Category: Dailies

Do You Have Prince Albert In A Can?…

Credit:  Zach Bland/Charleston RiverDogs

With the news that James Kaprielian has elected Tommy John surgery, it is already being speculated that Albert Abreu moves to the top of the chart for right-handed prospects in the Yankees organization.  At only 21 years of age, he is further away from the Major Leagues than Kaprielian is (was) and his status of the top righty would cause him to leap-frog over the more seasoned Chance Adams (and possibly Domingo Acevedo depending upon what prospect list you are looking at). 

While I have high hopes for Chance Adams, I’ve been very intrigued by Abreu since he was acquired, along with pitcher Jorge Guzman, from the Houston Astros last November in the Brian McCann trade.  At the time of the trade, I felt the Yankees did an outstanding job with their return for a player who longer fit.  At the time of the trade, the only teams that you consistently heard connected to McCann were the Astros and his former team, the Atlanta Braves.  It felt like a buyer’s market but GM Brian Cashman still came up with quality prospects. 

In Abreu’s first start this year for the Single A Charles RiverDogs, he absolutely dominated.  In 5 2/3 innings the other day, he held the Augusta GreenJackets to two hits and no runs, striking out eleven.  He did not walk anyone.  At one point, his pitches were hitting 100 mph on the radar gun.  For the season, Abreu has pitched 9 2/3 innings, allowing only five hits and one run for an 0.93 ERA.  He has struck out a total of 17 batters.  I am sure the AA Trenton Thunder and High-A Tampa Yankees are already salivating over who gets their hands on Abreu next. 

I am okay with the spotlight not being focused on Adams.  My hope is his continued positive, upward climb in the organization.  I have no problem with him slipping quietly into the rotation when it is time.  Take a chance on Adams!  If we do lose Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and/or CC Sabathia at the end of the year, we’ll need every quality (healthy) arm that we can get. 

Credit:  Martin Griff

Regarding Kaprielian, given this is the same injury that cost him the 2016 season, I think the decision to undergo TJ surgery is the best possible option.  Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.  But as I’ve said before, he had to make the decision that was best for him and not necessarily what was best for the Yankees.  Surgery probably means  a reappearance in the minor leagues toward the end of the 2018 season since the standard recovery time is 12-18 months.  More than anything, I hope he is able to rebound from this setback and return with the best health possible.  It’s going to be a long journey for Kaprielian (basically, three lost seasons counting last year) but I hope that he is one day able to step foot on Yankee Stadium turf as a member of the New York Yankees.  I am glad that he chose Dr Neal ElAttrache for the surgery given that he is one of the leading experts in the field. 

Kaprielian’s surgery is scheduled for next Tuesday which coincides with Tax Day.  So, I guess that day is going to be painful for all of us!  Well, I suppose you could argue that Kaprielian is getting the pain from an orthopedic surgeon, whereas the rest of us are getting it from a proctologist.

The Cleveland Indians trade for Andrew Miller may have cost them more time without All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis.  It seems odd that one would be connected to the other but Kipnis was hit by a pitch on his left hand the other day on a rehab assignment.  Word is that Kipnis will give it go today so hopefully he won’t miss time.  The irony is that the pitch was thrown by the Yankees’ Justus Sheffield, a former Indians prospect who arrived with Clint Frazier, among others, in the Miller trade.    

After the second run through the rotation, which included a rookie, it’s hard to believe that the worst starting performance was courtesy of Masahiro Tanaka (last Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, which is also the last time the team has lost).  After Micheal Pineda’s masterful performance on Opening Day, Luis Severino delivered a gem of his own.  In getting his first starting victory since September 27, 2015, Sevy went seven strong innings and struck out eleven Rays batters.  He only surrendered five hits, one walk and two runs.  He did give up a fifth inning home run to Peter Bourjos but all things considered, he limited the damage and set the Yankees up for the win despite minimal offense.  It’s the type of quality start that we consistently need from Severino and one that was so elusive last year when Sevy went 0-8 as a starter.

Credit:  Frank Franklin II/AP Photo

The only offense was provided by Aaron Hicks and his two home runs.  Thanks to Sevy’s great start, that’s all we needed for the 3-2 win.  Dellin Betances did get into a bit of bind in the eighth inning when he had runners at the corners with no outs, but he worked out of trouble to escape the inning with no runs.  The strikeouts for the first two outs of Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria on called third strikes were huge.  I was a little worried when Brad Miller came to the plate but he was tagged out by Betances on a soft roller hit toward first base for the final out.  

Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth and picked up his second save of the season.  Man, I love having that guy back from the Chicago Cubs.  

After sitting at 1-4 following Saturday’s loss, the Yankees are 5-4 with the sweep of the Rays.  The Yankees now begin a three game set with the St Louis Cardinals at the Stadium.  The Cards have gotten off to a slow start this year and are currently in last place in the NL East with a 3-6 record (tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates).  They are capable of so much more but I hope they don’t wake up in this series.  It’s a reunion for Yankees DH Matt Holliday who spent eight years in St Louis.  Michael Wacha faces Masahiro Tanaka in what should be a great pitching matchup.  It’s time for a dominant Tanaka performance like we saw during Spring Training. 

Have a great Friday!  Let’s keep this winning streak alive!  Go for five!

Find An Apartment In The City, Monty…

Credit:  Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

“But I like it, I love it, I want some more of it…”

He didn’t get the win, gave up a home run to a journeyman infielder, and didn’t last the length of an official game, but Jordan Montgomery has earned my respect and I am looking forward to his next start.

Montgomery was rudely introduced to the Major Leagues by Tampa’s Rickie Weeks Jr, who hit a homer with two outs and one on in the top of the first inning.  It was a moment that could have sent any young pitcher (or Micheal Pineda) into a tailspin.  Instead, he induced Corey Dickerson into a ground out and it was inning over.   He did get into a little trouble in the third when he allowed a single to Peter Bourjos and hit Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch with just one out, however, he proceeded to strike out the next two batters to end the threat.

In the fourth inning, Steven Souza Jr doubled to start the inning.  What’s with all these Jr’s in the Rays lineup?  Maybe I should just call myself Fid Jr.  Sorry, I digress.  Back to the topic at hand, Montgomery struck out the next two batters (Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria).  At that point, he was pulled in favor of Bryan Mitchell.  Souza Jr subsequently scored on a fielding error by Starlin Castro so the run wasn’t charged against Montgomery.

The line reads 4 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned runs, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts, but it doesn’t tell the story how Montgomery got tougher when the stakes were raised.  He was resilient and did not allow bad plays to influence his game.  Like Mariano Rivera, he had a short memory and was not intimidated by any of the Rays hitters, including slugger Evan Longoria.  Some guys may not profile as top of the line aces but they are just winners.  That’s what Montgomery is to me.  He seems like he can be a guy you want to hand the ball to in a pressure situation.  We need a few more of those.  

I thought it was great that the Yankees started Montgomery’s minor league catcher, Kyle Higashioka.  I am sure that helped with the transition to Yankee Stadium.  Higashioka didn’t do much with the bat, but that wasn’t why he was so important to the game.  Bravo to Montgomery for his first start and congrats to Higashioka for calling it.  I think Jordan will be even stronger the next time out.  The Yankees decision to promote Montgomery has been validated.  

For the game, the Yankees did win.  With the 8-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, they’ve won two of two out of a three game set.  The series concludes today.  At the beginning of the week, I was hopeful for two out of three.  Sorry, but now I want a sweep.  A 5-4 record would be so much better than 1-4 or in this case, 4-5.  Aaron Judge was 2-for-3 with yet another home run (his third in consecutive games).  But his single was the talk of the game.  The exit velocity of the ball was 116.5 MPH, the fastest base hit of 2017.  Is there any doubt Manager Joe Girardi made the right decision when he picked Judge over Aaron Hicks to start in right field?  All of us have known that Judge has the potential to be a monster.  He’s showing us the evidence.  

On the downside, Brett Gardner was injured in a collision at first base with Rickie Weeks Jr.  Not sure if the collision is a product of Weeks’ inexperience at first, but Gardner will be out for a few days with a bruised jaw and strained neck.  Aaron Weeks, who had completed a three game streak of starting in right, center, left figures to get a few more starts until Gardner returns.  In the interim, it pushes Jacoby Ellsbury to the top of the lineup as the leadoff hitter.  Ugh.  Here’s hoping for a quick recovery to good health for Gardy.

Credit:  Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Pitcher James Kaprielian has met with Dr Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles but no word has been released regarding Kaprielian’s decision.  I am sure this is a very difficult decision for the young hurler.  While I hope for the best result to get him back on the field again, what’s best for Kaprielian takes precedence over what’s best for the Yankees.  So, whatever decision Kaprielian makes, I will support and accept.

Regarding the 40-man roster, the loser of the seat at the table is pitcher Johnny Barbato.  While I was worried that Robert Refsnyder might be the player DFA’d, I did feel that it was most likely one of the lesser known pitchers.  I think in my mind, Barbato is the pitcher I thought of first.  Since being acquired from the San Diego Padres for reliever Shawn Kelley (now a vital part of the Washington Nationals’ bullpen), Barbato has not done anything at the Major League level.  His brief appearances have not been memorable and I was surprised over the winter when the Yankees left some quality guys off the 40-man roster to protect Barbato.  I assumed the Yankees saw something in the pitcher that I haven’t seen.    With the number of quality arms in the organization, I have no problem with losing Barbato.  Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman will be able to flip him for something of value as he’d probably be claimed off waivers by another team.  

With Montgomery’s strong start, I am hopeful that Luis Severino answers the bell today against the Rays.  After last year’s 0-8 record in starting assignments, I didn’t want to go into this year with Severino chasing wins again.  He failed his first attempt last week but today represents redemption.  I hopeful that he drops a “W” in his win-loss record so that we can get that bad boy out of the way and move into friendly debates about which young pitcher is better.  

We’ll have a Bird in the lineup today so there’s no reason we can’t fly!  Go Yankees, and have a great Thursday!

So Much For Your Promises…

As Jordan Blackmon Montgomery prepares for his first Major League start later today, the Shattered Dreams Award must reside with reliever Tyler Webb.  Webb had been selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates last December.  As a lefty, he stood a decent chance of making the Pirates roster.   His Spring numbers for the Pirates were legit.  In 13 innings pitched over the course of 8 games, he did allow 13 hits and 4 runs (2.77 ERA), but he walked only one and struck out 11.  However, he lost the roster battle to former Yankee (and fellow left-hander) Wade LeBlanc and was returned to the Yankees organization. 

Back with the Yankees and not on the 40-man roster, Webb was assigned to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

On Sunday, in the second game of a double header with the Buffalo Bisons, Webb replaced starter Joe Mantiply for the RailRiders with two outs and two on in the bottom of third inning.  He struck out Rowdy Tellez to end the threat.  So far, so good.  The next inning started nicely, with the RailRiders nursing a 3-0 lead, as Webb struck out the first batter.  Then, unfortunately, the wheels came off.  When Webb was pulled from the game after two outs in the bottom of the fourth, he had allowed six singles and a double.  The Rail Riders had scored 6 runs to take the lead.  Webb did strike out the last batter he faced (Rudy Tellez for a second time).  So, for one inning of work, recording all outs by strikeout, the 6 runs left Webb with an ERA of 54.00.  Oddly enough, he wasn’t the loser as the RailRiders tied the game in the top of the fifth.  His replacement, Tyler Jones, took the loss by allowing three Bison runs over the next couple of innings.  It must be a horrible feeling to stand on the cusp of making a Major League roster, only to see your dream die and then you subsequently get shellacked in the minor leagues. At 26 going on 27, Webb is not going to get too many more opportunities.  Performances like Sunday will not exactly open any doors, except for the one leading out of baseball.  Hopefully, he’ll be more effective next time around and will be ready the next time he gets the call to The Show.  Otherwise, it’s nothing but shattered dreams, shattered dreams…

Credit:  Pete G. Wilcox, Times Leader

So far, the only quality starts thrown by Yankees pitchers are pitchers who stand tall on the mound (6’6” or greater).  We’re on a roll with two consecutive quality  “tall” starts.  Sunday belonged to CC Sabathia (6’6”) with 6 innings of work and two earned runs (three total) even if he didn’t get the decision, and Monday featured the near perfect game by Michael Pineda (6’7”).  He went 7 2/3 innings, allowing only one run.  Jordan Montgomery (6’6”) looks to continue the “basketball pitcher” streak today.  If Montgomery struggles, perhaps Dellin Betances (6’8”) steps in to assist.  I have to admit that I kinda feel like Ronald Torreyes trying to high five Aaron Judge with this pitching staff.  When Aroldis Chapman is brought in behind these guys, it must seem like Tyrion Lannister following Jamie Lannister.  Or me chasing after Aroldis.

I am all for whatever edge the “downward angle” brings for Montgomery.  This is an exciting start and it is one that I am hopeful is very successful.  I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a Yankee-born pitcher since Andy Pettitte. 

According to Forbes Magazine, the New York Yankees are the most valuable MLB franchise, worth an estimated $3.7 billion.  The Los Angeles Dodgers are second, trailing the Yankees by nearly a billion dollars ($2.75 billion).  The others in the “billion dollars behind” category are the Boston Red Sox ($2.7 billion), Chicago Cubs ($2.675 billion), and the San Francisco Giants ($2.65 billion).  I have no problem thinking of a billion reasons why the Yankees are better than the rest of Baseball.  Now the proof is in the pudding.  But as much as I love the Yankees, I would seriously have to consider selling the team if my name was Steinbrenner.  

Happy Retirement to former Yankees outfielder Brennan Boesch.  Boesch was a decent platoon outfielder for a few seasons with the Detroit Tigers at the start of his career.  He played in 23 games with the Yankees during the 2013 season until his release in July of that year.  During his brief Yankees career, he batted .275 (14-for-51) with 3 HR’s and 8 RBI’s.  After his release by the Yankees, he subsequently played for the Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds.  Last year, he was in the Boston Red Sox organization at the AAA Level, but missed the majority of the season with a broken wrist.  He was unable to get a spring invite from a Major League team this year.  Boesch is a player I liked and hoped would succeed but it wasn’t meant to be.  I wish him the very best in his post-playing career.  

Credit:  David Richard, USA TODAY Sports

Happy Wednesday!  Let’s get a win today!

Don’t Look Now But It’s J-Mont Time!…

Credit:  Chris O’Meara, AP

Whoa, I didn’t think it would happen but Jordan Montgomery has claimed the fifth spot in the starting rotation.  As recent as yesterday, I said I expected the Yankees to go with either Bryan Mitchell (currently on the Major League roster) or Chad Green (currently in the minors) since both pitchers are on the 40-man roster.  Surprisingly, Manager Joe Girardi has announced they’ll call up Jordan Montgomery to make his much anticipated Major League Debut on Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.  

I think it’s a terrific move.  While I have been aware of the minor league accomplishments that Montgomery has achieved, I jumped on the bandwagon during Spring Training after watching him pitch.  I had been a big supporter for Mitchell but the tall young left-hander changed my mind.  I think it is tremendous to add another talented lefty to the rotation to go with CC Sabathia.  Montgomery may not profile as a frontline ace, but he can be a very effective Big League pitcher.  There will be bumps in the road but I think Montgomery can be an important part of the starting rotation when the team returns to contender status in the not-so-distant future.  

No word yet who has lost their spot on the 40-man roster.  You always have to worry about Rob Refsnyder given the lack of love he has been shown by Yankees management (regardless of how you or I feel about Ref).  I think it will probably be one of the lesser known younger pitchers but it’s really anybody’s guess for who will lose the seat at the table.

With Montgomery scheduled to start tomorrow, it pushes everyone else back a day.  Luis Severino will pitch on Thursday.  To make room on the 25-man roster for Montgomery, the Yankees have demoted lefty reliever Chasen Shreve to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  The decision regarding the 40-man roster, which was not announced, will be made by Wednesday.

Congratulations to Montgomery for his arrival at The Show and best of luck for much success on Wednesday for his Major League (and Yankee Stadium) debut!  Exciting times!  These are the steps that lay the foundation for the next World Series Championship!

It’s been announced that catcher Gary Sanchez will miss four weeks with a Grade 1 Strain of his  right brachialis muscle (behind his bicep).  I think all of us knew that this was going to be longer than a 10-Day DL stint.  A month is a long time, but all things considered, it could have been worse, much worse.  So, I guess we’ll just have delay the Yankees Regulars Reunion Party until May when Sanchez and Didi Gregorius both return.  

I’ve already seen a few articles speculating who the Yankees should acquire for interim catching help.  I think they’ll just go with the in-house candidates like they did for Didi Gregorius.  I would prefer to see a platoon between Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka rather than just give the job outright to Romine.  I really want to see what Higashioka has in his bat.  He was a late bloomer but I think he can be a better catcher than Romine.  Of the external candidates, the only name that sounds reasonably appealing to me is John Ryan Murphy of the Minnesota Twins.  But despite the good job Murphy did as the Yankees backup catcher a couple of seasons ago, he has had a difficult time staying on the Twins’ MLB roster and is currently at Triple A.  

With Sanchez out of the lineup, it’s critical for someone else to step up.  Could that guy be right fielder Aaron Judge?  Judge homered on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles and again yesterday on Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays.  He has done a good job in reducing strikeouts and maybe now his bat is coming around.  After struggling at each level, he has always overcome the challenges.  Let’s hope this is the start of success for Judge in the Major Leagues, his final frontier.  

Speaking of Opening Day, it was a magical day.  Prior to the game, I had hoped the significance of the day would help bring out the best in Pineda.  It did.  Big Mike pitched exactly the way we know he can.  He took a perfect game into the seventh inning before surrendering a double to Evan Longoria.  He lost the shutout in the eighth, thanks to a Logan Morrison home run.  Those would be the only hits (and run) allowed by Pineda, who went 7 2/3 innings.  He didn’t walk a batter and struck out eleven in one of his most magnificent performances in recent memory.  This is the Big Mike that can take us to the Promised Land.  

For the second day in a row, Aroldis Chapman saw a potential save opportunity evaporate due to multiple late inning runs.  After the top of the eighth inning was completed, the Yankees held a slim 3-1 lead.  It felt like we’d see Chapman in the ninth to try for his first save of the season.  He had even gotten up to throw in the pen but it was not meant to be as the Yankees easily scored five runs in the bottom of the 8th to ice the game.  So, for the ninth inning, Chasen Shreve cleanly delivered three outs with no hits, walks or runs, striking out one.  For his trouble, he received a free all-expenses paid one-way trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  

In addition to Judge’s fourth inning home run off Alex Cobb, Chase Headley and Starlin Castro also homered later in the game.  Matt Holliday had a good Yankee Stadium debut as he was 2-for-4, with a run scored and one ribbie.  Chris Carter, also making his Yankee Stadium debut, tripled to drive in a run during the eighth inning scoring explosion.

It was a GREAT day for the Yankees and their fans from beginning to end.  The day could not have been better scripted.  Well, I wouldn’t object to the erasure of Longoria’s hit or Morrison’s homer, but all things considered, it was a wonderful day in the Bronx neighborhood.  

For a day like yesterday, it’s fun to have a day off today to let the pleasing victory marinate.  Take these good feelings and channel them into the desire for a sensational debut performance tomorrow by New York Yankees starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery!  Wow, that does sound good…

Have a great Tuesday! 

Optimism fades to Pessimism?…

Where did the excitement of the new season go?…

Man-watching-the-sunset

The season began with so much optimism.  The Yankees had the best Spring of any team in Major League Baseball (24-9-1) which was their best Grapefruit League performance since the 2009 World Championship year.

The Yankees may not be World Series contenders this year, but I expected more than a 1-3 start through four games.  With 157 games to go, there’s still much baseball to be played.  But it’s important to see the team gel with a winning mindset sooner rather than later.  It’s not feasible or possible to win every game, but the attitude for expecting to win should be there.  With a downward spiral, it’s too easy to get caught up in the losses and the negativity spreads like wildfire.

My concern this month is the schedule.  It is not an easy path in April.  With two more games to go in Baltimore, the Yankees will play a total of eleven games this month against the AL rival Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.  The series against the Red Sox is at Fenway Park which isn’t exactly an inviting place for the Yankees (or their fans).  The Yankees also play the St Louis Cardinals in inter-league play.  Mike Matheny’s squad always comes to play.  The Yankees really need to get on top of this, and pull out a few stretches of two or three consecutive wins.

Despite Friday’s loss to the Orioles, it was good to see Gary Sanchez connect for his first home run on the season.  It is unrealistic to expect 20 home runs in 50 games again, but just getting the first one out of the way helps the mental approach to each at-bat.

sanchez1

Credit:  Ron Sachs, The New York Post

Right now, the young trio of Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Greg Bird are all hitting below the Mendoza Line.  Sanchez has the best batting average of the three (.167).  Judge stands at .133, while Bird, with one hit in 16 at-bats, is a pathetic .063.  You’d expect Judge to be the team’s strikeout leader (given Chris Carter is not an every day starter) but he trails Bird by two.  It’s sad when the team’s best hitter is Chase Headley (7-for-15).

Collectively, as a team, the Yankees need to start hitting.  The formula of a few hitters making contact with the majority of the bats being silent does not work.  A few more pitching performances like the one CC Sabathia delivered in the second game of the season would also be nice.  With no fifth starter needed until April 16th, the Yankees have cycled once through the rotation.  Sabathia gave the only defined quality start.  Tanaka’s start may have been the worst of his Yankees career.  As we proceed into the second run through the rotation, much better results are expected and needed.

Losing is like negativity.  It is very infectious.  If the Yankees can start running out a few stretches of consecutive wins, they can change the attitudes and mindset of the team (and its fans).

Let’s see what the second week of the young season will bring…

Tommy John was a good Yankee but I am tired of hearing his name…

The Yankees received bad news regarding top pitching prospect James Kaprielian this week.  He has been shut down and placed on the Minor League DL.  He underwent a MRI on his pitching elbow (which include dye-contrast).  The results have been shared with the Yankees team physician and Kaprielian will now head to Los Angeles to meet with noted Tommy John surgeon Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D.  Dr. ElAttrache is the team physician for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.  He also is on the Board of Directors for the famed Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic which was co-founded by Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered Tommy John surgery.

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If Kaprielian needs Tommy John surgery, it’s very possible that we won’t see him again until 2019.  With CC Sabathia’s contract up at the end of the year, I had hoped that Kaprielian would be in position to compete for his rotation spot next Spring.  Now, his career is in doubt.  This is starting to feel like the Andrew Brackman situation.  A pitcher with so much promise who was never able to overcome arm injuries, leading to his eventual release and exit from baseball.

With Kaprielian sidelined, the focus will shift to young pitching prospects like Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams, and Justus Sheffield to lead the way for future rotation help.

I remain hopeful that Kaprielian receives the best possible medical opinion from Dr ElAttrache and if Tommy John surgery is the only answer, I wish him much success on the long journey to recovery and hope that the Major League dream is still within his grasp.

He said, she said…

This seems to be the week of fake news.  Two separate reports were leaked, only to be quickly shot down by the Yankees.  News reports spread quickly that Yankees prospect Clint Frazier had asked the Yankees to un-retire Mickey Mantle’s number.  Both the team and the player quickly denied the reports and Frazier stated that he was only concerned with the front of the jersey and not the back of it.  The story obviously got its start from somewhere, whether it was words take out of context or spoken in jest, but I do not believe that Frazier made the request.

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The other report was that the Yankees have no intention of re-signing starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka should he decide to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract at the end of the year.  Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner stated that no discussions have taken place.  The Yankees would be foolish not to consider all their options, and re-signing Tanaka to a new longer term deal does represent risk.  He’ll be 29 in November and the slight tear in his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) is not going to improve without eventual surgery.

Both stories sound like writers fishing for stories.  Finding a shred of truth it and then embellishing it for the sake of sensationalism.

Bad trade rising…

The Yankees have made their share of bad trades over the years, but one that doesn’t get much recognition is the trade of infielder Eduardo Nunez to the Minnesota Twins three years ago yesterday.  Nunez was subsequently traded to San Francisco and is now their starting third baseman (hitting .400, 8-for-20 so far this season).  Meanwhile, the prospect that the Yankees received from the Twins for Nunez (23-year-old lefty Miguel Sulbaran), currently with AA Trenton, has been suspended for 25 games due to a drug policy violation.

Miguel Sulbaran

Credit:  Jessica Kovalcin

While it has not been reported what Sulbaran did to lead to the suspension, it’s safe to say that the Yankees would not make this trade if they had a chance to do it over again.

A memorable Opening Day…

In all my years as a baseball fan, I’ve never attended an Opening Day game.  That changed yesterday when I saw the Colorado Rockies open Coors Field for the 2017 season against their division rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Although I am a Yankees fan, the Dodgers are my favorite National League team so I have to admit that I was wearing some Dodger blue yesterday.

But the day belonged to the Rockies and their young starting pitcher, Kyle Freeland, who made his Major League debut.  Freeland, who was born and raised in Denver, delivered a very solid performance while picking up his first Major League victory.  He went 6 innings, giving up only 4 hits and 1 run.  He walked 2 and struck out 6.  He was never on the ropes and seemed in command for the duration of the game.  The Rockies won, 2-1, in a pitcher’s duel (with Hyun-Jin Ryu) which is not something you ever expect to see at Coors Field.  The game’s only home run was delivered by backup catcher Dustin Garneau.  The Dodgers starting lineup was missing two regulars (Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez) although both made their way into the game in later innings.  But it wasn’t enough, and Freeland departed with the win.

Colorado Rockies vs Los Angels Dodgers

Credit:  The Denver Post

I remember seeing Jake Peavy make his Major League debut in San Diego years ago (against the Yankees) and it always stuck with me throughout Peavy’s career that I was there at the start.  I guess I can now say that about Freeland too.  Time will tell if he is as successful as Peavy.

Despite pulling for the Dodgers, it was a fun day in the Mile High city.  The weather was uncharacteristically warm for this time of year (mid 70’s) and the stadium was energized by its fans.  I expected to see more Dodger Blue but Purple was clearly the color of the day.

The Dawn of the New Season…

It seems like we were just getting excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp.  Now, here we are at the end of the Grapefruit League season and awaiting the first pitch to start the 2017 MLB season.

It was a very successful Spring for the Yankees.  It was far better than I could have imagined.  Heading into Spring, we were concerned about Greg Bird.  He hit well late in the 2015 season but missed most of last year due to his shoulder injury.  There was doubt about how he would perform and if the shoulder would hold him back like, say, the way Mark Teixeira’s wrist did.  Bird smashed any concerns that he is ready.  I know that Spring stats do not really mean much, but Bird led the Yankees with 8 home runs and was second on the team behind Gary Sanchez with 15 RBI’s.  He played first base like a veteran and by all accounts, he is posed to be a future star in New York.  I’ve always thought of Bird as a professional hitter and not one who will be susceptible to prolonged slumps.  I am very glad to see that he is ready to fly (no pun intended).

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Credit:  John Raoux, AP

What can you say about Gary Sanchez?  He continued the great success from last Fall without missing a beat.  His bat delivered (5 homers and 16 RBI’s), and do did his arm (.983 fielding percentage in 102 innings worked, with a sub .500 stolen base percentage against him as he threw out 6 runners while only allow 4 SB’s).  He is arguably the most exciting Yankees catcher since Jorge Posada or to place him higher, Thurman Munson.  Good times ahead for the catching position, no doubt.

Aaron Judge held off Aaron Hicks to win right field in the Battle of Aarons.  I feel bad for Hicks because I know that he needs to play every day to be successful.  It’s hard to get into rhythm with limited, spot starts.  But I would have been very disappointed to see Hicks get the right field job over Judge.  At this point, sending Judge down to Triple A serves no purpose.  He has proven himself at that level.  He needs to master the Major Leagues and he can only do that by being here and playing every day.  His ceiling, if successful, is so much greater than Hicks.  Dating back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, I love powerful right fielders at Yankee Stadium.

If I was the General Manager of the Yankees, Brett Gardner would be living in a different zip code.  Nothing against Gardner, he’s been a good Yankee but his best days are behind him.  He needs to open the way for younger guys.  I’d prefer to start Hicks in left over Gardner, so I’d find a way to move Gardy even if the return is not ideal.  The perfect scenario would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and move Gardner to center, but that’s not going to happen with nearly $90 million left on Ellsbury’s contract.

In the starting rotation, Luis Severino won the fourth spot but it was not an overpowering Spring performance.  Last year, Severino chased his first win as a starter without success (he picked up a few wins in the bullpen but was 0-8 in his starts).  I really hopeful that we do not go weeks or months trying to get that elusive first win this year.  Severino has so much potential but he still leaves so many wondering if his stuff plays better out of the pen.  It would be nice if he could prove those naysayers wrong (including me) to become a vital part of the rotation.

Manager Joe Girardi has delayed his decision for a fifth starter.  With three scheduled off days during April including two days in the first week, a fifth starter is not needed until Sunday, April 16th at home against the St Louis Cardinals.  Of the competitors for the fifth spot, only Bryan Mitchell made the Opening Day roster as a reliever.  Chad Green will go down to AA Trenton while Jordan Montgomery will go to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Both Green and Montgomery will have early April starts in the minors for further auditions.  I am sure that Mitchell will get some audition opportunities through long relief.  Mitchell had been my favorite for the rotation but Jordan Montgomery changed my mind.  So, I am hopeful that Montgomery gets the call-up when it is time for the fifth starter.

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Credit:  Associated Press

I was glad to see Chasen Shreve make the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind Tommy Layne.  Well, technically the third but Aroldis Chapman doesn’t really count since he’s on the mound at the end of games regardless of who is at the plate.  When the Yankees toyed with the minor league signings of Ernesto Frieri and Jon Niese, I was fearful that Shreve would be one of the odd men out.  Perhaps he still is given the Yankees’ propensity for the using the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle to keep the bullpen fresh.  Another young reliever I am happy for is Jonathan Holder.

Utility player Ronald Torreyes won the interim shortstop role while Didi Gregorius begins the year on the Disabled List.  I am not excited about Torreyes in an every day role, but there were limited internal options.  The Yankees will make room on the 40-man roster to bring up Pete Kozma to back up Torreyes, but Kozma has no bat.  It did not make sense for the Yankees to trade for a shortstop since Didi will be back by the end of April or early May, and, unfortunately,  prospect Tyler Wade is not quite ready.  I also didn’t want to see the Yankees slide Starlin Castro back to short.  He is still relatively inexperienced at second and needs to continue his work at the position.  The Yankees obviously agreed as they never played Castro at short during training camp.  Many thought the Yankees should have slid Castro to short to allow Rob Refsnyder to start at second.  I am not sure that Refsnyder, for whatever reason, will ever get a legitimate chance in the Bronx.  He was sent down to AAA for the start of the season with earlier reports that he was on the trading block.

I am not expecting this to be a playoff year for the Yankees.  They could surprise and nab a Wild Card spot but I don’t think this is their year to unseat the Boston Red Sox as AL East Champions.  They are still a year or two away from being a legitimate World Series contender.  I do think this will be a more exciting team than last year’s team from beginning to end.  The Baby Bombers proved that last year when the deadline deals moved Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians, and Alex Rodriguez was released.  It was only a preview of the excitement and energy the younger players can bring, which is further enhanced by the presence of Greg Bird this year.

Despite the quick arrival of the regular season, I am ready.  Play ball!…

Baseball Equipment Laying on Grass

Warp Speed to Opening Day…

At the conclusion of the World Series, the off-season seems like it will be so long.  We wait for the opening of free agency, then the winter meetings  which generally brings a short frenzy with signings and trades.  Then we wait through the holidays, and go through a quiet January.  Finally, around Valentine’s Day, we are able to get our baseball fix as training camps begin to open.

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Then, we blink, and here we are a week away from Opening Day.  Cubs fans are probably still trying to recover from the hangovers, but the rest of us are anxious to begin the new year and at this point, everyone is optimistic.

The Yankees’ off-season was relatively quiet.  The major move, aside from the return of Aroldis Chapman, was to sign free agent Matt Holliday, now the team’s starting DH.  Matt’s days in the field, at age 37, are over but the bat remains effective and so do the leadership abilities.  I’ve been very pleased this spring with the impact that Matt has had on the younger players, most notably Aaron Judge.  With only a one-year contract, it is possible that this is Matt’s only year in pinstripes.  Time will tell, but given what I’ve seen so far, I hope the team is able to find a way to bring him back next year.

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Credit:  Matt Rourke, AP

I am not sure what can be said about Masahiro Tanaka other than he’s been amazing this spring.  Through five starts and 18 2/3 innings, he’s only surrendered six hits while striking out 22 to go with a sparkling 0.00 ERA.  I realize that spring stats do not mean a great deal but Tanaka appears to be setting himself up for a career year.  Of course that carries good news/bad news as Tanaka can opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but that’s something to worry about after the season.  For now, let’s just enjoy what could be a tremendous year for the young right-hander.

Manager Joe Girardi has announced that CC Sabathia, rather than Michael Pineda, will slot in the rotation behind Tanaka.  It was something of a surprise given CC was fighting for the fifth spot last spring.  Girardi gave the ‘right-left’right’ strategy as his logic for the move, putting the left-handed Sabathia between two righties.  He also referenced Sabathia’s numbers last year…3.91 ERA in 30 starts.  His record was only 9-12 but wins and losses are deceiving for pitchers as they are dependent upon run support.

I am not sure how Pineda will react to the move back to third in the rotation.  If it motivates him to overcome his inconsistency, I am all for it.  The starting rotation needs a solid year from Pineda if it is going to be successful.

The fight for the last two spots in the rotation has been interesting.  At the start of training camp, I felt the favorites were Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  Severino started strong and then has struggled with starts recently (although he did throw three hitless innings in relief yesterday).  Mitchell has been good but not great.  Chad Green has probably pitched the best among the contenders but the dark horse that is emerging is tall left-hander Jordan Montgomery.  Luis Cessa, one of the early hopefuls, has already been sent to minor league camp for re-assignment.  At 6’6” with an ability to pitch inside, I am very intrigued by Montgomery. He has proven himself at both the AA and AAA levels, and I think the 24-year-old is ready for the major leagues.

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Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports

In the right field competition, I think Aaron Judge has done enough to hold off Aaron Hicks.  The stats are fairly comparable.  Judge is batting .300 (15-for-50) with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Although he is still among the leaders in strikeouts (with 12), he is striking out less than he did last season in the Bronx.  Hicks is batting .279 (12-for-43), also with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Hicks has struck out seven times.  Judge has also displayed a terrific arm in right.  For me, Judge has done what he needs to this spring and deserves the opportunity to take right field.

Greg Bird has been named the starting first baseman to the surprise of no one.  Bird currently carries a .432 BA (19-for-44) with 6 HR and 11 RBI.  I don’t think there was any chance that Chris Carter was going to beat out Bird, but Carter has been almost non-existent during training camp.  He is currently batting .136 (6-for-44) which is actually up from where it was a few days ago.  He only has one home run to go with 22 strikeouts.  I think there’s a very strong argument for why Carter should be DFA’d when Tyler Austin returns from his foot injury.

With the final days of training camp winding down, the greatest uncertainty lies with shortstop.  Didi Gregorius is out for the next month after suffering the shoulder sprain in the World Baseball Classic, so the question is who will replace Didi at short.  The most logical move would be to slide Starlin Castro to short, and use a platoon of Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder at second.  For me, it’s not ideal because Castro is still learning the nuances of second base and it should remain his focus.  The only problem is there are no other true shortstops on the 40-man roster.  Prospect Tyler Wade is the most advanced shortstop in the system and he’s probably my favorite for the temporary replacement but he’s young (only 22).  He’s batting .342 in Grapefruit League action (13-for-38) but doesn’t have much power.  Other possibilites are non-roster invitees Pete Kozma and Ruben Tejada.  Didi’s bat will certainly be missed while he is away.

With the latest minor league re-assignments, the Yankees have 39 players remaining in camp.  This includes the injured players (Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius).  With Opening Day just a week away, there will be more cuts this week as the Yankees pare down to 25 for the trip to St Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rays on April 2nd.

This has been a fun spring.  The Yankees have the best record in the Grapefruit League (or the Cactus League for that matter).  I know that spring stats mean nothing when the regular season starts but winning is always fun.  We’ve seen some great stuff from the talented super-prospects in the organization like Gleyber Torres and James Kaprielian.  Although they won’t be heading north with the big league club, they’ve given us glimpses of their incredible futures.  Gary Sanchez has continued to impress and Greg Bird has shown that last year’s shoulder injury is no longer an issue.  I am anxious and ready for the season to start.  The Cubs are yesterday’s news.