Yankees 3, Royals 0…
Luis Severino continued the recent albeit short trend of stellar pitching performances by Yankee starters. Masahiro Tanaka excluded, the rotation has pitched to win the last four games. Severino was tremendous, pitching eight innings. He was still clicking the radar gun at 99 mph in the 8th. By completing eight, Severino was able to pass the baton to Dellin Betances for the one inning save without relying on any of the tired arms in the pen.
Severino (3-2) was incredible in the scoreless outing with a season high 114 pitches. He allowed only one extra base hit (a double by Brandon Moss in the 5th inning) and did not allow any runners past second base. Sevy only allowed four hits and walked one while striking out seven. He lowered his season ERA to 3.11.
Jason Hammel kept the Yankees in check most of the night but the Pinstripers didn’t need much. Didi Gregorius hit a solo homer in the third inning to give the Yanks an early 1-0 lead.
|Credit: Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports|
In the 6th inning, the Yankees picked up another run through great-base running effort by Gary Sanchez. Sanchez singled to open the inning and then stole second. Thanks to a throwing error by Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Sanchez alertly raced on to third. Matt Holliday brought him home with a sac fly.
The Yankees picked up their final run when Gregorius led off the 7th inning with a double. A ground out by Chris Carter moved Gregorius to third, which brought Brett Gardner to the plate. With two strikes, Gardner was the beneficiary of a called ball on a pitch by Royals reliever Matt Strahm that seemingly landed well within the strike zone. It should have been the third strike for the second out of the inning but with the next pitch, Gardner singled to center to drive in the run.
Betances struck out the side in the 9th inning to earn his fourth save of the season, lowering his season ERA to 0.57.
The Yankees (27-17) moved 2 1/2 games up on the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore lost 4-3 to the Minnesota Twins and their fine rookie pitcher Jose Berrios. The Boston Red Sox remained 3 1/2 games back with their 9-4 win over the Texas Rangers.
I want one of those guys…
Last night, Chris Sale of the Red Sox attempted to become the MLB pitcher in the Modern Era to record at least 10 strikeouts in nine straight games. He failed but he is still the fifth pitcher since 1900 to reach 100 strikeouts in his first 10 starts. It probably wasn’t one of his better games, but Sale still kept the game within reach for the Red Sox until their offense exploded for 7 runs in the 7th inning of their game against the Texas Rangers. Sale finished the night with 7 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.
Credit: Christopher Evans
Sale has such a presence when he is on the mound. I can’t think of any potential trade targets that can match Sale as a frontline ace. I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will surprise me, but I think most of us know who the available trade suspects are.
Gleyber Torres Watch (with a little Tyler Austin thrown in)…
It was another night at third base yesterday for Yankees top prospect Gleyber Torres as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Columbus Clippers, 5-0.
Watching the RailRiders this closely shows me one thing. Clint Frazier is on fire. He hit his eighth home run (and 28th RBI) in the first inning of the RailRiders’ game against the Columbus Clippers on Wednesday. He also had a two-run shot on Tuesday during Gleyber’s first game at the AAA Level. But enough about ridiculously hot outfielders and how the Yankees like to keep them down while parading the $153 Million Man in center field at Yankee Stadium on a nightly basis. Note: To Jacoby Ellsbury’s defense, he was injured during last night’s game against the Royals when he collided into the outfield wall after making a catch. He suffered a neck sprain and a concussion, and has been placed on the 7-Day DL. I wish him no ill will and hope that he returns to the health sooner than later. It does kind of make me wish that the padding on the outfield walls was a little more player-friendly. Rob Refsnyder has been recalled to the Bronx to replace Ellsbury. On performance alone, Frazier would have been the best option, but Refsnyder is already on the 40-Man Roster which was the difference-maker.
Credit: Andy Grosh/MiLB.com
Torres was a wee bit cooler than Frazier. With an ‘O-fer’ night (0-for-3), he wasn’t really doing much with the bat but he did walk twice, stole a base, and avoided striking out. All things considered, it was another game in the education and development of the Yankees premier prospect as he climbs the ladder for the eventual call to the Bronx.
I thought Mike Ford did a good job for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the short time since his call-up. In nine games, he hit 4 homers and 10 RBI’s, batting .306/.432/.750. But he was returned to AA-Trenton yesterday when Ji-Man Choi was activated from the 7-Day DL for the RailRiders.
Credit: Cheryl Pursell
Maybe I should have re-named this section the Minor League Report.
As promised, here’s a little Tyler Austin…
Credit: Elsa/Getty Images
Well, I should qualify that by saying I hope it is for the Bird (as in Greg)…just not for the Birds of Baltimore.
The Yankees head back to the Bronx for a weekend series against the AL East front-running Orioles. The series begins tonight at 7:05 pm ET with CC Sabathia (2-1, 2.70 ERA) scheduled to take the mound versus the O’s Kevin Gausman (1-2, 7.50 ERA). In Gausman’s last start on Sunday against the Red Sox, he gave up back-to-back home runs in the first inning to Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez as the O’s fell to Boston 6-2.
The Yankees are playing much better than they did when the O’s took 2 of 3 earlier this month. When the Yankees salvaged the final game of the series with a 7-3 victory on April 9th, it was the start of an eight-game winning streak. They left Baltimore with a 2-4 record, and now stand at 13-7 as they prepare for the rematch. The Yankees currently trail the Orioles by just one game.
The X Factor is the return of shortstop Didi Gregorius, who returns tonight after missing the first 20 games of the season. Didi performed his rehab assignment at High A Tampa, where he hit .290 with a homer and 13 ribbies. Credit is owed to interim starting shortstop Ronald Torreyes. My preference had been to promote prospect Tyler Wade as I didn’t feel Torreyes (or “Toe”) was up to the task. He proved me wrr, wrrr…not exactly right. The little guy came up big in clutch situations, and played admirably in the field. Toe now moves to the critical super-sub role with the ability to cover for Gregorius, Starlin Castro or Chase Headley. At this point, if you told me that he could play catcher too, I wouldn’t argue. There’s a reason that Brian Cashman is paid to the general manager and Joe Girardi is paid to be the manager, while I write for free on this blog site.
Now the question is what becomes of backup shortstop Pete Kozma. Is he simply optioned to AAA (retaining his spot on the 40-man roster) or designated for assignment? Personally, for me, the emergency backup shortstop is Wade so I’d shake Kozma’s hand for helping out and then hand him his walking papers.
Catcher Gary Sanchez is also very close to returning. He’ll begin his rehab assignment next Tuesday for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Like Torreyes, catcher Austin Romine has done a terrific job filling in for Sanchez. Obviously, he’ll never be the bat nor the arm of Sanchez, but he held his own at the position.
This has been a crazy year for guys going on the disabled list. The San Francisco Giants losing ace Madison Bumgarner for two months due to a dirt bike accident is probably the craziest. But it seems like no team has been immune from the DL plague. Soon, the Yankees will be back at full strength for a team that is already playing better than expected. There is reason for great optimism at 161st and River.
The pitching match-ups for the rest of the weekend are:
Balt: Ubaldo Jimenez (1-0, 5.95 ERA)
NYY: Michael Pineda (2-1, 3.86 ERA)
Balt: Wade Miley (1-1, 2.08 ERA)
NYY: Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 3.78 ERA)
I am very glad that we won’t be facing a Chris Sale-like pitcher in this series. So far this season, the best pitcher for the Orioles has been Dylan Bundy. The Yankees will miss Bundy (3-1, 1.65 ERA) this go-around. You have to like the Yankees’ chances in this series, particularly considering they are at home. Welcome back, Didi! It will be great to see #18 on the field again.
Yesterday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred disputed the reports that the group led by Yankees Legend Derek Jeter and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush had won the exclusive rights to purchase the Miami Marlins. Per Manfred, there are still two groups involved in the running but that resolution should be reached within a matter of days. So, hold your horses, Jeter may not be trading in his pinstripes just yet. It would be cool if the Steinbrenner Family would sell Jeter part of the Yankees, but that’s not going to happen. For Jeter’s sake, I hope his group’s bid is successful. Ownership is his dream and the best case scenario without the Yankees in play is a National League club to avoid frequent competition.
What did last night’s game against the Boston Red Sox look like?…
What can you say about Masahiro Tanaka’s masterful performance against the Red Sox? It was an absolute masterpiece as Tanaka out-pitched Boston ace Chris Sale for the the 3-0 victory. Tanaka went the distance, allowing only three hits and no walks, while striking out three. It was Tanaka’s best start of the year and one of his greatest in pinstripes. Sale, who came into the game with a career 1.17 ERA against the Yankees, allowed three runs (two earned) in the loss for the Red Sox.
For the majority of the game, the Yankees held a slim 1-0 lead, thanks to a sac fly by Matt Holliday in the fourth inning. Finally, they knocked Sale out of the game in the ninth inning after he allowed singles to the first three batters, including a run-scoring hit by Holliday to pick up his second RBI of the game. Reliever Heath Embree gave up a hit to the first batter he faced (Starlin Castro), scoring Chase Headley, with the run charged to Sale.
Chris Carter, carrying the rep of a one-dimensional home run hitter, played very solid defense at first base even if he couldn’t get his bat going against Sale.
This was one of the more enjoyable victories over the Red Sox in recent memory. Hats off to Tanaka, and congratulations to the team for the two-game sweep.
Have a wonderful Friday! It’s time to cook some Birds!
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
The Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox both won Thursday, so the Yankees find themselves a 1/2 game behind the O’s this morning. All three teams have ten wins, although the Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox have four, five and six losses, respectively. Surprisingly, the Tampa Bay Rays have nine wins albeit with eight losses. The biggest surprise is the cellar dwelling Toronto Blue Jays at 3-12. It’s still very early with 147 games yet to be played for the Yankees but crucial games are on the horizon.
The AL East is the only division in baseball with at least four teams over .500 although just one game separates every team in the AL Central with just a single win needed to put the bottom of the division at .500. Again it’s early, but the AL East is one of the most competitive divisions in baseball at this point.
The next week will be a challenge for the new and improved Yankees. When they complete the current three game set in Pittsburgh, they’ll head to Boston for three games beginning on Tuesday. They are certain to face Red Sox ace Chris Sale who pitched yesterday and gave a performance that justified Boston’s decision to give up their best hitting and pitching prospects over the winter. Although he didn’t figure in the extra inning decision, he went eight innings, allowing no runs and four hits. Walking only one batter, he struck out thirteen. Unfortunately, he’s in prime shape for his next start.
After the Boston series, the Yankees return home to face the Baltimore Orioles. Not to look too far ahead, but these series are followed by the Toronto Blue Jays, the World Champion Chicago Cubs, and arguably baseball’s hottest team, the Houston Astros.
Next week’s schedule represents the most difficult stretch the young Yankees have faced this year so it will be interesting to see how they respond. The Red Sox and Orioles begin a three game series tonight so on the bright side, they can beat each other up before the Yankees face them.
I am hopeful that Greg Bird’s bat starts coming around before the team gets to Boston. Aaron Judge has the “wow” factor with his behemoth home runs in games (and batting practice) but Bird remains the team’s best hitter (potentially) even if the stats don’t show it yet. I remain convinced he’ll soon be raising eyebrows with his hitting prowess but it would be nice if his offensive show could begin sooner rather than later. Maybe it’s waiting for him at Fenway Park.
Based on stats, Chase Headley is arguably the current best hitter with a .396 batting average. He’s off to a great start and admittedly, I didn’t see this coming. We’ll see if it is sustainable, but for now, he’s a vital part of the lineup. I wish I felt as good about Jacoby Ellsbury. Even though he is hitting .302, has stolen four bases and has been Joe Girardi’s clean up hitter of choice in recent games, he just doesn’t do it for me. Too often, and this is a very generalized statement without digging into the actual stats, it seems like he is underperforming in critical situations. I really have to wonder if an outfield of Aaron Hicks-Brett Gardner-Aaron Judge is better than Gardner-Ellsbury-Judge. The way Hicks is hitting right now, it is. Gardner is hitting worse than Ellsbury but this probably gets into a debate about who do you trust more.
Being in Pittsburgh tonight means that Matt Holliday’s bat takes a seat on the bench with no DH. This probably puts even more pressure to get Hicks into the lineup, especially with the pitchers taking at-bat’s. Both Gardy and Bird need to start mixing in a few hits.
Have a wonderful Friday! Let’s make this two in a row tonight!
All Quiet on the Eastern Front…
It has been a very quiet end of the year for the Yankees. There were rumors of the Yankees talking with the Chicago White Sox about Jose Quintana and David Robertson but they quickly lost legs. While the Yankees need starting pitching, I agree that it is best not to raid the newly stocked farm system. It is a risk to bet on prospects over an established major leaguer, but while Jose Quintana is a good pitcher, he’s not Chris Sale. Given Chicago’s desire for top prospects in return, it just does not make sense. Quintana will not be a 2017 difference maker.
Credit: Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports
I still believe the Yankees are better served by identifying an undervalued young starter with potential. Sure, that’s every team’s wish but the Yankees have the scouts and resources to uncover the hidden gems. It is harder to pitch in New York than it is in, say, Pittsburgh, but for some guys, the main stage brings out their full potential.
The New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard was once just a prospect included in a trade (when the Mets dealt knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays). I think that trade has worked out very well in favor of the Mets. It also brought them starting catcher Travis D’Arnaud. The 2012 trade was a risk for the Mets given Dickey was the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but he has never been as good as he was in 2011 and the other guys sent to Toronto are after thoughts (Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas).
The Yankees are not going to win the World Series in 2017. The current blueprint puts the Yankees on the path to World Series contention in two to three years. They have the time to develop frontline starters so why not take a chance on some other team’s “Jake Arrieta”. The Chicago Cubs saw something in the former Baltimore Orioles hurler and it has paid off quite handsomely for them.
I have high hopes for the Yankees young pitching prospects. James Kaprielian heads the list, but I haven’t forgotten or given up hope for Ian Clarkin. Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns are other homegrown prospects that come to mind. The first young starters that will be given the chance to crack the rotation next season are the obvious ones…Luis Cessa and Chad Green. There’s also the hope that Luis Severino restores the promise that he showed in 2015 and is not just another failed starter that succeeds in the pen. Trade acquisitions Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and Albert Abreu also hold promise.
If Severino is successful and just one of the young prospects stands out in the Spring, the rotation that already includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia does not look so bad. It might not be ‘Chris Sale-David Price-Rick Porcello-Eduardo Rodriguez’ worthy, but the foundation is being laid for future success. It will be imperative for the Yankees to re-sign Tanaka should he opt out of his contract following the season, but Sabathia’s departure as he plays out the final year of his contract will continue to create opportunity for the young prospects. Michael Pineda is a case by himself. He is either a really great starter or a disaster. If he can ever hold the focus on the former, the pitching staff will be significantly improved.
Next season, young players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and Greg Bird will play prominent roles for the Yankees. If any are not successful, there is another wave of young players waiting for their opportunities at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Trenton. It is inevitable that we’ll see outfielder Clint Frazier at some point in the season, even if it is just a September call-up. I don’t want to lose this talent in the farm system for the chance on a pitcher which always seems to be the biggest risk in baseball. Gleyber Torres has already shown that he has that “it” factor even if he is still a few years away from the Bronx. Stay the course. GM Brian Cashman’s blue print so far has been successful. He has turned what was one of the worst farm systems a few years ago to one of the best. They have the talent and depth in the system to make quiet but effective trades without sacrificing the organization’s best.
2017 may not be a banner year for the team but clearly the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Now is not the time for the Ghost of Steinbrenner Past to raise its ugly head. Young Hal seems to have a plan and one that will soon yield fruit. Patience. Stick to the plan…
The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…
This week is always the most eventful one of the entire off-season. A flurry of activity followed by relative silence as we head into the holidays.
Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Before the meetings start later this evening, the Yankees have already lost one option with Houston’s free agent signing of former Yankee Carlos Beltran. I had mixed feelings about his possible return to New York. He was arguably the team’s best hitter last season but he is also 40 years old. For a team that has aggressively gotten younger, adding “old” does not necessarily make sense. There is no guarantee that Beltran will be as good as last year, and it’s a near impossibility that he’d be better. Going with older veterans, I’d rather sign either Matt Holliday or Mike Napoli to a short-term deal that keeps the Yankees on the right path toward World Series contention in 2018 or 2019.
Back in the old days under George Steinbrenner, I am sure that both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be Yankees by now. Of the two, I’d prefer Encarnacion but I don’t feel the Yankees should lock up huge long-term dollars for either player even if it would severely weaken the Toronto Blue Jays in the short run. In a couple of years, they’ll just be over-paid, under-producing aging veterans. We’ve seen enough of those in recent seasons.
Credit: Reuters/Ray Stubblebine
There are unofficial reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a deal in place with starter Rich Hill so that’s one less option on the pitching front. A deal with Jason Hammel probably makes the most sense. I like Hammel as a reliable, back of the rotation guy. He would be a good complimentary piece to Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda as the team looks to fill other pitching spots with youth. I would probably take a chance with either C.J. Wilson or Tyson Ross if given the opportunity.
It’s possible that GM Brian Cashman can uncover a quality arm via trade but it’s a virtual certainty the team won’t be involved in the Chris Sale sweepstakes. Sale alone would not make the Yankees an immediate World Series contender and he would cost the best quality of the farm system to acquire. So, the Yankees need to stay the course as they continue to add the pieces for future success.
I was disappointed to see minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson leave the organization. I am happy to see him return to the major leagues as the hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins, however, I thought he would have been a better hitting coach for the Yankees than current hitting coach Alan Cockrell or assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames. When the Yankees had dismissed Jeff Pentland last year, I was hopeful that Rowson would get the job. It was not meant to be. I think he’ll be a good addition to Paul Molitor’s staff in Minneapolis and should help former Yankee and current Twins’ co-catcher John Ryan Murphy to hit again.
I remain hopeful the Yankees re-sign pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren* as they recover from Tommy John surgery. Granted, neither pitcher will help in 2017 but I would really prefer to see them stay.
Let’s hope this week brings good news for Yankees fans…
*Several hours after this post, the Atlanta Braves announced they’ve signed Lindgren to a one year deal that will allow them to retain rights to Lindgren if they add him to their 40-man roster.