Double-A starters = dominant

Ryan Pope
(Photo by Dave Schofield)

Losing Christian Garcia for the season with a torn elbow ligament obviously was big news this week, but the reality is the Double-A pitching staff is loaded and likely will not skip a beat without the 24-year-old right-hander in the rotation.
In four games against Erie this weekend at Waterfront Park, the starting quartet of Garcia, Ryan Pope, Jeremy Bleich and David Phelps allowed just 11 hits and two earned run in 22 2/3 innings (0.79 ERA) with a strikeout-to-walk-ratio of 22-3.
These numbers, even in April, should come as no surprise to anyone that has watched the Yankees increased dedication to developing quality arms in the farm system since 2004.
Trenton led the Eastern League in ERA in 2007 and 2008 on its way to back-to-back championships.
Last season, pitching and pitching alone carried the team within one final weekend of reaching the playoffs despite a sub-.500 record.
“We have a lot of depth,” Yankees’ senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman told me earlier this week. “We’re pretty excited about that staff in Trenton.”
The Thunder bullpen also has been light’s out.
Phelps made his Eastern League debut today and was as advertised with seven strikeouts, no walks, three hits and just one earned run allowed over 5 2/3 innings. he exited the game with a 2-1 lead.
Bleich, the 2008 first-round sandwich pick out of Stanford, got his season off the a good start Saturday with 6 1/3 innings scoreless.
Pope was outstanding with just one run allowed over five Friday while Garcia – even with the torn ligament – gave up just one hit and no runs before his arm could take no more with two outs in the sixth inning.

Garcia out, Pendleton in

With Garcia done for the season (In 20 years I have yet to see a pitcher at any level return from a torn elbow ligament), Thunder manager Tony Franklin said after today’s game that right-hander Lance Pendleton will take Garcia’s spot in the rotation, which is Tuesday against Akron at Waterfront Park.

GAME UPDATE:
Thunder 5, Erie 1 (F)
Phelps W, 1-0
Weber L, 0-1
Time: 2:33
Attendance: 5,337

RECAP
The combination of David Phelps, Wilkins Arias, Noel Castillo and Grant Duff allowed just four hits and one earned run with 11 strikeouts.
Second baseman David Adams continued his scorching start with two hits, including a two-run double to give him eight hits in his 16 at bats (.500) as the Thunder are off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 1999 (9-0), when Trenton finished the season with a franchise-best record of 92-50.

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