Tagged: Billy McKinney

Stanton Goes From “Want” to “Need”…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Yanks lose despite win…

When the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton last December, everyone talked about how it was filling a “want” and not a “need”. Sadly, he has become the “need” as he is now the team’s regular starting right fielder for the foreseeable future.

Although I am a little concerned about the defense we give up with Stanton playing right field compared to Aaron Judge, the chip fracture in Judge’s wrist forced the move. I am confident we’re in good hands with Stanton…and August is normally his most torrid month. He’s fully capable of pulling the team on his back and charging toward the finish line.

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The loss of Judge hurts, no doubt about it. It will be three weeks before he can pick up a bat again and he’ll need additional time to get back into form so we probably won’t see him again until September. If there is a positive in this, Judge should be rested and ready to go at the season’s most critical point.

Losing the offense provided by Judge and Gary Sanchez, the other guys have to pick it up. At one time, it seemed like we had a glut of outfielders and now we have Shane Robinson on the roster. If he hadn’t been traded yesterday, I am sure that Billy McKinney would have been in the Bronx today. When you look at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre active roster, there is only one outfielder listed (Mark Payton).

Who replaces Judge on the roster? The most likely candidate, to me, is Tyler Austin given his ability to play first base and the corner outfield positions. It’s not ideal but it is what it is.

The big question is whether the Yankees should make another trade to provide an offensive bridge for the eventual return of Sanchez and Judge. I still like the idea of acquiring Mike Moustakas and we have a firsthand view of the player right now given his team is playing in the Bronx. Moose Tacos would allow the Yankees to use the DH rotation for him and Miguel Andujar. I’d prefer to see Moustakas at third over Neil Walker. The prorated portion of his salary would fit despite the acquisitions of Zach Britton and J.A. Happ. The Yankees have the ability to move some salary to make it fit if necessary. When Judge returns, slide Stanton back to left and use Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks in a platoon in center. Moustakas could also replace Walker as the backup support at first base for Greg Bird. There’s no guarantee Judge comes back 100%. Wrists can be very troublesome as we’ve seen with past injuries to other players. Moustakas is an excellent hedge.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

I am glad to see that lefty J.A. Happ has joined the Yankees rotation but I thought the cost was excessive. I’ve said all season I like Brandon Drury despite his non-disclosure of health issues earlier this year which caused headaches for all of us. At the time of his acquisition, the Yankees felt there was much more potential in Drury’s bat than he had shown in Arizona and I still believe that to be the case. I would have been okay with the Yankees trading Miguel Andujar for a premium starting pitcher and playing Drury at third even if Andujar has the higher ceiling.  Starting pitching is the greater need. That’s a moot point now.  The Yankees no longer have the luxury of considering a potential trade with the inclusion of Andujar. Billy McKinney was a tough loss. I think he is going to be a very good Major League outfielder. From a trust standpoint, I have far greater faith in McKinney than I do Clint Frazier. Frazier seems too injury prone at the moment. Multiple concussion issues within a single season are a great concern. There’s no doubt the Toronto Blue Jays won the Happ trade. If the Yankees win the World Series, I’ll probably have a different point of view but as it stands right now, I feel that Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins got the better of Brian Cashman.

It is interesting that our two big mid-season acquisitions are battle-tested AL East veterans. I really enjoyed it when Zach Britton took over for David Robertson in the eighth inning of last night’s game. Britton seemed to be in control from the first pitch and I had an immediate sense of confidence with his presence on the mound. I really like the guy and his stuff. Those deadly sinkers are unlike anything else we have on the pitching staff. It’s been my desire to see the Yankees sign Andrew Miller when the free agency period opens in November, but I have to say that I might prefer Britton. I love Andrew Miller but every time I look up, he’s on the disabled list. Sure, Britton knows the DL about as well as anyone not named Jacoby Ellsbury, but he’s a Yankee and I’d like to see him stay. If the Yanks can’t get Britton to sign, then they should definitely go after Miller. I am not really expecting the Yankees to make a strong effort to re-sign David Robertson, which pains me because he is another guy that I love having on this team. So, in my opinion, Britton should be a top free agent target for the Yankees in a few months.

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Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

The Yankees did win yesterday despite the loss of Aaron Judge. They beat the Kansas City Royals, 7-2, behind surprisingly good home pitching from Sonny Gray, until he suffered his own hand injury, and a three-run bomb by Didi Gregorius. That throw by Aaron Hicks to nail Alex Gordon at the plate for the final out in the ninth inning was stellar. On paper, it looks like Chasen Shreve did his job.  An inning of scoreless relief after the three up-three down performance by Zach Britton. But those three hits that Shreve gave up could have been very costly if not for A-A-Ron’s heroics. I am really hopeful that Britton’s presence will eventually lead to Shreve’s exit. He continues to be the bullpen’s weakest link and my favorite candidate for DFA.

While the Yankees (65-36) were winning, the Boston Red Sox were not. They dropped a 2-1 decision to the Minnesota Twins. Kyle Gibson held the Red Sox hitters at bay, a fact that probably did not go unnoticed by Brian Cashman and his staff. I believe it was TGP’s Daniel Burch who recently suggested the Yankees should go after Gibson. Not many guys have been able to shut down the Red Sox offense this year. Not only did Gibson hold the Sox to four hits and an isolated run over eight innings, he struck out seven and did not allow a homer to the dinger-happy Red Sox lineup. I know the Yankees just acquired J.A. Happ, but I’d gladly take Gibson too if we can get him. After all, we are the Greedy Pinstripes.

So, the Yankees begin play today four and a half games behind Boston in the division. There’s still plenty of baseball to be played. It hurts that we have lost Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge for the immediate future, but this is still a very good team. Perhaps Brian Cashman is finished with the heavy lifting but then again maybe he isn’t. The next few days should be fun.

Meanwhile, let’s continue to take care of business. Last night, the Yankees played like the team that went on the great run in May and June. They need to continue to be that team. If the Yankees make no further moves, so be it. I have confidence in this group of 25 guys. Well, maybe not Chasen Shreve, or Shane Robinson…or Neil Walker.  But this group of guys can win in the coming days and weeks, and will only get better in September when Judgey and El Gary come back. The division is not lost. The race has only begun. Buckle up, boys, let’s take down the Red Sox!

Go Yankees!

False Start by the Pinstripers…

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

Yanks fall to Royals…

My fear after nearly a week of no Yankees baseball is that they’d go ‘thud’ against one of the worst teams in the American League. Sadly, my fear became reality when the Yankees lost Friday night against the lowly Kansas City Royals, 5-2. It was a close game but, at least for me, it never felt like the Yankees were in it.  For Royals manager Ned Yost, it was his 1,100th career managerial victory.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

It’s been a tough week for the Yankees. They played their way to a 3-3 tie with the Washington Nationals through 5 1/2 innings on Tuesday, only to have the game suspended for rain. The rain wiped out the resumption of the suspended game and the regularly scheduled one the next day, leaving the Yankees to spend the night at Washington Dulles International Airport due to the unavailability of hotel accommodations.  They had an off day on Thursday but it didn’t help. There were no extra base hits to be found in Yankee bats last night. Eight singles equated to two runs and a loss. The legendary Jake Junis (who?) gets the win, and CC Sabathia gets saddled with his first loss of the young season.

When an uncharacteristic error was made by Gleyber Torres in the first inning which allowed the Royals to pick up the game’s first run, it felt like it was not going to be the Yankees’ night.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

I guess if there was any solace about the loss, the Boston Red Sox lost too. Boston fell 7-4 to Alex Cobb and the Baltimore Orioles so the Red Sox and Yankees remain tied atop of the AL East standings. The Red Sox have two more wins than the Yankees (30 to 28), but the Yankees have the slight advantage in winning percentage (.683 to .667) thanks to two fewer losses (13 to 15). It would have been nice for the Yankees to have won to create a game advantage but today is a new day. On paper, Luis Severino (6-1, 2.14 ERA) versus Danny Duffy (1-5, 6.51 ERA) looks like a mismatch. Of course, those tend to be the ones we struggle with the most.

The Didi Gregorius for MVP talk has subsided with his 1-for-45 slide. Hopefully, he’ll rediscover his stroke while the team is in Kansas City. April’s Player of the Month has been MIA in May.

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Howard Simmons)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player on the DL incur so many consecutive injuries while out as Jacoby DL’s-bury. The latest ailment for Ellsbury seems to be a back injury. I’ve forgotten the original reason he was placed on the DL or the variety of injuries that have subsequently sidelined him. Maybe I am just looking forward to the day the Steinbrenner family says enough is enough and they pull the trigger to cut bait despite the cost. The guy is nearly untradeable (IDK, is that a word or was it just made up for Ellsbury?). At this point, even if the Yankees back up a Brink’s truck to haul oodles of cash to another team to take the disabled veteran, there would be no takers. The true travesty would be for Ellsbury to actually get healthy and take a 25-man roster spot from a more deserving player. I am ready for Ellsbury’s post-Yankees career.

Speaking of the DL, a good Yankees center fielder is lost until August. Top prospect Estevan Florial (technically, Gleyber Torres is the top prospect but since he’s in the Major Leagues to stay and will soon lose prospect status, Florial is the top prospect by default) will be out for a few months after it was determined that he’ll need surgery on his hamate bone (right hand, unlike the illustration below).

Hopefully all goes well with Florial’s surgery and recovery and this is not a roadblock or delay for his eventual arrival in the Bronx within the next few years.

Another injured player made a triumphant return yesterday. Greg Bird, on rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton, homered off Bowie Baysox reliever Reid Love in the eighth inning of a 2-0 Thunder win. There’s no doubt Bird will soon be back with the big league club and he’ll be a welcome addition. With no offense to Tyler Austin or Neil Walker, I can’t wait to see Bird manning first base for the Bombers once again.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Billy McKinney also had two hits for the Thunder as he works his way back too, but the roster crunch will send him to Scranton, PA when he is ready.

Given how long it has been since Dellin Betances last pitched, you just know that he is going to implode the next time out. Betances last threw an inning of relief in the 6-2 win over the Oakland A’s on May 13th. I always cringe whenever there are extended delays between appearances for Betances.

In a non-baseball related topic, here is a shameless plug for a new TV series that will air on FX Network this fall, Mayans MC.

Mayans MC stars J.D. Pardo, Emilio Rivera and Edward James Olmos. The show was created by Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, and is set in the post-Jax Teller Sons of Anarchy universe. The story focuses on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (Pardo), a prospect in the Mayan MC Santo Padre charter on the California/Mexico border.  According to the official storyline, EZ is the gift son of a proud Latino family, who American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape. Rivera reprises his SOA role as Marcus Alvarez, the President of the Mayans MC Oakland charter and the MC’s National President. Olmos plays EZ’s father, Felipe Reyes.  Michael Irby is featured as Obispo “Bishop” Losa, President of the Santo Padre charter. I’ve been tracking this show for several years now and it is exciting that it will finally be part of the Fall TV lineup.

Hopefully today brings the more resilient Yankees team we are familiar with as they’ve shaken off the rust from the long delay between games. The Yankees have proven they can beat the best teams in the American League. Now, they just need to prove they can beat the worst ones.

Go Yankees!

A High View in Center…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Fred Thornhill)

Continuing the long line of great Yankee Centerfielders…

Aaron Judge, Center Field.

It was an odd sight on Saturday when Manager Aaron Boone inserted the 6’7” slugger into the lineup at center rather than his customary spot in right field. Injuries and the need to rest Brett Gardner force Boonie’s hand. While Judge played well, the move turned out to be for naught when Gardy had to enter the game anyway after Billy McKinney crashed into the left field wall and was removed from the game. Boone kept Judge in center and put Gardy in left for McKinney which was the right move.

Given how uncomfortable Giancarlo Stanton looked in left field during Spring Training, Judge handled center field very smoothly. Unorthodox, sure, but Judge did play center in college so it’s not like he has never played the position before. I liked the move as position versatility is a big part of the 2018 Yankees. Stanton will be in left field for today’s game so that’s a riskier move than Judge in center, in my opinion.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

After the game, McKinney was placed on the disabled list with a sprain of the acromioclavicular joint, or AC joint, in his left shoulder. He is expected to miss a few weeks. With neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier ready to come off the DL, the Yankees are running short on outfielders. Of the outfielders on the 40-man roster, four are now on the DL and the remaining three are on the active roster. So, to add an outfielder would have necessitated the elimination of a spot on the 40-man roster to add someone. The next available outfielder in the organization is probably Shane Robinson. The Yankees opted to call up third baseman Miguel Andujar (already on the 40-man roster), and indicated Tyler Wade would be in the mix for outfield work. Brandon Drury also has played the outfield but the Yankees preference seems to be to keep him at third. Of course, Twitter was ablaze yesterday with The Curse of Jabari Blash tweets over the outfield calamities.

Andujar will see time at first base, third base and DH, so it will be interesting to see how Boone mixes and matches the lineups in the coming days. He’s penciled in at DH for today’s game. Jacoby Ellsbury is eligible for activation on Thursday, assuming he is ready, so Andujar’s stay may be short. I never thought I’d look forward to Ellsbury’s return but here we are. For now, Andujar gets the chance to display some of the magic he wielded early in training camp. At decision time when Ellsbury returns, I’d probably keep Andujar and send Jonathan Holder down to Triple A, especially if he hits the way we know he can.

Welcome back to the Show, Miguel! We hope the second appearance is as magical as the first.

Congratulations to Tyler Austin. His two home runs in yesterday’s 5-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays tied the game twice. That’s a great way to take advantage of an opportunity. Austin is tied for the team lead in home runs and is two homers ahead of Aaron Judge. I know, it’s early but good for Austin. Naturally, the day earned him a spot on the bench for today’s game. Still, Austin should be good for a pinch hit appearance.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

It wasn’t a great game for the big guys. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez were combined 0-for-8 with a strikeout. Giancarlo Stanton with 1-for-3 with a walk, but no runs. The trio went 0-for-12 the day before so hopefully it’s time for some big hits today. It’s a rest day for El Gary so the power show will be up to Judge and Stanton.

Aaron Boone is already taking heat for the bullpen. I was surprised to see Aroldis Chapman on Opening Day when the Yankees had a five-run lead. After pitching both Thursday and Friday, the Cuban Missile was not available on Saturday. The bullpen struggled yesterday and was responsible for the loss despite Tyler Austin’s heroics. Adam Warren got the first call in relief of starter CC Sabathia. He took over in the bottom of the sixth and recorded the first out on a grounder to third. But he walked the next batter, Kevin Pillar. Aledmys Diaz followed with a come-backer to the mound that struck Warren on the right ankle. Warren’s ankle diverted the path of the ball to first base so Tyler Austin was able to make the tag play on Diaz, but Pillar advanced to second. Warren was unable to continue and his replacement, Jonathan Holder, was greeted by Luke Maile’s run-scoring single.

Austin tied the game with his second home run, a shot to left, so the score was tied when Dellin Betances entered in the bottom of the seventh inning. Betances allowed a single to the first batter he faced, Curtis Granderson, but a perfect strike from Gary Sanchez to Didi Gregorious on a steal attempt nailed the Grandy Man at second. The Blue Jays challenged the play but replay showed Didi got the glove down on Grandy’s sliding hand a split second before it reached the bag. It was a tremendous play that helped Betances get out of the seventh unscathed and should have been momentum for better things.

But Boone overplayed his hand and brought Betances back for the bottom of the eighth.  Enter Betances; exit potential win. Former Yankee Yangervis Solarte, with a bat flip, blasted a leadoff homer to give the Blue Jays a one-run lead.  Betances struck out Randal Grichuk but then the comedy ensued. Kevin Pillar reached base on a single to right. After striking out Aledmys Diaz for the second out, Pillar stole second off Betances who then lost Luke Maile on a 3-2 count to put the runner at first.  Pillar and Maile advanced on a double-steal with no play by the Yankees. Pillar then made a break for home and Dellin’s erratic throw to Gary Sanchez allowed Pillar to cross the plate easily for the second run of the inning. Betances managed to strike out Gift Ngoepe to finally end the inning, but the Blue Jays were up, 5-3. From there, the Yankees went down quietly against Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna in the top of the 9th, and the Yankees had suffered their first loss of the season.

I am not ready to condemn Betances (well, maybe I am) but the Blue Jays clearly got into his head in the 8th inning. Runners on base are never a good thing when Betances is on the mound but the Blue Jays wrote a blueprint for the rest of the league. Four steals in one inning. This is something Betances needs to figure out in the games ahead or teams will routinely exploit this weakness.  I don’t trust Betances with the game on the line right now. I would have preferred David Robertson in that spot. Actually, I’d take D-Rob, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green as my late inning, high-leverage guys over Betances. I really hope he is able to turn this around. Otherwise, I’d be in favor of dumping Betances in a trading deadline deal. When he is on, there are not many better than Betances, but when he’s off, he makes Tyler Clippard look very, very good. Love the arm but he’s too much of a head case for me.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

The Yanks look to rebound today in the getaway game. Sonny Gray will take the mound to face Marcus Stroman. Many are predicting a great season from Gray and it starts here. Hopefully he carries the team to victory so that the flight back to New York is an enjoyable one.

I have to admit that I felt very underwhelmed on Saturday morning when I saw that the Yankees had signed left-handed reliever Oliver Perez, 36. He’ll add depth at Triple A, which is a little short on lefties. Perez pitched for the Washington Nationals last year (appearing in 50 games with an 0-0 record and 4.64 ERA). The former Met failed to make the Cincinnati Reds in Spring Training and was released last weekend. Hopefully injuries do not force the Yankees to add Perez to the Major League roster (where he’d make $1 million). If that happens, it is not a very good sign for the state of the Bullpen. It would have made for a great April Fool’s Day joke except that’s today, not yesterday.

Let’s get a win today and head back to New York with a 3-1 record. Go Yankees!

The Road to 162-0…

So Far, So Good…

Two games into the 162-game schedule and life in the Yankees Universe is fantastic. Okay, we’re not going to win every game and of course winning only 60% of the remaining games would be a stellar regular season but it’s fun to open the year with successive wins.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

The Opener was a perfect day for Yankees fans and new Manager Aaron Boone. It couldn’t have been scripted better with the superior work of ace Luis Severino, the bullpen (particularly Chad Green with three strikeouts against the four batters he faced), and the bat of Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton’s two home runs were the talk of the game but it was a great team victory from top to bottom. The only blemish was the solo home run that Dellin Betances allowed to Kevin Pillar when he entered the game in the bottom of the 8th en route to the 6-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yesterday’s game was a little tougher for Boone. The big guns (Aaron Judge, Stanton, and Gary Sanchez) were a combined 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, but in the end it did not really matter. Batting clean-up for the first time this season, Didi Gregorius was 2-for-3 with 2 runs scored on two extra-base hits. Getting thrown out at the plate with no outs was the only negative for an otherwise tremendous day for Sir Didi. The big bats belonged to the bottom of the order with the 8th and 9th hitters, Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade. Drury had two RBIs on a single and a double, while Wade had a two-run double. I groaned when Masahiro Tanaka gave up a home run (fortunately with the bases empty) to former St Louis Cardinal Randall Grichuk in the 2nd inning but it was only one of three hits Tanaka allowed over the course of 79 pitches and six innings of work. The Yankees won the game, 4-2, to earn no less than a split of the four-game series pending the outcome of the next two games in Toronto.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

What can you say about the debut performances of Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka? Collectively, they pitched 11 2/3 innings, allowing only 4 hits, one run, 3 walks, and 15 strikeouts. They’ve set the bar high for the rest of the starting rotation. I am sure that no one wants to be the first to implode.

The bullpen has been outstanding, as usual and as expected, despite the homer Betances gave up or the run-scoring double Aroldis Chapman allowed last night. Both guys were able to finish the job without assistance and will no doubt prove to be their dominant selves for the course of the long season. Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson showed why this is Baseball’s best bullpen. I am sure that Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren and Jonathan Holder are itching for their 2018 premieres and should take the mound today and/or tomorrow.

I saw an interesting fact yesterday when it was mentioned that the Blue Jays featured more members of 2011 Yankees Opening Day lineup in their batting order than the Yankees did. Looking back at the March 31, 2011 game that saw Joba Chamberlain pick up the win in relief of CC Sabathia for the Yankees’ 6-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, the starting lineup featured the following guys:

Brett Gardner, LF (Yankees LF/CF)

Derek Jeter, SS (Marlins CEO)

Mark Teixeira, 1B (Retired, Baseball Analyst)

Alex Rodriguez, 3B (Retired, Baseball Analyst)

Robinson Cano, 2B (Mariners 2B)

Nick Swisher, RF (Retired, Highly Wired)

Jorge Posada, DH (Retired, Humanitarian)

Curtis Granderson, CF (Blue Jays LF)

Russell Martin, C (Blue Jays C)

This seems like so long ago. I enjoyed the Grandy Man and Martin during their time in Pinstripes but I am glad that they are Blue Jays today. Hopefully Sabathia picks up another win seven years later to the day.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I am not going to read too much into a 2-0 start given that there are still 160 games to be played, but I am glad the Yankees are faring much better than the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have opened the season by scoring no runs over 18 innings and have lost two heart-breaking 1-0 losses to one of baseball’s worst teams last season (the San Francisco Giants) on two solo homers by second baseman (and New York native) Joe Panik. While the Dodgers may not be “Paniking”, I’d rather be 2-0 than 0-2. Watching the Dodgers bat in the bottom of the 9th last evening showed how deep and special the Yankees lineup truly is. After the Giants had homered against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to take the lead in the scoreless battle, the Dodgers sent 39-year-old Chase Utley and Logan Forsythe to the plate in the bottom of the 9th for the rally attempt. Both Utley and Forsythe left their bats on their shoulders for called third strikes. Joc Pedersen, a good but inconsistent hitter, pinch hit for Jansen. He weakly popped up in foul territory to end the game.  With no offense to the fine career Utley has had, I’d much rather have Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade at the bottom of the lineup any day of the week.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

It didn’t take too long for the Yankees depth to be tested. In a surprise move yesterday, the Yankees placed center fielder Aaron Hicks on the 10-day DL before the game with an intercostal muscle strain. Hicks was not happy with the move as he felt he’d be fine with a few days rest but the Yankees are notoriously conservative when it comes to potential injuries. It was a great story to see outfielder Billy McKinney get his unexpected Major League debut. He woke up in Tampa on Friday morning, thinking about the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders season opener in a week, only to find out that he had a mid-day flight to Toronto to catch. By the end of the evening, he had collected his first Major League hit. I couldn’t help but think of Dustin Fowler’s horrific debut last year with the devastating knee injury, but the results were much better for McKinney. He was only 1-for-4 but it’s nice to get that first hit out of the way.  He had a few good defensive plays in left as well. After the game, McKinney said that ball for the first hit would go to his parents. A very classy move by the 23-year-old.

MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch posted an interesting stat that McKinney is only the second Yankee since 1956 to make his MLB debut in the starting lineup within the first two games of the season. The last Yankee do it was Hideki Matsui on this date in 2003, also in Toronto against the Blue Jays. Like McKinney, Matsui had a hit in four at-bats but Godzilla did knock in a run in a game that saw Rogers Clemens defeat former Blue Jays great Roy Halladay.

McKinney’s stay with the big league club figures to be short. Jacoby Ellsbury is eligible to come off the DL next Thursday so it’s likely that McKinney will be playing in next Friday’s season opener for the RailRiders at PNC Field in Moosic, PA against the Syracuse Chiefs. But for now, McKinney gets to play and make an impression for our favorite team. It sure beats working out at Minor League Camp in Tampa. Welcome to the Show, Billy!

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

For Yankees fans, like me, who had hoped Aaron Hicks would stay healthy for an entire season, it is not a great start. But at least it sounds like he’ll be able to return as soon as he is eligible. We’ll see. Hicks must prove he deserves our trust and support. As frustrated as I get with the health of Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Greg Bird, I feel badly for Toronto and their fans. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki remains one of the game’s best but the guy can’t stay on the field. Every year, it’s something. The latest setback was this week when it was announced that Tulo would need surgery on both ankles to remove bone spurs. Very sad for the talented player who can’t seem to get or stay healthy. So, I guess the Yankees are not the only team to get Ellsbury’d on a routine basis.

Great tweet by Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media this morning: “I mean, how do you bet against Aaron Boone? He’s never lost.” True statement.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

Today, CC Sabathia takes the mound against Blue Jays fan favorite Marco Estrada. I guess you could say that it is a battle of former Milwaukee Brewers. May the 6’6” left-hander and 2008 Brewer emerge victorious!

Photo Credit: The Record (Kevin R Wexler)

Go Yankees!

Three Weeks to Opening Day…

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First day of Spring is March 20th but Life Begins Anew on March 29th

It’s Jorge Posada Day! 20 more days until the start of the regular season and the Yankees walking up to the plate at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada to begin their quest for the 28th World Series championship in franchise history. Hip, hip, Hor-hay! 

 posada

I have to admit I feel badly for third baseman Mike Moustakas. A career high 38 home runs and he gets less money this year than Todd Frazier. For his one year “pillow” contract with the Kansas City Royals, he’ll get $5.5 million with the opportunity to earn an additional $2.2 million in incentives. There is a mutual option for 2019 for $15 million which carries a $1 million buyout. Odds are that the Royals either trade Moose Tacos at the trading deadline or they exercise the buyout next off-season. I bet Moustakas does not make it through the season as a Royal. This shows how truly remarkable it was that GM Brian Cashman was able to get the San Diego Padres to absorb Chase Headley’s $13 million contract by simply attaching RHP Bryan Mitchell, who had no clear role with the Yankees.

 2018 San Diego Padres Photo Day
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Andy Hayt)

I don’t blame the Yankees for not playing in the Moose Tacos sweepstakes. Actually, it appears that no team wanted to play. I liked the idea of Moustakas taking aim at the right field porch in Yankee Stadium, but once the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury (a player I like) to pair with Miguel Andujar, I didn’t give it another thought. The Yankees were never going to offer Moustakas a long-term deal and it didn’t seem wise to forfeit the draft choices (2nd and 5th round picks) and the international bonus pool money for a short-term investment. Last year’s second round draft choice (RHP Matt Sauer) is currently the Yankees’ 12th best prospect according to MLB.com. Considering how strong the Yankees farm system currently is, that’s no small feat and there is good value with high draft selections. I don’t think draft choices alone would have been reason not to sign Moustakas, but all things considered, I feel comfortable with the players currently at third for the Pinstripers.

The Yankees made their first cuts yesterday as the team begins paring down for the Opening Day roster. The first camp casualties were Justus Sheffield, Cale Coshow, Raynel Espinal, Trevor Lane, Chace Numata, and Dillon Tate. In light of the rough day that Sheffield had yesterday against the Philadelphia Phillies, I wish he could have departed under better circumstances. Top Sheff gave up three hits and runs in 1 2/3 innings to balloon his Spring ERA to 11.81. But it was a learning experience and there’s no doubt we’ll see Sheffield in the Bronx at some point later in the season. Better, faster, stronger and we won’t need to rebuild him.

I am starting to see more and more writers and bloggers saying that Tyler Wade is the leader for the second base job. I’ve felt all Spring the Yankees would break camp with Wade as the starting second baseman. Without regard to the delay in service time, I felt (and still feel) that Gleyber Torres will benefit from further experience at Triple A as he continues his road back from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. The guy is so incredibly young although extraordinarily talented.  He’ll make his Major League debut sooner than later in the 2018 season. Once he arrives, I have no doubt he’ll own second base for years to come. In the meantime, I look forward to the opportunity that awaits Tyler Wade.

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Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire (Doug Murray)

While I think Ronald Torreyes will make the Opening Day roster (with non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa opting out of his contract at the end of training camp), it would seem that he is an inevitable candidate for DFA at some point during the season. Once both Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar arrive at the Show to join Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade, there’s simply not going to be any room for Toe. He is the weakest of the group despite how valuable he’s been the last couple of years.

I am glad to hear that Aaron Judge has no current plans to participate with this year’s Home Run Derby.The Derby is fun for the fans but I’d prefer to see Judge focus on rest and relaxation regardless of whether or not he makes this year’s All-Star team. Too many are trying to speculate whether his participation last year was the direct cause for his second half slump. I don’t really care. It’s all water under the bridge now. Judge knows and understands his body better than anyone and I know that he’ll make the right decisions going forward. It was a learning experience. He has won the Derby and there is nothing left to prove. Winning a championship is all that matters.  There’s no doubt Judge knows that better than any of us.

Billy McKinney has proven the Yankees have nothing to fear if they include Clint Frazier in a trade for a starting pitcher. I’ve been very impressed with McKinney’s work with the bat and at first base this Spring. While I think it’s possible that Adam Lind could supplant Tyler Austin as the backup first baseman, McKinney, with more experience at first base, could replace both of them and is an heir-apparent for left field if the Yankees do not re-sign Brett Gardner next off-season and if Frazier is included in the inevitable deal for an upper echelon starting pitcher. McKinney could make his presence felt in the Bronx this year if, Heaven-forbid, injuries strike.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

We’re moving into the “dog days” of training camp. The point where the excitement of Spring baseball is over and the joy and anticipation of Opening Day is starting to seep in. I’m ready and anxious to see the latest Yankees take the field at Yankee Stadium (by way of Rogers Centre, of course).

Go Yankees!

The Spring Game That Does Matter…

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!

The Yankees Spring Machine Rolls On…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

A day without the Yankees is a long day…

For those of us not so fortunate to be in Florida, I missed watching the Yankees play yesterday  since the game was not televised. I suppose that I could have listened to the WFAN radio broadcast but it is not quite the same. I am glad that today’s game will be televised by the MLB Network.

Spring records do not really matter but the Yankees picked up their second win in two games with their 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. The big hit was a three-run homer by Billy McKinney in the top of the 9th.

The Yanks got a scare when Brandon Drury was hit in the left hand while batting against Pirates reliever Clay Holmes in the top of the third inning. Drury stayed in the game and finished out the bottom of the third before departing. Drury said he was fine after the game and no x-rays were taken, but he did ice the hand. It would have been horrible to lose Drury in his first game wearing the Yankees uniform. Miguel Andujar replaced Drury in the fourth inning and stayed for the duration of the game.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

The only run scored by the Pirates was Gregory Polanco’s home run off Dillon Tate in the bottom of the 5th.

I enjoy all the social media posts that say Erik Kratz is the greatest hitting catcher in Yankees history with his 1.000 batting average. He was 2-for-2 last season, and so far this spring, he is 2-for-2 with a run batted in. He’s livin’ the life at age 37. Too funny…

This morning, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported that the Yankees most likely will not be signing either of the top free agent pitchers, Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. Per Manager Aaron Boone, “At this point I don’t see those guys as realistic options…it’s my understanding that those guys aren’t really in play for us.” Of course, if I was waiting for prices to fall, that’s exactly what I would say too.

He may be a writer for The Boston Globe and pro-Red Sox, but I enjoy the work of Nick Cafardo. He’s probably one of my favorites. Yesterday, he wrote about the twenty things to watch this baseball season. Number one was “The Giancarlo Stanton/Aaron Judge Show”.  Cafardo wrote: “The Yankees are near the center of attention in any season, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Some are describing it as Ruth/Gehrig reincarnated.  Of course it could also be a flop, but we tend to doubt it. Will there be droughts?  Absolutely. But the upside should be quite a spectacle.”  We’re looking forward to the show as well.

Cafardo also cited that Chris Archer could be the next Tampa Bay Ray on the move.  Although he did say the Los Angeles Dodgers have been forever linked the talented pitcher, he mentioned the Yankees as one of the teams that could be in the mix. Even though trades within the division are difficult, the Rays did just acquire a very talented young second baseman in Nick Solak from the Yankees in the three-way trade that netted Brandon Drury for the Yankees. The Rays don’t have to travel far to keep an eye on the young prospects in the Yankees organization since the minor league facility is in their city. It would be hard not to pay attention to the exploits of the High-A Tampa Yankees who will play this season as the  renamed Tampa Tarpons.

Give credit to Clint Frazier for his amazing attitude in camp. He is determined to win a spot on the Opening Day roster despite the greatest of odds. Barring injury or trade, the Yankees’ Opening Day outfielders appear to be Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and Jacoby Ellsbury. There’s probably not a fan in the Yankees Universe that wouldn’t want to see Ellsbury playing elsewhere to make room for Frazier, but the cold, hard reality is that Ellsbury will be wearing pinstripes this year unless GM Brian Cashman can prove he really is ‘The Miracle Worker’. I hate the thought that Frazier will have to open the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but at this point it does appear inevitable.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

A-Rod is back…

The Yankees have announced that Alex Rodriguez, Reggie Jackson, and Hideki Matsui are returning in special advisor roles for the Yankees. They’ll be joined by Nick Swisher.

Yo, Cash, you gotta stacked team…

Thanks, Swish.

It had been long-rumored that A-Rod and Hal Steinbrenner were talking about a role in the organization so I am glad that the Yankees will have his knowledge and insight at their disposal. You have to feel bad for Alex. He’ll have income from FOX Sports, ESPN, and the Yankees this year, any of the income streams alone should exceed what most of us will make. I’ve always enjoyed Swisher’s energy and enthusiasm and it’s great for a young team. I love the passion and love that both guys have for the Yankees.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Spring Training, Game 3

The games of no meaning, except for individual player workouts, continue today at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, FL against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees will see an old friend in Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY

The scheduled starting lineup is:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

Gleyber Torres, SS

Greg Bird, 1B

Aaron Hicks, DH

Austin Romine, C

Danny Espinosa, 2B

Ronald Torreyes, 3B

Billy McKinney, RF

Shane Robinson, LF

The starting pitcher will be Jordan Montgomery. The Phillies will counter with one of their best young pitchers, Aaron Nola.

Stay healthy, guys.

Go Yankees!

Is Total Domination by the Yankees Asking Too Much?…

The Yankees, most likely, have made their final moves for 2017… 

Granted, we only have a couple of days left but it’s been all quiet in the Yankees Universe.  Rumors continue to swirl and the Yankees are always linked to, seemingly, everybody.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported today that the Yankees continue to eye free agent pitcher Yu Darvish. Regardless of the cost, that one makes no sense to me. The money it would take to sign Darvish would erode the remaining dollars under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. There’s no way that Darvish will settle for $5-$10 million in annual compensation at this point in his career when he should command more. The pitcher needs to rebuild value after his disastrous World Series performances for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but at the end of the day, teams look at his body of work and not a couple of ill-fated starts with accusations that he was tipping his pitches.

Credit:  Associated Press

Yesterday, TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen made the argument that the Yankees should stand pat with their starting pitching staff. To a degree, I concur but ultimately GM Brian Cashman is on record saying the Yankees want to acquire another starting pitcher. There are questions about every starter in the Yankees rotation and Cash obviously has more information and insight into each pitcher that we are not privy to. So, from my perspective, while I may believe another starter is not necessary, the powers-that-be feel otherwise so our opinion is irrelevant.

I don’t really want to give up Clint Frazier, Chance Adams, and/or Miguel Andujar in a trade for Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole. I am a little frustrated that Frazier’s current predicament is a direct result of an outfield glut hurt by the presence of Jacoby Ellsbury and his massive contract. In a perfect world, I’d trade away both Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to make way for the younger guys. I want to see room made for Frazier but equally I’d like to see Billy McKinney and Jake Cave get opportunities. McKinney can hit and he showed last year why he was once a top draft pick.

I am a fan of Chance Adams but the presence of Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu give me comfort the Yankees have other young viable starters on the immediate horizon.

I recognize that not every Yankees prospect has a future in Pinstripes. There is great value in prospects as trading chips for contending teams. I am prepared for a trade for a proven Major League starting pitcher. I may not like it, but it is the cost of doing business for a team that is prepared to win NOW. I am not sure who will be the fifth starter for the Boston Red Sox at the start of the upcoming season since Edwin Rodriguez is recovering from knee surgery (Steven Wright perhaps?) but the Red Sox still have arguably the best staff in the division with a front four featuring Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, and Rick Porcello. The Toronto Blue Jays are probably not too far behind with Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and Joe Biagini. Admittedly, both of those teams have injury concerns. With the Red Sox, it is David Price who has struggled both mentally and physically in Boston. For Toronto, it is Aaron Sanchez who missed most of last year with right middle finger issues. Sanchez is the latest example of a young starter who threw a career high in innings pitched the preceding year, only to follow up with an injury plagued season. I am not saying that Luis Severino is going to get hurt but he did pitch a career high with innings pitched last year including the play-offs. Many experts have forecasted some regression in his 2018 performance. If either Boston or Toronto are able to overcome their injury concerns, they will be very formidable. If the Red Sox add a power bat like J.D. Martinez, they’ll be tough to beat. So, if Brian Cashman feels that we need to add starting pitching, I am not going to argue with him.

For what it is worth, Bob Klapisch is currently reporting that the Yankees are “nowhere” on a possible deal for Gerrit Cole and have never been close in talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As Klapisch tweeted today: “NYY rotation is set for now”.

My biggest concern heading into 2018 is second and third base. I am ‘all in’ for making Gleyber Torres the starting second baseman or going with Tyler Wade/Ronald Torreyes to start until Torres is ready. Third base troubles me the most. I am not convinced that Miguel Andujar is ready (offensively, yes, but I feel that his defensive skills are lacking). I prefer Torreyes as the utility player and not in a dedicated starting position so he is not really who I want at third base day in and day out.

I’d love to see the return of Todd Frazier but I am not optimistic at all. Everyone talks about the Yankees signing Manny Machado after the 2018 season as a free agent, but I really feel that if the Chicago Cubs or St Louis Cardinals make the investment to acquire Machado this off-season (which could very well happen), they’ll make very strong efforts to sign Machado to a new deal. It is easy to say the Yankees should just sign Frazier or Mike Moustakas to a one-year deal, but in reality, the market will dictate otherwise. The Yankees need a hedge for 2019 if Machado (or someone like Josh Donaldson) is not an option. I’d be a proponent for a two-year deal for Frazier. I really like what he brings to the team with his play and attitude. It is infectious. He may not hit for average, but he’ll give you some bombs and will play a great third base. Plus, he’ll keep the clubhouse loose in the pressurized New York environment.  Trade him next year if the team is successful in signing Machado. But regardless of my preferences, I’d like to see the Yankees get experienced help at third base to ease the transition we’ll face at second. Poor Didi Gregorius if he has to play with rookies on both sides.

Credit:  Seth Wenig, AP

All indications are that 2017 will end quietly for the New York Yankees. We’ll soon see what 2018 has in store for everybody’s favorite team.  Exciting times in the Bronx.

Go Yankees!

The Ace & The Outfield Trio…

Credit:  MLB.com

Yankees 6, Rays 1…

Masahiro Tanaka was dealing on Friday night as the Yankees took down the Tampa Rays for the second night in a row.  He was backed by homers from all three starting outfielders and amassed 14 strikeouts over 8 innings before David Robertson capped off his brilliant game.  The win vaulted the Yankees back into first place in the AL East.  

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

The first inning showed that Tanaka was potentially on top of his game when he struck out the side.  Brett Gardner, Thursday night’s hero with the walk-off home run, started the scoring for the Yankees with a home run.  He became only the third Yankee with walk-off/walk-on home runs, joining Joe Gordon (1940) and Roberto Kelly (1990).  Gardy’s homer, his 19th of the year (a career high), landed in the bullpen in right field under the Toyota sign.  Rays right-fielder Stephen Souza, Jr climbed the wall with thoughts of making a spectacular catch but the ball was just beyond his reach.  It was an interesting stat coming into the game that the Yankees are 15-0 when Gardy goes yard.  We can make that 16-0.   

After Rays starter Austin Pruitt gave up the lead-off HR to Gardy, he proceeded to strike out the side so it looked like we would be settling into a pitcher’s duel.  Tanaka picked up two more strikeouts in each of the second and third innings, before striking out only one in the 4th.  In the bottom of the 4th, the Yankees picked up their second run when Aaron Judge hammered a Pruitt pitch to left for his 33rd home run of the season.  

After Tanaka set the Rays down in order in the top of the 5th, picking up another K, the Yankees added to their lead.  Pruitt alternated strikeouts and walks with Chase Headley (out), Todd Frazier (walk), Ronald Torreyes (out), and Brett Gardner (walk).  After a coaching visit to the mound by Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, Clint Frazier completed the outfield trifecta with a monster blast to left center, traveling 455 feet into the left field stands.  Red Thunder continues to amaze with his blazing bat speed.  I know that I am one of many who feel the Yankees would be very foolish to send Frazier back down to Triple A when Aaron Hicks returns.  The team’s resurgence this month has been driven, in large part, by Red Thunder’s energy and heart.  

Leading 5-0, Tanaka took a perfect game into the 6th inning but it was spoiled with two outs when Adeiny Hechavarria hit a grounder past a diving Didi Gregorius for the Rays first hit.  In the 7th inning, the Rays marred the shutout when they got their only other hit, a homer to right by former New York Met Lucas Duda.  5-1, Yankees.

Tanaka completed the eighth inning exactly as he started the first by striking out the side.  It was the end of the night for Tanaka but what a game!  If he continues to pitch like this down the stretch, it will mean great things for the Yankees.  

Credit:  Mike Stobe-Getty Images

The Yankees picked up their final run in the 8th inning.  After Rays reliever (and former Yankee) Chase Whitley shut down the Yankees for two innings, setting down all six batters he faced in the 6th and 7th innings, the Rays brought in Adam Kolarek to start the 8th.  He hit Brett Gardner with a pitch to put Gardy at first.  He struck out Clint Frazier and induced Aaron Judge to hit into a ground out which moved Gardy to second.  Kolarek intentionally walked Gary Sanchez, but a passed ball advanced both runners to second and third.  Didi Gregorius singled to left, scoring Gardner but Gary Sanchez was nailed at the plate as he attempted to score too.

David Robertson finished up the 9th with his usual “no drama”.  Just another day at the office for D-Rob, and the Yankees emerged with their 55th victory of the season.  Boo yeah!  Yankees win!

Credit:  Mike Stobe-Getty Images

As mentioned at the top of this post, the Yankees (55-46) moved into first place in the division standings.  The Boston Red Sox, who had received disappointing news earlier in the day with the placement of David Price on the DL, fell to the Kansas City Royals, 4-2.  It was the Royals’ ninth consecutive victory.  The Red Sox now trail the Yanks by a half game, while the Rays are 3 1/2 back.

Aaron Judge visited the dentist earlier in the day to temporarily repair his chipped tooth.  He’ll have to make a trip back for permanent work but it was very good to see Judge back out on the field.  I liked the YES Network’s reference to “Babe Tooth”…

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-The NY Post

A last note about Masahiro Tanaka.  His masterpiece against the Rays follows largely horrific performances on the road against them.  In two games at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, FL, Tanaka was 0-2 with 20.67 ERA.  Tanaka improved his record to 8-9 and ERA to 5.09 with the victory.  Simply an excellent game by the right-hander.

Odds & Ends…

Robert Refsnyder is expected to return to the Major Leagues today for the Toronto Blue Jays.  The utility man would take the place of Troy Tulowitzki who sprained his right ankle and will undergo further tests.  The thought is that Ref could play some second base while Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney cover short during Tulo’s absence.  All the best to Ref as he tries to make his mark north of the border.

Credit:  James P McCoy-Buffalo News

The division foes are being very active on the trade market this week.  The Rays have been the loudest with their acquisitions of Lucas Duda, Dan Jennings, Sergio Romo and Steve Cishek.  The Baltimore Orioles, only 7 1/2 games back, acquired Philadelphia Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson overnight.  With David Price going on the DL, it will be interesting to see if the Boston Red Sox make any further moves after their acquisition of former Yankees third baseman/infielder Eduardo Nunez.  The Red Sox “say” they are not going to chase down another starter but that remains to be seen.

It was incredible game for outfielder Billy McKinney yesterday as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders crushed the Charlotte Knights, 15-8.  McKinney was 4-for-5 with a double, two triples and a grand slam and a career high 6 RBI’s.  His outfield throw also nailed a runner at home plate in the third inning.  Miguel Andujar, making a statement that he wants to be the Yankees third baseman in 2018, was 2-for-6 with a homer and has raised his batting average to .324 as he continues to feast on Triple A pitching.

Have a great Saturday!  Here’s hoping the Yankees can continue their success against the Rays.  Go Yankees!

A Preview of Coming Attractions?…

The Bryce is Right…

With Bryce Harper’s free agency still a few seasons away, I am surprised that there is so much discussion about his future (potentially) in pinstripes.  So much can happen between now and 2019.

harper-monument-park

While the Yankees do not have a true superstar at any position except maybe Closer, there’s a wealth of outfield prospects.  Aaron Judge has a history of first failing and then massively succeeding at each level.  With the initial underwhelming big league performance behind him, the expectation is that he’ll grab right field for years to come.  There’s other help on the way for the outfield.  With so many talented infield prospects headlined by shortstop (second baseman?) Gleyber Torres, it has been mentioned that shortstop Jorge Mateo’s future is in centerfield.  Clint Frazier, a centerfielder, will most likely be moved to a corner outfield position.  If each player performs to his respective potential, a trio of Judge, Mateo, and Frazier is very, very solid.

The Yankees also have other young talented outfield prospects.  Mason Williams, although injuries have not been his friend.  Dustin Fowler is aggressively raising his stock in prospect rankings.  Blake Rutherford was a steal in last year’s draft and seems destined for greatness.  Billy McKinney is an over-looked, unappreciated talent but he’s opened some eyes this spring.

At face value, Outfield does not appear that it will be a weakness for the team anytime soon.  Well, maybe as long as Jacoby Ellsbury is starting in center, but that’s another matter.

Over the last few years, Owner Hal Steinbrenner has evolved the organization from its free-spending ways to financial conservatism.  Although the Yankees consistently have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, the payroll has stayed fairly level for a number of years.  There’s a genuine opportunity for the Yankees to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.  Signing Harper is going to cost a lot of money.  Giancarlo Stanton may currently hold baseball’s most lucrative contract, but Harper will surpass Stanton and not by a close margin.  Harper could legitimately be baseball’s first $500 million man.  More than likely, it will be around $400 million but still, that’s a huge financial commitment for anyone.

Attendance has declined at Yankee Stadium the past few years.  With no true superstars in an every day role, the Yankees need players who can not only perform on the field, but can draw fans to the Bronx.  Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge may soon have that dual ability, if the former does not already have it.  But signing Bryce Harper, a childhood Yankees fan, would be huge for attendance.  His lefty bat, among a sea of righties, would be huge.  He’ll only be 26 when he hits free agency so a lengthy obligation would not look as ugly at the end as it did for Alex Rodriguez.

I am a proponent for the Yankees to sign Harper.  At some point, the Yankees will have to make a trade for a frontline starting pitcher (or two) and they’ll need to use talented top prospects to make it happen.  They can deal from outfield (and infield) strength and bring the necessary help for the rotation.  With Masahiro Tanaka’s looming opt-out after the season, the Yankees will need to make trades to supplement the infusion of youth if they are to achieve the championship dreams in a couple of years.

Harper in pinstripes would put the team closer to Championship #28 while boosting gate attendance to help subsidize his enormous contract.

The starting rotation competition…

As the battle for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation continue, there are some early favorites.  I think it’s a given that Luis Severino will take the fourth spot.  The team wants him to succeed as a starter.  Last year was a disappointment as Severino arrived at training camp in bulked up physical condition and was not able to effectively throw his change up with the same velocity.  He has worked this off-season to reduce bulk and to recapture the touch he previously had with the change-up, his third pitch.  He may have been winless in starts last year before finding success in the bullpen late in the season, but he deserves another chance.  If he is able to throw his three pitches effectively, the results this year will be much better.

Luis Severino

Most experts are predicting Chad Green as the other starting option.  I know that he had a few good starts last year, but I can’t say I am convinced.  I would prefer to see Bryan Mitchell in the rotation over Green.  I also like Luis Cessa, but I agree that his ceiling is not that great.  I’d love to see Jordan Montgomery excel but I think he needs at least another year in the minors before he is ready.  Jon Niese is certainly an option but it’s curious that he has yet to make a spring appearance.

Regardless of who wins the starting spots, it’s a certainty that more than two will have the opportunity to start over the course of the season.  I fully expect to see Chance Adams and Dietrich Enns at some point, and September will most likely see James Kaprielian’s first major league start (if it doesn’t happen sooner).

Mayans MC, Santo Padre Charter

Okay, this is a bit off-topic but I am excited about the upcoming Sons of Anarchy spinoff series, Mayans MC.

the-mayans-samcro-soa-fx-670x447-210420

The latest Kurt Sutter offering will film its pilot this month.  There has been no announcement that the FX Network has picked up the series for its fall lineup, but it’s hard to imagine that they would not.  The creative team has slowly been announcing its cast members.  With each announcement they give a little deeper insight into the show’s storyline.  Set in the same mythology as the Sons of Anarchy, the new show will pick up life post-Jax Teller and will be set on the Mexican-California border.

Here is the synopsis released by FX:

Set in the aftermath of Jax Teller’s death at the end of SOA’s seven-season run in 2014, Mayans MC will focus on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, a prospect in the Mayan MC charter on the California/Mexico border. EZ is the gifted son of a proud Latino family, whose American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape.

When I first heard about the potential new series, I had hoped that Emilio Rivera would be part of the project.  His character, Marcus Alvarez, President of the Northern California charter of the Mayans MC, was one of my favorite characters on Sons of Anarchy.  With the casting announcements, the character that will be President of the featured charter (Santo Padre) is cousins with Alvarez and the press release indicated that he lived, for a time, with Alvarez.  This gives a possible tie-in to Sons of Anarchy as the character most likely had some interaction with the rival MC.  A nice setup for possible flashbacks.

The casting choices have been exemplary.

  • Felipe Reyes (father of the protagonist):  Edward James Olmos
  • Angel Reyes (brother of the protagonist, full patch member of the MC):  Clayton Cardenas
  • Esai “Taino” Ossorio (President of the Mayans MC, Santo Padre charter):  John Ortiz
  • Michael “Riz” Ariza (Vice President of the Mayans MC):  Antonio Jaramillo
  • EZ Reyes (the protagonist, a prospect of the MC):  JD Pardo
  • Johnny “El Coco” Cruz (full patch member of the MC):  Richard Cabral

There are still critical roles to be announced.  The setup features conflict with the Cartel so villains will be needed, with through regular cast members or through guest starring roles.  There’s also a love interest that EZ Reyes seeks to protect so that will be a key hire.

I am looking forward to the show and hope it’s as successful as its predecessor but in its own right.  Marcus Alvarez, now credited as National President and Founder of the Mayans MC, (Emilio Rivera) will be an awesome bridge between the two series.

Have a great weekend!