Can we take a mulligan?…
At long last, the regular season has arrived. There’s always great anticipation for Opening Day, and it was made even more special this year since the Yankees opened at home. The problem was the opponent. Contrary to what you might believe, the Steinbrenner family doesn’t own the Yankees, Dallas Keuchel does. Fresh off last year’s one game Wild Card loss to the Houston Astros and Keuchel, the Yankees very next meaningful game was against the same opponent (team and pitcher). Despite finally scoring a couple of runs, the results were the same. A loss.
It’s a disappointing way to start a new season. I was so envious of the fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They opened in San Diego with the most convincing Opening Day victory ever in whitewashing the Padres, 15-0. That’s how to excite a fan base! They followed it up the next day with another shutout.
Masahiro Tanaka pitched well enough to win, but a controversial play in the 8th inning against reliever Dellin Betances cost them the game. At this point, I am indifferent whether the Astros runner should have been called out when he ran inside of the base path, but really, if the game comes down to one play, it’s a game the Yankees probably shouldn’t have won anyway. Of the Aroldis Chapman-less bullpen, you don’t expect the first reliever to fold to be Betances. But it is what it is, and the Yankees still have 161 more games to play to prove they belong in the play-offs.
The Man Cave…
I was hopeful that the Cincinnati Reds would offer Rule 5 pick Jake Cave back to the Yankees, and I got my wish. However, when it happened, I did feel remorse for the player. He had been excited to get an opportunity to go to Cincy and to play in his first big league spring training. The excitement was compounded because there were guys he knew from the Yankees organization (namely the players sent to the Reds for closer Aroldis Chapman…guys like Eric Jagielo and Rookie Davis). He hit well early in camp and then tailed off. But the reports were continuing that he’d stick with the Reds as their fourth outfielder. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be and after clearing waivers, he was offered back to the Yankees. The Yankees accepted and promptly sent Cave down to AA. There was no room in AAA due to a surplus of outfielders.
Time will tell if he gets an opportunity in New York. I hope he does, but if it doesn’t happen, then I hope he finds an organization to give him the chance.
The Opening Day Roster…
There were no great surprises when the roster was announced. Once Gary Sanchez and Rob Refsnyder were sent down, it was a given that Austin Romine and Ronald Torreyes or Pete Kozma would make the team. On the relief side, Bryan Mitchell’s toe injury and subsequent surgery (out four months) opened the way for Kirby Yates to make the team. I was glad to see Luis Cessa make it, and perhaps he can show something to take a larger role going forward. It will be interesting to see how Ivan Nova adjusts to the long man/spot starter role vacated by former Yankee Adam Warren. While I think Nova pitched better than CC Sabathia in spring training, I agree that Sabathia would not be a good fit in the pen. He either needs to succeed as a starting pitcher or the Yankees should just release him and cut their losses. Nova’s time will come. If he perseveres and can eliminate the bouts of inconsistency, he’ll get another chance at the rotation.
There’s no doubt the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle will be running in full force again this year so the guys on the roster today won’t be exactly the same by the time Chapman returns in May.
GM Brian Cashman is playing a masterful game of chess as he continues to rebuild the Yankees. They may not win the World Series this year, but this is a team that is clearly on the rise. As long as Cashman continues to make the right moves, the future is bright in the Bronx.