|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Winslow Townson)
Ty, Ty, Tyler Again…
On a wing and a prayer. Unfortunately, that’s life with Greg Bird as your first baseman.
The Yankees Universe collectively groaned a sigh of disappointment when Bird was pulled before the start of an exhibition game with the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista, FL at the Walt Disney Resort yesterday with an apparent foot injury. He underwent an MRI and a CT scan yesterday afternoon and it was determined that he had right foot inflammation. It is in the same general area where he had ankle surgery last summer to remove excessive bone growth. The reason for the inflammation is not currently known.
Bird will see noted New York Orthopaedic Surgeon Martin J. O’Malley in the Upper East Side on Monday to determine the cause of the inflammation.
Every year, it seems like it is something with the talented but fragile first baseman. He missed the entire 2016 season following shoulder surgery. Then last year, the foot injury at the end of training camp led to the eventual ankle surgery in July which limited him to 48 games although he did have a memorable post-season.
If Bird is forced to the disabled list, Tyler Austin appears to be the beneficiary. GM Brian Cashman has indicated that the Yankees will use in-house options. Neil Walker has been mentioned as a possibility, but it’s hard to envision the second baseman as the regular first baseman. Backup or platoon maybe. Brandon Drury played first base in the minors but he is firmly planted as the third baseman. The Yankees always seem to be looking for alternatives to Austin (for whatever reason), so it is not a given that Austin will make the roster if Bird cannot.
When Austin was forced to move from DH to first base to replace Bird for the game against the Braves, the Yankees pulled first baseman Ryan McBroom out of the minor league camp for DH duties. McBroom, the return when the Yankees traded Rob Refsnyder last year, responded with a home run and a run-scoring single (the latter hit produced two runs but the second one was courtesy of a throwing error). McBroom will be 26 in a couple of weeks but he has never played above Double A. Another option surfaced on Saturday when the Seattle Mariners returned Rule 5 draftee Mike Ford to the Yankees. He was assigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Ford batted .259 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 54 at-bats for the Mariners this Spring, but regular first baseman Ryon Healy returned from hand surgery sooner than expected and Daniel Vogelbach won the backup job as the team’s hottest hitter in camp. So Ford didn’t do a bad job for the M’s…it was just a numbers game. Between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, Ford batted .270/.404/.471 with .875 OPS to go with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs. The guess is that Austin gets the job if Bird is not ready, but Ford looms as a potential option.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Chris Carlson)|
I really like Greg Bird as a player and his swing is a thing of beauty. But the succession of injuries is taxing to say the least. I will continue to hope for the best and I am trying to be optimistic that the latest inflammation is not a sign of much deeper problems. Let’s hope that Bird receives positive news from Dr O’Malley tomorrow and the foot inflammation is solved with treatment and rest.
With Ford’s return, the Yankees have recaptured two of the four players taken in last December’s Rule 5 Draft. Anyelo Gomez was previously returned to the Yankees by the Braves. The Baltimore Orioles designated Jose Mesa, Jr for assignment on March 21st when they signed free agent Alex Cobb. If Joe Table, Jr clears waivers, he’ll be offered back to the Yankees. Nestor Cortes, Jr remains in Orioles camp and is the scheduled starter in today’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
|Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun|
I’ve seen a lot of negative reaction from the Yankees fan base over the decision to give RHP Jonathan Holder the final spot on the Opening Day roster over Domingo German. I don’t get it. With the RailRiders, German can continue to start and will be stretched out if/when the Yankees need an emergency or extra starter. I’d prefer that to German sitting in the bullpen waiting for opportunities. Some fans seem to think the Opening Day roster is etched in stone. If we’ve learned anything, the final spots on the roster are very fluid with movement aboard the Scranton Shuttle.
Baseball is tough. It’s hard to believe that closer Greg Holland has been unable to find a job. He had 41 saves in 2017 for the Colorado Rockies. He turned down an off-season offer from the Rockies and their money went to new closer Wade Davis. I keep hearing that teams continue to stay away from Holland due to his asking price. At what point does Holland say ‘uncle’ and accept an offer simply to play? Same with Mark Reynolds who hit 30 home runs last season for the Rockies. I feel bad for the guys who can still play the game at its highest level but can’t find a job. The next few days will be even tougher as teams make the necessary cuts to reach their 25-man rosters. You wonder if it is the end of the line for older players like Jayson Werth, Jose Bautista and Matt Holliday. Scott Kazmir, part of the salary dump that sent outfielder Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers, was released by the Braves yesterday. He had exited the game against the Yankees with left arm fatigue (after reportedly having thrown 90-100 pitches in a bullpen session last Wednesday). Despite on the hook for $16 million, the Braves opted to part ways with the left-hander who missed the 2017 season with injuries. Now, Kazmir is one of many on the unemployment line (although I am fairly confident the $16 million will help him pay bills while he looks for a new job).
Today is the final day in Florida for the Yankees. After today’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, the Yankees will head for Atlanta, GA to play the Braves at SunTrust Park on Monday. Then, MLB camp is done. The Gang of 25 will head to Toronto and the Aaron Boone Era will officially begin with Opening Day on Thursday against the AL East rival Blue Jays. It’s almost time.
To borrow words from the great John Sterling, let’s give the team a “Stanton ovation”! It’s going to be a very exciting season. Go Yankees!
The Dog Days of Spring…
One week to go until the games become “real”. The thought of Toronto, Canada on a day in late March gives me a rather chilly feeling but watching the Yankees play brings the necessary warmth. The current weather forecast calls for cloudy skies with an expected high of 47 degrees and a 20% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, the temp inside the Rogers Centre should be very comfortable for the away team. Let the homers begin!
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
It sounds like Manager Aaron Boone intends to have his 25-man roster in place by the weekend. I was surprised to see that first baseman Tyler Austin didn’t make the cut. I assume that places Neil Walker and Austin Romine as the backup first basemen. The speculation is that the Yankees will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. We know that Tyler Wade has made the team as the second baseman and Brandon Drury will be the starter at third. So, the bench appears to be Austin Romine, Neil Walker, and Ronald Torreyes as it appears that neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier will be ready. Under this scenario, the Yankees won’t carry a fifth outfielder with Ellsbury expected to open the season on the disabled list. The outfield rotation would be limited to the four outfielders currently in play (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) using the DH slot primarily for Stanton and Judge. This is where multi-position versatility is very helpful. Although Drury has only played third base for the Yankees, he was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and he has also seen time in the outfield for the Snakes. Torreyes as the emergency catcher is funny but it makes sense. Walker will be all over the infield except shortstop and catcher.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
So it appears the critical decision with be the 13th pitcher. Luis Cessa simply no longer has my trust or support. I do not want him as the rotation’s “sixth man” and after a good Spring, I feel much better about Domingo German in that role. I thought this would be the breakout year for Ben Heller but he had a few rough outings recently and has found himself with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. There is still time for him to shine but it won’t be at the start of the season. I really like Jonathan Holder. He blazed through the Yankees farm system until struggling last year. I am convinced he will be much stronger this year. So, for me, I’d like to see either German or Holder get the last spot on the 25-man roster. German would be a true long man, but if the Yankees need an emergency starter, there’s always the Scranton Shuttle. I’d probably go with Holder to start the season but like last year, the final spot on the roster will be very fluid.
I was surprised to see the return of Rule 5 draftee Anyelo Gomez from the Atlanta Braves. We know that the Braves will be bad this year. I thought they’d bite the bullet and keep Gomez on the MLB roster all season to keep the talented young pitcher. But Gomez’s performance spiraled downward as the MLB-caliber competition in exhibition games increased and it led to Atlanta’s decision to offer Gomez back to the Yankees. Similarly, Jose Mesa, Jr has struggled with the Baltimore Orioles and he was designated for assignment this week when the O’s signed free agent pitcher Alex Cobb. If Mesa clears waivers, the O’s will have to offer him back to the Yankees. So, this leaves only Nestor Cortes, Jr (Orioles) and Mike Ford (Mariners) as the only Rule 5 draftees still with the teams that selected them from the Yankees in December. I remain convinced Cortes will make the O’s Opening Day Roster despite the three-run homer that he gave up to Aaron Judge in yesterday’s exhibition game. I still expect Ford to be offered back to the Yankees by the Mariners in a numbers crunch at first base.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
Speaking of the Mariners, I was saddened to learn that former Yankees reliever David Phelps will miss the upcoming season with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. I thought it was cool that Ichiro Suzuki had followed Phelps to the Yankees, Miami Marlins and then back to Seattle. Now, it appears their reunion on the active regular season roster will be delayed assuming that Ichiro continues to play for the M’s beyond this year. We wish David the very best with his surgery and recovery. Hope to see him back in the Mariners’ bullpen sometime next year and as good as ever (except when he pitches against the Yankees, of course).
Photo Credit: Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)
If you have a subscription to The Athletic, you should be sure to check out Marc Carig’s piece this morning on Brandon Drury entitled “Brandon Drury brings a serious edge to Yankees clubhouse”. Drury has become one of my favorite players in a short period of time. I love his quiet intensity. Like many believe including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I feel very strongly that Drury’s best days are ahead. I think he’ll be a force at third base and will make us forget we ever knew Chase Headley or Todd Frazier. I am very pleased to see Carig covering the Yankees again after a few years away on the Mets beat. He’s an excellent writer and very insightful. Solid work, once again, by Carig.
It’s been tough with no televised Yankees games for the last few days. Fortunately, the Yankees will be on ESPN2 this afternoon against Jake Cave and the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen the lineups for the game yet but hopefully we’ll see Cave. I haven’t been following the Twins so I assume that Cave is remains in the Major League camp. The scheduled starter for the Twins will be former Yankee Phil Hughes.
7 Days to Toronto. I’m ready. You’re ready. They’re ready. Let’s Go Yankees!
Looking Forward to Today’s Game…
Today’s Spring Game featuring the Miami Marlins at Steinbrenner Field is one I’ve been looking forward to all Spring. When the Yankees traveled to Jupiter, FL last Sunday, Giancarlo Stanton didn’t make the trip and the game was not televised. That’s not the case today. Stanton is in the lineup and the game will be on TV (YES Network).
For the game starting at 1:05 pm Eastern, here is the scheduled lineup:
Brett Gardner, CF
Aaron Judge, RF
Greg Bird, 1B
Giancarlo Stanton, LF
Gary Sanchez, C
Didi Gregorius, SS
Neil Walker, 2B
Brandon Drury, 3B
Tyler Austin, DH
The starting pitcher will be Luis Severino. The starter for the Marlins will be a familiar face (Caleb Smith). Another former Yankee (Garrett Cooper) will be the starting right fielder for the Fish. It’s always good to see the great Don Mattingly even if he is tasked to lead the Stanton/Ozuna/Yelich-less Marlins for CEO Derek Jeter.
It would be fun to see Stanton go yard against his old club today. It would have been nice to see old friend Starlin Castro but as with most veterans, he did not make the road trip. Nevertheless, as noted above, there is no shortage of former Yankees in the park.
By Order of Aaron Boone…
The Yankees announced the order of the starting rotation on Saturday. Luis Severino gets the Opening Day assignment at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada on March 29th against the Blue Jays. I thought the honor would go to Masahiro Tanaka as the recognized ace of the staff but there’s no disputing that Sevy was the Yankees’ best starter in 2017 when he finished third in the AL Cy Young voting behind elite starters Corey Kluber and Chris Sale.
1. Luis Severino
2. Masahiro Tanaka
3. CC Sabathia
4. Sonny Gray
5. Jordan Montgomery
At first, I was surprised when I saw that Gray was penciled in behind Sabathia but it does make sense to break up Sabathia and Montgomery. You can also insert short jokes about Sonny Gray here while stating he gives hitters a different look between the two left-handed six-foot-sixers. Admittedly, I am a little concerned about Sabathia pitching on the turf at Rogers Centre with his balky knee. Boone had better get the bullpen up early in that game.
Jordan Montgomery draws the assignment for the home opener at Yankee Stadium on Monday, April 2nd against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Congratulations to Severino for his anointment as the King of the Pitching staff. I suspect it will be many years before he is ready to relinquish the crown. Hard to believe the guy is only 24 years old. Unless the Yankees sign Clayton Kershaw next off-season (very unlikely), Severino should have an extended reign.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
The Rule 5 Draft Revisited…
2017 Rule 5 Draft – Major League Phase – Yankees Lost
Round 1, 7th Selection: RHP Anyelo Gomez, Atlanta Braves
Round 1, 9th Selection: LHP Nestor Cortes, Baltimore Orioles
Round 1, 11th Selection: 1B Mike Ford, Seattle Mariners
Round 3, 18th Selection: RHP Jose Mesa, Jr, Baltimore Orioles
Last year, the Yankees lost catcher Luis Torrens when he stuck on the MLB roster for the San Diego Padres all season long despite batting .163/.243/.203 with .446 OPS. He didn’t have any home runs and only 7 RBI’s in 56 games and 139 plate appearances. The Padres can now send the 21-year-old to the Minors for more seasoning with no fear of losing him.
As prospects continue to season in the Yankees farm system, there will be more significant losses in the years ahead. You cannot protect everyone on the 40-man roster when they become Rule 5 eligible and this figures to get more challenging over the course of the next few seasons.
Anyelo Gomez, Braves
1-1, 10.80 ERA, 7 games, 8.1 innings pitched, 10 hits, 10 runs (earned), 4 BB, 6 SO’s
Gomez was having a good Spring for the Braves until he got hammered by the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday, giving up four runs over two innings. However, MLB.com is still projecting that he’ll make the Braves Opening Day roster despite the hiccup. Expectations are low for the Braves this year so they can afford to take their chances with the talented young right-hander.
|Photo Credit: Atlanta Braves|
Nestor Cortes, Jr, Orioles
0-1, 4.35 ERA, 4 games (3 starts), 10.1 innings pitched, 12 hits, 5 runs (earned), 3 BB, 9 SO’s
Cortes is getting a long look in O’s camp as he is second on the team with most innings pitched. Given the dearth of pitching for the Orioles, it is a certainty that he’ll break camp with the big league club. He is under consideration for the rotation and even if he is not successful, he’ll be moved to the bullpen for now. I am not expecting Cortes to come back.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)|
Mike Ford, Mariners
.182/.321/.341, .662 OPS, 20 games, 44 at-bats, 4 doubles, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 8 walks
When training camp first opened and Ford started strong for the Mariners, I thought he was a lock to make the Mariners (especially when it was announced that new starting first baseman Ryon Healy had surgery to remove a bone spur in his right hand). But Ford has cooled off and Healy is not expected to miss much time, if any. Daniel Vogelbach (.400, 4 HR, 10 RBI) has had a much stronger Spring than Ford and appears to be the leader for first base behind Healy. If Healy starts the season on the DL, Ford could make the Opening Day roster but I doubt he sticks for the entire season. Healy feels that he will be ready for Opening Day. He made his first appearance of the Spring yesterday against the Los Angeles Angels and was 1-for-3 with a RBI double. More than likely, Ford will be back to take his place as the starting first baseman for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
|Photo Credit: The Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)|
Jose Mesa, Jr, Orioles
3-1, 5.87 ERA, 5 games, 7.2 innings pitched, 10 hits, 5 runs (earned), 7 BB, 5 SO’s
Looking a pure numbers, it would seem unlikely that Mesa would stick on the Orioles roster but then again, we’re talking about the Orioles and their underwhelming cast of pitchers. While I think it’s unlikely they would carry two Rule 5 pitchers on the active roster, it is a strong possibility that both Cortes and Mesa will make the Opening Day roster. Whether Mesa remains there all season remains to be seen.
Of these players, I think Ford and Mesa are the players most likely to be returned to the Yankees. Dependent upon performance (or maybe not as Luis Torrens showed), I think that Gomez and Cortes are gone for good.
|Photo Credit: AP (Chris O’Meara)|
2017 Rule 5 Draft – Triple A Phase -Yankees Lost
These players were lost and will not be returning to the Yankees organization.
Round 1, 18th Selection: RHP Yancarlos Baez, Minnesota Twins
Round 2, 32nd Selection: C Sharif Othman, Miami Marlins
I guess it’s a good problem to have when your team has so many strong prospects that good players are lost (“the cup runneth over”) but it’s still painful to see these guys that we’ve cared for thrive in other uniforms with no return for the Yankees. I know, that’s a bit of a ‘prospect-hugging’ statement. Seriously, I do hope they find MLB success. I just hope it isn’t against the Yankees.
As we begin the last full week before the start of the regular season on Thursday, March 29th, the answers for the Yankees’ Opening Day Roster seem to be taking shape. However, the one question I am already tired of is ‘will Jacoby Ellsbury begin the season on the DL?’ Of course he will…next question. Regardless of whether or not Ellsbury is ready, I don’t really care. The guy has become an afterthought for me. If he helps the team this year, fantastic. But let’s just say that I am keeping expectations low…very low. A good player “when on the field”, but that’s not a bet I’d want to make. He becomes a greater injury risk with each passing year and he was already the King of the DL dating back to his Red Sox days (with no intended offense to Troy Tulowitzki who certainly has every right to lay claim to the throne).
Danny Espinosa was 4-for-4 with a RBI in his Spring debut with the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday. Where was that bat during his few weeks with the Yankees this month? That’s the right way to make a good impression for his new club. The odds are against him making the Blue Jays’ MLB roster to open the season but days like yesterday certainly help. Jake Cave’s debut for the Minnesota Twins didn’t go so well. He started in center field and was 0-for-3 with a strikeout in a game that saw former Yankee Phil Hughes get hammered for 9 runs (5 earned) in 3 1/3 innings.
It will soon be game time for Yankees-Marlins. Let’s Go Yankees!