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Despite Win, Yankees Lose…

Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

Aaron Judge becomes latest Casualty…

There was immediate concern when Aaron Judge arrived at first base after his single in the bottom of the sixth and you could tell he was in pain. Even as Head Trainer Steve Donahue came out and they removed Judge from the game, there was hope it was only a precautionary move with a fairly comfortable lead over the Kansas City Royals. But when Judge dropped the F bomb as he walked through the dugout, it signaled this was worst case scenario. Although no timetables have been given, the left oblique injury will keep Judge away for awhile.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Of all the injuries the Yankees have suffered this year, I had felt that Aaron Judge was the guy the team could least afford to lose. Gleyber Torres probably runs a close second, but Judge is the ideal right fielder for this team and its heart and soul. It was no fun last summer when we lost Judge for an extended period as a result of the fractured wrist, courtesy of a Jakob Junis pitch.  But at time, at least the team had Giancarlo Stanton to step into right. As the team prepares to play today, there are only three outfielders on the team. Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier. The role of the fourth outfielder will be filled by infielder Tyler Wade, who has not exactly set the World on fire with his bat this season.

With the placement of Judge on the Injured List today, there will be an unlucky 13 players on the list. Fortunately, Gary Sanchez will back soon. He is expected to play a minor league rehab game on Monday before being activated on Wednesday. The Yankees head for Anaheim, California to begin a four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels tomorrow so Sanchez should be ready by the third game. Giancarlo Stanton is expected to return sometime during the upcoming road trip but he’s a little further out than Sanchez. The road trip concludes in Phoenix, Arizona on May 1st. The sooner, the better but we need to make sure that Stanton is 100% ready to go to avoid any setbacks.

The Yankees have very limited outfield depth in the system. Everyone knows that top prospect Estevan Florial fractured his wrist in Spring Training and is still recovering so he’s not even a thought (not that he should have been…yet…anyway). The five outfielders listed on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster are Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Omar Carrizales (who?), Matt Lipka, and Zack Zehner. Available free agents include Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, Austin Jackson, Denard Span, Danny Valencia and Chris Young. In other words, there is no help on the horizon other than the return to good health for those on the IL. The only other option is trade, but most teams are reluctant to trade this early in the season. I keep hearing Justin Smoak’s name. No doubt he’d provide a productive bat to pair with Luke Voit at first base and DH, but the Toronto Blue Jays are only a game behind the Yankees and they certainly smell the blood in the water. Not that the Jays have World Series aspirations this year and they’ve already parted with Kevin Pillar (traded to San Francisco on April 2nd) but I don’t think they’d actively help the Yankees at this point even if the teams have been receptive to inter-division trades in the past.

I am not sure what to think at this point. You can only hope the team treads water until the injured stars begin their return to the active roster. It’s hard to look at the current roster and say, ‘Oh yeah, this team is winning the World Series this year’. I am glad that Clint Frazier and recently Mike Tauchman have stepped up but it’s going to take more from the other replacement players. I can’t say that I am overly optimistic. The Yankees can simply not afford to lose any more players at this point. They are stretched as far as they can without outside help. It is imperative that the injured players come back soon but the risk is rushing them back too soon. I guess these are the times that GM Brian Cashman and his staff truly earn their paychecks. With so much bad news lately, I could really use some good news about now. At least we have the NFL Draft later in the week.

With Judge’s injury, yesterday’s 9-2 win over the Royals actually felt like a loss.  There was certainly no joy after the game. I was glad the team evened its record at 10-10 but sadly the future, at this moment in time, seems hazy. The Boston Red Sox elevated themselves out of the AL East Cellar yesterday with their second consecutive victory over the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. With such uncertainty surrounding the Yankees, I’d hate to see the Red Sox go on a roll. There’s no doubt the rash of injuries should make for a reliable battle-tested bench later in the season but that’s hardly any consolation on the 21st day of April. The coming days and weeks will go a long way toward determining how this season will play out. If there was ever a time for the team to unite and persevere through adversity, this is it. At the moment, Yankee Stadium feels a little like Winterfell as the Night King and his Army of the Dead close in for the kill.

To talk a moment about Saturday’s game, it is unfortunate that a Yankee fan interfered with the fly ball to left by Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the third inning. Initially ruled a home run, the call was overturned upon review and Torres was ruled out due to the interference. I agree the fan leaned over the wall so clearly by definition it was interference, but I honestly do not feel Royals outfielder Alex Gordon would have caught the ball. Replay seemed to show the ball just an inch or two beyond his reach. Fortunately, the Yankees didn’t need the three-run homer but I feel bad for Gleyber in losing a home run courtesy of a fan. On the other hand, the fan probably didn’t appreciate the free escort out of the stadium by Security. Tough situation since I feel I probably would have reached for the ball without thinking, like most of us, in that  situation too. Aaron Judge hit his fifth home run before he was lost to us. The Yankees also got homers from Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and with his first as a Yankee, DJ LeMahieu. It was a great bounce-back game for Masahiro Tanaka who lost on a grand slam last Sunday. Tanaka went seven innings, giving up only four hits and a run. He walked three and struck out seven to improve his record to 2-1. I thought his ability to leave the lightning quick Billy Hamilton stranded at third after Hamilton’s lead off triple in the top of the third inning (a ball that went under the glove of the defensively-challenged Luke Voit at first) was huge.

The Yankees conclude their four-game series with the Royals today. They’ll send James Paxton (2-2, 3.91 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Jorge Lopez (0-2, 4.30 ERA). The Yankees could really use a series win as they embark on the nine-game West Coast trip to Anaheim, San Francisco and Phoenix. Hopefully the remaining healthy players can provide Paxton with the necessary support for his third win of the season.

As expected, Gio Gonzalez exercised the opt-out in his minor league contract. The Yankees have until tomorrow to either elect to promote Gonzalez to the Major League roster or let him go. I fully expect the latter. No doubt he’ll get a big league job soon but it won’t be in the Bronx. Too bad he can’t play the outfield.

As always, Go Yankees! And please, stay healthy.

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The April Roller Coaster Ride…

Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi/NY Post

Up and Down Start Continues…

It was an uneven week to say the least. Sure, it was great to sweep the two-game series in the Bronx against the dreaded Boston Red Sox but to follow up with lackluster play in the first game of the Kansas City Royals series was disappointing. It’s easy to blame the high number of injuries for the slow start but there’s no excuse for not playing hard every game. Fortunately, the Yankees rebounded last night to beat the Royals, 6-2, behind CC Sabathia (1-0), the bullpen and a couple of dingers.

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

I’ll admit it. I was one who didn’t feel the Yankees should have re-signed Sabathia this past off-season. For as much as Sabathia has meant to the Yankees over the years and his invaluable role as team leader/mentor, I thought his spot in the rotation could be improved upon. I was wrong and that’s perfectly okay. Sabathia has continued to surprise me with his late career renaissance. When he encountered the knee problems a few years ago, I didn’t think he would be able to reinvent himself as a pitcher, yet he did. I am enjoying Sabathia’s final ride and pleased he’ll do it in Pinstripes. I don’t know his post-career plans but I am hopeful the Yankees find a role for him. I am not sure he can continue to pitch like he has in his first couple of starts but there’s no doubt he’ll give his team a chance to win every time he takes the hill.

We came into the season with such high hopes. For a few years now, we’ve looked at 2019 as the year the Yankees would arrive to capture their 28th World Series Championship. Then, player after player found his way to the now-massive Injured List and the team has struggled out of the gate. Someone asked Mike Axisa on his River Ave Blues chat yesterday how many wins this Yankees team (as currently constructed without the return of any of the men on the Injured List) could achieve and he responded with 84. He’s not wrong. You can’t lose so many superstars without an adverse impact. The big question is who would step up to take advantage of opportunity due to the missing stars.

So far, the award for best replacement player has to be Clint Frazier. There are many who still feel that Frazier’s future lies outside of Pinstripes but I am glad to see him potentially have his breakout year. I’ve been a critic and not exactly an admirer of his social media skills. But we’re starting to see the player GM Brian Cashman saw a few years ago when he sent reliever Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians. In fifteen games covering 57 plate appearances, he has 4 homers, 12 RBIs, and is hitting .327/.351/.577 with a great 145 wRC+. His arm was on display last night in right field when he fired a 95 mph throw to catcher Kyle Higashioka on the third base line to nail Martin Maldonado who had tried to score after tagging up at third in the third inning. For as much as Brett Gardner has done to help the Yankees win this week, there’s no question the future of left field should reside with Frazier. When Giancarlo Stanton returns to take DH and Aaron Hicks is back in center field, it should be time for Gardy to move to the bench. Maybe Frazier is just rebuilding his stock for an inevitable trade for starting pitching but I honestly I hope not. I’d like to see him thrive in the Bronx. His time is now.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

While there won’t be room for him on the big league roster when Stanton and Hicks return, it’s nice to see left fielder Mike Tauchman hit a couple of home runs this week. It’s amazing that he was never able to launch one at Coors Field in his young career. I know, he was only given limited opportunities with the Rox but there’s no question his swing would have played well at 5,280 feet if he had been given more chances. With the Rockies running into their own string of injuries, I can’t help but wonder if they wished they had held onto Tauchman.

I fully expect the Yankees to let pitcher Gio Gonzalez walk when he formally opts out of his minor league contract this weekend. While I’d prefer the experienced Gonzalez over Domingo German for the long haul, German has certainly pitched well enough to retain his spot in the rotation despite his rocky start last Thursday. I think my biggest concern in the rotation right now (aside of Luis Severino’s absence) is the performance of J.A. Happ. It’s unfortunate the Yankees do not have more time with Gonzalez to keep him available if Happ continues to struggle. I don’t see Gonzalez extending his minor league contract with the Yankees and I do not see the Yankees bringing him up only to serve as a long man out of the pen.  I think there are starting opportunities for him with other teams (like the New York Mets who just placed the great Jacob deGrom on the Injured List). He’ll get a starting gig somewhere.  So, Gio, thanks for the memories. Sorry you didn’t the chance to wear Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium but it’s probably best the Yankees didn’t need you during your short stay.

Speaking of minor league contracts, I am not sure what I think about the Yankees signing first baseman Logan Morrison to a minors deal yesterday. It’s hard to let go of his comments from the past. I know Gary Sanchez has moved on with his comments yesterday that the Home Run Derby (when LoMo questioned the choice of Sanchez over him) was two years ago. But LoMo attacked Yankee fans with his infamous “you can’t fix stupid” remark. I don’t think I am as forgiving as El Gary. I am not sure LoMo will ever get a chance to wear the Pinstripes (he has a July 1st opt-out) but if he does, he owes an apology to the Yankees fan base and to the team for his ill-advised prior comments. It’s hard to criticize LoMo for his poor 2018 with the Minnesota Twins which ended with hip surgery but he is only a season removed from 38 jacks. If he could be that guy, he would certainly be an improvement over Mike Ford as backup first baseman.

With the impending return of Gary Sanchez in the next few days and hopefully Giancarlo Stanton by the end of the month, I am hopeful the Yankees can get on a roll. Today, the Yankees will send Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 3.22 ERA) to the mound.  He’ll be opposed by RHP Heath Fillmyer (0-0, 9.00 ERA). Tanaka will look to erase memories of that grand slam that did him in last Sunday in the 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox. We keep saying it but so far the Yankees have failed to capitalize, they need to beat teams like the Royals. Handed a soft schedule to start the year, I never dreamed that we’d still be chasing a .500 mark nearly a month into the season. But all things considered, it’s nothing that a nice 10-game winning streak can’t cure.

I just saw the news that the Miami Marlins fired their hitting coach, former Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, after their game last night. I hate to say it, but I think the days are numbered for Marlins manager Don Mattingly. Despite his Yankee connections, I think Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will move to get his own guy in the dugout at some point. In my humble opinion, odds are greater Jorge Posada will be Marlins manager next year over Mattingly. It’s unfortunate because Mattingly was my favorite Yankee during his playing career, and I’ve been a fan since those days ended. To replace Pags as hitting coach, the Marlins appointed Jeff Livesey as his replacement. Livesey is son of former Yankees executive Bill Livesey. Livesey will be assisted by one-time Yankees top prospect Eric Duncan.

Okay Yankees, we need a win today. Please bring home the “W” to even your record at 10-10. We want this, you want this. Make it happen.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Win, Always a Good Thing…

Credit: Getty Images

CC Sabathia Relishes the Role of Stopper…

Well, the last week didn’t go exactly as planned. I didn’t think the Yankees would win the three-game series in Houston but I had hoped for at least one win. They played well enough to win all three games if not for the lack of bullpen support. After Friday night’s rain-shortened loss to Eloy Jimenez and the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees had lost four consecutive games and could have been overtaken in the AL East Standings on Saturday by the Boston Red Sox, a team that has seemingly gotten off to a much worse start than our favorite team, if the Sox had won and the Yankees had not. Fortunately, CC Sabathia represented the Cavalry, arriving to save the day, while the highly paid hitless wonder known as Chris Davis helped power Baltimore past the struggling Red Sox.

It is funny how the World looks so much better after a Yankees win. Life as a Yankee fan is such a roller coaster ride at times. It was hard watching Eloy Jimenez (first two home runs of his young career) and the White Sox crush Yankee pitching during Friday night’s rain-shortened seven innings loss. Although I am sure CC Sabathia would have liked to have stayed in yesterday’s game a little longer, he combined with Domingo German, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman to shut out the White Sox, 4-0, giving the Pinstripers a very much-needed victory. Honestly, I was unsure what Sabathia would bring in his first start of his final season. Delayed by December’s Angioplasty that placed a stent in a heart valve, a five-game suspension, and a trip to the Injured List as he worked his way back into prime form, it was vintage Sabathia on Saturday. He held the White Sox to a meaningless single by second baseman Jose Rondon in the top of the third inning. It was the first and only hit the Sox would get on this day.

Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Sabathia looked strong when he struck out Wellington Castilllo looking to end the top of the fifth inning but the pitch, his 62nd, would be his last. The TV cameras showed a disappointed Sabathia in the dugout as Manager Aaron Boone informed him his day was finished. I don’t blame Boone. No reason to push Sabathia this early. His 62 pitches for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A) in a rehab start last Sunday were his season high. He probably would have been good for a few more pitches but why risk it. We need the big guy in the weeks and months ahead. With an off-day last Thursday and another tomorrow, the Yankees were able to skip the fifth spot in the rotation, making Domingo German available to provide back up support for Sabathia. It was the perfect formula. German, continued his brilliant 2019 performance with two innings of hitless relief and four strikeouts. If you looked at stats alone without names, you’d think his line belonged to the team’s ace. 3-0, 1.38 ERA, 9.69 K/9, and 1.03 BABIP. Not that Luis Severino is coming back anytime soon but if he were to return today, you’d have to argue that J.A. Happ, not German, should be the loser of a rotation spot.

Zack Britton finally delivered a relief outing that we expect to see. Three-up, three down in the top of the eighth. I know, it was just the White Sox but you would have thought they were the second coming of Harvey’s Wallbangers after Friday night. Britton had to start somewhere with a solid appearance. Saturday was as good a day as any. Now if we could just get Chad Green and Jonathan Holder back on track. I’d really like to see this so-called Super Bullpen that everyone has been talking about. I know, Dellin Betances is a major cog and his absence hurts, but the other guys need to pick up the slack. They are certainly capable of so much more.

I know I was feeling much better about Aroldis Chapman from his first pitch in the top of the ninth when the radar gun clocked his strike to Adam Engel at 99 MPH. In throwing nine pitches to finish off the game, Chappy hit 100 MPH four times. He is trending in the right direction for those fearing his loss of velocity. It was not a save situation but Chapman needed the work and he did not disappoint.

Credit: Paul J Bereswill/NY Post

Credit to White Sox starter and former Yankee Ivan Nova. Back in the stadium he was raised, he delivered as well as he could have. He faced one batter in the top of the seventh, giving up a single to Gleyber Torres. Pulled at that point, Torres would eventually score the first run for the Yankees when Luke Voit singled with the bases loaded. It was almost unfair for Nova to be charged a run on this day, but he was, thus taking the tough luck loss despite holding the Yanks to only four hits, and no runs while he was standing on the mound, over six innings and the one batter faced in the seventh. No doubt he’ll look back on the day proud that he was able to compete exceptionally well with his one-time mentor as Sabathia prepares for his ride to the Sunset and eventual placement in MLB’s Hall of Fame.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

With such a great pitching performance by the Yankees, the team’s offense was almost an afterthought. The Yankees needed the runs, of course, to win the game but for inning after inning, they were unable to mount any serious threat against Nova. When Nova gave up that single to Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the seventh and departed the game, it opened the door for the Yankees. It took a little luck when Greg Bird hit into a fielder’s choice at second against White Sox reliever Jace Fry. An error by Yolmer Sanchez, booting a potential double play ball, left both runners safe at first and second. After another pitching change, Clint Frazier singled to right off reliever Ryan Burr to load the bases. Luke Voit keep it going with a broken bat single past the outstretched glove of the shortstop, scoring Torres.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Kyle Higashioka, getting the start at catcher in place of Austin Romine, hit a long sacrifice fly to right which brought Bird home with the second run. Tyler Wade displayed his athleticism with a rare squeeze bunt toward third that easily allowed Frazier to score. The Yankees were up, 3-0.

Aaron Judge accounted for the final Yankees run when he led off the bottom of the eighth with a short home run (a 335’ shot that took full advantage of the right field porch). Hey, a homer is a homer. Sure, we love the homers that reach the second deck, especially when Judge is at the plate, but I’ll take the short fly that lands into the first row of the right field porch any day.

Hopefully the win helps the Yankees “turn the corner” (as Aaron Boone would say). A win today to take the series against the White Sox would be ideal, considering the other Sox come to town on Tuesday. Nothing like changing our Sox on a positive note. The Houston Astros got hot at the right time last week to sweep the Yankees in their home park. It would be nice for the Yankees to do the same to the visiting Red Sox for the brief two-game series.

Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 1.47 ERA) gets the ball in the White Sox finale this afternoon. He’ll be opposed by the talented Carlos Rodon (1-2, 3.38 ERA) in what should be a great pitching matchup. I kind of wish Tanaka was pitching against the Red Sox this week, but if he can deliver a win today, that’s all we can ask.  Tuesday’s game will feature James Paxton against Chris Sale, two pitchers with high expectations who have, so far, delivered uninspiring results. Wednesday is the battle of 8.00+ ERA pitchers with J.A. Happ going against former Yank Nathan Eovaldi. I really hope Paxton and Happ were watching Sabathia pitch yesterday. They need to follow his lead. Get on a roll and the team’s slow start will be nothing but a distant memory. A nice ten-game winning streak would help warm things up for the summer ahead.

Stephen Tarpley was the loser of a spot on the 25-man roster when he was optioned to Triple A to make room for Sabathia. It meant that Joe Harvey’s stay in the Bronx will last awhile longer and rightfully so. He has only appeared in one game (one of the losses to the Astros last week) but he did his job when called upon (unlike Green and Holder). I’d like to see what he can do with an extended stay in the Show. Tarpley, on the other hand, is not quite ready. He’ll benefit from a little more seasoning in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

As always, Go Yankees…and, please, stay healthy!

Opportunity Calls, Clint Frazier Answers…

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

Yankees Overcome O’s, thanks to the long ball…

We knew it was only a matter of time until Aaron Judge began his monstrous assault on MLB baseballs, but it was Clint Frazier’s lightning quick three-run homer in the top of the eighth inning that allowed the Yankees to overtake the Baltimore Orioles in the 6-4 win at Camden Yards.

Frazier needed this moment. Frankly, the Yankees should have never put themselves in the position of needing Frazier’s big hit but they did. They had a golden opportunity to break the game open in the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with no outs against arguably MLB’s worst team. Frazier entered the game, pinching hitting for left fielder Mike Tauchman, but the inning unraveled from there. Gary Sanchez, on third, was picked off by O’s catcher Pedro Severino. Frazier struck out swinging for the second out, and Giovanny Urshela, in his first at-bat as a Yankee and pinch-hitting for Tyler Wade, grounded out to second to end the scoreless threat.

I didn’t really get Aaron Boone’s decision to keep Jonathan Holder in the game for the bottom of the seventh inning. He had entered the game in the fifth, in relief of starter J.A. Happ with only one out. He gave up a single to the second man he faced, Renato Nunez, in the bottom of the fifth, which scored a run for Baltimore (charged to Happ) to make it a one-run game at 3-2. I know Holder had an easy three-up, three-down inning in the sixth, but that’s as far as I would have pushed him. Instead, Boone left him in to start the seventh (why?). He hit the lead-off hitter, Cedric Mullins, and then gave up a single to right off the bat of Jonathan Villar which put runners at the corners.  Boone finally made a move, bringing Adam Ottavino into the game. Unfortunately, Greg Bird misplayed a grounder to first by Chris Davis. He bobbled the ball, didn’t step on first and then threw high to home. Mullins scored and Davis was safe at first. After Villar stole third, pinch-hitter Rio Ruiz, batting for Nunez, lofted a fly to center to score Villar with the go-ahead run.

It looked like the Yankees were going to go down quietly in the eighth. Greg Bird led off the inning against Orioles reliever Paul Fry with a fly-out to left. A pitching change brought reliever Miguel Castro into the game to face Gary Sanchez who flied out to right. But in the face of defeat for the Yankees, Castro struggled with his control and lost Gleyber Torres on balls to put a runner at first. Then, D.J. LeMahieu did what he does best. He singled to right, his third hit of the game, and the Yankees had runners at the corners. Enter Clint Frazier. With the count at 2-2, Castro threw a slider that was meant for the low outside corner. Fortunately for The Wildling and much to the dismay of Orioles catcher Pedro Severino, the ball came in over the juicy part of the plate and Frazier didn’t miss his opportunity. With the rapid fire of his bat, the ball went screaming out of the park. The Yankees were up, 6-4.

Adam Ottavino walked Hanser Alberto, briefly a Yankee this past Winter, to lead off the eighth but got the next two outs with his insane pitches. With Alberto on second, Aaron Boone took the ball from Ottavino and brought in Chad Green. Greeny hit the shirt of Cedric Mullins to put a runner at first. The next batter, Jonathan Villar, hit an infield grounder to D.J. LeMahieu, who had slid over to second base from third when Giovanny Urshela entered the game. LeMahieu had an uncharacteristic bobble of the ball and Villar beat D.J.’s throw to Gleyber Torres standing on second base. The bases were loaded, giving the Orioles a golden opportunity to recapture the lead. Thankfully, it was only Chris Davis at the plate. He rapped a hard single to first base which Greg Bird easily handled, stepping on first ahead of Davis running down the line. Inning over, with the two-run lead intact.

Aroldis Chapman finished off the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth. Despite giving up a one-out single to pinch-hitter Jesus Sucre, he easily recorded the next two outs to gain his second save of the season even if his fastball couldn’t find triple digits.

The win went to Adam Ottavino (1-0) despite giving up the lead in the bottom of the seventh on runs charged to Jonathan Holder. Ha, they should have charged those runs to Aaron Boone!

And, oh, did I mention that Aaron Judge had two massive home runs earlier in the game. I knew it was time for a Judgian blast and had even commented on my post yesterday that it was a good day for an Aaron Judge home run. I was wrong, I should have said home runs. Judge’s first homer (and first of the season) came in the top of the first after Brett Gardner had struck out to lead off the game. The ball carried 412 feet over the center field wall. Trey Mancini had answered Judge’s solo homer with one of his own in the bottom of the first to tie the game. After Brett Gardner doubled with one out in the top of the third, Judge hit another ‘no doubt about it’ homer to center, giving him total yardage of 830 feet, with the two bombs. That was it for Judge in this game, he recorded outs in his next three at-bats which included two by strikeout. But the Yankees wouldn’t have been in position to win this game without Judge. Every day is a good day for Aaron Judge home runs.

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

I know it’s too early to watch or care about the AL East Standings, but the Yankees (4-4) did move into a tie for second place with the Orioles. The Tampa Bay Rays lost 6-4 to the San Francisco Giants so the Yankees are 1 1/2 games back. The Boston Red Sox dropped another game, 5-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, to fall to 2-8. I know it’s only a matter of time until the Red Sox find their groove, but it is fun to watch them in the AL East Cellar while it lasts. It couldn’t possibly happen to a better team than the Red Sux.

The Yankees can sweep the series at Camden Yards today before they hop on a plane bound for Houston, Texas. Domingo German (1-0, 0.00 ERA) faces David Hess (1-0, 0.00 ERA). In his last start against the Toronto Blue Jays, Hess no-hit the Blue Jays until he was lifted with one out in the seventh (the bullpen blew his no-no). German, on the same day, held the Detroit Tigers to only one hit and unearned run, in five innings. It would be great for the Yankees to sweep after losing their first two series of the season. And it would provide a joyful mood for the long flight down to South Texas.

I was a little surprised to see the call-up of Giovanny “Gio” Urshela before yesterday’s game. It was funny how it unfolded. Urshela posted an airplane pic on Social Media and clever fans deduced it was the same type of plane departing from Buffalo’s airport (where the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are playing) and headed to Baltimore’s BWI Marshall Airport. While I enjoyed the brief one game call-up of Thairo Estrada who didn’t get to see any playing time, Urshela is in better position to help right now. No doubt Estrada will be the better utility player in the long run, but Urshela, who has a superior third base glove, provides better support for interim third baseman D.J. LeMahieu. Urshela doesn’t have much of a bat but that’s not why he is on the 25-man roster now even if he had a couple of strong offensive performances for the RailRiders to start the season. I can still easily remember some of the spectacular defensive plays Urshela made against the Yankees when he was playing for the Cleveland Indians. Not that LeMahieu needs any glove help but the occasional breather is welcomed. To make room for Urshela on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved Didi Gregorius to the 60-day Injured List. Speaking of Sir Didi, damn, I miss those after-game emoji’s.

I know the season is early and stats, either good or bad, don’t really mean much given the small sample sizes. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how good D.J. LeMahieu has been for the Yankees. Expected to be a “floating” starter with time at first, second and third, LeMahieu was forced into full-time duty at third base when Miguel Andujar, with a small labrum tear, was placed on the IL.  LeMahieu is 11-for-24, batting .458/.536/.542 with 1.077 OPS. His eighth inning single last night set the stage for Clint Frazier’s heroics but it almost provided a game-tying opportunity by getting Gleyber Torres to third. A ball got away from Orioles catcher Pedro Severino and Torres most likely could have scored if he had immediately broke for home but hesitation kept the budding superstar at third. LeMahieu is not a flashy player and is not known for dingers but he does the little things right. Living in Denver, I’d routinely hear Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon talk about how much LeMahieu meant to their team. It’s easy to see why they held such high praise. The guy can hit, field and win. I am glad he is a Yankee.

CC Sabathia makes a rehabilitation start for the High-A Tampa Tarpons today. The Tarpons are hosting the Lakeland Flying Tigers in Tampa. Hopefully all goes well for CC who should soon be back in Pinstripes for his final go-around. Hope everything goes well today, CC. We miss you and look forward to your return.

As always, Go Yankees!

Missing the Yankees…

Photo Credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images

A Rare and Odd Day-Off for the Pinstripers…

I can’t really say that I like Fridays with no Yankees baseball. I guess, ultimately, it’s no different than if heavy rain had hit Inner Harbor, forcing the postponement of a game but regardless, yesterday felt a little empty when everybody else was playing. I’ve grown accustomed to Mondays and/or Thursdays as days off over the years, but weekend games, starting Friday night, are the best for the working stiffs of the World like me. Nothing quite like watching the Yankees after a long, hard week at work. I am glad they are back in action today even if we have to wait until this evening.

Putting the Yankees aside for a moment, Friday was made much sadder with the announcement by Mike Axisa that he is shutting down the famed River Ave Blues blog. 

Photo Credit: CBSSports.com

With no offense to our blog site, River Ave Blues has been the standard every blog site hopes to achieve. It was the best Yankees Blog in my opinion, and Mike Axisa has been tireless in his quest to provide quality content every day. Ultimately, it was probably his relentless, unyielding drive that led to his decision to shutter the Blog (it would be tough to keep up his pace for a season, let alone twelve years) and while I fully understand his reasons, it is a huge loss for Yankee fans. In his announcement, Axisa said April 29th will be the final day for his nationally recognized Blog. Mike mentioned the possibility of a weekly newsletter/mailing list with his “thoughts”. I really hope he follows through with this brilliant idea. Mike, I’ll pay a few dollars a month to get your continued thoughts about MLB’s best team. I have appreciated Mike’s honest assessments of the Yankees over the years, along with those of the other great RAB writers. There are many good writers but Axisa is one of the very few with a brilliant writing style and an amazing and very objective perspective. I can probably count on one hand the baseball writers I hold in such high regard as Axisa. You can include the late Red Sox writer Nick Cafardo in that group, but clearly, it is not a crowded room. Thanks to Mike Axisa and the entire RAB staff for making our lives a little better each and every day. We appreciate you, @RiverAveBlues. Thank you for the incredible twelve years you have given us. To say you will be missed is an understatement.

Credit: YESNetwork.com

I could feel many Yankee fans starting to grip about the team’s slow start and the buildup of so many injuries, but it’s funny how Thursday’s win in Baltimore calmed down so many fears. I wish I had a dime for every time a Yankee fan replayed video of Gleyber’s homers. I was a little worried when the Yankees fell into an early hole, but I know those Yankees-Mariners games last year when James Paxton gave up early runs to the Yankees, he held strong and pitched effectively for five or six more innings. I didn’t doubt his perseverance on Thursday and he rewarded us with a much-needed win, thanks in large part to the two home runs by Gleyber Torres and the insurance provided by the three-run bomb from Luke Voit in the ninth inning. Unlike pitchers like Sonny Gray, where a few early runs meant the opening of the floodgates, Paxton battled and was ultimately reward with his first Pinstriped (Road Gray?) victory. I am glad he is a Yankee.

Photo Credit: Nick Wass/AP

The Yankees resume their series at Camden Yards in Baltimore today at 7:05 pm ET. J.A. Happ, looking to overcome his horrendous first start of the season, takes the mound for the Yankees.  He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy. With a win, the Yankees can tie the Orioles for second place in the AL East with matching 4-4 records. The Yankees trail the Tampa Bay Rays by two and a half games. Granted, the Orioles will soon be in the rearview mirror but the Rays aren’t going away. I think the Boston Red Sox will right the ship even if Yankee fans are loving their 2-7 start. Soon it will be the Yankees-Rays-Red Sox battling for the top. With a trip to Houston around the corner, the Yankees need to continue building momentum in Maryland before catching a Texas-bound flight.   

The Yankees made several minor moves this week, primarily for depth purposes. First, they claimed right-handed reliever Jake Barrett off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and assigned him to Triple A. Then, they signed 34-year-old infielder Cliff Pennington, who was recently released by the Oakland A’s after signing a minor league deal in February. At least Pennington was able to see Japan with the A’s in late March but I doubt he sees any time with the Yankees unless things go horribly wrong (worse than they already have). The defensive-minded Pennington was assigned to Triple A. Both the Trenton Thunder and the Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders have been depleted by the promotions of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada and Clint Frazier, and the resulting chain reaction it caused to fill the holes.  Welcome to the Yankees Family, Jake and Cliff, but honestly, I hope we do not see you in the Bronx. Sorry, but we have higher expectations and hope the recently promoted guys prosper with the opportunities they’ve been given.   

Living in Denver, I probably should have gone to the Colorado Rockies home opener yesterday. I had thought about it but the weather in Colorado is so unpredictable. Last year’s Rockies home opener saw temps dip into the 20’s. Unfortunately for me, the weather was beautiful yesterday with sunny skies and temps reaching the 70’s and the Rockies were playing my favorite NL team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers won, 10-6, so that would have made it even better for me. I settled for watching the game on TV. In watching the opening roll call, there was a part of me that didn’t like Daniel Murphy wearing D.J. LeMahieu’s former number (9).  Not that the Rockies have reason to retire D.J.’s number or set it aside but after watching LeMahieu wear the number for so many years, it just seemed wrong to see Murphy wearing it. Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad LeMahieu wears #26 for the Yankees these days. He’s been invaluable with this rash of injuries.  But it’s hard to deny that LeMahieu was a great Rockie during his time in the Mile High City. I couldn’t help but wonder if both LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino were watching the Rockies-Dodgers game since they had the day off. It would be hard to play so many years in one city and not have continued emotional ties to their former team.  

I am not a New York Jets fan but I don’t get the hate the new uniforms have gotten from their fan base. I personally never cared for the Jets’ old uniform and feel the new colors are very stylish. I like the new helmet and the overall look.  If I had grown up in New York City, I’d probably be a Jets fan over the Giants (sorry to those of you who are Giants fans). I grew up in Iowa so I’ve been a lifelong (and long-suffering) Minnesota Vikings fan. I am a little bitter the Jets stole the Vikings’ backup QB (Trevor Siemian) and almost signed away linebacker Anthony Barr until he had a change of heart but I still prefer the Jets over the Giants. As for Siemian, I do have high confidence in third-string QB Kyle Sloter for the Vikings and feel that he is ready to ascend to the backup spot behind starter Kirk Cousins. But while Siemian may never been a great quarterback in the NFL, he is tried and true vet that can help in pinch. He’ll provide good support and mentorship for Sam Darnold.  Siemian and the Jets will look very good when they take the field this Fall, in my opinion. Hopefully for Jets fans, the play matches the look. It’s really time for somebody to do something about the reign of the New England Patriots. I’ve grown so tired of Tom Brady, Bill Belechick and Boston area fans.

Today seems like a very good day for an Aaron Judge home run.  

As always, Go Yankees!

The Yankees Deserve Your Patience…

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Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Injury-riddled start does not end World Series aspirations…

The Yankees are 2-4 entering play today. The season-opening homestand against two of the AL’s worst teams didn’t exactly go according to plan.  The only saving grace is the Boston Red Sox have one more loss than the Yankees.  It’s disappointing but what are you going to do?  This ship will right itself.  I am certainly not going to declare this a lost season the first week in April.

I’ve said it before but I hate losing winnable games and that’s exactly what every one of those four losses have felt like. I don’t think anybody could have foreseen the rash of injuries that have hit the Yankees. I am certainly not going to join the ‘I wish we had signed Machado or Harper’ crowd or those who are still pining for Joe Girardi to return as Yankees manager. If the Yankees had signed Machado or Harper, who knows, they could have been hurt wearing the famed Pinstripes. I don’t think Girardi wins you more games than Aaron Boone. The Yankees turned that page and we’re not going back to Girardi regardless of what happens. There’s no doubt the Injured List is overflowing but this would have been impossible to predict regardless of any moves made by the Yankees Front Office during the past off-season.

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Now is the time for the guys given opportunities to step up. Greg Bird, Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Mike Tauchman, and, later today, Thairo Estrada, your time is now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Now. If a few of these guys can play up to potential, the Yankees will be alright. I am comfortable with D.J. LeMahieu and his glove at third base. He was a minor league third baseman and in his limited sample size in the Bronx, he’s looked like a veteran at the position. With the unexpected injury to Troy Tulowitzki…I take that back, no injury with Tulo is unexpected…the inevitable injury, shortstop is in good hands with Gleyber Torres. The pressure is on Tyler Wade to perform at second.

I am sure the Yankees see Luke Voit potential in Mike Tauchman but so far, the former Colorado Rockie looks like a 4A player. He may be great at Triple A but so far, like Tyler Wade, he has yet to prove it at the Major League level. Time to kick off the training wheels and let ‘er rip. They can establish their Major League careers right here, right now.  The dreams they’ve held since childhood are within their control.

I have my thoughts about the ability of some of these guys to live up to the hype but it’s up to them to prove they belong here. There’s a reason most were touted as top prospects at one time or another.

After one run through the starting rotation, and Masahiro Tanaka’s second start, I’ve been pleased with the quality of the starting pitching. Domingo German was great and Jonathan Loaisiga did a fine job yesterday in a limited appearance. The only forgettable performance was J.A. Happ but he’ll rebound.  We’re a couple of weeks away from the return of CC Sabathia and I am anxious to see how he performs but all in all, I like what we’re seeing from the rotation. It would be better with Luis Severino, but for now, the starting rotation is not the weak link. Sadly, I see no fit for Gio Gonzalez and fully expect him to either opt out on April 20th or decide to stay in Triple A to keep his arm fresh until somebody calls. It’s a little disappointing that a few of the losses have been bullpen failures but they haven’t exactly been given high run support.  Watching David Robertson blow a game yesterday for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Washington Nationals by walking in the winning run with the bases loaded shows things could be worse. I’d rather get beat throwing a hard fastball over the middle of the plate than letting the other team win on walks. I’ll gladly take my chances with Adam Ottavino in the fireman role previously held by D-Rob.

Once the healthy regulars start hitting, the Yankees can and should get on a roll. I never really dreamed that New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom would have a home run this season before Aaron Judge. Let’s have hope the guys will hit because they will. Death, taxes, and monstrous Aaron Judge bombs.  You can count on it.

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Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

I am not sure what I think about Miguel Andujar’s desire to return this season. If he avoids surgery and attempts to return, he may be limited to DH duties since it is harder to throw than it is to bat. He was already a defensive liability without the labrum tear.  I’d hate to see him try to play this year, need surgery in the off-season and potentially impact his availability in 2020. I’d almost prefer the surgery now to resolve the problem so that we know he’ll be at full speed for next season. Although it’s not great to play Giancarlo Stanton in the field and risk potential injury, the best use of the DH role is an open rotation to keep guys fresh.

To replace Troy Tulowitzki, I thought the Yankees would call up Gio Urshela to provide third base support for D.J. LeMahieu. The downside is Urshela is not on the 40-man roster so the Yankees would have needed to make room (either by moving someone to the 60-day Injured List or going the DFA route).  Instead, the Yankees will call up Thairo Estrada who is on the 40-man.  Estrada, 23, had been the starting shortstop for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders although his Triple A experience is extremely limited.  Personally, I’d love to see Estrada outperform Tyler Wade.  Well, I’d like to see Wade prove he belongs in the Big Leagues but I am not holding my breath. I’ve seen people suggesting the Yankees should make a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays to acquire Freddy Galvis or Brandon Drury. I wouldn’t be opposed to either player.  Galvis probably makes the most sense, but I liked Drury, despite the health issues, when he was here. I’ve even seen Ian Happ’s name mentioned. Happ is currently assigned to the Cubs’ top farm team in Iowa and can play multiple positions. I guess you can never have too many Happs on your team. But for now, let’s see what Estrada and Wade can do.  They might surprise a few people.

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Photo Credit: Jake Danna Stevens/The Citizens Voice

The Yankees hit the road today to face the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore for the O’s Home Opener. After losing their first two series of the season, the Yankees need to take these three games at Inner Harbor or at least win two of three. The road doesn’t get any easier next week when the Yankees travel to South Texas to play the Houston Astros. They really need to build some momentum against the Orioles before playing a team they will face in October if all goes according to plan. James Paxton takes the ball today in the Road Grays. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Alex Cobb who was supposed to get the Opening Day start at Yankee Stadium last week before getting pushed back.  Hopefully today is the day the Big Maple picks up the first of many Yankee wins. The Yankees will have a rare Friday off before resuming the series on Saturday and Sunday.

I am not ready to throw in the towel. Let’s give these Yankees a chance to overcome the early season injury woes. At least one of the replacement players will step up in a huge way, I am sure. This is still a very good team. Once we get into May and guys like Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton are back, things will look much better. No reason to panic. Play today, win today. We’ll worry about Saturday on Saturday and there’s plenty of time to think about Houston after Sunday’s game.

As always, Go Yankees!

Doom & Gloom in The Bronx…

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)

OK, it wasn’t quite that bad…

The Yankees got a great pitching performance from new Yankee James Paxton…and lose. It wasn’t exactly how it was planned to go down. I guess Sonny Gray left behind his lack of run support and they assigned to the Big Maple. The Yankees tried to make a comeback but those two insurance runs the Baltimore Orioles tacked on in the top of the ninth were too much to overcome as the Yankees dropped their first game of the season, 5-3.

The range of emotions from Yankee fans were from ‘big deal, it’s the second game of the season’ to ‘OMG, the season is lost!’. I guess you could put me somewhere in the middle. I simply hate to lose winnable games. When the season is done, the Baltimore will most likely have the most losses of any team in either league. Yet, if they win today, they win their first series of the season against a team expected to make noise in October. The Yankees need to win these games. Yes, it is only one game but these types of games can accumulate to a significant amount over the course of a 162-game schedule. I don’t like to lose. I know, I had better learn to deal with 60 losses, give or take, over the course of the summer but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. But after all these years, losing doesn’t get any easier when you are a Yankee fan.

Credit to the Orioles for using an Opener to keep the Yankee bats at bay. Nate Karns started his first game since 2017 and pitched the first two innings. The Yankees had him on the ropes with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning with only one out, but Miguel Andujar hit into an inning-ending double play.

(Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/NY Post)

New Jersey’s own Jimmy Yacabonis pitched the next three innings, giving up only a run, to earn the win for the O’s.

Meanwhile, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder failed to keep the Orioles off the scoreboard in the later innings and despite the two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees walked off the field wondering what could have been. So much for the shutdown bullpen that’s going to end games early.

Troy Tulowitzki hit the only Yankee homer, a solo shot in the ninth off former Yank Richard Bleier.

I thought it was a great game for D.J. LeMahieu, who started at third base with Miguel Andujar taking over DH duties. LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with one RBI and a run scored. He flashed his superior leather more than a few times at third, and looked like a veteran at the position. I was in a Denver, Colorado retail shop late yesterday afternoon wearing my Yankee cap, and the clerk commented to me he couldn’t believe the Yankees paid LeMahieu all that money to be a utility player. I agree.  With no offense to Troy Tulowitzki, the greater commitment should be for LeMahieu, even if it pushes Gleyber Torres to shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns. A home run by Tulo is not going to change my opinion. I do like LeMahieu at third and Andujar at DH so I hope that’s a frequent option although Giancarlo Stanton needs his time at DH as well. Although LeMahieu has not played much third in the Majors, it was his most frequent position in the Minors so it’s not like he has rarely played there. It’s just been a few years. He’ll shake off the rust.

The Yankees committed three costly errors in the game. Gary Sanchez bounced a throw past Gleyber Torres covering second base in the sixth inning which allowed a run to score. D.J. LeMahieu bounced a throw to Luke Voit at first base which Voit couldn’t handle, for a throwing error, in the top of the ninth inning, allowing Joey Rickard, leading off the inning, to reach second base. He would eventually score an unearned run. Voit had a throwing error earlier in the game (top of the 2nd) which didn’t cause any damage. After tagging first base on a grounder by Rio Ruiz, Voit tried to make an off-balance throw to second to complete the double play but the ball sailed widely to the left, allowing the baserunner, Joey Rickard, to race to third.  Fortunately, that was as far as Rickard would get.

James Paxton (0-1) took the tough luck loss. His final line was 5 2/3 innings, four hits, two runs (one earned), a walk and five strikeouts. He threw 82 pitches, one less than Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday and worked at a very quick and efficient pace. He certainly deserved to win and on most days he would have. He’ll get that first Yankee win soon with pitching performances like this.

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Okay, I’ll let the game go. It was just one game. I get it. The Yankees (1-1) complete the series today with the Orioles. J.A. Happ takes the ball for the Pinstripers while he’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy. Hopefully, Happ continues his win streak as a Yankee for at least one more game.

I followed the score of the Red Sox-Mariners game last night and was pleased when Seattle extended their lead to 6-2 on a three-run homer by Jay Bruce in the fifth inning. Then, in the 9th, it all fall apart for the M’s with three errors by third baseman Dylan Moore, filling in for the injured Kyle Seager. The Sox rallied for three runs and had the tying run at third base and go-ahead run at first with two outs, but former Yankee prospect Nick Rumbelow struck out Xander Bogaerts to end the game and preserve Seattle’s victory. Whew! Boston was almost gifted another win. Seattle’s defense looked like the Keystone Cops in that final inning.

(Photo Credit: Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)

Today is a good day for a Pinstriped victory.

As always, Go Yankees!