Tagged: Dellin Betances

Nolan Arenado and the Fictitious Pinstriped Dream…

Atlanta Braves v Colorado Rockies
The Denver Post

Arenado, As Expected, Signs Extension to Stay in Colorado…

Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is no longer an option for the Yankees now that he has signed an eight-year, $260 million extension to remain in Denver, Colorado. Honestly, I think the Yankees’ rumored interest in Arenado was either a media-creation for clicks or a plant by the Yankees Front Office to deflect criticism for the team’s lackluster run at Manny Machado.

A sample of yesterday’s headlines:

IF THE YANKEES WANT NOLAN ARENADO THEY HAVE TO WAIT AS ROCKIES INK THIRD BASEMAN TO 8-YEAR, $260M DEAL

– The New York Daily News

NOLAN ARENADO’S $260M IS YANKEES BLOW AND BRYCE HARPER TARGET 

– The New York Post

MLB RUMORS: YANKEES WHIFF ON ROCKIES’ NOLAN ARENADO, WHO GETS RECORD-SETTING CONTRACT TO SKIP FREE AGENCY 

– NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

While I thought it was inevitable the Colorado Rockies would pony up for their best player, I do not believe for a second the Yankees decided to pass on Machado to wait for Arenado. In the present environment where players are amenable to team-friendly extensions (see Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino), I never really thought Arenado would test the free agency waters. As soon as Nolan previously signed the arbitration offer of $26 million for 2019 from the Rockies, it felt there was sufficient momentum to keep Nolan 5,280 feet above sea level for the duration of his career. If Nolan had chosen to go the route of free agency, I felt there was a stronger chance he’d to return to his native Southern California to play for either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have a clear need for a third baseman, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a good but aging third baseman in Justin Turner (he’ll be 35 in November). I just never saw the Yankees as the primary destination for Arenado. If the Yankees chose not to make competitive offers for the three best free agents this off-season, including two 26-year-old’s on Hall of Fame paths, there is nothing that would lead me to believe they would be willing to spend this Fall regardless of how good Arenado is.  He is fifteen months older than Machado and carries the Coors Field Effect label. While I think he’s a great player regardless of where he plays, I am not convinced the Yankees were seriously targeting him.

At this point, it is obvious the Yankees are committed to Miguel Andujar at third base. As a hit machine, he carries a very valuable bat in an otherwise loaded lineup. Defensively, the Yankees are expecting improvement. The bat can certainly compensate for some of the challenges in the field, but if Andujar can raise the level of his fielding to at least league average, I think everyone would be very happy. It’s tough watching the brilliant defensive plays made at third by Machado and Arenado and wonder what could have been, but that ship sailed. Machado has 300 million reasons to believe San Diego is the most beautiful city in the U.S. and the Yankees, in my opinion, were never players for Arenado.

Andujar is our third baseman and he deserves our trust and support. There’s no question he wants to improve and he probably works harder than most of the guys on the team. I doubt you’ll ever see any ‘Johnny Hustle’ comments about Andujar’s play because he does hustle and clearly wants to be the best.  Whether or not we believe Andujar can improve his defensive game is irrelevant as long as he believes he can. If he fails for whatever reason(s), I have no doubt GM Brian Cashman will find another alternative via trade (not through high-priced free agency). A young under-valued player with great potential seems to be Cashman’s preferred player these days. Personally, I am not betting against Miguel Andujar. I feel he has the drive and desire to succeed, matched with the necessary tools. Enough with the Andujar bashing. His name has taken a beating in Social Media. It’s not his fault the Yankees chose not to pursue Machado.  Well, I guess you could say it is his fault because they see the talent and commitment to win in Miggy. If we ran the Yankees and it was our money, I have no doubt we would have come to the same conclusion. Make decisions for the good of the organization and not short-sighted moves to make bloggers like me happy. Embrace Andujar, embrace the 2019 New York Yankees. This is our team. They have a championship to capture and they need our support for every man on the roster…well maybe not Jacoby Ellsbury. We have the team to strip the Championship belt from the Boston Red Sox and we should be proud.

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Getty Images

Speaking of Manny Machado, he couldn’t help but take a shot at the Baltimore Orioles. In an interview, Machado is quoted as saying, “The Dodgers last year, they showed me some love. The Orioles drafted me. I did a lot for that community, I did a lot for the state, they didn’t show me a little bit of love. It is what it is. But going over to L.A., L.A giving up a lot of prospects for me, that kind of shows you what I meant to them, which is amazing.” Needless to say, he has ruffled some feathers in Birdland.  By comparison, former Oriole Zack Britton has been respectful and appreciative of his time in Baltimore. Take the high road, Manny. You have your money and apparently the love you sought. Isn’t that enough?

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I thought it was fair yesterday when Manager Aaron Boone announced outfielder Clint Frazier will begin the year in Triple A.  After missing so much time last year following his concussion, Frazier needs consistent playing time to get himself back on a roll. I think it was wise for Boone to let Frazier know that he is not up for consideration in making the Opening Day Roster. It will take some pressure off Frazier and allow him to ramp up his game at his pace rather than an accelerated one thinking he has a shot to overtake Brett Gardner. I am not crazy about entering the season with Gardy as the starting left-fielder but I do think we’ll see Stanton out there more often. I’d prefer Stanton to stay at DH to help keep the big man healthy but there’s no question the team is better when Stanton plays the field. It frees up DH for some roster rotation to keep other guys fresh. If Frazier crushes Triple A, he’ll force the Yankees’ hand. I expect Frazier to be the starting left-fielder by season’s end. If not, I am sure Brian Cashman will provide other options as he always does. On the bright side, Sugar Shane Robinson is a Phillie so he won’t be starting any games in the Bronx this year.

I was a bit disappointed with yesterday’s rainout of the Spring game between the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. DJ LeMahieu was scheduled to play third base and I was curious to watch. Unfortunately, the next few games will not be televised so we won’t be able to get our Yankees fix until Sunday.  They should be able to get in today’s game in Lakeland, Florida against the Detroit Tigers.  There is a chance of scattered thunderstorms but not until late afternoon so the game should be fine. Chance Adams will get the start over previously announced starter Albert Abreu. Abreu is expected to pitch in relief. LeMahieu is expected to start at second base today and will make his Yankees debut at third for his next start. But since the game is not televised, we’ll be unable to see any of it. Bummer.

It’s been a few days since the official announcement but I was glad to see the Yankees sign Aaron Hicks to an extension. I was shocked at the number of years (seven) but the overall value of the deal, $70 million, is team-friendly. Hicks has the potential to fully earn those dollars within the first few years of the deal, making the back half of the contract negligible if performance does not warrant a starting position by the time the 29-year old Hicks nears his mid-30’s. Estevan Florial is still a few years away and he is far from a “sure thing”. The free agent market looked very slim for center fielders after the season (Leonys Martin appeared to be the best potential available target). In-house, Brett Gardner and the guy I don’t really expect to ever don the Pinstripes again, Jacoby Ellsbury, represented the top options had Hicks left via free agency. So, instead, the Yankees keep a player that Manager Aaron Boone has called baseball’s most underrated player and I am happy about it. Attention now turns to the two other primary pending free agents, Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius. I’d love to see both players return so hopefully the Yankees can lock up one or both before the season starts. They can worry about a big extension for Aaron Judge next off-season. Regardless of how Troy Tulowitzki plays, I want Didi Gregorius as this team’s starting shortstop as soon as he is cleared to play and for the immediate seasons in the future. Similarly, if I had to choose between Betances and Aroldis Chapman, if the latter decides to opt out of his contract after the season, I’d take Betances. Under that scenario, Zack Britton would become my closer of choice but Betances is so invaluable in his setup role, with or without Chapman. I’d love for Betances to stay as a lifetime Yank.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Dismissing Arbitration, Everybody Wins…

Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky-Associated Press

Severino Signs 4-Year Extension w/One-Year Club Option…

It took until the final day of MLB arbitration hearings and the day Luis Severino was scheduled to debate his worth in front of a mediator but the Yankees did the right thing securing a four-year extension and club option for a fifth year with the very talented right-hander. The money reportedly is $40 million with the potential  for $12.25 million more if the club exercises the option.

    • 2019: $4 million plus $2 million signing bonus for $6 million total
    • 2020: $10 million
    • 2021: $10.25 million
    • 2022: $11 million
    • 2023: $15 million if option exercised by club or $2.75 million buyout

I feel it is a very good deal for the Yankees and it provides certainty and financial security for Severino and his family even if he could have gotten more by going to arbitration every off-season until his free agent year. While many defend the arbitration process, I view it as the unfortunate opportunity to sit in a room while your employer basically tells you, “You suck!”. Not literally, but the employer is trying to show why the player is not worth the amount of money he is requesting so negatives are embellished to help build their case for the lower club-offered salary.

Cleveland Indians Trevor Bauer won his arbitration case earlier in the week but he described it as a “character assassination”. It seems to me the negativity stemming from the arbitration hearing will have residual impact on the player. I’ve heard people say they (the players) get over it. Maybe some do but we’re all human and it probably affects everyone differently. It’s hard not to forget criticism (justified or not). Regardless of how Sevy may have dealt with it, I am glad that he didn’t get to that point. He’s young and he is the team’s ace. We need to do everything possible to build him up, not tear him down. The extension buys peace of mind for Sevy and that’s invaluable.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

The urgency now moves to the primary three pending free agents: Aaron Hicks, Dellin Betances, and Didi Gregorius. I don’t really want to lose any of these guys.  I’d prefer to see the Yankees lock them up on extensions before they ever hit the open market. That’s probably wishful thinking on my part but I am hopeful. With Hicks, I’d probably feel better if Estevan Florial was closer to The Show but he’s still a couple of seasons away so the Yankees cannot afford to lose their current starting centerfielder. The Yankees obviously have other elite arms in the bullpen but losing Betances would still hurt. Didi, to me, is part of the heart of this team with the talent to match. He’s my shortstop and I want it to stay that way. Sorry Tulo.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

CC Sabathia will be holding a press conference today to formally announce his retirement at the end of the season. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it until someone mentioned it recently but CC is a Hall of Famer. In my mind, with no offense and regardless of whether or not you agree, he is a better pitcher than recently selected HOF-er Mike Mussina. Entering the year, he is 246-153 in 538 starts covering 3,470 innings. His K/9 is 7.67 and BB/9 is 2.75.  His career ERA is 3.70 with 67.8 WAR per FanGraphs. He currently sits at 2,986 strikeouts so he’ll notch a very significant milestone early in the season. His number 52 should be retired with a plaque in Monument Park when his playing days are finished. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to keep Sabathia part of the organization when he hangs up his jersey. He’s been a great Yankee. It would be incredible for him to begin AND end his Yankees career with World Series championships. For his sake (and ours too), I hope it happens.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Congratulations to Dellin Betances and his wife, Janisa, on the birth of their son, Dellin Jr, this week (Wednesday). “With their first pick of the 2037 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees select…” The boy is certainly getting tremendous genes to start his life’s journey. Dellin is scheduled to arrive in Camp on Monday for the team’s first full team workout.

Susan Slusser, a long-time and very respected beat writer for the Oakland A’s, caused a stir on Twitter yesterday when she reported that Chien-Ming Wang had a minor leg strain and would not be throwing today. After an avalanche of ‘what?’ from many people, Slusser acknowledged that she meant Wei-Chung Wang, a non-roster invitee in camp for the A’s. The 38-year-old former Yankee is not attempting a comeback, to the best of my knowledge, but it was funny to see his name in strong circulation yesterday. Wang was featured in a 2018 documentary called Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story. I know I’ve never been a fan of pitchers hitting since Wang suffered the torn Lisfranc ligament in his right foot while running the bases against the Houston Astros during the 2008 season. I’ve always wondered what could have been if Wang had not suffered that freak injury.

I love the story of Yankees hopeful Danny Farquhar. While I do not currently see a spot in the Yankees bullpen for Farquhar, it’s easy to root for a guy who had a life-threatening brain hemorrhage last summer yet has battled his way back to Major League Camp with Baseball’s greatest team. He is very appreciative of the opportunity with the Yankees and it shows. Barring injuries, it seems most likely that he’ll go to Triple A for depth or open eyes for another MLB team. Regardless of what happens, I wish him the best for much success in his journey back to the Major Leagues.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg-The New York Post

The first exhibition game is a week from today. While the sights and sounds of the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field have been great, I am ready to see the guys playing some actual baseball. Of course, the starters will be guys like Matt Lipka but it will be fun to see the Yankees on the field against the hated Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. Hopefully this is the year the Yankees end the Red Sox season prematurely.

Steinbrenner Field will be buzzing tomorrow with the formal arrival of position players in camp. Up to this point, the players in Tampa have had to work out at the minor league facilities so it will be good to see everybody together again. Nothing like an Aaron Judge smile to brighten the World. On a side note, it was so awesome yesterday to see Gleyber Torres greeting pitchers and catchers after the completion of their workouts. I am so excited to see what the new season has in store for Gleyber. Whether he is at second base or shortstop, he’s such a vital cog to the success of this team. He truly embodies the spirit of “there is no ‘I’ in team” and is becoming one of its leaders despite his youth.

As always, Go Yankees!

Thoughts After the LeMahieu Signing…

DJ LeMahieu Signs 2-Year Deal w/Yankees…

The Yankees caught everyone by surprise on Friday when it was reported they had signed former Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a two-year contract worth $24 million, pending a physical. I knew the San Francisco Giants were interested in LeMahieu and were willing to move Joe Panik if necessary and the Los Angeles Dodgers had long been mentioned as a favorite but I hadn’t really given any thought to DJ as a Yankee. So, when I first heard the news, I was a bit underwhelmed.

This, in no way, means I do not recognize LeMahieu is a very good baseball player. He is. I guess going into the off-season, I felt the Yankees had a tremendous opportunity to substantially improve their club at a time when the Boston Red Sox are struggling with the pains of a very high payroll. I don’t want to beat the Red Sox, I want to crush them. I had felt if the Yankees could sign Patrick Corbin and Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper, they’d be the clear most powerful team in the AL East. As we know, the Yankees expressed interest but did not play in the Corbin negotiations when other offers exceeded their comfort zone. Now, it appears the Yankees are out on both Machado and Harper.

I’ll remain on Team Machado until he signs with another club. Even Ken Rosenthal, while he believes the Yankees are no longer “in” on Machado, will only believe he’s not going to be a Yankee when he pulls up another jersey at an introductory press conference. To me, Machado is missed opportunity. A large number of fans are quick to say Machado was merely a ‘want’ and not a need. Okay, I get it. But how often are young (very young) superstars available for only money? And how many of those young superstars have always wanted to be Yankees? I guess we’d like to think everyone wants to be a Yankee. But that’s a rather narcissistic view. Both Harper and Machado are players who wanted to wear the famed Pinstripes and it’s disappointing, to me, that neither dream will come true.

Setting aside Machado and Harper, the Yankees ARE an improved team. I like the infield with LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres at shortstop over Troy Tulowitzki at short and Gleyber remaining at second even though I didn’t really want to see Gleyber sliding back and forth. I am not convinced Tulo can stay healthy and I certainly do not want to pin any hopes on him. LeMahieu, on the other hand, can play a vital role for this team.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kelley L Cox)

Down the stretch last year, Colorado’s great third baseman Nolan Arenado was quoted as saying this about LeMahieu: “If fans knew how much we appreciate DJ and saw how much we care for him and how important he is to this team, they’d realize what a big factor he is. He sets the standard for us. We go where he goes, really.” That’s very high praise from one of the game’s true superstars. Charlie Blackmon is also on record making similar comments. I listened to an interview with Blackmon a few days ago and he was still expressing hope the Rockies would re-sign LeMahieu despite the team’s acquisition of Daniel Murphy. It appears the Rockies intend to play Murphy at first, assuming they figure out what do to with Ian Desmond, and open second base for competition between a couple of young players. The Rockies hold aspirations of competing with the Dodgers for the NL West title and LeMahieu would have helped their cause.

While I probably would have preferred Marwin Gonzalez for his ability to play shortstop and left field, it’s hard to find fault with the defensive prowess LeMahieu brings to the team. He may not have much power but he’s certainly not going to disappoint you with his bat. He has a batting title to his credit (NL, 2016) and has appeared in a couple of All-Star games. He has won three Gold Gloves, including the past two years. He has also been the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at second for the last two seasons and in 2013.

Infield defense was a huge concern prior to LeMahieu’s signing so his presence is much needed and as it stands right now I am glad he’s a Yankee. If Tulo shows anything at shortstop, the Yankees have the option of moving LeMahieu to third with Miguel Andújar shifting to DH and Giancarlo Stanton playing left field which eases some doubts I have with the dependence on Brett Gardner as an every day option in left field. To sign Machado now would probably mean the end of the Yankees career for Didi Gregorius, a free agent after the upcoming season. I want Didi back as the team’s starting shortstop so maybe all things considered, the LeMahieu signing is a blessing.  

Photo Credit: Instagram via @sirdidig18

Like Tulo, LeMahieu will have to find a new number. The number 9 he wore in Colorado is retired for the late Roger Maris. The Yankees retired the number for Maris in 1984, a few months after they had traded Graig Nettles, the last to wear the number, to the San Diego Padres.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The fringe players are slowly coming off the 40-man roster. RHP A.J. Cole was claimed by the Cleveland Indians on waivers yesterday.  He had been designated for assignment to make room for Tulowitzki. I thought the Yankees might be able to pick up a lower-ranked prospect for Cole but it was not to be. Yesterday, to make room for LHP Zach Britton, infielder Hanser Alberto was waived and almost immediately claimed by Britton’s former team, the Baltimore Orioles. Once the LeMahieu signing becomes official, the Yankees will need to make another move so Luis Cessa, Ben Heller and Tim Locastro are probably the most vulnerable unless the Yankees finally move Sonny Gray for prospects (I’d prefer MLB talent in return). I like Heller despite his current recovery from Tommy John surgery (which means he can’t provide any immediate help) but would prefer to see the exit of Cessa over Heller.

The Yankees are always slow to announce their non-roster invitees for Spring Training but the list is building:

LHP Rex Brothers

LHP Danny Coulombe

RHP Drew Hutchison

OF Billy Burns

OF Matt Lipka

I don’t see any great upside with these players but Scranton/Wilkes-Barre needs some help after the losses they’ve suffered in the last few months so they represent organizational depth. Brothers is a one-time Colorado Rockie and teammate of Tulo, LeMahieu, Tommy Kahnle and, cough-cough, free agent reliever Adam Ottavino.

Lastly, while I was glad to see the Yankees agree with all of their arbitration-eligible players on new contracts for the upcoming season except one, I was disappointed the one player is Luis Severino. I don’t like the arbitration process which requires the team to tell an arbitrator the entirety of the player’s faults to build their case for the lower salary. If Dellin Betances leaves via free agency after the season, I will look back to the contentious hearing he had with the team a couple years ago and the poor choice of words by Yankees President Randy Levine after the decision in the team’s favor as a reason for his departure. I know, Dellin’s final decision will most likely be based on money but he surely has the negative feelings in the back of his mind regardless of his love of wearing the hometown Pinstripes. I think what bothers me more about Sevy’s case is how close the two parties are. Severino wants $5.25 million while the team offered $4.4 million. It seems like there was room for compromise. The two sides can continue to negotiate so I hope there is resolution before the actual arbitration hearing is held. We need to build Sevy up to be the ace he is destined to be, not tear him down.

I was very glad the Yankees settled with new starting pitcher James Paxton for $8.5 million. I want Paxton’s experience to be very positive from the start. By all accounts, he is very excited about pitching for the Yankees. In reading and listening to Zach Britton’s words about re-signing with the Yankees, it is very clear how he and his family were treated by the Yankees played a very strong factor in his decision to return. I want Paxton fully appreciate his first year in the Bronx too.

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training a month from tomorrow. I am anxious to see Tampa and Steinbrenner Field buzzing with Yankees again. There’s no doubt Manager Aaron Boone will carry greater confidence and preparedness into camp this year with a year under his belt. I am convinced he’ll be much stronger this year and that bodes well for the team.

Good times in the Yankees Universe.

As always, Go Yankees!

Getting the Most Out of Two Hits…

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Yanks Beat Tigers, 2-1…

Normally, I’d be very bummed the Yankees were only able to get two hits off Tigers pitching on Saturday but thanks to Masahiro Tanaka, that’s all the offense he needed en route to the one-run victory.

The way the game started, it looked like Tanaka was going to need significantly more offense than he eventually required. The Tigers scored first with a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez. It looked like they might get more with only one out, but Tanaka worked himself out of trouble by striking out Niko Goodrum and getting Ronny Rodriguez to fly out to left.

Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the first for his first appearance as a New York Yankee. It is so weird seeing Cutch in Pinstripes. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but is still a strange sight. When I think of Cutch, I think of the long dreadlocks and the beard but now both are nothing but a distant memory. I do have to say that the beardless look makes him look younger. It wasn’t the best of times for the former NL MVP as he struck out looking in his Yankees debut at-bat. He finished the game without a hit, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. However, McCutchen was not the only Yankee hitter to struggle against Tigers starter Daniel Norris. Through four innings, Norris held the Yankees hitless and had faced the minimum of twelve batters.

Photo Credit: AP (Bill  Kostroun)

Miguel Andujar finally became the first Yankee baserunner when he walked to lead off the fifth inning. Gary Sanchez had first shot to move Andujar but he flied out to left. Next up, Gleyber Torres. The Rookie of the Year candidate made the most of his opportunity with the first Yankees hit of the game, a homer to left, which gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. After walking the next batter, Luke Voit, Norris left the game with an apparent injury (later diagnosed as a leg cramp) but the Yankees didn’t fare any  better against the Tigers bullpen.

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

The only other hit by the Yankees was an infield single by Aaron Hicks in the sixth inning but he was erased on an inning-ending double play.

Tanaka navigated his way through the biggest challenge in the seventh inning. Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner led off with a double to right field. JaCoby Jones followed with a single, moving Greiner to third. Jones subsequently stole second to give the Tigers two runners in scoring position with no outs. I would have pulled Tanaka at that point but manager Aaron Boone stayed with his right-hander and was rewarded. A ground out and two strikeouts left the two Detroit runners stranded and the Yankees still holding the slim one-run advantage.

Tanaka didn’t return but it was a great start. He evaded potential big innings for the Tigers in the first and seventh, finishing with seven hits scattered over seven innings. He limited the Tigers to the isolated first inning run, walking one and striking out six on 96 pitches. With the continued struggles of Luis Severino, Tanaka is pitching like a guy who wants the ball for the inevitable single-game elimination Wild Card playoff.

From there, it was up to the Yankees bullpen. Jonathan Holder took the eighth, and to my surprise, Dellin Betances got the call in the ninth. Personally, I would not be comfortable with Betances as my closer (he proved to me long ago that he is better in setup) but Boone showed confidence in Betances, who was only two games removed from the disaster on Thursday night when he gave up two ninth inning home runs to blow the first game of the series to the Tigers. This time, there were no late game heroics for the Tigers. Betances struck out the first batter, Jeimer Candelario, for his 100th strikeout of the season (the fifth consecutive season he has hit the milestone, a record for a reliever). The Tigers did get a runner on base but he didn’t go anywhere. A couple of ground outs and it was game over. A save for Betances, his second of the season, and a win for Tanaka (10-5) and the Yankees.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)

The Boston Red Sox won (6-1 over the Chicago White Sox) so the Yankees (86-50) remain 7 1/2 games behind the AL East leaders. The Yankees did pick up a game in the Wild Card standings over the Oakland A’s. The Athletics lost to the Seattle Mariners and slid 5 1/2 games behind the Yankees. The M’s, ten games behind the Yankees, trail the A’s by 4 1/2 games.

Like Andrew McCutchen, Gary Sanchez took an ‘O-fer’ this game. He was 0-for-4. He almost beat out an infield hit in the second inning but instant replay sent him to the bench. His season batting average dropped to .185 but then again, he wasn’t alone in his search for a hit in this game.

The Yankees conclude their four-game series with Detroit today at 1:05 pm ET. Lance Lynn (8-9, 4.84 ERA) gets the call against Detroit’s talented lefty, Matthew Boyd (8-12, 4.22 ERA). The Yankees will be managed by Bench Coach Josh Bard since Manager Aaron Boone gets the day off, thanks to a one-game suspension for the catching instruction he gave to the home plate umpire on Friday night. Giancarlo Stanton also gets a much-needed day off. Gary Sanchez will slide into the DH role. Sanchy, please feel free to mix in a hit or two…or three.

Saturday, with the expansion of rosters, was a busy day for the home team. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, acquired Friday night, was added to the active roster and assigned #29, in addition to the activation of Gary Sanchez off the 10-day DL. Shortstop Tyler Wade and RHP Luis Cessa were recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and the Yankees purchased the contract of LHP Stephen Tarpley from SWB. Tarpley was assigned #71 and will be making his Major League debut whenever he gets the call from Aaron Boone (or if today, Bard). To make room for Tarpley, the Yankees designated outfielder Shane Robinson for assignment. It remains to be seen if LHP Justus Sheffield will get the call or pinch-runner extraordinaire Quintin Berry for that matter. For either of those guys to be added, someone will have to be voted off the island.  A.J. Cole, you might want to start packing your bags, Dude.

This morning, the Yankees recalled RHP Jonathan Loaisiga from Double-A Trenton.

When the Yankees acquired Andrew McCutchen, I knew immediately that it would be a reunion with a long-time teammate (Neil Walker) but I had forgotten that Adeiny Hechavarria was the starting shortstop for the Miami Marlins for a few years before his subsequent stops in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. So, he had his own little reunion with Giancarlo Stanton.

Despite the Thursday night disaster, the Yankees have a chance to take the series today with the Tigers. With a cross-country flight to the Bay Area awaiting them, it would be great for the team to take a winning feeling with them.

Go Yankees!

The Puzzling Case of Pickles…

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yanks Get Double Treat on Saturday…

The Yankees swept the day/night doubleheader in Baltimore on Saturday, and find themselves only seven games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East (just six games back in the loss column). The Yankees took the day game by a score of 10-3 behind the pitching of J.A. “Happer” Happ, his fifth consecutive Yankees victory, and then swept the doubleheader by defeating the O’s 5-1 in the nightcap, a win delivered courtesy of Sonny “Pickles” Gray.

Granted, Gray was facing the worst team in Major League Baseball and they weren’t playing at Yankee Stadium so he had the right conditions for a stellar game. The last time “Pickles” had faced Baltimore, he was pounded for seven runs in only 2 2/3 innings (a 5-7 loss to the O’s on August 1st but that game was in the Bronx. He pitched six scoreless innings of three-hit ball against the Orioles at Camden Yards on July 11th and has only given up one run to Baltimore in three Camden Yards starts this year. He clearly likes pitching in Baltimore even if he can’t pitch anywhere else so I temper Saturday night’s performance. Still, it was a win and that’s what matters most. Gray threw 79 pitches in 6 1/3 innings, limiting Baltimore to three hits and no runs.  He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter until the final guy he faced in the bottom of the 7th inning.

After the game, Gray proclaimed himself as “one of the best starting pitchers in this league” which I thought was a bit much. Maybe he was saying it for the benefit of O’s GM Dan Duquette (future trade possibilities), given his propensity for ‘elite-like’ games in Baltimore. His statement could not have been meant for Yankee fans because we know better. Good for Gray to have confidence, but he shouldn’t rush out to buy shelf space for a Cy Young Award.

Perhaps the disappointment of the night game was the inability of reliever Tommy Kahnle to preserve the shutout for “Pickles”. It was a messy bottom of the ninth as Kahnle gave up three hits, the last one a single by Yankees castoff Jace Peterson which scored Trey Mancini with Baltimore’s only run. Manager Aaron Boone was forced to bring in Dellin “El Acido” Betances to get the final out with two runners on base. Fortunately, he struck out Caleb Joseph on five pitches to prevent an Orioles rally and gained his first save of the season. There’s no way that should have ever been a save situation and it reinforces why Tommy Kahnle has a long way to go before he can be a trusted member of the bullpen again.

In the day game, I was a little worried when J.A. Happ gave up two runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning which gave the O’s a one-run lead. He has pitched so well for the Yankees since his acquisition in July and it is inevitable that the wheels will fall off. Happ is exactly the type of trading deadline deal you want to make. Acquire a guy who outperforms his time with his previous club and just wins down the stretch.  The Yankees other lefty July trade target, Cole Hamels, is doing a tremendous job for the Chicago Cubs, but I agree that Happ was the right choice given his AL East experience. Happ ended up with yet another quality start, holding the O’s to just those two runs on five hits over six innings for his 15th win of he year. Happ (15-6) walked a batter and struck out nine and is only a win behind Luis Severino. Luis Cessa, the 26th man, finished up the final three innings for his first save despite the blowout.

Miguel “Papá ” Andujar, who has become everybody’s favorite choice for AL Rookie of the Year, hit his 21st home run in the first game with 4 RBI’s to pace the Yankees. Aaron “Hicksie” Hicks had three hits and 2 RBI’s. Luke “Louis” Voit got the start in the first game over Greg Bird, and delivered a run-scoring single. Brett “Gardner” Gardner also chipped in a couple of RBI’s and Gleyber “GT” Torres, with two hits, had an RBI as well.

In the night game, Gardy, Hicks, and Giancarlo “G” Stanton all contributed an RBI, and Austin “Ro” Romine smacked an insurance-providing solo homer in the top of the ninth. Greg “Bird” Bird finally got the start after two successive starts by Luke Voit. He responded to the challenge for his position by going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

The Yankees (82-47) play the Boston Red Sox six more times with three games in New York and three in Boston. The New York series is Tuesday, September 18th through Thursday, September 20th, while the Boston series finishes the regular season on Friday, September 28th to Sunday, September 30th. It’s still an uphill battle but the division title remains within reach if the cards fall right for the Yankees. Getting everybody healthy is the first course of business.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe had some interesting comments about the Yankees in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes.  He stated the Indians and the Yankees “were exploring the possibility of (Andrew) McCutchen, who has cleared waivers and can be traded anywhere”. I find it hard to believe the Yankees would add McCutchen due to the luxury tax threshold limitations but I guess you can never underestimate GM Brian Cashman. I wouldn’t mind seeing McCutchen in pinstripes but then again, he’s a redundant luxury once Aaron Judge returns to good health. Cutch does have that “it” factor and could be capable of delivering huge hits when it matters the most even if he is no longer the player he once was for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cafardo also said the Yankees were in the hunt for Giants lefthander Madison Bumgarner at the July trading deadline but found the price too high. Bummer, I would have loved Mad-Bum on the Yankees. Of course, I have no idea what the Giants asked for. Handing over our ten best prospects probably would not have been a good idea. LOL! I doubt that was the cost but it probably wasn’t too far off.

Congrats to former Yankee Matt Holliday for his return to the Majors with his original team, the Colorado Rockies. Holliday was unable to wear his original number (5) since it now belongs to long-time Rockie Carlos Gonzalez and the number he wore with the Yankees (17) is retired in honor of Rockies great Todd Helton. So Holliday opted for number 7 which of course is a hallowed number around here. Holliday went hitless in his Rockies debut on Friday after an absence of ten years in a Colorado uniform but he delivered a pinch hit homer yesterday against another one of his former teams, the St Louis Cardinals.

The Yankees conclude their series at Camden Yards today. Luis Severino (16-6, 3.28 ERA) will face Dylan Bundy (7-12, 5.31 ERA) tonight at 8 pm ET before the team heads home (sleep?  who needs stinkin’ sleep!). It would be great if Sevy could pitch like he did in the first half. We need THAT guy hitting all cylinders for the sprint to the finish. Baltimore is going to lose 100 games this season with or without our help. We might as well move them one game closer. With the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers on tap for the seven-game homestand starting Monday, the Yankees must continue to put the pressure on the Beantown Bunch.  These are the games that we can and should win before we face the Wild Card contending Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners on the the last West Coast trip of the regular season starting on Labor Day.

Go Yankees!

On a Wing (Voit) and a Prayer (Britton)…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)

Yanks Use Unlikely Heroes to Thwart the O’s…

When the lineup was posted prior to the game, Luke Voit’s name at first base was about as exciting as getting teeth pulled despite Greg Bird’s struggles with the bat. After the game was over, Voit had ensured he could be the beneficiary of more playing time at Bird’s expense.  His two home runs were huge. The first tied the game in the early stages and the latter provided the necessary insurance for the win. The muscled kid from St Louis came up big for the Pinstripes with 4 RBI’s in the 7-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Zach Britton picked up his first save for the Yankees, his fifth of the year. He was treated rudely by former teammate Chris Davis who blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the tenth, but thanks to Voit’s two-run shot after the Yankees had taken a one-run lead in the top of the tenth, Britton withstood the Davis home run trot to preserve the win. Things might have looked differently had Britton not gotten Trey Mancini, the batter before Davis, to hit into a double play. Whatever it takes, it was a win and the Yankees finally have a winning season record against the O’s at 7-6.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Orioles got on the board first. After the Yankees had threatened in the top of the first inning (but failed), the O’s grabbed the early lead with a two-run single by Chris Davis in the bottom of the inning off Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Davis entered the game batting .163 on the season but apparently Yankees pitching didn’t get the memo.

Orioles starter Alex Cobb, who has enjoyed a resurgent second half following a 2-12 record leading up to the All-Star Game, was tough on the Yankees lineup. After escaping the first inning scoring opportunity, he blanked the Yankees over the  next two innings, allowing just a couple of meaningless walks. It looked like he was going to have his way in the top of the fourth inning when he struck out Miguel Andujar to start the frame. Neil Walker singled to center, but Gleyber Torres flied out to right for the second out. Up to the plate strolled Luke Voit who had hit into a double play in the second inning for his first at-bat. Voit crushed the Cobb offering over the wall in left center to tie the game at two. It looked weird to see Chasen Shreve’s #45 circling the bases.

CC Sabathia got the Yankees through six innings with the game knotted at two. The ball was turned over to David Robertson for the seventh but unfortunately he ran into a bit of bad luck. The first hitter, John Andreoli (a recent cast-off from the Seattle Mariners), reached base on a fielding error by interim shortstop Gleyber Torres (the ball rolled up his arm off his wrist and dropped into shallow left field). Torres was in pain but stayed in the game. D-Rob was able to retire the next two hitters but then Jonathan Villar, the former Milwaukee Brewer, took Robertson deep to left center, giving the O’s a 4-2 lead. I hate to say it, but I don’t really see the Yankees re-signing D-Rob, one of my favorite Yankees over the years, after the season.

The Yankees answered in the top of the eighth. With only one out, they loaded the bases against two Orioles relievers. The third O’s pitcher of the inning, Mychal Givens, came in to face Gleyber Torres and was greeted with a two-run single to right. The O’s had a play at the plate for the second runner, Miguel Andujar, on a strong throw by Adam Jones, but the ball came loose on the collision at home. Papa was safe and the game was tied again. The Yanks re-loaded the bases after Luke Voit had struck out for the second out, but Ronald Torreyes left the runners stranded with a pop out to first.

Dellin Betances, sporting yellow shoes, pitched the bottom of the eighth. He got into a little trouble with a couple of singles but was able to get out of the inning with a couple of swinging strikeouts.

The Yankees had a chance in the ninth when Brett Gardner opened the inning with a single, but after Giancarlo Stanton flied out, Aaron Hicks hit the ball directly into Chris Davis’ glove, standing on first base, for an inning-ending double play. Three up and three down for Chad Green in the bottom of the ninth, and it was off to extra innings we went.

With former Yankees prospect Cody Carroll pitching, Neil Walker homered to right center with one out to give the Yankees their first lead of the game. Neil, please accept my apology for any disparaging words I may have used about you earlier in the season. Gleyber Torres followed with a walk. He stole second and then advanced to third on a throwing error by the O’s catcher. Luke Voit, who obviously enjoyed the fourth inning home run, decided to re-live the experience with another two-run blast, this time to right center.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Patrick Semansky)

The Yankees took the three-run lead into the bottom of the tenth, bringing in former Orioles closer Zach Britton to finish off his ex-teammates. Adam Jones singled to right to open the inning for the Orioles, but Trey Mancini, in the midst of a down year for him, grounded into a double play. So Chris Davis came to the plate with the bases empty and two outs. His homer to center, traveling 430 feet, cut the Yanks’ lead to two. Fortunately, Tim Beckham grounded out to first to end the game. It was a struggle but the Yankees persevered to pull out the victory. Britton walked off the Orioles mound with another save in his illustrious Camden Yards career, but the first in opposing gear.

The win, the Yankees’ 80th of the year, helped them to cut the gap to 8 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox dropped a 10-3 game to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees are just the second team in MLB to reach 80 wins, but of course the Red Sox became the first to 90 earlier this week. The Yankees hold a four-game lead on the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card standings and eight games over Adam Warren and the Seattle Mariners.

Nice job by CC Sabathia, fresh off the 10-day DL, to give the Yankees some length after the first inning difficulties. He mixed in a couple of eight-pitch innings. He may not have gotten the decision but he put his team in position for the win. As they say, wins are a worthless statistic to prove a pitcher’s worth. The Yankees would not have won this game without CC’s strong performance.

Gary Sanchez began a rehab assignment in Florida (Gulf Coast League) today so it sounds like we’ll be getting one of the wounded soldiers back soon. Sanchez will move up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after today’s game before rejoins the team, hopefully next week. I really hope that El Gary brings some of the hustle I’ve seen with the rehab workout videos. We could really use the pre-2018 version of Sanchez for the regular season’s final month.

The Yankees and the Orioles play two today. RHP Luis Cessa has been called up as the 26th man for the day/night double-header. The first game, at 1:00 pm ET, features J.A. Happ (14-6, 3.84 ERA) against Jimmy Yacabonis (0-1, 6.75 ERA). Luke Voit hit his last Triple A homer, prior to his call-up, against Yacabonis. Sure enough, on the lineup just posted for today’s game, Voit is playing first base. The second game, 7:05 pm ET, will pit the beleaguered Sonny Gray (9-8, 5.34 ERA) against Andrew Cashner (4-11, 4.84 ERA). Despite his record, Cashner always seems to pitch well against the Yankees. If Gray wants to pitch any meaningful games for the Yankees down the stretch, he needs to show up tonight. No pressure. Somehow I suspect he’ll fail miserably to maintain his grip on the Sonny Gray Sucks! tag line. Sonny, dammit, prove me wrong.

Hopefully last night’s win provides some momentum for the Yankees against the pesky O’s. Why win just one game, when you can take two?  Let’s do this. Go Yankees!

Saving Private Britton…

Photo Credit: AP (Rich Schultz)

Yanks Overcome Weather & Rangers for the Win…

It was raining and we had a closer with a bum knee on the mound who has shown an inability to consistently throw strikes (recently). A walk, a single, and a hit by pitch had the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the ninth inning for Aroldis Chapman. He fell behind the next hitter, Jurickson Profar, on a 3-1 count. With the Yankees leading by two, a misplaced pitch could have brought the Rangers within one and the bases still juiced. Fortunately, the Cuban Missile rose to the occasion and delivered two well-placed four-seam fastballs to send the Rangers back to their NYC hotel on a losing note. Yankees win, 5-3.

Credit to Lance Lynn. I can’t say I was too excited when the Yankees acquired him last month (it felt kinda like ‘Jaime Garcia Revisited’) but this guy has a mental toughness that I did not know or expect. I guess if I had been paying better attention to the St Louis Cardinals the last few years, I would have known but the Cards are not exactly high on my priority list. Lynn didn’t provide the Yankees with length since he was gone after five innings and 99 pitches, but at least he held the Rangers to only one run on five hits. He issued three free passes but at least he struck out eight. If he had given up three or four runs, the Yankees most likely would have lost this game. He may not have gotten the win (thanks to Zach Britton’s meltdown), but he put his team in position to win. That’s all you can ask.

Photo Credit: NY Post (Corey Sipkin)

As for Britton, I am not going to rip the guy. He missed most of the season after rupturing his right Achilles while sprinting during an off-season workout last December. He was still working himself back to form when the Yankees acquired him from the Baltimore Orioles. With the Yankees, his role changed from closer to basically seventh inning setup. The other night, after Chad Green had given up a couple of runs, he placed some of the blame on his role change. The same can be said for Britton. He’s a pro, and he is only a couple seasons removed from being the most elite reliever in baseball before injuries derailed him. I think as he rounds back into form, he’ll give the Yankees the pitcher they thought they were acquiring from the O’s.

Nevertheless, the seventh inning was ugly. After retiring the first two batters, Britton loaded the bases on a couple of hits and a walk. He then walked future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre to cut the Yankees’ lead to 3-2. Exit Britton and enter Dellin Betances. A balk on the big guy tied the game and removed Lynn’s ability to get the win.

There will be better days for Britton. I have faith and confidence he’ll get this right. Although Britton is quick to admit that his troubles have been “self-inflicted”, Manager Aaron Boone remains in his corner (as he should). If the Yankees make it to October, I have no doubt Britton will come up huge.

For most of the season, I’ve been supportive of Gleyber Torres for AL Rookie of the Year over Shohei Otani of the Los Angeles Angels. But yesterday showed the real ROY should be Miguel Andujar. His two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh restored the Yankees’ two-run lead which ultimately gave the Yankees (and ironically Dellin Betances) the much-needed win. 17 homers, 55 RBI, .296/.329/.511, .841 OPS, all those extra base hits. And to think I actually wanted the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier last winter.  ESPN projects Andujar’s final stats to read 24 homers and 77 RBIs with the nearly .300 batting average. Sign me up all day long. That’s better production than we’ve seen out of third base for a long time or before age caught up with Alex Rodriguez.

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Despite the win, the Yankees (73-43) lost a half-game to the Boston Red Sox and now trail the AL East leaders by 9 1/2 games. The Red Sox took two from their 2018 punching bag, the lowly Baltimore Orioles, yesterday and they have Chris Sale on the mound for today’s series finale at Camden Yards. The Red Sox have forgotten how to lose. The Yankees maintained their 4 1/2 game lead on the Oakland A’s and 6 games on the Seattle Mariners in the Wild Card standings.

The return of Chance Adams to Triple A did not go so well. After holding his own against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in his last start, he imploded in Durham, NC against the Bulls. Even though he wasn’t the loser, his final line was enough to keep him away from Yankee Stadium for awhile. 3 1/3 innings, eight hits, seven runs, four walks, two home runs allowed (including one to former Yankee Rob Refsnyder). The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders rallied in the ninth to take the lead but the Bulls won it with a walk-off two run homer by former Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Austin Meadows. Meadows, who came to the Tampa Bay Rays organization in the Chris Archer deal, had two home runs on the day.

The Luke Voit acquisition has been a head-scratcher for most of us. I’ve seen the references that he is basically Tyler Austin but with an extra year of control. But he is not really doing anything for me. He has two hits in twelve at-bats for the Yankees and a couple of RBI’s. Meanwhile, Tyler Austin homered on Saturday in his debut with the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen anything to lead me to believe Voit deserves a spot on the active roster. With Neil Walker’s ability to play first base, I’d rather see Ronald Torreyes back in the Bronx. Another name that probably deserves stronger consideration over Voit is first baseman Ryan McBroom. The downside, and enough to keep him away from the Bronx, is that he does not have a place on the 40-man roster. McBroom got demoted to Double A when the Yankees acquired Voit, but he was elevated back to the RailRiders when Voit got the call for the Show. Between Double and Triple A, McBroom, acquired from the Blue Jays organization last summer for the aforementioned Rob Refsnyder, has hit .312/.354/.482, .836 OPS. He has 15 home runs and 54 ribbies with his time in Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 26 year-old is much more deserving of the Pinstripes than the weight room junkie Voit.

Photo Credit: Todd Hiller

I’d love to see the Yankees dump outfielder Shane Robinson but that’s not going to happen as long as Giancarlo Stanton is nursing a tight left hamstring that has relegated him to strict DH duties. If the Yankees are not going to trade for outfield help, I can only hope that Clint Frazier gets healthy soon. At this point, I’d prefer Zack Zehner (SWB) or Trey Amburgey (Trenton) over Robinson but that darn 40-man roster will keep them away.

I’ll be heading out to Coors Field soon to watch the Colorado Rockies host Manny Machado and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Last night was a tough game to watch. The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but with no closer (Kenley Jansen was sent back to LA on Friday night with an irregular heartbeat), the Dodgers bullpen collapsed to set the stage for Rockies rookie infielder Ryan McMahon’s walk-off three-run bomb. So, despite our bullpen woes yesterday, it could have been much, much worse as the Dodger fans will attest. Hopefully today is a better day for the Dodger Blue.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Joe Mahoney)

For the Yankees, they have a chance to take three of four from Texas with a win today. We want a win and we need a win. CC Sabathia (6-4, 3.49 ERA) gets the call. He’ll be opposed by Martin Perez (2-4, 6.15 ERA). Keep Ronald Guzman from crossing home plate and put more runs on the board than the Rangers, that’s all I ask. After the Yankees conclude today’s game, they’ll prepare for a classic pitcher’s duel tomorrow at Yankee Stadium when the New York Mets come to the Bronx for a single makeup game. Luis Severino against Jacob deGrom. It should be a great one. I am really hoping Sevy has put his recent struggles behind him.

Go Yankees!