Archive for August 2010

Berkman: Let Rose, alleged PED users in HOF

August 31, 2010

Lance Berkman
(Photo by Mike Ashmore)

TRENTON — As they stand, the major league credentials of Lance Berkman, five-time National League All-Star and lifetime .296 hitter, will not get him into the Hall of Fame.
That does not mean the Yankees designated hitter-for-hire does not have an opinion on what players should be allowed entry into Cooperstown.
The names on Berkman’s list may surprise anyone even vaguely familiar with the 2007 Mitchell report documenting 89 players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs, in addition to the most vilified gambler in the history of the game.
“To me, Roger (Clemens) is a Hall of Famer no matter what,’’ Berkman said before playing the final game of his minor league injury rehabilitation assignment with the Double-A Thunder.
The 34-year-old Berkman, set to return to the Yankees from the 15-day disabled list today, went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk during tonight’s 10-4 loss to Akron at Waterfront Park.
During his two-game Double-A rehab appearance, Berkman was 2-for-8 with three strikeouts, a walk and a run scored.
“Even if they come up with irrefutable proof that (Clemens) did something, what he did even before that (steroid) period is Hall of Fame worthy,’’ Berkman said. “I don’t think that should be a question, although it’s going to be. I think Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. If you’re going to paint with a broad brush, just look at that era and make the determination that the best players go to the Hall of Fame.’’
Rose denied for years that he bet on baseball and was suspended by life by then-commissioner A. Bart Giamatti.
Rose, with the most hits of any player in major league history, later admitted he bet on the game, but remains banished.
Clemens, Berkman’s former teammate with the Houston Astros, pleaded not guilty Monday to lying to Congress regarding his alleged use of banned substances, including human growth hormone.
All-time home run king Barry Bonds is scheduled to stand trial in March for allegedly lying to a grand jury regarding his use of steroids.
“If it comes down that Barry is guilty,’’ Berkman said, “just look at what he was able to do before that period in his career _ he was a Hall of Famer. There’s no doubt. Roger Clemens? He’s a Hall of Famer. No question. What you have to do, I think, is try and determine when this (steroid era) started, or at least make your best guess, and go from there. Obviously, this is a job for the writers. Then, just say the best players from that era go in. Or you can take the other side and say they’re all out and that no one can get in because they’re tainted.’’
Then what should become of perhaps Berkman’s closest friend in the game, Yankees left-hander and current teammate Andy Pettitte?
Pettitte was named in the Mitchell report and admitted using HGH for two cycles in order to recover from an elbow injury in 2002.
Pettitte’s career statistics and postseason prowess put him in the Hall of Fame conversation, but he also may have a difficult time escaping the long shadow cast by any player ensnared in the so-called “steroid era.’’
Berkman also feels Pettitte belongs in Cooperstown.
“Andy (Pettitte) and I are as good as friends as you can possibly be; he’s probably my best friend,’’ Berkman said. “I was surprised (Pettitte was named in the Mitchell report), but there’s a difference between taking steroids for the purpose of enhancing your performance and doing what Andy did, which was for the purpose of trying to come back from an injury.
“You have to know Andy. I can sit here and tell you if Andy says it you can take it to the bank. If he said he did it to get over an injury and not to get a competitive advantage, you can believe him. Andy is truly is one of the most honest guys I know. Everybody that was ever touched by PED’s is all going to be lumped into one category and that’s that. But that’s the consequence for doing something you shouldn’t have done. Andy will tell you that just as quickly as I will.”

NOTES: The Pat Venditte watch is over. The ambidextrous pitcher is on his way to Trenton and should be in uniform tonight. Venditte (4-1, 1.63 ERA, 6 saves) will take the ride north from Class-A Tampa with another pitcher, believed to be Jonathan Ortiz (6-1, 2.39, 21 saves). Pitchers George Kontos and John Van Benschoten were sent up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre yesterday … Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Alex Rodriguez (strained calf) likely will not require a minor-league rehab assignment … Brandon Laird, Austin Romine, Craig Heyer, Corban Joseph and Kontos will play for manager Don Mattingly in the Arizona Fall League as members of the Phoenix Desert Dogs.


Berkman 2-for-5 in Trenton rehab debut

August 31, 2010

Lance Berkman

If playing for the Yankees during the dog days of August was one of the last places Lance Berkman thought he would be after a decorated 12-year career with the Houston Astros, imagine his surprise at the detour he had to take through Double-A Trenton last night.

“I’m happy to come down here if they want me to do it,” the switch-hitting Berkman said before going 2-for-5 with a run scored during the first of two scheduled minor-league rehabilitation assignments with the first-place Thunder.

With Berkman batting third as the designated hitter, Trenton defeated Akron, 4-3, in 10 innings before a crowd of 4,833 at Waterfront Park to trim its magic number for clinching the Eastern League East Division to six games.

“It’s better than sitting around at Yankee Stadium,” Berkman added. “At least I’ll get some at-bats. I haven’t seen a live pitch in like two weeks, so it’s not going to hurt me to come and make sure everything’s good and get a little bit of timing.”

Berkman, 34, has been on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ankle since Aug. 19. He was eligible to come off the DL last night, but will play for the Thunder again tonight before returning to the Yankees’ active roster tomorrow.

In 12 games with the Yankees, Berkman is hitting just .179 with four runs batted in.

Since breaking into the big leagues with Houston in 1999, Berkman has a .296 career batting average with 396 home runs and 1,094 RBIs. He is one of only two switch-hitters in Major League Baseball history to produce two 40 home run seasons.

Mickey Mantle is the other.

Not surprisingly, Yankees fans have been especially hard on the unproductive Berkman since the trade.

“I still haven’t done much with the Yankees, but you understand that those fans have a different level of expectation than most fans,” Berkman said. “You have a lot shorter leash there than you would anywhere else. Man, it’s been a real experience (coming to the Yankees); there’s no doubt.”

The affable Berkman touched on a wide-range of topics, including yesterday’s arraignment of Roger Clemens, his friend and former teammate with the Astros.

“He’s a great guy; he’s a great teammate and was fun to have around,” Berkman said. “Clearly, in the situation he’s in, it’s a bad deal. I don’t wish that on anybody. I feel for him and for his family. Roger’s a guy that has been vehement in his denial, and he’s a friend of mine, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until this thing kind of resolves itself.

“Because of that, if he was found guilty of doing whatever it is, it’s not like I’d be so surprised that I’d fall over and faint or something. But by the same token, I’m willing to give him every benefit of the doubt.”

Thunder starter Adam Warren struck out six without a walk, but missed a chance to get his fifth victory after closer Ryan Pope blew his third save on an infield single in the ninth inning.

Over his last three starts, Warren has struck out 27, walked two and has yielded just 12 hits over 18Â??nnings.

Justin Christian and Rene Rivera, who singled in the winning run in the 10th, slugged solo homers for the Thunder (79-56).

Wilkin De La Rosa denies B-12 allegations

August 30, 2010

Wilkin De La Rosa

TRENTON — Trenton Thunder reliever Wilkin De La Rosa vehemently denied a New York Post report Friday that he and current Yankees starter Ivan Nova injected each other with Vitamin B-12 while teammates last season at Double-A Trenton.
Vitamin B-12 is legal and not on Major League Baseball’s list of banned substances, but the injections must be performed by a physician. Syringes also are not permitted in the clubhouse area unless they are being handled by a licensed trainer or medical practitioner.
“I have never done that and (it) has never entered my mind; I don’t know why anyone would make that comment,’’ De La Rosa said through bench coach and resident translator Vic Valencia prior to Monday night’s 4-3 win over Akron at Waterfront Park.
“I don’t even think about anything like that. They called me into the office (Friday in Harrisburg) and told me. I thought it was about something else … not even close to something like that. I have never done that.”
Nova, 23, also denied the allegations the day before his first big league victory Sunday against the Chicago White Sox.
“I didn’t use it,” Nova told The Post. “I was surprised.”
Check out the rest of the story, along with coverage of Lance Berkman’s first Double-A rehab assignment, in today’s Times of Trenton and
As blogger and Hunterdon Democrat beat writer Mike Ashmore wrote this morning, give De La Rosa a lot of credit for taking the heat like a man and addressing the issue with the media before the game.
Here is manager Tony Franklin’s take on the De La Rosa allegations.

“I was shocked. I just don’t believe it. In my opinion I just don’t think it happened. This is a wonderful kid. He’s been nothing but professional since I’ve had him here; just an outstanding guy. I just don’t believe it happened. Whether it be positive or negative, true or false, I’d feel bad for both of those guys, simply because I think they’re both fine young men. I enjoyed having Nova when he was here. I certainly enjoy having Wilkin here. I am in complete shock that this article came about. I don’t think you guys are giving these two kids enough credit. I think they understand the parameters of what is to be taken and what isn’t to be taken. They have the all the information that they need to stay clean. I don’t think they would come to me or (trainer) Tim (Lentych) and ask if they could take extra B-12. It’s fine, that’s legal. I’m sure they’re aware that there’s a lot of stuff over the counter that could lead to a suspension of 50 games or more. For that reason, I think they would be very careful about what they put in their bodies. We have enough education now to know that whenever you’re going to take some type of supplement, that you would check with someone first. They certainly wouldn’t come to me. What do I know about it, other than to tell them to be careful.”

“Absolutely he was upset (about the reported investigation). I was upset for him. It crushed the kid. Whether it’s true or not, the allegation is out there. Once the allegation is out there, you can’t bring it back. That stigma could stick with him for a very long time, even if it’s proven false. That’s what harmful. The person who wrote the article, I don’t know his source and I don’t if it’s true or not, but the fact of the matter is that the allegation is out there. Now, how are you going to get that back? You can’t, and it’s very damaging. Nova is very young at the major league level, and De La Rosa is very young in his career, and they have to face these types of allegations? That’s tough. I’d be upset if I was him.
I’m sure he didn’t sleep very well. It’s very harmful. I hope everything is totally inaccurate and false, and it’s cleared up, and I hope these guys are left alone so they can continue to play baseball.”

NY Post: De La Rosa, Nova being investigated

August 27, 2010

George King of The New York Post (who else?) is reporting that Major League Baseball is investigating Thunder pitcher Wilkin De La Rosa and his former Trenton teammate, Ivan Nova, for allegedly injecting each other with Vitamin B12 last season while at Double-A Trenton.
Although B12 is not on MLB’s list of banned substances, only licensed physicians are permitted to perform the injections.
According to The Post, MLB investigators also want to make certain the shots were B12 and not human growth hormone (HGH) or any other banned substance.
Physicians often give Vitamin B12 injections to patients suffering from anemia, fatigue or other symptoms of B12 deficiency. Some doctors also may prescribe B12 as part of a weight loss program, but neither De La Rosa nor Nova has anything close to a weight management issue.
General manager Brian Cashman told King he was not aware of the investigation.
Nova, 23, was impressive in his major league debut Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays after taking over for Javier Vazquez in the Yankees rotation. Nova pitches again tomorrow in Chicago.
De La Rosa, 25, has been disappointing all season with a 2-4 record and 5.00 ERA for the Thunder heading into tonight’s game at Harrisburg.
Both players are members of the Yankees’ 40-man roster.

Dellin Betances fans 8 in Double-A debut

August 25, 2010

TRENTON — Dellin Betances may not have made it through fifth inning of his Double-A debut last night against New Hampshire at Waterfront Park, but if his last seven outs are any kind of barometer, the Thunder just may be grooming another ace.
One night after second-place New Hampshire worked over fellow prospect Manny Banuelos for six runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings, Betances struck out seven of the last nine batters he faced and gave up just two hits in last night’s 10-5, extra-inning loss to the Fisher Cats in front of just 4,426.

Dellin Betances

Promoted to Trenton with Banuelos Monday after D.J. Mitchell and Hector Noesi, who combined for 19 wins, were sent up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees’ eighth-round pick in the 2006 draft struck out eight with two walks.
Betances, 22, worked through a rocky first inning that began with a walk to Darin Mastroianni after he had the New Hampshire center fielder down in the count 0-2. Mastroianni reached third base on the first of two Betances throwing errors and scored on what went down as a fielder’s choice, but was nothing more than a wild pitch on a swinging third strike by Eric Thames.
One year removed from elbow ligament reinforcement surgery, the Brooklyn-born Betances yielded a towering solo home run to Matt Liuzza in the third inning, but he kept the Thunder in the game, consistently hit between 93-95 on radar and threw 50 of his 76 pitches for strikes.
J.B. Cox was followed into the game by Yankees’ reliever Alfredo Aceves, whose third and perhaps final injury rehab appearance at Double-A was his worst.
Aceves, on the 60-day disabled list after suffering a bulging disk in his back May 9, gave up six hits and three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings and was on the hook for the loss until a three-run rally capped by Austin Romine’s run-scoring single in the eighth tied the game at 5-5.
Wilkins Arias was horrid in the 11th after a flawless 10th inning, allowing five runs on four hits.
The Thunder loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but Justin Christian struck out and Austin Krum lined out to center field and it was on to extra frames.
Aceves tentatively is scheduled to throw twice more at Triple-A, as the Yankees appear to be killing time with him until rosters expand Sept. 1.
Trenton managed just two hits against New Hampshire right-hander Zach Stewart after failing to get anyone past first base on two hits against top Toronto Blue Jays prospect Kyle Drabek in Monday’s loss.
In 11 games this season against Drabek, Stewart and Randy Boone, the three right-handers New Hampshire will throw this week, Trenton is hitting under .220.
The Thunder are a woeful 6-16 against New Hampshire, which includes a 2-10 mark at home. The division champion will host the first two games of the Eastern League divisional series beginning Sept. 8.
NOTES: Former first-round draft pick John Van Benschoten was sent back to the Thunder yesterday and will be added to the bullpen. Van Benschoten is a combined 6-2 with a 3.50 (43 2/3 innings) at every stop in the Yankees’ minor league chain, including Trenton, Tampa, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the Gulf Coast League … Lost in the commotion of the Banuelos and Betances promotions was Adam Warren being named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week after his 15 strikeouts Aug. 18 against Bowie broke the franchise record. Warren, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday today when he starts the series finale against the Fisher Cats, joins Hector Noesi and Lance Pendleton as Thunder pitchers to win the award this season.

Banuelos and Betances in the house

August 23, 2010

Here is the complete piece on the two newest additons to the Double-A Trenton rotation that ran into today’s Times of Trenton and

If a third Eastern League championship since 2008 is in the cards for the Thunder, they now have plenty of aces at their disposal.
Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman confirmed a published report Josh Norris’ scoop Saturday that top Class-A Tampa pitching prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have been sent to Double-A Trenton to join the first-place Thunder, who open a big three-game series against second-place New Hampshire tonight at Waterfront Park.
Newman said last week that his feeling was that neither Banuelos nor Betances would move this season, but the inclusion of former Thunder all-star and Yankees Minor League Pitcher of the Year Zach McAllister to Cleveland as the player-to-be-named in the Austin Kearns trade, along with Ivan Nova’s promotion to New York, necessitated the action.

Manny Banuelos

“A lot of factors went into it,’’ Newman said. “Their performance in Tampa certainly played a big part of it. The movement of other players played a role and they would not have come if we did not feel they were ready.’’
The Thunder (76-51), who saw their Eastern Division lead over the Fisher Cats (72-54) shrink to 3½ games following yesterday’s 7-6 extra-inning loss to Portland at Hadlock Field, are expected to lose right-hander D.J. Mitchell (11-4) to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as part of the rotation shuffle.
The 6-foot-8 right-hander Betances, given a $1 million bonus by the Yankees as an eighth-round draft pick in 2006, has made a dramatic recovery from Tommy John surgery late last August and is 8-1 with a 1.77 ERA in 14 starts.
Over 71 innings, the 22-year-old Betances has allowed just 43 hits, 19 walks, one home run and brings a WHIP (walks and hits per-innings pitched) of 0.87. His fastball has appeared in the 97-98 range and he is equipped with a plus curveball.
Although 19-year-old southpaw Banuelos is 0-3, his ERA is 2.23 and has 62 strikeouts in 44⅓ innings.
Banuelos missed a significant block of time earlier this season after undergoing an appendectomy.
If, as expected, Mitchell joins the SWB rotation, the Thunder will run five of the most impressive young starters in all of minor-league baseball out to the mound of the final stretch with Banuelos, Betances, former first round-pick Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi and Adam Warren, who last week struck out 15 in just seven innings to shatter the franchise record.
All five starters were listed among the Yankees’ top 30 prospects by Baseball America prior to the season, with Banuelos the top selection at No. 6.
The complete overhaul of the Opening Day rotation is complete, with only Ryan Pope remaining after being converted to closer.
Despite an initial reluctance to commit Banuelos and Betances to Double-A, Newman now says he has no reservations whatsoever about thrusting his two young guns into a heated playoff race.
“They were in the same kind of (playoff) situation at Tampa,’’ Newman said. “All of our top three teams (Tampa, Trenton and Scranton) are in first place. But the level of competition up here is better and will prepare them in some ways for next year.’’
Newman said he would not have believed it if anyone in March had someone told him Betances and Banuelos would have made it this far this fast.
“Neither one was on the mound at the time; they were both injured,’’ he said. “Their performance from the middle of the season until the end has been beyond what any of us could have imagined. They have both been outstanding. In this business if you start making long-range predictions about young guys like this, either positively or negatively, you make it tough for yourself. But having all five of the guys we have in that Trenton rotation now, that’s quality stuff.’’
Scalding hot outfielder Dan Brewer will lead the Trenton offense against New Hampshire in the three-game set starting tonight.
Brewer connected for his 10th home run in the fourth inning of yesterday’s loss at Portland, which featured blown saves by J.B. Cox and Wilkins Arias.
Brewer has driven in at least one run in nine of his last 10 games, during which time he is hitting .350 with 14 RBIs.
Matt Cusick (3-for-5) hit a clutch ninth-inning home run yesterday and finished a double shy of the cycle.

Mark Newman on Betances, Banuelos

August 22, 2010

Nice work, as always, by colleague Josh Norris at Minor Matters on nailing down the Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos promotions to Double-A.
Yankees senior vice president of baseball ops Mark Newman gave us some insight into the moves this morning, moves necessitated by a number of factors, including Zach McAllister being shipped to the Cleveland Indians and the promotion of his former Thunder teammate, Ivan Nova, to the big leagues.

Dellin Betances

Newman: “A lot of factors went into it. Their performance in Tampa certainly played a big part of it. The movement of other players played a role and they would not have come if we did not feel they were ready.’’
As for thrusting his two young arms into a heated playoff race in late August, Newman had this to say:
“They were in the same kind of (playoff) situation at Tampa. All of our top three teams (Tampa, Trenton and Scranton) are in first place. But the level of competition up here is better and will prepare them in some ways for next year.’’
Newman said he would not have believed anyone back in March had they told him Betances and Banuelos would have made it this far, this fast.
“Neither one was on the mound at the time … they were both injured. Their performance from the middle of the season until the end has been beyond what any of us could have imagined. They have both been outstanding. In this business if you start making long range predictions about young guys like this, either positively or negatively, you make it tough for yourself. But having all five of the guys we have in that Trenton rotation now, that’s quality stuff.’’