Roller Provides Thunder to Trenton Lineup
The Trenton Thunder are a team that has a lineup that is composed with a lot of speed and gap-power. The one dynamic that this offense has been lacking is the element of home run power . As a team, the Thunder have hit just six home runs through their first 11 games of the season. On Sunday, Trenton received a huge jolt when they activated slugging first baseman Kyle Roller for their series finale at Erie.
Roller led the Thunder in both home runs (17) and RBI (69) in their 2013 championship campaign. Manager Tony Franklin was pleased to be able to insert Roller back into his lineup and he paid immediate dividends. With two-runners on and two-outs in the first inning, Roller stepped into the batters box to make his season debut and promptly drove the first pitch that he saw in 2014 over the wall for a three-run home run.
“Roller lengthens our lineup and gives us another bat with an added presence of power in the lineup,” said Franklin. “We don’t have a lot of power but I think that we have a lot of guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark and Roller is one of them.”
In the three games that Roller has been back he has already established himself as the team leader in homers with two. He has also stroked two doubles and has driven in four runs. Roller sprained an AC joint in his left shoulder during spring training and was shut down and forced to stay behind and rehab while his team traveled north to begin their season.
“The injury happened randomly one day,” said Roller. “I threw weird one time and felt a weird little pop so they went ahead and shut me down. It was nothing major, just something minor but we wanted to make sure that everything was going to be okay before they sent me on my way.”
Roller added, “It feels good to be back, any time you are down in Tampa for an extended period of time rehabbing, it sucks not being with your team. It’s always good to be able to get up here and hang with the guys and get to know them a little bit and just play as a team.”
The most impressive thing about Roller since returning is not the gaudy numbers and demonstration of raw power, but the level of comfort that he has displayed at the plate. Though it is a very small sample size, Roller appears to be very relaxed and in-tune with his approach. While many expected that his swing and timing would be behind, Roller appears to be as locked in as any hitter in the Eastern League.
“This is the start of the season for him,” said Franklin. “I am sure that he is pumped up to get everything going. He probably has a lot of adrenaline flowing; he looks very comfortable and he is very swinging well for us.”
Roller believes that the time he spent in the league last season and knowing what to expect from a pitcher in certain situations has played a part in his early success.
“Towards the end of my rehab down in Tampa, I was swinging the bat really good and I have just tried to carry it over,” Roller said. “I’ve been here before and I know how to make the adjustments on the fly so right now I am just trying to find my pitch early in the count and drive it.”
With table setters at the top of the order like Mason Williams and Ben Gamel, and run producers in the middle like Tyler Austin, Rob Segedin and Gary Sanchez; Roller hopes that his presence helps put this offense in a position to score runs every time through the order.
“I hope that adding my bat helps,” said Roller. “What we have coming one through nine is tough. This game is a team game and not one guy can win it every time, but it is certainly good to have all of these guys in the lineup pick you up when you are having a down night and I think that we have a good group here.”
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