TRENTON, NJ – Prior to the start of the 2016 season, many observers felt the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees’ Double-A farm team, would struggle a bit out of the gate.
That club, as scouts often say, was “stuck between the talent at Single-A and Triple-A.” Such is certainly not the case for Trenton’s pitching, which is second in the Eastern League with an impressive 2.99 ERA, a league-leading five shutouts and a best-in-the-loop 319 strikeouts.
“We knew in spring training we had a good starting staff,” said first-year Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell, who runs a great clubhouse and is a pleasure to work with. “There are sone terrific arms here.
“You just don’t know what will happen when the season starts, especially for those who have not been at this level.”
Among those who helped get the Thunder, which is 11th in the EL in batting with a .238 average, roll to 21-16 mark with a 2-0 win over Richmond Wednesday morning before 6,407 cheering schoolchildren who were part of an Education Day at Arm&Hammer Park, was left-hander Dietrich Enns, who was formerly a reliever.
He departed for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after posting a 3-2, 1.82 mark in six starts, which included a 23.2-inning scoreless streak to start the campaign.
Enns, who won his Triple-A debut, not allowing a run, did not surprise Mitchell with his work as a starter.
“We switched pitching roles for some of the guys,” said Mitchell. “Some past relievers are working as starters, and some past starters are working as relievers, What we’re looking to do is put the pitchers in our system in the best possible role to succeed in the major leagues.”
Enns, right-hander Brady Lail, who won his second Triple-A start at Louisville Wednesday – and is 2-0, 2.87 with the RailRiders – and fellow righty Eric Ruth, who also won his International League opener, have departed. But the cupboard is hardly bare in the Garden State.
Righty Ronald Herrera and lefty Jordan Montgomery are ninth and 10th, respectively in the Eastern League, with ERAs of 2.11 and 2.19. Both are 4-1 and have been consistent.
Herrera, who came to the Yankees from the San Diego system in exchange for infielder Jose Pirela in the off-season, was 8-7, 4.08 between Class-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio, in 2015, but the native of Maracay, Venezuela, who turned 21 May 3, was the talk of spring training and has made terrific progress.
Not a flamethrower, he can hit his spots with four different pitches.
“The Yankees got a good kid for San Diego for Pirela,” said a scout from a National League East team. “A lot of us are high on him.”
Montgomery, who was 10-8. 2.95 in 25 starts between Class-A stops Charleston and Tampa in 2015, has benefitted from a bit of velocity increase – he has hit 96 with his fastball. He has the size the Yankees like at 6-foot-6, 225.
Then there is righty Cale Coshow, who picked up his first win of the season Wednesday with seven scoreless innings, and lefty Dan Camarena, who looks good coming back from injury with a 1-0, 1.76 mark in five Trenton appearances.
The Thunder will no doubt be receiving offensive reinforcements within the next few weeks, with infielders Billy Fleming, Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar likely making their way to Central Jersey.
As they say, however, starting pitching has proven to be the name of the game in Trenton.