“It seems like the Yankees don’t shy away from pitchers who might need Tommy John surgery,’’ wrote the fan. “Why do they do that, and how are these pitchers able to come back better than ever?’’
Both Brackman and Betances have had Tommy John, and both progressed in a big way in 2010, with Brackman going 10-11, 3.90 between Class-A Advanced Tampa and the Thunder and Betances 8-1, 2.12 between the same two teams.
In addition, lefty Manny Banuelos bounced back from an appendectomy to make a trio of starts for the Thunder and record a playoff win.
The key to what those pitchers accomplished might be their work in Tampa supervised by Minor League Rehabilitation Coordinator and former Thunder pitcher Danny Borrell, who had Tommy John himself during his career, which ended in 2006.
So the answers to the fan’s question is the Yankees are willing to take a risk on pitchers with talent who may need Tommy John, and, under Borrell and others, they do an excellent job getting these young arms back on the mound.
Betances, Banuelos and, quite possibly, Brackman are slotted to start 2011 with the Thunder. Chances are, however, the talented trio will not stay at the Double-A level all season. The good news for Thunder fans is the next wave of pitching prospects is almost ready for Double-A.
And, believe it or not, two of these prospects – right-hander Brett Marshall and left-hander Josh Romanski, slated to start at Tampa, have also recovered from Tommy John to throw as well as they ever have.
Marshall, who doesn’t turn 21 until March 22, put together a 4-2, 2.57 mark between Charleston and Tampa last season after blowing out his pitching elbow and needing Tommy John at the in 2009. Scouts are quite impressed with what they saw at the two Class-A stops, in which the Sterling, Texas, native recorded a strikeout/walk ratio of 70-26.
The 6-foot, 195-pounder’s four-seam fastball has registered 97 mph, while his two-seamer reached 94. He is also working on improving his off-speed offerings – a curve and a changeup – to complement his other pitches.
“Marshall is throwing better than he did before the surgery,’’ said a scout from another American League team. “Given how young he is, the Yankees may really have something with him.’’
As a result of his regained velocity, Marshall is becoming a breakout candidate on many prospect lists and his accomplishments almost landed him a spot on Baseball America’s Yankees Top 10. Marshall was the Yankees’ sixth-round pick in 2008.
Romanski , who was the No. 2 starter behind Baltimore’s Brian Matusz at the University of San Diego, was Milwaukee’s fourth-round selection in 2008. He missed the 2009 season after having Tommy John, then was released by the Brewers.
The Yankees took a chance on the 24-year-old, who featured a 93-94 mph fastball at Charleston and Tampa in 2010 and recorded an 8-5, 3.32 mark with a strikeout/walk ratio of 85-21 at the two stops.
“I feel great, and I’m throwing the ball where I want to,’’ said Romanski. “I appreciate the chance the Yankees have given me and I’m trying to show them what I can do,
“We’ll see what happens, but I’d love to get a shot at Trenton in 2011.’’
Other pitchers Thunder fans could see in 2011:
- Right-hander Graham Stoneburner – Was 9-8, 2.41 on 26 starts for Charleston and Tampa. Dominated in South Atlantic League with a sinking two-seam fastball that registered 96 mph. Had 137-34 strikeout/walk ratio. Slider improved in a big way last season. Has excellent command
- Left-hander Shaeffer Hall – Was 11-7, 2.89 between Charleston and Tampa. Armed with a solid curve and an excellent changeup that complements his fastball, Hall had a strikeout/walk ratio of 103-21. Has the mix to succeed in the Eastern League.
- Right-hander Craig Heyer – Former reliever who switched to starting at Tampa in 2010, he put together an 8-4, 3.52 mark with strikeout/walk ratio of 66-6 in 92 innings. Could be taken in this week’s Rule 5 draft, but is not expected to stick on a big-league roster.
- Right-hander Chase Whitley – Had outstanding season as Staten Island’s closer, notching a 4-2, 1.31 mark with 15 saves. Made three appearances with Tampa. Enjoys closing. A rising bullpen prospect.
WINTER LEAGUE REPORT: BaseLines Winter League “Player of the Week’’ is former Thunder shortstop Eduardo Nunez, who debuted for Este in the Venezuelan Leagued by hitting .400 (6-for-15) in four games.
Other players with Thunder connections include:
- Outfielder Justin Christian is dominating the Mexican Pacific League at Mochis, hitting .380 (70-for-184) with 24 RBIs in 47 games. His 2011 destination should emerge in the next few weeks.
- Catcher Jose Gil, re-signed by the Yankees last week and the Thunder’s likely 2011 starter at his position, is hitting .257 (18-for-70) with Caribes of the Venezuelan League.
- Outfielder Edwar Gonzalez is hitting .313 (10-for-32) with Lara of the Venezuelan League.
- Infielder Walter Ibarra, a likely Thunder performer in 2011, is hitting .295 (33-for-112) on 39 games with Hermosillo of the Mexican Pacific League.
- Infielder Luis Nunez is batting .231 (3-for-13) with Zulia of the Venezuelan League.
- Infielder Jose Pirela, a 2011 Thunder hopeful who struggled in the Arizona Fall League, is batting .324 (12-for-37) with Zulia.
- Lefty reliever Wilkins Arias is 2-0, 1.42 in 14 appearances with Aguilas of the Dominican League.
- Lefty Andrew Sisco, recently signed by the Yankees, is 3-5, 4,53 as a starter with Mexicali of the Mexican Pacific League.
- Righty Josh Schmidt recorded a 3-2, 2.13 mark for Zulia.
- Righty reliever Eric Wordekemper is 0-0, 6.05 in 21 appearances with Culiacan of the Mexican Pacific League.
FROM MAINE TO OHIO AND VIRGINIA: BaseLines will have a Rule 5 Draft update. The selections are scheduled for Dec. 9, the last day of Baseball’s Winter Meetings … Former Thunder and Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland has been hired by the Tampa Bay Rays in an off-field role … Construction continues on the renovation of Reading’s First Energy Stadium, featuring many fan improvements involving baseball and entertainment … Negotiations are under way to extend the Player Development Contract (PDC) that binds the minors and majors through the 2020 season.
BaseLines appears weekly and with breaking news when it transpires. Comments and suggestions are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @jedleyq