Saturday, August 14, 2010

Down On The Farm; Yankees Past, Present, and Future

I didn't post anything on the old bloggerooni yesterday because I was in Trenton to see the Trenton Thunder beat the Harrisburg Senators 4-1 in an Eastern League game. I have a partial season ticket plan and have been going to games since the franchise began play in 1994 as a Detroit Tiger affiliate. The Thunder have since been affiliated with the Boston Red Sox, and most recently they've been the Double A team of the New York Yankees.

The Thunder have produced scores of future major leaguers over the years, among them such notables as Tony Clark, Nomar Garciaparra, Trot Nixon, Kevin Youkilis, Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson. I can say I saw these guys on their way up, and yesterday I got a chance to see a couple of potential stars in catcher Austin Romine (who might make Jesus Montero trade bait, a single and an RBI last night) and outfielder Dan Brewer (last night a double, a home run, three RBI and two runs scored).

In the past I've seen Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter in rehab games in Trenton, and last night it was pitcher Alfredo Aceves on display in a two inning rehab appearance. Last year Aceves went 10-1 with the Yankees with one save and a 3.54 ERA in 84 innings with one start. He had been battling a bulging disc in his back and has been disabled since May 9. Aceves was had a 3-0 record with a fine 3.00 ERA before the injury. Last night he started the game and pitched his scheduled two innings, retiring all six batters he faced, with one strikeout, on a total of 26 pitches. The good news for the Yankees is that his rehab start went very well. The bad news is that injured starter Andy Pettitte experienced discomfort in a simulated game in Tampa. He was scheduled for rehab starts for Trenton in the the coming weeks, but that may have to be shelved.

And there was an added treat for Yankee fans last night. In the eighth inning and with Harrisburg down by three runs, there was a call to the Senator's bullpen....and out came the former Yankee fan favorite Orlando Hernandez, aka El Duque. Duque had been out of organized baseball since 2007 when he was with the Mets, and was 41 years of age. On July 2 he signed a free agent contract with the Washington Nationals, the Senators parent club, so his page saying that Duque is retired is....well, not so.

Now 44 years of age (reportedly), the Cuban born righthander wears that number today (he'll be 45 on October 11). His best year was with the 1999 World Champion Yankees, when he went 17-9 with 157 strikeouts and a 4.12 ERA. My favorite El Duque moment....the game when he fielded a ball hit back to mound and had the ball stick to the webbing of his glove. So Duque threw his entire glove to first baseman Tino Martinez for the out! A perfectly legal play...and I never knew that you could do that.

For the record....Duque was by far the oldest player I'd ever seen play in a Trenton Thunder game. I've seen teenagers like Montero and Melky Cabrera at Waterfront Park, and it was interesting to see the other extreme. And before I forget....Duque pitched a scoreless 8th with a fly out the right, a strikeout, a single given up, and a ground out to second. As for his memorable leg kick that almost brought his knee to his chin (pictured).....well, it's about half of that these days. No....make that about a third

One last note to all of you Baby Boomers....throwing out the first pitch last night was Gene Cornish, once the guitarist with the Young Rascals. He's not so young anymore, but still threw a decent pitch in the vicinity of the plate.

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