Tagged: David Robertson

Judge Rules In Favor Of Yanks…

Credit:  Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

Yankees 5, Mariners 1…

Powered by a monster blast from Aaron Judge that nearly reached the back wall of the upper left stands (if not for a fan in the next to the last row), the Yankees won for the second night in a row in Seattle.  Statcast was unable to capture the length of the homer and it was estimated at 440 feet although it seemed longer to most people watching.  It probably wasn’t the game highlight that Mariners starter Andrew Moore wanted to see after the game but he’s not the first nor the last pitcher that will have to wait a very long time to watch a home run ball drop with Judge at the plate.  

The game should have been about veteran lefty starter CC Sabathia (9-3).  Celebrating his 37th birthday, CC had previously never won a birthday start in his career.  Friday night was a different story.  The game didn’t start like it was going to be a good evening for the road gray.  After Moore breezed through the first three of the Yankees order in the top of the first inning, CC ran into trouble after easily retiring the first two batters in the bottom of the inning.  He lost Robinson Cano, walking him on a full count.  Nelson Cruz hit a “loud” single to the left field wall, with Cano racing around to third.  Chase Headley’s inexperience as a first baseman showed with the next batter, Kyle Seager.  Seager hit a grounder that deflected off Headley’s glove and was retrieved by Starlin Castro in shallow right.  Headley went back to first but his foot placement was inch or two off the base.  So, although Castro’s throw to first was in time, Headley’s recovery to move his foot to the base was too late to get Seager.  Cano scored on the play.  Mitch Haniger laced a line drive down the first base line, past a diving Headley, to load the bases.  Fortunately, CC induced Guillermo Heredia to hit an infield grounder, Todd Frazier to Starlin Castro, to force Haniger out at second for the final out.  Whew!

Credit:  Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

After the Yankees failed to score in the of the 2nd despite a couple of hits, Ben Gamel opened the bottom of the inning for the M’s with a double to center past a running Brett Gardner.  Mike Zunino followed with a hard hit liner to left but Clint Frazier made a terrific diving catch for the out and held Gamel at second.  As YES Network Analyst David Cone said, “Young athleticism on display”.  Gamel was subsequently erased at third on a fielder’s choice by Didi Gregorius with a snap throw to Todd Frazier.  CC was able to retire Danny Valencia on a weak grounder back to the pitcher to emerge from the inning unscathed.  

The Yankees were finally able to get to M’s starter Andrew Moore in the 3rd inning.  Chase Headley opened the inning with a double to left center, just beyond the glove of diving center fielder Guillermo Heredia.  Red Thunder blasted a double off the right center wall as Headley circled around to score just ahead of the throw which got away from catcher Mike Zunino.  Clint Frazier tagged on the next play, a fly ball by Brett Gardner to center, and made it to third just ahead of a tremendous throw by Heredia.  A sacrifice fly to warning track in center by Aaron Judge scored Frazier and the Yankees had a 2-1 lead.

With CC Sabathia seemingly gaining steam as he progressed through the innings, the Yankees scored again in the 5th.  Brett Gardner singled on a line drive to right.  Gary Sanchez singled to left, with Gardner moving to third.  Aaron Judge came up and smashed the Andrew Moore offering to left as the ball nearly left the stadium.  5-1, Yankees.  4 RBI’s on the night for Judge.

Credit:  Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

CC opened the sixth but he walked the leadoff batter, Kyle Seager, and his night was done.  I know that CC could have continued to be effective, but the high pitch count in the early innings had Sabathia at 98 pitches following the walk to Seager.  Nevertheless, this is no longer the Tyler Clippard era of the bullpen.  Tommy Kahnle, who might be my new favorite Yankee, came in to strike out Mitch Haniger.  He easily retired pinch-hitter Jarrod Dyson and Ben Gamel for another highly effective inning of work.

The bottom of the 7th saw the 2017 Yankees debut for former Yankees and White Sox closer David Robertson.  D-Rob was the magnificent reliever of old as he retired the side by strikeout.  Welcome back, D-Rob!  We have certainly missed you and  your leg kick.  My only concern about D-Rob pitching the 7th was that he would not be there as a safety net in later innings.  Fortunately, the Yankees bullpen was as good as advertised.  Dellin Betances got into a little trouble with a double by Robinson Cano and a single by Mitch Haniger, sandwiched between two strikeouts, had runners at the corners.  But he was able to get Jarrod Dyson to pop up to third to leave the runners stranded.

With Aroldis Chapman taking the night off due to a non-save situation, Adam Warren came on in the 9th.  The pesky Ben Gamel opened with a single to left, but was eliminated when Mike Zunino grounded into a double play, Gregorius to Castro to Headley.  Jean Segura hit a hard grounder to Didi Gregorius and he threw to Chase Headley for the final out.  The Yankees win!

Credit:  Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Yankees (50-45) were unable to gain ground on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, however, they did move into a tie for second place.  The Red Sox scored five runs in the first inning to back Chris Sale as they beat the Los Angeles Angels, 6-2.  The Tampa Bay Rays fell 4-3 to the Texas Rangers.  The Yankees and the Rays are both 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox.

The Toddfather was the only Yankee without a hit other than the bench players who didn’t get into the game.  So, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the first T-Frazier blast.

Odds & Ends…

It’s tough watching Ben Gamel have such success in Seattle.  I understand the reasons for the trade but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch him thrive at the MLB level for another team.  I don’t know if he’ll have a Jay Buhner type career but it was comparable circumstances.  Enjoyed watching the tremendous Minor League exploits of the player, only to watch him traded to Seattle for a long and prosperous career.  The two players the Yankees received for Gamel are Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula.  Orozco, 19, a right-handed pitcher, is 2-0 with 2.36 ERA in five games (four starts) for the Advanced Rookie League Pulaski Yankees while De Paula, also a 19-year-old righty, is 2-3 with 5.25 ERA in five games (all starts) for the Short-Season A Staten Island Yankees.  In other words, it is going to be a very long time before we see any payoff for Gamel.  

I liked David Cone’s comments about the Yankees new and improved combination of power arms in the bullpen.  He said that it has reduced the need for starting pitchers to a “soft-tossing lefty to give you three or four (innings)”.  I know that I am loving the bullpen parade of the current crew.  I do not miss the cringing feeling that came with the entry of Tyler Clippard into the game.  But despite the strong pen, the Yankees do need to do something about the starting rotation.  We’ll probably have to live with a few more starts by Luis Cessa (I’d prefer to see Caleb Smith) as I doubt any of the available starters are moved until the last minute before the trading deadline as their current teams seek maximum return.  I have no speculation who the Yankees should acquire other than I don’t want to lose top and highly regarding prospects which probably means the team will have to stand pat or take chances for catching lightning in a bottle with bottom feeders.  I am hopefully optimistic that GM Brian Cashman will surprise me.

Brian Cashman is on record saying that Red Thunder will be returned to Triple A when Aaron Hicks comes off the DL but with each passing game, it is so hard to think that the Yankees most exciting outfielder, behind Aaron Judge, will have to go down.  He has shown he is ready the big time and he has nothing left to prove for the RailRiders.  He is better player, right now, than Jacoby Ellsbury despite the $20 million plus difference being paid to the latter player this year.  Money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.  I hope Clint Frazier stays.

Have a great Saturday!  Let’s keep this winning streak alive!  Go Yankees!

Credit:  Ted S Warren/AP

Out with the Old and In with the New, or Vice Versa?…

Credit:  Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

Yankees 6, Twins 3…

On Tuesday, the Yankees faced baseball’s oldest player and a former Yank.  With a 2-8 record and 8.14 ERA for the Atlanta Braves, Bartolo Colon looked to be a feast for the young Baby Bombers.  But after he shut down the Yankees in the first inning like a young ace, I had fears that Colon was going to be  a master, for one night, against the Yankees.  Fortunately, he wore down quickly and the Yankees got to him in the fifth inning to rally for the victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Credit:  Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly, it was a little hard to focus on the game as rumors were swirling about the Yankees potential acquisition of Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox.  The trade became official after the game but more on that later.

I like Yankees starter Luis Cessa and he’s done well at Triple A.  But for whatever reason, it just has not translated at the Major League level for him…yet.  It felt like it was going to be a long night when Colon breezed through the top of the Yankees batting order in the first inning including a strike out of Aaron Judge.  Cessa, on the other hand, struggled out of the gate.  He walked the first two batters and hit Miguel Sano with a pitch to load the bases with only one out.  After getting Max Kepler to pop out, Cessa walked Robbie Grossman to give the Twins the early 1-0 lead.  Fortunately, Cessa struck out Eddie Rosario to prevent any further damage.  One run on no hits…not exactly how you want to start a game.

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Cessa walked the first batter of the second inning but settled down to retire the next three batters.  With the Yankee offense still unable to get anything going against Colon, the Twins added to their lead in the third when Miguel Sano homered to center (a solo shot into the bullpen).

The Yankees finally got on the board in the top of the 4th.  Aaron Judge opened the inning with a single to left.  Didi Gregorius hit an infield grounder to third that was deflected off Colon for a single.  Clint Frazier hit into a force out that erased Gregorius at second but Judge advanced to third.  Chase Headley singled to center, past a diving Brian Dozier, to bring home Judge and it was 2-1 Twins.  

The Twins got the run right back in the bottom of the inning.  Jason Castro hit a one-out double to the right field wall and Brian Dozier hit a fly ball that nearly went out of the park, bouncing off the upper part of the scoreboard area on the right field fence, as the Twins regained the two-run advantage, 3-1.  Cessa was able to retire Zack Granite on a ground out, but the Yankees brought in Chasen Shreve to secure the final out, a ground out by Joe Mauer.  

The 4th inning had showed the Yankees were finally starting to make progress against the ancient Colon but the 5th inning showed why Colon is no longer an Atlanta Brave.  Ronald Torreyes singled to left center and moved to third on a ground rule double by Brett Gardner, a fly ball that bounced just inside of the left foul line before falling into the left field stands on the foul side. Gary Sanchez then doubled to left, scoring both Torreyes and Gardner.  The game was tied at 3.  Twins manager Paul Molitor had seen enough and pulled Colon in favor of reliever Ryan Pressly.  But the results were no different.  Aaron Judge singled to center to score Sanchez and after Matt Holliday struck out, Didi Gregorius blasted a two-run homer to right. The Yankees had their first lead of the series, 6-3.

Credit:  Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

The Twins came right back in the bottom of the 5th and it looked like they might get some runs back.  Miguel Sano doubled to left and Max Kepler singled to right, moving Sano to third.  Fortunately, Chasen Shreve struck out the next two batters and induced Jorge Polanco into an infield popout to leave Sano stranded at third.

The Yankees loaded the bases again in the 6th inning but Matt Holliday hit a grounder for the final out leaving the bases full.  From there it was up to the Yankees bullpen.  Adam Warren was great.  He pitched two innings of hitless ball in the 6th and 7th, striking out 2.  From there, it was a high wire act with Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.  Robbie Grossman doubled off Betances to open the bottom of the 8th.  After striking out Eddie Rosario, Betances hit pinch-hitter Eduardo Escobar with a pitch.  He struck out Jason Castro but walked the dangerous Brian Dozier to load the bases.  Zack Granite hit a hard fly ball to right looked to be trouble for a second but it fell short of the wall into Aaron Judge’s glove for the final out.  A few groans from the Target Field crowd…

Aroldis Chapman took over in the 9th but it was not easy.  He walked Joe Mauer on a full count to start the inning.  A wild pitch moved Mauer to second and eliminated the possibility of a double play.  Miguel Sano grounded out, Ronald Torreyes to Garrett Cooper, moving Mauer to third.  Fortunately, Chapman retired the next two batters for his 10th save as the Yankees evened the series at a game apiece.  

Credit:  Getty Images

The Yankees (48-44) remained in third place in the AL East with the win as both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays won.  The Red Sox defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-4, in 15 innings and the Rays beat the Oakland A’s, 4-3.  The Yankees are 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox and a 1 1/2 games behind the Rays.

Throughout the game, I was keeping an eye on the Los Angeles Dodgers game in Chicago against White Sox.  Todd Frazier had been held out of the game, and neither David Robertson nor Tommy Kahnle pitched despite Chicago’s use of multiple pitchers in the 1-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.  The White Sox game ended before Aroldis Chapman shut down the Twins.  Interestingly, Tyler Clippard, one of the rumored players going to the White Sox (which turned out to be true), was warming with Aroldis Chapman in the top of the 9th inning and might have come into the game had the Yankees been able to add to their lead.

The Yankees conclude the series in Minneapolis this afternoon.  

The Yankees Are Officially Buyers…

What is old is new again!  The question whether the Yankees would be buyers or sellers or hold pat was answered after the game when the rumored deal with the White Sox became official.  In exchange for New Jersey native Todd Frazier and former Yankees David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, the Yankees sent their #4 prospect, outfielder Blake Rutherford, LHP Ian Clarkin, OF Tito Polo and reliever Tyler Clippard to Chicago.  

Credit:  Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I am sad to see Rutherford go but all things considered, it is a position of depth and there is still a possibility the Yankees could make a run at Bryce Harper when he becomes a free agent so Rutherford was a bit redundant (particularly given the breakout performance of Double-A outfielder Estevan Florial).  I’ve always liked Ian Clarkin and had hoped that he would eventually find his way to the Bronx after injuries prevented the lefty pitcher from advancing more quickly.  Polo is an unranked prospect that the Yankees acquired from the Pirates in the trade that sent Ivan Nova to Pittsburgh.  I am obviously not disappointed to see Clippard go, especially since Robertson and Kahnle represent significant bullpen upgrades.  

I remember being so disappointed when the Yankees lost Tommy Kahnle to the Colorado Rockies in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft and he stuck with the Rockies for the entire year.  I was very aware of him when the Rockies traded him to the White Sox last November.  He was a good reliever in Denver and has been even better for the White Sox.  

Credit:  Paul Sancya/AP

I hated to see David Robertson leave via free agency.  I remember when there was the potential that the Yankees could sign both Andrew Miller and David Robertson but inevitably they chose to sign Miller and take the compensation pick (SS Kyle Holder) to let the highly regarded Robertson sign elsewhere.  During his first year with the White Sox, he was placed on waivers after the trading deadline and the Yankees put in the winning claim.  There was no activity in trade talks but I remember the momentary excitement about Robertson’s possible return.  

Todd Frazier has the ability to play first base in addition to third but time will tell whether Manager Joe Girardi uses Frazier or Chase Headley at first.  Given that Frazier is clearly a rental, I suspect that he’ll be the regular first baseman but that is Girardi’s decision to make.  

With Clippard off the roster, the Yankees still have to make two moves today.  My immediate thought would be the demotions of Ji-Man Choi and Luis Cessa to Triple A.  But Garrett Cooper could be the odd man out if the Yankees feel he would be better served by starting every day for the RailRiders.  

Also, it will be interesting to see if Clint Frazier gives up #30 to Robertson.  I personally think he should.  He had no prior attachments to the number.  As for Todd Frazier, he wears Paul O’Neill’s number which has not been retired.  I wonder if he is forced to choose a new number or if the Yankees finally allow the number to be worn again.  All things considered, it is just a two month rental so it probably makes more sense to keep #21 in moth balls.

Welcome (or welcome back) to the Yankees, Todd, David and Tommy!

Odds & Ends…

To make room on the active roster for RHP Luis Cessa who started Tuesday’s game, the Yankees optioned RHP Bryan Mitchell, Monday’s starter, to Triple A.  Poor Mitchell, he’s probably getting tired of the Bronx-to-Scranton Shuttle.  

Credit:  Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Twins placed former Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes on the 60-day disabled list.  I guess I really haven’t been following Hughes’ career in the Twin Cities, but I did not realize that he’s been battling Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).  As defined by Wikipedia, TOS is a condition in which there is a compression of the nerves, arteries or veins in the passageway from the lower neck to the armpit.  He had part of a rib removed through surgery last year and is experiencing recurring symptoms which could lead to the removal of the remainder of the rib to alleviate pressure.  I sincerely hope that Hughes is able to get medical treatment he needs and is able to make a complete recovery.  

Have a great Wednesday!  A wonderful day to grab a victory and hop a plane for the Great Northwest!  Let’s Go Yankees!

Two Little, Too Late…

Credit:  Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

Orioles 3, Yankees 2…

Admittedly, I had wished the Baltimore Orioles had won on Sunday (when they lost to the Houston Astros, 8-4).  Coming into the series with the Yankees, the O’s were on a seven-game losing streak but were returning home to Camden Yards for the Memorial Day showdown (a wounded dog ready to bite).  The Orioles were due and unfortunately it came at the expense of the Yankees.

It was a winnable game, but you need offense to win.  Dylan Bundy, who has been Baltimore’s best pitcher so far this year, was good but you can’t say great.  He scattered seven hits over seven innings and held the Yanks to only two runs.  Bundy was the beneficiary of three double-plays.  It was hard to say if it was simply great Bundy pitching or anemic Yankee bats.  Outside of the Aarons, the Yankees couldn’t generate any runs.  Aaron Hicks had an early sac fly, scoring Starlin Castro to tie the game at one in the second inning, and Aaron Judge had a solo homer in the seventh (his 17th of the year).  

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The two runs were not enough to overcome Mark Trumbo’s run-scoring single in the first and Jonathan Scoop’s two-run double in the third.

Jordan Montgomery (2-4) reopened long term concerns about his spot in the rotation.  He threw 100 pitches just to get into the fifth inning.  After allowing two one-out singles in the fifth, Montgomery was finished.  For 4 1/3 innings of work, he had allowed eight hits and three runs (only one earned, thanks to Starlin Castro’s fielding error in the third).  He walked one and struck out five.  He is pitching well enough to earn his next start, but if the Yankees do make a trade for a starter within the next couple of months, Montgomery could be the odd man out.  

Both Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve pitched well in relief of Montgomery as they combined for 3 2/3 innings of hitless, scoreless relief and six strikeouts.  The only blemish was Shreve’s insignificant walk of Mark Trumbo in the seventh.

Aaron Judge had one final shot in the ninth inning to try and tie the game, but he struck out against interim O’s closer Brad Brach.  Brach, hardly a clone of injured O’s elite closer Zach Britton, also struck out Didi Gregorius to end the game.

Credit:  Ulysses Munoz/Baltimore Sun

Chris Carter was miserable.  He had an 0-for-3 day with two strikeouts.  Overall, he is 0-for-12 for his last five games and has been punched out in half of those at-bats.  Carter is batting .188 on the season.  When both Tyler Austin and Greg Bird are healthy, Carter is going to be in a very precarious situation if he doesn’t find the swing that drilled 41 homers last year.  

Chase Headley, after a two game rest, was 1-for-2 with a walk.  It kind of makes me wonder what the pesky Ronald Torreyes could have done against Bundy.  But alas, we’ll never know.  The Orioles won this game, and pulled back to within 3 1/2 games of the Yankees (29-19) in the AL East.  Fortunately, the Chicago White Sox rallied against the Red Sox bullpen to beat Boston 5-4 in a game saved by former Yankee closer David Robertson.  So, the Red Sox remain 3 games behind the Yankees.  

Credit:  Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune

Better luck to the Baby Bombers today.  It is more fun to write about wins than losses.  

Player Updates…

It doesn’t sound like Jacoby Ellsbury will be back anytime soon.  As of Sunday, he still had a headache and continues to deal with the neck sprain so he has not resumed baseball activities.  The presence of Aaron Hicks makes Ellsbury’s absence a non-factor unless Brett Gardner or Aaron Judge get hurt.

Aroldis Chapman was able to throw again prior to yesterday’s game against Baltimore but still no word when he’ll be ready for a rehab assignment.  He’ll take today off before resuming light throwing tomorrow.

Tyler Austin was 1-for-4 (single) in his latest rehab assignment as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders fell to the Toledo Mud Hens, 5-0.

The Yankees will miss Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout in a couple of weeks when they make their West Coast road trip.  Trout had surgery yesterday on a torn ulnar ligament in his left thumb and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.  Trout injured the thumb on Sunday with a head first slide in Miami. 

Have a great Tuesday!  Twelve games left against the AL East in the current stretch…let’s make the most of it.  A win today would be a good start…

The State of the Curious…

With the impending returns of shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher Gary Sanchez within the next few weeks, the Yankees have some decisions to make.  Granted, Kyle Higashioka goes back down to AAA to become the starting catcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, retaining his seat at the table (the 40-Man roster).  But for Pete Kozma, the future is less certain.

There’s no reason to protect Kozma on the 40-man roster.  It is possible that the Yankees stash him at AAA when Didi returns for insurance, but, realistically, why?  As I type this post, shortstop Tyler Wade is the top hitter for the RailRiders with a .386 batting average (17-for-44 in 11 games).  He has also stolen 6 bags.  With Ronald Torreyes moving back to the super-sub role, Wade represents the greatest shortstop insurance going forward.  Therefore, if it’s my call, Kozma is DFA’d upon Didi’s return.  If he clears waivers, assign him to AAA.  If he is claimed, so be it.  It’s no great loss.  The downside to assigning Kozma to AAA is the fight for playing time with Wade.  So, I’d probably just cut him outright and send him on his way.

The decision then becomes what to do with the 40-man roster spot vacated by Kozma.  It probably doesn’t make sense to give it to Wade (not yet anyway).  I could see the Yankees giving it to a pitcher like Tyler Webb to be part of the bullpen shuttle throughout the summer.  The harder decisions about the 40-man roster will have to be made after the season and before the Rule 5 Draft in December.  For now, the roster decisions are about who can help us today, not tomorrow. 

I know that we didn’t quite make it, but there is something about a ten-game winning streak that I’ve always loved.  It cures all ails.  It is so fun to go more than a week without feeling the agony of defeat.  The Yankees missed making it ten-in-a-row by two games but it was still a fun ride.  The sad part is that with a few clutch hits here and there and no error by the aforementioned Kozma, the Yankees probably could have extended the win streak to nine.  But as they say, that’s the way the ball bounces, so I guess I’ll just have to look forward to the next streak to achieve my self-fulfilling objective for ten. 

Coming into the season, I really had my doubts about Luis Severino and his ability to be a quality major league starter.  I was starting to feel that his stuff played best in the bullpen.  At a quick glance, his stats do not tell the story.  He is 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in three starts.  It sounds very pedestrian, but then you look at 20 innings pitched (an average of nearly 7 innings per game) with 27 strikeouts.  More impressive is his 0.80 WHIP (14 hits and 2 walks).  He is currently behind only five pitchers for the lowest WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).  The only pitchers with better WHIP are Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins (0.45), James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners (0.57), Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros (0.62), Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers (0.70), and Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox (0.74).  Severino is in very good company.  I know it’s just three starts but this is a significant improvement over last year and it does appear to be sustainable.

Credit:  Noah K Murray/USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the improved performances of both Severino and Michael Pineda, there is reason for optimism with every starter in the rotation.  This also supports that the Yankees could have another extended winning streak coming their way in the not-so-distant future.  Good times at Yankee Stadium. 

The Yankees signed LHP Nestor Oronel, 20, to a minor league deal.  The Pittsburgh Pirates released Oronel after three years in March.  My first thought was that Oronel is just fodder for minor league starting pitching depth.  But being a lefty and only 20 years of age (he doesn’t turn 21 until December) leads me to believe that he might be viewed as a reclamation project.  

Gleyber Torres has been placed on the 7-day Minor League DL with his shoulder injury.  Manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday that he just has some inflammation in the shoulder and shouldn’t be down too long.  So, it does sound as though the team (and Torres) dodged a bullet, and he will be back in the Trenton Thunder lineup soon.

The Yankees returned to the win column with Wednesday night’s win over the Chicago White Sox, 9-1.  Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff, but he still went 7 innings, giving up only a single run.  He struck out 6 and walked two while scattering six hits.  The Yankees need this guy to be hitting on all cylinders, and he’s getting closer.  It was a great offensive night as every starter had a hit, and the team was homer happy with four.  

The Yankees only allowed former closer David Robertson to get one save opportunity as they took the three game set from the White Sox, two games to one.  At 10-5, the Yankees are percentage points behind the Baltimore Orioles (9-4).  They lead the third place Boston Red Sox by a game, although the Red Sox can cut the distance by a 1/2 game with a win today (an off day for the Yankees).  Since the Orioles also play today, the Yankees could either be 1/2 game behind the O’s at the end of the day or they could be the AL East Leaders.  

Friday, the Yankees head to Pittsburgh for a weekend series with the Pirates.  Like the White Sox, the Pirates feature a few former Yankees.  Catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, and Pitchers Ivan Nova and Wade LeBlanc.  You could loosely throw Gerrit Cole into the category although he was never officially a Yankee.  He was a former top draft pick who never signed.   Although Nova wears Andy Pettitte’s number (46) for Pittsburgh, his first start against his former team will pit him against his old number (47) when he matches up with Jordan Montgomery on Sunday.  

The Yankees deserve this day off.  They’ve exceeded expectations and have been a very exciting team to watch.  It’s amazing to think it’s only going to get better when Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius are back and Greg Bird is hitting like we know he can.

Have a great Thursday!  One in row, Baby!  Let’s make it two on Friday!

No need to counter Boston’s moves…

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.

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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.

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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.

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Credit:  MLB.com

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…

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—Scott

Bring on the High Heat…

Sanchez had better get extra padding for that mitt…

Before the Yankees re-signed closer Aroldis Chapman, there was very little talk of what they SHOULD do.  Now that Chapman is back in the fold after his brief hiatus to win a World Series championship with the Chicago Cubs, the naysayers are out in full force.

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Credit:  ESPN.com Illustration

For me, I am glad Chapman once again anchors the back end of the bullpen.  If the Yankees had not paid him the record-setting 5 year, $86 million contract for a closer, the Miami Marlins were fully prepared to step in and pay him a million more.  Like him or not, Chapman was going to get his money.

I know the current Baby Bombers Implementation Plan is in full effect and there are cheaper alternatives available.  As great as Kenley Jansen is, he would have cost the Yankees their first round draft pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (then Number 17, but now Number 16 thanks to the Colorado Rockies’ signing of OF, SS, or 1B? Ian Desmond, thereby forfeiting their higher draft selection).  In terms of dollars, in addition to the draft pick, Jansen would have cost nearly as much as Chapman.

Free agent and former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland is still available but he carries more questions as he attempts to come back from injury.

A reunion with former Yankees closer David Robertson was a possibility but the Chicago White Sox have shown they demand premium plus in trades.

Signing Chapman did not cost a draft pick or talent…only money which the Yankees have.

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Credit:  www.drewlitton.com

Chapman does carry the negative stigma of domestic violence but I do believe in second chances.  He has not been convicted and by all accounts no one was seriously injured (or worse).  I hope and pray it was a wake up call for Chapman.  After 20 years of a Saint in the closer’s role for the Yankees, it’s unfortunate we have to deal with these issues.  But give the man a chance for redemption.

I did not believe that Dellin Betances was suited for the closer’s role.  My suspicions proved correct when we saw Betances stumble in September after the trades of Chapman and Andrew Miller.  It may have been fatigue but I felt it was more mental.  Betances is a great setup guy, perhaps one of the best in the game.  Being a great bridge does not necessarily equate to  being a great closer.

There is no doubt I would have preferred a reunion with Andrew Miller over Chapman but that was not going to happen.  The Cleveland Indians recognize they have one of the most versatile and dependable relievers in baseball and possibly one of the most selfless guys you can ever hope to meet.  But he is Cleveland property for the next few years under a very reasonable contract.  If Cleveland was amenable to trading Miller, they would want no less than the premier talent they paid to acquire him.  OF Clint Frazier is either first or second on any given Yankees top prospect list and P Justus Sheffield is a future mainstay in the rotation.

So regardless of the other options, I am glad that #54 found his way back to the Bronx.  The trio of Tyler Clipart, Betances and Chapman may not be ‘No Runs DMC’ but they’ll be close.  The Yankees still need other bullpen upgrades (I personally would like to see another reunion with the potential signing of lefty Boone Logan) but regardless of what happens, the pen will be a strength in 2017.

Next year’s going to seem like a Holliday…

After talk the Yankees would use the DH role to cycle through its position players as a form of rest, I was glad to see the Yankees make a short-term investment in former St Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday.  Any way you slice it, Holliday will be a major upgrade over the now departed Alex Rodriguez.  Last year, the Yankees offense was largely dependent upon two major underachievers, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.  This year, the center of the lineup features Holliday and rookie sensation Gary Sanchez.  If the Yankees can get meaningful production out of new first baseman Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge, this could be a very good offense.

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Credit:  Google Images / STL Sports View

I am still a proponent of trading Brett Gardner.  I feel strongly the team needs to open up left field for other young talent and allow Holliday an occasional start.  The Yankees clearly need another starter in the rotation so if Gardner can bring in a solid #5, I’m all for it.

I think P Jason Hammel would be a good signing for the rotation but if that doesn’t happen, I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman gets creative in adding another piece.  I would much rather see the team’s young talent fighting for only one rotation spot; not two.  I am not convinced Luis Severino can be an effective starter but we know that he can be a very effective reliever.  I would rather see Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell in swing roles, serving as the long men out of the pen.  It would be much better for Luis Cessa and Chad Green to fight each other for a rotation spot than handing it to both of them.

The heavy lifting is done for the 2017 roster but the coming weeks should bring continued improvement.  No major signings or trades are expected but just little tweaks to keep this team in contention while it looks ahead to brighter days in 2019.  This is what Brian Cashman gets paid to do it, and so far, he’s been doing it well…

–Scott

 

 

 

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