The Core Four: Quartet of Brooklyn pitchers get All-Star nods

Brooklyn boasts the best pitching staff on the 14-team New-York Penn League circuit.

So it came as no surprise this week when four Cyclones pitchers, Luis Mateo, John Mincone, Hansel Robles and Gabriel Ynoa, were selected to represent our borough in the 2012 NY-Penn All-Star Game at Mahoning Valley's Eastwood Field next Tuesday night.

“You hope you get a quality start. But our starters, knock on wood, have done great," Brooklyn manager Rich Donnelly noted earlier this summer. "It really helps out our bullpen. If these guys can get in the fifth or sixth innings and you bring in a (reliever), then you can use those five or six guys in the bullpen properly. That’s what these guys do. Our rotation has been terrific.”

While the quartet has helped the Cyclones post the best team ERA (2.48), most shutouts (7), least hits (346), walks and earned runs (123) and only 111 walks (good for second-fewest) thus far this summer, it has been a group effort that has made Brooklyn the most pitching-rich club in the league.

NY-Penn wins co-leader Rainy Lara (6-1), relievers Tyler Vanderheiden (six saves, 0.66 ERA) and Paul Sewald (0.00 ERA and three saves) have also contributed throughout the campaign, but all three were left off the final NL All-Star roster.

For Donnelly, who has his team atop the wild-card standings and within two games of McNamara Division-leading Hudson Valley with a month remaining in the season, pitching has been the key to the Cyclones' success as they bid for a second straight playoff appearance under his guidance.

“I hope they can keep it up," Donnelly said of his stingy pitchers. "Because you can do it once or twice, it doesn’t mean you can do it for a whole season. But if you do it once or twice, you can tell yourself that you can do it. You should have some confidence."

That confidence has been evident during Brooklyn's current five-game winning streak as Cyclones hurlers have combined to allow just two earned runs.

Here's a closer look at the four players who will forever have "New York-Penn League All-Star" etched on their player bios as they continue their ascension up the minor league ranks:

Luis Mateo (4-3, 2.79 ERA)   The 22-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, who was signed by the Mets as a minor league free agent in 2011, is just the second Cyclone ever to win New York-Penn League Pitcher of the Week twice in the same season. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Mateo, who went 6-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts for the Gulf Coast League Mets last year, currently leads the NY-Penn with 58 strikeouts and ranks fourth with a 0.97 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). After yielding one earned run or fewer in five of his first seven starts, Mateo finally got touched up Aug. 2 against Connecticut, surrendering season highs of five runs and 10 hits over five innings.

John Mincone (2-0, 0.42 ERA with four saves)  The only Brooklyn reliever to make the cut, Mincone has only allowed one run on 11 hits while walking three and striking out 23 in 21 2/3 innings of work this summer. The staff's elder statesman at 24, the Dix Hills, N.Y., native is currently enjoying an 18 1/3 innings scoreless streak, second on the club behind bullpen phenom Paul Sewald.

Hansel Robles (3-1, 1.74 ERA)  Currently ranked fifth in the NY-Penn in ERA, Robles has improved as the summer has progressed, limiting opponents to one earned run or fewer in each of his last five starts. The 5-foot-11 Venezuelan right-hander will turn 22 on the eve of Tuesday's All-Star Game. Prior to this season, Robles went 11-8 with a 2.93 ERA for the DSL Mets and Rookie-level Kingsport since signing with the Mets as a non-drafted free agent in 2008. “He’s the kind of kid that has to keep his composure out there," Donnelly said of Robles. "He’s got good enough stuff. He has to read the hitters a little better.”

Gabriel Ynoa (4-1, 2.45 ERA)  Brooklyn's Opening Day starter is also the youngest starting pitcher in franchise history at 19. Ynoa's sparkling performance Tuesday night in Lowell  four hits, no walks and eight strikeouts over a season-high seven innings  gave him the team lead in innings pitched with 55. HIs eerie control  only seven walks to go with 45 strikeouts  makes him the perfect model of what manager Rich Donnelly and pitching coach Marc Valdes are looking for in their starters. "If you throw strikes, you don't have to throw 100 miles per hour," Donnelly said.