A lot of baseball fans probably looked at Monday night's wacky game in Philadelphia as a wild, back-and-forth slugfest between the Phillies and Atlanta Braves.
Lost in all the commotion was a rookie relief pitcher who came in for the Braves in the seventh inning and got Phils' outfielder Dominic Brown to ground out to first and Carlos Ruiz to pop up. As a result, the 6-foot, 4-inch left-hander improved his ERA to 2.08 in just his sixth appearance in the majors with Atlanta this season.
Perhaps some people watching back in York County recognized the name of the reliever: Ian Thomas. This time two years ago Thomas was in York making his Atlantic League debut with the Revolution. Thomas, 26, was one of three Revolution players and one of 31 Atlantic League players picked up by a big league franchise in 2012. He went on to become the fifth Revs alum reach the majors. The fourth was lefty reliever Scott Rice, who was one of six Revolution players and one of 32 Atlantic League players signed by a major league team in 2011. Rice made his major league debut last year and is back in the New York Mets bullpen again this season.
This should remind York Revolution fans that there's a chance they could see future major leaguers in action at Santander Stadium in 2014. Of course, there's already eight former big leaguers who will be in uniform for the Revs when York kicks off the 2014 campaign next week at home against Camden on April 24.
There's a handful of players on the current roster who have a good shot at getting signed by major league teams this year, and potentially go on to follow in the footsteps of guys such as Thomas and Rice.
Durham: At or near the top of that list is 25-year-old right-hander Ian Durham, a relief pitcher who will soon make his Atlantic League debut with York in just his fourth pro season. Durham developed into a starting pitcher at NCAA Division III California Lutheran University, a private school about the same size as York College, and was the last player taken in the 28th round of the 2011 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.
A reliever his entire pro career, the 6-foot-4 right-hander posted decent numbers with the Phils' rookie ball club that year but, for whatever reason, he wasn't brought back the following season. Much like Thomas did, Durham has been working his way up through the independent ranks since then. He put up good numbers against rookie-level hitters in the independent Frontier League in 2012 and double-A level batters in the independent American Association in 2013, helping the Gary Southshore (Ind.) Railcats win that league's championship last year. The youngest player on York's roster, Durham will now try his hand against triple-A level players in the Atlantic League, likely as a middle-inning relief guy for Revs' skipper Mark Mason.
"I've been climbing that ladder," Durham said Tuesday after the second day of York's spring training. "There really isn't another step up unless you're playing in the minors. I was hoping after last year's performance I would get a little interest (from a big league club) or an invite (to minor league spring training). Luckily enough York was interested in me."
Last year, six players were plucked off York's roster by major league teams. The Revs could have just as many in 2014. Along with Durham, other York players who have a good shot at getting signed by big league teams are pitchers Alain Quijano, Anthony Lerew, Billy Spottiswood, Mike McClendon, Mike Wuertz, Jorge Martinez and Rommie Lewis.
All but Wuertz and Lewis are new to the Atlantic League. All are former major leaguers except for Quijano, Martinez and Spottiswood, who played alongside Durham in Gary Southshore last season.
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.