Tomorrow the Staten Island Yankees will open up their 19th season on Staten Island and taking the ball for the Baby Bombers will be hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Jorge Guzman.
Guzman, 21, came to the Yankees along with Albert Abreu from the Houston Astros in the Brian McCann trade. The Dominican Republic native is focused “When I am on the mound, I focus on pitching,” he said through coach Teuris Olivares, “I don’t worry about anyone else. I look at it just like if I were playing in my country, in my neighborhood.”
This is his first taste of regular season action with the Yankees, after spending the first two seasons of his career with the Astros. “It’s different, it is a new organization. I want to learn the Yankees way and try to do everything they ask of me.”
Guzman is anxious for the start. “I cannot wait to get out there and pitch,” he said, “That is where I like to be, on the mound pitching.”
He is not focusing on the size of the ballpark, playing with the New York skyline behind him, he is just focusing on the game. “I want to put everything out of my mind and just focus on opening day, and be ready for that first day.”
There is a lot to like about Guzman, he and dial it up to triple digits on the radar gun and during spring training was sitting in the high-90s with his fastball. Scouts raved about his arm and his ability, he has the potential to develop into a front of the rotation starter in the future.
As for the rest of the rotation, right-hander Drew Finley will get the ball for the Yankees on Tuesday in Brooklyn. Finley started Staten Island’s home opener last season and was a part of Baby Bombers history, throwing the second no-hitter in team history. His 2016 season ended early when he experienced a strain in the flexor tendon in his throwing arm. But Finley is now healthy and ready to prove it on the mound.
Juan De Paula will fall into the number three spot in the Staten Island rotation. De Paula, 19, came to the Yankees that saw former Baby Bomber Ben Gamel to the Seattle Mariners. In two seasons with the Mariners organization, he was 6-6 with a 2.58 ERA and 121 strikeouts over 118 2/3 innings in 25 games, 21 starts. He owns a fastball that sits in the 92-95 MPH range and an above-average curveball along with a developing changeup.
Alexander Vargas is right behind De Paula as the Baby Bombers number four starter. Vargas, 19, was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in 2014. He made his professional debut that season with the DSL Yankees where he struck out 13 batters over 13 innings in five starts. In 2015 Vargas was 2-4 with a 4.97 ERA in 10 games, nine starts, and struck out 31 batters over 41 2/3 innings. Last season he did not pitch due to injury.
Rounding out the Staten Island Yankees rotation will be Daniel Alvarez and Johnny Brito. Like many of their fellow Yankees affiliates, Staten Island is going with a six-man rotation to start their season.
Alvarez was originally signed by the Yankees as an international free agent on March 14, 2014, the 20-year old pitcher went 6-1 with a 1.60 ERA over 12 games, 10 starts between the Gulf Coast League Yankees and Pulaski Yankees. He owns a career 13-4 record over 41 games with a 2.48 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 152 1/3 innings. Alvarez will turn 21 on June 28 when the Staten Island Yankees face the Vermont Expos in Vermont.
Jhony Brito, 19, was signed by the Yankees as an international free agent in 2015 out of the Franklin Ferreras Baseball Academy in the Dominican Republic. He made his professional debut in 2016 with the Dominican Summer League Yankees where he went 0-3 with a 6.81 ERA over nine starts and struck out 34 batters over 35 2/3 innings. He then pitched for the Gulf Coast League Yankees where he went 1-3 over four starts, striking out 14 over 55 innings.
Both Alvarez and Brito were not with the Yankees at media day as they remained in Tampa to continue their pitching programs. They will be joining the team shortly.