Tagged: Dellin Betances

Time to Improve is Now…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

Please End the Battle of .500…

We are two-thirds the way through April and the Yankees are only one game above .500. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox are winning at an amazing .889 clip.

Remember back in January and early February when we were so excited about the dynamic Yankees offense featuring the NL MVP and everyone said that the Yankees pitching staff was better than any potential replacements? Or how the Red Sox had no offense to go with their solid pitching rotation? Yeah, I miss those days.

Three weeks into the season and things are not quite as rosy. Yes, it’s a long season and much can happen between now and the end of September. I keep waiting for the silver lining to appear but sadly, so far anyway, the Boston Red Sox continue to devastate their opposition. Absolute annihilation might be more descriptive. It feels like HBO’s Game of Thrones and Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the Night King with an ice dragon and an army of the undead at his disposal.

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Hitting

.292/.362/.496, .859 OPS, 24 Home Runs, 109 RBIs, 323 Total Bases

.249/.343/.438, .781 OPS, 23 Home Runs, 92 RBIs, 260 Total Bases

Pitching

2.63 ERA, 127 Hits, 10 home runs, 1.09 WHIP

4.47 ERA, 145 Hits, 18 home runs, 1.27 WHIP

Fielding

.992 Fielding Percentage, 5 Team Errors

.971 Fielding Percentage, 18 Team Errors

It’s easy to look at the above numbers and recognize that the team with the top line is superior to the lower line team. I guess it’s little wonder why the Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox by six and a half games and it’s still only April (allegedly, according to my calendar).

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The team fielding is the most horrific stat since the Yankees are the worst team in Major League Baseball and the Red Sox are the second best, trailing only the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s starting to feel like the Yankees are going to give away runs every game with their defense.

The law of averages say that the Yankees will improve their numbers while the Red Sox should cool off, but for the first three weeks of the season, Boston has been in a sprint. The Los Angeles Angels got off to a great start this year. When their series against Boston (at home) started on Tuesday, the Angels were 13-3. Three games later, when the Red Sox finally left Anaheim, the Angels had fallen to 13-6. They were decimated by a combined score of 27-3 over the course of the three games series sweep by the Red Sox. The Red Sox Nation is gloating and it sucks.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Yankees have won three of four after last night’s 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, although the sting of the drubbing by the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night still hurts. Even though the Yankees did hang on Thursday evening for the one-run win, they gave two runs away and David Robertson walked a precarious tightrope in the 8th inning when the Jays loaded the bases with a couple of hits and walks and only one out. It was incredible that he emerged from the inning allowing only one run on a single by his former Yankees teammate Curtis Granderson. No offense to Dellin Betances (who pitched decently in the seventh inning), but it seems like if it had been Dellin in the eighth with the bases juiced, the Jays would have scored a plethora of runs. D-Rob’s performance (cleaning up his own mess in the face of great adversity) is one reason I hope the Yankees re-sign him in the off-season. I have far greater trust in Robertson as the setup man for Aroldis Chapman than I do Betances. By the way, it was very nice to see Chapman strike out the side in the ninth inning to preserve the win. It was a win but one that could have very easily gotten away from us.

Something’s got to give. At some point, Giancarlo Stanton is going to hit and he’ll carry the team on his back. I have no doubts about it but how deep is the hole going to be before it happens. That’s my biggest concern.  If the Red Sox play .550 baseball the rest of the way, they are a 95-win team. The Yankees need to improve their hitting, pitching and defense now, not later. The Yankees can’t let the Red Sox run away and hide with the AL East championship. Otherwise, we’re back into the one-game ‘do or die’ situation, assuming that the Yankees can grab one of the Wild Card slots.

There are 145 games left to play. Let’s make the most of them.

The Yankees re-signed first baseman Adam Lind this week to a minor league contract, most likely as a hedge against the health of Greg Bird and the sustained play of Tyler Austin. I don’t see how Lind will be ready to play when Austin begins serving his five-game suspension (or three or four games, whatever it turns out to be after the appeal is heard). I kind of wish Austin had started serving his suspension immediately. Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies received his five-game suspension after Austin and he has already finished serving his time.  With the Yankees only one game into a brutal 18-day consecutive game stretch against some of the best teams in baseball, it sucks that we’ll have to feature Neil Walker as the starting first baseman for a chunk of the games.

At this point, I can only say Thank God for Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius. I am not sure where the Yankees would be without those two guys. The rest of the team should feel free to raise the level of their game to match the two young Yankees superstars. It starts tonight.  Sonny Gray, this is your wake up call. Pitch like we know you can. That’s all we ask.

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

I hate to keep using Daniel Burch’s line, but it’s never been more appropriate. Need a win…get a win.

Maybe one of these days I can wake up happy and cheerful like Daniel.

Go Yankees!

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Making Easy Things Hard…

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Yankees Able to Overcome Betances…

The Yankees won their game on Friday night but it was not without unnecessary drama. The Yankees thoroughly dominated the Detroit Tigers in all phases of the game, yet the Tigers had the go-ahead run at the plate in the bottom of the eighth, thanks to a mess created by Dellin Betances. Although he was able to get two outs in the inning, it was not before the Tigers had gotten five hits and three runs off him. Mercifully, Chad Green came in to get the final out against his former team, leaving two runners stranded, to help propel the Yankees to the 8-6 victory.

After the game, Manager Aaron Boone was very supportive of Betances. Betances felt he was throwing good pitches but the Tigers were hitting everything. Betances made the comment that if he picked up the rosin bag and threw it, it was going to be hit. If the delivery is correct and both the fastball and breaking pitches are working, we can only hope good results are right around the corner. We’ll see. It’s troublesome to watch the All-Star reliever struggle in key spots. Fortunately, it didn’t cost the Yankees a game last night, but Boone had to burn Chad Green on a night he didn’t want to.

Nice job by Aroldis Chapman who struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to earn his second save of the season.

The game was a much stronger outing for starter Jordan Montgomery. He pitched better than his final line, 6 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, no walks and 4 strikeouts, in picking up his first victory of the season.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

The star of the game was Aaron Hicks. It was so fun to watch his inside-the-park home run in the second inning off Tigers starter and former Astro Mike Fiers. The ball hit by Hicks to right-center looked like it had the distance to go yard, but it careened off the wall and away from the Tigers outfielders. Gary Sanchez, who had doubled in the preceding at-bat, scored on the play, while Hicks came around and slid headfirst into home plate ahead of the throw with a huge grin on his face.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Gregory Shamus)

Hicks added a traditional home run in the sixth inning to become the fifth Yankee hitter with a multi-home run game this year. This is an incredible accomplishment considering only fourteen games have been played. Plus, Aaron Judge has yet to join the multi-HR parade and you know it is only a matter of time. The way this season is going, Ronald Torreyes will probably be the next hitter to have a two home run game.

This weekend’s games against the Tigers are looking very questionable right now. The weather forecast calls for rain on both Saturday and Sunday. The Yankees do not make any further trips to Detroit this season so if either one of the next two games are postponed, it will create a schedule challenge for the makeup. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to a double-header tomorrow before the Yankees head for home.

I am not excited about the anticipated start today (weather-permitting) by Luis Cessa. I really prefer to see Cessa in limited relief appearances.  But I guess the hand-writing was on the wall that he’d be the spot starter in place of the injured CC Sabathia when Domingo German pitched three innings in relief of Sonny Gray (very effectively, I might add) on Thursday. Hopefully, if they get the game in, Cessa will pitch much better than I expect.  I’d love to see him prove me wrong. Sadly, he never seems to but today is a new day.

I hate to dwell on what could have been, but reading this morning’s sports page shows that Todd Frazier hit two home runs last night to help the New York Mets improve their record to 11-1 and Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros struck out 14 batters for his third consecutive game with 10+ strikeouts. Cole would look really good in the Yankees rotation right now but it was not meant to be. I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will deliver us something better by the trading deadline but the early results do not look good.

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

If the Yankees decide to promote top prospect Gleyber Torres next Thursday, they have very difficult roster decisions to make. The obvious move is to option Tyler Wade to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. At the start of the season, I thought that Ronald Torreyes was the most vulnerable potential roster casualty but the guy simply performs every time he is called upon. His versatility and ability to come into games with effective results after sitting on the bench for days makes him too valuable to lose. The only way I can see Torres and Wade on the active roster together would be through a trade of an active roster member (but who?). As I’ve said before, I’ll gladly take Torres over Wade any day of the week. It’s not that I don’t think Wade will be a good player, I just feel Gleyber will be a star. Not right away, but I am ready for the maturation process in the Majors for the young superstar-in-waiting.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (John Raoux)

It’s not my money but I’d cut bait with Jacoby Ellsbury. I know, that’s a lot of money down the drain but Ellsbury’s presence, when he comes back from the DL, is a hindrance. I know that he’s still a good player but I’d prefer to see him play elsewhere. Let him go back to Boston, even if we are paying the freight. I don’t really care at this point. I am done with Ellsbury.

Jace Peterson cleared waivers yesterday and was sent outright to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders so we may not have seen the last of the former Padre/Brave second baseman.

Another former Yankee made his return to the Yankees organization when Rule 5 draftee Nestor Cortes, Jr was offered back to the Yankees by the Baltimore Orioles. The return of Cortes means that none of the players drafted from the Yankees in the Major League phase of last December’s Rule 5 Draft stuck with their new teams. I saw a story a few days ago that blamed misuse of Cortes by Orioles manager Buck Showalter for putting the young left-hander in a no-win situation. Cortes had yielded two grand slams within a week. Showalter said “If we could have gotten a little deeper into our games with starting pitching, I think I could have protected him more. But, we were forced into some things. I still think he’s got a chance to be a good pitcher.” When Baltimore had selected Cortes, they had high hopes that he’d make the starting rotation and felt that they had “stolen one” from the Yankees. It didn’t work out but we’re glad to see Cortes back in the Yankees family. Cortes will be assigned to Double-A Trenton where he’ll join the other Orioles Rule 5 returnee Jose Mesa, Jr.

Tyler Austin has appealed his five-game suspension. The appeal will most likely be heard early next week but the downside is that once Austin begins serving his suspension, he can’t be replaced on the roster so the Yankees will be a man down.  Neil Walker would be the full-time starter at first, backed by Austin Romine. That’s dangerously thin for the Yankees, particuarly considering the team will soon embark on a very difficult stretch on the schedule.

Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will not be coming to Yankee Stadium for the two game series between the Yankees and the Miami Marlins which starts on Monday. Jeter will make the trip to New York, but won’t travel to the Bronx to see the games in person at Yankee Stadium.  Jeter told ESPN, “I went to a spring training game when we played New York, but it would be an awkward situation for me to actually go to Yankee Stadium. I’m just being honest with you guys, so that’s why I’m not going.” I saw a great twitter line yesterday that said Jeter decided to send Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees as his representative. Works for me.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Michael Reaves)

Well, let’s hope the Rain Gods allow us to get in today’s game. Never a better time for a win than today.

Go Yankees!

How Do You Spell Relief?…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

For one night, the answer is not G-R-E-E-N…

Well, so much for the thought (my thought anyway) that Chad Green is the lone bright spot in the Yankees bullpen. I know, that’s not fair to Aroldis Chapman, who has had very limited opportunities, or Dellin Betances, who actually was the best reliever last night. The Yankees held the lead in the game until the seventh inning when Masahiro Tanaka started to tire and gave up a two-run blast to Adam Jones. Tanaka stayed in the game, retiring Chris Davis on a grounder to third, but Tim Beckham ended his night with a single to right. If the Yankees bullpen could have held it from there, the Yankees might have been able to dig out of the one-run hole.

Alas, it was not meant to be. I guess you can chalk it up to ‘one of those nights’. Manager Aaron Boone brought in the usually reliable Chad Green. He did strike out two batters to get out of the inning but not before the Orioles hit a single, run-scoring double and two-run single to push three more runs across the plate.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

The Yankees had their chances but could not erase the large deficit. They picked up a run in the bottom of the seventh on a run-scoring single by Neil Walker after Didi Gregorius had doubled, but Miguel Andujar popped out with two men on and two outs to end the threat. The next inning, the Yankees had the bases juiced with two outs for Neil Walker, thanks to a walk and two batters hit by pitches. Unfortunately, Walker grounded out to the pitcher to eliminate the last serious threat.  Sadly, the Yankees dropped the contest, 5-2, to fall to 4-3 and two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings.

I was pleased to see the strong work by Dellin Betances in the top of the ninth inning when he struck out three batters despite allowing a meaningless walk.

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Love or hate Buck Showalter, but he schooled Aaron Boone on the fine art of managing. I know, you can’t blame Boone for this loss but Showalter is the wise grandmaster in terms of the depth of managerial experience. You’ll never beat Showalter by out-managing him.

I always enjoy the work of Mike Axisa over at River Ave Blues. He had great perspective this morning. He said “Every team is going to win 50 games and lose 50 games each year. It’s what they do in the other 62 games that determines their fate. This is one of those 50 losses.”  I agree with his assessment (as usual) but it is tough to take a loss on a night when the Boston Red Sox win.

Boston kills me. They have such a ‘cream puff’ schedule to start the year. They won their home opener yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with two runs and then scoring the game winner in the bottom of the 12th. The Rays featured a starting pitcher that I’ve never heard of, Yonny Chirinos. He did a decent job, along with the subsequent relievers until closer Alex Colome took the bump. The Rays almost lost the game in regulation when second baseman Daniel Robertson took a grounder with a runner on first, bypassing the obvious and easy force out at second, to barely beat the runner to first. The play was challenged but the throw beat the runner by a split-second, sending the game into extra innings before the Rays ultimately lost. The takeaway for me is that other teams like to hand gifts to the Red Sox.

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Photo Credit: Boston Herald (Christopher Evans)

Right now, Boston wins the games when they do not play well and the Yankees do not. I fully expect the Yankees to gel as a team but seven games into the season, we’re not there yet. I am not going to panic. There are still 155 games to play. Nobody is handing the Red Sox the AL East championship in April.

The Yankees look to rebound tonight when CC Sabathia takes the mound. He’ll face Greg Bird’s Colorado high school buddy, Kevin Gausman. Last year, CC was the man following a Yankees loss so hopefully the trend continues.

I was sad to see Trayce Thompson’s time with the Yankees was so short. I really like the guy even if he hasn’t put up the numbers to earn such support. Thompson was out of options when the Yankees claimed him on waivers earlier this week but they tipped their hand when Aaron Boone said that he’d start out in the minors. Thompson couldn’t go to the minors without clearing waivers and the Oakland A’s jumped at the chance to bring the brother of Klay Thompson, a star with Oakland’s Golden State Warriors to the Bay Area. Nice attempt by the Yankees to try to slide him through waivers but it failed like it did for the Dodgers. It’s nice for Klay who picks up a roommate to help pay bills (like he really needs the help). I wish Trayce the very best for success in Oakland, however, I think we’ll see him again soon on the waiver wire. For his sake, I hope not. I’d like to see him succeed.

The Yankees also made a depth move this week to acquire third baseman Cody Asche from the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

Asche will take over third base for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders while Miguel Andujar toils in the Bronx. I really wanted the Yankees to acquire Asche several years ago. I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill (I guess I can modify it to say the next Didi Gregorius). I thought Asche had potential when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies as a young third baseman. Asche, 27, is a career .234 hitter in 390 MLB games so he clearly has not become the player I thought he would be. There’s no chance he’ll ever leap-frog over Andujar or Brandon Drury so for now he becomes a Triple A performer waiting to help in the event of injuries at the position for the big league club. No offense, Cody, but I hope we never see you in the Bronx. It’s not because we don’t like you…we simply prefer good health for Andujar and Drury.

Lastly, I am going to borrow the words of TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen: In summary, the 2018 New York Yankees are still a World Series contender. If you want to jump off the Yankees’ bandwagon, be my guest. There are still plenty more on board.

Go Yankees!

A High View in Center…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Fred Thornhill)

Continuing the long line of great Yankee Centerfielders…

Aaron Judge, Center Field.

It was an odd sight on Saturday when Manager Aaron Boone inserted the 6’7” slugger into the lineup at center rather than his customary spot in right field. Injuries and the need to rest Brett Gardner force Boonie’s hand. While Judge played well, the move turned out to be for naught when Gardy had to enter the game anyway after Billy McKinney crashed into the left field wall and was removed from the game. Boone kept Judge in center and put Gardy in left for McKinney which was the right move.

Given how uncomfortable Giancarlo Stanton looked in left field during Spring Training, Judge handled center field very smoothly. Unorthodox, sure, but Judge did play center in college so it’s not like he has never played the position before. I liked the move as position versatility is a big part of the 2018 Yankees. Stanton will be in left field for today’s game so that’s a riskier move than Judge in center, in my opinion.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

After the game, McKinney was placed on the disabled list with a sprain of the acromioclavicular joint, or AC joint, in his left shoulder. He is expected to miss a few weeks. With neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier ready to come off the DL, the Yankees are running short on outfielders. Of the outfielders on the 40-man roster, four are now on the DL and the remaining three are on the active roster. So, to add an outfielder would have necessitated the elimination of a spot on the 40-man roster to add someone. The next available outfielder in the organization is probably Shane Robinson. The Yankees opted to call up third baseman Miguel Andujar (already on the 40-man roster), and indicated Tyler Wade would be in the mix for outfield work. Brandon Drury also has played the outfield but the Yankees preference seems to be to keep him at third. Of course, Twitter was ablaze yesterday with The Curse of Jabari Blash tweets over the outfield calamities.

Andujar will see time at first base, third base and DH, so it will be interesting to see how Boone mixes and matches the lineups in the coming days. He’s penciled in at DH for today’s game. Jacoby Ellsbury is eligible for activation on Thursday, assuming he is ready, so Andujar’s stay may be short. I never thought I’d look forward to Ellsbury’s return but here we are. For now, Andujar gets the chance to display some of the magic he wielded early in training camp. At decision time when Ellsbury returns, I’d probably keep Andujar and send Jonathan Holder down to Triple A, especially if he hits the way we know he can.

Welcome back to the Show, Miguel! We hope the second appearance is as magical as the first.

Congratulations to Tyler Austin. His two home runs in yesterday’s 5-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays tied the game twice. That’s a great way to take advantage of an opportunity. Austin is tied for the team lead in home runs and is two homers ahead of Aaron Judge. I know, it’s early but good for Austin. Naturally, the day earned him a spot on the bench for today’s game. Still, Austin should be good for a pinch hit appearance.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

It wasn’t a great game for the big guys. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez were combined 0-for-8 with a strikeout. Giancarlo Stanton with 1-for-3 with a walk, but no runs. The trio went 0-for-12 the day before so hopefully it’s time for some big hits today. It’s a rest day for El Gary so the power show will be up to Judge and Stanton.

Aaron Boone is already taking heat for the bullpen. I was surprised to see Aroldis Chapman on Opening Day when the Yankees had a five-run lead. After pitching both Thursday and Friday, the Cuban Missile was not available on Saturday. The bullpen struggled yesterday and was responsible for the loss despite Tyler Austin’s heroics. Adam Warren got the first call in relief of starter CC Sabathia. He took over in the bottom of the sixth and recorded the first out on a grounder to third. But he walked the next batter, Kevin Pillar. Aledmys Diaz followed with a come-backer to the mound that struck Warren on the right ankle. Warren’s ankle diverted the path of the ball to first base so Tyler Austin was able to make the tag play on Diaz, but Pillar advanced to second. Warren was unable to continue and his replacement, Jonathan Holder, was greeted by Luke Maile’s run-scoring single.

Austin tied the game with his second home run, a shot to left, so the score was tied when Dellin Betances entered in the bottom of the seventh inning. Betances allowed a single to the first batter he faced, Curtis Granderson, but a perfect strike from Gary Sanchez to Didi Gregorious on a steal attempt nailed the Grandy Man at second. The Blue Jays challenged the play but replay showed Didi got the glove down on Grandy’s sliding hand a split second before it reached the bag. It was a tremendous play that helped Betances get out of the seventh unscathed and should have been momentum for better things.

But Boone overplayed his hand and brought Betances back for the bottom of the eighth.  Enter Betances; exit potential win. Former Yankee Yangervis Solarte, with a bat flip, blasted a leadoff homer to give the Blue Jays a one-run lead.  Betances struck out Randal Grichuk but then the comedy ensued. Kevin Pillar reached base on a single to right. After striking out Aledmys Diaz for the second out, Pillar stole second off Betances who then lost Luke Maile on a 3-2 count to put the runner at first.  Pillar and Maile advanced on a double-steal with no play by the Yankees. Pillar then made a break for home and Dellin’s erratic throw to Gary Sanchez allowed Pillar to cross the plate easily for the second run of the inning. Betances managed to strike out Gift Ngoepe to finally end the inning, but the Blue Jays were up, 5-3. From there, the Yankees went down quietly against Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna in the top of the 9th, and the Yankees had suffered their first loss of the season.

I am not ready to condemn Betances (well, maybe I am) but the Blue Jays clearly got into his head in the 8th inning. Runners on base are never a good thing when Betances is on the mound but the Blue Jays wrote a blueprint for the rest of the league. Four steals in one inning. This is something Betances needs to figure out in the games ahead or teams will routinely exploit this weakness.  I don’t trust Betances with the game on the line right now. I would have preferred David Robertson in that spot. Actually, I’d take D-Rob, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green as my late inning, high-leverage guys over Betances. I really hope he is able to turn this around. Otherwise, I’d be in favor of dumping Betances in a trading deadline deal. When he is on, there are not many better than Betances, but when he’s off, he makes Tyler Clippard look very, very good. Love the arm but he’s too much of a head case for me.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

The Yanks look to rebound today in the getaway game. Sonny Gray will take the mound to face Marcus Stroman. Many are predicting a great season from Gray and it starts here. Hopefully he carries the team to victory so that the flight back to New York is an enjoyable one.

I have to admit that I felt very underwhelmed on Saturday morning when I saw that the Yankees had signed left-handed reliever Oliver Perez, 36. He’ll add depth at Triple A, which is a little short on lefties. Perez pitched for the Washington Nationals last year (appearing in 50 games with an 0-0 record and 4.64 ERA). The former Met failed to make the Cincinnati Reds in Spring Training and was released last weekend. Hopefully injuries do not force the Yankees to add Perez to the Major League roster (where he’d make $1 million). If that happens, it is not a very good sign for the state of the Bullpen. It would have made for a great April Fool’s Day joke except that’s today, not yesterday.

Let’s get a win today and head back to New York with a 3-1 record. Go Yankees!

Dawn of the New Pinstriped Season…

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Life begins on the Northern Shore of Lake Ontario…

The Yankees will be working out at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada today in preparation for tomorrow’s Opener against the Blue Jays. Tuesday was an off-day for the Yanks after they flew into Canada from Atlanta, GA on Monday evening.  Soon, the 2018 Yankees will take the field for the first meaningful game of the year. Luis Severino versus J.A. Happ. It should be a terrific game!

While the Yankees players, coaches and road crew were enjoying the sights and sounds of Toronto yesterday, the Blue Jays were completing their Spring schedule with an exhibition game in Montreal, Quebec against the St Louis Cardinals. In what may have been the greatest meaningless game finish ever, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, son of Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expos great Vlad the Great, delivered a walk-off home run to beat the Cardinals at Olympic Stadium in front of 25,186 fans. Vlad Jr appropriately wore his father’s #27 as he circled the bases in the bottom of the 9th. It had to be one of the finest moments of training camp. Fortunately for the Yankees, Little Vlad is still a few years away from the Majors. I am sure that he’ll one day become a thorn in our side but gladly it won’t be this week. It was a very nice moment for the Blue Jays, the Guerreros, and the city of Montreal.

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Photo Credit: The Canadian Press (Paul Chiasson)

I am not going to try and make any predictions for the upcoming season. Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes did an excellent job with his predictions over the past week so I’ll leave the season forecasts to him. Nevertheless, I do have one thought about his AL East prediction that has the Yankees winning the division by four games over the Boston Red Sox. I personally think the battle between the Red Sox and Yankees will be closer than four games by season’s end but I guess we’ll find out come October. J.D. Martinez will help the team’s offense and David Price and Rick Porcello will have much better years in the starting rotation. I have no reason to believe Boston will win fewer games than they did last year.

Speaking of the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe voiced his displeasure on Twitter about the reference of a single Boston player as a Red Sock. Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and J.D. Martinez is a Red Sox? Sorry, that doesn’t work. Martinez is a Red Sock although Red Sux certainly works too.

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Former Yankee Robert Refsnyder seems to be on a mission to play for all five AL East teams.  The latest victim for his services are the Tampa Bay Rays who acquired the former Yankees prospect from the Cleveland Indians yesterday for cash considerations. The Yankees had traded Refsnyder to the Blue Jays last summer but he was claimed on waivers by the Tribe during the off-season. It’s only a matter of time until Ref works his way through Baltimore to get to Beantown where I am sure that he’ll have a Hall of Fame career (um, probably not).

Speaking of former Yankees, I don’t think there’s one more beloved than Oakland A’s center fielder Dustin Fowler. Yankees fans everywhere are pulling for the former Pinstriped prospect who blew out his knee last summer in Chicago during his Major League debut for the Yankees against the White Sox. Fowler has been in a battle all Spring with Boog Powell for the A’s starting job in center. A’s manager Bob Melvin has said that the starter will go down to the wire.  We’re at the wire so I assume that we’ll soon find out if Fowler has won the job or if the 23-year-old will take a trip to Triple A to fine tune his offensive skills. An excellent defender, he batted .222/.245/.267 with .512 OPS in Cactus League play for the A’s with no homers and five RBIs. He struck out 13 times in 45 at-bats. Powell’s numbers are not much better but Fowler is younger (by two years) and would benefit more from a demotion to Nashville to play for the Sounds (once a Yankees farm team, by the way). Either way, I will be pulling for Fowler this year and I look forward to his MLB debut for the A’s, hoping for much better results than the last time he took the field during regular season play.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)

The guys who cover the Yankees beat for NJ Advance Media (Randy Miller and Brendan Kuty) are fantastic at their jobs. Kuty posted the following prediction today on the NJ.com website which I absolutely love:  “(Brandon) Drury, if healthy, stays the third base starter all year. I’ve said it a billion times but I feel like that trade may end up like the Gregorius trade.” Admittedly, expecting Drury to perform like Didi has in Pinstripes is asking a lot, but I am a firm believer in Drury’s high ceiling and abilities and I think the Yankees will coax great years out of the player. I like his demeanor and his unbreakable focus on baseball. He may not be a comedian like Didi or as fun-loving (at least to the outside observer) as some of his teammates but I appreciate his dedication to becoming the best player he can be.  I am a big fan of Drury regardless of how much I like Miguel Andujar. I think Drury is going to win over many fans in the upcoming days and months.

Ken Davidoff has long been one of my favorite Yankees beat writers. Due to the crazy reduction of quality personnel in the newspaper business, Davidoff has found himself with The New York Post. He wrote a great article this morning about the inside story on how Aaron Boone became the manager of the New York Yankees. It is a very insightful piece and one that makes me even more excited that Boonie is the leader of Baseball’s greatest team.

Who will hit the first home run for the Yankees this year? My pick is El Gary Sanchez. I think he’ll go yard before the massive bats of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Watch, one of the lighter hitters on the team like Tyler Wade will circle the bases first.

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Now that Dellin Betances seems to be rounding back into All-Star form, I am really excited about the potential of the Yankees bullpen. Dellin is the key to success. I think Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green and the rest of the crew will be perform to their usual superior levels but my biggest concern was Betances given how untrustworthy he had become late last season. I think we’ll see a much stronger and more consistent Chapman but I was fearful that continued control problems by Dellin would be the undoing of the bullpen. But based on his most recent performances, the old Dellin is back and ready for success. This is the single greatest factor in the bullpen, in my opinion.

It is disappointing that Greg Bird will miss 6-8 weeks following ankle surgery yesterday to remove a coin-sized calcium deposit but it is what it is. I am not ready to pull the Nick Johnson card. I remain optimistic Bird will have a memorable 2018 season and will produce his share of home runs. In the interim, I am fine with the first base duo of Tyler Austin and Neil Walker. Austin has never truly been given a chance like this before so it’s his moment to shine. I am hopeful he grabs his opportunity to make his mark.

It’s exciting that the Baseball Season is finally here. How awesome will it be to see Giancarlo Stanton in a Yankees road gray uniform tomorrow? Judgie (Boone’s word, not mine), Sir Didi, El Gary, Gardy, Sevy, and more. Our favorite baseball team is back and ready for action. It is a very exciting time to be a Yankees fan. There’s plenty of room aboard the Bandwagon for those who want to jump on. Let the homers and emoji’s fly! We have a World Series championship to win. Let’s get started…

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Go Yankees!

The New Guy Goes Yard…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)

The Battle of New York…

I am always the first to say that Spring games mean absolutely nothing but I have to admit it was fun beat the New York Mets on Saturday by 7 runs for the second time this year. The Yankees won 10-3 at Steinbrenner Field after beating the Mets 11-4 last Wednesday in Port St Lucie, FL.

Rumor has it the new guy, Giancarlo Stanton, can hit bombs. We were finally treated to the first Pinstriped home run by the big guy and man, did it feel good to see that one go out.  It made me realize how much I like watching Aaron Judge and Stanton hit back-to-back, considering I have been an advocate for breaking them up with Greg Bird. It was exciting to see Judge reach base and then both guys celebrating at home plate after Stanton completed his home run trot, which included the faux football hand-off by third base coach Phil Nevin as Stanton rounded the base. John Sterling’s call of the home run was “a Stantonian blast”.  Unclear if that’s just a temporary Spring call or if it will be the tagline for the season.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Another great moment in Saturday’s game was the first Spring appearance of David Robertson, who had recently been felled by food poisoning. Luis Cessa started the game and reaffirmed my concerns about his stature as the rotation’s sixth man when he got into trouble in the second inning. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with only one out. Enter D-Rob. Six pitches…two strikeouts…inning over. I really hope the Yankees do not allow Robertson to leave at the end of the season when he becomes a free agent. The guy was made to be a Yankee and it was hard enough to watch his years away in Chicago. Now that we have him back, I don’t want to lose him again.

There was a scare in the top of the 6th inning when Tyler Wade rolled his wrist while attempting to dive for an infield grounder by Jose Reyes. Wade left the game and although he iced the hand, no further tests were planned. It sounds as though Wade will be back out on the field by Monday. The current leader for Opening Day second baseman, it would have been tough to lose Wade for any extended period of time. I am glad he is okay. It was certainly a scary moment.

The game also featured a bit of miscommunication.  Dellin Betances pitched the fourth inning and then went to the clubhouse. No one told Adam Warren that he was scheduled to pitch the fifth, so it became a scramble after the Yankees completed batting in the bottom of the fourth. There was some apparent confusion in the dugout, and Warren quickly got up in the bullpen. After a brief delay, Betances came back out to face one batter, giving up a single, before departing for good. Aaron Boone held his usual 5th inning in-game conversation with the YES Network broadcasters but clearly did not want to talk about the incident. “We had some issues there. We’ll just leave it at that.” Some on social media were crucifying Boone for the miscommunication but I’d rather see Boone make mistakes in Spring training and learn from them before the season starts.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)

A fair amount of drama for a “meaningless” Saturday afternoon game.

The Yankees had a couple more cuts yesterday when flame-throwing RHP Domingo Acevedo was optioned to Double-A Trenton and RHP Brian Keller was reassigned to minor league camp.

The Minnesota Twins may have lost the Wild Card game to the Yankees last season, but they will be a stronger team when they take the field this year. Although top starting pitcher Ervin Santana will miss the start of the season after surgery on his finger last month, the Twins previously added Jake Odorizzi in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and yesterday they signed free-agent Lance Lynn (an innings-eater and a very good pickup) to a one-year, $12 million contract. The Lynn signing triggered today’s release of Anibal Sanchez (Lynn was clearly an upgrade, in a total statement of the obvious). I would have loved to have seen the Yankees sign Lynn.  The Twins have also added former Rays first baseman Logan Morrison, who slugged 38 home runs in 2017, to be their primary DH. I haven’t really been keeping up with the Twins, but they are quietly getting stronger. They also added Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed to their bullpen. I’ve never been a big fan of Rodney but Reed was a great signing.

With Lynn signing for much less than anticipated, I can’t help but wonder what it would take to sign free agent righty Alex Cobb in this environment of falling prices. You can never have enough starting pitching. I know that he’d never do it, but it would be cool if Jake Arrieta came to the Yankees with an offer to play for a pillow contract so that he can test the free agent market again next year. He does know and trust the Yankees closer. I know, I am just dreaming but whatever it takes to bring the 28th World Championship to the Bronx.

Lefty Joe Mantiply, 27, who spent last season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds this year as a non-roster invitee underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Friday. We wish Joe the very best as he begins his journey on the road to recovery and hopefully fulfilling his dream of one day making it back to the Major Leagues (he pitched briefly for the Detroit Tigers in 2016).

Photo Credit: Cheryl Pursell

I am bummed that today’s game against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter, FL will not be televised.  For the Yankees making the trip, be sure to say hello to our old friend, Starlin Castro.

Go Yankees!

One Step Closer to Spring Training…

Prize Fight between Betances and Levine called off…

The Yankees avoided an off-the-field fight yesterday when they signed all of their arbitration-eligible players to one-year, non-guaranteed contracts, including Dellin Betances who lost his fight at the arbitration table last year. It sparked angry (and, in my opinion, unnecessary and ridiculous) words from Yankees Team President Randy Levine. This year, Betances gets the $5 million he sought a year ago when Levine said that “five million dollars goes to elite closers, people who pitch the ninth inning and have a lot, a lot and a lot of saves.” Personally, I think Betances will rediscover the magic and will resume his role as one of the elite setup artists in baseball. He is worth the money, regardless of what Levine may think.

Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi, New York Post

I was glad to see the Yankees stayed a couple of dollars shy of the $29.4 million total projected by MLB Trade Rumors. Not that MLB Trade Rumors is the foremost authority, but they were fairly accurate in their projections.

Here are the actual one-year settlements for the arbitration-eligible players:

Didi Gregorius, $8.25 million

Sonny Gray, $6.5 million

Dellin Betances, $5.1 million

Adam Warren, $3.315 million

Aaron Hicks, $2.825 million

Tommy Kahnle, $1.3125 million

Austin Romine, $1.1 million

Chasen Shreve, $825,000

Total:  $29.2275 million

Gregorius accepting $750,000 less than his projected amount of $9 million was the difference-maker in bringing the total for all players under $29.4 million. Gregorius has one more year of arbitration before he hits free agency. I really hope the Yankees look to lock him up on a new long-term deal next off-season rather than wait for him to hit the free market. Same with Sonny Gray.

Yu had me at…

Following the Yankees’ ‘did they or didn’t they’ make an offer to free agent pitcher Yu Darvish is funny. Earlier in the week, Michael Kay reported on his show the Yankees had offered Darvish a 7-year contract for $160 million.  On Twitter, Darvish responded “They don’t give me offer yet”. Darvish subsequently clarified his position with “Sorry guys. My mistake. Actually they did make offer the numbers are not correct.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Nothing against Darvish, I like the pitcher, but I wouldn’t want to devote in excess of $20 million per year to the pitcher even if the Yankees could somehow find a way to move Jacoby Ellsbury and his heavy contract or trade someone like Brett Gardner or David Robertson. Yesterday, Dodgers Nation posed a question to their fan base if they wanted the Dodgers to re-sign Darvish. The immediate reaction was negative, with many lingering feelings of disappointment and resentment over the awful World Series performance given by Darvish. Not that I feel a couple of poor (very poor) starts should define Darvish, but the October Stage is not made for everyone. It was a red flag that Darvish might not be a guy who can elevate his game when the stakes are at their highest. If money was no object, then I’d gladly be willing to accept Darvish on the team. But in the grand scheme of things for a team trying to stay under $197 million, the money is better served in other areas.

Please Keep Numbers 29 and 77 Ready…

We are now only a month away before pitchers and catchers report to training camp in Tampa, Florida. With so many free agents still available, it would seem that we’ll be playing exhibition games before some big names know what jerseys they’ll be pulling on. I continue to preach for the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier to a two-year deal to take third base and provide backup support at first for Greg Bird. Of course, I’d also trade Brett Gardner despite his leadership qualities and status as the most tenured Yankee to open up a significant role for Clint Frazier. So, my views are obviously ‘Up goes Frazier(s)’.

Photo Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters

I thought we’d see more baseball activity last week than we did. Admittedly, it seems like I feel that way every week yet we continue to hear crickets. Yes, the Mets re-signed Jay Bruce but the off-season continues to move along very slowly. I don’t believe owners are guilty of collusion. I think this year has been a wakeup for owners who do not want to give extended contracts to guys and end up with ‘Jacoby Ellsbury-like’ situations on your hands. Plus, you have the added factor that MLB’s two biggest spenders are furiously trying to keep payroll under $197 million. I am hopeful the current sluggish market conditions bring quality third base help to the Yankees.

R.I.P. to a Legendary Sportcaster…

I am very sad to hear the news of the passing of retired sportscaster Keith Jackson. Growing up in the 70’s, he was the premier voice of College Football and so many other top sporting events to me. His style and grace were legendary qualities. So many times in my life I’ve said “Whoa, Nellie!”, thanks to Jackson. He passed away Friday night in the Los Angeles area, where he made his home. Farewell, Keith. May you rest in peace. Heaven has gained a tremendous Angel and we will miss you.

Photo Credit: LA Times

Have a great long weekend, Yankees family! Go Yankees!