No drama; just quiet efficiency from Javier Vazquez and the Yankees…
During the last road trip, the Yankees struggled in the games following their cross-country jaunts…both to and from. Sunday at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees defeated the Toronto Blue Jays on a 10th inning walk-off run-scoring single by Marcus Thames before heading to California. With no off-day, they played the Oakland A’s on Monday night and picked up another win, 3-1. This time, they led from beginning to end, and everyone did exactly what they were supposed to.
Javier Vazquez has definitely rebounded from his disastrous start and has quietly been the Yankees most effective starter for the past month. He pitched 7 innings, and only gave up 3 hits and 1 run (he walked 2 and struck out 2). Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera retired all three batters they faced in the 8th and 9th innings, respectively. No runners in scoring position. No wild pitches. No balks. No hit batters. No bloop singles. It was exactly what you would want from a pitching staff. It was nice seeing a pitcher other than a Yankee with a hand to the face for a change (I like to call this the CC Sabathia pose…okay, “like” might not be the right word)…
The Yankees had scored early with two runs in the 2nd innings thanks to a run-scoring triple by Curtis Granderson and a run-scoring single by Francisco Cervelli. The A’s answered with a run in the 3rd when Coco Crisp hit a sacrifice fly to score Cliff Pennington, who had tripled. It would be the final time in the game for the A’s to get a runner past second base. Mark Teixeira added an insurance run with a homer in the 6th inning. Only two batters in the Yankees lineup were hitless (Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez).
Monica M. Davey/EPA
Game time was only 2 hours, 35 minutes. Very un-Yankee like!
For all the wins this year, I’d say that this one had the least amount of stress that I’ve experienced and that includes any blowouts. On one hand, I have very excited that Javier Vazquez has turned it around. I was starting to buy into the talk that he wasn’t anything more than a National League pitcher. Of course, I do have the fear that he could revert to the awful early season form. The downside, if that happens, is that the timing of his improvement probably nixes any chance that the Yankees would pursue Seattle’s Cliff Lee. The team has greater needs, but Lee would be a nice addition given the strong potential for Andy Pettitte’s off-season retirement and Vazquez’s impending free agency.
Speaking of Pettitte, congratulations to him for making the American League All-Star Team as a replacement for Boston’s injured starter Clay Buchholz. The AL All-Stars are definitely taking a very Yankee-like appearance, however, I do feel that the starter in the All-Star Game should be Boston’s Jon Lester.
Since I’ve made the segue to the Red Sox, it’s time for another installment of my “forced” spotlight on a member of the Boston Red Sox (thanks to a wager loss to my friend Julia of Julia’s Rants). For today’s profile, I’ll go with the closer…
#58 Jonathan Papelbon
One of the few Red Sox stars not actually on the Disabled List, Pap has been with the Sox since 2005 (becoming the closer in 2006). Originally, he was projected to be a starter, but a shoulder injury caused the Red Sox to re-think their strategy and as a result, Papelbon has become one of the AL’s premier closers.
He was born in Baton Rouge, LA on November 23, 1980. After a highly successful high school career in Jacksonville, FL, he went to Mississippi State where he was the team’s closer for three years. He was drafted by the Oakland A’s in 2003 but did not sign in order to stay in college for one more year in a subsequently failed attempt to reach the College World Series. The next year, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox.
Despite the relief appearances when he was called up in 2005, the team’s plan, as previously mentioned, was to put Papelbon into the rotation in 2006. The closer at the time, Keith Foulke, was unable to capture his pre-injury form, and Pap took over as the guy at the back end of the pitching staff.
Pap’s accomplishments include throwing the game-ending strikeout to win the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies. Since 2006, he has had at least 35 saves each season with a high of 41 in 2008. He has 170 saves for his career. In 301 games, he sports an ERA of 2.03 in 332 innings pitched with 376 strikeouts. He is the franchise leader in saves, and as hard as it is to believe, the first Red Sox closer to record two 30-save seasons.
He holds several records:
· Most consecutive scoreless innings to start a post-season career (26 innings).
· Most saves by a rookie closer (35 saves).
Papelbon has two younger twin brothers in baseball. Josh is in the Red Sox organization (AA Portland), while Jeremy is with the Cubs (AA Tennessee).
Hey Julia, how many more of these do I have to go? Geesh! 😉
Okay, who will it be?…
Rumors allegedly have the New York Yankees actively pursuing another pitcher for the starting rotation. Apparently, it is a position that the team intends to fill by the end of the year. Will the spot be filled by a free agent signing or via trade? Given the lack of top shelf talent on the free agent market, it would appear that a trade is forthcoming.
Of the free agents, I like Ben Sheets but he’s probably the riskiest of all from an injury standpoint. With Sheets, you’d have to have a very clear Plan B in the event there are any setbacks in spring training. But I do like his upside and on his best day, he can pitch toe-to-toe with the likes of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey.
Jason Marquis was another option but he signed a two-year deal with the Washington Nationals earlier today. A native New Yorker, he would have made a smooth transition to the Bronx but the jump from the NL to the AL would have been more difficult.
Jeff Zelevansky, Icon SMI
Pedro Martinez? Fuggetaboutit!
There have been some reports of talks between the Yankees and the Braves. I do not know the topic of the discussions but I don’t really think that Derek Lowe is the answer at this stage of his career.
Nor am I ready to get excited about a return of Javier Vazquez regardless of how will he performed in Atlanta.
I’d be more willing to see the return of the Chicago Cubs’ Ted Lilly…
There’s always the potential that the Yankees could convince the Florida Marlins to part with Josh Johnson. However, I am not sure the Marlins are ready to do anything with Johnson and there’s always the problem with the NL-to-AL transition.
So where does that leave us? According to the latest reports, a strong possibility could be Aaron Harang of the Cincinnati Reds. Earlier, I was convinced that Harang was headed to the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, that organization seems paralyzed by the McCourt divorce proceedings.
I am not sure what I think about Harang, but he does have some AL experience from his early days with the Oakland A’s. He would clearly be an upgrade over Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre. How I really feel about him will be determined by how much the Yanks have to give up to get him. Last season, he was an uninspiring 6-14 with the Reds and posted a 4.21 ERA. His 142 strikeouts, with only 43 walks, looked good, but this is a guy who led the majors with the most home runs allowed in 2008 (19). That’s not exactly the guy you’d want to be pitching at the Batting Practice known as Yankee Stadium.
Maybe Brian Cashman can convince the Seattle Mariners that they don’t really need Cliff Lee…
We’ll see how this turns out. Hopefully, Cashman will make the smart, prudent choice and ensure the Yankees have the middle of the order protected.
It’s not official yet but it sounds like the Yankees have signed Nick Johnson as their full-time DH. If it is confirmed, I am glad to see Nick return to the Bronx. I had feared that he’d sign with Boston and had quietly hoped that he’d go with the San Francisco Giants. I didn’t really expect him to sign with the Yankees, but I am supportive of the move. All signs indicate Johnson’s arrival spells the end of Johnny Damon’s Yankees career. I do not necessarily agree. I think the Yanks could still find a way to allow Johnny to return under a deal that makes sense for both parties. They are a good fit for each other so hopefully egos can be set aside for the good of all.
After resolution of pitching and left field, I think the Yanks will move either Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner. Cabrera would seem to have the greatest trade value. The Yanks still need a few more arms for bullpen competition in the spring.
I would give the backup catching spot to Francisco Cervelli although I recognize that it is only a matter of time until Jesus Montero arrives as Jorge Posada’s eventual successor.
Ah, the life and times of the Yankees general manager. No stress for the holidays…
P.S. Major League Baseball would like to thank the Yankees for their generous $26 million “donation”. Who says the Yanks aren’t good for baseball…
It has been a very powerful week…
Meanwhile, back in the Bronx…
The Yankees bid farewell to World Series MVP Hideki Matsui today when he signed with the Los Angeles Angels (one year, $6 million). Clearly, if Matsui’s knees had held up, the ending would not have come like this. The Yankees will miss his clutch bat. Time and again, I can recall games where every bat was ice cold, but Godzilla still delivered the key hit to win the game. He was always in the right place at the right time against the dreaded Boston Red Sox. The Yankees haven’t fared well with Japanese players when it comes to pitchers (see Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa), however, they struck gold with a position player. Matsui arrived with much fanfare and was billed as Japan’s best player when he came to the United States. Expectations were high, and I’d say that he delivered. He was a class act and he will be missed. I am not excited that he went to a bitter rival, however, he does deserve the opportunity to show that he can be a major contributor. I wish him the best of luck in Southern California.
Paul Rodriguez/The Orange County Register
Of course, this does prove that old Yankee outfielders don’t die, they just sign with the Angels…
It was a busy day for my friend Julia. Her Red Sox announced the free agent signings of pitcher John Lackey and outfielder Mike Cameron today, and showed that GM Theo Epstein is truly a “man with a plan”. I agree with Boston’s decision to cut ties with Jason Bay and move forward with Mike Cameron. After all the reports about Bay, I’d have to say that I’d be very hesitant to sign him to a long-term deal. I am glad that the Yankees are staying out of the negotiations for Bay at this point. Let him go to the Mets. As for Lackey, I wanted the Yanks to sign him to fill the #3 spot in the rotation. Andy Pettitte did a great job last year, but I really think that he is no more than a #4 at this stage of his career. Boston does have a very impressive rotation (Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Dice-K, and/or Clay Buchholz). I really do not expect Buchholz to be on the Opening Roster since I feel the Sox will be successful in securing Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres for first base (sliding Kevin Youkilis to third) at a cost which will include Buchholz. So, congratulations to Julia for a very successful week. However, I will caution her that it is a long way from April 4th! Much can happen between now and then…
From my perspective, I’d take a chance on a low-risk, high reward pitcher to fill the #3 in the Yankees rotation. I like the rumors for either Ben Sheets or Justin Duchsherer. I’d probably prefer Sheets because he has the stronger pedigree and an established relationship with CC Sabathia. It’s always tough to transition from the National League to the American League, but a support system like CC would help. However, I wouldn’t be disappointed if the team pursued Duchsherer. Julia may brag about her rotation, however, I’d be okay going to battle with Sabathia, Burnett, Sheets/Duchsherer, Pettitte, and Hughes. For the record, I have switched my position on Joba Chamberlain, and I now think his return to the bullpen would be the best fit for his talent and we knew all along that Phil Hughes is a starting pitcher regardless of his bullpen success.
William Perlman/The Star Ledger
So, this brings us to left field. The latest reports have Johnny Damon expecting a $13 million per year payday. Frankly, I am losing interest in retain Damon for 2010. Mark DeRosa has been mentioned as a possibility, and I am okay with him as Damon’s replacement. I do have concerns about Nick Swisher repeating his 2009 success, or Curtis Granderson learning to hit lefties, so the Yanks would probably be seeking a corner outfield upgrade at the July trading deadline. However, in the interim, I would like the team for the first half of the season with Sheets or Duchsherer in the rotation and DeRosa in left. I would certainly like the Yankees to become players for Matt Holliday but I just don’t think it will happen.
I do wish the Yankees would give the perception (right now) of being a proactive organization doing everything possible to ensure a repeat championship in 2010 rather than one mired in financial constraints. Who knows if the reports of payroll cutting are real or just negotiating ploys, but the team needs to strike before all of the premium players are gone. I’d also re-engage Florida to see if Josh Johnson could be had at the right price…
I don’t want to dissect the Roy Halladay trade to the Phillies, but I am surprised that the Philles gave up both Cliff Lee and Kyle Drabek to secure Doc’s services. Granted, Roy Halladay is arguably the best pitcher in baseball but how could he outperform the brilliant performance given by Cliff Lee in a Phillies uniform? I know that Lee will be demanding outrageous monies at the end of his contract next year, and the Phillies felt that they needed to re-tool after relinquishing great talent like Drabek for Doc. But wow, what a rotation it would have been featuring Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels. Plus, J.A. Happ is still in the rotation. I’d rate this trade better for the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays than the Phillies. I might even say the Oakland A’s emerged stronger with their acquisition of Michael Taylor for a player caught in a glut of corner infielder/DH types (Brett Wallace). As a Yankees fan, I am glad to see Halladay exit the AL East. However, it won’t be long before we hate to face Kyle Drabek…
Meanwhile, back at Yankee headquarters…
DEREK JETER, THE VILLAIN…
It will be very strange when Derek Jeter comes to Steinbrenner Field on March 3rd as the starting shortstop for the WBC Team USA to face the mighty Yankees. I found DJ’s comment to be very humorous: “Hopefully, I won’t see any pitches inside”.
Hopefully, this will not be an experience (DJ as a visiting player) that will be soon repeated!
WHEW, GLAD WE DIDN’T SIGN SHEETS…
I heard the news that Ben Sheets will have elbow surgery and his agent is anticipating a July or August return (which, most likely, means that he is lost for the year). Granted, any team that potentially could have signed him would have had a full physical evaluation before signing the dotted line. But still, there was a lot of ink wasted with words that the Yankees should consider and sign Sheets instead of waiting for Andy Pettitte.
Still, it makes sense for a team, such as Texas, to take a flyer on Sheets after June when no compensation to the Milwaukee Brewers would be necessary due to Sheet’s status as a Type A free agent.
GOOD LUCK TO CHASE WRIGHT…
I definitely had mixed feelings seeing pitcher Chase Wright go, but hopefully, he’ll get the opportunity in Milwaukee that he didn’t have with the Yankees. All things considered, I think the Yankees did fairly well in acquiring C/OF Eric Fryer. I don’t know how Fryer projects as a major leaguer, but his minor league numbers last year looked good. He hit .335, with 10 homers and 63 RBI’s in 104 games for Class A West Virginia. He led the South Atlantic League in batting average and on base percentage (.407) and was third in slugging percentage (.506). I will be anxious to find out more about Fryer and to see how he performs in 2009.
Nevertheless, best of luck to Chase Wright, and I hope he gets the opportunity to return to Fenway Park one day to settle his score with the Red Sox (2007’s four consecutive home runs allowed).
MATT CASSEL, INSTANT MILLIONAIRE…
Matt Cassel has definitely hit the lottery jackpot. In this economy, how many people can go from $520,000 to $14.65 million in one year? I am going to go out on a limb and say that’s probably the greatest pay increase ever given to a guy who never started a game in college.
Counting Tom Brady’s cap charge of $14.62 million for 2009, the New England Patriots will have 25% of their $123 million 2009 salary cap tied up in two quarterbacks.
Considering that Brady’s actual 2009 salary will only be $5 million with bonus of $3 million for making the roster, I wonder how Tom will feel about being paid less than his backup. Forget about those past Super Bowls, Tom! This league is all about ‘what have you done for me lately?’. Too funny. It will be interesting to see how this plays out…
Julia of Julia’s Rants will vehemently disagree, but I remain hopeful that Cassel finds his way to Minnesota in the form of a sign and trade. C’mon, if I can’t have Manny Ramirez on the Yankees, I at least deserve to have Matt Cassel at QB for the Vikings!
Source: The Boston Globe
7 days until Pitchers and Catchers report to Tampa…
The news is becoming more and more pessimistic of the Yankees’ chances to re-sign Andy Pettitte. Either way, I wish something would happen sooner rather than later. I saw speculation that the Yanks might have interest in Freddy Garcia. It’s hard to get excited about that one. Peter Abraham wrote a good blog today about how the Yankees starting rotation stacks up against Boston. Sabathia, Burnett, Wang and Chamberlain match up well against Beckett, Dice-K, Lester, and Wakefield. But there is clearly separation in Boston’s favor when you get to the 5th spot, and the potential starters in the pen.
I am watching the 1996 World Series between the Yankees and Atlanta Braves. It is amazing how much different Andrew Jones looked as a 19 year old phenom, with two home runs in his first two WS at-bats. Physically, you can see how much he has deteriorated over the years. It really makes you wonder what kind of career he could have had or sustained if he had taken better care of himself. Jon Heyman is reporting that the Dodgers will release Andruw tomorrow…
If the Yankees were willing to offer Ben Sheets a two year deal in December for $12-$13 million per year, why don’t they revisit that possibility given the drop in prices for available free agents?
I read a good blog the other day on River Ave. Blues about the Yankees difficulty in making any additional moves due to the current 40 man roster and the players that would have to be DFA to open any spots (unless the team can free up some space by moving players such as Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher). I still think that an addition of someone like P Juan Cruz makes so much sense when it would only cost you a fourth round draft pick (the upside potential far offsets the cost).
Watching the Arizona Cardinals toward the end of the season, I never would have dreamed that they’d be hosting their first NFC Championship Game in January. Still, I expect the dream to end with the Philadelphia Eagles advancing to the Super Bowl to face Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens. I’d like the Steelers if Big Ben were healthier…
That’s it for now. Have a good night!