Then again, a lot of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pitchers have been making the most of their chances.
If the names are getting familiar around here, that’s a good thing. The Yankees Triple-A pitching staff drew a lot of attention coming out of spring training, and so far that staff has the second-lowest ERA in the International League. Four of the five starters have an ERA below 4.00, and there are quite literally more quality relievers than spots in the bullpen. Josh Schmidt and his 11 strikeouts in 7.2 innings have been shipped to Trenton.
The rotation has shown some inconsistency, but I think that’s to be expected in the first month, especially with pitchers this young and relatively inexperienced. Some of Andrew Brackman’s control problems have reemerged — 17 walks and 19 strikeouts through 26 innings — and the real constants have been Mitchell and David Phelps (that’s Phelps in the picture from spring training). Those are probably least touted of the bunch, but they’re legitimate young starters who could be pitching their way into more attention.
It’s the bullpen, though, that’s really stood out. Andy Sisco still hasn’t been charged with a run, Kevin Whelan has finally cut down on his walks and George Kontos is holding right-handers to a .175 batting average. That’s to say nothing of Eric Wordekemper (.208 opponents batting average), Amaury Sanit (24 strikeouts in 16.1 innings) and Ryan Pope (three scoreless innings since being activated).
There are flaws obviously, and I’m not sure any one pitcher completely blows you away, but there’s a lot of talent there and a lot of time for someone — anyone — to try to make himself standout from the pack.
• Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy just keeping hitting down in Charleston. Strictly a guess — Mark Newman was out of the office when I tried to call him this afternoon — but considering they each played at least 75 Low-A games last season, those could be the first big-name Yankee prospects to be promoted this season. Heathcott has been especially impressive with his .327/.409/.545 slash line. He has a lot of strikeouts, but the production is impossible to ignore.
• Greg Golson’s injury and Kevin Russo being designated for assignment opened a Triple-A spot for Dan Brewer to return after a brief demotion to Trenton. He’s stepped into the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre leadoff spot and has four hits and three walks in his first three games back with the team. Brewer reminds me a little bit of a right-handed Colin Curtis: Kind of under the radar, can play all three outfield spots, and he does a lot of things well without doing one thing extremely well.
• Jorge Vazquez’s production has slipped recently, with a .222/.255/.311 slash line in his past 10 games. In that time he’s hit one home run, taken two walks and struck out 15 times. Ahead of Vazquez in the Scranton lineup, Jesus Montero is doing enough to keep his average fairly high, but he still has just one home run. He’s slowed down a little bit lately with just one extra-base hit in his past 10 games.
• I’ve never seen Corban Joseph play, but for whatever reason I’ve always been intrigued by him, and so far he’s hit .303/.375/.444 as Trenton’s everyday second baseman. If Russo is lost on waivers, Joseph could take that role as a guy who plays multiple positions and hits enough to play some sort of role somewhere down the line.
• Weird note from Mike Ashmore in Trenton: Outfielder Damon Sublett has been throwing side sessions. Ashmore says it doesn’t appear to be a serious attempt to convert him to the mound — he’s already a converted infielder — but it certainly seems a little bit unusual.
• A name to keep an eye on: Double-A reliever Tim Norton has 23 strikeouts and six walks through 15.2 innings. Norton was a seventh-round pick in 2006, and he might be a bigger name if not for a series of injuries. When he’s pitched, his numbers have been awfully good.