Tagged: Bryan Mitchell

Flying to New York on a Positive Note…

All is right in the world again…  

Yankees win and the Orioles do not.  Two to three weeks ago, who would’ve guessed that the Yankees best pitcher would be CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka its worst.  Thanks to CC’s strong performance, the three runs scored by the Yankees in the second inning would be all they needed in the 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.  

Despite the run-scoring single by Didi Gregorius and a two-run homer by Brett Gardner, Chris Archer showed why he would be a prime trade target for the Yankees.  He struck out twelve Bombers in 6 1/3 innings but couldn’t overcome CC or the Yanks bullpen.  

The play of the game was Aaron Judge’s diving backhanded catch of a deep fly by Evan Longoria with a runner on base.  If Judge was two inches shorter, he never would have made the catch!  He needed every bit of his 6’7” frame to reach the fly but much to the surprise of Rays base runner Corey Dickerson, who was doubled off first, he did.  

Credit:  Associated Press

Sabathia (4-2) went five innings for the win.  In 95 pitches, he only allowed four hits, two runs (one earned) and one walk.  He had six strikeouts.  The Yanks bullpen trio of Chad Green, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances contributed four innings with no hits or runs, one walk, and five strikeouts.  Betances earned his second save since Aroldis Chapman went on the 10-Day DL.

Didi Gregorius was 4-for-4, matching his career high for hits.  Both Aaron Judge and Matt Holliday whiffed four times in 0-for-4 days.  

The Yankees (25-16) recaptured first place in the AL East, thanks to Marco Estrada and the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Jays defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 3-1, to allow the Yanks to re-take a half-game lead.  

The Tyler Austin Watch…  

In his second game for the AA-Trenton Thunder, Tyler Austin was 1-for-2, a single, in the Thunder’s 1-0 loss to the Portland Sea Dogs.  He played first base and was replaced by Billy Fleming after two at-bats.  The game also saw the AA debut of reliever Jose Mesa, Jr (son of the former major leaguer) for the Thunder.  He pitched three innings with no hits or runs, but did allow two walks while striking out two, in relief of tough-luck loser Yefry Ramirez (6 IP, 4H, 1R/ER, 2BB, and 8SO). 

In related news, Chris Carter was 0-for-3 for the Yankees in Tampa.  If Austin continues to hit and Carter does not, we know how this story is going to end.  Or how it should end.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Shuttle…  

Prior to Sunday’s game, the Yankees recalled reliever Bryan Mitchell and returned Giovanny Gallegos to AAA.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Speaking of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre…

The Yankees top prospect, shortstop Gleyber Torres, has been elevated to the RailRiders.  In 32 games, Torres hit 5 home runs and drove in 18 runs.  He batted .273 and stole 5 bags.    The 20-year-old, who can also play second and third, is just a stone’s throw away from the Bronx.  Current theory has Torres taking second base for the Yankees when he is ready, with Starlin Castro sliding to third. 

Credit:  Matt Rourke/AP

I cannot say SWB without mentioning righty Chance Adams.  Through two games, Adams is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA.  He has pitched 12 innings, allowing six hits and two runs.  He has walked three batters while striking out eleven.  Adams was the loser in Friday’s 2-1 pitcher’s duel loss to Aaron Slegers and the Rochester Red Wings.

Pitching Match-ups for Yankees-Royals…  

The Yankees are back in the Bronx for a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals, their opponent prior to the just-completed Tampa Bay Rays series.  The Yankees took two of three in Kansas City, losing only the final game of the series.  

TODAY:

Royals:  Jason Vargas (5-2, 2.03 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (4-2, 3.42 ERA)

TUESDAY:

Royals:  Danny Duffy (3-3, 2.97 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 4.81 ERA)

WEDNESDAY:

Royals:  Jason Hammel (1-5, 6.20 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (2-2, 3.64 ERA)

THURSDAY:

Royals:  Nathan Karns (2-2, 4.17 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-3, 6.56, Yikes!)

Honestly, I would have skipped Tanaka this run through the rotation.  He needs to work on the mental side to get back to the basics to re-establish his splitter and slider.  Karns was a late announcement for Thursday’s game.  The veteran is dealing with forearm stiffness.  If he is unable to go, I’d probably expect to see Chris Young (0-0, 6.85 ERA) filling in.  I seriously hope that we’ll see an improved Tanaka on Thursday but admittedly my glass is half-empty…

 

Have a great Monday!  Let’s make it two in a row!   

Fifteen wins for April? Sign me up…

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

All things considered, I’d rather talk about wins than losses…  

After reeling off two wins against the Baltimore Orioles, it felt like the chances were good for a sweep when the Yankees rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie Sunday’s game 4-4.  But unfortunately, luck ran out and the Yankees lost 7-4 as they now await the arrival of the Toronto Blue Jays later today.  

The loss dropped the Yankees to 15-8 and back into a tie for first place with the Orioles.

Although the Yankees had their chances late in the game, I thought the inability to push more runs across early in the game was key.  Had they broken open the game early, there would have been no need for late game heroics.  Through the first three innings, the Yankees left seven men on base.  The Yankees had runners on second and third with no outs in the second inning, but failed to score when O’s starter Wade Miley struck out Kyle Higashioka, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks in succession.

For the game, the Yankees left sixteen runners on base.  Still, they had a chance, thanks to a single by Didi Gregorius in the bottom of the ninth that scored Aaron Judge and Chase Headley to tie the game.  After Gregorius took second due to defensive indifference, the Yankees had runners at second and third.  Unfortunately, Chris Carter struck out to end the threat with a weak at-bat.  

From there, things got interesting.  Manager Joe Girardi moved reliever Bryan Mitchell, who had pitched the top of the ninth, to first base, and brought in Aroldis Chapman.  By keeping Mitchell in the game, the Yankees lost the DH spot in the lineup as it was taken by the new pitcher.  Had the Yankees won the game in the bottom of the tenth, it would have been a brilliant move.  Mitchell did commit one error (dropped foul pop) but Chapman prevented any other damage.  Sadly, with no DH, Matt Holliday was out of the game, and the Yankees had to pinch hit Greg Bird with the winning run at third base and only one out.  Bird was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and the next batter, Starlin Castro, hit into a force out that got Austin Romine out at the plate.  With the bases still loaded and two outs, Aaron Judge had a chance to send his team to victory, but it was not meant to be as he struck out.  

The lost chances eliminated the Yankees’ hopes for a win as the Orioles scored three runs in the top of the eleventh against Bryan Mitchell, who had moved back to pitching from first base to replace Chapman at the start of the inning.  

It was a frustrating set of circumstances that led to the lost DH but I do not fault Girardi for trying to get creative.  With a depleted bullpen, the Yankees did not have the men for an extended extra inning affair.  I would have preferred to have seen Holliday batting in the tenth with the winning run 90 feet away but you cannot fault Girardi’s logic.  He was trying to win a game and it could have (coulda, woulda, shoulda) worked out.  

I am not going to worry about a loss on April 30th.  The Yankees are still playing very well, and there’s nothing about yesterday’s loss that can detract from the excitement about the team.  If the Yankee took two games out of three for every series, they’d be in excellent shape.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Tonight, the Yankees begin a three game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.  After a horrific start to the season, the Blue Jays are starting to win.  They took two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend.  This will be a big test for the young Yankees.

The scheduled pitching match-ups are:

MONDAY

Blue Jays:  Marco Estrada (0-1, 2.70 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (2-1, 3.00 ERA)

TUESDAY

Blue Jays:  Mat Latos (0.00, 3.27 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (3-1, 4.20 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (2-2, 2.97 ERA)

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (2-1, 4.34 ERA)

The former Yankees in this series are Blue Jays starting catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Steve Pearce.

Speaking of ex-Yankees, infielder Pete Kozma, who had been designated for assignment when Didi Gregorius returned, has been claimed by the Texas Rangers.  To make room for Kozma, the Rangers demoted former top prospect Jurickson Profar to Triple-A.  Best of luck to Kozma and thanks to him for his brief efforts in the Bronx.

As for current Yankees, catcher Gary Sanchez begins a rehab assignment with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tomorrow with eyes on returning this weekend at Wrigley Field in Chicago.  

Have a great Monday!  Let’s get this machine back in the win column!

Mystique & Aura Were Dancing The Night Away…

Credit:  Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Despite CC Sabathia pitching like this is truly his final year in Pinstripes, the Yankees staged a very improbable and dramatic comeback to beat the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.  

Mark Trumbo’s grand slam in the sixth inning off reliever Bryan Mitchell had me switching channels to check out what was happening with the NFL Draft.  At 9-1, I was fairly confident the Yankees would be falling to two games behind the O’s in the AL East standings when the night was done.  Fortunately for me, none of the current 25 men on the Yankees roster shared my opinion.  

Yesterday before the game, I read this observation about CC Sabathia on a Yankees blog site:

“It’s hard to judge CC Sabathia, seeing as how he’s a different pitcher than he was just a couple of years ago. However, I believe his final ERA this season will be closer to 5.00 than it will be to 3.00 (he’s currently at 2.70).”

While I agreed with the comments, I just didn’t expect it to come true on a single night.  By the time CC was pulled last night in the sixth inning, his season ERA had ballooned from the aforementioned 2.70 to 4.34.  CC’s line was very ugly…5 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 7 runs, 2 home runs.  It doesn’t matter that he managed to strike out 6 batters.  It was an awful night for CC and most nights, it would have been one for the “L” column.

Although the Yankees scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth, which included a two-run homer from Aaron Judge, to close the gap to 9-4, it looked like the Orioles were going to have a monster inning in the seventh.  They scored a couple more runs off Mitchell to push their lead to 11-4 and had the bases loaded with one out.  In perhaps the best pitching performance of the night, Jonathan Holder came on to thwart the O’s and the end the inning without further damage by retiring the always dangerous Manny Machado and slugger Mark Trumbo.  

When Jacoby Ellsbury hit his first career grand slam in the bottom of the seventh to bring the score to 11-8, it still felt like it was too little too late but the door was cracked.  It was a game again.  Coming into the bottom of the ninth, it still felt like the 11-8 score was too much to overcome.  With elite closer Zach Britton on the Disabled List, the O’s had to go to Brad Brach for the attempted save.  After picking up a run on a force-out, Starlin Castro launched an improbable game-tying two-run home run from his knees.  

The game moved into extra innings and Aroldis Chapman held the O’s in check in the top of the 10th despite allowing a single to Mark Trumbo.  He racked up his second strike-out of the frame by ending the O’s threat on a called third strike to Chris Davis.  

Enter bottom of the tenth.  Orioles reliever Jayson Aquino came on to replace Brach, and proceeded to walk the first two batters (Aaron Hicks and Kyle Higashioka).  Chase Headley had an opportunity to be the hero but struck out swinging as he chased a few high pitches.  Next up, Matt Holliday, a member of the New York Yankees for a grand total of 21 games.  Aquino opted to throw a soft change-up to Holliday with his first pitch.  Big mistake.  Game over.  Yankees win, 14-11.  Wow, games don’t get much more exciting than this.  For new players to the Bronx, there is often a long adjustment period.  For Holliday, he decided that patience is not a virtue and decided to go ahead and carve his own piece of history into the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium three weeks into his new Pinstriped career.  It was an incredible game.

The Yankees and Orioles are tied for the AL East Lead with 14-7 records entering today’s action.  I know, it’s still early and it is a long season, but this Yankees team is very fun.  It’s been fun since the trading deadline last year and has continued.  Aaron Judge ended up hitting two home runs on the night which I didn’t really address in this post.  He is rapidly becoming ‘must-watch’ with every at-bat.  Matt Holliday’s accolades for Judge were overflowing in his post-game comments.  We are clearly watching the blossoming of a Yankees superstar before our eyes.  Had Judge homered in the bottom of the ninth instead of walking, this game would have been on continual replay on the YES Network.  

Have a great Saturday!  It will be tough to top Friday night, but let’s take this series today.  Go Yankees!

Free As A Bird…

The slump is over.

On a night the Yankees completed their seventh consecutive win (sixth straight at home for the first time since 1998), thanks largely to another good pitching performance by Michael Pineda, the star of the game, for me, was first baseman Greg Bird.

After Aaron Judge’s apparent home run in the second inning was ruled a triple due to fan interference, Bird smashed a ‘no-doubt-about-it’ 444 foot homer to right, scoring Judge.  The Baseball Gods smiled.  Mystique and Aura were alive and well, and dancing throughout the Stadium.  

Bird was 3-for-3 for the game with two runs scored and the two RBI’s courtesy of the long homer.  He raised his batting average by 100 points (from .038 to .138).  It was a beautiful sight to see.  Bird’s bat is instrumental to the long term success for the team so it was great to see the strong offensive explosion.  Maybe he did take my slump-busting advice after all (reference to Mark Grace’s infamous slump buster quote).   

A week ago Saturday, when the Yankees stood at 1-4, it was hard to be optimistic.  Now, at 8-4 and just a half-game behind the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles, the glass is half full once again.  If not for the Orioles (8-3 in one less game), the Yankees would be tied for the best record in all of Baseball.  

Michael Pineda delivered a very solid pitching performance, allowing only two runs in seven innings of work.  He did allow six hits (including Yadier Molina’s home run in the seventh) but he walked only one and struck out six.  I was thinking to myself that the Yankees pitchers, excluding Masahiro Tanaka (so far), seem to be playing a game of ‘one-up-manship’.  But then I came across a Jordan Montgomery quote.  “Yeah, well every staff I’ve been a part of, (when we) get rolling like this, we’re all just trying to beat the last guy that were out there.  Kind of one-up him, and one-up and then one-up.”  Yep, he one-upped me.  Now, if Masahiro Tanaka could join the One-Up Party.

Hats off to Ronald Torreyes.  He was not my choice for starting shortstop when Didi Gregorius but the so-called “Toe” has been a great fill-in.  He drove in two with a ground rule double in the eighth inning to push his team-leading season RBI total to ten (two more than the Aarons who both have eight).  I am looking forward to the return of Gregorius, but Torreyes has impressed.  He’s doing his best to ensure that Ruben Tejada never puts on the Yankee pinstripes at Yankee Stadium.  

I hate to say that I was nervous with a 9-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning but I gotta admit that Bryan Mitchell had me a little worried.  The inning did not start well with a double by Eric Fryer.  A wild pitch advanced Fryer to third, and Mitchell ended up walking the next batter (Jedd Gyorko) on four pitches.  Randal Grichuk then hit a ball toward third which Torreyes made a great stop but then hurriedly threw the ball to second baseman Starlin Castro for a force out attempt.  The throw was too low and Castro couldn’t come up with it, and Torreyes was charged with the throwing error.  Fryer scored on the play. A home run at that point could have brought the score to 9-6 (too close for comfort).  Fortunately, Mitchell settled down and got the next three batters out by strikeout and two fly balls, and it was game over.

I felt bad for Matt Holliday as he missed his second game with the lower back stiffness.  So it wasn’t much of a reunion for Holliday with his old mates, and he finished the series with his Friday night performance (0-for-4, three strikeouts).  Per Manager Joe Girardi, he was available to pinch-hit so hopefully that means he’ll be back in the saddle tonight against the Chicago White Sox.  Of all the things I want to see with the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury as the clean-up hitter has not been one of them.  Hopefully, Girardi is able to pencil in #17 for the clean-up spot tonight.    

Playing the Chicago White Sox brings a few former Yankees back to the Bronx.  Starting pitcher Jose Quintana, Closer David Robertson, relievers Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak, and outfielder Melky Cabrera.  Friday night, in a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, the White Sox made “Garcia” history when every starting outfielder was named Garcia.  Willy in left, Leury in center, and Avisail in right.  Quintana pitched on Saturday in a 6-0 loss to the Twins and will not be available this series.  I’ve already read a few ‘trade for Quintana’ articles this morning.  Stop it.  Forget Quintana and move on with life.  

Have an awesome Monday!  Eight would be great!

The Dawn of the New Season…

It seems like we were just getting excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp.  Now, here we are at the end of the Grapefruit League season and awaiting the first pitch to start the 2017 MLB season.

It was a very successful Spring for the Yankees.  It was far better than I could have imagined.  Heading into Spring, we were concerned about Greg Bird.  He hit well late in the 2015 season but missed most of last year due to his shoulder injury.  There was doubt about how he would perform and if the shoulder would hold him back like, say, the way Mark Teixeira’s wrist did.  Bird smashed any concerns that he is ready.  I know that Spring stats do not really mean much, but Bird led the Yankees with 8 home runs and was second on the team behind Gary Sanchez with 15 RBI’s.  He played first base like a veteran and by all accounts, he is posed to be a future star in New York.  I’ve always thought of Bird as a professional hitter and not one who will be susceptible to prolonged slumps.  I am very glad to see that he is ready to fly (no pun intended).

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Credit:  John Raoux, AP

What can you say about Gary Sanchez?  He continued the great success from last Fall without missing a beat.  His bat delivered (5 homers and 16 RBI’s), and do did his arm (.983 fielding percentage in 102 innings worked, with a sub .500 stolen base percentage against him as he threw out 6 runners while only allow 4 SB’s).  He is arguably the most exciting Yankees catcher since Jorge Posada or to place him higher, Thurman Munson.  Good times ahead for the catching position, no doubt.

Aaron Judge held off Aaron Hicks to win right field in the Battle of Aarons.  I feel bad for Hicks because I know that he needs to play every day to be successful.  It’s hard to get into rhythm with limited, spot starts.  But I would have been very disappointed to see Hicks get the right field job over Judge.  At this point, sending Judge down to Triple A serves no purpose.  He has proven himself at that level.  He needs to master the Major Leagues and he can only do that by being here and playing every day.  His ceiling, if successful, is so much greater than Hicks.  Dating back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, I love powerful right fielders at Yankee Stadium.

If I was the General Manager of the Yankees, Brett Gardner would be living in a different zip code.  Nothing against Gardner, he’s been a good Yankee but his best days are behind him.  He needs to open the way for younger guys.  I’d prefer to start Hicks in left over Gardner, so I’d find a way to move Gardy even if the return is not ideal.  The perfect scenario would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and move Gardner to center, but that’s not going to happen with nearly $90 million left on Ellsbury’s contract.

In the starting rotation, Luis Severino won the fourth spot but it was not an overpowering Spring performance.  Last year, Severino chased his first win as a starter without success (he picked up a few wins in the bullpen but was 0-8 in his starts).  I really hopeful that we do not go weeks or months trying to get that elusive first win this year.  Severino has so much potential but he still leaves so many wondering if his stuff plays better out of the pen.  It would be nice if he could prove those naysayers wrong (including me) to become a vital part of the rotation.

Manager Joe Girardi has delayed his decision for a fifth starter.  With three scheduled off days during April including two days in the first week, a fifth starter is not needed until Sunday, April 16th at home against the St Louis Cardinals.  Of the competitors for the fifth spot, only Bryan Mitchell made the Opening Day roster as a reliever.  Chad Green will go down to AA Trenton while Jordan Montgomery will go to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Both Green and Montgomery will have early April starts in the minors for further auditions.  I am sure that Mitchell will get some audition opportunities through long relief.  Mitchell had been my favorite for the rotation but Jordan Montgomery changed my mind.  So, I am hopeful that Montgomery gets the call-up when it is time for the fifth starter.

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Credit:  Associated Press

I was glad to see Chasen Shreve make the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind Tommy Layne.  Well, technically the third but Aroldis Chapman doesn’t really count since he’s on the mound at the end of games regardless of who is at the plate.  When the Yankees toyed with the minor league signings of Ernesto Frieri and Jon Niese, I was fearful that Shreve would be one of the odd men out.  Perhaps he still is given the Yankees’ propensity for the using the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle to keep the bullpen fresh.  Another young reliever I am happy for is Jonathan Holder.

Utility player Ronald Torreyes won the interim shortstop role while Didi Gregorius begins the year on the Disabled List.  I am not excited about Torreyes in an every day role, but there were limited internal options.  The Yankees will make room on the 40-man roster to bring up Pete Kozma to back up Torreyes, but Kozma has no bat.  It did not make sense for the Yankees to trade for a shortstop since Didi will be back by the end of April or early May, and, unfortunately,  prospect Tyler Wade is not quite ready.  I also didn’t want to see the Yankees slide Starlin Castro back to short.  He is still relatively inexperienced at second and needs to continue his work at the position.  The Yankees obviously agreed as they never played Castro at short during training camp.  Many thought the Yankees should have slid Castro to short to allow Rob Refsnyder to start at second.  I am not sure that Refsnyder, for whatever reason, will ever get a legitimate chance in the Bronx.  He was sent down to AAA for the start of the season with earlier reports that he was on the trading block.

I am not expecting this to be a playoff year for the Yankees.  They could surprise and nab a Wild Card spot but I don’t think this is their year to unseat the Boston Red Sox as AL East Champions.  They are still a year or two away from being a legitimate World Series contender.  I do think this will be a more exciting team than last year’s team from beginning to end.  The Baby Bombers proved that last year when the deadline deals moved Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians, and Alex Rodriguez was released.  It was only a preview of the excitement and energy the younger players can bring, which is further enhanced by the presence of Greg Bird this year.

Despite the quick arrival of the regular season, I am ready.  Play ball!…

Baseball Equipment Laying on Grass

Warp Speed to Opening Day…

At the conclusion of the World Series, the off-season seems like it will be so long.  We wait for the opening of free agency, then the winter meetings  which generally brings a short frenzy with signings and trades.  Then we wait through the holidays, and go through a quiet January.  Finally, around Valentine’s Day, we are able to get our baseball fix as training camps begin to open.

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Then, we blink, and here we are a week away from Opening Day.  Cubs fans are probably still trying to recover from the hangovers, but the rest of us are anxious to begin the new year and at this point, everyone is optimistic.

The Yankees’ off-season was relatively quiet.  The major move, aside from the return of Aroldis Chapman, was to sign free agent Matt Holliday, now the team’s starting DH.  Matt’s days in the field, at age 37, are over but the bat remains effective and so do the leadership abilities.  I’ve been very pleased this spring with the impact that Matt has had on the younger players, most notably Aaron Judge.  With only a one-year contract, it is possible that this is Matt’s only year in pinstripes.  Time will tell, but given what I’ve seen so far, I hope the team is able to find a way to bring him back next year.

Matt Holliday

Credit:  Matt Rourke, AP

I am not sure what can be said about Masahiro Tanaka other than he’s been amazing this spring.  Through five starts and 18 2/3 innings, he’s only surrendered six hits while striking out 22 to go with a sparkling 0.00 ERA.  I realize that spring stats do not mean a great deal but Tanaka appears to be setting himself up for a career year.  Of course that carries good news/bad news as Tanaka can opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but that’s something to worry about after the season.  For now, let’s just enjoy what could be a tremendous year for the young right-hander.

Manager Joe Girardi has announced that CC Sabathia, rather than Michael Pineda, will slot in the rotation behind Tanaka.  It was something of a surprise given CC was fighting for the fifth spot last spring.  Girardi gave the ‘right-left’right’ strategy as his logic for the move, putting the left-handed Sabathia between two righties.  He also referenced Sabathia’s numbers last year…3.91 ERA in 30 starts.  His record was only 9-12 but wins and losses are deceiving for pitchers as they are dependent upon run support.

I am not sure how Pineda will react to the move back to third in the rotation.  If it motivates him to overcome his inconsistency, I am all for it.  The starting rotation needs a solid year from Pineda if it is going to be successful.

The fight for the last two spots in the rotation has been interesting.  At the start of training camp, I felt the favorites were Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  Severino started strong and then has struggled with starts recently (although he did throw three hitless innings in relief yesterday).  Mitchell has been good but not great.  Chad Green has probably pitched the best among the contenders but the dark horse that is emerging is tall left-hander Jordan Montgomery.  Luis Cessa, one of the early hopefuls, has already been sent to minor league camp for re-assignment.  At 6’6” with an ability to pitch inside, I am very intrigued by Montgomery. He has proven himself at both the AA and AAA levels, and I think the 24-year-old is ready for the major leagues.

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Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports

In the right field competition, I think Aaron Judge has done enough to hold off Aaron Hicks.  The stats are fairly comparable.  Judge is batting .300 (15-for-50) with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Although he is still among the leaders in strikeouts (with 12), he is striking out less than he did last season in the Bronx.  Hicks is batting .279 (12-for-43), also with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Hicks has struck out seven times.  Judge has also displayed a terrific arm in right.  For me, Judge has done what he needs to this spring and deserves the opportunity to take right field.

Greg Bird has been named the starting first baseman to the surprise of no one.  Bird currently carries a .432 BA (19-for-44) with 6 HR and 11 RBI.  I don’t think there was any chance that Chris Carter was going to beat out Bird, but Carter has been almost non-existent during training camp.  He is currently batting .136 (6-for-44) which is actually up from where it was a few days ago.  He only has one home run to go with 22 strikeouts.  I think there’s a very strong argument for why Carter should be DFA’d when Tyler Austin returns from his foot injury.

With the final days of training camp winding down, the greatest uncertainty lies with shortstop.  Didi Gregorius is out for the next month after suffering the shoulder sprain in the World Baseball Classic, so the question is who will replace Didi at short.  The most logical move would be to slide Starlin Castro to short, and use a platoon of Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder at second.  For me, it’s not ideal because Castro is still learning the nuances of second base and it should remain his focus.  The only problem is there are no other true shortstops on the 40-man roster.  Prospect Tyler Wade is the most advanced shortstop in the system and he’s probably my favorite for the temporary replacement but he’s young (only 22).  He’s batting .342 in Grapefruit League action (13-for-38) but doesn’t have much power.  Other possibilites are non-roster invitees Pete Kozma and Ruben Tejada.  Didi’s bat will certainly be missed while he is away.

With the latest minor league re-assignments, the Yankees have 39 players remaining in camp.  This includes the injured players (Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius).  With Opening Day just a week away, there will be more cuts this week as the Yankees pare down to 25 for the trip to St Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rays on April 2nd.

This has been a fun spring.  The Yankees have the best record in the Grapefruit League (or the Cactus League for that matter).  I know that spring stats mean nothing when the regular season starts but winning is always fun.  We’ve seen some great stuff from the talented super-prospects in the organization like Gleyber Torres and James Kaprielian.  Although they won’t be heading north with the big league club, they’ve given us glimpses of their incredible futures.  Gary Sanchez has continued to impress and Greg Bird has shown that last year’s shoulder injury is no longer an issue.  I am anxious and ready for the season to start.  The Cubs are yesterday’s news.

The March to Opening Day…

How will the Yankees “manage” potential change?…

Will Joe Girardi be the Yankees manager this time next year?  As the manager enters the final year of his contract, the expectation is that he’ll re-sign with the Yankees in October or November.  But anything is possible.  The Steinbrenner family might have a change of heart and decide that a change is needed.  Girardi has held the job for a long time (this will be his 10th season as Yankees skipper).

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

I get frustrated with Girardi at times.  He’s never been one of my favorite managers.  I had greater confidence in Joe Torre’s ability to lead.  Among current managers, I hold Don Mattingly and Terry “Tito” Francona in highest regard.

Mattingly was my favorite player so sentimentally that’s probably why he is my favorite manager.  In 2008, when the Yankees hired Girardi over Mattingly, I did think it was the right decision given Mattingly’s lack of managerial experience at the time.  Mattingly was not able to succeed in Los Angeles for the Dodgers, but I’ve felt he has continually improved each year.  Today, I’d easily take Mattingly over Girardi.  My only reservation with hiring Mattingly as Yankees manager (assuming the Yankees could pry him from Miami) is preservation of his Yankees legacy.  Managers are hired to be fired or so the saying goes.  I wouldn’t want my final memory of Mattingly in pinstripes to be him walking away after being fired.

I have admired Francona since he was manager of the Boston Red Sox.  I had great respect for the champions he built and of course he was responsible for ending The Curse of the Bambino, along with then general manager Theo Epstein.  I doubt that Francona would ever leave the Cleveland Indians (by his own choice).  The Yankees could have hired him after he was fired in Boston but they did not express any interest.  Francona has history with the Cleveland Indians franchise (pre-dating his time in Boston), and after taking the team to the World Series last year, he is very beloved in the city.

If the Yankees do decide to make a managerial change at the end of the season, I just don’t see any overwhelming candidates who could do a better job.  Mattingly would be great, but he is under contract, so it would take a trade to make it happen.  I am not enthused by simply elevating one of the coaches (Rob Thomson or Tony Pena).

This situation bears watching over the course of the season.  I think the odds are much better that GM Brian Cashman, also in the final year of a contract, re-signs with the Yankees than Girardi.  Time will tell.

Let the competition be Judged…

The Yankees have various degrees of competition at certain positions this spring.  The most obvious is the two open spots in the pitching rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.  The early leaders, in my opinion, are Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  But there is still time for Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and perhaps Adam Warren to state their case.  I am anxious and excited for Jordan Montgomery and James Kaprielian but it does not appear to be their times yet.  Kaprielian has the higher ceiling but he won’t make an appearance at Yankee Stadium, barring injuries, until September at the earliest.  Montgomery could show up sooner and might be the first or second option if someone gets hurt.

MONTGOMERY

The competition at first base evaporated somewhat when Tyler Austin broke his foot.  Greg Bird clearly holds the advantage over Chris Carter despite the latter’s 41 home runs last season.  Unlike Carter, Bird is good defensively (even if he’s not on par with former first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove) and hits for average.  As Bird has shown this spring, he still has his power following last year’s injury.

Right field was also a speculated position of competition.  Most assume that Aaron Judge will get the job, but technically, he is in competition with Aaron Hicks.  Judge has a much greater upside, but he did strike out 42 out of 84 times late last season.  If he is not able to make the necessary adjustments at the big league level, it could open the door for Hicks to take the job.  I personally hope it does not happen.  I am hopeful that Judge figures it out at this level like he has at every level thus far.

The flaming red hair is left on the barbershop floor…

Kudos to OF Clint Frazier for cutting his bushy red hair this week.  While I personally feel that the Yankees current hair policy is outdated, I thought it was a good move by Frazier to cut his hair after a talk with Manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi felt that the hair had become a distraction.  It was a mature statement by Frazier in saying that he loved playing for the organization more than his hair.

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Frazier won’t break camp with the Yankees, but he’ll be there soon enough.  This is all part of his maturation into a dynamic young future star outfielder for the Pinstripers.

There’s other baseball on TV…

I should probably watch the WBC more but I’ve never been into it.  Still, I fully understand the importance of placing Baseball on the World Stage and should reconsider my complacency.  I guess I am just get tired of seeing the Dominican Republic or Japan always win the competition.

Regardless, it was fun to see the USA defeat Columbia, 3-2, on a run-scoring single by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles.  Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard picked up the win.  The game featured a very strong start by Jose Quintana for Columbia.  The rumors continue to swirl about Quintana’s future and the Yankees remain one of the potential destinations.  His WBC performance yesterday did nothing to dispel those rumors.

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Credit:  Logan Bowles, USA TODAY Sports

Have a great weekend, everyone!

—Scott