Tagged: Brian Cashman

Back to Baseball in the Bronx…

Serious Competition for the Arms Race…

The sprint to the trading deadline begins in earnest this week as teams jockey for position over the next couple of months.  The trading deadline is Monday, July 31st at 4:00 pm Eastern.

I fully expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to be major players.  Losing their ace and perhaps the best pitcher in baseball hurts.  It does not appear that the back injury that kept Clayton Kershaw out of action for two months last year is as bad this year, but he will miss time.  Current speculation is that he’ll be out 4-6 weeks. The Los Angeles Times was already calling for Yu Darvish by Monday morning (or someone of similar ability…Sonny Gray?).  The Times used the analogy that the Chicago Cubs had to trade elite prospect Gleyber Torres last season to bring All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman to Chicago.  They go on to say that the Cubs would not have won the World Series if not for the trade, adding “it was a reminder that victory goes to the bold”.  I think Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and the Dodgers will be very bold in their attempt to bolster starting pitching, particularly considering that Brandon McCarthy has gone back on the DL too.

Credit:  Jon SooHoo

I do not want to give up any top prospects beyond the recent loss of outfielder Blake Rutherford.  This is tough because I would love to see Yu Darvish or Sonny Gray run out onto the field at Yankee Stadium wearing pinstripes.  But you can’t make a deal like that without parting with top pitching talent, such as Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield.  It would make more sense to trade for a lower profile pitcher and make room on the 40-man roster soon for Adams to make his MLB debut.  But even that move comes with cost.  Adams has another year before he’ll be Rule 5 eligible so creating room on the 40-man roster for Adams costs a potential spot for a quality prospect that must be protected this year.  It doesn’t really matter if Adams is Major League-ready but that’s something only time will tell. Given the Yankees have shown they do not believe Adams is ready, it seems more likely we’ll see more roll-outs of Caleb Smith (or Luis Cessa) or eventually another one of the current 40-man roster arms like Dietrich Enns (below) or Ronald Herrera before we ever get a sniff of Adams at the MLB level.

Credit:  Sean McKeag-Times Leader  

By most accounts, the desire of the Houston Astros to acquire another starter has lessened with the activation off the DL of Collin McHugh and soon, Dallas Keuchel.  The Milwaukee Brewers remain hot for a starting pitcher as do a few other teams.  The Minnesota Twins finally completed their delayed acquisition of Atlanta starter (and former Cardinal) Jaime Garcia, while the Kansas City Royals grabbed Trevor Cahill from the San Diego Padres.  There are arms to be had and based on the prices paid by the Twins and the Royals, it is possible to get help without sacrificing the farm.  

GM Brian Cashman and crew have a very tough week ahead of them.  They have hard decisions to make and they’ll have to stand before Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner with their recommendations.  The AL East can be won, despite the presence of Chris Sale in Boston, so the decisions over the next week will go a long way toward deciding who is playing October baseball.  

Glad D-Rob’s back home…

It has been a few years since David Robertson performed in a set-up role for the Yankees, but I had forgotten how he likes to run off the field at the conclusion of an inning.  It is so great to see that again.  He is one of a kind and a direct link to the great Mariano Rivera.  I’ve been excited to have Tommy Kahnle back in the organization after being such a great admirer of his when he was a Yankees prospect, but there is something special about D-Rob and I am glad that he is back in pinstripes.  It would have been very difficult to watch him pitch for a team like the Boston Red Sox.  So, even if I haven’t said it too much on this blog site, I am very happy that D-Rob is a Yankee once again.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Next Up:  Cincinnati Reds at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…

The Yankees face the Reds for their second and final series this season.  The teams split a two-game series in Cincinnati back in early May.  The Reds represent a reunion for a few Yankees.  Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman were once prominent Reds, and Didi Gregorius was a prospect in the organization (originally signed by the Reds as an amateur free agent in 2007).

Credit:  Al Behrman-AP

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups for the two-game series:

TUESDAY

Reds:  Luis Castillo (1-3, 3.86 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (6-5, 4.09 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Reds:  Homer Bailey (2-4, 8.56 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (6-4, 3.21 ERA)

Even without playing, the Yankees were able to gain a half game on the Boston Red Sox.  The Sox replaced the Yankees at Safeco Field in Seattle and were shutout by James Paxton and the Mariners, 4-0.  The Tampa Bay Rays also lost (5-0 to the Baltimore Orioles) so it was a great day off.  The Yankees now trail the Red Sox by 2 games and increased their lead over the Rays by 1 1/2 games.  

Have a great Tuesday!  Let’s show Todd Frazier how to rock Yankees Stadium.  Go Yankees!

Credit:  Daniel Popper-NY Daily News

Back to Work Friday!…

Aw shucks, do we really hafta?…

I have to admit the break was very nice.  I took full advantage of it and enjoyed every minute.  But alas, all good things must end.  Time to get back to baseball and hopefully what will be a very productive second half for the Pinstripers.  

I am glad the Chicago Cubs laid the Jose Quintana rumors to rest.  It was a serious overpay (in my opinion) and I don’t think the cost was worth the top prospects in the organization.  So, congratulations to GM Brian Cashman for his restraint.  There’s no doubt we need pitching but we’ll just have to find another well, and hopefully a less costly one.  The long term view is still the best view in the house.  I am sure teams will now move to other rumored trade targets, ramping up the cost for guys like Yu Darvish or Gerrit Cole (should they be placed on the market).  I’d rather see Chance Adams get a chance at some point rather than his inclusion in a trade for an older, more established pitcher.

Credit:  Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With less than three weeks to the trading deadline, Thursday should just be a slight preview of the days ahead as teams jockey for position.

I thought yesterday’s trade for first baseman Garrett Cooper was a chance worth taking.  Why not?…the Yankees do not have anything to lose.  By trading Tyler Webb, it was an indication that he didn’t fit into their long-term plans.  Plus, he tied up a valuable 40-man roster spot which will be a premium in the off-season when the Yankees have to decide whom to protect and whom to potentially expose to the Rule 5 Draft.  Every move made today has ramifications on the off-season so I am sure that Cashman is being both near- and far-sighted at the same time.  Ji-Man Choi has had a couple of nice home runs but I am not sold on him as a Major League first baseman.  If he falters, it is nice to know that Cooper is waiting in the wings.  He probably represents an upgrade over Mike Ford (currently on the DL for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre).  

Stay tuned as I am sure we’re in for a ride.

I honestly did not think Aaron Judge would win the Home Run Derby last Monday.  The win didn’t surprise me and I certainly loved watching the incredible show as much as anyone.  But there was so much hype about him going into the Derby, I felt the weight of expectations would be too much.  Between Judge and Gary Sanchez, I thought Sanchez would be the one to persevere.  So, my apologies to Aaron and congratulations on the tremendous win.  Now, in one of those bottom of the 9th at-bats when the Yankees are trailing and you represent the tying or winning run, please feel free to mix in a tape measure, Statcast-blowing blast instead of the usual strikeout.  I am not trying to be critical of Judge and I am very appreciative of his consistent contributions game by game…but…outside of Clint Frazier’s recent walk-off, the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium has generally meant three outs in recent weeks.

No All-Star Game recap from me, but it was tough to see a “formerly” beloved ex-Yankee hit the home run to win the game and another “probably still” beloved ex-Yankee save the win.  Robinson Cano hurts more than Andrew Miller since the added measure (salt in the wound) was that Cano on the team as an injury replacement for current Yankee Starlin Castro.  The losses of Cano leaving via free agency and the trade of Miller (not his fault) still sting.  If Cano was still a Yankee, we’d probably be talking about the potential future retirement of his number.  Now, Gary Sanchez gets the honors and Cano has a career that you primarily only see through box scores unless you live in Seattle.

Next Up:  Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Boston, MA…

The Yankees get a very quick and hard test to open the second half.  They’ll travel to Boston to play the first place Red Sox for four games in three days.  The break, outside of Chris Sale, gave the Sox the opportunity to reset their pitching rotation.  With Sale pitching Tuesday’s All-Star Game, he’ll take the mound on Saturday.  But we’ll see the top 4 pitchers in Boston’s rotation for this series.  So no fifth starters this go-around.  The Red Sox are starting to play like everyone expected although they did lose their most recent series when they were beaten by the Tampa Bay Rays, the team currently tied with the Yankees for second place in the AL East.  If Boston finds a solution for their third base problem and perhaps more arms for the pen, they’ll be a formidable team although at this point, I’d have to say the Houston Astros are the likely winners of the ALCS regardless of who they play.

By catching closer Craig Kimbrel in the All-Star Game, I am hopeful that Gary Sanchez picked up a thing or two to use during his at-bats.  I think he was surprised at the movement of Kimbrel’s pitches from the catcher’s point of view.  Very weird to see a Yankee catch a Red Sox pitcher.

The Red Sox can be beaten but not by the Yankees team we saw the last couple of weeks.  They’ll need to rise to the challenge.  I hope that Dellin Betances can right the ship once and for all.  The same goes for Masahiro Tanaka.  I only hope that we are not forced to use Tyler Clippard in a critical situation.

Final Notes…

As expected, the Yankees have sent Starlin Castro to Double-A Trenton on a rehab assignment.  They also released Chris Carter after he cleared waivers so there will be no Carter Experiment III.  

Have a great Friday!  Let’s start the second half off right with a win in Beantown!  Let’s Go Yankees!

Sunday’s Recurring Theme: If Only…

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

Brewers 5, Yankees 3…

I guess three positive starts by Masahiro Tanaka was not enough to prove that the right-hander was back.  He followed up those three starts with another disappointing performance on a beautiful day in the Bronx as the Yankees fell to the Brew Crew.  Tanaka (7-8) lasted just 4 1/3 innings and 83 pitches, giving up 6 hits, 5 runs (including two home runs), and a walk.  He struck out 5 in the loss.  He didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday but he also didn’t receive much help.  If only…

Saturday’s hero, Clint Frazier, tried.  He had another homer but the big bats of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez were a combined 2-for-9 with no homers or RBI’s and 5 strikeouts.  

The Brewers jumped on Tanaka right away with three runs in the first.  Jonathan Villar opened the game with a single.   Eric Thames singled to right to put runners at the corners.  After Domingo Santana struck out, former Red Sox third baseman Travis Shaw pummeled a Tanaka pitch over the bullpen in right to give the Brewers a 3-0 lead.  I wonder how much Boston wishes they still had Shaw (19 HR and 65 RBI) instead of Pablo Sandoval and fill-ins at third base.  The guy they traded for (former Brewers closer Tyler Thornburg) underwent season-ending surgery last month.  

The Brewers added another run in the top of the 2nd inning when Stephen Vogt, formerly of the Oakland A’s, opened with a solo shot to center which dropped into the bullpen.  4-0, Brewers.

The Yankees offense finally got something going in the 4th.  With two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to left and subsequently stole second.  Headley singled to left, which scored Ellsbury with the Yankees’ first run.  Clint Frazier followed with his third homer as a Yankee, to right center, which brought the Yankees within one run, 4-3.  

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

After Tanaka gave up two one-out singles in the top of the 5th, his day was done.  Chasen Shreve was brought in and he lost the battle to the only batter he faced when Travis Shaw collected his 4th RBI of the day with a run-scoring single.  Adam Warren should be called The Cleaner because he’s always the one that has to clean up the mess.  He struck out both batters to get out of the inning without any further damage.  

The Yankees had a runner in scoring position in every inning from the 5th inning through the 9th but all were left stranded.  For a moment, it seemed as though the Yankees had taken a 6-5 lead on an apparent 3-run home run by Chase Headley in the 6th inning, but appeal and further review clearly showed the ball sailed just to the right of the right field foul pole so the homer was erased…yes, if only.  Headley subsequently went down swinging. It was another lost opportunity in a day of lost opportunities.  Brett Gardner was on second in the bottom of the 9th after he walked and stole a base, but Gary Sanchez took a called third strike to end the game.  Gary, Dude…if only.  The Brewers escaped with the 5-3 win.  

Credit:  UPI

I got my pre-game wish.  More Red Thunder and no Tyler Clippard.  But it was not enough.  If only we had won…

With the loss, the Yankees (45-41) dropped into a second place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Both teams are 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox, who fell to the Rays, 5-3, on Sunday.  It was a very disappointing finish to the first half for the Yankees who had started the season so strongly.  I have no clue if the Yankees will be buyers or sellers at the end of the month, but I am in agreement with those who believe the Yankees are not yet a World Series contender.  I know that GM Brian Cashman feels a return to good health and a few enhancements could be the difference-maker but I’d hate to see the team make moves this year that might steal from 2018 or 2019 when the Yankees really will be World Series contenders.  But I admit, we do need a  new first baseman.

Odds & Ends…

Matt Holliday played DH for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Sunday in their 5-2 loss to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.  His lone hit in four at-bats was a run-scoring single.

The Home Run Derby is tonight.  I have already completed my bracket and have Aaron Judge emerging as the victor over Giancarlo Stanton but I do think that Gary Sanchez could get on a roll to steal this one.  It’s unfortunate that he drew Stanton as his first round opponent.  Former Yankee Clay Bellinger will serve as the Derby pitcher for his son, Cody.  I am sure Yankee fans will be paying close attention to Aaron Judge’s first round opponent given the trade rumors swirling about the potential trade of Justin Bour to the Yankees.

Have a great Monday!  Let’s Go Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge!  Enjoy the HR Derby!

Chasing the Victory…

Credit:  Mike Stobe-Getty Images

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 3…

Before the game, GM Brian Cashman, responding to questions about the infield corners, replied that Chase Headley is his third baseman.  Headley went out and backed up his GM with a key fielding plays and hits to lead the Yankees to the win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

With the talented Marcus Stroman on the mound for Toronto, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the 1st inning when Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez both singled and Didi Gregorius walked.  Chase Headley came to the plate and was hit by a pitch (conveniently hitting his lower right shin guard) to bring home Judge.  Jacoby Ellsbury followed Headley with a walk to push another run across and the Yankees led 2-0.  

From that point, it became a pitching duel between Stroman and Masahiro Tanaka.  After experiencing trouble with a blister in the fifth inning, Stroman did not return for the sixth.  Tanaka (7-7), who has pitched like an ace since his match-up against fellow Japanese countryman Yu Darvish a couple of weeks ago, gave the Yankees seven strong innings.  The Jays finally scored a run against him the 7th inning when Ezequiel Carrera was hit by a pitch.  Carrera stole second but an errant throw by Gary Sanchez and an overthrown ball from the outfield allowed Carrera to take third.  Darwin Barney singled to left, scoring Carrera, and it was 2-1 Yankees.

With the Yankees nursing a one-run lead, Dellin Betances entered the game to start the 8th in relief of Tanaka.  Given his recent struggles, it was time to hold my breath.  Betances struck out Joey Bats with a 3-2 count, but then walked the dangerous Josh Donaldson.  I was growing concerned with Dellin’s control, but then he ended the inning with a “strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out” double play.  Justin Smoak struck out, and then Sanchez drilled the ball to Chase Headley, covering second due to a shift, who nailed the sliding Donaldson for the final out.  That was a great confidence booster for Betances and hopefully it is the start of his return to bullpen dominance.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Yankees were finally able to put together some offense in the bottom of the 8th when Jays reliever Ryan Tepera entered the game in relief of Danny Barnes.  Aaron Judge singled and moved to third when Gary Sanchez dropped a double in deep left, just beyond the reaching glove of Steve Pearce.  Didi Gregorius walked and the bases were loaded for Chase Headley.  He did not disappoint.  A double to right scored both Judge and Sanchez.  Following a strikeout by Jacoby Ellsbury, Ronald Torreyes came up and hit an infield squibber that Tepera grabbed and threw to catcher Luke Maile.  Maile converged with Gregorius, who was sliding headfirst into home, and the ball rolled away from Maile’s glove.  Headley came in to score the second run on the play, and the Yankees had increased their lead to 6-1.  

On to the 9th and closer Aroldis Chapman.  When Chapman first got up in the pen, the Yankees held the slim one-run lead.  But Chapman had to wait while the Yankees were scoring the four runs in the prior inning, which eliminated the save opportunity.  Chapman came into the game and continued to show the control problems that have plagued his recent outings.  Kendrys Morales opened the inning with a double.  Chapman was able to induce Steve Pearce into a groundout, while holding Morales at second.  Pinch-hitter Kevin Pillar came to the plate and laced a double down the third base line (looked foul to me), scoring Morales.  Darwin Barney singled to right to score Pillar and the Jays had closed to within three runs at 6-3.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

After Troy Tulowitzki struck out, former Yankee Russell Martin came to the plate in place of Luke Maile.  Joey Bats was in the on-deck circle, representing the tying run if Martin successfully reached base.  Martin hit a hard liner toward third that looked to be trouble but an excellent catch by Chase Headley ended the game.  

A little drama at the end, but it was a great win for the Yankees.  The positives were the continued strength of Masahiro Tanaka (his third consecutive ace-like performance) and the glove and bat of Chase Headley.  The negatives were the continued bullpen struggles, most notably Aroldis Chapman and the first base play of Chris Carter.  Twice, Carter hit into rally-killing double plays.  He stifled a scoring opportunity in the 4th with runners at first and second when he hit into the inning-ending DP, and had another opportunity in the 8th after Ronald Torreyes had reached base due to the fielder’s choice that had scored the Yankees’ final two runs but he weakly hit into another inning-ending DP.  Although he wasn’t charged with an error, his glove remains suspect at first base.  Every thrown or hit ball his way is cause for concern.  In the third, he muffed a grounder by Ryan Goins but fortunately Tanaka was there to take the toss from Carter for the out.  

Clint Frazier, making his Yankee Stadium debut, was 0-for-3, with 2 strikeouts.

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Yankees have got to get their two top bullpen pitchers back to form.  It was a good start for Betances but Chapman continues to be a concern.  If the score had still been 2-1, it most likely would have been another heart-breaking loss for the Yankees.  Too much work…not enough…somehow, Manager Joe Girardi has to find the right mix.  His cause should be greatly aided by the impending return of Adam Warren which allows all of the relievers to return to their early season roles when they were a very dominant group.  

The Yankees (44-37) remain three games behind Boston.  The Red Sox defeated the Texas Rangers, 7-5, in extra innings.  The Tampa Bay Rays had the day off so they slid to 2 1/2 games in back of the Yankees.  

Odds & Ends…

Gary Sanchez will join Aaron Judge for next Monday’s Home Run Derby as part of the festivities for the All-Star Game.  Together, they’ll represent half of the American League’s entrants in the competition, joining Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins and Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals.  The National League team will be comprised of Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour of the Miami Marlins, Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies and Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

CC Sabathia and Adam Warren have been activated off the DL for today’s game.  Making room are pitchers Domingo German and Bryan Mitchell, who were sent to Triple A.  I am mildly surprised that it was Mitchell and not Luis Cessa pegged for the trip to Scranton, PA.

The Blue Jays will have a new catcher on their roster today.  Miguel Montero, who lost his job with the Chicago Cubs after publicly criticizing Jake Arrieta and other Chicago pitchers for being “slow to the plate”, was acquired by Toronto on Monday for a player to be named later or cash considerations.  Arrieta was on the mound when the Washington Nationals stole seven bases in a recent Cubs game.  

Get your AL All-Star Final Vote in for Didi Gregorius!  According to an update this morning, he is currently trailing Mike Moustakas and Xander Bogaerts.  C’mon NYY fans!  

Have a great 4th of July!  Hopefully the Yankees can provide the fireworks to make this a very memorable day for all of us!  Go Yankees!

A Long, Hard Day Falls Short…

Credit:  USATSI

Brian Cashman on Line 3…

The Yankees were very busy on Thursday and that was before game time.  Normally, I lead with the day’s prior game but today I wanted to catch my breath from the flurry of activity that took place yesterday.

On Wednesday night, Miguel Andujar, penciled in at DH as a fill-in for the DL’d Matt Holliday, had one of the greatest Major League debuts in franchise history.  For all I know, it may have been the best, outperforming many of the legends that have called Yankee Stadium home.  He went 3-for-4 with 4 RBI’s and a stolen base.  Thursday rolls around and he’s flying from Chicago to Syracuse, New York to catch up with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on the road.  

I get the logic.  The Yankees want Andujar to focus on third base with regular playing time.  There’s no doubt he’ll be back but it must have been tough celebrating Major League success for the first time, followed by a tap on the shoulder that the manager wanted to talk to you…and oh yeah, bring your bags.  

Coming the other way is first baseman Chris Carter.  I think @BronxPinstripes said it best on Twitter the other day when they said Carter would be back faster than you could say ‘Strike 3’.  Sad but true.  With the placement of Tyler Austin on the disabled list (hamstring), the Yankees needed a true first baseman.  Austin Romine has done a good job and I’m sure he’ll remain in the mix, but I guess we need to get prepared for more whiffs in big spots.  

To make room for Carter, the Yankees moved Greg Bird to the 60-Day Disabled List which is probably a light indication we may not see Bird again this year.  

The Yankees also recalled outfielder Dustin Fowler to replace Andujar.  I wondered what was up with Fowler.  Wednesday night, I was seeing tweets about how Fowler was a no-show for the RailRiders’ double-header.  No reason was given and when Manager Al Pedrique was asked about it after the games, he said that there would be clarity on Thursday.  Early Thursday, the news was breaking that Fowler was on his way to Chicago to meet up with the Yankees.  Obviously, the Yankees must have called the RailRiders to tell them to pull Fowler from games.  It must be tough to be a Triple A manager.  Things are going great and out of nowhere, your best players get plucked off your roster so you’re left to pillage Double A.  I don’t dispute calling up Fowler.  There is a greater outfield need right now and there’s no way I’d put all my chips on Jacoby Ellsbury.  It’s unfortunate for Andujar but it would have been a good opportunity for Fowler.  More on Fowler later.

Since Fowler was not on the 40-man roster, someone had to be voted off the island.  Unfortunately, the loser was one-time top prospect Mason Williams.  As an older prospect that never took advantage of opportunities, he was deemed expendable in an organization filled with outstanding outfield prospects.  I know these moves are as much about preparing for the December Rule 5 Draft as they are for helping the team play the White Sox and the Astros.  It will be interesting to see if the Yankees can trade Williams or if they lose him for nothing.  I don’t really see him accepting an outright assignment to Triple A but I could be wrong.  If it were me, I’d try to catch on with an organization running a little thin with outfielders.  Excuse me, Brian Sabean, can we talk?  Fowler represents the ninth Yankee making his MLB debut this year.  Gleyber Torres, why, oh why, did you make that slide?…

Busy, busy day.

White Sox 4, Yankees 3…

The exciting MLB debut for Dustin Fowler ended as horrifically as one could imagine.  On his first play in the first inning, Fowler ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee when he tried to make a running catch into foul territory to catch a fly ball and collided with the low right field foul wall.  I had been worried about Fowler going into this game.  Delayed by rain, the game didn’t begin play until 10 pm Central (which would have been 11 pm for Fowler having just flown in from Syracuse, New York).  The late, wet conditions set a horrible stage for Fowler’s debut.  I felt the game should have been called, particularly considering the Yankees had to fly to Houston, Texas to play another game today at 5:10 pm Central.  It was a very unfortunate situation for Fowler, who is out for the season.

Credit:  Patrick Gorski-AP

The Yankees are now be faced with yet another roster move.  Rob Refsnyder, who replaced Fowler in right field, dropped a fly ball that should have been caught which allowed the White Sox to score a run in the bottom of the 2nd inning.  No offense to Refsnyder but the Yankees need better help in the outfield.  It will be interesting to see if the Yankees make another adjustment with the 40-man roster to recall Clint Frazier.  

The Yankees scored first in the top of the first inning before the Fowler injury in the bottom half.  Following an infield single by Brett Gardner and a walk by Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius grounded into a fielder’s choice to first but Jose Abreu’s throw to second glanced off Judge’s left shoulder and went into left field.  Gardner scored on the play.  

In the bottom of the second, the White Sox scored two runs to take the lead.  The first run, courtesy of Refsnyder’s error.  Adam Engel, who hit the two-out fly ball that Refsnyder dropped, scored the go-ahead run when the next batter, Omar Narvaez, singled to left.  

The Yankees tied the game in the fourth.  Ronald Torreyes lined a single to deep left with runners at first and second, scoring the lead runner (Jacoby Ellsbury).  But the White Sox quickly answered in the bottom half of the inning.  Yolmer Sanchez walked to start the inning for the White Sox.  Adam Engel was hit by a pitch with one out to put runners at first and second.  Omar Narvaez grounded out to first, but the runners advanced a base.  Willy Garcia brought both runners home with a double to deep left and the White Sox led, 4-2. 

The Yankees scored their final run in the sixth when Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a triple.  He scored when Austin Romine hit into a ground out at short.  Unfortunately, the Yankees were unable to complete the rally.  They had the right opportunity in the ninth with Aaron Judge at the plate and Brett Gardner on first with two outs, but White Sox closer David Robertson struck out Judge to end the game.  

I am sure it was a very long flight from Chicago to Houston.

This was a sickening loss.  The long-term health of Dustin Fowler is the primary concern.  But these were very difficult circumstances for the Yankees to play and a game that I felt should not have been played.  The cost was far too great.  If the Yankees play sluggishly today, who can blame them.  With the loss, the Yankees (42-35) fell one game behind the Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 6-3.  The Tampa Bay Rays lost 4-0 to the Pittsburgh Pirates so they are three games behind the Yankees.

Luis Cessa (0-3) was the hard luck loser.  He pitched 4 2/3 innings, with a whopping 89 pitches, allowing 5 hits, 4 runs (2 unearned thanks to the Refsnyder error), 3 walks, and struck out 1.  If there is a positive, the Yankees bullpen threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief which included an inning by Tyler Clippard.  The pitcher, who has been very erratic of late, struck out the side in the bottom of the 7th.  

I hope Brian Cashman gets to the office early today.  He has much work to do.

Oh well, on to Houston and MLB’s best team, the Astros.  It doesn’t get any easier.

Next Up:  Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas…

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

FRIDAY

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (7-4, 4.12 ERA)

Astros:  Lance McCullers, Jr. (7-1, 2.53 ERA)

SATURDAY

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (6-4, 3.53 ERA)

Astros:  Francis Martes (2-0, 5.51 ERA)

SUNDAY

Yankees:  Luis Severino (5-3, 3.15 ERA)

Astros:  Mike Fiers (5-3, 3.98 ERA)

Odds & Ends…

Another former Yankee has found his way to the unemployment line.  The Atlanta Braves have designated 44-year-old Bartolo Colon for assignment.  I really hope the Yankees do not to take a flyer.  Let him go back to the Mets.

Have a great Friday!  Today has to be better than yesterday.  Let’s Go Yankees!

Mr Splitter, you are cordially invited to Yankee Stadium tonight…

Credit:  Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The big question today on everyone’s mind is Masahiro Tanaka.  After two consecutive disastrous starts, where are we?  With an extra day of rest due to yesterday’s rainout, we’ll soon find out.  

Since Tanaka’s gem against the Boston Red Sox on April 27th when he threw a complete game three-hit shutout, the results have not been pretty.  In his subsequent four starts, he has given up 21 earned runs (22 overall).   By definition, the only quality start since that time was his May 8th win over the Cincinnati Reds when he went seven innings, allowing only three earned runs.  But the Reds were able to get their hits against Tanaka as they racked up a total of 10 including a home run by Joey Votto.  In his last two games, Tanaka has lasted a combined total of only 4 2/3 innings and has been hammered for 14 runs and 7 home runs.  

The Yankees have confidence in Tanaka.  During a HOPE Week charity event yesterday, GM Brian offered the following comments:

“We’ve done the ‘CSI: The Bronx’ on him a number of different times.  We’ve gone through the analytics comparison from when he’s flying high to the current low.  There are no indicators other than the splitter’s not splitting like it usually does, and the command of the fastball is off.”

“But in terms of velocity — even swings and misses in the the zone, a lot of background statistics that you try to study to try to measure certain things that are alarming in nature that are off.  So we can’t point to anything other than the fact that I don’t think his splitter is as good as it’s been.  I know that for a fact.  His splitter’s not performing up to what his past standard has been.”

“Other teams are doing damage against him, but there’s no indicator of an injury.  I know the player doesn’t feel that he’s hurt, and I know the pitching coach doesn’t feel there’s an injury relation, either.”

“From an analytics standpoint and front-office perspective, we can’t seem to come up with some reason that would lead us to take that step.  We’re not afraid to do it if we felt that was necessary, but we’re not going to do something that appears to be unnecessary.” (spoken regarding whether the Yankees should have Tanaka undergo a MRI).  

“All indications are no (regarding an MRI exam).  We have all departments on call, whether guys are flying on high and doing well, as well as when guys are struggling.  Whether it’s mechanical, whether it’s something from the analytical side that shows a drop in performance that could lead to why, all those things aren’t indicating there’s an area to pursue on the medical side.”

“Obviously we want everybody playing to their capabilities at all times, but that’s just not how the game works.  It’s just about managing through the down times, and that’s what we’re all here for.”

“Right now he’s in a down stretch and so we’re looking forward to getting him up and running to what we’re used to seeing.”

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill

If Tanaka goes out and pitches at least six innings and gives up no more than 2 or 3 runs, will we feel that this was just a blip on the radar and that all is good?  Or if he strains his neck watching balls fly out of Yankee Stadium, are we going to be fearing the end of the world?  I honestly do not know what to expect with Tanaka’s performance tonight.  We’ll get early indications when we see his first few splitters and how he performs in the all-important first inning tonight against the Oakland A’s.  I am hopeful that these are just mechanical flaws and the typical slump that everyone encounters from time to time.  But if not, I am concerned.  We need the Tanaka that we’ve grown accustomed to and cannot afford a ‘Daisuke Matsuzaka’-type downward spiral.  

The Yankees enter an important three-game set tonight against the Oakland A’s.  While the A’s are only 21-25 this season, the Yankees need to take care of business with a road trip to Baltimore looming on the immediate horizon.  Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Athletics:  Kendall Graveman (2-2, 3.83 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-3, 6.56 ERA)

SATURDAY

Athletics:  Sean Manaea (2-3, 5.24 ERA)

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (4-2, 4.62 ERA)

SUNDAY

Athletics:  Andrew Triggs (5-3, 2.77 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (5-2, 3.35 ERA)

Have a great Friday!  I hope an early ‘splitter’ (from work) is effective for everyone today!

Looking Ahead to 14 Days in July…

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

Team Prospect-Hugger could get a new look the last two weeks of July.  In an interview, Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner indicated that he’ll look at any deal that crosses his desk during the final two weeks of July.  He’ll read the scouting reports, talk to GM Brian Cashman and the Scouting Department and tap into other resources to determine the best moves for the Yankees organization moving forward.  He said that he’ll divert all of his attention to any one deal that comes across his desk as he has always done in the couple of weeks leading up to the trading deadline.  It doesn’t mean that he’ll approve a deal but he’ll certainly give more than a passing thought to any deal that makes sense.

Steinbrenner sees the value in holding onto the team’s prospects as they have done for the last three or four years.

With significant dollars coming off the payroll at the end of the year ($59 million alone with the expiring contracts of CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday, and Alex Rodriguez), Steinbrenner feels the Yankees will be active in the free agent market.  “To what degree, and in what areas remains to be seen”, said Steinbrenner, in talking with reporters.

I am probably somewhere in between Hal and his father, George.  I’d be more inclined to make moves to strengthen weaker areas.  But I’d also be trying to find ways to unload dead weight off the roster.  Spending $46 million for CC Sabathia’s unreliable performances and Alex Rodriguez’s “consulting services” is a bad return on investment in a statement of the obvious.  Why don’t they just increase it to $47 million and toss me the difference? I would certainly have a more company-aligned outlook and they would be no worse for the wear.  I am looking forward to next year when a greater percentage of the payroll goes to active, contributing members of the team’s 25-man roster.  

Even though Steinbrenner may not be open to considering any deals until mid-July, there’s no doubt that Cashman and Company have already begin dialing other teams to open dialogue for potential trades involving targeted players.  If the Yankees do prove that they are for real this year, it should be a very fun and active July.  I am certainly not expecting a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado type trade, but reinforcements to stay the upward course would be very much appreciated.  

I am glad to hear that one of my favorite prospects, pitcher Albert Abreu, will be coming off the DL for High-A Tampa on Friday.  Abreu has been on the DL since May 2nd with elbow inflammation.  Abreu will start in Friday’s game against the Dayton Tortugas in place of Domingo Acevedo, who was promoted to AA-Trenton.  

Last summer, the two best outfield prospects in the Cleveland Indians organization were Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer.  Zimmer received his call to join the Show this week, and looks to be a long-term fixture in Cleveland as an Andrew Miller teammate.  On Wednesday, with his parents in attendance, Zimmer had a run-scoring double and a home run.  Zimmer, two years older than Frazier, looks to be one of the game’s superior talents for years to come.  I know it’s not Yankees-related but it is great to see good young players flourish in the Major Leagues.  There’s no doubt he received a congratulatory text from Frazier.

The Yankees were victorious in baseball action last night with an 11-7 victory over the Kansas City Royals.  With the final game of the series to be played today, the Yankees have already taken the series by winning the first two games of the three-game set.  

Of the three Royals pitchers that we would be facing, I was most concerned about Jason Vargas.  The veteran pitcher had gotten off to a great start at 5-1 with a 1.01 ERA.  But four innings and six runs later, the ERA had more than doubled to 2.03.  Michael Pineda (4-2) was the winner, but he did give up two home runs.  For six innings of work, he gave up six hits, four runs (three earned), and two walks.  He also registered 5 K’s.  I would have liked to have seen better work but with the Yankees racing out to a 10-2 lead by the fifth inning, Pineda was guilty somewhat of letting up on the gas.  

Every Yankee in the starting lineup got a hit in the 16-hit attack.  Aaron Hicks, filling in for Jacoby Ellsbury, hit a three run homer in the fourth inning on a 2-for-4 night.

Credit:  John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS

The Royals scored three runs with two outs in the ninth inning against Yankees reliever Giovanny Gallegos.  With two runners on base and the potential tying run on deck, Dellin Betances came in for one out, a soft grounder back to the pitcher, to end the game, recording his first save of the season with just four pitches. 

The Yankees (24-13) took advantage of a loss by the Baltimore Orioles to move 1 1/2 games up in the AL East.  The O’s lost to the Detroit Tigers in a close game, 5-4.  Former Yankee Justin Wilson, recently named closer for the Tigers, picked up his third save.  It could have been a great night but the Boston Red Sox pulled out a 5-4 win in 13 innings against the St Louis Cardinals.  

Have a great Thursday!  Hopefully the Yankees grab another “W” before racing to Kansas City International Airport for the flight to Tampa later this evening.