TRENTON, NJ – Brady Lail, dressed in cold-weather attire on a gusty, 40-degree afternoon at ARM & HAMMER Park, walked into the Trenton Thunder Media Day interview area with a smile on his face Tuesday.
“Hey, guys,” said Lail, who is scheduled to start the 2016 Thunder’s scheduled 2016 opener at 7:05 p.m. Thursday. “It’s good to see you. Glad to be back here to start another season in a place I enjoy pitching.
“Getting the ball opening day is something I was working to. I am excited about helping the team get off to a good start.”
That may have come as something of a surprise to some observers, since Lail, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound native of South Jordan, Utah, finished 2015 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he was 3-2, 4.62 in seven starts after a 6-4, 2.45 effort in Trenton in 20 appearances (19 starts).
Overall, Lail was 10-6, 2.91, threw 148.1 innings and had a strikeout/walk ratio of 85-43. The right-hander is still just 22, not turning 23 until next Aug. 9.
He is not a flame-thrower, though he has proven he has the stuff to keep both Double-A and Triple-A hitters off-balance, with a 92 mph fastball mixed with an excellent changeup, solid cutter and developing curve.
“What level I am at doesn’t matter,” Lail said. “What does is performing and getting batters out. That’s all I was looking for in Spring Training. It’s all about executing pitches.”
Lail was as dependable as any starter the Thunder, under manager Al Pedrique, had in 2015, Now, with Bobby Mitchell at the helm, he will head the Trenton staff to start the season.
“I love all our starters,” said Mitchell. “Starting with Lail, they all throw strikes. They all have big arms, go after hitters. I have been talking to Rosie (pitching coach Jose Rosado) and getting to know them. They are all learning.”
Lail and fellow right-hander Cale Coshow, who spent the last month in Trenton, will be able to give a pair of newcomer southpaws – Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Emms – a primer on what the Double-A Eastern League is all about. For pitchers, it is a huge jump from Class-A Advanced Tampa.
“You just can’t make any mistakes in this league,” said Lail. “The guys who have pitched here know that, and the guys just coming here will learn that. I think we have a great mix.
“I loved pitching here last year. I just want to have another good year and keep it going.”
Lail, who was taken by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2012 draft, and signed for a $225,000 bonus with a $135,000 stipend for college tuition that swayed hm away from a commitment to the University of Arizona, is fine-tuning his game in areas that will serve him well from Double-A to the majors.
“I’m really learning who to read swings and challenge hitters more,” he said. “It’s all part of maturing and becoming a better pitcher.”
He also is excited about having two solid catchers with Double-A experience – veteran Sebastian Valle and Kyle Higashioka, with a taste – to throw to.
“That relationship is so important,” Lail said. “I threw to both in Spring Training and are real comfortable with both.”
How long Lail will stay at the top of the Trenton rotation depends on several factors. As usual, there could be a lot of movement among pitchers in the upper levels of the Yankees system.
Right now, he just wants to continue the progress he made last season.