Overall and from a team perspective, it was not the type of series that the Staten Island Yankees would hope for to start off their 2004 season. With the exception of a few relief appearances and one starting performance, the pitching was generally poor. But, in such a pitching dominated league with a projected strong team pitching staff, that is expected to settle in and be a nice plus for the SI Yanks. For that matter, the hitting was not all out terrible considering the outcome of the games either. There was not just one hitter that stole the show but there were some strong signs of things to come. It seems they may have found a strong leadoff hitter in the fiery Rob Villanova and some five tool talent in outfielder Rod Allen. Most importantly, the whole pitching staff was not showcased as of yet as some big guns from this year's draft are yet to come, but the pitching from one of these pitchers, Jesse Hoover was all out dominating in his first appearance. So, is there something to be excited about on the Island this year? You better believe there is.
The Baby Bombers lost on opening night to Aberdeen in an extra inning affair by the final score of 7-5. However, they left no doubt that their 2004 club could swing the bat. Unlike last season ,it appears that this team can really swing it and swing it good. Manager, Tommy John stated that he was excited about many of his new players but one name that stuck out to him that of Rod Allen. Not singling any one player out, John still leaned toward Allen as someone he overly impressed by. Well, the young exciting outfielder proved his manager to be 100% correct. The draftee out of Oklahoma State University clubbed a long ball in his first professional game in a two hits performance. Allen is considered by many to be five tool candidate and could easily receive the tag of "impact player". Bottom line here is that this young man is one to keep an eye on. It is still not a firm decision on what the lineup will be day in and day out for Staten Island though as the club consists of multiple talented young players but only nine spots to fill. However, one guy that seems to have his own place in that lineup is Edwin Cabrera. Edwin is one of the few "veterans" as he played a season in the Gulf Coast League last season. It appears that he could occupy the cleanup spot for most of the year as he brings tremendous power to the table.
As far as pitching, Opening Day brought a familiar face, T.J. Beam. Beam pitched in Staten Island last season and got the call for the opener. He pitched a solid ballgame but it appears that the real attention will be drawn by the high draft choice pitchers like the dynamic duo of Jason Jones and Jesse Hoover. But, to be honest Beam pitched just fine and it was his bullpen that eventually fell apart. Ben Scheinbaum has an inauspicious begging to his professional career. He came into the game in the eleventh inning on Friday night and it just might be something that he wants to erase. Let's just say his appearance did not go according to plan. Aberdeen broke through against him for a run to win the ballgame.
So, the opener didn't go so well. Big deal. Tommy John's crew proved to be resilient as they brought the bats to the park with a little pitching too. One thing that did emerge was that they seemed to have found themselves a solid, no an excellent leadoff man in the hardnosed draftee out of Iona College, Rob Villanova. The scrappy centerfielder smacked three hits in the second game against the Ironbirds after failing to hit in the first contest. With a late burst in this game, led by Villanova, Staten Island scored three runs in the eight inning to tie the ballgame at six and then blasted away fro five runs in the ninth to cruise home to their first victory of the young season. Oh, did I mention that Edwin Cabrera can really hit the long ball? Cabrera, batting in his typical cleanup sot as the designated hitter, crushed his first home run of the season on Saturday. One thing is guaranteed though, this home run will likely be the first of many to come this season for Cabrera.
The Yanks seem to have found their everyday shortstop. Who? Their ninth round selection in the draft, Grant Plumley. Plumley has hit enough, in this game especially, to nail down a starting job for the time being on a team that nothing seems to be sure thing with a the mass of talent on the roster. Plumley had two hits on Saturday night and he seems to fit nicely into the number two spot in the lineup because of his style of hitting. Looks like Tommy John may have his work cut out for him. No, he doesn't seem to have to worry about winning all that much despite this series loss. What a problem to have. He has to juggle the lineup, as he has shown he can do well in this first series, until he finds his most consistent players that fit. John must be starting to feel like Joe Torre. But, if this "problem" persists, it should be a nice season for John's Baby Bombers.
The pitching was not bad per say on Saturday for Staten Island but it was set up in a slightly unorthodox manner. Because it is only the beginning of the season and many of the pitchers have been pitching on different schedules, this game was set up similar to a spring training game. Phil Coke, who pitched in the Gulf Coast League last, started the game but was not scheduled to pitch deep in the contest. Coke, a lefthander, went three innings, gave up two runs, walked two and struck out two. Not great, not bad either. Consider it a tune up for later in the season. Three pitchers, two of which would normally be starters relieved Coke. One of these pitchers, Jesse Hoover meant lights out for Ironbirds as he came in and took a stranglehold on the game and the Aberdeen hitters. Hoover was the Yankees fifth round selection for a reason and he showed exactly why on Saturday night. The righthander pitched 2 2/3 dominating innings, as he gave up no runs on only one hits, striking out five and walking none. It was a truly astounding performance for a player making his professional career. Is this something we can come to expect out of Hoover? It sure projects to be, and he will probably be making many more appearances as a starter.
Well, would the season's second game get the talented Staten Island off to a running start? Actually, no it wouldn't as they fell flat on their face after their impressive team effort on Saturday. A beating would be the only way to describe the way that the Yanks were defeated on Sunday afternoon. Aberdeen won the game and the series as they pummeled the Baby Bombers 12-1. Bit, if there was something positive to emerge from this game was the 19th round draft selection, Jordan DeVoir at the plate. DeVoir had his best game as he got the start at third base. He smashed two hit, but the bad part is that he was the only Staten Island Yankee to have a multi hit game. Even though the young infielder had a nice game, there was very little to classify as "positive" for our SI Yanks. Sean Kramer came in from the bullpen and basically took one for the team as eight runs crossed the plate with him on the mound.
A 12-1 loss. How can a young team bounce back? Send them right back out there the next day. With a a rough loss, maybe some leaders can emerge. Rob Villanova, the team captain of his college team. There is a good candidate. But, with so many players of such a young age coming out of amateur baseball it may take a player like Edwin Cabrera to assume this role. Either way, send them back out there tomorrow and let group of young players find there place as Yankee prospects and as a ballclub. Monday will be the Staten Island Yankees home opener as they will be taking on Williamsport. It could also be an exciting night as the Yankees fourth round draft pick, Jason Jones is expected to take the mound for the first time in his professional career.