Tagged: Aaron Boone

Now Playing: The Gleyber Torres Story…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Frank Franklin II)

Gleybering their way to Victory…

Last night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim can be summed up in two words:

Gleyber Torres

Photo Credit: Twitter (sirdidig18)

Okay, credit to Luis Severino for bending but not breaking and to the bullpen for getting the game into the capable hands of closer Aroldis Chapman for the 2-1 win. But seriously, the Man of the Hour continues to be the 21-year-old rookie.

Shohei Ohtani may be the odds-on favorite for AL Rookie of the Year but on this night, Torres was the man among boys. His run-scoring single and solo home run provided all the offense the Yankees would need to take the first game of the three-game series with the Angels. Mike Trout was able to rip one off Severino but at least there was no one on base at the time and the rest of the Angels were unable to find their way home. Homeless Angels…so sad. Um, not really.

With no offense to Giancarlo Stanton, Torres has been the most significant addition for the 2018 Yankees. I am sure that Stanton will eventually go on one of his monster tears but clearly Torres is more valuable to his position (second base) than Stanton is to the outfield or DH. If Didi Gregorius was the Player of the Month for April, Torres, for now, can take Dave Winfield’s famed title of Mr May. I don’t mean that as a slight since as the canvas has yet to be painted for the months of June through October in the historic young career of the latest Yankees superstar. He is the youngest player to hit home runs in four consecutive games and he’s just getting started. Remember back when we were projecting Tyler Wade as our second baseman?  Me neither.

Okay, honorable mention for the game goes to Aaron Judge. His throw from right field, at 100.5 mph, to nail Kole Calhoun at the plate in the top of the 3rd inning which stifled an Angels threat was the stuff of legends.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Congratulations to the Yankees for the win and to Aaron Boone for one of his best managerial jobs to date.

Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox used the long ball to maintain their one game lead over the Yankees (32-15) in the AL East. The Sox (35-16) hit four home runs to turn back the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, 6-2, including homers by league leaders Mookie Betts (17) and J.D. Martinez (16). The homer Trout hit off Sevy was also his 16th so the trio sit atop the leaderboard in AL homers.

You can’t mention Boston without bringing up the topic of Hanley Ramirez. When it was announced yesterday that Boston had designated Hanley for assignment, it caught the Baseball World by surprise. My Red Sox friends were shocked. Granted, there was no way the Red Sox were going to exercise the 2019 option on Han-Ram’s contract ($22 million). The contract option would have vested if Ramirez had reached 1,050 plate appearances between last year and the current season (he stood at 748, which included 195 PAs this season). The Sox needed to open a spot for the activation of 2B Dustin Pedroia off the DL but it had been speculated that the under-utilized Blake Swihart would be traded to make room. Regardless of the reasons for his dismissal, I won’t miss Ramirez in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. Even when he wasn’t hitting, he always managed, it seemed, to blast a massive home run against the Yankees in clutch moments. I can’t really see another team willing to pick up Hanley’s contract in full so it’s probable that he’ll be released. I guess he can get together with the unemployed Chase Headley to talk about the good old days. I am sure that we have not heard the last of Ramirez but at least it won’t be part of Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry.

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire (Kevin Sousa)

Yesterday was also an active day for transactions with the Yankees. After reliever Ryan Bollinger was returned to Double A-Trenton, RHP Tommy Kahnle was activated off the DL.  Catcher Erik Kratz, who spent the season at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers designated their backup catcher (Jeff Bandy) to make room for Kratz. I am glad to see the 37-year-old get the Major League opportunity that eluded him with the Yankees. To take his place at Triple A, the Yankees signed 33-year-old Wilkin Castillo (he turns 34 next week) out of the independent leagues. Castillo had spent time with the RailRiders (and Thunder) last year.

RailRiders first baseman Adam Lind was given his walking papers for the second time by the Yankees. There was no chance Lind was going to see the light of day at Yankee Stadium so he’ll presumably get a chance to find an organization with a clearer path to a Major League job. His departure also clears the way for the potential demotion of Tyler Austin to Triple A. The Yankees need to make room for Greg Bird who will be activated today and while no word has been made about the corresponding roster move, I continue to believe it will be Austin over one of the arms in the bullpen. Could be wrong but unfortunately Austin makes the most sense since he still has options available.

Former Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi is expected to make his regular season debut for the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. It’s been a long, difficult road for the hard-throwing Eovaldi since undergoing his second Tommy John surgery. I wish him the best of luck with the Rays, except for when he faces his old teammates again. But if he wants to beat Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore, that’s fine with me.

Today is Sonny Gray Day. His last start was one of the best in his short Pinstriped career. Can he keep it going or will he revert to Sonny Gray Sucks! status? I truly hope he’s turned the corner and can re-establish himself as one of the best young arms in the American League. Gray will be facing Angels starter Jaime Barria (3-1, 2.13 ERA) who, frankly, I have never heard of. Unknown rookie starters always concern me with the Yankees as they seem to struggle against those guys. But then again, we have Gleyber Torres. Life is good.

Go Yankees!

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Not So Fun Deep in the Heart of Texas…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Richard Rodriguez)

Yanks lose first series since April…

With leads of 4-0 and later 10-5, you do not really expect to lose, but thanks to multiple pitching failures, the Yankees allowed the Texas Rangers to take the final game, 12-10, and win the series, two games to one. It was the first series the Yankees have lost since the Boston Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees on April 10th through 12th.

I keep hearing “don’t blame Sabathia, he is part of the solution, not the problem” but realistically, he’ll be 38 in a couple of months and he is not exactly a physical specimen. Since he held the Cleveland Indians to three hits and no runs over six innings on May 4th, he has averaged slightly under five innings per start (three starts). He has given up 15 runs (13 earned) in 13 1/3 innings pitched including 4 home runs and 7 walks. If CC wants to be part of the solution, he needs to start pitching better. My current confidence level in Sabathia is nowhere near where it was last year.

Yesterday’s game was a microcosm of the problems with both the starting pitching and the bullpen. Losing the 4-0 lead was bad enough, but there was no reason to blow the subsequent five-run lead. David Robertson did not look good. I have been a huge D-Rob fan but he’s pitching his way out of the Bronx right now. If these struggles continue throughout the season, there’s no doubt the Yankees will let him walk away at the end of the year. Of course, it’s all about cause and effect. Sabathia’s early departures put added and unnecessary pressure on the bullpen.

I am not sure why Aaron Boone tries to get more than one inning out of Dellin Betances. It seems like the second inning for Betances never works out in our favor regardless of how sharp he looks in the first inning of relief. Overall, I’ve liked the job Boone has done, but he hasn’t shown the ability to work the bullpen like Joe Girardi did. Girardi had his critics about his handling of the pen but the results were much better or at least I had more confidence in Joe’s ability. I think Boonie will get there and I am certainly not trying to go down a ‘we should have stayed with Joe’ path. I support Boone and like him as the Yankees manager. I was proud of his use of the f-bomb a few times the other night when he was thrown out of his first game as manager.

There were positives in the Texas series.  Namely, Gleyber Torres is a stud. There is literally nothing that the guy cannot do. He may not be the speediest guy on the team but I swear he wears an “S” on his shirt under the uniform.

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It was hard to watch Robinson Cano leave after the 2013 season via free agency. He had been the Yankees best player and it was great to have such a strong player at second base. Then we had to deal with a series of interim players like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew.  With no disrespect to Starlin Castro, Torres gives us our first legitimate young superstar at the position since Cano left.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Richard Rodriguez)

Giancarlo Stanton’s numbers may be coming around, but I still trust Aaron Judge more.

Neil Walker keeps showing why he should not be the sacrificial lamb when Greg Bird returns. While I’d like the first base pairing of Bird and Tyler Austin, I still feel that it makes more sense to option to Austin to Triple A.  He’ll be needed again at some point.

Glad to see that Didi Gregorius is starting to warm up again. His slump was the worst of his career following his All-World performance and Player of the Month honors in April. The Yankees need Didi if they expect to contend in October.

I try to keep up with the Yankees farm system but I have to say that I was shocked when reliever Ryan Bollinger was added to the 25-man roster yesterday. My first reaction was ‘who?’. I hadn’t really paid much attention to his minor league free agent signing or the stellar work he has done for the Trenton Thunder this year. Since he is not really a “prospect” anymore at the stage of his career (he is 27 after all), I just viewed him as depth for the minor leagues. Honestly, I do not expect him to stay in the Bronx long, not with the impending returns of Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren. I like what I’ve seen out of A.J. Cole and want him to stick around so it would seem Bollinger will be the odd man out in a few days and a potential DFA candidate if the Yankees need his 40-man roster spot. As for Cole, I’d probably give him a spot start over Domingo German to see what he can do.

Maybe it was because the Yankees were in Dallas, but the past week has brought so much speculation of Cole Hamels to the Yankees at the trading deadline. I do not see it. I like Hamels and I wouldn’t squawk about his presence on the roster.  There are a few guys in the starting rotation that he’d leapfrog. But, realistically, it makes no sense to me. Unless the Rangers are willing to pay significant dollars to pay down his contract, the Yankees would be responsible for the prorated portion of his $22.5 million 2018 salary. The contract has an option for $20 million in 2019. The option becomes guaranteed if Hamels has 400 IP in 2017-18 (he is presently at 206 2/3 innings so he’s unlikely to reach the milestone). The buyout for 2019 is $6 million.  Hamels also has a limited no trade clause that includes the Yankees. So, in order to get the Rangers to pay any dollars toward the contract, the Yankees would have to up the ante in terms of premium prospects. There would be more dollars involved to get Hamels to waive the no-trade. I don’t see how a few months of Hamels would justify the elimination of the majority of the cap space under the luxury tax threshold and the quality prospects that would be lost. Sure, if the Yankees win the World Series as a result, it would be worth it but I just don’t see Hamels as the difference-maker.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Joe Robbins)

I keep hoping the Seattle Mariners start losing now that they’ve lost Robinson Cano and Dee Gordon, but all they’ve done since is win. The M’s are currently riding a five-game winning streak and sit just two games behind the AL West leading Houston Astros. My desire to see the M’s lose is to open their willingness to move James Paxton. However, if they keep winning, there’s no chance.

The best possibility for the starting rotation might be our own Justus Sheffield. He came off the disabled list to pitch four innings of scoreless three-hit ball against the Pawtucket Red Sox yesterday. He struck out five and walked only one batter. Tommy Kahnle may have gotten the win in the 7-1 victory but it was a great limited outing for Sheffield’s return. I personally don’t think we’ll see Sheffield in the Bronx until August or September (if at all this year) but the power to accelerate the time table is certainly within his control. I probably shouldn’t read too much into Sheffield’s fine performance.  Chance Adams threw a one-hitter last week to go with ten strikeouts (to raise my excitement level), yet he followed it up with a stinker against Pawtucket on Tuesday (five runs and three walks in three innings of work).

With last night’s disappointing loss, the Yankees have fallen 1 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. Boston wraps up their series with the Tampa Bay Rays today, so they could hold a two-game advantage entering play on Friday. The first half schedule for the Red Sox has been so generous for them.

For the Yankees, I am glad to see the road trip end. With the washout of the games in Washington, they finished the trip with a 3-3 record despite hitting three home runs or more in five straight games for the first time in franchise history. The road trip also included extended flight delays and sleeping at airports. Their flight last night was delayed for mechanical reasons and they didn’t get off the ground this morning until about 5:30 am Eastern. Fortunately, today is an off day, but they’ve certainly dealt with more than their share of adversity this trip. Hopefully, the Yankees will be rested and ready to play when they meet the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night.

Go Yankees!

The Land of Confusion…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

He’s out or was he?…

I couldn’t help but think of the old Phil Collins/Genesis song during the eventful sixth inning of last night’s game between the Yankees and Angels. The title; not necessarily the lyrics although I could hear the music in my mind when Giancarlo Stanton was ruled out for not tagging second base on the near-home run by Neil Walker that was caught by the Angels’ Kole Calhoun above the right field wall.  Video replay showed Stanton did tag up when Walker’s fly was caught so he should not have been doubled off second.  The photo above occurred earlier in the game when Stanton stumbled after hitting his single in the second inning but it seemed appropriate for the game’s events.

Even though the Yankees could not specifically challenge the tag play at second, they could have challenged the overall play which started with the catch by Calhoun and would have encompassed the ‘did he or didn’t he’ play at second. By the time the Yankees figured it out, it was too late to challenge. So much for Joe Girardi as the only manager in Yankees history for not getting a challenge call right. Sorry Boonie, we still love you.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Fortunately, the Yankees scored a run on the play when Didi Gregorius tagged from third and scored ahead of the questionable tag out of Stanton at second.  There was some doubt whether Didi touched home plate prior to the out at second but the Yankees got that call which was perhaps the only one that eventually mattered. Kudos to Didi for starting that inning by reaching base on a perfectly placed bunt to third.

As the saying goes, all’s well that ends well. Didi Gregorius ensured the continuation of the Yankees winning streak with a tenth-inning home run, the margin of victory preserved by Aroldis Chapman (despite a two-out double by Zack Cozart) to close out the game, for the 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Didi Gregorius is doing it all for the Yankees right now. It’s amazing that he hit 25 home runs last year and didn’t play his first game until a year ago today.  This year, Sir Didi enters April 28th with 10 home runs and 30 RBI’s. He is batting .368/.459/.828 with 1.286 OPS. Forget Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Yankees are going to need big money to re-sign Didi at this point if he keeps up his All-World performance. And he’ll be worth every penny.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Didi Gregorius for President.  But he’s not as good as Derek Jeter or one of the ten best shortstops in the game, right?  There is no other man I would want covering shortstop for the Yankees right now than Sir Didi.

When I lived in the Los Angeles area, I would frequently attend the Yankees games in Anaheim and was always amazed at the high number of Yankees fans among the Sea of Red. So it was no surprise to me that the seemingly partisan-Angels crowd called Didi out for a curtain call. Weird for a road curtain call but then again the Yankees are like traveling rock stars especially when they are doing well. The Bandwagon is open, hop aboard!

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

The game’s first score came courtesy of a second inning solo shot by Japanese rookie Shohei Ohtani.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Jayne Kamin-Oncea)

I had viewed this game as a match up of the Yankees off-season targets. The guy they got against the guy they didn’t. Although he departed the game early (trying to run out a ground ball in the bottom of the fifth) with a sprained ankle, the first matchup goes to Ohtani over Stanton for his home run. Stanton was 1-for-4 (single) but struck out twice and did not score a run. Hopefully Ohtani is okay and won’t miss much time. I am still not happy about how the Ohtani signing went down but I certainly do not wish any ill will on the player. I am a firm subscriber in the belief that to be the best you have to beat the best so I want the best Angels on the field.  I had been looking forward to today’s match-up featuring Masahiro Tanaka against Ohtani but I assume we’ll most likely have to wait for another time.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Granted, Gregorius was the star of this game (as he is in nearly every game), but one has to throw mention to Brett Gardner. His ninth-inning sacrifice fly with the bases loaded tied the game and set the stage for Didi’s dramatic game-winning home run. Gardy rolled off the bench and pinch-hit for Ronald Torreyes in the key spot, simply doing his job. It was the first blown save of the season for the Angels’ young new closer Keynan Middleton. It would have been great to pick up a few more runs but the Angels could have easily shut the Yankees down from there to emerge with the victory. Brett was unwilling to accept no for an answer and delivered the game-tying sac fly.

Angels first baseman Albert Pujols picked up a hit in the game and now has 2,995 hits for his career. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for Pujols to join the 3,000 Hit Club this weekend but it will most likely happen for him some time next week. He’ll be able to feast on Orioles pitching when the Yankees leave town. I liked the stat Yankees starter Luis Severino was only 7 years old when Prince Albert got his first MLB hit.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Thanks to the win, the Yankees (16-9) were able to gain a game on the division-leading Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox lost a one-run game (4-3) to the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. The game featured a home run by former Yankee Robert Refsnyder, his first of the year. Thanks Ref! It’s always great when the Yankees win and the Red Sox lose. The Yankees are now only three games behind the Red Sox after Boston’s scorching start to the season. The Rays have matched the Yankees game for game on this current seven-game winning streak as they are unbeaten in the same number of games. I hope their winning streak continues. For whatever reason, the Red Sox Nation does not seem to be beating their chests like they did earlier this year.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

I am grateful for a night game this evening even if the East Coast Yankees fans pay the price with lack of sleep. My afternoon features Avengers: Infinity War so I have my priorities. Thanks for your “willingness” to bypass sleep so that I can see the latest and greatest superhero movie.

Go Yankees (and Avengers, of course)!

Making Easy Things Hard…

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Yankees Able to Overcome Betances…

The Yankees won their game on Friday night but it was not without unnecessary drama. The Yankees thoroughly dominated the Detroit Tigers in all phases of the game, yet the Tigers had the go-ahead run at the plate in the bottom of the eighth, thanks to a mess created by Dellin Betances. Although he was able to get two outs in the inning, it was not before the Tigers had gotten five hits and three runs off him. Mercifully, Chad Green came in to get the final out against his former team, leaving two runners stranded, to help propel the Yankees to the 8-6 victory.

After the game, Manager Aaron Boone was very supportive of Betances. Betances felt he was throwing good pitches but the Tigers were hitting everything. Betances made the comment that if he picked up the rosin bag and threw it, it was going to be hit. If the delivery is correct and both the fastball and breaking pitches are working, we can only hope good results are right around the corner. We’ll see. It’s troublesome to watch the All-Star reliever struggle in key spots. Fortunately, it didn’t cost the Yankees a game last night, but Boone had to burn Chad Green on a night he didn’t want to.

Nice job by Aroldis Chapman who struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to earn his second save of the season.

The game was a much stronger outing for starter Jordan Montgomery. He pitched better than his final line, 6 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, no walks and 4 strikeouts, in picking up his first victory of the season.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

The star of the game was Aaron Hicks. It was so fun to watch his inside-the-park home run in the second inning off Tigers starter and former Astro Mike Fiers. The ball hit by Hicks to right-center looked like it had the distance to go yard, but it careened off the wall and away from the Tigers outfielders. Gary Sanchez, who had doubled in the preceding at-bat, scored on the play, while Hicks came around and slid headfirst into home plate ahead of the throw with a huge grin on his face.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Gregory Shamus)

Hicks added a traditional home run in the sixth inning to become the fifth Yankee hitter with a multi-home run game this year. This is an incredible accomplishment considering only fourteen games have been played. Plus, Aaron Judge has yet to join the multi-HR parade and you know it is only a matter of time. The way this season is going, Ronald Torreyes will probably be the next hitter to have a two home run game.

This weekend’s games against the Tigers are looking very questionable right now. The weather forecast calls for rain on both Saturday and Sunday. The Yankees do not make any further trips to Detroit this season so if either one of the next two games are postponed, it will create a schedule challenge for the makeup. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to a double-header tomorrow before the Yankees head for home.

I am not excited about the anticipated start today (weather-permitting) by Luis Cessa. I really prefer to see Cessa in limited relief appearances.  But I guess the hand-writing was on the wall that he’d be the spot starter in place of the injured CC Sabathia when Domingo German pitched three innings in relief of Sonny Gray (very effectively, I might add) on Thursday. Hopefully, if they get the game in, Cessa will pitch much better than I expect.  I’d love to see him prove me wrong. Sadly, he never seems to but today is a new day.

I hate to dwell on what could have been, but reading this morning’s sports page shows that Todd Frazier hit two home runs last night to help the New York Mets improve their record to 11-1 and Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros struck out 14 batters for his third consecutive game with 10+ strikeouts. Cole would look really good in the Yankees rotation right now but it was not meant to be. I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will deliver us something better by the trading deadline but the early results do not look good.

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

If the Yankees decide to promote top prospect Gleyber Torres next Thursday, they have very difficult roster decisions to make. The obvious move is to option Tyler Wade to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. At the start of the season, I thought that Ronald Torreyes was the most vulnerable potential roster casualty but the guy simply performs every time he is called upon. His versatility and ability to come into games with effective results after sitting on the bench for days makes him too valuable to lose. The only way I can see Torres and Wade on the active roster together would be through a trade of an active roster member (but who?). As I’ve said before, I’ll gladly take Torres over Wade any day of the week. It’s not that I don’t think Wade will be a good player, I just feel Gleyber will be a star. Not right away, but I am ready for the maturation process in the Majors for the young superstar-in-waiting.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (John Raoux)

It’s not my money but I’d cut bait with Jacoby Ellsbury. I know, that’s a lot of money down the drain but Ellsbury’s presence, when he comes back from the DL, is a hindrance. I know that he’s still a good player but I’d prefer to see him play elsewhere. Let him go back to Boston, even if we are paying the freight. I don’t really care at this point. I am done with Ellsbury.

Jace Peterson cleared waivers yesterday and was sent outright to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders so we may not have seen the last of the former Padre/Brave second baseman.

Another former Yankee made his return to the Yankees organization when Rule 5 draftee Nestor Cortes, Jr was offered back to the Yankees by the Baltimore Orioles. The return of Cortes means that none of the players drafted from the Yankees in the Major League phase of last December’s Rule 5 Draft stuck with their new teams. I saw a story a few days ago that blamed misuse of Cortes by Orioles manager Buck Showalter for putting the young left-hander in a no-win situation. Cortes had yielded two grand slams within a week. Showalter said “If we could have gotten a little deeper into our games with starting pitching, I think I could have protected him more. But, we were forced into some things. I still think he’s got a chance to be a good pitcher.” When Baltimore had selected Cortes, they had high hopes that he’d make the starting rotation and felt that they had “stolen one” from the Yankees. It didn’t work out but we’re glad to see Cortes back in the Yankees family. Cortes will be assigned to Double-A Trenton where he’ll join the other Orioles Rule 5 returnee Jose Mesa, Jr.

Tyler Austin has appealed his five-game suspension. The appeal will most likely be heard early next week but the downside is that once Austin begins serving his suspension, he can’t be replaced on the roster so the Yankees will be a man down.  Neil Walker would be the full-time starter at first, backed by Austin Romine. That’s dangerously thin for the Yankees, particuarly considering the team will soon embark on a very difficult stretch on the schedule.

Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will not be coming to Yankee Stadium for the two game series between the Yankees and the Miami Marlins which starts on Monday. Jeter will make the trip to New York, but won’t travel to the Bronx to see the games in person at Yankee Stadium.  Jeter told ESPN, “I went to a spring training game when we played New York, but it would be an awkward situation for me to actually go to Yankee Stadium. I’m just being honest with you guys, so that’s why I’m not going.” I saw a great twitter line yesterday that said Jeter decided to send Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees as his representative. Works for me.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Michael Reaves)

Well, let’s hope the Rain Gods allow us to get in today’s game. Never a better time for a win than today.

Go Yankees!

Always Sonny in Yankee Stadium…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

Yesterday was a much better day… 

If the Yankees can win again today, it will be even better. After losing the first two games of the four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees have a chance to even up the series this afternoon before the Orioles hop on a plane to head home.

In one of the most overused phrases in the Yankees Universe, Saturday was a Sonny Day.  Sonny Gray gave the Yankees what they needed en route to the 8-3 victory. He held the O’s to four hits over six innings. He did give up a tying two-run double to Manny Machado in top of the third and a go-ahead run-scoring double to Pedro Alvarez the next inning, but from there, he held the Orioles in check. By the time he had exited after the sixth inning, Gray had only thrown 86 pitches (55 for strikes) and felt he could have kept going.

For a few minutes, it looked like the move to pull Gray and insert RHP Adam Warren for the top of the seventh might backfire on Manager Aaron Boone. Warren got the first batter out but proceeded to give up a single and a double to put runners at the corners. Enter David Robertson into the dangerous situation with the Yankees nursing a two-run lead. D-Rob did what he does best. He struck out Manny Machado (admittedly on a questionable call) and Jonathan Schoop to leave the runners stranded and get the Yankees out of the jam. Robertson shutting down the Orioles at that point and keeping the momentum with the Yankees was a very powerful moment in the game. In the bottom half of the seventh, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin padded the lead with three more runs…a run-scoring double by Judge and a two-run single by Austin (thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double but not before both runs had scored).

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

I was a little nervous when Luis Cessa entered the game in the top of the ninth despite the five-run lead, but he did his job. This is why I prefer Cessa in relief so that hitters do not get multiple looks at him. He retired all three batters he faced, two by strikeout. I remain hopeful that Domingo German will be the designated spot starter in place of the injured CC Sabathia.

Congrats to Miguel Andujar for his first 2018 hit…a single to center to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Andujar was 1-for-3 and knocked in the run that gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth. It would be great for the Yankees if Andujar can start hitting like we know he can.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Also, nice job by Jace Peterson. He played Friday night in the season opener for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, got a call at 2 am Saturday morning telling him that he needed to be in New York for the 1:05 pm ET game on Saturday, and was game ready in the Bronx, starting in left field. The infielder with limited outfield experience made some good plays and was 1-for-3. Peterson’s time in the Bronx should be short with the expected return of Aaron Hicks by mid-week, but I am glad to see him take advantage of the opportunity.

The World always feels better, despite its many problems, when the Yankees win.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

They kept pace with the Boston Red Sox and remain 2 1/2 games behind the Beantown Bunch in the AL East standings. The Toronto Blue Jays lost so the Yankees (5-4) were able to move into a tie for second place. Hopefully the Yankees can make it two in a row this afternoon before the team departs for Boston. Monday is an off-day, then they’ll play the Red Sox at Fenway Park for a three-game series beginning Tuesday evening. The Red Sox have Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello lined up and waiting for the Yankees.

I still haven’t figured out the 40-man roster following Saturday’s flurry of transactions.  Excluding Ben Heller who is on the 60-day DL (more on Heller later), I count a total of 41 players on the 40-man roster reflected on MLB.com’s website. I am sure there’s a reasonable explanation but so far I have not seen one addressed.

The Ben Heller story took an unexpected turn yesterday. Before the season started, the Yankees had optioned Heller to Triple A. Then it was announced that the option had been voided and Heller was placed on the 10-day DL due to bone spurs in his pitching elbow. He was subsequently moved to the 60-day DL. Yesterday morning, Ben posted a pic on social media, talking about how his old elbow had served him well but it was time for a new one.

Later in the day, it was announced that Heller had undergone Tommy John surgery in addition to the removal of the bone spurs. I didn’t see this one coming. Heller had been my expected bullpen breakout this year, but now, the Yankees won’t see him until mid-2019 at the earliest assuming that they hold him a spot on the 40-man roster over the off-season. That’s not a given as the Yankees have cut the last couple of arms which required TJ surgery (Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren). Perhaps the goal was to re-sign them to minor league contracts outside of the 40-man roster but both times the moves failed as the pitchers signed with other organizations. Good moves with both of those pitchers due to subsequent surgeries which keep them sidelined but who knows what awaits Heller. I wish him the very best in his recovery and rehab and I truly hope he achieves the Major League success he seems destined for. I’d prefer to see it in Pinstripes but I will cheer for him regardless of what uniform he wears next time he takes the mound.

I am disappointed with the developments regarding third baseman Brandon Drury. I was such a fan of the trade that brought the former Arizona Diamondback to New York. It was one thing for Drury to be placed on the 10-day DL with migraine headaches yesterday but to subsequently find out that this is an on-going problem that has afflicted Drury for years was a shock.  Not that I want to be critical of GM Brian Cashman, but how did the Yankees not know about this?  Drury has exams scheduled for tomorrow so hopefully we’ll know more soon. I am hopeful that this is not a long-term problem or in Drury’s case, a life-threatening one. I am concerned but hopefully we’ll have better news tomorrow or later in the week.

I know many fans would love to see the Yankees sign pending free agent Bryce Harper in the off-season but with each loss, the pressure is on the Los Angeles Dodgers to make impact moves. They’ll need to do whatever it takes to keep Clayton Kershaw, but I fully expect the Dodgers to be in play for Harper. The Dodgers lost a heart-breaking fourteen-inning game to the San Francisco Giants last night after they had taken a one-run lead on a walk-off three-run homer by Andrew McCutcheon. The loss dropped the Dodgers, an expected World Series contender, to 2-6. It is their worst start since 1976. The Dodgers were Giancarlo Stanton’s preferred destination last off-season since he is a Los Angeles native. I am glad the Dodgers weren’t aggressive in pursuit of Stanton, leading the big man to New York, but underachievement this season will make the Dodgers desperate to make a big splash next year. Like the Yankees, the Dodgers are trying to reset the luxury tax penalties this season so if successful they’ll have the cash to spend big. LA is close to Harper’s Las Vegas home so all signs are pointing to the Dodgers as the slugger’s eventual new home.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)

Well, it will be Gumby-Time in a couple of hours. Here’s hoping for another win by the home team. Austin Romine makes his second consecutive start in place of Gary Sanchez who was pulled for a leg cramp during Friday night’s loss.  I am optimistic the rest will help El Gary recapture his health and ignite his bat.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Go Yankees!

How Do You Spell Relief?…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

For one night, the answer is not G-R-E-E-N…

Well, so much for the thought (my thought anyway) that Chad Green is the lone bright spot in the Yankees bullpen. I know, that’s not fair to Aroldis Chapman, who has had very limited opportunities, or Dellin Betances, who actually was the best reliever last night. The Yankees held the lead in the game until the seventh inning when Masahiro Tanaka started to tire and gave up a two-run blast to Adam Jones. Tanaka stayed in the game, retiring Chris Davis on a grounder to third, but Tim Beckham ended his night with a single to right. If the Yankees bullpen could have held it from there, the Yankees might have been able to dig out of the one-run hole.

Alas, it was not meant to be. I guess you can chalk it up to ‘one of those nights’. Manager Aaron Boone brought in the usually reliable Chad Green. He did strike out two batters to get out of the inning but not before the Orioles hit a single, run-scoring double and two-run single to push three more runs across the plate.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

The Yankees had their chances but could not erase the large deficit. They picked up a run in the bottom of the seventh on a run-scoring single by Neil Walker after Didi Gregorius had doubled, but Miguel Andujar popped out with two men on and two outs to end the threat. The next inning, the Yankees had the bases juiced with two outs for Neil Walker, thanks to a walk and two batters hit by pitches. Unfortunately, Walker grounded out to the pitcher to eliminate the last serious threat.  Sadly, the Yankees dropped the contest, 5-2, to fall to 4-3 and two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings.

I was pleased to see the strong work by Dellin Betances in the top of the ninth inning when he struck out three batters despite allowing a meaningless walk.

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Love or hate Buck Showalter, but he schooled Aaron Boone on the fine art of managing. I know, you can’t blame Boone for this loss but Showalter is the wise grandmaster in terms of the depth of managerial experience. You’ll never beat Showalter by out-managing him.

I always enjoy the work of Mike Axisa over at River Ave Blues. He had great perspective this morning. He said “Every team is going to win 50 games and lose 50 games each year. It’s what they do in the other 62 games that determines their fate. This is one of those 50 losses.”  I agree with his assessment (as usual) but it is tough to take a loss on a night when the Boston Red Sox win.

Boston kills me. They have such a ‘cream puff’ schedule to start the year. They won their home opener yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with two runs and then scoring the game winner in the bottom of the 12th. The Rays featured a starting pitcher that I’ve never heard of, Yonny Chirinos. He did a decent job, along with the subsequent relievers until closer Alex Colome took the bump. The Rays almost lost the game in regulation when second baseman Daniel Robertson took a grounder with a runner on first, bypassing the obvious and easy force out at second, to barely beat the runner to first. The play was challenged but the throw beat the runner by a split-second, sending the game into extra innings before the Rays ultimately lost. The takeaway for me is that other teams like to hand gifts to the Red Sox.

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Photo Credit: Boston Herald (Christopher Evans)

Right now, Boston wins the games when they do not play well and the Yankees do not. I fully expect the Yankees to gel as a team but seven games into the season, we’re not there yet. I am not going to panic. There are still 155 games to play. Nobody is handing the Red Sox the AL East championship in April.

The Yankees look to rebound tonight when CC Sabathia takes the mound. He’ll face Greg Bird’s Colorado high school buddy, Kevin Gausman. Last year, CC was the man following a Yankees loss so hopefully the trend continues.

I was sad to see Trayce Thompson’s time with the Yankees was so short. I really like the guy even if he hasn’t put up the numbers to earn such support. Thompson was out of options when the Yankees claimed him on waivers earlier this week but they tipped their hand when Aaron Boone said that he’d start out in the minors. Thompson couldn’t go to the minors without clearing waivers and the Oakland A’s jumped at the chance to bring the brother of Klay Thompson, a star with Oakland’s Golden State Warriors to the Bay Area. Nice attempt by the Yankees to try to slide him through waivers but it failed like it did for the Dodgers. It’s nice for Klay who picks up a roommate to help pay bills (like he really needs the help). I wish Trayce the very best for success in Oakland, however, I think we’ll see him again soon on the waiver wire. For his sake, I hope not. I’d like to see him succeed.

The Yankees also made a depth move this week to acquire third baseman Cody Asche from the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

Asche will take over third base for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders while Miguel Andujar toils in the Bronx. I really wanted the Yankees to acquire Asche several years ago. I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill (I guess I can modify it to say the next Didi Gregorius). I thought Asche had potential when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies as a young third baseman. Asche, 27, is a career .234 hitter in 390 MLB games so he clearly has not become the player I thought he would be. There’s no chance he’ll ever leap-frog over Andujar or Brandon Drury so for now he becomes a Triple A performer waiting to help in the event of injuries at the position for the big league club. No offense, Cody, but I hope we never see you in the Bronx. It’s not because we don’t like you…we simply prefer good health for Andujar and Drury.

Lastly, I am going to borrow the words of TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen: In summary, the 2018 New York Yankees are still a World Series contender. If you want to jump off the Yankees’ bandwagon, be my guest. There are still plenty more on board.

Go Yankees!

I’m Glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee…

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Don’t Worry, I’ve Got Your Back…

Aaron Judge recently put it in the best perspective. One of the things he likes most about the Yankees was something to the effect that if you don’t do your job, there are 24 guys ready to pick you up. I don’t remember the exact words but that really isn’t the point. This is a team and a group of guys that are ready to back each other, regardless of the circumstances. Team chemistry made the 1998 Yankees a very special team. I am not saying that the 2018 Yankees are the version of 20 years ago, but this is one of the most closely knit teams that I’ve seen in recent years.

Didi Gregorius had a huge night last evening for the Yankees, powering the team to victory with two home runs and eight RBIs, yet many Yankees fans chose to boo Giancarlo Stanton instead or trash him on social media. Whoa, please step away from the ledge and relax.

There’s no doubt Stanton had a night to forget with five strikeouts in his Yankee Stadium Pinstriped debut. But, never once did I find myself in a position wanting to boo the man. In jest, TGP’s fearless leader, Daniel Burch, tweeted #TradeGiancarlo. It was amazing how many Yankees reacted like that but with full sincerity. Granted, Daniel was not serious (he tagged the comment with #TotallyJoking) but the fans who booed Stanton acted like he was the biggest Yankee disappointment since Chris Carter.

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Stanton’s fault, if anything, was trying too hard to impress the Yankees faithful. He wanted to be the difference-maker, perhaps a little too much. There will be better days. That’s not just my opinion…it is fact. Looking at the attendance figures for the Miami Marlins, it’s obvious that Giancarlo has never played before an Opening crowd of over 47,000 people. The Marlins averaged barely more than 15,000 last year despite an MVP season by Stanton. Stanton has said the right words and we know that he loves New York and he wants to deliver. The pressure he puts on himself is far greater than the pressure we can put on him. He needs our support; not our boos. He didn’t stumble upon 59 home runs last year by accident. Pitchers weren’t lobbing him freebies to hit over the fence. I remember how Dave Winfield would carry the team on his back for weeks. Stanton is that kind of player, only better.

My favorite quote after the game was Stanton’s remarks about the incredible accomplishments by the Yankees shortstop who batted fourth behind Giancarlo. “That’s what a cleanup hitter does. You clean up the garbage in front of you.” He took ownership of his performance but was not going to let it defeat him.

Aaron Boone was asked about Stanton after the game and he talked about how the slugger can have an off-night and yet the team produces eleven runs. As Boonie said, “There’s going to be a lot of days when we jump on his back”. Boone added that he was not at all worried about Stanton. Why should he be? Stanton is a stud and I am glad he’s a Yankee.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

What can you say about Didi’s performance?  It was the greatest game for a Yankees shortstop in franchise history. He was 4-for-4 and helped to ensure the snow-postponed, rain-delayed home opener was a success despite the questionable weather conditions. When interviewed after the game, Didi deflected the attention away from him individually and spoke how it was a team effort.

It was crazy in the off-season when everyone was developing top ten lists and Didi’s name was rarely mentioned in the conversations. I honestly cannot think of anyone that I’d rather have at shortstop for the New York Yankees than Sir Didi (with no offense to Manny Machado or others). Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa are incredibly gifted but I am glad we can call Didi Gregorius our own. He’s a worthy successor to Derek Jeter and has proven he is his own man. He’ll go down as one of GM Brian Cashman’s best trade acquisitions.

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

I know all of us kind of wish that Jordan Montgomery had been allowed to go a little deeper into the game, but he was excellent for five innings despite the four walks he gave up. 80 pitches, two hits, one run, and four strikeouts to start the year with an ERA of 1.80. He has looked noticeably better than last year when he did a really good job as a rookie. You have to really like the progress he is making to become a reliable force in the rotation. In many cities, the fifth starter is either a Triple A performer or an older veteran trying to hang on. Gumby has the potential to be an October star. He’ll never be Luis Severino but you don’t need five Severinos to win a World Series championship. You need winners and Montgomery is one. A single run through the starting rotation this season and I am feeling very good about the state of the starting staff. Knock on wood that the present outfield injury plague doesn’t spread to the pitchers.

Speaking of outfielders, the Yankees claimed outfielder Trayce Thompson yesterday off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers. I realize that Thompson did absolutely nothing in 2017 (55 plate appearances, one home run, two RBIs, .122/.218/.265, .483 OPS) but I like the move. Thompson, 27, was well-liked by Dodger fans and his availability was due to the glut of right-handed outfielders on the Dodgers roster. Thompson, brother of Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and the son of former NBA player (and champion) Mychal Thompson, hit 13 homers in 2016 before a back fracture ended his season so he has some pop. The guy just needs to play. Sure, he could be back on the unemployment line once guys like Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier return to good health but I think it was worth taking a flyer on Thompson.  The Yankees have one coach who is very familiar with Thompson, bench coach Josh Bard. Bard served as the Dodgers bullpen coach for the two years that Thompson was in LA. So I am sure that Cashman sought input from Bard before making the waiver claim.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Lisa Blumenfeld)

To make room for Thompson on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved reliever Ben Heller from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL (right elbow bone spur). No word yet if Thompson will be immediately added to the 25-man roster or if he’ll start the season with extended spring training. He is out of options. While I am saddened to see Heller’s season start off on the wrong foot, kudos to the Yankees. They had optioned Heller to the minors, but when the decision was made to place him on the DL, they voided the demotion to keep him at the Major League level which means that he is accruing MLB service time and pay while on the disabled list.  I don’t know the circumstances behind the decision but it appears to me they could have placed him on the DL after the minor-league assignment which would have prevented the service time accrual at lesser minor league pay. Outwardly, it appears to be a very generous move by the Yankees to look out for Heller’s best interests. Heller was my breakout candidate for the year so I am hopeful that he has his opportunity before the season is done.

It’s a new day. When Giancarlo Stanton takes his position in the batter’s box later today, I know I’ll be cheering. Regardless of whether the result is a home run or a strikeout, I will be proud #27 wears Pinstripes. And #18 too, oh, hell yes!

Go Yankees!