Brady Lail ready to take the next step in 2017After winning a Triple-A title, Lail wants to experience The Show
BUFFALO, N.Y. - The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders' season hasn't even started yet, but Brady Lail has already occupied three different slots in the Yankees' Triple-A rotation.
As of Tuesday morning, Lail was the No. 2 starter, set to pitch on Friday after Jordan Montgomery got the nod in Thursday's season opener. Later that evening, weather concerns moved Montgomery's start to Tampa and pushed Lail into the Opening Day role, and by Wednesday afternoon, the RailRiders' first AND second games of the season had been postponed, leaving them with a Saturday opener and a re-tooled rotation that will now see Johnny Barbato get the ball for Game 1.
Lail's first start could come in the back end of Sunday's now-doubleheader, but it's more than likely he won't toe the rubber until April 12 in Scranton. Either way, that's fine with Lail, because as he learned last year in helping the RailRiders win both the Governors' Cup and Triple-A National Championship, you can observe a lot just by watching.
"Being in the Minors is a grind - I mean, it's an honor to be here, but last year we played 152 games counting the National Championship - and you're trying to get better at something you've been doing since February," Lail said, "but you have to try to learn from watching your teammates, too."
That latter thought was something Lail sees as the biggest positive coming out of last season, when the RailRiders had a slew of veterans like Nick Swisher, Pete Kozma, Donovan Solano, and others helping guide the rising Baby Bombers, through good times and bad.
"I come off the mound, and I kind of do my own thing," he said, "but you watch the veterans as role models, and they show you how to handle success and failure with maturity. Like, you look at Swish, he may have gone 0-for-3, but he's still smiling because he gets to play the game of baseball. The older guys really helped us a lot, because they kind of set the tone."
Lail also got an up close and personal taste of flux last season, pitching for a RailRiders team that seemingly changed its roster every day. The veterans he mentioned set the tone for keeping the course there, too, but with the call-ups of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Tyler Austin, among others, Lail felt like everyone on the team believed they were one call away from helping in the Bronx.
"We were a team that felt like everybody had the chance to be in the big leagues," he said, "and because of that the atmosphere was unbelievable. Last year was one of the better experiences I've had in baseball, and it was mainly because of how the guys were and the friendships we built. Chemistry is something that you can't teach, and when everyone is rooting for each other, it just keeps rolling."
Lail calls winning the Triple-A National Championship a "crazy" experience, but as much as going back-to-back would be great, it would be even better for Lail if his season ended a couple hours east of NEPA.
"Celebrating at the end with all those guys that grinded all year was exciting, and seeing Skip (SWB manager Al Pedrique) smiling and crying at the end was something else," Lail smiled, "but after seeing all those guys go up last year…I know that's where I want to be, and it's in our grasp."
After making 17 of his 25 starts in Triple-A last year, Lail, who was an 18th-round pick in 2012, wants that call, and if and when it comes, the biggest thing he'll take with him is the confidence he built in his two starts during 2016's postseason, the first coming in SWB's first-round clincher and the second showing 6 1/3 shutout innings in Game 3 of the Governors' Cup Finals.
"That's a different pressure, but it was fun; it was easy to have good outings with the team we had, so I didn't put any pressure on myself," Lail said. "The guys did their jobs and I did mine, and the biggest thing was that I just took the opportunity and ran with it. I tried to take every moment of it in, because it was an honor, and that's something I carry with me."
What will be most satisfying for Lail, though, is that he'll have made it with the Yankees, becoming another homegrown option in an organization that hasn't always reaped its own minor-league harvest.
"I grew up a Yankees fan and always wanted to be a Yankee, and being here, this isn't just any other organization," Lail said. "It's not just how they're teaching us to play the game, but how they're teaching us to be young men and succeed outside baseball, how to be an example to everyone both on the field and off. I couldn't imagine this coming anywhere else."
And he also couldn't imagine it without the guys he's grinded with for the last five years, many of whom got their first tastes of The Show in the last couple seasons.
"It's exciting, because all of those guys are my friends," Lail smiled. "Gary (Sanchez) has been my catcher for three years, and Aaron (Judge) has been in my outfield for three years. Tyler Austin's a guy I watched work hard all throughout the Minors to get where he is, and they all deserved it. Being a pitcher, and being with those guys, I always want them behind me, and seeing that it's a realistic thing within our grasp? That's special, and I want to be able to climb with them."