Tagged: Chasen Shreve

Can We Just Take A Mulligan?…

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Angels 10, Yankees 5…


The win on Wednesday was just a tease.  Losing teams find ways to lose and unfortunately the Yankees gave another game away last night.  Unless they can turn this around, the Yankees are showing that the early season was just a mirage. You can’t blame Aaron Judge.  He’s trying.  He hit his 25th home run of the season and has hit safely in 24 consecutive games (the longest Yankee streak of the year).  But pitching, which has alternated between very good and very bad, is sitting in the latter category at the moment albeit with an occasional solid performance like Jordan Montgomery the other night.


Bronx Pinstripes had a great tweet last night.  “What a disaster.  At least we have Tanaka tomorrow.  …Oh wait.”  My line of thinking exactly…


The game started well enough.  Despite Cameron Maybin’s lead-off home run to give the Angels an early 1-0 lead, the Yankees quickly answered in the bottom of the first when Angels starter Jesse Chavez walked Aaron Judge and Matt Holliday with two outs.  Starlin Castro followed with a run-scoring single to tie the game.


In the bottom of the 2nd inning, it looked like this was going to be our night.  Chris Carter doubled and Ronald Torreyes reached base on an infield hit, pushing Carter to third.  Brett Gardner grounded into a force-out at second but Carter scored on the play.  Aaron Hicks singled, putting runners at the corner, bringing up Aaron Judge.  With a three-run shot to center, the Yankees were up, 5-1.  I didn’t really expect those to be the final runs scored by the Yankees.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

The Angels started chipping away in the third when both Albert Pujols and Yunel Escobar had run-scoring singles with two outs.  5-3, Yankees.  Luis Severino settled down after that for a few innings of solid work, but gave up another run in the 6th when Escobar opened the inning with a double and scored on a single by Luis Valbuena.  Valbuena, a third baseman, is a guy I thought the Yankees should have pursued in the off-season when he was a free agent.


Still, I had hope that the Yankees could lock down the Angels, score a couple of insurance runs and win the game.  Then, the 7th inning happened.  Cliff Pennington opened the inning with a single.  From there, the game unraveled.  Cameron Maybin hit a ground ball to Starlin Castro that should have been turned for a double play but Castro’s fielding error allowed Maybin to reach base, with Pennington moving to third.  So, instead of two outs and no one on, the Angels had runners at the corners with no outs.  End of game for Luis Severino.  Chasen Shreve entered the game and was greeted by a sac fly from Kole Calhoun which tied the score at 5.  Exit Shreve, enter Dellin Betances.  Maybin stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by Gary Sanchez.  Albert Pujols said ‘I’ll take your gifts…thank you very much’ and lined a single to right, scoring Maybin for the lead.  Betances walked Escobar, followed by a wild pitch moving the runners to second and third.  With two outs, Andrelton Simmons doubled to give the Angels two more runs, 8-5.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

I was not ready to admit defeat and was pulling for an amazing comeback like the Yankees did earlier in the season against the Baltimore Orioles.  Yeah, right.  The Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 7th and the Angels were ready for more in the 8th.  Domingo German took the mound, replacing Betances, and retired the first batter on a strikeout.  Unfortunately, this was followed by Cliff Pennington’s double and a wild pitch that moved him to third.  Cameron Maybin walked.  A failed pick-off attempt at first by German, the third Yankees error of the game, allowed Pennington to score with Maybin moving to third.  Kole Calhoun graciously accepted the latest gift, and hit a sac fly to push the score to 10-5.  


The Yankees could only muster a single from Chris Carter in the 9th, and he was left stranded at second when Ronald Torreyes grounded out.


This was a very disappointing loss.  I am not sure how you can lose two of three in your home park against the Mike Trout-less Angels.  Giving away free runs on multiple errors and wild pitches are not the signs of a successful team.  With the loss, the Yankees (39-31) fell back into a first-place tie with the idle Boston Red Sox.  The Tampa Bay Rays, who also had the night off, moved to within 2 1/2 games of the leaders.  


Yes, I am mad about this loss.  And it scares the hell out of me that we’ll be throwing Tanaka out tonight against Yu Darvish.  It doesn’t get any easier…

Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium…

The Texas Rangers make their first trip to NYC for a three-game series starting tonight.  Pete Kozma, who started the year with the Yankees when Didi Gregorius was on the DL, is currently a back-up infielder for the Rangers.  Ernesto Frieri, who previously opted out of his Yankees minor league contract, is in the Texas bullpen.

FRIDAY

Rangers:  Yu Darvish (6-5, 3.35 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-7, 6.34 ERA)

SATURDAY

Rangers:  Austin Bibens-Dirkx (2-0, 4.25 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Cessa (0-1, 7.36 ERA)

SUNDAY

Rangers:  Nick Martinez (2-3, 4.33 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (7-3, 3.56 ERA)

Y’all enjoy the games now, y’hear!

Hopefully, we’ll see the team that throttled the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles a couple of weeks ago.  I miss that team…

Odds & Ends…

Prior to yesterday’s game, the Yankees purchased the contract of left-handed reliever Tyler Webb from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  I am very excited to see Tyler finally make it to the Show.  I’ve been following his career for a few years and I’ve liked the pitcher.  I was worried in the off-season when he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  As a mature lefty reliever (he’ll turn 27 in less than a month), I thought he had the potential to stick with the Pirates.  Despite a solid Spring performance, he was returned to the Yankees in a numbers game (fortunately for us).  In 21 games for SWB, Webb is 3-1 with 3.24 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.  He has struck out 47 batters in 33 1/3 innings while allowing 33 hits and 12 runs.  He has only given up 3 walks and home runs.  They may not be elite numbers but I feel Webb has earned his shot. I am glad that he is here even if it’s only temporary.  Rob Refsnyder was sent to SWB to make room for Webb.  

Credit:  Chris O’Meara-AP

Greg Bird has been given a cortisone shot in his ankle and the hope is that he’ll soon be able to resume his rehab.  I find it highly unlikely that this will be the solution that gets Bird back on the field.  It seems to me that the problem with the ankle is more serious than we’ve been led to believe.  The cortisone shot just masks the pain, it doesn’t fix the problem.   There is daily speculation who the Yankees should look at on the trade market.  Lately, Yonder Alonso has been receiving the most attention.  I like Alonso and do feel that he’d be an upgrade over Chris Carter or Tyler Austin.  I have no problems with Matt Holliday at first other than I want to keep the guy healthy.  DH is the better avenue to accomplish that goal.  The Atlanta Braves did a wonderful job in trading for the under-utilized Matt Adams, previously of the St Louis Cardinals.  Adams has done nothing but hit since he became a Brave and has sparked speculation that injured first baseman Freddie Freeman may be moved to third when he returns.  I want GM Brian Cashman to make one of those under-the-radar but highly productive moves.  I know, easier said than done.

I think Aaron Judge should accept the invitation to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby.  I know that some players mess up their swings but like Manager Joe Girardi, I don’t think it would adversely impact Judge’s swing.  I like the idea of his exposure to the other great sluggers of the game.  It’s all part of his maturation as a Major League superstar.  The Yankees have renewed popularity this year because of guys like Judge and Gary Sanchez.  The All-Star Game is a great format to represent the pride and tradition of the Yankees.  

This is not baseball related but as an owner of a black cat, I found this one quite humorous…and true!

Have a great Friday!  Let’s not start a new losing streak today, please.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…

Credit:  Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

Angels 3, Yankees 2…

After a weekend when runs came so easily, they were hard to find on Tuesday night as the Angels took down the Yankees in extra innings.  The loss snapped the Yankees’ six-game winning streak.  However, the bigger loss may have been CC Sabathia who strained his left hamstring and is probably headed for a DL stint.  CC will undergo a MRI later today.

Credit:  Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

The feast or famine (with the emphasis on the latter) that surrounds Chris Carter was a primary ingredient for the loss.  Carter was 1-for-5 (with a meaningless single), and he popped out with the bases loaded and only one out in the top of the 11th inning.  He struck out 3 times, and committed an error at first in the fourth inning when he missed an accurate routine throw with two outs from Didi Gregorius, setting the stage for the first Angels’ run.  The runner, Andrelton Simmons, advanced to second on the play, and scored on a single by C.J. Cron.  

The Yankees tied the score in the 5th when Chase Headley doubled and Brett Gardner delivered a two-out run-scoring single. In the 7th, Headley hit a solo shot to center to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.  Headley, arguably the worst Yankees hitter not named Chris Carter, was the night’s best hitter.  He finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and 2 runs scored.

From there, the Yankees were undone by a former Yankee, Eric Young, Jr.  In the bottom of the 8th, with the Yankees nursing the one-run lead, the Yankees brought in Tyler Clippard to pitch and he was greeted by a Young home run which tied the game.  As great a job as Clippard did last year after his acquisition last year at the trading deadline from the Arizona Diamondbacks, he’s been a weak link this year in the critical setup role.  A healthy Aroldis Chapman would have meant Dellin Betances in that situation and the outcome may have been different.  The homer denied the first Major League victory for Giovanny Gallegos who had relieved Sabathia in the fifth and pitched admirably for two innings, allowing only one hit and no runs.

The Yankees loaded the bases with one-out in the top of the 11th.  Gary Sanchez walked and then advanced to third on a double by Didi Gregorius.  Headley received an intentional walk, which brought Carter to the plate with a chance to bring runners home.  He jumped on the first pitch from new reliever Keynan Middleton, who had just entered the game, but unfortunately, he popped out with an infield fly to third.  Brett Gardner followed with another pop out which ended the Yankees’ threat and set the stage for the Angels’ walk-off in the bottom of the frame.

With Chasen Shreve pitching, Andrelton Simmons walked to open the bottom of the inning.  Shreve got the next batter, C.J. Cron, on a fly out to left, but then Manager Joe Girardi pulled Shreve (he had thrown 38 pitches to that point in his 1 2/3 innings of work) to replace him with Ben Heller.  Heller got the first batter he faced (Martin Maldonado) on a ground out, but Simmons stole second during the at-bat and advanced to third with the out.  Eric Young, Jr, came to bat after Heller had walked Cliff Pennington and he hit an infield single that was deflected off the pitcher’s backside, scoring Simmons with the winning run.

Credit:  Sean M Haffey/Getty Images

‘Woulda, coulda, shoulda’ was the story to this game.  Losing is never fun, but losing games that should have been won are harder. 

No word who will replace Sabathia in the rotation.  Chad Green, Sunday’s starter, was limited to a pitch count of 50 (he was pulled after throwing 53 pitches).  I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Luis Cessa or Bryan Mitchell recalled to be the interim starter.  The less likely options would be Caleb Smith (who was the winning pitcher yesterday for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and is currently 4-0 with 2.71 ERA) or Chance Adams (3-2, 2.52 ERA) since neither one is on the 40-man roster.

The Boston Red Sox picked up a game on the Yankees, thanks to their second consecutive extra inning win over the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Red Sox now trail the Yankees (38-24) by three games.  The Tampa Bay Rays also won so they are 5.5 games behind.  Both the Orioles and the Blue Jays lost.  

Odds & Ends…

The MLB Draft completed Rounds 3 through 10 on Tuesday.  Like the day before, the emphasis was high on right-handed pitchers.  Only one position player was taken.  High School catcher (who will be converted to the outfield) Canaan Smith (not to be confused with the country singer by the same name).  Smith, a graduate of Rockwall-Heath (Texas) High School, was routinely pitched around with a Barry Bonds-like walk rate.  He was selected in the 4th round.  

The lone lefty taken was Dalton Lehnen of Augustana College in the 6th round.  Otherwise, Day 2 was stacked with righties.

Here is the list of players taken on Day 2:

Round 3 (92):  Trevor Stephan, Arkansas, RHP

Round 4 (122):  Canaan Smith, Rockwall-Heath HS, RF

Round 5 (152):  Glenn Otto, Rice, RHP

Round 6 (182):  Dalton Lehnen, Augustana College, LHP

Round 7 (212):  Dalton Higgins, Dallas Baptist, RHP

Round 8 (242):  Kyle Zurak, Redford U, RHP

Round 9 (272):  Austin Gardner, U Texas-Arlington, RHP

Round 10 (302):  Chad Whitmer, Southern Illinois U Carbondale, RHP

The Baltimore Orioles are gushing about the fall of D.L. Hall to them.  They didn’t expect him to be the board with the 21st pick on Monday.  Nothing against Clarke Schmidt, but I hope this choice doesn’t come back to haunt the Yankees in future years.

Day 3 concludes today with Rounds 11 through 40.  Start time is 12:00 pm Eastern.  

LHP Tommy Layne, who was previously designated for assignment, has been outrighted to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  

RHP Ronald Herrera has been named the Eastern League (AA) Pitcher of the Week.  In his last start, Herrera pitched 6 2/3 innings while only allowing two hits in the Trenton Thunder’s 9-0 victory over the Hartford Yard Goats.  After giving up a two-out single in the first inning, Herrera retired 16 consecutive Yard Goats before surrendering the second hit.  He struck out 9 in picking up the win.  Herrera is the fourth Thunder pitcher to win the weekly award this year, following Chance Adams, Yefry Ramirez, and Justus Sheffield. 

Credit:  TrentonThunder.com

Aroldis Chapman was scheduled to pitch yesterday for High-A Tampa, however, the game was rained out.  Chapman will pitch one inning Friday for AA-Trenton and is tentatively scheduled to rejoin the Yankees on Sunday in Oakland.  

Have a great Wednesday!  Time to start a new winning streak!

Resiliency-R-Us, Open All Night…

Credit:  MLB.com

When you have one of Baseball’s elite closers on the mound with a three run lead in the bottom of the 9th, it should be game over.  Sadly, it was an off night for Aroldis Chapman as he allowed three runs before being pulled from the game.  From that point, it felt like it was only a matter of time before the Chicago Cubs pulled off a walk-off.  Fortunately, these are not the 2016 New York Yankees.

In an 18-inning affair that lasted six hours and five minutes (sorry, I didn’t stay up), Aaron Hicks , Ronald Torreyes and Starlin Castro emerged as the heroes of heroes.  Leading off the 18th, Aaron Hicks bunted toward third and reached second thanks to a throwing error by Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras.  After a sacrifice bunt by Torreyes moved Hicks to third, he scored on a grounder to short by Castro.

When Chasen Shreve (1-0) struck out Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks at 2:13 a.m., the Yankees (20-9) had completed an improbable and very exhausting 5-4 victory.

It’s tough to play a night game on “getaway” day, but even tougher to play what essentially equates to a double-header in terms of innings played.  It was an incredible job by the bullpen for anyone not named Chapman.  Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder and Shreve combined for 9 1/3 innings of scoreless relief following Chapman’s blown save.  The Yankees and Cubs set a Major League record for strikeouts with 48.  Yankees pitchers accounted for 26 of those K’s, including 9 by starter Luis Severino and 5 by Shreve.  The Cubs also set a record by using three pitchers as pinch-hitters.  

I am thankful the Yankees didn’t have to employ the last man standing in the bullpen (Tommy Layne) given his recent propensity for watching the opponent score while he is on the mound.  

Chapman’s underwhelming performance against his World Series teammates wasted another great start by Severino.  With a four-hitter in 7 innings of work while allowing only a single run (a 2nd inning home run by Javier Baez), he bested former Boston Red Sox nemesis Jon Lester and stood in line for the victory until Chapman let it get away.  A run scoring triple by Aaron Judge in the 7th inning had put Severino in position to win, with a two-run homer by Jacoby Ellsbury in the 8th for support.  But the Cubs, stealing a page from these exciting young Pinstripers, showed that the game is not over ’til it’s over…to borrow a line from legendary Yankees catcher Yogi Berra.  

Castro completed his three day Chicago reunion with 2 RBI’s despite an 0-for-8 night.  He also had a run-scoring ground-out in the first inning.  

The game had its humorous moment when left fielder Aaron Hicks lost sight of Baez’s home run ball.  That’s how I would play every inning…

Credit:  MLB.com

Matt Holliday did a solid job with his first Yankees start at first base.  He went 2-for-4 until he was lifted for pinch-hitter Chris Carter.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see Holliday play some more first base in Cincinnati.  Heck, at this point, the Yankees should probably play Aaron Hicks at first.  They have to find ways to keep that dude’s bat in the lineup.  

For the Yankees, they became only the second team to sweep the Cubs this season.  They maintained a half-game over the Baltimore Orioles for the AL East lead.  The O’s had a broom of their own with a weekend sweep of the Chicago White Sox.  Sadly, the Red Sox won again after providing 17 runs for their ace, Chris Sale.  

The Yankees make a short hop to Cincinnati, Ohio for a game against former Yankees top pitching prospect Rookie Davis and the Cincinnati Reds later today.  I would generally say that the Yankees may be a little sluggish after the late night, but that would be underestimating the resiliency of this team.  It will be a challenge as the Reds (17-14) are the current leader in the NL Central, thanks to the Yankees’ sweep of the Cubs.  But if any team can find a way, I’ll take my chances with the Yankees.

Have a great Monday!  Hopefully we’re in line for a restful and victorious day!

Don’t Look Now But It’s J-Mont Time!…

Credit:  Chris O’Meara, AP

Whoa, I didn’t think it would happen but Jordan Montgomery has claimed the fifth spot in the starting rotation.  As recent as yesterday, I said I expected the Yankees to go with either Bryan Mitchell (currently on the Major League roster) or Chad Green (currently in the minors) since both pitchers are on the 40-man roster.  Surprisingly, Manager Joe Girardi has announced they’ll call up Jordan Montgomery to make his much anticipated Major League Debut on Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.  

I think it’s a terrific move.  While I have been aware of the minor league accomplishments that Montgomery has achieved, I jumped on the bandwagon during Spring Training after watching him pitch.  I had been a big supporter for Mitchell but the tall young left-hander changed my mind.  I think it is tremendous to add another talented lefty to the rotation to go with CC Sabathia.  Montgomery may not profile as a frontline ace, but he can be a very effective Big League pitcher.  There will be bumps in the road but I think Montgomery can be an important part of the starting rotation when the team returns to contender status in the not-so-distant future.  

No word yet who has lost their spot on the 40-man roster.  You always have to worry about Rob Refsnyder given the lack of love he has been shown by Yankees management (regardless of how you or I feel about Ref).  I think it will probably be one of the lesser known younger pitchers but it’s really anybody’s guess for who will lose the seat at the table.

With Montgomery scheduled to start tomorrow, it pushes everyone else back a day.  Luis Severino will pitch on Thursday.  To make room on the 25-man roster for Montgomery, the Yankees have demoted lefty reliever Chasen Shreve to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  The decision regarding the 40-man roster, which was not announced, will be made by Wednesday.

Congratulations to Montgomery for his arrival at The Show and best of luck for much success on Wednesday for his Major League (and Yankee Stadium) debut!  Exciting times!  These are the steps that lay the foundation for the next World Series Championship!

It’s been announced that catcher Gary Sanchez will miss four weeks with a Grade 1 Strain of his  right brachialis muscle (behind his bicep).  I think all of us knew that this was going to be longer than a 10-Day DL stint.  A month is a long time, but all things considered, it could have been worse, much worse.  So, I guess we’ll just have delay the Yankees Regulars Reunion Party until May when Sanchez and Didi Gregorius both return.  

I’ve already seen a few articles speculating who the Yankees should acquire for interim catching help.  I think they’ll just go with the in-house candidates like they did for Didi Gregorius.  I would prefer to see a platoon between Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka rather than just give the job outright to Romine.  I really want to see what Higashioka has in his bat.  He was a late bloomer but I think he can be a better catcher than Romine.  Of the external candidates, the only name that sounds reasonably appealing to me is John Ryan Murphy of the Minnesota Twins.  But despite the good job Murphy did as the Yankees backup catcher a couple of seasons ago, he has had a difficult time staying on the Twins’ MLB roster and is currently at Triple A.  

With Sanchez out of the lineup, it’s critical for someone else to step up.  Could that guy be right fielder Aaron Judge?  Judge homered on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles and again yesterday on Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays.  He has done a good job in reducing strikeouts and maybe now his bat is coming around.  After struggling at each level, he has always overcome the challenges.  Let’s hope this is the start of success for Judge in the Major Leagues, his final frontier.  

Speaking of Opening Day, it was a magical day.  Prior to the game, I had hoped the significance of the day would help bring out the best in Pineda.  It did.  Big Mike pitched exactly the way we know he can.  He took a perfect game into the seventh inning before surrendering a double to Evan Longoria.  He lost the shutout in the eighth, thanks to a Logan Morrison home run.  Those would be the only hits (and run) allowed by Pineda, who went 7 2/3 innings.  He didn’t walk a batter and struck out eleven in one of his most magnificent performances in recent memory.  This is the Big Mike that can take us to the Promised Land.  

For the second day in a row, Aroldis Chapman saw a potential save opportunity evaporate due to multiple late inning runs.  After the top of the eighth inning was completed, the Yankees held a slim 3-1 lead.  It felt like we’d see Chapman in the ninth to try for his first save of the season.  He had even gotten up to throw in the pen but it was not meant to be as the Yankees easily scored five runs in the bottom of the 8th to ice the game.  So, for the ninth inning, Chasen Shreve cleanly delivered three outs with no hits, walks or runs, striking out one.  For his trouble, he received a free all-expenses paid one-way trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  

In addition to Judge’s fourth inning home run off Alex Cobb, Chase Headley and Starlin Castro also homered later in the game.  Matt Holliday had a good Yankee Stadium debut as he was 2-for-4, with a run scored and one ribbie.  Chris Carter, also making his Yankee Stadium debut, tripled to drive in a run during the eighth inning scoring explosion.

It was a GREAT day for the Yankees and their fans from beginning to end.  The day could not have been better scripted.  Well, I wouldn’t object to the erasure of Longoria’s hit or Morrison’s homer, but all things considered, it was a wonderful day in the Bronx neighborhood.  

For a day like yesterday, it’s fun to have a day off today to let the pleasing victory marinate.  Take these good feelings and channel them into the desire for a sensational debut performance tomorrow by New York Yankees starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery!  Wow, that does sound good…

Have a great Tuesday! 

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).

yanksmainweb1s-web

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.

jordan4

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

Searching for the diamond in the rough, a/k/a the Rebuilding Program…

Happy New Year!

This has been an odd off-season for Yankees fans.  Quietly, the Yankees have made small deals to get younger.  The only significant addition of a proven high level performer is lefty Andrew Miller.  Didi Gregorius makes sense given the team’s need at short, but he’s hardly proven himself as a top flight shortstop to this point in his career.

It was difficult to see David Robertson leave to sign with the Chicago White Sox, particularly since there were no outward signs the team tried to keep him.  Not sure what the team saw that we didn’t, but Robertson has proved he can pitch in the Bronx and that’s not an easy task…especially when you follow the footsteps of a Legend…

Despite the brevity of his Yankees career, I was disappointed when I heard the news that Martin Prado had been traded to the Miami Marlins.  While I am hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training, there’s always the chance that neither he nor Jose Pirela will be successful.  Prado provides great diversity to a roster.  While I am not disappointed that Mark Teixeira will have a sorely needed legitimate backup in Garrett Jones, I am not quite sure what to think about starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.  I understand the potential is there, but it’s yet to be proven.

Robert Mayer – USA Today Sports

But probably the biggest sadness of the off-season occurred with the New Year’s first trade which saw the Yankees send once top prospect Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.  I can so remember when the “Killer B’s” (Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman) were so highly touted and viewed as the future of the Yankees.  Betances failed as a starting pitcher, but obviously, he resurrected his promise with brilliance in the bullpen and now looms as the likely new closer.  Brackman was released a couple of years ago and is now out of baseball.  Nevertheless, I still had hope that Banuelos would finally arrive.  After Tommy John surgery in 2012/13, I expected him to struggle in 2014.  Few pitchers are able to come back at an immediate high level.  It takes time.  There is still time for Banuelos to blossom.  To the Yankees’ defense, there is always the chance he’ll never be what he could have been.  I will still root for Banuelos, the Brave,  and I do hope that he becomes the pitcher we thought he would be.

Mike James – AP Photo

As a Yankees fan, there are certain guys in the farm system that you follow closely.  Granted, there has been a shortage of high level talent in the system, but still, you hold out hope that certain guys will become the next core of the team.  Yet, in recent years, it has usually just ended in disappointment, with Banuelos being the latest.  I can think of Eric Duncan, Cito Culver, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott as a few who have failed.  The successes of players like Dellin Betances have been few and far between.  So, perhaps that’s why GM Brian Cashman is shuffling the deck.  But it’s hard not to say that this feels like a rebuilding program, rather than re-tooling.  So, the two year play-off drought threatens to be more.  I know, I know, if CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and, eek!, Alex Rodriguez can return to form, the Yankees will be in the hunt.  But that’s not a bet I would take.  Of the players, I think, realistically, McCann is the only way who will bounce back.  That means, with the roster as-is, the Yankee Stadium lights will be out in October.

I do have to add the usual caveat….I hope that I am WRONG!

So now, I look forward to the next wave of prospects making a difference.  I am hopeful that guys like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin, and the aforementioned Rob Refsnyder are able to accomplish what so many in front of them have failed to do…wear the pride and pinstripes of baseball’s most storied franchise, the New York Yankees.

Here’s hoping for much happiness and success in 2015 for all!

–Scott