Yankees to promote trio of pitching prospects, move Francisco Rondon back to bullpen

05/08/2013 5:01 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Mikey O'Brien made 20 appearances (19 starts) for Trenton in 2012.(AP)
The Yankees are an organization deep in starting pitching, and it appears as if a few of those prospects are about to get moved up the line.

At the top of the line, Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin told the media Tuesday night that right-hander Caleb Cotham has been promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he will start on Thursday for the RailRiders. Cotham was 1-1 with a 3.96 ERA in six starts for the Thunder, and because of a doubleheader last Sunday forcing Scranton to use both Dellin Betances and Chris Bootcheck, the RailRiders currently have a "TBA" listed as Thursday's starter.

The RailRiders will have to make a roster move to accommodate Cotham, and he will be replaced on the Thunder roster by RHP Mikey O'Brien, about whom Franklin said Tuesday "it's a fact of the matter he's coming." O'Brien was 4-7 with a 5.20 ERA in 20 appearances for the Thunder last year, but began 2013 at Class-A Advanced Tampa because of a lingering hamstring injury and was 1-2 with a 4.39 ERA in six starts for the T-Yanks.

According to Josh Norris of The Trentonian, O'Brien will start Friday for the Thunder in place of LHP Francisco Rondon, who will likely return to the bullpen. Rondon, who is on the 40-man roster and spent last year at Triple-A, was moved to the rotation this spring but struggled, going 2-2 with a 7.16 ERA and throwing just 27.2 innings in six starts this season.

Apparently, Rondon's stay in the rotation wasn't meant to be permanent anyway, as Yankees Senior VP Mark Newman told Chad Jennings of the Journal News on Wednesday morning that it was more about development.

"I think we think he's a long-term reliever," Newman said. "It doesn't hurt any reliever to pitch in the rotation for a while, anyway. … It's not even (to develop) arm strength. It's developing the ability to locate and spin the ball."

With O'Brien moving up to Trenton, Norris Tweeted that the open spot in Tampa will be filled by righty Taylor Garrison, a 2012 draftee who posted a 2.28 ERA and 11 saves in Staten Island last year and started 2013 in Charleston, where he had a 0.69 ERA, three saves, and 16 strikeouts in 13 innings over eight appearances.

There is no word as of yet how Charleston would then fill their open roster spot. Sources in the organization said last week that RHP Derek Varnadore was close to returning from the disabled list, so he could be activated, but the team could also add a pitcher from Extended Spring Training and/or the theoretical Staten Island roster or wait to see if there is a trickle-down effect from the top due to Cotham's promotion.

Follow us on Twitter @LouDiPietroYES and @YESNetwork for more. comments