|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.
.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
2.63 ERA, 127 Hits, 10 home runs, 1.09 WHIP
4.47 ERA, 145 Hits, 18 home runs, 1.27 WHIP
.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).
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.
|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.
|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.
|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!
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)|
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.
|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.
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.
|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.
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…
The Dog Days of Spring…
One week to go until the games become “real”. The thought of Toronto, Canada on a day in late March gives me a rather chilly feeling but watching the Yankees play brings the necessary warmth. The current weather forecast calls for cloudy skies with an expected high of 47 degrees and a 20% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, the temp inside the Rogers Centre should be very comfortable for the away team. Let the homers begin!
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
It sounds like Manager Aaron Boone intends to have his 25-man roster in place by the weekend. I was surprised to see that first baseman Tyler Austin didn’t make the cut. I assume that places Neil Walker and Austin Romine as the backup first basemen. The speculation is that the Yankees will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. We know that Tyler Wade has made the team as the second baseman and Brandon Drury will be the starter at third. So, the bench appears to be Austin Romine, Neil Walker, and Ronald Torreyes as it appears that neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier will be ready. Under this scenario, the Yankees won’t carry a fifth outfielder with Ellsbury expected to open the season on the disabled list. The outfield rotation would be limited to the four outfielders currently in play (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) using the DH slot primarily for Stanton and Judge. This is where multi-position versatility is very helpful. Although Drury has only played third base for the Yankees, he was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and he has also seen time in the outfield for the Snakes. Torreyes as the emergency catcher is funny but it makes sense. Walker will be all over the infield except shortstop and catcher.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
So it appears the critical decision with be the 13th pitcher. Luis Cessa simply no longer has my trust or support. I do not want him as the rotation’s “sixth man” and after a good Spring, I feel much better about Domingo German in that role. I thought this would be the breakout year for Ben Heller but he had a few rough outings recently and has found himself with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. There is still time for him to shine but it won’t be at the start of the season. I really like Jonathan Holder. He blazed through the Yankees farm system until struggling last year. I am convinced he will be much stronger this year. So, for me, I’d like to see either German or Holder get the last spot on the 25-man roster. German would be a true long man, but if the Yankees need an emergency starter, there’s always the Scranton Shuttle. I’d probably go with Holder to start the season but like last year, the final spot on the roster will be very fluid.
I was surprised to see the return of Rule 5 draftee Anyelo Gomez from the Atlanta Braves. We know that the Braves will be bad this year. I thought they’d bite the bullet and keep Gomez on the MLB roster all season to keep the talented young pitcher. But Gomez’s performance spiraled downward as the MLB-caliber competition in exhibition games increased and it led to Atlanta’s decision to offer Gomez back to the Yankees. Similarly, Jose Mesa, Jr has struggled with the Baltimore Orioles and he was designated for assignment this week when the O’s signed free agent pitcher Alex Cobb. If Mesa clears waivers, the O’s will have to offer him back to the Yankees. So, this leaves only Nestor Cortes, Jr (Orioles) and Mike Ford (Mariners) as the only Rule 5 draftees still with the teams that selected them from the Yankees in December. I remain convinced Cortes will make the O’s Opening Day Roster despite the three-run homer that he gave up to Aaron Judge in yesterday’s exhibition game. I still expect Ford to be offered back to the Yankees by the Mariners in a numbers crunch at first base.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
Speaking of the Mariners, I was saddened to learn that former Yankees reliever David Phelps will miss the upcoming season with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. I thought it was cool that Ichiro Suzuki had followed Phelps to the Yankees, Miami Marlins and then back to Seattle. Now, it appears their reunion on the active regular season roster will be delayed assuming that Ichiro continues to play for the M’s beyond this year. We wish David the very best with his surgery and recovery. Hope to see him back in the Mariners’ bullpen sometime next year and as good as ever (except when he pitches against the Yankees, of course).
Photo Credit: Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)
If you have a subscription to The Athletic, you should be sure to check out Marc Carig’s piece this morning on Brandon Drury entitled “Brandon Drury brings a serious edge to Yankees clubhouse”. Drury has become one of my favorite players in a short period of time. I love his quiet intensity. Like many believe including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I feel very strongly that Drury’s best days are ahead. I think he’ll be a force at third base and will make us forget we ever knew Chase Headley or Todd Frazier. I am very pleased to see Carig covering the Yankees again after a few years away on the Mets beat. He’s an excellent writer and very insightful. Solid work, once again, by Carig.
It’s been tough with no televised Yankees games for the last few days. Fortunately, the Yankees will be on ESPN2 this afternoon against Jake Cave and the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen the lineups for the game yet but hopefully we’ll see Cave. I haven’t been following the Twins so I assume that Cave is remains in the Major League camp. The scheduled starter for the Twins will be former Yankee Phil Hughes.
7 Days to Toronto. I’m ready. You’re ready. They’re ready. Let’s Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Next Stop, Toronto Pearson International Airport…
We should begin seeing some whittling down of bodies at Steinbrenner Field soon so it got me thinking about the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. March 29th, and a date with the Toronto Blue Jays, is only three weeks away so the regular season will be upon us before we know it.
Count me among those who do not place much stock in Miguel Andujar’s slew of home runs against mostly Double-A pitching. I think Andujar will make a contribution this year, perhaps a significant one, but I do not feel that he’ll head to Toronto with the team after they play their final Spring game in Atlanta against the Braves. My guess is that he spends more time with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to work on his defensive game.
Here is my projection for the Opening Day Roster (with starting position players in italics).
Rest of the Pen
Aaron Judge, RF
Brett Gardner, LF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
The guess is Judge will be exclusively a right-fielder and DH, with Stanton primarily filling the DH role but covering both outfield corner positions dependent upon the ballpark. When (not if) Ellsbury gets hurt (assuming that he recovers from the right oblique strain in time for Opening Day), Clint Frazier gets the first look as his replacement with Billy McKinney next in line.
I don’t know what happens with Tyler Austin. The way the Yankees keep trying to replace him leads me to believe that he is not in the long-term vision. I could very well be wrong about the backup first base job. Perhaps Austin does win it and Lind opts out of his minor league contract in a couple of weeks. But it’s hard to overlook Lind’s history of success at the Major League level so I won’t.
It remains my belief we’ll see Gleyber Torres as the starting second baseman during the season, maybe as early as the first of May. Assuming he doesn’t go to Baltimore in a mammoth mid-season trade for Manny Machado, I think Andujar will see extended time in the Majors for the Pinstripers too. Admittedly, if he keeps up his torrid hitting over the next couple of weeks as MLB starters are stretched out in preparation for the season, he could force his way onto the Opening Day Roster. If that happens, Lind (or Austin) could be the odd man out, with Drury and Romine serving as the less-than-desirable first base backups in addition to their other duties.
The first reliever on the Scranton Shuttle will be right-hander Ben Heller, followed closely by fellow righty Giovanny Gallegos. For emergency starter, I’d prefer to go with Domingo German over Luis Cessa but the team seems to love Cessa in spot starts despite the lackluster results.
The toughest call is the batting order but my choices from second to fifth would be Judge, Bird, Stanton, and Sanchez, respectively. Regardless of how this shakes out under Aaron Boone, I feel sorry for American League pitchers.
There’s still plenty of time for roster surprises but I think injuries would play the primary role in any deviations, in my humble opinion (which of course could be seriously flawed).
As the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…
If you haven’t already done so, you should check out Bryan Hoch’s new book, The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty. The book is available through multiple outlets including Amazon.com (where I bought my copy).
Blue Jays 2, Yankees 1…
I can’t say that I went into this game feeling very strongly about a win or loss. In the grand scheme of things, the playoff format has been decided so it didn’t really matter if the Yankees went 92-70 or finished 91-71 (which they did). They still finished second in the American League East and hold home field advantage in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday. Despite holding the Blue Jays to two hits, the Yankees were unable to muster any significant offense and lost by a run.
The Yankees lineup featured many backup players as key starters got the day off in advance of the AL Wild Card game. The only notable starters were Todd Frazier and Starlin Castro. Chase Headley got the start at first base, but he’s probably the team’s DH heading into the post-season. Greg Bird got into the game later.
Credit: Kathy Willens-AP
It was nice outing for Jordan Montgomery. He held the Blue Jays scoreless until the top of the 4th inning. Richard Urena worked a one-out walk. Justin Smoak singled to right on a grounder that went just past the glove of Tyler Wade, with Urena moving to third. Jose Bautista, making perhaps his final start as a Blue Jay, lofted a high fly to center. Urena scored on the sacrifice as the throw from Aaron Hicks was off line.
Credit: Associated Press
I thought the Yankees had a chance to potentially pick up a run in the bottom of the 4th. Tyler Wade singled to left barely over the stretched glove of shortstop Richard Urena with one down. While Matt Holliday was batting, Wade appeared to steal second to move into scoring position. However, replay showed that the tag was applied before Wade reached the base as Urena’s foot blocked the base to prevent Wade from touching the bag. Matt Holliday flied out to end the inning so the Yankees were still down by a run.
Credit: Getty Images
Montgomery made it into the 6th inning, striking out Ryan Goins. But that was all for Monty’s successful rookie campaign as Manager Joe Girardi took the ball and turned it over to Adam Warren. 5 1/3 innings for Montgomery. Two hits, a walk and a run. He struck out three batters for the eventual no-decision.
Credit: Kathy Willens-AP
Adam Warren, making his first appearance since being activated off the disabled list, retired the two batters he faced to end the inning and show that he’s ready to be a potential weapon for Tuesday night.
Warren retired the only batter he faced in the top of the 7th (pop out by Justin Smoak) and was replaced by Domingo German.
With Blue Jays reliever Danny Barnes on the mound in the bottom of the 7th, Matt Holliday homered into the left field seats with one out, a solo shot. The game was tied at 1. It looked like the Yankees might get more when Greg Bird followed with a walk. Miguel Andujar doubled to left center (ball dropped in front of a sliding Teoscar Hernandez), with Bird moving to third and there was still only one out. But the Yankees couldn’t get either runner home as both Austin Romine and Clint Frazier grounded out to leave the runners stranded.
The Blue Jays scored the eventual winning run in the top of the 8th despite no hits. With Domingo German still pitching, Rob Refsnyder reached first base after striking out when Austin Romine couldn’t catch a wild pitch from German (a low pitch that hit the ground behind the plate and bounced away). Ezequiel Carrera walked, with Refsnyder advancing to second. Darwin Barney laid down a good sacrifice bunt with two strikes to push the runners to second and third. Ryan Goins took advantage of the runner at third with perhaps the shortest RBI I’ve seen this year, a slow dribbler that went no more than 10 feet. Refsnyder came home to score as the only play was to get the runner at first. The Blue Jays had recaptured the lead, 2-1. German struck out Teoscar Hernandez to get out of the inning but the Jays had the run they would need to win the game.
From there, the Yankees couldn’t do anything against Toronto relievers Ryan Tepera and Roberto Osuna with Greg Bird popping out to the shortstop Richard Urena for the final out to end the game. It would have been nice to close out the season with a win but as I stated when I started this blog post, it didn’t really matter one way or the other. It’s hard to take momentum from a game when most of the starters are sitting on the bench.
The second-place Yankees (91-71) finish the season two games behind the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox (93-69) fell to the Houston Astros, 4-3, as those two teams prepare to resume their battle in Houston, Texas with Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday. The Minnesota Twins, the Yankees opponent on Tuesday, beat the Detroit Tigers, 5-1, to finish the season at 85-77.
It’s been a long, run season and I hope that it continues beyond Tuesday. If not, I feel that Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner has been given the message that this team is ready to compete now and that he needs to ensure the team is given the best possible chance for success in 2018.
GM Brian Cashman and Amateur Scouting Director Damon Oppenheimer presented Aaron Judge with an inscribed Waterford Crystal Gavel for his rookie record of 52 home runs.
Next Up: American League Wild Card Game, Minnesota Twins versus New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…
Here it is…do or die. We’ve endured the rigor of 162 regular season games and the pay-off is a chance to advance to the American League Division Series. Win or lose, this has been a tremendous year for the Yankees. They’ve surprised the experts who didn’t expect the Yankees to contend this quickly. The Minnesota Twins have had an excellent year as well, going from a team that lost 100 games in 2016 to a play-off contender.
Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups. Suffice it to say that every pitcher on both teams will be ready for the call.
Tuesday, October 3rd, 8:00 pm ET
Twins: Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA)
Yankees: Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA)
This should be a great game! The winner advances to play the Indians for Game 1 of the ALDS in Cleveland on Thursday.
Odds & Ends…
The Yankees announced on Sunday that “they will significantly expand the protective netting during the upcoming off-season at both Yankee Stadium and George M Steinbrenner Field”. The action comes after the young girl was hit in the mouth on a foul ball by Todd Frazier on September 25th.
The managerial firings should begin shortly. It’s been announced after much speculation that Terry Collins will not be returning to the dugout for the New York Mets in 2018. He’ll move into a front office position. Ironically, neither of the AL Wild Card managers have a contract beyond this year. I guess Tuesday will have a say in their respective futures although you’d have to believe that both would be back after unexpectedly successful seasons.
Have a great Monday! Enjoy the day off, and let’s get ready to root, root for the home team on Tuesday night. Go Yankees!