TRENTON – After opening the season by dropping two of the first three games to Erie, Trenton rebounded to take two of three from Akron to return home on Friday night with a 3-3 record. Heavy rains dampened the home opener with Portland after just two innings and forced a postponement until this afternoon.
“This league is unique in the way that it is cold here to start the year,” said Manager Pat Osborn. “Sometimes you can get false impressions and you can’t look to deep into what you see because things are going to change when the weather heats up.”
The shakeup to the schedule has altered the Thunder pitching rotation moving forward.
Osborn said on Saturday that Albert Abreu will begin the postponed contest on Saturday that will resume in the bottom of the third inning after Brody Koerner tossed two shutout frames as the starter on Friday. Abreu will then be followed by Garrett Whitlock, who will start the abbreviated seven inning contest following the completion of game one.
Nick Nelson will now toe the rubber for the series finale with Portland on Sunday afternoon. Osborn said that Rule 5 returnee Nick Green will slot into the rotation to start the series opener on Monday against Akron after being stretched out in the bullpen to open the season. The addition of Green to the rotation means that the Thunder will be rolling out a six-man rotation for the time being.
Crawford off to a hot start:
Rashad Crawford was a highly thought of piece when the Yankees acquired him from the Cubs as part of the Gleyber Torres package back in the summer of 2016. After struggling over a majority of the last two seasons, Crawford is off to a scorching start for the Thunder. In his six games of action thus far, the 25-year old outfielder is slashing .364/.391/.846 with three RBI and two stolen bases.
“I’m very comfortable right now,” Crawford admitted. “It is probably the best that I have felt in a minute to start a season. Take it back to spring training and the offseason, I have really worked hard on just continuing to develop in hopes of picking up where I finished last season.”
“Last year was tough for Rashad,” said Osborn. “We took him out of competition and brought him down to Tampa to work on some things with his swing and he got back into games later in the year and anytime that you do that, it’s tough to produce and have success. I noticed in spring training his aggressiveness and the way that he is impacting the ball. He is ready to go as soon as he steps into the box and he has hit a lot of balls on the button. I am happy for Rashad because this is a big strong athlete that we have always thought had more in there and it is starting to show up.”
Despite all of the struggles on the field, Crawford admits that he had to remain mentally tough to bounce back.
“It was tough, especially when you are not used to struggling,” Crawford said. “Just coming up I had never failed that way that I did. To fail and come back and just keep fighting adversity shows that I am strong-minded. It definitely takes a toll on you, but you just have to keep on grinding.”
Jose Mesa Jr. close to return:
Thunder reliever Jose Mesa Jr. was placed on the seven-day IL on Tuesday with a cracked finger nail on his throwing hand that he had suffered in his lone outing of the season back on April 7 at Erie. Mesa says that his nail is almost healthy and he has resumed throwing and should be ready to return soon.
“I should be back in a few days,” Mesa said on Saturday. After undergoing elbow surgery last season, Mesa feels fully healthy and is ready for a big season in 2019. We will have a full-length feature story on Mesa next week right here on Pinstriped Prospects.
Acevedo getting used to new routine in the bullpen:
After learning that he was being permanently moved to the bullpen less than two weeks before spring training had come to a close, right-hander Domingo Acevedo is still getting used to the routine of pitching in relief as opposed to starting every five days. The Yankees have Acevedo on a schedule that will push him into multi-inning stints during each of his appearances. Up to this point, Acevedo has showcased a sharper slider and velocity appears to be ticking up in the right direction.
In two appearances thus far, the 25-year old Acevedo has tossed four perfect innings with six strikeouts.
“Every day and every week I am going to feel a little bit more comfortable,” said Acevedo. “The routine is very much different. I think that it is much easier going from a reliever to starter than it is to go from a starter to a reliever because as a starter you know your routine and when you’re going to pitch. In the bullpen you don’t know. In the bullpen you have to get your arm hot, but regular routine for me as a starter is after three innings my arm is usually at one hundred percent. So now I am getting loose much faster and I am getting comfortable with it.”
Ruta, Ruta, Ruta!!!:
After beginning last season in Trenton unexpectedly, local product Ben Ruta has continued his hot hitting in 2019 by opening with .364/.462/.591 slash line to go along with four extra base hits (3 2B, 1 3B) in six games. The 24-year old outfielder has really put himself on the map in the organization and his speed, zone discipline and on-base ability makes him an attractive option in an organization lacking upper-level outfield depth.