The Dog Days of Spring…
One week to go until the games become “real”. The thought of Toronto, Canada on a day in late March gives me a rather chilly feeling but watching the Yankees play brings the necessary warmth. The current weather forecast calls for cloudy skies with an expected high of 47 degrees and a 20% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, the temp inside the Rogers Centre should be very comfortable for the away team. Let the homers begin!
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
It sounds like Manager Aaron Boone intends to have his 25-man roster in place by the weekend. I was surprised to see that first baseman Tyler Austin didn’t make the cut. I assume that places Neil Walker and Austin Romine as the backup first basemen. The speculation is that the Yankees will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. We know that Tyler Wade has made the team as the second baseman and Brandon Drury will be the starter at third. So, the bench appears to be Austin Romine, Neil Walker, and Ronald Torreyes as it appears that neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier will be ready. Under this scenario, the Yankees won’t carry a fifth outfielder with Ellsbury expected to open the season on the disabled list. The outfield rotation would be limited to the four outfielders currently in play (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) using the DH slot primarily for Stanton and Judge. This is where multi-position versatility is very helpful. Although Drury has only played third base for the Yankees, he was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and he has also seen time in the outfield for the Snakes. Torreyes as the emergency catcher is funny but it makes sense. Walker will be all over the infield except shortstop and catcher.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
So it appears the critical decision with be the 13th pitcher. Luis Cessa simply no longer has my trust or support. I do not want him as the rotation’s “sixth man” and after a good Spring, I feel much better about Domingo German in that role. I thought this would be the breakout year for Ben Heller but he had a few rough outings recently and has found himself with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. There is still time for him to shine but it won’t be at the start of the season. I really like Jonathan Holder. He blazed through the Yankees farm system until struggling last year. I am convinced he will be much stronger this year. So, for me, I’d like to see either German or Holder get the last spot on the 25-man roster. German would be a true long man, but if the Yankees need an emergency starter, there’s always the Scranton Shuttle. I’d probably go with Holder to start the season but like last year, the final spot on the roster will be very fluid.
I was surprised to see the return of Rule 5 draftee Anyelo Gomez from the Atlanta Braves. We know that the Braves will be bad this year. I thought they’d bite the bullet and keep Gomez on the MLB roster all season to keep the talented young pitcher. But Gomez’s performance spiraled downward as the MLB-caliber competition in exhibition games increased and it led to Atlanta’s decision to offer Gomez back to the Yankees. Similarly, Jose Mesa, Jr has struggled with the Baltimore Orioles and he was designated for assignment this week when the O’s signed free agent pitcher Alex Cobb. If Mesa clears waivers, the O’s will have to offer him back to the Yankees. So, this leaves only Nestor Cortes, Jr (Orioles) and Mike Ford (Mariners) as the only Rule 5 draftees still with the teams that selected them from the Yankees in December. I remain convinced Cortes will make the O’s Opening Day Roster despite the three-run homer that he gave up to Aaron Judge in yesterday’s exhibition game. I still expect Ford to be offered back to the Yankees by the Mariners in a numbers crunch at first base.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
Speaking of the Mariners, I was saddened to learn that former Yankees reliever David Phelps will miss the upcoming season with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. I thought it was cool that Ichiro Suzuki had followed Phelps to the Yankees, Miami Marlins and then back to Seattle. Now, it appears their reunion on the active regular season roster will be delayed assuming that Ichiro continues to play for the M’s beyond this year. We wish David the very best with his surgery and recovery. Hope to see him back in the Mariners’ bullpen sometime next year and as good as ever (except when he pitches against the Yankees, of course).
Photo Credit: Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)
If you have a subscription to The Athletic, you should be sure to check out Marc Carig’s piece this morning on Brandon Drury entitled “Brandon Drury brings a serious edge to Yankees clubhouse”. Drury has become one of my favorite players in a short period of time. I love his quiet intensity. Like many believe including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I feel very strongly that Drury’s best days are ahead. I think he’ll be a force at third base and will make us forget we ever knew Chase Headley or Todd Frazier. I am very pleased to see Carig covering the Yankees again after a few years away on the Mets beat. He’s an excellent writer and very insightful. Solid work, once again, by Carig.
It’s been tough with no televised Yankees games for the last few days. Fortunately, the Yankees will be on ESPN2 this afternoon against Jake Cave and the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen the lineups for the game yet but hopefully we’ll see Cave. I haven’t been following the Twins so I assume that Cave is remains in the Major League camp. The scheduled starter for the Twins will be former Yankee Phil Hughes.
7 Days to Toronto. I’m ready. You’re ready. They’re ready. Let’s Go Yankees!
Yankees 4, Mariners 1…
The Yankees took manager Joe Girardi’s biggest concern (“just winning games”) to heart as they defeated the Seattle Mariners on late night TV. Of course, it didn’t hurt to have perhaps the best Yankees starting pitcher (Luis Severino) on the mound. Felix Hernandez is tough but I had the confidence in Sevy to persevere.
|Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP|
The first innings of games, lately, always seem to be so tough. King Felix easily dispatched the first three Yanks to move to the bottom of the first. Ben Gamel ripped a one-out double to left (why did we get rid of him one day after being named the 2016 International League MVP again?…I know, the glut of outfielders but still, he has been very solid for the M’s). Robinson Cano hit an infield grounder that caught Gamel off second (out in a rundown…great athleticism by Sevy to start the play). The deadly Nelson Cruz came up and singled to left to move Cano to second. Corey Seager’s big brother Kyle was next but Sevy dialed up the heat to 99 mph and punched Seager out to end the threat. I am so tired starting games in the hole so it was great to see the Yankees escape without allowing any runs despite the two hits.
The Mariners got their hits against Sevy but pushing them across the plate was a different story. The M’s threatened in the fourth with the game still in a scoreless tie. Kyle Seager opened with a double just fair down the third base line (glad he didn’t do that in the first inning). Danny Valencia followed with a solid single to center to put runners at the corners with no outs. Sevy was able to retire Mitch Haniger on a pop-up and Jarrod Dyson on a shallow center fly out after falling behind 3-0, before walking Mike Zunino to load the bases. Fortunately, Jean Segura, in a long at-bat, hit a grounder to Didi Gregorius who flipped the ball to Starlin Castro to force Zunino out at second to end the inning.
In the 6th inning with one out, Brett Gardner drilled a ‘no doubt about it’ homer right center, his 16th to match Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead. He was fortunate as King Felix was still going strong, recording all outs in the 6th by strikeout. But on the other side, Sevy was still holding the M’s off the board.
|Credit: Getty Images|
Former Yankee James Pazos replaced King Felix in the top of the 8th. After Jacoby Ellsbury weakly grounded out to Pazos with a broken bat, Chase Headley singled to center on a ball deflected off the tip of Robinson Cano’s glove. Brett Gardner hit into a fielder’s choice but a fielding error by Jean Segura (he would have easily had the force out at second but was unable to successfully pull the ball out of his glove) allowed Gardy to reach base with Headley safe at second. Tony Zych replaced Pazos and promptly walked Gary Sanchez on a full count to load the bases. A single to right by Aaron Judge scored Headley and it was 2-0 Yankees. Unfortunately, Matt Holliday hit into an inning-ending double play so the Yankees were unable to further cash in with the bases full of Yanks.
Dellin Betances replaced Sevy in the 8th and ran into a little trouble. After hitting Kyle Seager with a pitch, Danny Valencia singled to right to move Seager to second. With one out and the tying run at the plate, Mitch Haniger hit into a force out at second (a play challenged by the M’s after Castro bobbled the ball on the exchange but upheld by the umps). Seager moved to third. Betances reared back and struck out Jarrod Dyson to leave Seager stranded.
The Yankees picked up a couple of huge insurance runs in the 9th courtesy of Robinson Cano. Didi Gregorius and Todd Frazier hit one-out singles off M’s reliever Max Povse. After Jacoby Ellsbury flied out to left (sure seemed like the Yankees were always having to work around Ellsbury outs), Chase Headley reached first base on a throwing error by Cano. Both Gregorius and Frazier scored on the play. Thanks Robby! To Cano’s defense, first baseman Danny Valencia gave up too early and didn’t try to reach out to catch Cano’s wide throw from shallow right.
It was off to the 9th and Aroldis Chapman with the Yankees leading 4-0. Chapman’s control issues continued as he walked the first batter, Mike Zunino. Zunino was replaced by pinch-runner Guillermo Heredia. A wild pitch by Chapman moved to Heredia to second. Chapman struck out Jean Segura and Ben Gamel, with Heredia taking third, before Robinson Cano laced a double to the center field wall bringing Heredia home to score. Chapman was able to secure the final out when Nelson Cruz flied out to right. The Yankees win…a much needed victory.
|Credit: Getty Images|
Hats off to Luis Severino (6-4) for delivering an ace-like performance against one of the AL’s best starting pitchers. Although he gave up 8 hits and a walk in 7 innings, he held the M’s scoreless while striking out 6. King Felix held the Yanks to 3 hits and struck out 9, but one of those hits was the Gardy homer which gave the Yanks the lead they would not relinquish. I had confidence going into this game with Sevy on the mound and he did not disappoint.
Todd Frazier was 1-for-4 in his first Yankees start with a run scored. Neither David Robertson nor Tommy Kahnle made an appearance in this game although Chapman was giving me reasons to wish that it was D-Rob on the mound in the 9th. Joe Girardi must have thought the same thing as he had Robertson up in the pen after Chapman’s wild pitch.
Ben Gamel was hitless in his next four at-bats after the first inning double, striking out three times. Robby Cano, Dontcha Know!, was 3-for-5 with the lone Mariners RBI.
|Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP|
The Yankees (49-45) picked up on a game on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings and trail by 3 1/2 games. The Red Sox lost 8-6 to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yanks are a game behind the idle Tampa Bay Rays (tied in the loss column).
The Yankees go for their 50th win tonight with CC Sabathia (8-3, 3.54 ERA) on the mound facing Andrew Moore (1-1, 5.25 ERA). Sabathia was moved up from Saturday as Masahiro Tanaka was pushed back a day. The Mariners announced a change for their scheduled starter on Sunday. Yovani Gallardo (4-7, 5.59 ERA) will replace Sam Gaviglio in the match-up against Luis Cessa.
Odds & Ends…
I’ve been reading columns that feel the Yankees overpaid to acquire Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. After watching yesterday’s acquisition of reliever and former Yankee David Phelps by the Seattle Mariners, I am starting to think the Yankees may have underpaid. For Phelps alone, the Miami Marlins acquired four players. Three of the players rank in the Mariners list of Top 30 Prospects according to MLB.com. OF Brayan Hernandez rates the highest at #6. RHP Brandon Miller is #16 and RHP Pablo Lopez is #22. The Marlins also acquired RHP Lukas Schiraldi, son of former Major Leaguer Calvin Schiraldi. Granted, the Yankees have a stronger farm system so #6 on the Mariners’ list does not equal #6 on the Yankees list but this is still a very good haul by the Marlins. I know that one scout referred to them as “just guys” but I am also a believer in ‘expect the unexpected’. Suddenly, losing OF Blake Rutherford, LHP Ian Clarkin, and OF Tito Polo (along with the inconsequential Tyler Clippard) seems like a very small price to pay for a strong third base upgrade and two bullpen power arms. I guess that we’ll be seeing David Phelps very soon unless the Yankees can avoid giving the Mariners any late inning leads to work with.
|Credit: Gary Landers/AP|
Todd Frazier is now saying that he’ll stay with #29 rather than ask Paul O’Neill if he can use #21. If I was O’Neill, I’d probably reach out to Frazier and say, “It’s okay, Kid…you’ve worn the number out of respect for me and for my original team (the Reds). Please take #21 and wear it with pride”. There’s no doubt Frazier will do the number justice.
GM Brian Cashman has said that Clint Frazier will be optioned to Triple A when Aaron Hicks returns in a few weeks. I know that he’ll be back in September, but it does kind of stink that a douche like Jacoby Ellsbury gets to keep his seat at the grownups’ table while Frazier has to go have a seat with the kids. I hope that Frazier continues to make this a very hard decision for the Yankees.
Have a great Friday! Let’s just keep winning games in Seattle. Go Yankees!
Quite simply, a great Yankee…
One thing is assured. Yankees fans will not be enjoying any of the hoopla that fans of the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs et al have been experiencing this off-season. The Winter of Our Discontent (hat tip to John Steinbeck) continues with the loss of starter Hiroki Kuroda, who has signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Leagues.
Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, David Phelps, and now Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees have lost some great personalities from the 2014 team and it ensures that 2015 will be “different”. It remains to be seen if it will be different-good or different-bad, but will definitely be different.
I remember when Hiroki Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in his early 30’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I think in my mind I viewed him as nothing more than a #3 starter but I remember watching a Dodgers game a few years (with the legendary Vin Scully announcing…what a treat!). He was masterful that game. I don’t remember the outcome but I do believe it was a Kuroda win and he only gave up a few hits. I was impressed by his performance, but I don’t think I truly appreciated how great he was until he came to New York. I was so wrong. He was more than a #3 starter. He may not have been an ace, but he was the type of #2 starter every team needs. He was a stopper, and he kept his team in games consistently from game to game. After watching A.J. Burnett flame out with essentially the same spot in the rotation with his roller coaster performances, Kuroda gave us stability and an arm that could be counted on. It’s too bad the team was unable to reward him with a World Series championship. Everyone knows the high class and character of Derek Jeter, but Kuroda is every bit the man of honor.
Doug Benc/Getty Images
I am glad that Kuroda was able to be a part of Masahiro Tanaka’s first year and to help with his transition. In a way, there is a bit of an unknown in what it will be like for Tanaka without fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team. This is why it would make tremendous sense to add Hideki Matsui to the coaching staff. I haven’t heard Matsui’s name mentioned as a hitting coach but what about first base? He had one of the greatest clutch bats in recent Yankees history and is well liked by his former teammates and coaches.
But back to Kuroda. I read The New York Post headline that blared “Kuroda spurns Yankees, to return to Japan”. I don’t really view this as Kuroda spurning the Yankees. It has been known his desire was to finish his playing career in Japan. The man Kuroda has proven to be is one who would want to put the best possible product on the field in front of his home country. He wouldn’t want his last year to be a pitcher who stayed a year too long. I do not view this as a spurning so much as it was a man trying to do the right thing for his fans and country. As a fan, I know the tremendous respect that he holds for both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations. Not many people can play for both and only the Yankees and Dodgers.
Masahiro Tanaka wore #18 prior to his arrival in New York. I wonder if he’ll now change his number from 19 to 18 out of respect for his mentor. Tanaka is one of the few guys worthy of wearing Kuroda’s jersey.
Here’s hoping that we see Kuroda at future Yankees Old Timer’s Day games. He will be missed and we look forward to his eventual return to stand among the Legends.
Who is #26 again?…
Perhaps the Yankees are trying to give as many players as possible the opportunity to play with future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. Wow, I am starting to need a program roster to keep up with who is playing for the 2014 Yankees. Chase Headley taking an infield drive and relaying it to Brian McCann at first in defense of Brandon McCarthy on the mound is not exactly a scenario that I had envisioned at the beginning of the year.
Nothing against either Headley or McCarthy as both have performed well during their very short Yankee careers, but there have certainly been a number of roster changes this year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the complete overhaul of a starting pitching rotation as we have gone from CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda to Kuroda, McCarthy, David Phelps, Shane Greene, and Chris Capuano. Of course, that’s today. There could be a current non-Yankee in the rotation by next weekend. McCarthy has performed much better than I had anticipated. I know that he’s healthier than he was earlier in the year with the Arizona Diamondbacks as he is further removed from prior surgery, and as they’ve said, he was showing marked improvement prior to the trade. He is not that removed from being one of the Oakland A’s top starting pitchers. While I do not expect his return to that level, it is nice to know the team has a chance every time he takes the mound.
AP Photo/Eric Risberg
I like the job Shane Greene has done but of course it comes with the typical rookie pains. Admittedly, I was not aware of Greene prior to his call up from the minors. I try to keep up with the top prospects, but he flew under the radar…at least for me. I guess it is a good thing that I am not the general manager.
I am not too crazy about the addition of Chris Capuano. He is just a middle of the road, average pitcher who is susceptible to very bad innings. He is 8 years removed from winning 18 games in Milwaukee, and he had a disastrous June for his home state Red Sox.
No complaints about David Phelps but he is not going to make me forget Tanaka anytime soon.
It is ironic the Yankees finally acquired Headley. The Yankees and Headley have been tied together in trade rumors for over two years. In the end, the cost was not that great. I think Yangervis Solarte and Rafael de Paula will do well in San Diego, but Headley gives the Yankees a much needed and consistent bat at third. I am anxious to see how he performs at Yankee Stadium after leaving the spacious Petco Park. The early returns are good, but it remains to be seen if he can be the Chase Headley of 2012 or if the 2013 version is more indicative of future results. No matter how this plays out, I would prefer the Yankees to re-sign Headley in the off-season to man third over the impending 2015 return of Alex Rodriguez (I really hope that we’ve seen the last of the latter in pinstripes).
It will be interesting to see what moves GM Brian Cashman is able to make during the upcoming week. I would like to see a pitcher who can push Capuano into the bullpen and another bat, preferably an outfielder. I know that he’s had a sluggish start to the season and there’s no way the Cleveland Indians are going to trade him, but a Nick Swisher-type who can play OF or first base would be ideal given the fragile state of Mark Teixeira’s health. While Francisco Cervelli has thrived with increased playing time, I am not exactly enamored with Brian McCann at first base.
Thanks but no thanks…
I was a little disturbed when I saw the post earlier in the week that the Yankees were talking to the San Diego Padres about starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, and the names being mentioned were prospects 3B Eric Jagielo and P Ian Clarkin, both former first round picks. While I am not opposed to Kennedy’s (I was actually glad to see him go when he left), I do not feel the Yankees should give up top talent for him. I still think Kennedy is a hothead and he may be Ed Whitson revisited (guys who just can’t handle the bright lights of Broadway). I have been intrigued with Jagielo as the future Yankees third baseman, so I hope the Yankees do not thwart that plan.
Mark LoMoglio/Tampa Yankees (via MiLB.com)
I think money owed, overall health, and a no-trade list will prevent us from ever seeing Cliff Lee in pinstripes. I recognize the no-trade list can be overcome with money but even the Yankees would be foolish to throw that kind of money at a pitcher who has become a frequent visitor to the DL.
I don’t think the Yankees have the talent to swing a deal for a top shelf starting pitcher, but on the other hand, I’d hate to see them give up what they do have for an aging pitcher with questions.
I do recognize that the moves Cashman makes in the next few days will define this season as the Yankees currently only trail the front-running Baltimore Orioles by three games. I have stress at work, but it’s probably nothing compared to the chess moves that Cashman is facing.
Today is my birthday and all I want is a Yankees win. So, c’mon…um…uh…you there in #26!
Glass is starting to look half empty…
I remember back at the start of the year when there was about one dominant cycle through the starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka. At the time, I was very optimistic about the team’s chances, particularly if the new acquisitions like Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran hit like they always had. But fast forward to July, the team is playing .500 baseball and as Michael Kay said on a recent YES network broadcast, Hiroki Kuroda is “the last man standing”. One moment, Masahiro Tanaka was the pride of the Yankees…most wins for an AL starter, an All-Star selection, league leader in ERA, front-runner for Rookie of the Year, but then the next moment, after a couple of non-quality starts, it’s learned that he has a slight tear an elbow ligament that will sideline him for six weeks. While it is encouraging that surgery is not recommended at this time, the threat of potential Tommy John surgery is real if the rehab is not successful.
Mike Carlson/Getty Images North America
With Kuroda standing as the lone original starter, the rest of the spots are starting to feel like last year’s attempts to fill first base with journeymen to replace Mark Teixeira. Of the replacement starters, David Phelps has had the most consistency. Others like Chase Whitley may have had greater success at times but they’ve also had the more horrific starts. The pressure the patchwork rotation has placed on the bullpen has been immense.
The trade for Arizona Diamondbacks starter Brandon McCarthy, on the fast track for 20 losses, doesn’t improve the starting rotation but he does give them much needed innings. The only spots in the rotation right now that provide any source of confidence are Kuroda and Phelps. Shane Greene is the latest minor league hopeful. Maybe he will prosper at the major league level, maybe he won’t. It’s a tough situation when there are so many holes in the rotation. The latest acquisition, Jeff Francis from the Oakland A’s, has not been a quality starter since his days in Colorado many years ago. Francis appears earmarked for long relief so it is still anybody’s guess who fills the fifth spot in the rotation. Today is Saturday and I do not know who will start for the Yankees on Sunday. Perhaps Chase Whitley gets plugged in or they recall Bruce Billings, but neither option is overly appealing on a day, the last day before the All-Star break, that should have featured Tanaka.
I would have liked to have seen the Yankees acquire Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs before the Oakland A’s did but it’s obvious the Yankees do not have the upper level prospect and major league ready talent to make that type of deal.
I have mixed feelings about whether the Yankees should be buyers or sellers at the trading deadline. If I felt they had a great chance for October success, then I’d be all in for sacrificing some promising talent for a run. But I am not sure there is a move that can be made which would propel the Yankees past the Toronto Blue Jays and/or Baltimore Orioles. Perhaps it would be better for the team to sell and pick up some younger talent for a recharge next year.
There are not any available starters in the Yankees’ price range (in terms of trade-able talent, not dollars) which make sense. I keep hearing Cliff Lee’s name mentioned but the stars have never aligned to bring him to New York in the past and he openly spurned the Yankees when he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Even if he did finally come to New York, he would not be a long-term solution. Ian Kennedy, a former Yankee, is another name bounced around but his stuff just isn’t tailored for Yankee Stadium. A return of A.J. Burnett? No, thank you.
The cost of a lackluster season…
I am starting to get the sense that this will be Brian Cashman’s last year as general manager. Maybe it is time for a change. I’ve been watching the San Diego situation with interest as I am hopeful that Billy Eppler does not become the Padres’ new general manager. For in-house talent to replace Cashman, Eppler is at the top of the list. I would prefer replacing Cashman with someone who knows the inner workings of the Yankees organization and not someone from the outside who would have to go through a transition period.
The All-Star break comes at a good time. The.500 Yankees need some time to reassess where they are and regroup. It also wouldn’t hurt to capture some good luck before they embark on the second half of the season.
The prodigal son returns home…
I am not a Cleveland Cavaliers or Miami Heat fan, but I have to say that I was pleased with LeBron James’ decision to return to his home. The way that he rejected Cleveland with “The Decision” in 2010 to sign with the Heat was awful and he deserved the backlash that came with it. But he has shown that he’s a better man today with his words for why he wants to return to his Northern Ohio roots. Of today’s NBA superstars, LeBron has always been one of my favorites and I wish him the best in bringing a championship to the City by the Lake. The Cavs should be a fun team to watch next season, particularly if they can acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kyrie Irving must think that he won the jackpot with his new contract and the addition of the best player in the NBA.
Now that LeBron has decided where he’ll play next season, Carmelo Anthony should follow suit fairly soon. Still hoping for a return to the New York Knicks…
Welcome to the Bronx!…
With one swing of the bat, Carlos Beltran has arrived as a Yankee. On Friday night, with the Yankees down by one run and two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, Beltran crushed his most important hit to date into the left center stands with two on to give the Yankees a 5-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News
For many new Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka excluded, it takes a while to get acclimated to pinstripes. I remember that it took Jason Giambi a season or so to really feel comfortable. Brian McCann started his Bronx career a little on the slow side, and in many Fantasy Baseball rankings, his replacement in Atlanta and former backup, Evan Gattis was rated higher among catchers. He delivered a key hit this past week to win a game and perhaps that was his “moment”. He is starting to hit so there’s no reason not to believe that he’ll be an offensive force for the remainder of the season. But Beltran came with high expectations even at his age. Not to say that McCann didn’t, but perhaps the bar is a little higher for Beltran given his history in the City with the Mets.
Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports
Ironically, Beltran may never have gotten his “moment” if not for a clutch RBI single by McCann in the prior at-bat. The game had many heroes. A diving stop by Jacoby Ellsbury that could have easily bounced past him to allow more Oriole runners to score in the late innings, David Huff limiting the O’s to one run in the top of the 9th after an error by Yangervis Solarte, and the very strong performance by Hiroki Kuroda. Conversely, Solarte could have been the goat with the error, in combination with his inning ending at-bat with two on in the bottom of the 8th. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the Gatorade was dunked on Beltran and all was good in the Bronx.
If second basemen were as plentiful as catchers…
I like Francisco Cervelli as backup catcher given his versatility. But it was still sad to see John Ryan Murphy sent down to AAA. I know, he’ll get the chance to start every day, but I thought he did a great job backing up McCann. I know that when the Yankees make a deadline move in July, it will almost certainly include one of the young catchers (Murphy or top prospect Gary Sanchez). If the Yankees somehow swing a deal for David Price (unlikely in my opinion), Sanchez would have to be one of the pieces headed to Tampa. But in other deals, it’s more likely that Murphy will go unless the Yankees move Cervelli. Austin Romine seems to have become an afterthought.
Have bat, will travel…
I am glad to see that prospect Peter O’Brien is thriving. Another catcher, he has been performing well at first base and is perhaps an option to replace Mark Teixeira at some future point if he doesn’t get moved in July. Conversely, it is sad to see that talented prospect but oft-injured Slade Heathcott is dealing with, surprise, injuries…
Mark LoMoglio/Yankees, via MLB.com
Sabathia, Nova and Pineda who?…
Hats off to the young Yankee pitchers. Entering the season, the bullpen was perceived as a weakness but young arms Dellin Betances and Adam Warren have become go-to guys, and represent superior upgrades to guys like Joba Chamberlain and other former relievers. But the biggest surprise is how well the replacement pitchers, Chase Whitley and David Phelps in particular, have performed. Vidal Nuno has done a decent job but he is the top candidate to go to the pen or to AAA when CC Sabathia returns after the All-Star break. It’s almost a given that the Yankees will pursue another starting pitcher in July but the reason the Yankees are buyers and not sellers is directly attributable to the support that Whitley and Phelps have provided for ace Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda.
The bearded brigade…
I am glad to see that Phil Hughes has found a home in Minneapolis but I am among those who believe his strong performance would not have happened in the Bronx. I wish that he could have worked out for him, but he did need the change of scenery. It wasn’t that long ago that Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain were cited as the next great Yankee pitching hopefuls, and now they play in Minnesota, San Diego and Detroit, respectively. The only one that the Yankees received a return for was Kennedy and in retrospect it was not for market value. Kennedy went to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers when the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson. Given that Granderson left as a free agent, the Yankees essentially have nothing left to show for the losses of the three former top prospects.
What’s with the former Yankees who feel the need to grow a beard when they leave New York?…
I know the Yankees have history and tradition with their no facial hair policy, but I feel that it is something that the new Steinbrenner regime should consider relaxing. Some guys just need a beard. Sorry McCann…
No reminder needed, thank you…
I have to admit that I had almost forgotten about Alex Rodriguez (it was nice) until I heard his name yesterday after it was announced that he had dropped his lawsuit against the team’s doctor. I don’t know what A-Rod has left in his bat but honestly I do not care. I am not looking forward to his return next year and remain hopeful that the Yankees will find a way to sever ties. But I know that’s wishful thinking on my part. For now, I just have to enjoy that the team is doing fine without A-Rod and know that he is not missed.
A penny for your hits…
What does it take to buy a hit? Apparently not the $45 million the Yankees paid to Carlos Beltran or the $85 mil to Brian McCann or $175 million for former Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. This season has been a struggle for wins despite the team’s winning record. It was finally starting to feel a little better at 29-25 but then the Yankees promptly lost 4 in a row.
Playing a good team like the Oakland A’s, the Yankees bullpen failed miserably until the final game of the series when David Robertson locked away a win for ace Masahiro Tanaka. That bleeding started in the series with the Minnesota Twins and was inevitable with the short innings being provided by the replacement starters (i.e., David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Chase Whitley). When the Yankees are only scoring 1 or 2 runs a game, the starters need to throw a gem almost every outing which obviously is not realistic given the current state of arms.
I thought the Yankees should have aggressively tried to sign Stephen Drew before the Boston Red Sox re-signed him, and now I feel the same way about slugger Kendrys Morales. Now that there is no longer draft pick compensation tied to him since the MLB started yesterday, I felt the Yankees should go after him. Maybe they are, but there’s competition. Based on yesterday’s first draft pick for the Yankees in the second, had they signed Morales earlier, the cost would have been lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren who is already projected to make an appearance in the Yankees bullpen this year. But now it’s an open field for Morales and the Yankees have reluctance, wanting to see how Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran perform. In my opinion, the odds of one or both going back to the DL at some point is very high, and the designated hitter, Alfonso Soriano, is not hitting, so I would aggressively pursue Morales to cover 1B/DH. Ironically, Morales is the guy the Los Angeles Angels turned to when Mark Teixeira left as a free agent. It worked out well for the Angels and I think it can work out well for the Yankees. No ifs, ands, or buts, the Yankees need a proven consistent run producer in the middle of the order. I agree with those who say the Yankees sorely miss Robinson Cano’s bat. Ironically, the Yankees were also unable to re-sign another slugger having a good year in Milwaukee this year (Mark Reynolds) despite the usual anemic batting average. Those home runs would look pretty good about now in Yankee Stadium.
On nights the Yankees are scoring only a run or getting shut out, I even see guys like Milwaukee’s Lyle Overbay, another 2013 Yankee, driving in a couple of runs for his new team. And of course, who delivered the key hit in the Yankees last game with the Twins when the Yankees bullpen collapsed in the late innings? None other than former backup shortstop Eduardo Nunez.
At this point, the Toronto Blue Jays are starting to run away with the division. They are clearly playing like the class of the division and they just came off a very successful series against perennial AL contender Detroit. If I had to pick two teams playing in the ALCS right now, I’d pick the Blue Jays and the Oakland A’s. If the Yankees do not figure out how to fix the current offensive drought, they really will be offensive and done for the season in September.
Not everybody was meant to be Mariano Rivera…
Nothing against David Robertson but I am still not sold on him as the team’s closer. Sure, replacing Mariano Rivera is big shoes to fill. However, I still think that Robertson’s stuff plays best in a Set Up role. I have been intrigued with the possibility of trying Dellin Betances in the role, but he needs more major league experience so maybe next year. The reliever the Yankees picked yesterday (Jacob Lindgren) is also a future possibility. If Robertson blows a few more games like he did against Minnesota, I’d really consider using Andrew Bailey in the role when he gets healthy…for now.
I love you, I love you not…
Speaking of former Yankees thriving outside of New York, both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain seem to be doing fine. Hughes even captured a victory in the Bronx with the aforementioned bullpen collapse, a place that he couldn’t buy a win last year. Chamberlain has a couple of saves and a decent ERA. I can’t say that I’ve watched him too closely but his stats seem to say that all is good. Why couldn’t have these guys performed like this last year? Rhetorical question and of course, there is something to be said about the pressure of playing in New York. It’s not for everyone.
Farewell to a champion…
It was sound to hear about the passing of former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer this week. The image of Zim sitting next to Joe Torre on the Yankees bench is forever burned into my memory. He was such a part of those late 90’s championships and he helped mold Torre into a Hall of Fame manager and one who will soon have his number retired in Memorial Park. I realize that sooner or later, all of us must depart. But still, it is sad to see Zim go now. I understand he had been in poor health since April and hopefully he is now at peace. He will be missed as he was truly one of Major League Baseball’s landmarks.
Courtesy: Keith Torrie/New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images
Where’s the reset button?…
2014 has been a year of disappointment for many. Pitchers are lining up for Tommy John surgery at an alarming rate and proven star performers like Prince Fielder and Bryce Harper are on the DL.
Certainly, the Boston Red Sox rank of one of the year’s greatest disappointments (as discussed in Nick Cafardo’s column today in the Boston Globe). I realize the team has struggled with the losses of Jacoby Ellsbury and Jared Saltalamacchia, but the effort and focus of the team collectively seems to be lacking. I know, a Yankee fan making negative comments about the Red Sox…shocking. But still, watch the 15th inning of yesterday’s Sox-Rays game seemed to be a microcosm of Boston’s season. While everyone was critical of reliever Andrew Miller’s errant throw at second base that allowed Tampa Bay to score the winning run, it was an earlier play that I felt was equally as critical. The Rays laid down a perfect bunt toward third and Miller had the closest line to the ball, yet he pulled up and didn’t make an attempt for it. It appeared to me that they would have been able to record an out had Miller gone for the ball, but instead the runners advanced. Sure, the loss cannot be placed on Miller alone. But it was a random sample of what ails the Sox.
Kim Klement/USA Today Sports
I know better than to ever underestimate the Red Sox. They’ve overcome adversity too often to think their season is done. But they need to find the “magic” soon if they intend to defend their crown.
Battling to stay above .500…
Of course, as I write about the Red Sox, my team…the Yankees…have their own problems. Entering the season, there were two primary concerns: the infield and the bullpen.
The latter has become a strength with the emergence of young relievers like Dellin Betances and Adam Warren. I have lost no sleep about Joba Chamberlain being in Detroit, whlle Betances has become a late inning force. David Robertson has been very effective as Mariano Rivera’s replacement (regardless of the two run walk-off home run by Chicago’s Adam Dunn the other night). But time will tell how long it will hold up with the collapse…at least injury-wise…of the starting rotation. With CC Sabathia, ivan Nova and Michael Pineda on the DL, the bullpen has lost reliable arms to the rotation (Vidal Nuno and David Phelps). The Yankees ability to find a permanent solution for the losses of Sabathia and Nova and the successful return of Pineda will go a long way toward determining where the Yankees will be in late September.
The infield has been as expected. Sure, Yangervis Solarte has been a pleasant surprise but I do not realistically expect him to keep it up for the duration of the season. Brian Roberts, to no surprise, is nicked up and hasn’t played for a couple of games. Kelly Johnson is a better role player than starter. But sadly, the biggest disappointment might be Derek Jeter. A sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, Derek is unquestionably on his last legs. I am not trying to knock Jeter but he’s just as susceptible to age as the rest of us. Only Mariano Rivera was exempt…
So, it becomes a question of what changes can be made at what price…and when?…
The end of the streak…
In a way, it was good to see Masahiro Tanaka finally lose his first regular season game since 2012. The streak was becoming the focus and with it, a distraction. Everyone has a bad day and Tanaka is no exception. But now, he can just pitch and continue to improve his game without the added pressure of maintaining the streak.
The loss was inevitable and the many storylines about it have been written. Let’s move on.
Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports
The Boy Who Cried Wolf…
Now that Kim Kardashian’s wedding in Florence, Italy is over, I wonder what she’ll do for her next wedding when she gets re-married…
I wonder if Mike Mussina can still pitch…
It’s still early in May but the Yankees have only two remaining starters in the pitching rotation from the Opening Day roster. With the placement of CC Sabathia (knee) on the DL, the two Japanese starters, Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka, are the only remaining starters with Ivan Nova (elbow/Tommy John surgery) and Michael Pineda (back) already on the DL. This means the remainder of the rotation after Kuroda and Tanaka, are David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and perhaps Chase Whitley or Alfredo Aceves. That’s not exactly a rotation that strikes fear in the heart of opposing batters.
The Yankees are so very fortunate that they won the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes in the off-season. I’d hate to think where this rotation would be without Tanaka. Or the team for that matter.
The Yankees will need to do something to address the starting rotation. Nova is gone for the year, and Sabathia is still showing difficulty in adjusting to the latter stages of his pitching career. I am really not sure what to expect when Pineda comes back and Kuroda has not shown consistent dominance since early last year.
But with the July trading deadline still over two months away, there are simply no quality options available. Well, at least not at more reasonable prices. Hopefully, someone among the Phelps, Nuno, Whitley et al group step up to show that they belong in The Show. The Yankees need a new starter next year to replace Kuroda, who, more than likely, will retire or return to play in Japan. Rather than vastly overpay for an upcoming free agent, it would be preferable for a young starter in the organization to step up and take his spot (obviously).
Passing the torch…
With Stephen Drew still available and the June draft upcoming, the rumors are picking up again that Drew would be a great fit for the Yankees. I do not disagree. No disrespect for Derek Jeter but he simply is not the player he was once. He will not ride to the sunset like Mariano Rivera at the top of his game. It’s unfortunate, but age has a funny way of doing that to the best of us. I have felt that Drew would be a very solid addition since spring training and better than adding Brian Roberts or Kelly Johnson. I know it would cost a draft pick, but the Yankees should pull the trigger now and sign Drew rather than wait until the competition is much stronger once Drew no longer has compensation tied to his signing following the player draft.
Brendan Ryan is a great fielder at shortstop but this team needs quality, clutch bats and Drew would be perhaps the best option for production among the middle infielders if signed.
The quarterback who wears gloves picked the right city…
As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I bought into the hype of Johnny Manziel. After experiencing life as a fan of Donnie Baseball, it was appealing to think of my favorite football team being led by Johnny Football. When the Vikings were on the clock at #8 and Manziel was still available, I was hopeful, along with many other Vikings fans apparently, that the team would call his team. But instead, the Vikings swapped places with the Cleveland Browns at #9, and took a defensive player (Anthony Barr). While I recognize the team needed defensive help, particularly the linebackers and defensive backfield, but the team needs a true leader. I had been hopeful Christian Ponder would be the guy but it has never worked out. Perhaps offensive coordinator Norv Turner can pull something out of Ponder but in many ways it is too late. Matt Cassell will be the starter in 2014 barring injury, so it was a given the Vikings would take a QB in the draft.
After failing to trade up to #22 (the Philadelphia Eagles accepted a better offer from the Cleveland Browns who then took Johnny Football), the Vikings traded back up into the first round (last pick at #32) with the Seattle Seahawks and grabbed the guy who was number one on many top QB lists, Teddy Bridgewater. So, while I was disappointed the Vikings didn’t get Manziel, it is certainly not difficult to be excited about the potential of Bridgewater. He’ll have great weapons with Adrian Peterson, Cordarelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings and others. Ponder now becomes an afterthought, unless he is somehow able to find his way back into the starter’s role before Bridgewater takes the position for good.
Happy Mother’s Day!
24: Live Another Day…
To some, that title refers to the upcoming 12-episode FOX TV Series with Kiefer Sutherland returning as Jack Bauer, but it is also has some parallels with the current state of the Yankees. 24 is the continuation of the roster size until Sunday when Michael Pineda’s suspension ends and he is subsequently placed on the DL. 24 was the return of Robinson Cano to New York even though he now wears #22. 24 seems like the length of yesterday’s 14-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. 24 is the description of the day by day adventure that is a major league baseball season.
Clearly, the Yankees are in a funk right now with a shortened two game sweep by Cano and the Seattle Mariners, followed by last night’s series opening loss to the Rays.
There was a brief stretch earlier in the season where I was feeling very confident with the starting rotation but that lasted about one cycle through the rotation as the Yankees lost Ivan Nova for the season due to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda to suspension and subsequently an injured back. So, Vidal Nuno becomes the #4 starter with David Phelps filling the role of the last man in the rotation. If CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were pitching to their proven levels, it would be a different story but they are not. So, it places so much more focus on the back end. Right now, there is only one starter that conveys a sense of confidence. It doesn’t mean that he’ll win every time out, but you feel as though you’ll have the best possible chance for success. That pitcher, of course, is Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka who has been everything as advertised. I hate to think where the Yankees rotation would be if he was a Chicago Cub or a Los Angeles Dodger. We’d probably be bracing for the return of Freddy Garcia at this point.
The Yankees need to do something. With Nuno and Phelps in the rotation, the bullpen, which had actually started to gel after some early concerns, is a mess. Nuno strikes me as no more than a good long man, not a starter. I think Phelps has promise but relying on the combo of Nuno-Phelps is too much. The Yankees need to find a proven starter, somewhere…somehow, so that they can push, ideally, Nuno back to the pen. Of course, where that starter is going to come from is anybody’s guess. It’s not exactly like the Detroit Tigers are going to hand Max Scherzer to the Yanks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the return of Alfredo Aceves to the Bronx. It’s too bad that Manny Banuelos didn’t develop as planned as this would have been a good time for him to make his introduction into the major leagues if he hadn’t encountered injury along his path. He may still make it one day but unfortunately, he’s not an answer right now. He’s probably not an answer but you gotta love Graham Stoneburner’s name if nothing else about his game. Hopefully, the Yankees can make some necessary improvements now rather than having to wait until closer to the July trading deadline.
Death, Taxes, and MLB Injuries…
This has been a tough year for injuries given how many pitchers have had to have Tommy John surgery, and frontline players like Bryce Harper and Jason Kipnis currently on the disabled list. While the Yankees have been plagued with injuries, they are fortunate it hasn’t been more severe. Losing Nova for 12-18 months hurts, but still, it could be worse. These are the times that GM Brian Cashman is asked to prove his mettle. How he responds to the Yankees current situation will shape the remainder of the season. As presently constructed, I am not sure that this is a team that will be knocking in October. It was an older, vulnerable team that has had to deal with injuries and one without able, capable young bodies in the farm system ready and capable to make their mark in The Show. But, as the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…
The (new) Yankee Stadium hits leader in road gray…
Speaking of Robinson Cano, I had mixed feelings about his return to the Bronx. There was criticism directed at him in the form of the very loud boos and chants against him, but the louder the Bronx cheers, the more you realize how much the player meant to the fans. I hated to see Cano leave but I felt and continue to feel the Yankees made the right decision not to match the Mariners’ $240 million offer. It wasn’t about disrespect, but rather a decision that was in the best interests of the long-term health of the team roster through the next 10 years. I had no issue with the fans booing and it was clear that Cano was prepared to handle it. His appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon illustrated how ready he was to confront the fans. The clip where fans thought they were booing a picture of Cano only to have the real thing step out was classic. It also showed that how much we may boo Cano and how unhappy we were he didn’t take less money to stay in pinstripes, the bottom line is that he is a quality human being and he sets a good example for the game.
Naturally, I hope he fails in Seattle. Okay, not really. I recognize that he is the best at his position. That won’t be the case in 7-8 years and perhaps the Yankees will have found their long term answer at the position by then. It was good to see Cano back in the Bronx and despite the sweep, I do wish him well. But, when he returns to the Bronx the next time, I will boo him. Sorry, it’s just what we do…
Have a wonderful weekend!