LYERLY MAKING A STRONG IMPRESSION AFTER MOVE NORTH

TRENTON – Infielder Robert Lyerly quickly noticed one major difference between the Class-A Advanced Florida State League and the Class-AA Eastern League when he joined the Thunder June 21.

“In the Florida State League, I got used to 105 degrees,’’ said Lyerly, a native of Indian Trail, N.C., who was the Yankees’ sixth-round pick in the 2009 draft. “Then, when I got to Portland, where Trenton was playing that night, it was 58 degrees at game time.

“I guess that was the first of many adjustments I had to make.’’

The near 50-degree drop in temperature did not affect Lyerly that night – he went 3-for-5 and drive in a pair of runs after earning his promotion from Tampa with a 64-game effort that included a .315 (82-for-260) average, 16 doubles, five triples and four home runs, along with 46 RBIs.

And, playing mostly at first base, he has not stopped hitting, batting a solid .288 (40-for-139) with three homers and 20 RBIs. 

 The 24-year-old Lyerly is just one of several new faces – relievers Josh Romanski (left) and Chase Whitley (right) and outfielder Deangelo Mack – who have joined the Thunder (56-48) over the last few weeks and feel quite comfortable in their first exposure to the Double-A level.

“The way it is this year is there are a lot of opportunities for these players and, to their credit, they are taking advantage of them,’’ said Thunder manager Tony Franklin. “This is our job – development.’’

No doubt this is due to these young players’ focus, but also do to the fact that the 2011 Thunder clubhouse seems to be one of both determination and fun.

“What was nice for me was how welcoming the guys were when I came here,’’ said Lyerly. “It’s easy to see why we are winning with that attitude. I just hope that I can make sure we keep winning.

“You come here and you start forgetting everything about Tampa pretty quickly. I’m with a team battling for a division championship. The Thunder, who welcome the Richmond Flying Squirrels to Waterfront Park for a four-game series beginning tonight, are a game behind the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the Eastern League East and a strong 34-16 at home.

 Lyerly has fit right in.

“I can see the adjustments I have to make here,’’ he said. “The pitchers are more accurate with all their throws and you will get a breaking ball when you are not expecting it. There are a lot of guys in this clubhouse and others, who are a phone call away from the majors.

 “There are some players I’m familiar with, and they have gotten better. I just hope I’m getting better with them. ”

After a strong career at UNC-Charlotte, Lyerly earned All-Star recognition at Class-A Charleston in 201o. He was named to the South Atlantic Postseason All-Star Team after batting .312 (157-for-503) with seven homers and 71 RBIs.

Less than a year later, he is settling in at Double-A. “In this league, there are some players with major-league experience,’’ he said. “You notice how guys like that do things, and you see what you will need to do. I’m really thankful for this chance, and I’m trying to make the most of it.’’

Adept at both first and third base, he gives Franklin more of the versatility that is spread through his 2011 roster.

“Position is not important,’’ Lyerly said. “Getting the chance to play is.’’

Focused and confident, Lyerly is, as Franklin said, one of those players who is making the most of his chance.

BaseLines appears weekly on http://www.trentonthunder.com. Comments are welcomed and suggested below, or at jed.weisberger3@gmail.com. Follow on Twitter @jedleyq

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