When Ben Heller stood in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders clubhouse Thursday afternoon, he questioned what his future would entail.
It was Aug. 31, a day before Sept. 1 call-ups, and Heller was one of the RailRiders likely to be called to help out the New York Yankees as the big-league club makes its push for the postseason. Little did he know he’d be one of the three RailRiders arranging rides to the Bronx in order to make the Yankees’ 7 p.m. game against the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
Starters Jordan Montgomery and Bryan Mitchell are joining him.
“Just take it day by day, keep doing my work. Same thing I do every day and let the decision-makers handle those things,” Heller said of his approach leading up to Sept. 1. “Obviously I want to be in the big leagues. That’s my ultimate goal. I can’t do anything to control that besides my work.”
While the Yankees receive a shot to the arm with September call-ups, the RailRiders will undergo a makeover in the days to come.
Even though Heller, Mitchell and catcher Erik Kratz, who hadn’t reported to the team yet, left for the Yankees, it doesn’t mean more aren’t on the way.
Both Tyler Wade and Tyler Austin were recently optioned down to the RailRiders and have to wait 10 days before they can rejoin the big-league club. Pitchers Jonathan Holder, Domingo German and Ronald Herrera, catcher Kyle Higashioka and third baseman Miguel Andujar all have major league experience and are on the 40-man roster.
“That’s one thing as a manager, as a staff, we try to communicate to the players that this time time of the year — the same with the trade deadline — don’t worry about it,” RailRiders manager Al Pedrique said. “You have no control of the situation — how they’re going to go by, what decision they’re going to make. Our job is to get ready for (the games).”
Even though this can be a tense time in the clubhouse, with the future of many players up in the air as the postseason approaches, Eddy Rodriguez, one of the veteran leaders in the clubhouse, has a simple approach for this time of the season. So simple, it doesn’t even need to be addressed to the younger players.
“Realistically, not a darn thing,” Rodriguez said when asked if he’s going to talk to some of the younger players. “I’d be lying if I told them something real cliche. A lot of the guys understand what is expected of them out there and if they don’t know what’s expected of them, they’ll be let know in the first inning of the game, but I always give them the benefit of the doubt. We think the culture we’ve developed here over the last two years is that if you’re in Triple-A we’re going to win. If you go up to the big-leagues, go do your job, but if you’re in Triple-A we’re going to win.”
Now that Heller’s back in the Bronx, he wants to replicate the success he’s experienced with the RailRiders this past week — clinching a playoff berth and the International League North Division title — but with the Yankees.
“I think what we’ve experienced here is probably just a fraction of how exciting it would be up there, where everything is more meaningful,” Heller said. “It’s good to get a taste of it and get that experience and I think for myself and everybody else here, it just motivates us to get up there and do the same thing.”
RailRiders fall at Lehigh Valley
Sporting a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs used a five-run inning to hand the RailRiders their second straight loss, falling 5-3.
Brady Lail made the spot start for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and went six scoreless, striking out three, and didn’t factor in the decision.
J.P. Feyereisen replaced Lail in the seventh and retired the first two batters before walking J.P. Crawford. An Andujar two-out throwing error extended the inning before Christian Marrero’s two-run single tied the game and Dylan Cozens’ three-run homer broke it open. All five runs were unearned.
Ji-Man Choi was 2 for 4 with a double and Rodriguez had a solo home run.