Tagged: Dustin Fowler

Waking Up in First Place…

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Yankees win latest series with Boston…

We have often heard it in recent days. On April 20th, the Yankees were 7 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East after Boston’s blazing 17-2 start at the beginning of the year. The Yankees, then 9-9, were getting ready to embark on the most brutal stretch of their schedule, struggling to stay above .500, with multiple series ahead against division leaders and winning teams.

Yet, here we are on May 10th, and the Yankees lead the AL East by one game with the best record in Major League Baseball. I guess I was worried for nothing, thanks to the twenty-five men on the Yankees roster who have contributed to the legendary winning run the team is currently on. Well, make that twenty-four, reliever A.J. Cole has just been along for the ride.

First place, how sweet it is…

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It is amazing the last Yankees team to win 17 of 18 games were the 1953 Yankees which included a young Baby Bomber named Mickey Mantle. That’s pretty good company for the 2018 Yankees. I wasn’t alive then but I hear the 1950’s Yankees were pretty good.

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The Yankees are spoiling second baseman Gleyber Torres. He’s quickly learning losing is unacceptable in the Bronx, having experienced only one loss in his first seventeen games. The Yankees are supposed to win every day, right?

Last year, it seemed like the Yankees were consistently losing the close games. Yet, this year, no deficit (it seems) has been too much unless we’re playing the lowly Baltimore Orioles. When Red Sox manager Alex Cora brought his closer, Craig Kimbrel, into last night’s game with five outs to go, it did not feel as intimidating as it had in years past. When Brett Gardner laced the triple to recapture the lead for the Yankees, it wasn’t a surprise to me. It felt like this team was going to find a way to victory. The two run homer by Aaron Judge off Kimbrel was icing on the cake. Loved seeing Astros closer Ken Giles blow the recent game against the Yankees, but watching Kimbrel lose was better even if he didn’t slug himself coming off the mound.

This run won’t last forever (will it?) but I am certainly enjoying it while it lasts. Back in early April, I felt we’d have a good litmus test on the Yankees by May 10th. Well, I’d say they aced the exam and have proven they are among the very best in Major League Baseball. Win or lose today, the team’s accomplishments have far exceeded my expectations.

Going into the Boston series, I had hoped the Yankees would win at least two of three so that they’d have at least a share of the AL East when the Red Sox headed for the airport. However, with two wins in the bag, let’s “Get Greedy” and go for the sweep!

I am not going to get too high. It is only mid-May and there’s so much baseball yet to be played before anything is decided. Gleyber Torres, sadly, will one day learn it is indeed possible to lose two or three games (or…yikes!…more) in a row at the MLB level. I am not going to dismiss the Red Sox. They are a very good team that’s not going away. But then again, neither are we. It should be a great summer of baseball ahead.

I did have to check out Boston newspapers today. The Boston Globe featured the Boston Celtics on their Sports page. The Celtics won their Eastern Conference semi-finals matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers and will advance to the Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I suppose that’s big news in Boston but it is funny how the Red Sox became a secondary thought in the Globe.

Credit to Giancarlo Stanton who had two homers in the first game of the Red Sox series and a two-run double yesterday. The best way to stop boos at Yankee Stadium is to show up in a big way against the dreaded Red Sox. Nice job, Giancarlo. This is what you were hired to do.

And for all of you who wanted to cut Neil Walker, ala Chris Carter style, I think he’s given his answer to you. On a team that has featured a different hero almost every night, Walker has been a key ingredient in many of the rallies. I think there’s a much better chance of Tyler Austin finding his way to Scranton, PA than Walker hitting the unemployment line. Sorry Tyler, it’s not you. Walker has simply appeared so graceful at first base even though he is out of position and now his bat is showing why he was an offensive force for the Pirates and Mets.  His veteran leadership meshes well with the team, and I am glad he’s here.

Hopefully CC Sabathia can close out the Red Sox this evening and send them out of town on a three-game losing streak. Since Rick Porcello had to move up his start by a day when Wednesday’s scheduled starter, David Price, returned to Boston for medical tests, Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 5.29 ERA) will take the mound later today for Boston.

The Yankees open a three-game set against the Oakland A’s on Friday night for their last home series before a road trip to Washington, Kansas City, and Dallas/Fort Worth. While it is cool Sonny Gray gets the start in the series opener against his former team, the player I will be watching most is former Yankee Dustin Fowler. The A’s called up Fowler yesterday.  I had wondered if he’d make his season debut and first official MLB at-bat against the Yankees, but a pinch-hit appearance yesterday against the Houston Astros gave Fowler the first Major League at-bat that eluded him last year in Chicago when he suffered the devastating knee injury. Pinch-hitting for Mark Canha in the 7th inning (with Houston’s Will Harris on the mound), Fowler lined out to second. So, he’ll come to Yankee Stadium seeking his first Major League hit. While I don’t want the A’s to win (obviously), I hope Fowler gets that hit and draws a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd. He deserves it. A good man who deserves the very best life has to offer. He will always be one of my favorite ex-Yankees.

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Photo Credit:  Getty Images

Gotta admit that it is really fun to be a Yankees fan right now. I know, it’s always fun, but the World seems like a better place when the Greedy Pinstripes are winning.

Go Yankees!

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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!

Baby, It’s Cole Outside…

Credit:  Daniel Decker Photography

What’s Next?…

After two successive weekends starting with a bang (first the word about Aaron Boone’s hiring as the replacement for Joe Girardi and then the stunning deal that brought the great Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx), we enter this weekend on a quiet note.

There have been rumors for days (actually the ongoing discussions have lasted for years) the Yankees have been talking to the Pittsburgh Pirates about starter Gerrit Cole. Personally, I am in favor of Cole’s acquisition. I know, he basically sucked last year. 12-12, 4.26 ERA. 31 home runs allowed. It was easily his worst season and he is now a couple of seasons removed from his dominant 19-win 2015 season. You’d be bringing him into the pressurized AL East which isn’t going to help anybody’s ERA, particularly for a pitcher prone to give up the long ball. But maybe I continue to see the upside of the pitcher and feel that he can be an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter. There’s the intangible that he was a childhood Yankees fan so it’s possible that he could have the reverse Ivan Nova effect (pitching much better in New York than Pittsburgh). I know, that one is a stretch but I’d really like to see what pitching coach Larry Rothschild could do with Cole’s arm.

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

The issue, of course, is cost. Any trade is almost certain to be headlined by outfielder Clint Frazier. The Pirates will also demand a top pitching prospect in a deal that would most likely cost the Yankees at least four young promising players. Many believe that Chance Adams may be better suited for relief and I’ve heard concerns about the at-times violent delivery of Justus Sheffield (and concerns about his durability). Between the two, I’d probably be more willing to sacrifice Adams although I have enjoyed his progression through the Yankees farm system. I saw one Pirates blog clamoring for Jordan Montgomery.  That’s a deal-breaker for me. I would not include Montgomery under any circumstances with the concerns that accompany Cole. I have a tough time justifying Frazier but the Yankees have an abundance of outfielders and Frazier is better suited for left field than center. Until they can clear out room by trading Jacoby Ellsbury (please!) or Brett Gardner, there’s simply no room for Frazier. The job of fourth or fifth outfielder can easily be handled by Jake Cave or Billy McKinney, with Estevan Florial a season or two away. Pittsburgh wants to contend again by 2019 so they are not going to settle for Single-A prospects or guys with no potential to reach the bigs until after 2020. This is a dilemma and I am sure that’s a primary reason the talks have gone on for so long with no resolution.

I know everyone prefers Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers but there’s no indication that the Tigers are willing to trade Fulmer. Even if Fulmer was available, I think the cost would be substantially greater than what it would or should take to get Cole.

Credit:  MLB.com

We know that the Boston Red Sox will respond to the Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton. They’ve been rumored for weeks to be the possible destination for both first baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder J.D. Martinez. With their pitching staff (assuming that David Price can return to ace status), they will be strong contenders for the AL East championship next season. I was glad to see one possible fallback option eliminated yesterday when former Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Martinez has indicated he wants to play the outfield and at the moment, the Red Sox outfield is full with Mookie Betts (arguably one of the best players in MLB), Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi. It’s possible the Sox could trade JBJ but he’s one of the best defensive centerfielders in the league. Neither Benintendi nor Betts are going anywhere. Therefore, I hope Martinez continues to take a stand against becoming a full-time DH.

The trades of Chase Headley and Starlin Castro opened starting roles for the Yankees at second and third. At the moment, Gleyber Torres is destined to take second. However, there is greater value in starting him at Triple A to open the season for a few weeks to delay his free agency by a year so it makes more sense to use the combo of Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade to man the position until Torres is ready. At third, Miguel Andujar is presently at the front of the line although I still suspect the Yankees will acquire a short-term veteran. This one is tough. I’d love to see the Yankees bring Todd Frazier back on a two-year deal, but the Yankees are probably looking at no more than one year which is not in sync with the player. One possible destination for Frazier was eliminated yesterday when the Los Angeles Angels signed Zack Cozart, former shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, to play third (Andrelton Simmons is entrenched at short and the Angels just acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers).  I keep hoping that the price tag for Frazier drops low enough for the Yankees to grab him but that’s not something that I am counting on. I guess the Yankees need to find their next Scott Brosius off some unsuspecting MLB roster.

If anything is going to happen, it will probably be next week. Otherwise, I don’t see any significant baseball activity until after the first of the year.

I am sure that GM Brian Cashman and company are hard at work as I type this post.

Hopefully there is a quality starting pitcher out there who dreams of joining Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery. Run support may not have been Gray’s friend in 2017 but in 2018, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. As a pitcher, I’d love to be backed by a lineup that features Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and others. They’ll just have to get used to the extended wait between innings while the Yankees are batting.

Oakland A’s Outfielder Sues the White Sox…

Former Yankees outfielder Dustin Fowler has sued the Chicago White Sox and the state agency that manages Guaranteed Rate Field (Illinois Sports Facilities Authority) as a result of the devastating knee injury he suffered in his Yankees debut last summer in Chicago. The suit, filed in the Cook County Circuit Court, claims the White Sox and the state agency acted negligently by not securing the knee-level electrical box that Fowler collided against when he hit the low side of the wall chasing a fly ball in foul territory. The suit indicates by failing to pad, guard or cover the electrical box, the defendants showed “an utter indifference to or conscious disregard” for Fowler’s safety.

Credit:  Pete Caldera, NJ.com

Fowler, part of the trade that brought Sonny Gray to New York, is expected to be ready for A’s training camp next spring but time will tell if the knee injury has lasting ramifications on the former Yankee’s career. I agree that the parties at Guaranteed Rate Field should be held liable. At the time of the injury, then Yankees manager Joe Girardi was very critical of the exposed electrical box. It is a hazard that could have been prevented.

I wish Fowler the best with his suit and hope that he is able to reach the potential and stardom that he seemed destined for prior to the injury.

The Tampa Yankees are no more…

I will miss the “TY” logo as the Yankees’ High-A affiliate have changed their name to the Tampa Tarpons. I immediately saw tweets about tampons after the announcement of the name change, but the Tarpons name has history in Tampa. It was the name of a previous Florida State League team for over thirty years. The old Tarpons club was sold and relocated in 1988. The new team was placed in Tampa by the Yankees in 1994. Welcome back, Tarpons!

I am sure the Tampa Bay Rays are glad to see the removal of “Yankees” from the Tampa name even if the minor league team remains affiliated with the Pinstripes.

Speaking of the Tampa Tarpons, I continue to hope that their manager, Jay Bell, is named as Al Pedrique’s replacement at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre although former Yankees coach Tony Pena would probably be a very solid option too.

59 days to Spring Training. Go Yankees!

Gray’s “Errorable” Yankees Debut…

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

Indians 5, Yankees 1…

Actually, Sonny Gray pitched very well.  Sadly, he had no support from Yankees team offense or defense.  Todd Frazier made his Yankee Stadium debut by hitting into a triple play, but Gray topped him, admittedly through no fault of his own, as three first inning defensive errors led to an early 2-0 Indians lead as the Tribe sailed to the easy victory.  

Credit:  Getty Images
Facing one of the AL’s best pitchers in Corey Kluber, there was no margin for error.  Unfortunately, the first inning looked like Keystone Cops.  Bradley Zimmer hit a grounder to first that should have been the first out, but Chase Headley was unable to field it cleanly which allowed Zimmer to reach base.  Francisco Lindor grounded out with Zimmer moving to second.  Michael Brantley hit a grounder to Tyler Wade that should have been the second out, but the ball got away from Wade and Brantley was safe at first.  Zimmer to third.  Jose Ramirez hit a liner to right that Clint Frazier stopped cleanly but then he must have been throwing to the fans in the first or second row of the third base stands as the threw sailed over the head of third baseman Ronald Torreyes into the camera well for the third error, which allowed both Zimmer and Brantley to score.
Meanwhile, the Yankees could barely touch Kluber, mustering just three hits off the Indians’ ace.  Clint Frazier picked up the Yankees first hit in the fourth inning with a double to right.  He made it to third on a subsequent fly out, but like any Yankee on third base these days, he was left stranded.
The Indians picked up a couple of insurance runs in the sixth.  With two outs, Carlos Santana walked on four straight balls.  Brandon Guyer lined a single to right, moving Santana to second.  Yan Gomes doubled off the left field wall, scoring both Santana and Guyer.  It was 4-0 Indians.  Gray got the final out of the 6th, but it was the end of his debut.  His final line was 6.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO.  If he continues to pitch like that, he’ll pick up his share of wins for the Yankees.
Credit:  Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The Yankees finally scored their one and only run in the top of the 7th when Gary Sanchez blasted a home run to center.  Unfortunately, it would be the last hit off Kluber who went the distance.  With Chasen Shreve pitching in the bottom of the 7th, Francisco Lindor answered El Gary’s home run with a shot of his own over the left field wall.  From there, the Yankees went quietly.  Kluber picked up his ninth victory of the season.  He struck out 11 Yankees, the 9th time in his last 10 games he has struck out 10 or more batters.  Gray (6-6) took the loss.  The only other Yankee to get a hit, besides Clint Frazier and Gary Sanchez, was Ronald Torreyes who singled in the 5th inning.
Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer
The Yankees (57-50) fell two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.  Boston beat the Chicago White Sox, 9-5.  The Tampa Bay Rays moved 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees with a 5-3 victory over the Houston Astros.  The Detroit Tigers stopped the Baltimore Orioles’ winning streak, 7-5, so the O’s remain 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
Brett Gardner was hitless in four at-bats to snap his 14-game hitting streak.  It had been the longest current streak in MLB.  He also struck out twice.
Manager Joe Girardi took heat for benching Aaron Judge, Todd Frazier and Matt Holliday but I had no issue with the rest days for those guys.  They haven’t been hitting and it was unlikely they would have had any better results against Kluber.  Hopefully, the rest day helps them today when they return to the lineup.  Jaime Garcia could use the run support (and defense) that Sonny Gray failed to get.  On the bright side, the Yankees won’t see Kluber again this series.
Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer
Odds & Ends…

According to MLB.com, OF Dustin Fowler ranks as the Oakland A’s third best top prospect, while SS/OF Jorge Mateo is #5 and RHP James Kaprielian is #11.  Fowler will be given every opportunity to break camp next Spring with the A’s as their starting center fielder. I guess we are going to be “Ben Gameled” quite often in the future.  

Credit:  John Shea

Speaking of top prospects, 2B Nick Solak is now in the Top 10 for the Yankees (according to MLB.com) and seems to be shooting through the system.  He was called up to the Double A Trenton Thunder a couple of days ago from the High A Tampa Yankees.  For Tampa, the 22 year old Solak hit .301/.397/.460 with 10 HR’s and 44 RBI’s.  He also had 17 doubles and 13 steals.  Solak was the Yankees’ 2nd round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.   

Credit:  Mark LoMoglio

The Yankees should be getting some help soon.  Aaron Hicks is currently on rehab assignment at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  He is 2-for-6 in two games, with an extra base hit and a run scored.  Greg Bird is traveling with the team and slowly beginning baseball activities.  There’s hope that he can return by early September.  Starlin Castro will soon begin a running program as he recovers from the hamstring strain that landed him on the DL.

Have a great Friday!  Here’s hoping for better results with Jaime Garcia’s Yankees debut.  Go Yankees!

Feliz Navidad, in June, for the Yankees…

Credit:  Associated Press

Yankees 13, Astros 4…

I have to admit that I thought Friday night’s game against the Astros was going to be a struggle.  The Yankees did not arrive in Houston until 6 am after playing and the losing the rain-delayed game in Chicago the night before.  They arrived deep in the heart of Texas to play MLB’s best team and were scheduled to face the very tough Lance McCullers, Jr, the son of a former Yankee.  It was noted before the game that McCullers had not given up more than three runs in any of his home starts this year.  Against the Yankees, he was 2-0 with 0.75 ERA since 2016.  Fortunately, the Yankees came together as a team…as they’ve frequently done this year…and came away with the decisive victory.

Early on, it looked like it was going to be another struggle for runs that would potentially come up short.  The Astros scored their first run in the bottom of the inning when George Springer led off with a double against Yankees starter Michael Pineda.  He moved to third on a ground out and scored on a sac fly by All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve.

The Yankees picked up a run to tie the game in the third.  Brett Gardner led off with a double when the ball dropped in despite a running dive by Astros right fielder Josh Reddick.  It looked like McCullers might escape when he struck out the next two batters, but Didi Gregorius doubled  down the first base line to score Gardy.

The Yankees had two runners in scoring position in the top of the 4th with no outs.  Unfortunately, both Tyler Wade and Chris Carter struck out.  The inning was over when the runner on third, Austin Romine, attempted to score on a wild pitch.  Nice trick slide though as Romine tried unsuccessfully to evade the tag.

Credit:  Bob Levey-Getty Images

In the bottom of the 4th, the Astros led off with two singles.  A throwing error by right fielder Tyler Wade put runners at second and third.  After former Yankee Brian McCann struck out, another former Yankee, Carlos Beltran, hit into a ground out which scored the lead runner.  Marwin Gonzalez followed with a single to score a run and the Astros led, 3-1.  With McCullers Jr pitching well, it looked like it would be difficult to make a comeback.  

But the light at the end of tunnel occurred in the sixth inning.  Didi Gregorius opened with a single.  After Chase Headley struck out, Austin Romine walked and the Astros made a pitching change.  They brought in Michael Feliz to replace McCullers Jr.  Ronald Torreyes greeted Feliz with a single to left, scoring Gregorius.  Tyler Wade struck out for the second out, but Chris Carter, Brett Gardner, and Jacoby Ellsbury followed with run-scoring singles to put the Yankees up, 5-3.  A fielding error allowed Gardy to advance to 3rd.  He scored the fifth and final run of the inning when Feliz threw a wild pitch.  6-3, Yankees.  I really hated to see Feliz go but the Astros brought in Reymin Guduan and he secured the final out.  

Credit:  Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle

Nevertheless, the 7th brought more Yankee offense.  Chase Headley and Austin Romine opened with singles, and Ronald Torreyes walked to load the bases.  Tyler Wade hit a grounder that erased Headley at home and Chris Carter (wait for it) struck out.  So, with two outs and the bases loaded, Brett Gardner, who largely struggled during the month of June, came to the plate.  On a 3-2 count, Gardy put one over the right center field wall for the grand slam (his 15th homer of the year, and just two away from his career high).  

Credit:  Bob Levey-Getty Images

With the seven run lead, Michael Pineda’s night was finished.  Much better results than the last time Pineda faced a Texas team.  Pineda (8-4) went 6 innings and allowed 7 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 3.  He didn’t walk anybody and more importantly, he didn’t give up any home runs.  It wasn’t a perfect outing but he gave the Yankees exactly what they needed…a fighting chance until the offense got untracked.  

The Astros picked up a meaningless run in the 8th when Josh Reddick opened with a double and advanced to third on a throwing error by Jacoby Ellsbury.  He scored when Jose Altuve grounded out.  Despite a subsequent single allowed, Bryan Mitchell, who had relieved Pineda in the 7th, was able to get out of the inning without any further damage.

The Yankees tacked on three more runs in the 9th.  Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade both walked.  Chris Carter struc…I mean…doubled to score Torreyes.  Brett Gardner lofted a sac fly to right to score Wade, his 6th RBI of the game.  Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a groundout, scoring Carter.  The runs gave the Yankees the final margin of victory, 13-4.  Bryan Mitchell set down the Astros in order in the bottom of the ninth to earn his first save of the season.  Great job by Mitchell to protect the bullpen and to keep the Astros down.  

The Boston Red Sox defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-4, in 11 innings, so the Yankees (43-35) remain one game behind in the AL East Standings.  The Tampa Bay Rays also won in extra innings (6-4 over the Baltimore Orioles) so they are still 3 games behind the Yankees.

This was a great team victory.

Ronald Torreyes, the “Tall” One…
Credit:  Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle

Odds & Ends…

All of our hearts are with Yankees outfielder Dustin Fowler as he begins his recovery from knee surgery on Thursday night.  It will be a long, hard road of recovery and rehabilitation.  It’s been reported that he’ll be on crutches for three months before he begins physical therapy.  Everyone is hopeful that he’ll be ready by the time training camp in Tampa opens next February.  I thought it was cool the team had a face-time call with Fowler in Joe Girardi’s office before yesterday’s game.  

In the aftermath of Fowler’s devastating injury, the Yankees made a few expected moves on Friday.  With the placement of Fowler on the 10-Day DL and the demotion of Ronald Herrera to Triple A, the Yankees recalled RHP Bryan Mitchell and 3B Miguel Andujar.  For Andujar, he returns as a Major League Vet albeit with just one game under his belt.  But it will be hard for him to match that terrific first impression (3 hits, 4 ribbies).  I hope his defense is ready to play at the MLB level.  I’d like to see him get a few turns at third as an alternative to Chase Headley and Ronald Torreyes.  I am glad to see that Mitchell is back.  He is a Major League pitcher that just gets caught in the numbers game.  But he’s always been one of my favorites.  Best of luck…and health…to both men.

Clint Frazier, according to multiple reports, will be called up today for his first trip to the big leagues.  I was surprised when the Yankees recalled Miguel Andujar after previously saying they wanted him to get more reps at third.  Nothing against Andujar and of course he had the greatest possible MLB debt performance, but the Yankees have a greater need in the outfield.  Rob Refsnyder is not the right answer to rotate with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Judge (keeping those guys fresh).  I’ve heard the most likely candidate to be sent down will be reliever Bryan Mitchell who made an extended appearance in last night’s game in relief of Michael Pineda.  I assume that Andujar is another potential candidate for the trip to Scranton, PA.  He was a convenient call-up for the Yankees following Fowler’s injury because he was still in Chicago.  Frazier will be the 10th Yankee to make his MLB debut this year (counting Fowler’s very brief appearance).  

Credit:  J Conrad Williams, Jr

CC Sabathia pitched a simulated game on Thursday and is expecting to make his next start.  I assume that Luis Cessa will be return to Scranton when Sabathia is activated off the DL.  Still no word about Matt Holliday as tests continue.  This is a bit frightening, to say the least.  I really hope this is not something more serious than we’ve been led to believe.  Tyler Clippard was away from the team on Friday to attend his grandmother’s funeral.  He is expected back today.

Have a great Saturday!  Even better if the Yankees can pull out a second victory against a very tough Astros squad.  Let’s Go Yankees!

A Long, Hard Day Falls Short…

Credit:  USATSI

Brian Cashman on Line 3…

The Yankees were very busy on Thursday and that was before game time.  Normally, I lead with the day’s prior game but today I wanted to catch my breath from the flurry of activity that took place yesterday.

On Wednesday night, Miguel Andujar, penciled in at DH as a fill-in for the DL’d Matt Holliday, had one of the greatest Major League debuts in franchise history.  For all I know, it may have been the best, outperforming many of the legends that have called Yankee Stadium home.  He went 3-for-4 with 4 RBI’s and a stolen base.  Thursday rolls around and he’s flying from Chicago to Syracuse, New York to catch up with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on the road.  

I get the logic.  The Yankees want Andujar to focus on third base with regular playing time.  There’s no doubt he’ll be back but it must have been tough celebrating Major League success for the first time, followed by a tap on the shoulder that the manager wanted to talk to you…and oh yeah, bring your bags.  

Coming the other way is first baseman Chris Carter.  I think @BronxPinstripes said it best on Twitter the other day when they said Carter would be back faster than you could say ‘Strike 3’.  Sad but true.  With the placement of Tyler Austin on the disabled list (hamstring), the Yankees needed a true first baseman.  Austin Romine has done a good job and I’m sure he’ll remain in the mix, but I guess we need to get prepared for more whiffs in big spots.  

To make room for Carter, the Yankees moved Greg Bird to the 60-Day Disabled List which is probably a light indication we may not see Bird again this year.  

The Yankees also recalled outfielder Dustin Fowler to replace Andujar.  I wondered what was up with Fowler.  Wednesday night, I was seeing tweets about how Fowler was a no-show for the RailRiders’ double-header.  No reason was given and when Manager Al Pedrique was asked about it after the games, he said that there would be clarity on Thursday.  Early Thursday, the news was breaking that Fowler was on his way to Chicago to meet up with the Yankees.  Obviously, the Yankees must have called the RailRiders to tell them to pull Fowler from games.  It must be tough to be a Triple A manager.  Things are going great and out of nowhere, your best players get plucked off your roster so you’re left to pillage Double A.  I don’t dispute calling up Fowler.  There is a greater outfield need right now and there’s no way I’d put all my chips on Jacoby Ellsbury.  It’s unfortunate for Andujar but it would have been a good opportunity for Fowler.  More on Fowler later.

Since Fowler was not on the 40-man roster, someone had to be voted off the island.  Unfortunately, the loser was one-time top prospect Mason Williams.  As an older prospect that never took advantage of opportunities, he was deemed expendable in an organization filled with outstanding outfield prospects.  I know these moves are as much about preparing for the December Rule 5 Draft as they are for helping the team play the White Sox and the Astros.  It will be interesting to see if the Yankees can trade Williams or if they lose him for nothing.  I don’t really see him accepting an outright assignment to Triple A but I could be wrong.  If it were me, I’d try to catch on with an organization running a little thin with outfielders.  Excuse me, Brian Sabean, can we talk?  Fowler represents the ninth Yankee making his MLB debut this year.  Gleyber Torres, why, oh why, did you make that slide?…

Busy, busy day.

White Sox 4, Yankees 3…

The exciting MLB debut for Dustin Fowler ended as horrifically as one could imagine.  On his first play in the first inning, Fowler ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee when he tried to make a running catch into foul territory to catch a fly ball and collided with the low right field foul wall.  I had been worried about Fowler going into this game.  Delayed by rain, the game didn’t begin play until 10 pm Central (which would have been 11 pm for Fowler having just flown in from Syracuse, New York).  The late, wet conditions set a horrible stage for Fowler’s debut.  I felt the game should have been called, particularly considering the Yankees had to fly to Houston, Texas to play another game today at 5:10 pm Central.  It was a very unfortunate situation for Fowler, who is out for the season.

Credit:  Patrick Gorski-AP

The Yankees are now be faced with yet another roster move.  Rob Refsnyder, who replaced Fowler in right field, dropped a fly ball that should have been caught which allowed the White Sox to score a run in the bottom of the 2nd inning.  No offense to Refsnyder but the Yankees need better help in the outfield.  It will be interesting to see if the Yankees make another adjustment with the 40-man roster to recall Clint Frazier.  

The Yankees scored first in the top of the first inning before the Fowler injury in the bottom half.  Following an infield single by Brett Gardner and a walk by Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius grounded into a fielder’s choice to first but Jose Abreu’s throw to second glanced off Judge’s left shoulder and went into left field.  Gardner scored on the play.  

In the bottom of the second, the White Sox scored two runs to take the lead.  The first run, courtesy of Refsnyder’s error.  Adam Engel, who hit the two-out fly ball that Refsnyder dropped, scored the go-ahead run when the next batter, Omar Narvaez, singled to left.  

The Yankees tied the game in the fourth.  Ronald Torreyes lined a single to deep left with runners at first and second, scoring the lead runner (Jacoby Ellsbury).  But the White Sox quickly answered in the bottom half of the inning.  Yolmer Sanchez walked to start the inning for the White Sox.  Adam Engel was hit by a pitch with one out to put runners at first and second.  Omar Narvaez grounded out to first, but the runners advanced a base.  Willy Garcia brought both runners home with a double to deep left and the White Sox led, 4-2. 

The Yankees scored their final run in the sixth when Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a triple.  He scored when Austin Romine hit into a ground out at short.  Unfortunately, the Yankees were unable to complete the rally.  They had the right opportunity in the ninth with Aaron Judge at the plate and Brett Gardner on first with two outs, but White Sox closer David Robertson struck out Judge to end the game.  

I am sure it was a very long flight from Chicago to Houston.

This was a sickening loss.  The long-term health of Dustin Fowler is the primary concern.  But these were very difficult circumstances for the Yankees to play and a game that I felt should not have been played.  The cost was far too great.  If the Yankees play sluggishly today, who can blame them.  With the loss, the Yankees (42-35) fell one game behind the Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 6-3.  The Tampa Bay Rays lost 4-0 to the Pittsburgh Pirates so they are three games behind the Yankees.

Luis Cessa (0-3) was the hard luck loser.  He pitched 4 2/3 innings, with a whopping 89 pitches, allowing 5 hits, 4 runs (2 unearned thanks to the Refsnyder error), 3 walks, and struck out 1.  If there is a positive, the Yankees bullpen threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief which included an inning by Tyler Clippard.  The pitcher, who has been very erratic of late, struck out the side in the bottom of the 7th.  

I hope Brian Cashman gets to the office early today.  He has much work to do.

Oh well, on to Houston and MLB’s best team, the Astros.  It doesn’t get any easier.

Next Up:  Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas…

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

FRIDAY

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (7-4, 4.12 ERA)

Astros:  Lance McCullers, Jr. (7-1, 2.53 ERA)

SATURDAY

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (6-4, 3.53 ERA)

Astros:  Francis Martes (2-0, 5.51 ERA)

SUNDAY

Yankees:  Luis Severino (5-3, 3.15 ERA)

Astros:  Mike Fiers (5-3, 3.98 ERA)

Odds & Ends…

Another former Yankee has found his way to the unemployment line.  The Atlanta Braves have designated 44-year-old Bartolo Colon for assignment.  I really hope the Yankees do not to take a flyer.  Let him go back to the Mets.

Have a great Friday!  Today has to be better than yesterday.  Let’s Go Yankees!

Forget Yesterday, Fight for Today…

It’s tough to follow a game that you should have won with a dull, listless performance.  So it was for the Yankees as they fell 7-1 to the AL cellar rats, the Toronto Blue Jays.  To the Blue Jays credit, they are now on a three-game winning streak and have held their opponents to a single run in each of those victories.  It was just a matter of time before the Blue Jays started playing like the team many predicted to contend for the AL East and unfortunately the Yankees may have run into them at the wrong time. 

Luis Severino, after his brilliant performance in Boston, let the bottom of Toronto’s batting order do the damage.  In the second inning, he allowed a two-run homer to the number seven hitter, shortstop Ryan Goins, who is subbing for the injured Troy Tulowitzki.  It would be the only runs Toronto would need on a quiet night for Yankee bats.  Severino allowed another home run in the sixth inning to the number nine hitter, third baseman Chris Coghlan, a fill-in for the injured Josh Donaldson.  Severino (2-2) lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 runs.  He walked two and struck out 3.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Reliever Luis Cessa took one for the team and finished the remaining 3 1/3 innings to provide rest for the weary Yankees bullpen.  He did give up a two-run shot to Jose Bautista in the seventh inning but was otherwise effective.  

Jacoby Ellsbury made a great play in the sixth inning with a leaping catch of a potential double.  His momentum carried him into the centerfield wall.  A runner on third scored on the sac fly, but then Ellsbury overthrew Aaron Judge on an attempt to get the ball back into the infield which allowed a runner on second to also score.  

Greg Bird is lost at the plate.  His latest 0-for-4 performance dropped his batting average to an even .100.  He left 5 men on base.  The Yankees continue to give him chances to turn it around, but when is enough?  I’ve been in Bird’s corner but at some point, he needs to figure this out at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, not New York, in order to restore his confidence.  I had thought he was getting better swings in recent days but the results are not there.  I am not ready to say ‘send him down today’ but it is probably not going to take too many more games of hitless results.  

It was just one of those games.  The Yankees have struggled against the Blue Jays in recent years as they are just 13-26 against Toronto since the start of the 2015 season.  The loss dropped the Yankees (15-9) one game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.  The O’s beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 on Monday night to recapture sole possession of first place.  But today, yesterday means nothing.  The Yankees can still take this series and it starts today with timely hitting and precision pitching.   

Prior to the game, the Yankees recalled Cessa to provide long relief insurance and optioned reliever Bryan Mitchell to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Brendan Kuty of NJ.com had the best Twitter line:  “Mitchell will likely share 1B duties with Refsnyder and Choi” in reference to Mitchell’s one inning of work at first base on Sunday.  Too funny!

With no offense to Jorge Mateo, my personal favorite for the future of center field at Yankee Stadium had quite a game on Sunday.  Dustin Fowler, a strong candidate to eventually unseat Jacoby Ellsbury, hit for the cycle as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Indianapolis Indians (the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top farm club), 7-6. 

In the bottom of the 11th inning, Fowler capped his memorable day with a walk-off home run, completing the cycle.   For the game, the 22-year-old went 5-for-6 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s.  For the season, Fowler is batting .293 (24-for-82), 4 home runs, and 12 RBI’s.  He is second on the team with a .914 OPS.  He has also stolen two bases.

Fowler’s day:

1st Inning:  Tripled to right.

3rd Inning:  Grounded out to third.

5th Inning:  Doubled to right, scoring Tyler Wade.

7th Inning:  Singled to center.

9th Inning:  Doubled to right.

11th Inning:  Homered to right, no one on…RailRiders win!

It may have taken two extra innings, but what a way to cap hitting for the cycle!  Congrats to Fowler for the terrific game.  I look forward to the day when he is doing this in the Bronx.

Credit:  Times Leader

I am a Yankees Homer but I can’t predict an AL championship for the Yankees yet.  Granted, the team finished the month of April in a first-place tie with the Baltimore Orioles, but it’s still a very long season.  The Yankees had a chance to bury the Orioles on Sunday and couldn’t do it.  The ebbs and flows the season will ultimately predict the final standings.  Let’s see how the team handles its first real stretch of difficulty.  With the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros looming on the horizon, adversity is on its way.  The last time catcher Gary Sanchez started a game, the Yankees were 1-4.  So let’s not start printing World Series tickets just yet.  Through May 1st last year, the Yankees were 8-15.  This season, they are 15-9 through the same date.  If they finish the season, from this point forward, with the same number of wins and losses as last year, they are a 90-win team.  I think this team can contend for a Wild Card spot but I am not ready to anoint them as potential division champions. I still expect Boston to play much better as the season progresses, particularly if they get David Price back.  And I’ve learned to never underestimate Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  The charging Blue Jays also have the Yankees’ number.  If the Yankees are still slugging it out for first place at the All-Star Break, then I’ll reconsider my forecast.  But for now, I still feel the best case scenario is a Wild Card slot with the division championship a season or two away.

Have a great Tuesday!  Today is a new day…time to beat these pesky Jays!