TRENTON, N.J. – There was a debate over the winter whether 21-year-old right-hander Brady Lail would start the season at Class-A Advanced Tampa or Double-A Trenton.
The native of South Jordan, Utah, drafted in the 18th round in 2012 out of Bingham High School in his hometown, emerged in 2014, compiling an 11-5, 3.62 mark between Low Class-A Charleston and Tampa. He threw 134.1 innings, struck out 116 and walked just 26.
So, the feeling in Spring Training was the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder would likely start at Tampa, but find his way to Trenton at some time. With all the movement involving Joel De La Cruz, who started with the Thunder, went to the Yankees and was outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, there was an opening in the Trenton rotation.
Lail, after his first start with Tampa, a win April 9 over the Lakeland Tigers in which he struck out nine and walked none, was promoted to the Thunder April 13.
“It was really kind of a surprise,” Lail said. “I did work for it (securing a roster spot in Trenton) during Spring Training, and I pitched well, but it was good in ways to start again at Tampa.
“Now I’m representing the New York Yankees in Trenton at the Double-A level. I really feel it is both an accomplishment and an honor. I just want to stay here and continue to get better.”
Lail is an example of the younger, up-and-coming talent that is getting a chance to perform in the upper minors as the system gains strength in those areas. The Yankees are in sight for such a performer, being just 58 miles from the Thunder clubhouse.
“I know that,” Lail said. “For me that is pretty exciting.”
He made his first Double-A start against the Akron RubberDucks on the road in Canal Park April 15. He threw five effective innings, allowing a pair of earned runs, five hits, one walk and recorded four strikeouts. He left the game with a 3-2 lead.
“It just took me awhile to settle down and get into rhythm in that Akron game,” said Lail. “It was getting used to new surroundings, a new catcher, a little bit of all the usual stuff.
“Once I got past the first inning, I felt really good on the mound.”
His second start came in Trenton Monday evening, with 3,676 looking on. He scattered five hits over 5.1 innings, did not walk a batter and struck out two vs, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He did not allow a run and did not figure in the decision in a 10-0 Thunder setback.
“It’s fun pitching in this atmosphere in Trenton with this crowd,” said Lail.
In three 2015 starts, he is 1.1, 1.29 overall in 14 innings and has struck out 15 and walked just one.
“Brady has excellent stuff from what we’ve seen so far,” said Thunder manager Al Pedrique. “He knows how to use his pitches.
“His second start was better than his first. He used all his pitches and kept us in the game. The plan certainly is to keep him in the rotation. He had two excellent outings.”
Lail brings a four- and maybe five-pitch array to the mound, highlighted by a moving fastball that sits at 92-93 mph and can touch 94-95. He also works with a cutter, change and curve that are effective.
“I feel I can throw all four of those for strikes, with confidence,” he said. “Basically what I am trying to do now is throw my fastball for strikes consistently and work the off-speed stuff around it.
“I’ve also been working on a sinker, which I have thrown a few times.”
His spot in the Trenton rotation seemingly cemented, Lail will next start April 25 at Portland.
“I’m real pleased to be at this level and just want it keep working and see where it takes me,” Lail said.
Chances are to Yankee Stadium a few seasons from now.