TRENTON -After taking two of three contests from the Western Division leading Akron RubberDucks earlier in the week, all of which were decided by one run, the Thunder defeated the Bowie Baysox on Thursday night by a score of 11-5 in the opener of their four-game slate at ARM & HAMMER Park. The victory put Trenton at 25-14 overall, the best overall record in the Eastern League, and gives them a one game lead in the Eastern Division over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Right-hander Erik Swanson has started his 2018 campaign like the player that you create in a video game that has un-hittable attributes across the board. Swanson continued his run of dominance on Tuesday night with six shutout innings against Akron to run his scoreless innings streak to 23 frames. The 24-year old Swanson has been the best pitcher in the Eastern League in 2018, sporting a 5-0 record with a microscopic 0.44 ERA after six starts. In his first taste of the upper levels, Swanson has fanned a league-high 52 batters while allowing just 21 hits and 12 walks over 40 2/3 innings of work.
Greg Bird and Billy McKinney will continue their major league rehabilitation assignments with the Thunder through Saturday before the Yankees expect to make a decision on the next step for both players. In three games for Trenton, Greg Bird has gone 0-for-9 but has drawn three walks and come around to score all three times. Overall, the Yankees first baseman has gone 2-for-17 with six walks and four strikeouts in six games between Tampa and Trenton. Meanwhile, McKinney has gone 1-for-11 in his return to Trenton and is just 3-for 19 with six walks and six strikeouts in six games.
Right-hander Domingo Acevedo, who has been on the DL since April 13, threw a side session on Monday morning in Trenton before flying down to Tampa later in the day. Acevedo is expected to pitch at the Yankees complex to build himself back up before eventually rejoining the Thunder in the coming weeks.
Since being sent down to Trenton on April 29 despite being one of the key offensive producers for Triple-A Scranton, 23-year old Shortstop Abiatal Avelino has proved to be a difference maker for the Thunder. Avelino extended his hitting-streak to 11 games and on-base streak to 16 games after a first inning RBI double on Thursday night against Bowie. The shortstop went on to go 4-for-5 with five RBI on the night, including a long three-run homer to dead center field. In 16 games for Trenton, Avelino has slashed .410/.463/.590 with three homers and 11 RBI to go along with nine stolen bases.
The Thunder activated Jeff Hendrix from the DL last weekend after he stayed behind in spring training due to injury. The 24-year old outfielder has shown some signs of rust having gone just 1-for-15 with six strikeouts in his first five games. The 2015 fourth-round draft selection has provided fantastic defense and should prove to be a key cog in the Thunder offense once his bat rounds into form.
Ryan Bollinger spent the majority of the last four seasons pitching in independent ball and foreign leagues all across the globe. The Yankees inked the 27-year southpaw to a deal over the winter and he has pitched incredibly well for Trenton in his return to affiliated baseball. In three starts for the Thunder, Bollinger is undefeated (3-0) and he has yielded just two earned runs (0.90 ERA) in 20 innings of work. The well-traveled lefty is not overpowering, but he possesses impeccable control and understands the dynamics of attacking hitters well. Eastern League opposition is hitting just .153 against him. Bollinger opened the season in the Triple-A Scranton rotation where he went 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA in just two April starts.
Pay close attention moving forward to lefty reliever Caleb Frare. The 24-year old hurler has had a dominant campaign for Trenton thus far due large in part to his improved command. In 17 innings of work thus far out of the bullpen, Frare has allowed just one earned run on 12 hits over 17 innings while striking out 22. The most important stat for Frare has always been walks, and he has issued just four of them this season after walking 52 batters in 62 innings last season. With an upper 90’s fastball and a solid secondary repertoire from the left side, Frare has a chance to make some noise this summer.