MOOSIC — With Tyler Wade joining the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Monday and Thairo Estrada and Clint Frazier both playing in rehab games this week, Bobby Mitchell’s team is finally starting to look like the one he pictured on opening day.
After playing most of the past couple of weeks with short-handed roster, the RailRiders are getting close to full strength. And Mitchell couldn’t be happier.
“We’re starting to solidify things a little bit, I think,” said the RailRiders manager. “Who knows what’s down the line. You got Frazier, you got Estrada — I think they’re getting close, too. I think Estrada’s closer than Frazier, maybe, but they’re both playing games, which is good. We go from there. I texted Billy McKinney, who’s getting better.”
Mitchell was asked on Wednesday whether he thought Frazier and McKinney could stick with the RailRiders after they finish their rehab or join the New York Yankees. While he wasn’t 100 percent sure about the future for the two, he did offer some insight.
The Yankees currently roster four outfielders, but the original plan was five before Jacoby Ellsbury got hurt in spring training.
“I don’t know that for sure,” Mitchell said. “Well, you know Frazier probably will play some games for us. How many? I don’t really know. And I don’t know what their situation is at the big-league level at that point in time could change. You know everything changes in a heartbeat around here. It’s been crazy so far. I couldn’t tell you what exactly the plan is, but I know he’ll come here and play some games and we’ll go from there.
“I don’t know about Billy. He’ll probably come down here and play some games. He didn’t play too much up there, but he did decently well and they like him.”
RailRiders releiver Anyelo Gomez is close to returning as well. He pitched a bullpen session on Wednesday.
Bollinger makes debut
Southpaw Ryan Bollinger made his organizational debut on Tuesday.
Bollinger, who last pitched in a minor league game in 2013 when he was with Single-A Kannapolis, has taken quite the journey to reach Moosic. The 27-year-old has pitched in independent leagues from 2014-2016, in Germany in 2017 and with the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League this past offseason.
Unsure of what his future entails, Bollinger went back to Tampa to rejoin extended spring training after his start ended, he wanted to take advantage of every opportunity.
Bollinger pitched five innings of one-run baseball and even left with the lead before the bullpen collapsed in the middle innings. He gave up four hits, walked one batter and struck out five.
“Obviously you want to come in and do well, but it was just more or less it was just get the ball and just pitch,” Bollinger said. “There was really nothing else to it, but just throw a baseball.
“I felt OK. I felt the command of some of my pitches was average, but I was able to fight through it and get guys out. That’s all that really matters at the end of the day.”
The Empire Gives Back
In a response to the Pawtucket Red Sox’s Evil Empire Weekend, which is taking place when the RailRiders travel to McCoy Stadium May 5 and 6, the RailRiders are holding the Empire Gives Back event on May 4, which is set to be Star Wars Night.
With the PawSox coming to town, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre partnered with Yankees first baseman and former RailRider Tyler Austin to raise money to befit the Children’s Miracle Network and the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation.
Austin, who’s is cancer-free after being diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 17, started a t-shirt fundraiser during the month of April through Athletes Brand in which all of the proceeds go to the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation. A limited supply of Austin’s “Ball Out” t-shirt will be on sale and the RailRiders will wear custom Star Wars-themed jerseys that will be auctioned off to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.
The RailRiders will also donate 26 percent, which is Austin’s number, of all walk-up ticket sales to his fundraising effort.
“There is nothing evil about this empire,” RailRiders team president and general manager Josh Olerud said in a press release. “We have the chance to be leaders on many different levels, and the ability to partner with Geisinger, the Children’s Miracle Network as well as Tyler Austin’s fundraising efforts for the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation shows that the force of good is strong in Northeast Pennsylvania’s Minor League Baseball club.”
For Pawtucket’s Evil Empire Weekend, any fans named Joe or Kelly will be admitted for free while any “self-identifying” fans named Tyler or Austin will be “banned from the premises.” The weekend stems from the Yankees’ April 11 brawl with the Boston Red Sox after reliever Joe Kelly hit Austin with a pitch.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle