and that speaks volumes. To have a younger guy that can balance those two things out on the mound is exactly what the Yankees want.

For more on Frare I talked to Tim Norton, the Tampa Yankees pitching coach who as stated before was also Frare’s pitching coach in Charleston.

What’s something you’ve seen Frare improve this season? What still needs improvement from your perspective?

“He’s always had that good fastball from the left side, he tends to get on guys pretty well. Think he’s done a great job of developing his off-speed, they’re a little more quality this year and he’s throwing for strikes more consistently. I think that’s what has really put him over the edge this year, how consistent he’s been. Better strike thrower and good fastball. Just fine tuning that delivery a little bit, making it a little more powerful and a little more repeatable. His delivery is strong, but there’s some flaws in there that I think we can touch up a little bit and I think he’s done a great job adjusting to them. I think it’s just being a little more efficient and he’s getting there.”

He stated you were his coach down in Charleston when he was down there himself. Did you see the talent he’s shown now even after everything he’s been through in the past.

“Oh yeah, he’s a guy we drafted because we knew he was a strong lefty. It’s not hard to see the talent there, there’s definitely something we can improve on, but we saw it right away.”

 

 

For Fleming, Promotion is a Homecoming

Thunder second baseman Billy Fleming singles in the second inning Monday night. (Photo by Martin Griff)

TRENTON, NJ – Sitting at his locker in the Trenton Thunder clubhouse prior to Monday night’s game, infielder Billy Fleming had a grin a mile wide.

“I’m happy to be here,” said the 23-year-old Fleming, a graduate of Council Rock High in nearby Bucks County and Churchville, Pa., a stone’s throw from ARM&HAMMER Park. “I get to sleep in my own bed tonight and be around family and friends.

“I used to come to this ballpark on field trips.”

Signed by the Yankees as a free-agent out of West Virginia University in 2014, Fleming, who played in 14 games with the Thunder in 2015, – hitting ,250 (9-for-36) – hoped to start back in Trenton in 2016. His assignment at the end of Spring Training ended up being Class-A Advanced Tampa, so he went with the flow.

“I just took it as it came,” he said “I kept at it. I just tried to refine my approach. Pat (Osborne) is a great manager. It was fun playing there. (Hitting coach) Tom Slater really helped me.”

Fleming was scheduled by Tampa’s second baseman to start the season, but, after Mike Ford was injured, he ended up at first and went on to hit a sizzling .329 (48-for-146) in 38 games with 27 RBIs. The injury to Jose Rosario last week opened a spot in Trenton for him.

Trenton manager Bobby Mitchell is glad to have Fleming on board.  He was 1-for-3 with the game-winning RBI and a run scored in his 2016 Thunder debut, a 7-6 win over New Hampshire.

“He’s a good player,” said Mitchell. “He will primarily be playing second base, although he certainly can be versatile. He played well in Spring Training and has really worked hard on his defense.”

Thunder shortstop Tyler Wade is also glad to have him to his left in the infield.

“I played with Billy some last year both in Tampa and here,” said Wade. “He’s a great teammate and a great addition for us.”

Fleming is most comfortable at second base, the position he played at WVU, but he enjoys being stationed at whatever spot is needed.

“First base and third base are really new to me as compared to second,” he said, “After Mike went down, I ended up at first in Tampa. My main goal for this season, in addition to keep working with my hitting, is to get down as many positions defensively as I can. I’ve been working at it.

“It’s good to be playing with these guys. I have relationships with a lot of them. I think we’re going to have a good year here. I just want to hit, play defense and win some games.”

Fleming has overcome one major hurdle in establishing himself. A free-agent always travels a tougher road than a player who was drafted. But he has certainly proven he is a factor in the Yankees system.

It’s also a time for celebration for Bill and Sue, Billy’s parents. Brother, Ryan, was 5-0, 3.56, as one of Rutgers’ top bullpen artists as a Scarlet Knights junior, while Kyle, his youngest sibling, is establishing himself as a top player at Council Rock South.

“We’re all back together,” said Fleming. “It’s really cool. I have a lot of people cheering for me here in Trenton.”

He’s certainly earned those cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thairo Estrada Heating Up as He Earns Promotion to Tampa

Thairo Estrada earned a promotion to Tampa (Photo by Martin Griff)

Thairo Estrada grew up watching Venezuela produce some top tier talent for Major League Baseball. It should be no surprise Estrada spends much of his time in the field playing shortstop.

“The one I most looked up to was Omar Vizquel because his way of working and going about his business and with the competition around him, he always stood out,” Estrada said.

In his fourth year in the New York Yankees system, Estrada started as part of a talented corps of middle infielders with the Charleston RiverDogs that also includes Hoy Jun Park and Kyle Holder. Estrada has seen some time at third for the first time, as well as his more natural shortstop position and second.

“I feel it’s the same as shortstop or second base, that I still need to work hard, whether ground balls and stay low, it’s pretty much the same concept,” explained Estrada about switching to third.

With all the competition around, and in the Yankees system in general, Estrada is just trying to work hard to keep improving his game. “The competition helps me a lot becuase it motivates me to work harder and harder everyday. The movement, wherever I move, it doesn’t matter whether it’s second, short or third, I just work hard everyday to keep moving up in the organization.”

Recently, Estrada’s bat has heated up, including a recent game against the Lexington Legends where he went 3-for-4 with two home runs and scoring all three times he reached base. The next night, Estraa ripped another home run against the Legends to raise his season total to five. He’s raised his batting average to .285, while driving in 18 runs.

Despite the recent home run power, Estrada doesn’t swing for the fences. “I’m always thinking about center or right field, and trying to stay closed. One of the things that helps in this field (Joe Riley Park in Charleston) is that the ball doesn’t run that much.”

Estrada believes that a more patient approach will serve him well at the plate. “Pretty much a better pitch selection, just working more toward that. I know that if I can better that, I’ll have a successful career,” Estrada said. So far for Estrada, that part of his game is still a work in progress as he’s only walked eight times in his first 123 at-bats this season.

To keep up with the grind of his first full season, Estrada is staying loose and eating right. “I just work on my routine everyday and stretch everyday, which is the first thing. With good nutrition and all that, I can be in 100% shape for the 140 game stretch up ahead,” Estrada said.

As for what he’s looking to accomplish this season, Estrada is keeping his focus on his work ethic, “ Just work hard everyday, 100%. I know that will lead me to being successful and helping the team win everyday, that’s what I really want to do.”

He’s definitely done that so far and has been a key reason why the RiverDogs have stormed out to a 25-14 record, which is good for first place in the South Atlantic League’s South, with a healthy five and a half game lead over second place Columbia.  His success earned him a promotion earlier today to the Florida State League where he will join Jorge Mateo and Abitial Avelino.

Billy Fleming Promoted to Trenton

Billy Fleming has been impressive so far as a professional. (Bryan Green)

After tearing up the Florida State League over the first six weeks of the season, the Tampa Yankees announced on Monday morning that Billy Fleming has been promoted to Trenton.

The 23-year old Fleming was third in the FSL in hitting with a .329 batting average in 36 games for Tampa. The promotion is a homecoming of sorts for Fleming, who hails from Churchville, PA – which is roughly 30 minutes from ARM & HAMMER Park.

Fleming has driven in 27 runs and hit 16 extra base hits (3 HR, 13 2B) and should provide Trenton with auch needed offensive jolt. The Thinder roster was at 24 players prior to the promotion so a corresponding move may not be necessary.