TRENTON, N.J. – After starting the season with two straight sluggish games on offense, help is finally on the way for the Trenton Thunder. Manager Tony Franklin confirmed to me prior to Saturday’s game that outfielder Tyler Austin is on his way from Tampa to join the team.
“He is coming,” Franklin said during the pre-game media session. “He’s not here today. Probably won’t be here tomorrow, but he’s on his way. Possibly Monday. … I think he’s driving up so I don’t know what time, so he may not be in the lineup, but he’s on his way.”
Franklin did suggest that though Austin is either close to playing or cleared to play, he may still give him a couple of days to get settled back in before throwing him in the lineup. He did not hint at what the corresponding roster move would be for when Austin is activated Monday.
Austin, who spent all of last season with the Thunder when healthy, is coming off an injury to his right wrist that cost him over a month in the middle of the year. The injury flared up again after just a few games in the Arizona Fall League, causing the New York Yankees to shut him down.
After spending most of the 2013 regular season playing right field for the Thunder, Austin had been seeing time in the infield during the Fall League, a trend that Tony Franklin hinted could continue into the 2014 season.
“Tyler was playing a little third base in the spring,” Franklin revealed Saturday. “He has played some first base and he’s played some outfield. When you swing the bat as well as Tyler, you try to get his bat in the lineup anywhere…there’s a possibility he might be throughout the outfield and third base and possibly first base, we just don’t know yet.”
Austin’s ability to swing the bat is a key to this Thunder lineup, and he should be at the heart of the batting order provided the wrist injury has not affected his swing or his power in any way. In 83 games with Trenton, Austin produced a .257/.344/.373 batting line while hitting six home runs, though those numbers may have been hampered by attempting to play through the injury.
Franklin conceded that it may be up to the coaching staff to save Austin from re-injuring his troublesome right wrist.
“He’s gonna want to play through injury, which is a good thing, but probably not the best thing to do,” the veteran Thunder skipper said. “So yeah, we kind of have to save Tyler from himself, and I tell him that all the time…if we can save him a month or two months on the disabled list, then let’s do that.”
Austin may not be the only player added in the coming days, as relief pitcher Taylor Garrison also tweeted on Saturday that he is headed to Trenton to join the Thunder.