|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:
|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.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)|
Please End the Battle of .500…
We are two-thirds the way through April and the Yankees are only one game above .500. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox are winning at an amazing .889 clip.
Remember back in January and early February when we were so excited about the dynamic Yankees offense featuring the NL MVP and everyone said that the Yankees pitching staff was better than any potential replacements? Or how the Red Sox had no offense to go with their solid pitching rotation? Yeah, I miss those days.
Three weeks into the season and things are not quite as rosy. Yes, it’s a long season and much can happen between now and the end of September. I keep waiting for the silver lining to appear but sadly, so far anyway, the Boston Red Sox continue to devastate their opposition. Absolute annihilation might be more descriptive. It feels like HBO’s Game of Thrones and Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the Night King with an ice dragon and an army of the undead at his disposal.
.292/.362/.496, .859 OPS, 24 Home Runs, 109 RBIs, 323 Total Bases
.249/.343/.438, .781 OPS, 23 Home Runs, 92 RBIs, 260 Total Bases
2.63 ERA, 127 Hits, 10 home runs, 1.09 WHIP
4.47 ERA, 145 Hits, 18 home runs, 1.27 WHIP
.992 Fielding Percentage, 5 Team Errors
.971 Fielding Percentage, 18 Team Errors
It’s easy to look at the above numbers and recognize that the team with the top line is superior to the lower line team. I guess it’s little wonder why the Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox by six and a half games and it’s still only April (allegedly, according to my calendar).
The team fielding is the most horrific stat since the Yankees are the worst team in Major League Baseball and the Red Sox are the second best, trailing only the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s starting to feel like the Yankees are going to give away runs every game with their defense.
The law of averages say that the Yankees will improve their numbers while the Red Sox should cool off, but for the first three weeks of the season, Boston has been in a sprint. The Los Angeles Angels got off to a great start this year. When their series against Boston (at home) started on Tuesday, the Angels were 13-3. Three games later, when the Red Sox finally left Anaheim, the Angels had fallen to 13-6. They were decimated by a combined score of 27-3 over the course of the three games series sweep by the Red Sox. The Red Sox Nation is gloating and it sucks.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
The Yankees have won three of four after last night’s 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, although the sting of the drubbing by the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night still hurts. Even though the Yankees did hang on Thursday evening for the one-run win, they gave two runs away and David Robertson walked a precarious tightrope in the 8th inning when the Jays loaded the bases with a couple of hits and walks and only one out. It was incredible that he emerged from the inning allowing only one run on a single by his former Yankees teammate Curtis Granderson. No offense to Dellin Betances (who pitched decently in the seventh inning), but it seems like if it had been Dellin in the eighth with the bases juiced, the Jays would have scored a plethora of runs. D-Rob’s performance (cleaning up his own mess in the face of great adversity) is one reason I hope the Yankees re-sign him in the off-season. I have far greater trust in Robertson as the setup man for Aroldis Chapman than I do Betances. By the way, it was very nice to see Chapman strike out the side in the ninth inning to preserve the win. It was a win but one that could have very easily gotten away from us.
Something’s got to give. At some point, Giancarlo Stanton is going to hit and he’ll carry the team on his back. I have no doubts about it but how deep is the hole going to be before it happens. That’s my biggest concern. If the Red Sox play .550 baseball the rest of the way, they are a 95-win team. The Yankees need to improve their hitting, pitching and defense now, not later. The Yankees can’t let the Red Sox run away and hide with the AL East championship. Otherwise, we’re back into the one-game ‘do or die’ situation, assuming that the Yankees can grab one of the Wild Card slots.
There are 145 games left to play. Let’s make the most of them.
The Yankees re-signed first baseman Adam Lind this week to a minor league contract, most likely as a hedge against the health of Greg Bird and the sustained play of Tyler Austin. I don’t see how Lind will be ready to play when Austin begins serving his five-game suspension (or three or four games, whatever it turns out to be after the appeal is heard). I kind of wish Austin had started serving his suspension immediately. Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies received his five-game suspension after Austin and he has already finished serving his time. With the Yankees only one game into a brutal 18-day consecutive game stretch against some of the best teams in baseball, it sucks that we’ll have to feature Neil Walker as the starting first baseman for a chunk of the games.
At this point, I can only say Thank God for Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius. I am not sure where the Yankees would be without those two guys. The rest of the team should feel free to raise the level of their game to match the two young Yankees superstars. It starts tonight. Sonny Gray, this is your wake up call. Pitch like we know you can. That’s all we ask.
|Photo Credit: MLB.com|
I hate to keep using Daniel Burch’s line, but it’s never been more appropriate. Need a win…get a win.
Maybe one of these days I can wake up happy and cheerful like Daniel.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)
Walker, New York Yankee…
When I heard the news the Yankees had signed free agent infielder Neil Walker, I admit it did not excite me. I had thought Walker might be an infield possibility before the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks (in fact, TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen called it out as a move the Yankees should make before Drury found himself in Tampa with our favorite team). But once Drury arrived, I didn’t give it another thought.
Credit: Pittsburgh Magazine
The reaction among the Yankees Universe has been very mixed. Countless fans feel that Walker blocks the very talented rookies, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. I don’t look at it that way. For a one-year contract at $4 million plus incentives, this is not a marriage. It is a dinner date at McDonald’s. Walker may break camp as the starting second baseman but there’s no doubt that Gleyber Torres will be the man when he is ready. Gleyber needs the additional time at Triple A as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He has shown this Spring that regardless of his MLB service time clock, he would greatly benefit from the added time in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Torres is going to be a star and there is nothing that Neil Walker can do about it.
Brandon Drury is the starting third baseman. With no offense to Miguel Andujar, Drury was not acquired to be a backup. The Yankees see too much potential in the player and feel that they can convert a number of those Drury doubles into home runs. The Yankees gave up two talented prospects in second baseman Nick Solak and pitcher Taylor Widener. At that price, they weren’t paying to get Drury as a part-time player. Perhaps Andujar goes to Pennsylvania and crushes Triple A pitching. There’s nothing wrong with two players fighting for one position. It’s a very good problem to have. For now, Walker’s arrival most likely means that Andujar will be joining Torres in Scranton. But like Torres, Andujar will be back. When he proves his defensive game has caught up with his bat, only a major trade for a starting pitcher could keep Andujar from pulling on the pinstripes. Walker certainly won’t stop that from happening.
I felt and probably still feel that Tyler Wade will see significant starts at second base. Worst case, I can see him in a platoon role with Walker at the position until young Gleyber arrives to take control. Best case, he breaks camp as the starter with Walker on the bench.
To me, the potential losers with the Walker signing are utilityman Ronald Torreyes and non-roster first baseman Adam Lind. Torreyes may make the Opening Day roster. In fact, I think it’s almost a certainty. But, when Torres and Andujar arrive in the Bronx with their minor league assignments completed, Torreyes is the potential odd man out. I thought Lind might have a chance to make the roster since the Yankees, for whatever reason, do not seem enamored with Tyler Austin. But with Walker’s ability to play first base (not to mention Drury too), Austin brings more to the team than Lind does as a right-handed first baseman (nice complement to the lefty-swinging Greg Bird) who can also play corner outfield. Lind is strictly 1B/DH. But Austin’s spot is not a given as the Yankees could opt for Billy McKinney if Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier are unable to start the season. McKinney has limited experience at first base, but the presence of Walker helps offset his inexperience.
To make room for Walker, the Yankees designated outfielder Jake Cave for assignment and released non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa. Shortstop Kyle Holder was also re-assigned to minor league camp. I’ve always liked Cave but he was squeezed by players ahead of him like Frazier and McKinney and was feeling the heat from hard charging younger prospects. Cave was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds a couple of years ago as a Rule 5 draftee. He opened some eyes although he proved he wasn’t quite ready for the Show. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman is able to flip Cave for a younger prospect rather than simply letting him go for nothing. I was never excited about the addition of Espinosa. He was a decent player for the Washington Nationals a few years ago, but he wasn’t going to scare anyone with his bat. His poor reaction when the Nats acquired outfielder Adam Eaton which pushed star Trea Turner from the outfield to shortstop, displacing Espinosa, always bothered me. So, for me, I’ll gladly take Walker over Espinosa. The switch-hitter still has some pop left in his bat, and he is a very versatile dude (health-permitting).
Walker was assigned Starlin Castro’s number 14 (most recently worn by Espinosa). For me, the number is forever associated with the great “Sweet Lou” Pinella.
Photo Credit: UPI
By now, I don’t think any Yankees fans are expecting the team to add a starting pitcher before the start of the season. My early favorites for trade deadline candidates are Chris Archer and Danny Duffy. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been interested in Archer, so I’d probably rate Duffy as the most likely choice if he can be pried from the Kansas City Royals. Personal preference, no doubt, is Archer. The health and performance of the existing starting five will obviously dictate what the Yankees do in July. It’s early, but I’ve been impressed with young right-hander Domingo German and would like to see him become the rotation’s sixth man in place of Luis Cessa.
Good times. I am ready for the season to start.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Next Stop, Toronto Pearson International Airport…
We should begin seeing some whittling down of bodies at Steinbrenner Field soon so it got me thinking about the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. March 29th, and a date with the Toronto Blue Jays, is only three weeks away so the regular season will be upon us before we know it.
Count me among those who do not place much stock in Miguel Andujar’s slew of home runs against mostly Double-A pitching. I think Andujar will make a contribution this year, perhaps a significant one, but I do not feel that he’ll head to Toronto with the team after they play their final Spring game in Atlanta against the Braves. My guess is that he spends more time with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to work on his defensive game.
Here is my projection for the Opening Day Roster (with starting position players in italics).
Rest of the Pen
Aaron Judge, RF
Brett Gardner, LF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
The guess is Judge will be exclusively a right-fielder and DH, with Stanton primarily filling the DH role but covering both outfield corner positions dependent upon the ballpark. When (not if) Ellsbury gets hurt (assuming that he recovers from the right oblique strain in time for Opening Day), Clint Frazier gets the first look as his replacement with Billy McKinney next in line.
I don’t know what happens with Tyler Austin. The way the Yankees keep trying to replace him leads me to believe that he is not in the long-term vision. I could very well be wrong about the backup first base job. Perhaps Austin does win it and Lind opts out of his minor league contract in a couple of weeks. But it’s hard to overlook Lind’s history of success at the Major League level so I won’t.
It remains my belief we’ll see Gleyber Torres as the starting second baseman during the season, maybe as early as the first of May. Assuming he doesn’t go to Baltimore in a mammoth mid-season trade for Manny Machado, I think Andujar will see extended time in the Majors for the Pinstripers too. Admittedly, if he keeps up his torrid hitting over the next couple of weeks as MLB starters are stretched out in preparation for the season, he could force his way onto the Opening Day Roster. If that happens, Lind (or Austin) could be the odd man out, with Drury and Romine serving as the less-than-desirable first base backups in addition to their other duties.
The first reliever on the Scranton Shuttle will be right-hander Ben Heller, followed closely by fellow righty Giovanny Gallegos. For emergency starter, I’d prefer to go with Domingo German over Luis Cessa but the team seems to love Cessa in spot starts despite the lackluster results.
The toughest call is the batting order but my choices from second to fifth would be Judge, Bird, Stanton, and Sanchez, respectively. Regardless of how this shakes out under Aaron Boone, I feel sorry for American League pitchers.
There’s still plenty of time for roster surprises but I think injuries would play the primary role in any deviations, in my humble opinion (which of course could be seriously flawed).
As the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…
If you haven’t already done so, you should check out Bryan Hoch’s new book, The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty. The book is available through multiple outlets including Amazon.com (where I bought my copy).
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (David Goldman)|
The Rivalry Continues…
Today is the first meeting of the Boston Red Sox and your New York Yankees. Of course, it’s just a meaningless exhibition game but there’s no doubt all of us, without exception, want to beat the hated Red Sox. We’ll have to do it without the Big Boppers as neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton will provide a preview of what they intend to do to Red Sox pitching.
Here is the scheduled lineup for today’s game at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL:
Aaron Hicks, CF
Greg Bird, 1B
Brandon Drury, 3B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Danny Espinosa, DH
Austin Romine, C
Billy McKinney, RF
Jake Cave, LF
The starting pitcher will be Chance Adams, making his second Spring start.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
For the Red Sox, they won’t be giving the Yankees an advance look at J.D. Martinez as he, like Judge and Stanton, will take the bench. Pitching for the Red Sox will be left-hander Brian Johnson who is the favorite to win the fifth spot in the Red Sox rotation at the start of the year, thanks to the injuries to Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez.
The Yankees signed free agent first baseman Adam Lind on Friday to a minor league deal with an invitation to training camp. The deal includes an opt-out at the end of training camp if he is not on the Major League roster. The backup first base job appears to be Tyler Austin’s to lose. It’s hard to envision Lind making the team unless the Yankees do not trust Austin as the primary support for Greg Bird (or if Austin gets hurts, which is within the realm of possibility). Lind did have surprisingly good numbers for the Washington Nationals last year when he batted .303/.362/.513 with .875 OPS in 301 plate appearances. Four of his 14 home runs were pinch-hits. He is a career .272/.330/.465 (.795 OPS) hitter with 200 home runs. Lind, 34, came up in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and played for them through the 2014 season. Since then, he’s had a new team each year. Milwaukee Brewers (2015), Seattle Mariners (2016) and the Nationals (2017).
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Alex Brandon)|
Austin answered Lind’s signing with a walk-off home run to beat the Atlanta Braves on Friday afternoon. Apparently he borrowed a page from Miguel Andujar’s playbook for rules of engagement with the competition at your position.
My guess is that Austin makes the team and Lind opts out to sign a MLB deal with another team to be their backup first baseman. I don’t see the Austin to Triple A and Lind on the Opening Day roster scenario. One or the other will be part of the organization and the other will not, in my opinion.
Jacoby Ellsbury has a nagging injury. Great. The DL King has been diagnosed with a mild right oblique strain. If it was Ellsbury’s intent to beat out Aaron Hicks for the starting center field job, he’s not off to a good start. Honestly, the Yankees should bite the bullet after the season is over. There will be $47.3 million left on his contract, but at that point, it will be time to cut bait. It’s too bad that Brian Cashman was unable to find a taker, even with the willingness to pay a significant portion of what’s left on Ellsbury’s deal. I agree with Cashman’s assessment that Ellsbury remains an above-average player when healthy but those last two words become more dicey with each passing year.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)|
Ellsbury’s “backup”, outfielder Clint Frazier, is struggling with his own problems. He continues to be troubled by headaches associated with a concussion he suffered earlier in the Spring. The Yankees had been trying to increase his workload but Thursday’s workout led to sending Frazier for a MRI on Friday. He whacked his head against the wall in left field at LECOM Park in Bradenton, FL last Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hopefully this is not a setback and Frazier continues his path toward good health. I know I’d rather go to war with Red Thunder over Ellsbury.
It creates a potential opening for either Jake Cave or Billy McKinney to make noise although it is likely that Ellsbury will be ready for Opening Day.
I try not to get too caught up in Spring stats but I have to admit that, physically, Jordan Montgomery looks great. He doesn’t quite have the ‘Gumby’ look from last year and his face seems more mature. He pitched three innings yesterday in the win over the Braves, striking out five batters. He gave up two hits, but did not allow any runs. All 22 of his pitches were in the strike zone. The 25-year-old appears capable of showing that he is not the starting rotation’s weakest link.
Now, let’s beat those friggin’ Red Sox. Go Yankees!