Tagged: Blue Jays

Judge & Stanton Gladly Pay the Power Bill…

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Photo Credit: The Canadian Press via AP (Frank Gunn)

Yanks use the Big Bats to finish Road Trip on winning note…

It’s been a very eventful week in the Yankees Universe.  The Yankees completed a two-game sweep of the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario and finished the latest road trip with a 5-1 record. Tommy Kahnle now plays for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Jordan Montgomery undergoes the knife today for his Tommy John surgery, and a number of young, talented prospects potentially begin their journeys to Pinstripes.

Seriously, MLB should option the Baltimore Orioles (19-41) to the International League and call up the RailRiders to replace them in the AL East. The RailRiders are loaded with Major League talent.

It’s been a great road trip (outside of the loss in the second game of Monday’s double-header in Detroit) and last night’s game was incredible. Sonny Gray, wow!  THIS is clearly the guy we’ve been looking for and NEED for an extended October run.  Sonny may not have gotten the win but he was as critical to the win as he has ever been while representing the Yankees. If he had given up just one run last night, the Yankees lose. I am so glad that Masahiro Tanaka was not on the mound as he would have given up at least his obligatory home run to send the Yankees home with a loss. Sonny’s final line was better than any starting pitcher who picked up a win on Wednesday. Eight innings, 99 pitches, two hits, no runs, a couple of walks, and eight strikeouts. The closest winning pitcher was Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy who blanked the New York Mets on three hits over seven innings, but c’mon, he was pitching to the Mets. Nice job, Sonny. Now if you can repeat this performance in Yankee Stadium, life will be good.

I am grateful for Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for their game-winning home runs in the 13th inning, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the Sucks! Award goes to Gary Sanchez. He looked pitiful at the plate.  I was so mad when he swung at a pitch well below the strike zone to end the 11th inning with Giancarlo Stanton stranded at third. All we needed was a measly single and Gary chases a stupid pitch.  For the game, El Gary was 1-for-6 with two strikeouts. The ground rule double he hit in the top of the 4th inning allowed him to barely keep his batting average above .200. Aaron Boone keeps saying that Sanchez is close. I hope so because I sure didn’t see that guy last night.

As for Judge, his two-run homer in the 13th inning off Blue Jays reliever Joe Biagini made me about as happy as the kid prominently featured in the TV telecast, dancing in the upper deck of Rogers Centre while holding a handwritten “All Rise” sign.

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There was no doubt Judge’s shot was gone, but Stanton’s homer surprised me. He walloped the ball like only Aaron Judge can do and it looked like a line drive to left that might drop in for a single except the ball never dropped. It was a laser shot into the left field stands. It goes to show you that when Stanton does get hot, American League pitchers will be running for cover.

Unfortunately, despite the win, the Yankees were unable to make up any ground on the Boston Red Sox. The Sox, winners of four-in-a-row, cruised past the Detroit Tigers, 7-1. Boston (43-19) maintained their one game advantage on the Yankees (40-18). It’s amazing the Red Sox and Yankees are the only teams in Major League Baseball with at least 40 wins. As many have said, the Yankees are on a path to 111 wins but if Boston continues its current winning percentage, the Yankees would have to settle for a one-game Wild Card play-off. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians hold a relatively comfortable 4.5 game lead in the AL Central and project out to 86 wins and would enter as a division champ.  That’s sick.

The Yankees have the day off today in preparation for their weekend series with the crosstown Mets. It will be good to see old friend Todd Frazier but I am glad Yankees pitchers have to throw to the Toddfather and not some guy like Miguel Andujar in this series. Friday night’s game will be tough with Masahiro Tanaka scheduled to face Jacob deGrom. Hopefully the Yanks can hold it close to get into the Mets bullpen. I fully expect deGrom to bring his “A” game as there is nothing better than to beat NYC’s best team in New York.  Hopefully Masa was watching Sonny Gray and taking notes.

I haven’t had a chance to gather my thoughts about the Yankees picks in this year’s MLB Draft. I am anxious to read the Meet A Prospect segments by TGP’s Daniel Burch. The Yankees took six catchers including two for their first picks in the first and second rounds (Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux). Within their first 16 picks, the Yankees took two 6’8” right-handed pitchers (Daniel Bies, 8th Round, and Derek Craft, 16th Round). The 11th round pick, Tanner Myatt, also RHP, is no slouch at 6’7”. The shortest guy in the draft was LHP Dan Metzdorf (5’9”) who was taken in the 38th round.  Go short people!

I was kind of hoping the Yankees would have selected 3B Triston Casas of American Heritage School in Florida. He had shown up as an option for the Yankees on a few mock draft boards. The Red Sox ended up taking him with the 26th pick in the first round. I probably would have liked to have seen him go anywhere except Boston. I was also disappointed when the Atlanta Braves chose Stanford’s Tristan Beck, RHP, in the fourth round. Beck had been a late, back-end of the draft selection for the Yankees last year but did not sign. For as much as I’ve been down on former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, I was also disappointed when the Detroit Tigers got Roger’s son, Kody, a second baseman, in the third round.

Lastly, I have to pay my respects to the late St Louis Cardinals great Red Schoendienst who passed away yesterday at age 95. While I am a Yankees fan, I grew up with St Louis as the nearest Major League city and it is where I experienced my first Major League game. While I liked baseball up to that point, I think my first game developed the love I have for the game.

Wednesday, May 29, 1974…

The Los Angeles Dodgers, with future Yankee Tommy John on the mound, were facing the St Louis Cardinals at the old Busch Stadium in St Louis. Bob Gibson was on the hill for the Cards, but more importantly (at least for this post), the manager of the Cardinals was Red Schoendienst. I should have recognized the greatness of the manager in the other dugout (the legendary Walter Alston of the Dodgers) but it was Schoendienst that captured my attention on that day. I can’t even tell you why he was so memorable to me that day. Maybe it was his name. Maybe it was the aura of the Cardinals, a very proud franchise that is second only to the Yankees in history, tradition and World Series wins.

The Dodgers won that game, 5-2, and John was the winning pitcher but I went away from the game with a great appreciation and respect for the Schoendienst-led Cardinals. It probably helped that I got to meet and shake hands with Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan “The Man” Musial but I clearly associated the Cardinals with their manager.

Schoendienst, a second baseman, played in the Majors for 19 years.  While he spent most of his time with the Cardinals, he also played for the New York Giants and Milwaukee Braves. Red was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. During the course his career in baseball as a player, coach or manager, he wore a Cardinals uniform for 67 out of 74 consecutive years in the game. To this day, I still can’t think of the Cardinals without thinking of Red.

Farewell to a great St Louis Cardinal and to one of the game’s greatest guys.

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Photo Credit: St Louis Post-Dispatch (Robert Cohen)

The Red Sox have played four more games than the Yankees, thanks to the rainouts, and the Sox play again today. Here’s hoping for a Red Sox loss (finally) against the Tigers. I’d love to end this day with the Yankees only trailing the Sox by a half-game. The Tigers have a decent pitcher on the mound (Matthew Boyd, 3-4, 3.23 ERA) while the Red Sox counter with Jar-Jar Binks, excuse me, I mean Jalen Beeks.

So, Go Tigers, and as always, Go Yankees!

P.S.  A special wish for a safe and successful surgery for Jordan Montgomery, and the all best for his post-surgery recovery and rehabilitation!

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Now, That’s More Like It!…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

Yankees Win and Red Sox Lose…

For only the second time this season, the Yankees won on the same day the Red Sox lost. But, wow, yesterday the Yankees won big and the Red Sox lost in the worst way imaginable. I love it when that happens.

Jordan Montgomery had me worried in the top of the third inning when he loaded the bases with only one out and the score 0-0. With Teoscar Hernandez and Yangervis Solarte due up next (two hitters that have been feasting on Yankees pitching), I was fearful of a big early lead for the Toronto Blue Jays. Monty struck out Hernandez and got Solarte to pop up to short to end the inning unscathed. For me, that was the huge point of the game.

In the bottom of the inning, a two-run homer by Aaron Judge (his sixth of the year) and the Yankees were off to the races. The Blue Jays finally scored a run in the fifth, but the Yankees answered in a big way when they pushed seven runs across the plate in the bottom of the sixth to break the game open. The lengthy sixth inning ensured that Montgomery (2-0) did not return, but hats off to him for his valiant, gritty effort to put the Yankees in the win column. His final pitching line was 6 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, and 5 strikeouts on 91 pitches.  Not bad for the team’s number five starter (who’s arguably been much better than certain other pitchers in the starting rotation).

The final score was 9-1 and improved the Yankees season record to 10-9.

While the day’s offense was primarily driven by the top of the order trio of Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, and Didi Gregorius (total of five runs and five RBI’s), Miguel Andujar made a statement in the sixth inning when he came to bat with the bases full of Yanks. His double cleared the bases and chased Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

After Friday’s dismal performance and loss by Sonny Gray, it felt great to take such a convincing win. It was a game that showed how devastating the Yankees offense can be, even if Giancarlo Stanton was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He did walk and score a run on Andujar’s three-run double during the big sixth inning but the wait for his huge Yankee Stadium breakout continues to be delayed.

If you had told me before the game that the pitchers in relief of Montgomery would be Chasen Shreve and Jonathan Holder, I would have cringed, with an image of pouring gasoline on a fire in my mind. But those two combined for three innings of perfect relief (no walks, hits or runs), while striking out four. Holder was able to reduce his ghastly season ERA to 11.57 with two innings of clean work.

Out in Oakland, California, the Boston Red Sox had Chris Sale on the mound to face the A’s Sean Manaea. The Red Sox, sporting MLB’s best record at 17-2, looked like they had the right ingredients for their 18th win but Manaea had other ideas. After walking the leadoff batter, Manaea settled down and did not allow a hit to the potent Red Sox offense. He was helped along the way when Marcus Semien was charged with an error on a dropped popup in shallow left during the fifth inning that allowed Sandy Leon to reach base. Manaea issued his second walk in the top of the ninth inning with two outs, which brought the dangerous Hanley Ramirez to the plate and the Sox trailing 3-0. Ramirez hit a sharp grounder to short and the A’s were able to end the game with a force out at second. It’s always fun to see Ramirez fail in big spots.  The end result was the first no-hitter of the 2018 season and the third loss of the year for Boston.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (John Hefti)

Manaea, unlike a former teammate that now resides in the Bronx, has raised his game this year. The no-hitter was great, but he had ten strikeouts in the 108-pitch effort. For the season, Manaea is sporting a 1.23 ERA and has only given up more than one run once (when he gave up two runs in five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 10th).

A great win by the Yankees and a wonderful loss by the Red Sox. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Today is Gleyber Torres Day.

Photo Credit: Newsday (Thomas A Ferrara)

The long-awaited arrival of the Yankees best prospect and the fifth-best prospect in baseball happens today. Through fourteen games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Torres is batting .347/.393/.510 with .903 OPS. He has a homer to go with eleven RBI’s. Concerns about the back stiffness early last week are long forgotten. Gleyber seems ready to go and more importantly ready to take his spot among Pinstripes.

Time will tell if Gleyber is up for good or if his stay will be temporary until Brandon Drury is ready to return. But like Miguel Andujar is starting to show, you can make the decision very difficult for the Yankees by proving you belong. The Yankees production at second base this year has been rather underwhelming so the stars are aligned for Gleyber to grab the position. The odd man out, assuming that Tyler Wade isn’t sent down to Triple A to rediscover his Spring Training magic, appears to be Jace Peterson. I wasn’t really sure why the Yankees re-signed Peterson, a player who doesn’t really fit the team for the long run.

At some point soon, the Yankees will be a man short when Tyler Austin begins serving his suspension. Peterson’s a nice luxury since he can play both infield and outfield but he is the least valuable man on the roster. I am hopeful Gleyber, like Andujar, proves he is here to stay.

My guess is Torres goes back to Triple A when Drury is ready but who knows. Things can change quickly and Gleyber has a chance to alter any decisions.

Gleyber will be the starting second baseman for today’s series finale with the Blue Jays and he’ll bat eighth.

I am a little surprised by his choice of numbers (25) given that it is normally reserved for slugging first basemen in recent years. But what the heck, the only Yankees pinstriped jersey I own is Number 25 (thankful for no names) so I am armed and ready to support young Gleyber.

The Yankees are also expected to promote RHP David Hale today which is something of a surprise. It also leads me to believe that Jace Peterson will, in fact, be cut today since the Yankees will need to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Hale in addition to making room for Torres on the active roster. Hale has given up nine runs in 14 2/3 innings this year for the RailRiders but hopefully he’ll have better success in the coming days. Hale’s worst day as a RailRider was his most recent when he gave up 12 hits and 6 runs in a start that lasted only four innings on April 18th. Fail your way to success? I hope so.

Update: As expected, the Yankees did option Tyler Wade to Triple A and designated Jace Peterson for assignment to make room for Torres and Hale.

It’s going to be a fun and exciting day. Welcome, Gleyber! We’ve been waiting for you.

Go Yankees!

Time to Improve is Now…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

Please End the Battle of .500…

We are two-thirds the way through April and the Yankees are only one game above .500. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox are winning at an amazing .889 clip.

Remember back in January and early February when we were so excited about the dynamic Yankees offense featuring the NL MVP and everyone said that the Yankees pitching staff was better than any potential replacements? Or how the Red Sox had no offense to go with their solid pitching rotation? Yeah, I miss those days.

Three weeks into the season and things are not quite as rosy. Yes, it’s a long season and much can happen between now and the end of September. I keep waiting for the silver lining to appear but sadly, so far anyway, the Boston Red Sox continue to devastate their opposition. Absolute annihilation might be more descriptive. It feels like HBO’s Game of Thrones and Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the Night King with an ice dragon and an army of the undead at his disposal.

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Hitting

.292/.362/.496, .859 OPS, 24 Home Runs, 109 RBIs, 323 Total Bases

.249/.343/.438, .781 OPS, 23 Home Runs, 92 RBIs, 260 Total Bases

Pitching

2.63 ERA, 127 Hits, 10 home runs, 1.09 WHIP

4.47 ERA, 145 Hits, 18 home runs, 1.27 WHIP

Fielding

.992 Fielding Percentage, 5 Team Errors

.971 Fielding Percentage, 18 Team Errors

It’s easy to look at the above numbers and recognize that the team with the top line is superior to the lower line team. I guess it’s little wonder why the Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox by six and a half games and it’s still only April (allegedly, according to my calendar).

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The team fielding is the most horrific stat since the Yankees are the worst team in Major League Baseball and the Red Sox are the second best, trailing only the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s starting to feel like the Yankees are going to give away runs every game with their defense.

The law of averages say that the Yankees will improve their numbers while the Red Sox should cool off, but for the first three weeks of the season, Boston has been in a sprint. The Los Angeles Angels got off to a great start this year. When their series against Boston (at home) started on Tuesday, the Angels were 13-3. Three games later, when the Red Sox finally left Anaheim, the Angels had fallen to 13-6. They were decimated by a combined score of 27-3 over the course of the three games series sweep by the Red Sox. The Red Sox Nation is gloating and it sucks.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Yankees have won three of four after last night’s 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, although the sting of the drubbing by the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night still hurts. Even though the Yankees did hang on Thursday evening for the one-run win, they gave two runs away and David Robertson walked a precarious tightrope in the 8th inning when the Jays loaded the bases with a couple of hits and walks and only one out. It was incredible that he emerged from the inning allowing only one run on a single by his former Yankees teammate Curtis Granderson. No offense to Dellin Betances (who pitched decently in the seventh inning), but it seems like if it had been Dellin in the eighth with the bases juiced, the Jays would have scored a plethora of runs. D-Rob’s performance (cleaning up his own mess in the face of great adversity) is one reason I hope the Yankees re-sign him in the off-season. I have far greater trust in Robertson as the setup man for Aroldis Chapman than I do Betances. By the way, it was very nice to see Chapman strike out the side in the ninth inning to preserve the win. It was a win but one that could have very easily gotten away from us.

Something’s got to give. At some point, Giancarlo Stanton is going to hit and he’ll carry the team on his back. I have no doubts about it but how deep is the hole going to be before it happens. That’s my biggest concern.  If the Red Sox play .550 baseball the rest of the way, they are a 95-win team. The Yankees need to improve their hitting, pitching and defense now, not later. The Yankees can’t let the Red Sox run away and hide with the AL East championship. Otherwise, we’re back into the one-game ‘do or die’ situation, assuming that the Yankees can grab one of the Wild Card slots.

There are 145 games left to play. Let’s make the most of them.

The Yankees re-signed first baseman Adam Lind this week to a minor league contract, most likely as a hedge against the health of Greg Bird and the sustained play of Tyler Austin. I don’t see how Lind will be ready to play when Austin begins serving his five-game suspension (or three or four games, whatever it turns out to be after the appeal is heard). I kind of wish Austin had started serving his suspension immediately. Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies received his five-game suspension after Austin and he has already finished serving his time.  With the Yankees only one game into a brutal 18-day consecutive game stretch against some of the best teams in baseball, it sucks that we’ll have to feature Neil Walker as the starting first baseman for a chunk of the games.

At this point, I can only say Thank God for Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius. I am not sure where the Yankees would be without those two guys. The rest of the team should feel free to raise the level of their game to match the two young Yankees superstars. It starts tonight.  Sonny Gray, this is your wake up call. Pitch like we know you can. That’s all we ask.

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

I hate to keep using Daniel Burch’s line, but it’s never been more appropriate. Need a win…get a win.

Maybe one of these days I can wake up happy and cheerful like Daniel.

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!

Dawn of the New Pinstriped Season…

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Life begins on the Northern Shore of Lake Ontario…

The Yankees will be working out at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada today in preparation for tomorrow’s Opener against the Blue Jays. Tuesday was an off-day for the Yanks after they flew into Canada from Atlanta, GA on Monday evening.  Soon, the 2018 Yankees will take the field for the first meaningful game of the year. Luis Severino versus J.A. Happ. It should be a terrific game!

While the Yankees players, coaches and road crew were enjoying the sights and sounds of Toronto yesterday, the Blue Jays were completing their Spring schedule with an exhibition game in Montreal, Quebec against the St Louis Cardinals. In what may have been the greatest meaningless game finish ever, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, son of Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expos great Vlad the Great, delivered a walk-off home run to beat the Cardinals at Olympic Stadium in front of 25,186 fans. Vlad Jr appropriately wore his father’s #27 as he circled the bases in the bottom of the 9th. It had to be one of the finest moments of training camp. Fortunately for the Yankees, Little Vlad is still a few years away from the Majors. I am sure that he’ll one day become a thorn in our side but gladly it won’t be this week. It was a very nice moment for the Blue Jays, the Guerreros, and the city of Montreal.

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Photo Credit: The Canadian Press (Paul Chiasson)

I am not going to try and make any predictions for the upcoming season. Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes did an excellent job with his predictions over the past week so I’ll leave the season forecasts to him. Nevertheless, I do have one thought about his AL East prediction that has the Yankees winning the division by four games over the Boston Red Sox. I personally think the battle between the Red Sox and Yankees will be closer than four games by season’s end but I guess we’ll find out come October. J.D. Martinez will help the team’s offense and David Price and Rick Porcello will have much better years in the starting rotation. I have no reason to believe Boston will win fewer games than they did last year.

Speaking of the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe voiced his displeasure on Twitter about the reference of a single Boston player as a Red Sock. Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and J.D. Martinez is a Red Sox? Sorry, that doesn’t work. Martinez is a Red Sock although Red Sux certainly works too.

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Former Yankee Robert Refsnyder seems to be on a mission to play for all five AL East teams.  The latest victim for his services are the Tampa Bay Rays who acquired the former Yankees prospect from the Cleveland Indians yesterday for cash considerations. The Yankees had traded Refsnyder to the Blue Jays last summer but he was claimed on waivers by the Tribe during the off-season. It’s only a matter of time until Ref works his way through Baltimore to get to Beantown where I am sure that he’ll have a Hall of Fame career (um, probably not).

Speaking of former Yankees, I don’t think there’s one more beloved than Oakland A’s center fielder Dustin Fowler. Yankees fans everywhere are pulling for the former Pinstriped prospect who blew out his knee last summer in Chicago during his Major League debut for the Yankees against the White Sox. Fowler has been in a battle all Spring with Boog Powell for the A’s starting job in center. A’s manager Bob Melvin has said that the starter will go down to the wire.  We’re at the wire so I assume that we’ll soon find out if Fowler has won the job or if the 23-year-old will take a trip to Triple A to fine tune his offensive skills. An excellent defender, he batted .222/.245/.267 with .512 OPS in Cactus League play for the A’s with no homers and five RBIs. He struck out 13 times in 45 at-bats. Powell’s numbers are not much better but Fowler is younger (by two years) and would benefit more from a demotion to Nashville to play for the Sounds (once a Yankees farm team, by the way). Either way, I will be pulling for Fowler this year and I look forward to his MLB debut for the A’s, hoping for much better results than the last time he took the field during regular season play.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)

The guys who cover the Yankees beat for NJ Advance Media (Randy Miller and Brendan Kuty) are fantastic at their jobs. Kuty posted the following prediction today on the NJ.com website which I absolutely love:  “(Brandon) Drury, if healthy, stays the third base starter all year. I’ve said it a billion times but I feel like that trade may end up like the Gregorius trade.” Admittedly, expecting Drury to perform like Didi has in Pinstripes is asking a lot, but I am a firm believer in Drury’s high ceiling and abilities and I think the Yankees will coax great years out of the player. I like his demeanor and his unbreakable focus on baseball. He may not be a comedian like Didi or as fun-loving (at least to the outside observer) as some of his teammates but I appreciate his dedication to becoming the best player he can be.  I am a big fan of Drury regardless of how much I like Miguel Andujar. I think Drury is going to win over many fans in the upcoming days and months.

Ken Davidoff has long been one of my favorite Yankees beat writers. Due to the crazy reduction of quality personnel in the newspaper business, Davidoff has found himself with The New York Post. He wrote a great article this morning about the inside story on how Aaron Boone became the manager of the New York Yankees. It is a very insightful piece and one that makes me even more excited that Boonie is the leader of Baseball’s greatest team.

Who will hit the first home run for the Yankees this year? My pick is El Gary Sanchez. I think he’ll go yard before the massive bats of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Watch, one of the lighter hitters on the team like Tyler Wade will circle the bases first.

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Now that Dellin Betances seems to be rounding back into All-Star form, I am really excited about the potential of the Yankees bullpen. Dellin is the key to success. I think Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green and the rest of the crew will be perform to their usual superior levels but my biggest concern was Betances given how untrustworthy he had become late last season. I think we’ll see a much stronger and more consistent Chapman but I was fearful that continued control problems by Dellin would be the undoing of the bullpen. But based on his most recent performances, the old Dellin is back and ready for success. This is the single greatest factor in the bullpen, in my opinion.

It is disappointing that Greg Bird will miss 6-8 weeks following ankle surgery yesterday to remove a coin-sized calcium deposit but it is what it is. I am not ready to pull the Nick Johnson card. I remain optimistic Bird will have a memorable 2018 season and will produce his share of home runs. In the interim, I am fine with the first base duo of Tyler Austin and Neil Walker. Austin has never truly been given a chance like this before so it’s his moment to shine. I am hopeful he grabs his opportunity to make his mark.

It’s exciting that the Baseball Season is finally here. How awesome will it be to see Giancarlo Stanton in a Yankees road gray uniform tomorrow? Judgie (Boone’s word, not mine), Sir Didi, El Gary, Gardy, Sevy, and more. Our favorite baseball team is back and ready for action. It is a very exciting time to be a Yankees fan. There’s plenty of room aboard the Bandwagon for those who want to jump on. Let the homers and emoji’s fly! We have a World Series championship to win. Let’s get started…

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Go Yankees!

On A Clear Day, I Can See Toronto…

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The Dog Days of Spring…

One week to go until the games become “real”. The thought of Toronto, Canada on a day in late March gives me a rather chilly feeling but watching the Yankees play brings the necessary warmth. The current weather forecast calls for cloudy skies with an expected high of 47 degrees and a 20% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, the temp inside the Rogers Centre should be very comfortable for the away team. Let the homers begin!

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

It sounds like Manager Aaron Boone intends to have his 25-man roster in place by the weekend. I was surprised to see that first baseman Tyler Austin didn’t make the cut. I assume that places Neil Walker and Austin Romine as the backup first basemen. The speculation is that the Yankees will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. We know that Tyler Wade has made the team as the second baseman and Brandon Drury will be the starter at third. So, the bench appears to be Austin Romine, Neil Walker, and Ronald Torreyes as it appears that neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier will be ready. Under this scenario, the Yankees won’t carry a fifth outfielder with Ellsbury expected to open the season on the disabled list. The outfield rotation would be limited to the four outfielders currently in play (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) using the DH slot primarily for Stanton and Judge. This is where multi-position versatility is very helpful. Although Drury has only played third base for the Yankees, he was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and he has also seen time in the outfield for the Snakes. Torreyes as the emergency catcher is funny but it makes sense. Walker will be all over the infield except shortstop and catcher.

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

So it appears the critical decision with be the 13th pitcher.  Luis Cessa simply no longer has my trust or support. I do not want him as the rotation’s “sixth man” and after a good Spring, I feel much better about Domingo German in that role. I thought this would be the breakout year for Ben Heller but he had a few rough outings recently and has found himself with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. There is still time for him to shine but it won’t be at the start of the season. I really like Jonathan Holder. He blazed through the Yankees farm system until struggling last year. I am convinced he will be much stronger this year. So, for me, I’d like to see either German or Holder get the last spot on the 25-man roster. German would be a true long man, but if the Yankees need an emergency starter, there’s always the Scranton Shuttle. I’d probably go with Holder to start the season but like last year, the final spot on the roster will be very fluid.

I was surprised to see the return of Rule 5 draftee Anyelo Gomez from the Atlanta Braves.  We know that the Braves will be bad this year. I thought they’d bite the bullet and keep Gomez on the MLB roster all season to keep the talented young pitcher. But Gomez’s performance spiraled downward as the MLB-caliber competition in exhibition games increased and it led to Atlanta’s decision to offer Gomez back to the Yankees. Similarly, Jose Mesa, Jr has struggled with the Baltimore Orioles and he was designated for assignment this week when the O’s signed free agent pitcher Alex Cobb. If Mesa clears waivers, the O’s will have to offer him back to the Yankees. So, this leaves only Nestor Cortes, Jr (Orioles) and Mike Ford (Mariners) as the only Rule 5 draftees still with the teams that selected them from the Yankees in December. I remain convinced Cortes will make the O’s Opening Day Roster despite the three-run homer that he gave up to Aaron Judge in yesterday’s exhibition game. I still expect Ford to be offered back to the Yankees by the Mariners in a numbers crunch at first base.

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

Speaking of the Mariners, I was saddened to learn that former Yankees reliever David Phelps will miss the upcoming season with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. I thought it was cool that Ichiro Suzuki had followed Phelps to the Yankees, Miami Marlins and then back to Seattle. Now, it appears their reunion on the active regular season roster will be delayed assuming that Ichiro continues to play for the M’s beyond this year. We wish David the very best with his surgery and recovery.  Hope to see him back in the Mariners’ bullpen sometime next year and as good as ever (except when he pitches against the Yankees, of course).

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Photo Credit: Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)

If you have a subscription to The Athletic, you should be sure to check out Marc Carig’s piece this morning on Brandon Drury entitled “Brandon Drury brings a serious edge to Yankees clubhouse”. Drury has become one of my favorite players in a short period of time. I love his quiet intensity. Like many believe including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I feel very strongly that Drury’s best days are ahead. I think he’ll be a force at third base and will make us forget we ever knew Chase Headley or Todd Frazier. I am very pleased to see Carig covering the Yankees again after a few years away on the Mets beat. He’s an excellent writer and very insightful. Solid work, once again, by Carig.

It’s been tough with no televised Yankees games for the last few days. Fortunately, the Yankees will be on ESPN2 this afternoon against Jake Cave and the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen the lineups for the game yet but hopefully we’ll see Cave. I haven’t been following the Twins so I assume that Cave is remains in the Major League camp. The scheduled starter for the Twins will be former Yankee Phil Hughes.

7 Days to Toronto. I’m ready. You’re ready. They’re ready. Let’s Go Yankees!