Tagged: Aroldis Chapman

House Stark Has Fallen…

Mindblowing!  That’s how I felt when I saw the news about the ESPN layoffs and the inclusion of veteran Baseball writer Jayson Stark.  I have long viewed Stark as the foremost Baseball authority at ESPN.  He consistently wrote interesting, objective, and fact-based stories.  After 17 years and recognized as a leading Baseball sportswriter, he was given the swift boot by ESPN.  Amazing.  I am not going to cry for Stark.  ESPN’s loss will most certainly be another media giant’s gain.  This proves that no industry is immune to economic turmoil.  Most likely, all of us, at one point in our lives (or more), have been victimized by financial downturns in the economy.  Still, it doesn’t make the losses any easier.  

I will be anxious to see where Stark lands.  He is too valuable to lose in this chaotic sport.  While there were a number of notable names included in the ESPN layoffs, the other that stood out to me was NFL reporter Ed Werder.  I’ve been following Werder since his days as the Dallas Cowboys beat writer for The Dallas Morning News.  He has been an institution for the NFL.  Like Stark, he has spent 17 years at ESPN.  Also like Stark, I doubt Werder has any problems finding his next gig but I hope it is one that affords him a national presence as I don’t really follow Dallas area sports anymore.

It was definitely a crazy day…no doubt.  Best of luck to all those affected by the layoffs.  Hopefully their entries into the free agent market will be very short-lived.  

In 2007, the Yankees first round selection (30th overall) was the long forgotten pitcher Andrew Brackman.  Once slated to be part of the Killer B’s along with Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, the 6’10” Brackman was never able to realize his potential following Tommy John surgery and was later released.  He is now out of baseball.  The same year of the draft, the Yankees chose a college player in the 39th round (1191st pick overall) by the name of Eric Thames.  Thames didn’t sign and went back to Pepperdine University.  Fast forward ten years, and Thames, after spending three years in Korea and now with the Milwaukee Brewers, is the Major League leader in home runs with eleven.  He has also scored a Major League-leading 27 runs.  Although he was pulled from Wednesday’s game for a tight hamstring, he should be back to increase his homer total on Friday.  Wow, where did this come from?  In the off-season, the Brewers cut last year’s first baseman, Chris Carter, who tied Nolan Arenado for most homers in the NL with 41, and signed Thames as his replacement.  While it is unlikely that Thames will continue at his current pace, the Brewers haven’t missed a beat in getting huge production out of their first basemen.  Too bad those scouts who found Thames in 2007 didn’t see the potential in the Korean Leagues.  Kudos to the Brewers scouts who did.  The year after the Yankees had drafted Thames, he was picked in the seventh round by the Toronto Blue Jays which clearly showed the Yankees had uncovered a potential diamond in the rough.  Thames did fail in chances with the Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros before finding his niche in Korea.  Still, there’s probably a few Yankees scouts saying “I told you so”.  

The Yankees win!…

It was a very laborious 9th inning, but the Yankees beat the Red Sox 3-1 in the opener of their rain-shortened two game series at Fenway Park on a very foggy night.  Luis Severino was quite simply…incredible.  He did not look like the same pitcher on the mound.  I don’t know if it was his best Major League performance but it might be his most impressive.  Sevy (2-1) was in charge throughout his seven innings of work, giving up only three hits and no runs.  He walked two and struck out six.  This is the Severino we have been waiting for.  The youngster has grown up.  Very exciting stuff.  The offense was 100% Baby Bomber-powered.  Aaron Judge, celebrating his 25th birthday, slugged a second inning two-run homer to right off AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello (1-3).  Greg Bird, showing that a Bird #33 jersey is no longer something to cheer for in Boston, delivered a run-scoring single in the sixth, scoring Judge. Judge also made a highlight reel catch that carried him into right field foul territory stands in the third inning.  I was worried that the three runs might not be enough when Aroldis Chapman clearly didn’t have it in the 9th.  He gave up a hit and allowed two walks and a run.  Boston had the winning run on base but with Chapman’s 33rd pitch of the inning, he struck out Josh Rutledge to end the game.  Big sigh of relief…

Credit:  Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other Yankees to homer at Fenway Park on their birthday are Yogi Berra and Roger Maris.  8, 9, and 99.  Very select company for Aaron Judge!  By the way, Happy Belated Birthday to him!

Have a great Thursday!  Hopefully today is a sweeping success for everyone

Trying To Temper The Enthusiasm…

Credit:  Andy Martin/USA TODAY Sports

With the better-than-expected start to the season, it’s easy to get caught up with the thinking that the Yankees could actually win the American League East.  Sadly, I still do not believe that will be the case.  I think the Boston Red Sox remain the heavy favorite to win the division.  While the Yankees may be playing great without Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, the Red Sox are starting to gather some steam even though Jackie Bradley, Jr. and arguably their best player, Mookie Betts, are currently on the DL.  Add Betts to the stellar starting rotation, and the Red Sox will be a very formidable force throughout the summer.  We’ll have some bumps and bruises with the younger starters as time goes by, and there’s no certainty that Michael Pineda has finally turned the corner.  My only reservation with the Red Sox is that they do not seem to have the same heart they did with David Ortiz in the lineup.  Hanley Ramirez is a great baseball player but he’s no Big Papi.  

Nevertheless, I do feel the strong start has positioned the Yankees to make a run at a Wild Card spot, especially with the horrific start of the perennial playoff contending Toronto Blue Jays. 

While the Yankees are currently chasing Baltimore, the Orioles lost their lock-down closer Zach Britton for at least ten days with a left sore forearm (his throwing arm).  Britton is obviously an elite closer so this severely weakens the O’s pen.  Although it’s possible that Britton will be back before the O’s get to New York late next week, they do go into a head-to-head showdown with the Red Sox starting Friday night for a three-game set in their weakened state.

It is amazing to think that the Yankees have played this well without Gregorius and Sanchez.  If they can continue to get solid pitching from the starting rotation, the return of Gregorius and Sanchez in a few weeks should be a great lift.  It’ll almost be like getting All-Star caliber players at the trading deadline with the only difference being the Yankees do not have to give up any premier prospects (or any prospects, for that matter, other than the probable DFA of Pete Kozma). 

The Yankees announced they’ve traded reliever Johnny Barbato to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash.  Those types of deals usually turn out to be cash.  Barbato was optioned to AAA by the Pirates.  It’s unfortunate that the Yankees didn’t get more out of Barbato considering they gave up dependable reliever Shawn Kelley to get him.  The Pirates always seem to get high mileage out of Yankee rejects.  Barbato will probably be their ace closer within a couple of years.  

I apologize in advance for going off topic (non-Yankees talk) but I have been very interested in watching Cody Bellinger, a first baseman in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.  Bellinger, son of former Yankee Clay Bellinger, is the Dodgers top prospect and the heir apparent to Adrian Gonzalez.  On Sunday, Bellinger was responsible for all three runs in Oklahoma City’s 3-2 win over the Memphis Redbirds.  Bellinger scored a run after walking in the fourth; tied the game with a solo homer in the fifth; and singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh.  For the season, the 21-year-old Bellinger is batting .372 (16-for-43) with 4 doubles, 3 homers, and 12 RBI’s.  Meanwhile, for the Big League Dodgers, the 34-year-old Gonzalez is hitting .250 with no homers and 4 RBI’s.  If Bellinger keeps it up, there could soon be a changing of the guard at first base in Dodger Stadium.  Looks like the Dodgers could be back to the days of bringing up an All-Star to the Majors every year.  If Bellinger does not get the call, top pitching prospect Julio Urias most certainly will.  

Credit:  Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Speaking of the Oklahoma City Dodgers (in an attempt to keep this Yankees-oriented), it’s kind of cool that their stadium, Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, is located at 2 S. Mickey Mantle Drive.  Too bad there was no room to build the stadium across the street and down a little for 7 S. Mickey Mantle Drive.

In other non-Yankees news (or is it?), Bryan Harper stepped to the plate on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, with the Washington Nationals trailing the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 and Philly closer Joaquin Benoit on the mound.  With two runners on base, Harper homered to center to win the game, 6-4.  It was his second home run of the game and it gave him 5 RBI’s for the day.  Preview of coming attractions at Yankee Stadium?  Time will tell, as it often does.  Hal, what’s a half-billion in the grand scheme of things?  It’s just money…

Welcome back, Matt Holliday!  After sitting out two games against his former team, the St Louis Cardinals, this past weekend, Matt Holliday returned on Monday to absolutely crush a baseball which allowed the Yankees to jump ahead of the Chicago White Sox with an early 3-0 lead.  The ball traveled 459 feet, with exit velocity of 113.9 MPH, and according to Statcast was the second longest homer of the year (two feet behind a Carlos Gomez blast). 

Aaron Judge also homered in the fourth inning with one on and two outs.

Jordan Montgomery impressed once again.  You gotta love his calm demeanor on the mound (unflappable).  His deceptive arm angle is a thing of beauty with the over the top motion.  Montgomery gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of work, with two walks and two strikeouts.  The runs didn’t come until the seventh inning when Montgomery was tiring (a three run bomb by Yolmer Sanchez that ended Montgomery’s night).  Regardless of the end, Montgomery was better the second time around (as I thought he would be).  He’s an exciting part of the rotation and is quickly earning his pinstripes for the long haul.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Adam Warren did what he does best.  After Montgomery’s exit, he bridged the gap to the ninth inning.  Although he finally allowed a run, he did his job and turned the game over to Aroldis Chapman with one out and a runner on base.  Although Chapman did allow a single to the first hitter, pushing the lead runner to third, he needed just two pitches to earn his fourth save.  The next batter, Tyler Saladino, hit into a game-ending double play.

The Yankees won 7-4, and have now won eight consecutive games.  

Have a great Tuesday!  Nine would be just fine!  

I Guess It Was In The Cards…

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Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

The World certainly looks better when the Yankees are winning.  We have our  own problems but somehow they seem more manageable when the Yankees win.

While it was technically a quality start by definition, Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff on Friday night.  He got off to an ominous start when he gave up a two-run first inning home run to Matt Carpenter of the St Louis Cardinals.  Carpenter, by the way, makes a strong point for the Yankees Facial Hair policy as he proves not everyone looks good with a beard.  Fortunately, the Yankees answered Carpenter’s homer very quickly when Starlin Castro, no stranger to the Cards from his days with the Chicago Cubs, launched a two-run bomb of his own to tie the game.

An Austin Romine solo homer and a run courtesy of a throwing error by Cardinals second baseman Kolton Wong were the only additional runs the Yankees needed to hold off St Louis for their fifth consecutive win.  Tanaka was strong after the shaky first inning until he got into trouble in the seventh.  He finished the game with 6 2/3 innings, five hits, three runs, two walks and five strikeouts to pick up his first win of the year.

The game was in doubt in each of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings as the dynamic trio of Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman succeeded Tanaka.  Clippard, replacing Tanaka with runners at second and third and only one out, got both Wong and Dexter Fowler on fly outs with a great play by Aaron Judge on the latter as it looked like it could have been an extra base hit.  Betances was solid as he recorded all three outs in the eighth by strikeout, but he did have  brief trouble throwing strikes as he nearly walked Matt Carpenter and then did walk the next batter, Stephen Piscotty, on four consecutive balls.  In the ninth inning, Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the third consecutive day, walked Randal Grichuk after easily getting the first two outs of the inning.  The next batter, pinch hitter Jose Martinez, hit a solid double to left, which Brett Gardner got back to the infield quickly keeping Grichuk from scoring.  The Cardinals third base coach initially wanted to send Grichuk but quickly changed his mind when the ball was returned by Gardner so quickly.  That brought Chapman’s former Cubs teammate Dexter Fowler to the plate in a match-up of World Series Champions.  Chapman won the battle as Fowler grounded out to Starlin Castro, and the baseball safely made it to first base before the speedy Fowler did.

It was an intense game but with Yankees-Cardinals, you wouldn’t expect anything less.

I watched Matt Holliday with great interest as this was the first time he had played against the Cardinals since May 8, 2008 when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies.  For the game, Holliday did nothing as he was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.  I am sure that it was an emotional night for Holliday, being reunited with his former Cardinals teammates.  It would be hard to spend eight years with a team and not have emotional attachments.  Holliday’s last game against the Cardinals in 2008 was a much greater success.  He was 4-for-5, with three runs scored, in Colorado’s 9-3 victory over St Louis.  On that same night (to put into perspective how long it has been), Mike Mussina was beating the Cleveland Indians, 6-3, with a save by Mariano Rivera.  Hopefully, Holliday will have greater success against his former team today and tomorrow.

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I know that Greg Bird has struggled with the foot injury and the flu, but I am concerned about his 1-for-23 start.  He hasn’t indicated any signs of the hitter he was during Spring Training.  I had hoped the days of Mark Teixeira and his ice-cold starts were a thing of the past with the new first baseman but so far that’s not been the case.  Hopefully, Bird will get untracked soon and start hitting like we know he can.  I prefer Bird at first over Chris Carter, but if Bird continues on this path, we’ll be seeing more of Carter.

The Yankees are currently 2nd in the AL East Standings behind the Baltimore Orioles.  The biggest surprise to me isn’t that the Boston Red Sox are in the 4th place with a .500 record (they’ll catch fire sooner rather later), but rather the last place Toronto Blue Jays with only one win on the year (1-9).  I think I heard a stat that no team that has lost 9 of its first 10 games has ever made the playoffs.  The Blue Jays were predicted to battle the Red Sox at the top of the division.

I have to comment on two incidents that occurred with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and two of their former tight ends in the last 24 hours.  One was a very heartwarming story (no pun intended) and the other was one of life’s most devastating moments.  In December, former Ravens tight end Konrad Reuland died of a brain aneurysm.  On Friday, it was revealed that the recipient of his heart and kidney was none other than legendary Hall of Famer Rod Carew.  Ironically, Reuland’s age (29) matched Carew’s playing number for the Minnesota Twins.  Also, on Friday, former Ravens tight end Todd Heap accidentally struck and killed his three-year-old daughter while moving his truck in his driveway in Mesa, Arizona.  This was such devastating news to hear and I cannot possibly imagine how Heap will be able to deal with this tragedy.  I am so very saddened by this news, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Heap and his family.

It’s kind of hard to say ‘have a great day’ after that news, so I’ll only say hug your loved ones and be thankful they are in your life.

Do You Have Prince Albert In A Can?…

Credit:  Zach Bland/Charleston RiverDogs

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Martin Griff

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Frank Franklin II/AP Photo

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

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

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

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

So Much For Your Promises…

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

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

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

Credit:  Pete G. Wilcox, Times Leader

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

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

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

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

Credit:  David Richard, USA TODAY Sports

Happy Wednesday!  Let’s get a win today!

Don’t Look Now But It’s J-Mont Time!…

Credit:  Chris O’Meara, AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great Tuesday! 

The Dawn of the New Season…

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

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

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Credit:  John Raoux, AP

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

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

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

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

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

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Credit:  Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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