January 31 – Bobby Mitchell takes over
One of the perks of Bobby Mitchell’s last job was telling players they were being promoted to the RailRiders.
On Wednesday, Mitchell officially got the same call.
The former Double-A Trenton Thunder manager will take the same role with the RailRiders, replacing two-time International League manager of the Year Al Pedrique. Mitchell will be joined by hitting coach Phil Plantier and defensive coach Travis Chapman, as well as SWB holdovers Tommy Phelps (pitching coach) and Doug Davis (bullpen coach). Full story
March 19 – Big league camp experience valuable for Adams
TAMPA, Fla. — Chance Adams barely made it off the field after a morning workout before they started to swarm.
Autograph seekers kept a keen eye on Adams, who’s pretty noticeable these days with blond hair shooting out the back of his hat and a handful of big league spring training appearances under his belt. They flipped to the right page in their binders, dug through their boxes of cards and removed pristine baseballs from their cases, hoping Adams would stop before he ran off to the minor league clubhouse at the Himes Avenue complex.
Adams obliged. Every person who asked for one got an autograph. Some got more than one.
It’s business as usual for one of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects. Same as it is on the field. Full story
March 21 – Higashioka working his way through 10th spring training
TAMPA, Fla. — It looks like torture or boot camp or some twisted combination of both.
All of the Yankees minor league catchers, in full gear, running through a series of drills that makes you ache just watching.
“It’s kind of like a rite of passage,” Kyle Higashioka said. “You’ve got to get through the catchers conditioning in order to earn your way to the season.” Full story
March 25 – Kratz excited for opportunity to win
TAMPA, Fla. — Erik Kratz wanted a quick scouting report from Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
Three minor leaguers were going to pitch in a game for New York, and the veteran catcher needed to know what to expect from some kids who didn’t even get an invite to big league camp.
“He’s like ‘Yeah, you know this guy’s got 94-98 (mph); this guy, 99; this guy, 94 from down here,” Kratz said. Full story
April 5 – Comeback kid
Gleyber Torres had the goal in reach, the home stretch in sight.
The 20-year-old super prospect was riding a five-game hitting streak, including a pair of three-hit outings, and his batting average at the Triple-A crept above .300. He was proving he could keep up at the highest minor league level despite the average player there being almost seven years older than him.
A few more strides and the big leagues would be within reach.
Things can and do change quickly, though. Full story
April 6 – RailRiders walk off in opener
MOOSIC — Be ready.
That’s what Abiatal Avelino kept telling himself in the ninth inning.
Two outs, RailRiders down two runs after slogging through the first eight innings of a cold and windy season opener against Syracuse on Friday night.
The second baseman stunned Syracuse by lining Christopher Smith’s full-count fastball just over the wall in right field for a walk-off, three-run home run, capping a five-run inning and lifting the RailRiders to a 6-5 victory over the Chiefs in manager Bobby Mitchell’s debut before an announced attendance of 9,327 at PNC Field. Full story
April 21 – Torres gets the call
MOOSIC — Gleyber Torres was sure he ran hard to first. The RailRiders infielder hit a grounder back to the pitcher with runners at second and third in the fifth inning of Saturday afternoon’s game against Toledo, and slammed his bat down in frustration before hustling to first.
But RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell took him out of the game before he could take his next at-bat.
“It was hard because I had to make sure that he knew it wasn’t disciplinary reasons, because I’ve had to do it once with him before,” Mitchell said, referring to a time when both were at Double-A Trenton and Mitchell had to pull Torres for not hustling.
Torres knew he ran it out this time, though, so it must have meant something else. Some good news, maybe.
After the game, with all of Torres’ teammates around him, Mitchell made it official. Torres is going to the big leagues. Full story
April 22 – Cortes glad to be back
MOOSIC — When the Orioles and Yankees took the field for the singing of “God Bless America” during a spring training game March 21, Nestor Cortes Jr. glanced over at Aaron Judge.
They knew each other coming up through the Yankees organization, but Cortes was on the other side now, with Baltimore stealing him away from New York in the Rule 5 draft. He checked in with Judge before the game, made sure everything was going well.
Cortes started 3-0 against Judge. He struck him out and got him to ground out in a game four days prior, then got another harmless groundout in the sixth inning.
So, he should have been feeling pretty good when he caught Judge’s eye during that seventh inning stretch.
“He looked at me, we both smiled and I’m like ‘Oh, shoot,’ ” Cortes said.
Next inning, Judge launched a home run off Cortes, a towering blast deep out to left-center field. Full story
April 29 – Roger that
MOOSIC — Josh Rogers didn’t hear the text message buzz his phone.
He watched the Yankees struggle through 14 innings with the Orioles on April 6 and thought it might affect the RailRiders roster, so he was somewhat ready.
That, after all, is life in the minor leagues. Opportunities for some players open doors for others. Plans for seasons change week to week.
Like the plan that had Rogers moving to the bullpen this season after a career of starting. That plan was thwarted one game into the season, when New York called up Luis Cessa to bolster its bullpen after that marathon loss to the Orioles.
RailRiders pitching Tommy Phelps texted Rogers to tell him he would take Cessa’s spot in the starting rotation, and while Rogers might’ve missed the message at first, he didn’t miss the opportunity. Full story
May 6 – Frazier, Drury, Estrada on unusual roads back from injury
MOOSIC — Clint Frazier knows what it’s like to pull a hamstring. He’s been hit by plenty of pitches, too.
That’s just part of baseball. Or, really, any sport. Muscle strains and sprains, broken bones, bumps and bruises — they’re almost part of the job description; workplace hazards.
When he drifted back to field a fly ball in a spring training game Feb. 24, however, he could not have expected the outcome. Frazier jumped, made the catch and fell backward, slamming the back of his head into the fence. Full story
May 11 – Cave enjoys fresh start with Twins
MOOSIC — Jake Cave walked out of PNC Field on Thursday likely a different way than he ever had before.
He’s very familiar with the stadium, spending parts of the last three seasons with the RailRiders, but this was a first: Cave exited from the visitor’s clubhouse. Full story
May 13 – Carroll develops into formidable, late-inning reliever
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound, hard-throwing righty is built for a late-inning role. He packs a fastball in the upper 90s and a developing high 80s slider that, at times, can be downright unfair for hitters. Carroll showed both to Syracuse.
He blew a fastball past big league veteran Mark Reynolds for strike three. A slider in the zone early in the count set up a third-strike fastball to Matt Reynolds. Jacob Wilson got a heavy dose of sliders, and swung and missed at three of them.
Carroll, who was in his second inning of work, struck out the side on 15 pitches to preserve the win. Full story
May 20 – Video improvements give RailRiders edge
Gone is PNC Field’s auxiliary locker room — outside of a couple lockers for roving instructors — that used to house the grounds crew. Now, there’s a row of computers lining a long desk, with comfy office chairs and big televisions on the wall, all part of the video boom. Full story
May 27 – RailRiders dealing with roster crunch in New York
MOOSIC — Billy McKinney broke camp with the New York Yankees and singled in his first big league at-bat, an opportunity earned after a strong spring training and an eye-opening 2017 season with the RailRiders.
Second game, he hit a roadblock. Rather, he hit a wall.
Tracking a first-inning fly ball off the bat of Toronto’s Josh Donaldson, McKinney crashed full-speed into the Rogers Centre fence. He stayed in the game for one more batter, but something wasn’t right. A left shoulder sprain would sideline him for more than a month.
He’s healthy now, and he’s back in Triple-A after the Yankees’ depth chart reshuffled since the early season. To get back to the bigs, he’ll need to wait for a spot to open up or play well enough with SWB to force New York’s hand. Full story
June 3 – Swanson adjusts to Triple-A
MOOSIC — There’s really no need to look at numbers, Erik Swanson said. He’s done it in the past, but he tries not to.
Players know when they’re struggling, he said. They know when they’re going good.
The RailRiders starting pitcher realizes he had an eye-popping start to season at Double-A Trenton. He allowed two earned runs in 40⅔ innings — a microscopic 0.44 ERA.
Opponents hit .154 against him and struck out 11.5 times per nine innings.
“I knew I was throwing the ball pretty well down there,” Swanson said. Full story
June 10 – Sheffield turning up the heat
Sheffield is his harshest critic. If he has a good game, the 22-year-old still finds something negative that he could’ve — or should have — done better.
“I think most of the time, when I’m out there, I’ll hurt myself more than anything,” he said. “I feel like anytime I go out there, I’m not getting overmatched or anybody’s overpowering me or anything like that. I get myself in trouble most of the time. It’s just one of those things I’ve got to continue to build on and get better.”
He finds positives, too, and recently, those are starting to outnumber the negatives. Full story
June 12 – Mauer rehabs against SWB
MOOSIC — Joe Mauer said he’s never been to Scranton before, but he’s glad to be here.
Glad to be healthy again. Glad to still be playing a game he loves.
“Glad that I’m getting to this point, getting on the field,” Mauer said before Tuesday’s doubleheader against the RailRiders. “It’s been a few weeks and just excited to get back on a baseball field.” Full story
June 17 – Robinson feeling grateful this Father’s Day
MOOSIC — When he sees her jump from bed to bed or climb a wall in the backyard of their home in Georgia, Shane Robinson tries not to be too overprotective.
His daughter, Harper, is a kid, after all, and part of being a kid is falling down and getting bumps and bruises. The RailRiders outfielder knows this and realizes everything will be fine.
It’s just that Harper has already been through so much.
She is just 3 years old and has had 11 major operations. Full story
June 24 – Wade feeling like old self
MOOSIC — Tyler Wade didn’t expect to be back here.
The infielder dominated the International League last season with the RailRiders, then went and won a big league job in New York with an eye-opening spring training, where he showcased everything the Yankees hoped he could. He got on base. He showed some pop at the plate, speed on the bases and wowed in the field. Wade earned one of the 25 spots on a young team that had big plans for the season.
That was high point. Then came the low. Full story
June 25 – Higashioka eyes another shot at first hit
PHILADELPHIA — Kyle Higashioka thinks about it every now and then. He had 20 chances, after all, and never got that first big league hit.
Soon, the 28-year-old might get another shot. Full story
July 1 – Bullpen consistently reliable for SWB
For the season, SWB’s bullpen has a 3.31 ERA and is averaging 3.49 walks and 9.87 strikeouts per nine innings. Only 33.7 percent of inherited base runners have scored.
The guys currently on the team have been particularly good this season, though.
J.P. Feyereisen has a 1.69 ERA. After allowing two runs Friday, Joe Harvey’s ERA inched up to 2.03. Tommy Kahnle is striking out 15.2 batters per nine innings; all-star Cody Carroll is punching out 11.8. Raynel Espinal has inherited 16 base runners and only three have scored. Percentage-wise, Cale Coshow has the best strand rate on the team (87.5 percent). Full story
July 4 – Tanaka rehabs
MOOSIC — After not pitching for almost a month, Masahiro Tanaka had plenty to worry about when he took the mound for the RailRiders on Wednesday.
The Yankees starter had to make sure his hamstrings felt good to go after he pulled both trying to score on a sacrifice fly during an interleague game against the Mets on June 8. He had to see how his arm bounced back from the time off; how his pitches looked.
He wasn’t counting on the minor-league pitch clock. Full story
July 7 – Adams still working way back from surgery
“I don’t think anyone really realizes, I just had surgery and it takes a while to come back from that,” Adams said. “It’s not like just a simple little thing. It takes time to get comfortable, feel my pitches and stuff. Everyone expects you to be really good all the time, so you know, when you’re not doing good, it gets put in the spotlight a lot.” Full story
July 15 – New minor league boss talks roster crunch, trade deadline
Aaron Boone earned most of the offseason headlines, and rightfully so. It’s a big deal when big league clubs change managers, especially one with as much potential as the Yankees had coming into this year.
It wasn’t the only major personnel change New York made, however.
When Derek Jeter brought Gary Denbo to Miami to run the Marlins’ minor leagues, it left a hole in the Yankees’ farm system. Denbo became the Yankees’ vice president of player development in 2014, and help guide the young talent that now dons the pinstripes in the Bronx.
That job now belongs to Kevin Reese. Full story
July 15 – Sanchez homers in first rehab game
MOOSIC — Hard smash down the left-field line with home-run distance, but it hooked foul.
Gary Sanchez was a bit too quick in his first at-bat against Ervin Santana.
The Yankees catcher, making his first rehab appearance of the season with the RailRiders, battled the Twins pitcher, making his first rehab start for Rochester, for eight pitches that at-bat, but ultimately went down swinging at a high fastball.
Second time up, that fastball didn’t get by him. Full story
July 19 – Frazier leaves game after dive in outfield
The RailRiders came away with the win Thursday in Columbus, but it’s a loss that could be more concerning.
Mike Ford homered, Francisco Diaz and Rey Navarro each drove in a pair of runs and the RailRiders bullpen continued its dominant run in a 7-3 win over Columbus — a game that saw SWB outfielder Clint Frazier leave after one inning. Full story
July 22 – Trading game
Billy McKinney, Brandon Drury and Justus Sheffield sat on one of the couches in the RailRiders clubhouse and looked up at the television before a game last homestand.
It was tuned to “The Michael Kay Show,” a YES Network simulcast of the Yankees television broadcaster’s radio show. Kay and his partners discussed a sports-talk radio standard: baseball’s upcoming trade deadline and what moves the Yankees could make.
Sheffield’s name came up. More than a few times.
The Yankees’ young southpaw is thrown around often in trade rumors. Full story
July 24 – Rogers, Carroll dealt for Britton
MOOSIC — Nobody knew for sure what was happening, but the mood in the RailRiders clubhouse after Tuesday’s game was suspended said enough.
Teammates said their goodbyes to Cody Carroll and Josh Rogers, the pitchers who were included in a trade that landed Orioles closer Zach Britton, a two-time all-star, as the Yankees chase the Red Sox in the AL East. Full story
July 25 – Frazier opens up about post-concussion problems
“I’ve heard post-concussion migraines a lot, that’s what they’ve been referring to and I have had migraines, I’ve had fogginess, so I guess they go hand-in-hand whenever they’re both flaring up at the same time,” Frazier said. “But for me, they think that it’s caused by a lot of tension and maybe some trigger points and knots in my shoulder that might restrict bloodflow or just be causing extra tension in my neck area. I’m not 100 percent (sure), but that’s just what they’ve been saying.” Full story
July 26 – Drury, McKinney shipped to Toronto; German injured
Two days after losing their closer and a workhorse starting pitcher to a trade, the RailRiders learned home-run leader Billy McKinney and former third baseman Brandon Drury were traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for former Red Barons pitcher, J.A. Happ.
They also learned starting pitcher Domingo German might be sidelined with an injury, after the hard-throwing righty left his outing one pitch into the second inning. They watched their starting center fielder, Shane Robinson, be pinch hit for in the seventh inning so he could try to make it to New York in time to be an extra bat for the Yankees’ game against Kansas City. Full story
July 29 – Trades, injuries leave Payton as next up on outfield depth chart
Outfield depth hasn’t been an issue for the Yankees since the youth movement came of age. From Ben Gamel to Dustin Fowler to Mason Williams to Jake Cave, Clint Frazier and Billy McKinney, the PNC Field outfield hosted some of the game’s top young talent over the past three seasons.
The Yankees put the depth to use, though not necessarily in New York. With Judge, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton in the mix, the big league outfield was already crowded.
So, they traded Fowler to Oakland for Sonny Gray and sent Gamel to Seattle the year he won the International League’s MVP award. Cave was dealt to Minnesota in spring training for a younger pitcher and, this week, McKinney helped bring in J.A. Happ from Toronto. Williams walked away a minor league free agent after leading the RailRiders to the Governors’ Cup finals last season, and Frazier is on the disabled list after post-concussion symptoms resurfaced.
For a few hours after Thursday’s game, the RailRiders had one true outfielder remaining on the roster: Payton. Full story
July 30 – As Austin heads to opposing dugout, SWB welcomes Voit
ROCHESTER — Tyler Austin played an inning in the field with the RailRiders on Monday, then was pulled from the game.
Moments later, he showed up in the Rochester dugout, shaking hands with his new manager and teammates as they took on SWB.
Austin heard of trades going down like this, where a player arrives to a game with one team and leaves with the other. He just never thought it would happen to him. Full story
Aug. 3 – Adams earns call for Fenway debut
MOOSIC — Normally, Bobby Mitchell likes to tell them in person. When the RailRiders manager gives news of a big league promotion, he likes to see the reaction on the player’s face.
Time was of the essence Friday, however, so Mitchell had to settle for a phone call. Chance Adams needed to get to Fenway Park. Full story
Aug. 4 – Avelino realizing potential during stellar season
MOOSIC — Abiatal Avelino pulled over teammate Rey Navarro before his postgame interview July 27, wanting him to stay close in case he needed help translating a question.
First question was about how it felt to give the team a cushion late in the game with the rising line-drive grand slam Avelino launched that night against Gwinnett.
“I feel really happy about that,” he said. “We’re winning the game. That’s (what’s) most important.”
He followed the next one, too.
“I think that was your 14th home run this year …”
“Hoo,” Avelino said surprised, smiling before the question ended. Full story
Aug. 5 – Bullpen spoils King’s dazzling debut
MOOSIC — As debuts go, Sunday couldn’t have gone much better for the RailRiders.
Michael King made his first Triple-A start for SWB and breezed through Buffalo’s lineup, pounding two-seam fastball after two-seam fastball and putting his infield to work with ground ball after ground ball.
In seven innings, he allowed one run. Full story
Aug. 8 – Rogers gets bragging rights over old teammates
Josh Rogers looked a bit surprised when he saw Norfolk manager Ron Johnson pop out of the dugout and start his walk toward the mound.
Norfolk’s starting pitcher mowed down his former RailRiders teammates for more than seven innings at that point, and even with his pitch count approaching 100, Rogers wanted to stay in the game. Especially since RailRiders starter Erik Swanson matched him zero for zero on the scoreboard.
Rogers reluctantly handed Johnson the ball.
His teammates handed him a bragging-rights win in the ninth. Full story
Aug. 12 – Tarpley thrives in role as sinkerballer
Tarpley doesn’t believe in perfection, but this season, the 25-year-old southpaw is flirting with whatever word comes close to it. Between Double-A and Triple-A, he has a 1.83 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. He’s been a menace to hitters, holding them to a .166 batting average.
He said he can be better. Full story
Aug. 18 – McBroom in midst of solid season as he searches for identity
Ryan McBroom has plenty of highlights to remember what’s been one of, if not the best, offensive seasons of his career. It’s not a homer or a hit or a play that stands out most for the RailRiders slugger, however.
It’s how he’s handled it all.
One of the main victims of a roster crunch at first base, McBroom has been back and forth between Double-A Trenton and SWB three times this year. Full story
Aug. 21 – Sheffield moves to the bullpen
The RailRiders talented young southpaw wouldn’t be making his scheduled start Tuesday at Buffalo.
He was moving to the bullpen instead — orders from New York and a Yankees team that is trying to figure out how he’ll be able to help them down the stretch.
“I was supposed to start (Tuesday), so definitely was surprised,” Sheffield said. “I was getting ready to get my mind set to start the game, and then getting told that I was going to be coming out of the bullpen for the remainder of the year was honestly surprising, but I’ll definitely accept that role and run with it.” Full blog
Aug. 24 – King flirts with no-hitter, Take 1
The 23-year-old righty continued to dominate Triple-A, improving to 3-0 and lowering his ERA with the RailRiders to 1.33 with 6⅓ shutout innings.
He faced the minimum through four innings, walking Dylan Cozens with one out in the second then erasing him with a double play. He struck out seven and walked two. Collin Cowgill broke up the no-hitter with a leadoff double in the seventh inning. Full story
Aug. 25 – Ford revs up in second half
MOOSIC — For whatever reason, Mike Ford didn’t look like his normal self in the beginning of the season.
He homered only twice in the first 31 games — both against Charlotte on April 12 — and the guy who’s walked nearly as many times as he’s struck out in his career wrapped up the first two months of the season with twice as many strikeouts as free passes. Full story
Aug. 26 – Adams moves to bullpen, too
ALLENTOWN — He’s done it before, so Chance Adams doesn’t expect moving to the bullpen to be too much of a change.
One week after Justus Sheffield moved to the bullpen, Adams joined his fellow former starting rotation mate in the RailRiders bullpen at Coca-Cola Park on Sunday. Adams pitched two innings of relief and allowed a home run as the RailRiders lost to International League North champ Lehigh Valley, 5-3. Full story
Aug. 27 – Another rehab assignment, another homer for Sanchez
ALLENTOWN — Gary Sanchez started his rehab assignment with a bang, Mike Ford picked up the torch and the RailRiders left Lehigh Valley with a big win.
Sanchez smashed a homer on the first pitch he saw in the first inning, Ford doubled twice and drove in three runs, including the go-ahead one in the 10th, and the RailRiders beat the rival IronPigs, 9-8, at Coca-Cola Park on Monday night. Full story
Aug. 29 – King pulled from perfect game
MOOSIC — Every location Gary Sanchez asked Mike King to hit, the RailRiders pitcher nailed it, the catcher said.
First baseman Ryan McBroom called King one of the best pitchers he’s ever played defense behind.
Manager Bobby Mitchell thinks King could pitch in the big leagues right now. It’s just, Wednesday, he couldn’t pitch in the seventh inning. The RailRiders had other relievers who needed to get work.
When you’re pitching a perfect game, however, that news is tough to take.
“It’s not their decision, but I got a little heated in the dugout,” King said. Full story
Sept. 1 – Yankees extend player development deal with RailRiders
MOOSIC — They own the team, so this was more of a paperwork move.
The Yankees extended their player development contract with the RailRiders through 2020. Full story
Sept. 2 – Triple-A switching to major league balls for 2019
MOOSIC — The differences, Tyler Wade says, are noticeable. Big league baseballs are harder. Triple-A ones have smaller seams.
“I feel like every time you come down here, you can tell a dramatic difference,” the RailRiders shortstop said.
That won’t be the case next season.
The International League and Pacific Coast League will switch to MLB baseballs next season, a request made by Major League Baseball. Full story
Sept. 2 – RailRiders clinch wild card
It should have been an easy out. Should have been a lazy fly ball that left the RailRiders’ rally a run short and their playoff hopes at the mercy of a do-or-die final game of the season.
Sometimes, though, it’s better to be lucky than good, they say.
The RailRiders got lucky Sunday, or as manager Bobby Mitchell put it, they got “a divine intervention fly ball.”
They’ll ride whatever it was into the postseason. Full story
Sept. 5-8 – Semifinals against Lehigh Valley
Game 1: Payton blasts walk-off home run.
Game 3: IronPigs win in extras to stay alive.
Sept. 11-15 – Governors’ Cup final against Durham
Sept. 15 – Yankees call up Sheffield, German
MOOSIC — After he congratulated his team for the year they had following Saturday’s loss to Durham, RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell delivered one more piece of news.
Justus Sheffield is heading to New York. Full story
Sept. 15 – Yankees call up Sheffield, German
MOOSIC — After he congratulated his team for the year they had following Saturday’s loss to Durham, RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell delivered one more piece of news.
Justus Sheffield is heading to New York. Full story
Sept. 15 – Minor league boss Reese praises King
MOOSIC — Like any organization official, Yankees player development director Kevin Reese seems to have a pretty good poker face.
Ask him about who’s going to be promoted to the big leagues once the RailRiders season is over, and he’ll say it’s an ongoing discussion, even though it’s likely the decisions, in one form or another, have been made.
Ask him about RailRiders starting pitcher Mike King, however, and Reese can’t hide his emotions. Full story
Nov. 5 – Mitchell out as RailRiders manager
After one season with the team, and three seasons in the Yankees organization, Mitchell said he was told the club would not be renewing his contract.
“I was surprised, to be honest with you. I was surprised,” Mitchell said when reached by phone Monday night. “But it’s their prerogative. Enjoyed the time that I had there with the organization. It’s a very talented organization, obviously. I’ll miss the players the most, along with the staff members I worked with. It’s a little disappointing.” Full story