TRENTON – The first time this reporter ran into Thunder lefty Josh Romanski was during one of Class-A Charleston’s visits to Lakewood during the 2010 South Atlantic League season.
Romanski, 24, who was signed by the Yankees April 14, 2010 – he was originally a fourth-round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 – had some definite goals in mind.
“I feel good and I’m throwing good,’’ said Romanski then. “I want to get to Double-A next season. That’s my goal.’’
Romanski was pitching well for the RiverDogs at that juncture, in fact an 8-4, 3.15 mark in 15 starts – with a strikeout/walk ratio of 73-17 – earned him a promotion to Class-A Advanced Tampa near the close of the season.
After putting together an 0-0, 0.87 mark in seven appearances – of which one was just a start – the Corona, Calif., native compiled a 6-5, 2.99 effort in 13 starts and earned a promotion to the Thunder June 28.
“I can recall last year, and what my goal was,’’ said Romanski. “I’m glad I’m here (with the Thunder). This is where I want to finish the season.
“I have to make sure that’s the case.’’
Romanski was something of a mystery. After pitching behind Baltimore’s Brian Matusz at the University of San Diego for three years, Milwaukee took him in the fourth round three years ago and gave him a $247,000 bonus.
He then needed Tommy John surgery, and was released. The Yankees were more than glad to give this talented southpaw a shot.
“The Yankees gave me a second chance, and I’m determined to make the most of it,’’ Romanski said.
With the Thunder, in seven appearances through the just-completed homestand, Romanski, has allowed just a single run in 10.1 innings. His longest stint was a three-inning effort at Reading July 11, in which he allowed just a single hit in a scoreless effort. He is 0-0, 0.87 with Trenton.
Thunder manager Tony Franklin is glad to have another lefty in the bullpen, one who could also start in an emergency.
“With all the guys we have lost, through injuries and call-ups, it’s been nice to have Josh around,’’ said Franklin, whose 52-45 club heads out on a road trip to Bowie and Akron that could prove challenging.
“We’ll take the help from wherever we can get it. We’re getting some from Josh.’’
Romanski is not the hardest thrower, but he commands his three-pitch arsenal quite well. His fastball sits in the upper-80s – it does hit 90-91 here and there – but the key to his success is a sharp curve and an excellent changeup.
So far with the Thunder, he’s been effective in relief.
“The key is my command,’’ Romanski agreed. “I’m not the hardest thrower around, but I can mix my pitches and hit my spots. There are plenty of good hitters in the Eastern League and I have to stay a step ahead of them.
“Certainly I enjoy starting, but if relief and coming out of the bullpen is where they need me, that’s certainly fine as well.’’
In addition to bullpen work, Franklin could also use Romanski as an emergency pinch-hitter. He played a solid center field in college and can put the bat on the ball. Scouts feel, however, he has much more upside as a control pitcher.
To many players, the South Atlantic League, the lowest-level full-season circuit in Minor League Baseball, is a long way from Double-A. Romanski, however, set a goal for himself and achieved it.
Is his future as a starter or reliever? That remains to be seen. Roles could fall either way.
And, in that emergency, the Thunder could put a bat in his hand.
MARUSZAK BACK WITH THUNDER: The always upbeat Addison Maruszak is back in the Thunder clubhouse after his second stint with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“It was fun up there,’’ said Maruszak, who started three games. “I got to go to some interesting places, like the stadium in Pawtucket. It never hurts to get a taste of the level above where you are playing.’’
The fact Maruszak can play every position but pitcher makes him a perfect candidate for a fill-in role.
Lately, Maruszak has been hitting well in the clutch, batting .355 (11-for-31) with a pair of homers in his last 10 Thunder games. He had a trio of multi-hit games this past week, and with infielder Brad Suttle going on the disabled list, could see additional action at third base.
“I’m feeling good and my game seems to be coming around,’’ said Maruszak, who is batting .241 (52-for-216) with five homers and 26 RBIs in 68 games with the Thunder. His OPS is a fairly strong .711, showing his ability to come through with key hits.
“We’ve got a lot of good players,’’ he said. “I just want to contribute where I can.’’
FROM MAINE TO OHIO AND VIRGINIA: The Thunder open a four-game series with Bowie (52-43) tonight in Maryland. By some quirk in the Eastern League schedule, the two teams didn’t meet until both were nearly 100 games into the schedule. The Baysox make their one visit to Waterfront Park Aug. 18-21 … Many fans have asked when the Thunder play Harrisburg, now that uber-prospect Bryce Harper is with the talented (56-40) Senators. Unfortunately, Harrisburg has already made two visits to Waterfront Park, and the only Thunder-Senators meetings left are Aug. 12-14 in Harrisburg … The Thunder travel to Akron for a trio of games after the Bowie series, but the Aeros will not have Tim Fedroff, who was leading the Eastern League in hitting at .338 before earning a promotion to Triple-A Columbus July 8 … The Thunder return home Thursday, July 28, opening a four-game series with the Richmond Flying Squirrels.