|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Mitch Stringer)|
Shoes or no shoes, Rookie continues to excel…
The Yankees didn’t beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 on Friday night solely behind the bat, feet, and arm of young Gleyber Torres but as usual, the youngster was in the thick of things as the Yankees won the opener of their now three-game series with the O’s behind solid pitching by Sonny Gray.
Admittedly, I moved to pessimistic mode when Sonny Gray allowed the first inning solo shot by the great Manny Machado, but Torres changed my mood considerably when he singled in the third to score Neil Walker with the tying run.
Torres led off the fifth inning with a double that he tried to stretch to triple but an uncooperative shoe that went flying off his foot altered his momentum with a slight stumble that allowed the outfield throw to reach third ahead of the sliding Torres. Although the Orioles announcer for the TV broadcast I was watching called the Yankees second baseman by the name of Gleyber Torreyes during the at-bat, Torres continues to be a very exciting player regardless of the outcome or how you pronounce his name.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Nick Wass)|
Greg Bird, showing why he is so highly thought of by the Yankees organization, tripled to the center field wall, when O’s outfielder Adam Jones misjudged his leap, scoring Brett Gardner with the go-ahead run. Gardy had singled after the shoeless Torres had been thrown out at third. Bird, please just stay healthy. We need you.
I was very pleased with the overall performance by Sonny Gray. I can get so infuriated with his pitching but he delivered the way he was expected to when GM Brian Cashman summoned the former Oakland Athletic to the Bronx last summer. After giving up the Machado homer, he held the O’s to three meaningless hits and no runs before his departure after six innings.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
For as much as I have focused on Torres in recent days, there’s no question Aaron Judge is this team’s MVP. His seventh inning homer (his 16th dinger of the season and 41st RBI) gave the Yankees a three-run cushion they would not relinquish. Psychologically, this was huge, especially when Dellin Betances loaded the bases in the eighth with a couple of walks and a plunking of Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo. Fortunately, Betances was able to exit the inning unscathed when he got the unspectacular Jace Peterson out on a grounder back to the pitching mound.
Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win for Gray and the Yankees. It was his 13th save of the season. I am grateful we continue to see 2016 Chapman and not last year’s version.
The Boston Red Sox (39-19) lost again, their second loss in a row to the Houston Astros, so the Yankees (36-17) have narrowed the gap in the AL East to just a half game. The Astros, behind the pitching of Gerrit Cole, beat Chris Sale for the 7-3 victory. The Orioles are 21 games behind the Yankees. Wow, it’s only June 2nd. I do feel badly for O’s manager Buck Showalter. I am not sure that he’s going to survive this season. I used to love beating him but now he just looks so pathetic in the O’s dugout, loss after loss. I can still remember watching Showalter as a Double A player in the Yankees farm system as if it was yesterday. The team that was surprised me the most in the division is the 28-28 Tampa Bay Rays, currently in third. They’ve lost a couple games but for them to be playing .500 ball is impressive given the current talent struggles on their roster. They are playing more like how I expected the O’s to play instead of vice versa.
The legendary Yankees career of Oliver Perez has come to an end. After signing a minor league contract earlier this year, Perez wasn’t awful for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but there was no chance he was going to find his way to the Bronx. He exercised a June 1st opt-out and will have a chance to find a team with a clearer path of the Major Leagues. Good luck to him. Frankly, I am glad the Yankees never needed his services.
Bryan Van Dusen wrote an excellent piece the other day about the value of the roster spots for the Yankees (too many good players to fit within the confines of a 25-man roster). I am always too quick to dump on Aaron Hicks but leave it to Van Dusen to provide the reminder for why Hicks is a valuable role player for the Yankees: “Aaron Hicks – I’m not sold on him being a starter, at least not for the Yankees, but if you look beyond a pedestrian batting average this season (.232) he’s a solid player. He’ll get on base at a decent clip, doesn’t strike out much, makes contact often, and is a top ten defensive centerfielder in all of MLB.” As usual, I agree with Bryan. I’d love to see Clint Frazier at the Major Leagues, but for as much as I might like him over Hicks, Red Thunder is not going to experience MLB success in center field. He’ll make his mark with a corner outfield position and last time I checked, those spots are filled. Van Dusen suggested moving Gardy to center to open left for Clint Frazier but goes on to say letting Frazier crush it in Triple A to help his trade value might be the best path. Again, I have to agree. I love Red Thunder and it would be awesome to see him on the Yankee Stadium field. But this team needs pitching and Frazier might be the best trade chip. Nice job on your analysis, Bryan.
It seems like I’ve been ripping on Chance Adams as much as I have Sonny Gray this year, but I have to congratulate Adams for his terrific outing last night. Adams, with 93 pitches, threw a shutout, scattering four hits, over 5 2/3 innings en route to a 4-0 win over the Indianapolis Indians. Adams struck out seven batters, but more importantly, did not walk anyone. If Adams wants to re-establish himself in the call-up pecking order, this is the way to do it.
|Photo Credit: MiLB.com|
On a side note, every time I check a RailRiders box score, it seems like Cody Carroll is dominating hitters in relief. It’s almost unfair when the RailRiders take the field against Triple A opponents. A “MLB-ready” team that could effectively compete against many of the MLB teams facing minor league squads. The men among boys. It’s a nice problem to have.
Lastly, Aaron Judge’s air high five for the missing Ronald Torreyes was a nice, but sad, moment in yesterday’s game. I am hopeful the Yankees can find a way to bring back Torreyes sooner rather than later but sadly it will probably take a trade to clear space. Too many good players, not enough roster spots.
Today is a new day. The Yankees can capture first place in the AL East with a win and a Red Sox loss. Time to put Boston in the rear-view mirror. Of course, rain might have a say in the matter with the thunderstorms expected in Baltimore this afternoon/evening. Rain Gods, please delay your visit and allow America’s favorite team to win today.
|Photo Credit: Instagram (masahiro_tanaka.official)|
Strong pitching carries Yanks past Angels…
The Yankees needed a strong effort by Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and they got it. He gave up his obligatory home run but it didn’t matter as the Yankees used a three-run third inning to cruise past the Halos, 3-1.
The highlight of the game, not for its meaning to the final outcome but rather the drama of the moment, was Tanaka’s strikeout of fellow Japanese countryman Shohei Ohtani to end the first inning. Tanaka fell behind Ohtani on a 3-1 count but two swinging strikes sent Ohtani to the bench, much to the delight of the Yankee Stadium crowd. For the game, Ohtani was 0-for-2 against Tanaka, with a walk and two strikeouts. Mike Trout, who had a career day on Saturday, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Tanaka. Simple formula: Hold Ohtani and Trout in check and good things happen.
Tanaka’s terrific day was done after the sixth inning and 104 pitches. He held the Angels to only three hits and the isolated run on Andrelton Simmons’ solo homer in the sixth. Tanaka (6-2) walked three and struck out eight. THIS is the Masa we need for the summer’s pennant chase.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)|
With six strong from Tanaka, Manager Aaron Boone was able to effectively lay out David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman for three innings of scoreless relief. Very nice play by Didi Gregorius to stop a hard hit grounder by Martin Maldonado, throwing the Angels catcher out at first to end the game and hand Chapman his eleventh save.
The Yankees (33-16) ended up taking two of three from the Angels after Saturday night’s debacle when Sonny Gray (Sucks!) and the Yankees bullpen were hammered by Mike Trout and the Angels in an 11-4 loss. Fortunately, the Boston Red Sox finally lost yesterday against the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, 7-1. The Braves victory was especially sweet as they gave Chris Sale an early exit (4 1/3 innings) by scoring six runs off Boston’s prized left-hander. The Red Sox lead over the Yankees in the AL East is back to one game.
The schedule, which has been Boston’s friend so far this season, continues to benefit the Red Sox. The Atlanta Braves were one of the rare winning teams the Red Sox has faced so far this year. They return to playing sub .500 teams today with the arrival of the Toronto Blue Jays (25-28) at Fenway Park. Meanwhile, the Yankees draw the defending World Champions, the Houston Astros, for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. Yes, the Yankees did sweep the Astros in Houston at the beginning of the month, but the team was on a roll at the time. I can’t say I am too confident with today’s matchup (Domingo German, 0-2, 5.59 ERA vs Justin Verlander, 6-2, 1.08 ERA). But if the Yankees can keep it close, I like the Yankees’ chances against the Houston bullpen. Yesterday, with closer Ken Giles on the mound, the Astros blew an 8-3 ninth inning lead in their fourteen-inning loss to the Cleveland Indians.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jason Miller)|
The Yankees need pitching help but it doesn’t look like Chance Adams wants to play. The RailRiders game had barely started yesterday when Adams was pulled. With an inability to find the strike zone, Adams departed in the first inning after recording only two outs. He had given up only one hit, but three walks and a hit batter gave the Syracuse Chiefs an early 3-0 lead. The RailRiders came back to win the game, 7-4, so Adams wasn’t saddled with the loss but it was a pathetic performance. His season ERA is an unsightly 5.93 and he leads the team with 22 walks. It doesn’t sound like Adams wants to join his former RailRiders teammates in the Bronx, at least if he continues to pitch like the second coming of Sonny Gray. Hopefully he figures this thing out and restores the bloom of his potential. I still think his future lies in the bullpen but regardless, he is a guy I hope reaches Pinstriped glory.
I was surprised as anyone when the Yankees optioned popular utility man Ronald Torreyes to Triple A to make room for the activation of first baseman Greg Bird. I had fully expected either Tyler Austin or a pitcher to go down. Neil Walker has proven his worth to the organization so the team wasn’t go to eliminate his roster spot. I also think the Yankees are intrigued with A.J. Cole and haven’t seen enough to make a decision about him yet. The YES Network’s Michael Kay noted yesterday that Toe’s locker has not been cleaned out. It is expected he’ll be back when his ten days are up or shortly thereafter. An injury to someone (I hope not) will accelerate the timetable. In the grand scheme of things, I fully expect Torreyes to have a longer Yankees career than Tyler Austin. I could see Austin as part of a trade in the days leading up to this year’s trading deadline when the Yankees attempt to seek upgrades for their pitching staff.
He was only a Yankee for 33 games in 2008 but it is enough to qualify Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez as a member of the Yankees family. I am sure that Pudge is very excited today as the San Francisco Giants have selected the contract of his son, Dereck, from their Triple A affiliate. Dereck started his professional career in 2011 as an outfielder in the Minnesota Twins farm system but was converted to pitching in 2013. He signed with the Giants organization as a minor league free agent during the off-season. A starter in the minor leagues, Rodriguez is expected to provide long relief for the Giants. I hope Rodriguez pitches so well the Giants decide to trade Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees. C’mon, a guy can dream, can’t he? Seriously, congratulations to Dereck for the realization of his own dream.
|Photo Credit: Instagram (drod_31)|
Speaking of former Yankees, Phil Hughes has found a new home. The Minnesota Twins had designated the pitcher for assignment earlier in the week. On Sunday, the Twins sent Hughes and a compensatory draft pick (74th overall) to the San Diego Padres for a minor league catcher. The incentive for the Padres is the competitive balance draft pick. The Twins will send money to pay down the contract owed to Hughes to lessen the financial commitment for the Padres. For now, Hughes will be inserted into the Padres bullpen, joining former Yankees Bryan Mitchell and Tyler Webb. I am not sure if this is the eventual end of the line for Hughes, who has undergone multiple surgeries for thoracic outlet syndrome, or if he will be able to resurrect his career in sunny Southern CA, but I wish the veteran 31-year-old righty the very best in his latest comeback attempt.
It’s Memorial Day so we pay tribute to those who have fallen in defense of our Country. Of course, we think about those individuals every day of the year, not just this day, and are grateful for their service and sacrifice to defend our liberty and freedom. We can never repay them or their families. We carry the memory of the slain men and women who have served this great Nation today and always.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Richard Rodriguez)
Yanks lose first series since April…
With leads of 4-0 and later 10-5, you do not really expect to lose, but thanks to multiple pitching failures, the Yankees allowed the Texas Rangers to take the final game, 12-10, and win the series, two games to one. It was the first series the Yankees have lost since the Boston Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees on April 10th through 12th.
I keep hearing “don’t blame Sabathia, he is part of the solution, not the problem” but realistically, he’ll be 38 in a couple of months and he is not exactly a physical specimen. Since he held the Cleveland Indians to three hits and no runs over six innings on May 4th, he has averaged slightly under five innings per start (three starts). He has given up 15 runs (13 earned) in 13 1/3 innings pitched including 4 home runs and 7 walks. If CC wants to be part of the solution, he needs to start pitching better. My current confidence level in Sabathia is nowhere near where it was last year.
Yesterday’s game was a microcosm of the problems with both the starting pitching and the bullpen. Losing the 4-0 lead was bad enough, but there was no reason to blow the subsequent five-run lead. David Robertson did not look good. I have been a huge D-Rob fan but he’s pitching his way out of the Bronx right now. If these struggles continue throughout the season, there’s no doubt the Yankees will let him walk away at the end of the year. Of course, it’s all about cause and effect. Sabathia’s early departures put added and unnecessary pressure on the bullpen.
I am not sure why Aaron Boone tries to get more than one inning out of Dellin Betances. It seems like the second inning for Betances never works out in our favor regardless of how sharp he looks in the first inning of relief. Overall, I’ve liked the job Boone has done, but he hasn’t shown the ability to work the bullpen like Joe Girardi did. Girardi had his critics about his handling of the pen but the results were much better or at least I had more confidence in Joe’s ability. I think Boonie will get there and I am certainly not trying to go down a ‘we should have stayed with Joe’ path. I support Boone and like him as the Yankees manager. I was proud of his use of the f-bomb a few times the other night when he was thrown out of his first game as manager.
There were positives in the Texas series. Namely, Gleyber Torres is a stud. There is literally nothing that the guy cannot do. He may not be the speediest guy on the team but I swear he wears an “S” on his shirt under the uniform.
It was hard to watch Robinson Cano leave after the 2013 season via free agency. He had been the Yankees best player and it was great to have such a strong player at second base. Then we had to deal with a series of interim players like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew. With no disrespect to Starlin Castro, Torres gives us our first legitimate young superstar at the position since Cano left.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Richard Rodriguez)
Giancarlo Stanton’s numbers may be coming around, but I still trust Aaron Judge more.
Neil Walker keeps showing why he should not be the sacrificial lamb when Greg Bird returns. While I’d like the first base pairing of Bird and Tyler Austin, I still feel that it makes more sense to option to Austin to Triple A. He’ll be needed again at some point.
Glad to see that Didi Gregorius is starting to warm up again. His slump was the worst of his career following his All-World performance and Player of the Month honors in April. The Yankees need Didi if they expect to contend in October.
I try to keep up with the Yankees farm system but I have to say that I was shocked when reliever Ryan Bollinger was added to the 25-man roster yesterday. My first reaction was ‘who?’. I hadn’t really paid much attention to his minor league free agent signing or the stellar work he has done for the Trenton Thunder this year. Since he is not really a “prospect” anymore at the stage of his career (he is 27 after all), I just viewed him as depth for the minor leagues. Honestly, I do not expect him to stay in the Bronx long, not with the impending returns of Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren. I like what I’ve seen out of A.J. Cole and want him to stick around so it would seem Bollinger will be the odd man out in a few days and a potential DFA candidate if the Yankees need his 40-man roster spot. As for Cole, I’d probably give him a spot start over Domingo German to see what he can do.
Maybe it was because the Yankees were in Dallas, but the past week has brought so much speculation of Cole Hamels to the Yankees at the trading deadline. I do not see it. I like Hamels and I wouldn’t squawk about his presence on the roster. There are a few guys in the starting rotation that he’d leapfrog. But, realistically, it makes no sense to me. Unless the Rangers are willing to pay significant dollars to pay down his contract, the Yankees would be responsible for the prorated portion of his $22.5 million 2018 salary. The contract has an option for $20 million in 2019. The option becomes guaranteed if Hamels has 400 IP in 2017-18 (he is presently at 206 2/3 innings so he’s unlikely to reach the milestone). The buyout for 2019 is $6 million. Hamels also has a limited no trade clause that includes the Yankees. So, in order to get the Rangers to pay any dollars toward the contract, the Yankees would have to up the ante in terms of premium prospects. There would be more dollars involved to get Hamels to waive the no-trade. I don’t see how a few months of Hamels would justify the elimination of the majority of the cap space under the luxury tax threshold and the quality prospects that would be lost. Sure, if the Yankees win the World Series as a result, it would be worth it but I just don’t see Hamels as the difference-maker.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Joe Robbins)
I keep hoping the Seattle Mariners start losing now that they’ve lost Robinson Cano and Dee Gordon, but all they’ve done since is win. The M’s are currently riding a five-game winning streak and sit just two games behind the AL West leading Houston Astros. My desire to see the M’s lose is to open their willingness to move James Paxton. However, if they keep winning, there’s no chance.
The best possibility for the starting rotation might be our own Justus Sheffield. He came off the disabled list to pitch four innings of scoreless three-hit ball against the Pawtucket Red Sox yesterday. He struck out five and walked only one batter. Tommy Kahnle may have gotten the win in the 7-1 victory but it was a great limited outing for Sheffield’s return. I personally don’t think we’ll see Sheffield in the Bronx until August or September (if at all this year) but the power to accelerate the time table is certainly within his control. I probably shouldn’t read too much into Sheffield’s fine performance. Chance Adams threw a one-hitter last week to go with ten strikeouts (to raise my excitement level), yet he followed it up with a stinker against Pawtucket on Tuesday (five runs and three walks in three innings of work).
With last night’s disappointing loss, the Yankees have fallen 1 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. Boston wraps up their series with the Tampa Bay Rays today, so they could hold a two-game advantage entering play on Friday. The first half schedule for the Red Sox has been so generous for them.
For the Yankees, I am glad to see the road trip end. With the washout of the games in Washington, they finished the trip with a 3-3 record despite hitting three home runs or more in five straight games for the first time in franchise history. The road trip also included extended flight delays and sleeping at airports. Their flight last night was delayed for mechanical reasons and they didn’t get off the ground this morning until about 5:30 am Eastern. Fortunately, today is an off day, but they’ve certainly dealt with more than their share of adversity this trip. Hopefully, the Yankees will be rested and ready to play when they meet the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)
Yankees win again…
I have to admit the Yankees are playing better against the Houston Astros than I thought they would. It was a miserable start to current series when Houston’s Charlie Morton dominated the Yankees to take the first game, but since then, the Yankees have held the Astros scoreless for 22 innings and have limited them to two runs overall for three games. Houston is bound to score runs and it most likely will occur today but it’s been a fun ride.
The Astros clearly have the best starting rotation but the Yankees have the better bullpen. While we had early concerns about certain guys in the pen, the unit appears to be coming together and Aroldis Chapman looks great (even if he wasn’t needed last night). It is very nice to see Dellin Betances pitching like the All-Star version again. Chad Green, David Robertson…I am grateful for these guys every day.
Last night’s pitching performance by Luis Severino was magnificent. A day after Justin Verlander pitched a three-hit shutout for eight innings, striking out fourteen, only to walk away with a no-decision when Astros closer Ken Giles coughed up the game-winning home run to Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino took his gem to the finish line with a complete game, five-hit shutout. He also reached double-digits with strikeouts (ten). If you want something done, you have to do it yourself. It paid off for Sevy as he picked up his fifth win of the young season. Personally, I probably would have called it a night for Severino after eight innings and 98 pitches but thankfully they pay Aaron Boone to make those decisions, not me.
Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)
It was only a matter of time until Giancarlo Stanton starting hitting like the NL MVP he is. Prior to yesterday’s game, I lost count of how many times I was reminded that Dallas Keuchel has never yielded any home runs to the Yankees. So, it was only fitting that the newcomer took Keuchel deep, not once but twice. I am really anxious for Stanton to have a game like this at Yankee Stadium. He has awed crowds in Toronto and Houston but I would love nothing better than for Stanton to take a curtain call in the Bronx.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)
I’ll borrow a term currently used on the TV show Supergirl. When they are hitting, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are “World Killers”. Yes, I watch Supergirl. C’mon, Melissa Benoist is hot. But with all sincerity, when the World Killers are on, the Yankees are unstoppable.
I was as disappointed as any Yankees fan with the news that Jordan Montgomery will miss the next several months. While I am glad that the immediate prognosis does not involve Tommy John surgery, I recognize that anything is possible until Monty is healthy enough to pitch again. Hopefully rest over the next three weeks allows Montgomery to begin his path toward building arm strength once again. In the interim, I am looking forward to watching Domingo German. In Spring Training, I was so on Team German over Team Cessa as the Yankees’ long reliever/spot starter. It’s unfortunate that it took an injury to Luis Cessa to open the door for German but I am glad he’s here. The Yankees certainly need to explore potential Plan B’s but for now, let’s see what the kid can do. In my mind, A.J. Cole probably represents the next option. I’d prefer to see him over recent returnee David Hale.
When word spread that Monty had left Tuesday’s game after seven pitches, Yankees Twitter started clamoring for Chance Adams. While admittedly I am one of those who believe Adams is destined for the bullpen in a long-term view, his numbers at Triple A this year simply do not support an argument for his promotion. So far this season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Adams is 0-2 in five starts. He has given up 24 hits in 24 2/3 innings and 14 earned runs (including four home runs). His ERA is an unsightly 5.11 and his WHIP is the highest it has ever been (1.42). He is not ready. Justus Sheffield is the Yankees best pitching prospect (in my opinion) and he is killing it in Double A. Okay, “killing it” might be a bit too strong at 1-2, but he’s struck out 39 guys in 28 innings. Only one batter has connected for a home run off Top Sheff and he’s limited teams to seven total earned runs for 2.25 ERA. I think Sheffield has earned a promotion to Triple A, but he’s not ready for The Show just yet. My personal favorite pitching prospect is Albert Abreu but he’s further away (has only made one start in High A after returning from injury).
We’re probably a good month and a half to two months away from teams legitimately talking trades for starting pitchers. Some have speculated the Yankees should go after Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. MadBum is currently on the DL but when healthy, he’s one of the best when the calendar turns to October. I’d love to have the guy on the Yankees. I just don’t think the Giants will trade their best pitcher who has meant so much to the organization. But if he could be pried loose, I’d have to problem giving up guys like Clint Frazier and Chance Adams for him.
For now, I hope Domingo German takes the job as fifth starter and runs with it. I don’t expect him to be as good as Monty but as long as he keeps the Yankees in games, life will be good.
Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)
The Yankees play an afternoon matinee today in the final game of their four-game set with the Houston Astros. Win or lose, this has been a great road trip for the Yankees. Worst case, they had back to the Bronx with a 5-2 record for the latest travel. But to win six of seven would be fantastic. Lance McCullers, Jr always seems to rise to the occasion against his father’s former team, but as the Yankees showed Dallas Keuchel yesterday, no one is invincible. I am looking for Masahiro Tanaka to continue the string of outstanding pitching performances in this series. A few homers from Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez would not hurt. If it involves another implosion by Ken Giles, all the better.
With the help of a Walker…
Neil Walker makes his much anticipated debut in a Yankees lineup today in the only Spring rematch of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros…and the game is not televised…ugh! With no offense to the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, this is one Spring game that could be a preview of coming attractions for October. Obviously, the outcome of this game decides nothing but I look forward to the Yankees-Astros battles over the course of the coming season. Hey, H-Town, we’re coming for you…
|Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)|
As it stands, based on the comments floating out of camp, it appears that Tyler Wade has the advantage to start at second base for the Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 29th. His at-bat yesterday against Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Rivero was epic. After Rivero sent Wade backwards into the dirt with a high and inside pitch, Wade battled back and worked a hard-fought walk. Last year, I have no doubt he would have struck out in that situation, allowing Rivero to get inside his head. Time and again, Wade is making the plays to show that he belongs. Given how much corporate executives raved about him over the winter and his subsequent performance this Spring, it’s easy to see why his name will be on the Opening Day roster. Walker’s flexibility to play multiple positions will most certainly keep his bat in the lineup even if Wade becomes the starter. Both Danny Espinosa and Adam Lind paid the price for the Walker signing as evidenced by their releases, but I think the remaining player most adversely impacted will be Ronald Torreyes. It is interesting and perhaps telling that Walker’s debut against the Astros will feature him at first base rather than second base. Have bat; will travel. Walker is ready to help wherever he is need in the infield except for shortstop and catcher. But something tells me he’d play those positions if they let him.
I remain very high on Brandon Drury. At the beginning of training camp, so many jumped on the Miguel Andujar bus after his series of home runs, but based on the signals I was reading, the organization feels that he needs more time to work on his defensive game. Also, given the many signs that there is mutual interest between the Yankees and Manny Machado, it makes you wonder about Andujar’s future in the organization. It seems like he is destined to be trade bait at some point. Nevertheless, for now, I am excited about Brandon Drury’s presence at third base even if Andujar or maybe Machado takes his job at some point in the future.
Joel Sherman of The New York Post recently ran an article which detailed how highly Drury is thought of by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They didn’t want to trade him but it was the only way they could land Steven Souza Jr from the Tampa Bay Rays to replace slugger J.D. Martinez who, as we know, left via free agency to sign with a certain team in Massachusetts. In his column, Sherman quotes D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo saying Drury might hit 30 home runs this year. Admittedly, that might be a bit too optimistic, but I like the potential of the player. The quote by Lovullo that stuck out with me is: “A great competitor, a great teammate. Cares on a pretty impressive level about being the absolute best he can be every single day. The Yankees got a special player. Very quiet. Very intense. But very attentive.” I feel strongly that Drury is going to be a significant contributor for the 2018 Yankees. Frankly, I’d love for him to play so well the Yankees decide they don’t need Machado.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)|
It was disappointing to see Chance Adams’ reassignment to Minor League Camp on a down note. It wasn’t a great spring for him. He pitched in three games for a total of 4 2/3 innings, departing with 0-1 record and 11.57 ERA. 9 hits…ouch…6 runs…ouch…3 walks…ouch. In my eyes, both Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu represent stronger future rotation possibilities. I am starting to side with those who believe that Adams’ future lies in the bullpen. It wasn’t only this Spring, there were signs last year in Triple A that started making me question his future as a starter. With all sincerity, I hope he proves me wrong. But that’s up to him, not me.
I like Jordan Montgomery but realistically, if the price is right, I’d still sign Alex Cobb. Pitching, pitching, pitching…you can never have enough.
Manager Aaron Boone is going to have so many options when he writes up his lineups depending upon matchups, but I really liked yesterday’s Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton-Gary Sanchez sequence against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sanchez, of course, killed it with 5 RBI’s. I am convinced that El Gary can be “the beast” in the batting order all season long. Best hitter on the team in my opinion. Then again, there are no weaknesses, top to bottom. Boone could use a Power Ball machine to determine his batting order and not be wrong. Okay, that approach might be a little too much, but how many first-time managers are handed the keys to a Lamborghini? Poor Ron Gardenhire was the most experienced manager hired in the off-season and he was given a Ford Pinto. For Boonie, life is good.
I’d take $84 million guaranteed too…
With my apologies to those of you who are Jets fans, I am glad that QB Kirk Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, I say that as a lifelong (long suffering?) Vikings fan. Perhaps Minnesota overpaid for a QB with a losing record, but I like Cousins as the team’s new field general. I have greater faith in him than I did the three Vikings quarterbacks who departed via free agency. Case Keenum. Great guy, but was it him or the system? Could be a one-season wonder. Maybe not, but I’d rather have the guy who is coming off three consecutive 4,000 yard seasons. Sam Bradford. Love the arm, but the dude can’t stay healthy. Teddy Bridgewater. He looked like the future star of the organization until the devastating knee injury. Do we really know if he can successfully make it back? For a team that is Super Bowl-caliber, the Vikings couldn’t take the chance. Bridgewater could blossom for the Jets and provide them with the QB they’ve been lacking. From a character standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find many better than Bridgewater. I think the Jets made the right move to sign him. I really hope that he realizes the greatness that seemed destined for him in Minnesota. There’s no doubt he has championship-quality drive and determination.
During the press conference yesterday in Minneapolis to announce the signing, Cousins sounded a bit like Brian Cashman talking about Aaron Boone in his description of how the city and team “checked all the boxes”. I kept anticipating some type of “expect to be great” line in Kirk’s speech but he did “check the boxes” for me by mentioning Super Bowls (plural). Works for me. Congratulations to Kirk and his family. I wish him much success and happiness in the Twin Cities. Now, just bring me the Super Bowl, I means Super Bowls, that I’ve waited all my life for!
|Photo Credit: Star Tribune (Elizabeth Flores)|
But, back to baseball. Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (David Goldman)|
The Rivalry Continues…
Today is the first meeting of the Boston Red Sox and your New York Yankees. Of course, it’s just a meaningless exhibition game but there’s no doubt all of us, without exception, want to beat the hated Red Sox. We’ll have to do it without the Big Boppers as neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton will provide a preview of what they intend to do to Red Sox pitching.
Here is the scheduled lineup for today’s game at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL:
Aaron Hicks, CF
Greg Bird, 1B
Brandon Drury, 3B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Danny Espinosa, DH
Austin Romine, C
Billy McKinney, RF
Jake Cave, LF
The starting pitcher will be Chance Adams, making his second Spring start.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
For the Red Sox, they won’t be giving the Yankees an advance look at J.D. Martinez as he, like Judge and Stanton, will take the bench. Pitching for the Red Sox will be left-hander Brian Johnson who is the favorite to win the fifth spot in the Red Sox rotation at the start of the year, thanks to the injuries to Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez.
The Yankees signed free agent first baseman Adam Lind on Friday to a minor league deal with an invitation to training camp. The deal includes an opt-out at the end of training camp if he is not on the Major League roster. The backup first base job appears to be Tyler Austin’s to lose. It’s hard to envision Lind making the team unless the Yankees do not trust Austin as the primary support for Greg Bird (or if Austin gets hurts, which is within the realm of possibility). Lind did have surprisingly good numbers for the Washington Nationals last year when he batted .303/.362/.513 with .875 OPS in 301 plate appearances. Four of his 14 home runs were pinch-hits. He is a career .272/.330/.465 (.795 OPS) hitter with 200 home runs. Lind, 34, came up in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and played for them through the 2014 season. Since then, he’s had a new team each year. Milwaukee Brewers (2015), Seattle Mariners (2016) and the Nationals (2017).
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Alex Brandon)|
Austin answered Lind’s signing with a walk-off home run to beat the Atlanta Braves on Friday afternoon. Apparently he borrowed a page from Miguel Andujar’s playbook for rules of engagement with the competition at your position.
My guess is that Austin makes the team and Lind opts out to sign a MLB deal with another team to be their backup first baseman. I don’t see the Austin to Triple A and Lind on the Opening Day roster scenario. One or the other will be part of the organization and the other will not, in my opinion.
Jacoby Ellsbury has a nagging injury. Great. The DL King has been diagnosed with a mild right oblique strain. If it was Ellsbury’s intent to beat out Aaron Hicks for the starting center field job, he’s not off to a good start. Honestly, the Yankees should bite the bullet after the season is over. There will be $47.3 million left on his contract, but at that point, it will be time to cut bait. It’s too bad that Brian Cashman was unable to find a taker, even with the willingness to pay a significant portion of what’s left on Ellsbury’s deal. I agree with Cashman’s assessment that Ellsbury remains an above-average player when healthy but those last two words become more dicey with each passing year.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)|
Ellsbury’s “backup”, outfielder Clint Frazier, is struggling with his own problems. He continues to be troubled by headaches associated with a concussion he suffered earlier in the Spring. The Yankees had been trying to increase his workload but Thursday’s workout led to sending Frazier for a MRI on Friday. He whacked his head against the wall in left field at LECOM Park in Bradenton, FL last Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hopefully this is not a setback and Frazier continues his path toward good health. I know I’d rather go to war with Red Thunder over Ellsbury.
It creates a potential opening for either Jake Cave or Billy McKinney to make noise although it is likely that Ellsbury will be ready for Opening Day.
I try not to get too caught up in Spring stats but I have to admit that, physically, Jordan Montgomery looks great. He doesn’t quite have the ‘Gumby’ look from last year and his face seems more mature. He pitched three innings yesterday in the win over the Braves, striking out five batters. He gave up two hits, but did not allow any runs. All 22 of his pitches were in the strike zone. The 25-year-old appears capable of showing that he is not the starting rotation’s weakest link.
Now, let’s beat those friggin’ Red Sox. Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)
A Meaningful Monday…
Not bad for a Monday. The day started with the arrival of Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson in training camp to field grounders with Didi Gregorius and blast a few homers (six) for batting practice in a group that featured Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. After the eventful day, third baseman Miguel Andujar capped it off with a dramatic 9th inning two-out walk-off home run to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3.
Clearly, the story of the day was Russell Wilson. It’s funny how every news article, especially those in Seattle, expressly state that he has not suddenly decided to give up his day job (as if they are worried about it). Some Yankees fan think Wilson is a distraction, but I take it for what it is. It is an opportunity to break up monotonous Spring Training by spending time with a Super Bowl-caliber professional athlete. I’ve always said there are guys who know how to play the game and there are guys who are winners. The rare combination is the guy who embodies both. Wilson is one of those rare athletes. I think he has much to offer the young Yankees even if he never fields a single play or takes an at-bat in an exhibition game. Winners breed winners. I am glad that Wilson is a Yankees fan and is spending his off-season in a baseball environment around the Yankees. His five or six days in camp will pass quickly and he’ll be gone. But the impact of his visit will remain with the players as they march toward the start of the 2018 season and its grand expectations.
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)
Maybe Wilson should spend some time trying to talk some sense into reliever Tommy Kahnle and his “overkill” love for the Philadelphia Eagles. Sadly, I think that’s a lost cause.
At the very least, I’d give Wilson an at-bat in one of the upcoming exhibition games but it is possible the Seahawks have imposed a moratorium on what Wilson can and cannot do while in Yankees Camp. It would be nice to see Stanton and Judge catch a few passes before Wilson departs.
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)
Monday evening, in the first night game of the Exhibition Season, the Yankees continued their winning ways, fourth win in four games, to make Aaron Boone an undefeated manager to start his career. I know, these games mean nothing but it’s tremendous to see everyone embrace Boone’s desire to be “great”. I was disappointed the Phillies game was not televised as I would have enjoyed watching Sonny Gray’s Spring debut. He pitched two innings, giving up two isolated singles, but struck out 2 batters and did not allow any runs. He was throwing strikes as all 12 of his pitches were in the zone.
Chance Adams made his debut (which is another reason I wanted to watch the game). Adams got into trouble with the first batter he faced, his high school teammate Dylan Cozens. Adams and Cozens were in the same class at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona (Class of 2012).
Cozens, comparable to Giancarlo Stanton in size and weight, drew a walk off his friend to start the third inning. He stole second and then advanced to third when Rhys Hoskins hit a grounder to first. A sacrifice fly by Phillies free agent acquisition Carlos Santana brought Cozens home for the only run off Adams. The next batter, Cesar Hernandez, got the only hit off Adams over his two innings of work, with a single to left. Aaron Altherr followed with the second walk of the inning but Gary Sanchez rescued Adams when his throw to second caught Hernandez off base for the third out.
The player of the game was, no doubt, Miguel Andujar. Andujar entered the game as a pinch-hitter for right fielder Billy McKinney in the bottom of the 7th inning. Andujar’s double to left scored Mark Payton, running for Brandon Drury, from third to tie the score at 2. Andujar stayed in the game as the replacement for Drury at third base. The Yankees had a chance to win it with a RBI single by Jorge Saez in the 8th, but Cody Carroll’s attempt to earn the save failed when he allowed a solo home run to Scott Kingery, another Arizonan, in the top of the 9th. No worries. Gleyber Torres and Mark Payton recorded the first two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, bringing Andujar to the plate. After two balls, Andujar swung and missed at the next two pitches. On the fifth pitch from Phillies reliever Ranger Suarez, Andujar sent the ball over the fence in left clearing most of the Phillies off the field before Andujar could finish his home run trot.
For a meaningless game, it sure was exciting. If only we had been able to watch it…well, those of us not so fortunate to be at Steinbrenner Field. So far, the battle for third base between Brandon Drury and Miguel Andujar has been very spirited. It’s early but the competition at third base has been better than second base.
Photo Credit: Newsday
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
The Yankees starting lineup for today’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Florida at 1:05 pm Eastern will be:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Miguel Andujar (aka “The Stud”), 3B
Tyler Austin, 1B
Danny Espinosa, 2B
Austin Romine, C
Jace Peterson, DH
Ronald Torreyes, SS
Billy McKinney, LF
Shane Robinson, RF
The starting pitcher will be Bullpen Ace Chad Green.
I am not exactly a fan of Hanley Ramirez, but the Red Sox 1B/DH was popping off yesterday after Boston finally announced the signing of free agent slugger J.D. Martinez. His words were something to the effect that they were going to step on everybody’s neck now. I harbor no ill will toward Ramirez, Martinez or the Red Sox but I am looking forward to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton putting on a display this year against the Red Sox, along with the other great young Yankees hitters. Let’s see whose neck gets stepped on. I hope, and I suspect, that this will not be a fun year for Ramirez. The best way to shut up Han-Ram is for the Yankees to win the American League East. I like our odds.
Photo Credit: Getty Images