Credit: Globe Staff/John Tlumacki
Impressive math skills, huh? With Tuesday’s rain-out, the 2017 opening Yankees-Red Sox series becomes a two game affair. It plays havoc with a wager I hold every year with a die-hard Red Sox fan. Years ago, when we were both bloggers, we started making bets on every series. Over the years, I’ve had to wear Red Sox caps in photos (including a pink one one year), write long posts about past and present Red Sox players, and sport Red Sox-related profile pics through social media. My friend no longer blogs so the current bets tend to revolve around FaceBook profile and cover pics. With only two games, a split means the win goes to the team with the most runs scored. The loser has to use a Red Sox player as their FaceBook profile pic for three days under the current bet. So, I have a vested interest in the Yankees to take this series. Yes, it’s all about me.
The rained out game will be made up on Sunday, July 16th as part of a day-night double-header. The scheduled starters are pushed back a day so Luis Severino takes the mound today against AL Cy Young Award Winner Rick “Justin Verlander Deserved It More” Porcello while Masahiro Tanaka, in the series marquee matchup, faces Chris Sale on Thursday. CC Sabathia becomes an observer for this series, with a probable early flight back to New York for Friday’s start against the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles.
It’s raining again today in Boston but hopefully the rain gods will make way for the 7:10 pm EDT start time to allow a few hours of clear skies. Oh yeah, this is Yankees-Red Sox, better make that four hours of clear skies.
I am not sure what I think about the possibility of Derek Jeter becoming an owner in Major League Baseball. As Bloomberg reported yesterday, the group led by former Presidential candidate and Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Jeter won the auction for exclusive negotiating rights to buy the Miami Marlins. The sides still have to hammer out a formal written agreement that must be approved by MLB owners, but I do not see any roadblocks to the eventual sale.
I suppose that all things considered, it would have been worse for Jeter to buy his local Tampa Bay Rays. Under that scenario, the Yankees would have had to face a Jeter-owned team 19 times a year in the fight for the American League East. With Jeter owning a National League team, the Yankees won’t face the Marlins except for every few years in inter-league play. There’s the possibility that the Yankees could face the Jeter-owned Marlins in the World Series at some point. But for the most part, they won’t step foot on the same field at the same time. So, this is probably the best situation for Jeter’s dream to be a Major League owner, particularly considering the Steinbrenner Family has no interest in selling the Yankees.
It was tough to watch Don Mattingly, a lifetime Yankee, put on another team’s jersey. If I have a second favorite or National League favorite team, it is probably the Los Angeles Dodgers (okay, not probably, it is). Mattingly as an assistant coach for Joe Torre in Los Angeles and then later the manager was very palatable. I was fortunate to live in Los Angeles during the Mattingly regime and I enjoyed having a long-time favorite player as manager of the local team. I remain a fan of Mattingly’s even though he now calls Miami home, but it’s weird. I am hopeful that he finds his way back home to Yankee Stadium one day. I do not know Jeter’s intended ownership percentage or how active he will be as the face of the organization. Unlike Mattingly, he won’t be putting on a Marlins uniform so technically the Yankees uniform should remain his only one. Magic Johnson is one of the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers but activity-wise, he is a bigger part of the Los Angeles Lakers. Will Jeter take that type of passive ownership role or will he be the front man for the team like Denver Broncos non-owner John Elway? I can’t really see Jeb Bush taking a backseat to Jeter unless Jeter has the greater ownership interest. These are the things that will shake themselves out in the course of the coming days, weeks and months. Congrats to Jeter for apparent achievement of his lifelong dream. I hope he still finds time to visit the old stomping grounds on occasion.
Credit: Getty Images
I saw an article today on the YES Network asking if the Yankees should protect James Kaprielian on the 40-man roster next year in advance of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft. I want to say now, they had better make room. This should not even be a discussion. I will be very upset if the Yankees do not add him to the 40-man next year and risk losing him. I was mad about the sequence of events that led to Jacob Lindgren signing with the Atlanta Braves. I hope we do not have a repeat situation with Kaprielian. I know that he has been plagued by injuries and his body of work in the minor leagues is fairly slim, but he is a top talent. If, I know…ifs and buts…, if he can stay healthy, I really feel that he’ll be a high end starter in the rotation. I am steadfastly a fan of Kaprielian’s and I look forward to the day he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium.
The San Diego Padres, who had been carrying three catchers including Rule 5 draftee Luis Torrens (from the Yankees), demoted one of the catchers to AAA. Starter Austin Hedges has played very well this year. The catcher sent to AAA, Christian Bethancourt, was attempting to be a combo pitcher/catcher. The demotion leaves the soon-to-be 21 year-old Torrens as the primary backup for Hedges. In reality, Torrens should be no higher than A or AA so I am optimistic that events will force the Padres to upgrade backup catching to more seasoned talent to pave the way for the return of Torrens to New York. But as each month goes by, the chances decrease. Time will tell.
Have a great Wednesday! I hope it’s a dry one!
Prior to the season, I was saying the Yankees should move veteran outfielder Brett Gardner. Now, fourteen games into the 2017 season, I am more convinced than ever he should be moved. Granted, it is not his fault that he turns 34 on August 24th (I personally blame his parents) but he does not fit into the long-term view for the new and improved New York Yankees.
For the season, Gardner is batting .205 with no home runs or RBI’s. He has stolen five bags but all things considered, his production is replaceable. The Yankees need to find room to consistently start fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks. Hicks, 27, has shown he can be a productive hitter when he regularly knows that he’ll be in the lineup. For the season, Hicks has much better numbers than Gardner (outside of the total stolen bases). Hicks has received 15 less at-bats than Gardner but only has two less hits. Hicks has three home runs on the year, with eight RBI’s. His two stolen base attempts ended in failure but regardless, Hicks has been the better player. Even though he hasn’t put up the numbers for AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre-Barre this month, I think Mason Williams, 25, is a very capable fourth outfielder.
I would love to unload center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury but with his contract, he’s not going anywhere. We’re four years into his 7-year, $153 million contract and at this point, there’s nothing he can do for redemption (at least not in my eyes). He is what he is, and he’ll never be more, and he’ll never be that dude who tore up the league for the Boston Red Sox in 2011. That was his Brady Anderson year. Chained to Ellsbury for the foreseeable future, it means that Hicks would need to play either left or right. Aaron Judge is the awakening Giant in right so he’s not going anywhere. That only leaves left field. It makes the most sense to move Gardner and begin the outfield youth movement with full intensity. Gardner’s been a good Yankee so slap him on the back, give him a watch, and send him on his way.
I suppose the opposing point of view is that Ellsbury will be hurt at some point and it will be necessary to slide Gardner to center, creating a left field opening. At some point this season, the Yankees need to begin placing higher value in Dustin Fowler as the center fielder of the future unless they plan to discard Fowler (a mistake in my opinion) to make way for Jorge Mateo. I wish Mateo was closer to the Majors so that he could force a competition but at this point, Fowler will be ready much sooner. Since Mateo is still learning the position, he is much further behind Fowler than just levels in the Minor Leagues.
I wouldn’t want to over-expose Matt Holliday but he could still play left occasionally in a pinch. As former Yankee Lee Mazzilli once said (regrettably), “Left field is a position for idiots”. Not trying to demean the position, but there are others in the organization that can play the position as back up for Hicks, Ellsbury, and Judge. There always seems to be fourth outfielders readily available as free agents or ones that could easily (and cheaply) be had. I am not worried about the outfield depth. As we move deeper and deeper into the season, guys like Clint Frazier move closer to potential callups.
It’s time to move Gardy. Maybe not this exact minute but no later than July if not sooner.
Now that I’ve ripped Gardner for the day, he will probably go on a hitting tear.
Why is it that the best Yankees beat writers always move on? I remember loving the work of Peter Abraham on the LoHud Yankees Blog, and these days he is a Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe. I get it, he’s a Boston guy so it was an opportunity to go home. Then, I loved reading Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News and listening to his podcasts. Now, he is a writer for MLB.com writing about, Egads!, other teams. Or Marc Carig of The Star Ledger moving from the Yankees to the Mets. Next, you’ll probably tell me that Brendan Kuty or Bryan Hoch have found other things they’d like to do. Sorry, just my rant about losing Feinsand. I enjoyed his time as the Yankees beat writer for the Daily News.
The win streak ends at eight. Bummer. Usually, when a starting pitcher goes eight innings and only allows three hits and strikes out ten, the end result is a win. But on a night when the other team’s starter was a wee bit better and the Yankee bats were quiet, Luis Severino took the loss as the Yankees fell to the Chicago White Sox, 4-1. The Yankees had a chance at the end with the winning run at the plate, but Aaron Judge grounded into a force out to end the game. A grand slam would have been so cool at that moment.
The Yanks still have the chance to take the series when the teams meet for the third and final time this evening.
Tuesday evening turned out to be a double loss as top prospect Gleyber Torres was scratched from the lineup for AA Trenton Thunder due to biceps tendonitis. He will undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Hopefully, the news will be favorable.
James Kaprielian underwent successful Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, so now the long road to recovery begins.
Have a great Wednesday! I think it’s time to start a new winning streak!
Credit: Zach Bland/Charleston RiverDogs
With the news that James Kaprielian has elected Tommy John surgery, it is already being speculated that Albert Abreu moves to the top of the chart for right-handed prospects in the Yankees organization. At only 21 years of age, he is further away from the Major Leagues than Kaprielian is (was) and his status of the top righty would cause him to leap-frog over the more seasoned Chance Adams (and possibly Domingo Acevedo depending upon what prospect list you are looking at).
While I have high hopes for Chance Adams, I’ve been very intrigued by Abreu since he was acquired, along with pitcher Jorge Guzman, from the Houston Astros last November in the Brian McCann trade. At the time of the trade, I felt the Yankees did an outstanding job with their return for a player who longer fit. At the time of the trade, the only teams that you consistently heard connected to McCann were the Astros and his former team, the Atlanta Braves. It felt like a buyer’s market but GM Brian Cashman still came up with quality prospects.
In Abreu’s first start this year for the Single A Charles RiverDogs, he absolutely dominated. In 5 2/3 innings the other day, he held the Augusta GreenJackets to two hits and no runs, striking out eleven. He did not walk anyone. At one point, his pitches were hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. For the season, Abreu has pitched 9 2/3 innings, allowing only five hits and one run for an 0.93 ERA. He has struck out a total of 17 batters. I am sure the AA Trenton Thunder and High-A Tampa Yankees are already salivating over who gets their hands on Abreu next.
I am okay with the spotlight not being focused on Adams. My hope is his continued positive, upward climb in the organization. I have no problem with him slipping quietly into the rotation when it is time. Take a chance on Adams! If we do lose Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and/or CC Sabathia at the end of the year, we’ll need every quality (healthy) arm that we can get.
Credit: Martin Griff
Regarding Kaprielian, given this is the same injury that cost him the 2016 season, I think the decision to undergo TJ surgery is the best possible option. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. But as I’ve said before, he had to make the decision that was best for him and not necessarily what was best for the Yankees. Surgery probably means a reappearance in the minor leagues toward the end of the 2018 season since the standard recovery time is 12-18 months. More than anything, I hope he is able to rebound from this setback and return with the best health possible. It’s going to be a long journey for Kaprielian (basically, three lost seasons counting last year) but I hope that he is one day able to step foot on Yankee Stadium turf as a member of the New York Yankees. I am glad that he chose Dr Neal ElAttrache for the surgery given that he is one of the leading experts in the field.
Kaprielian’s surgery is scheduled for next Tuesday which coincides with Tax Day. So, I guess that day is going to be painful for all of us! Well, I suppose you could argue that Kaprielian is getting the pain from an orthopedic surgeon, whereas the rest of us are getting it from a proctologist.
The Cleveland Indians trade for Andrew Miller may have cost them more time without All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis. It seems odd that one would be connected to the other but Kipnis was hit by a pitch on his left hand the other day on a rehab assignment. Word is that Kipnis will give it go today so hopefully he won’t miss time. The irony is that the pitch was thrown by the Yankees’ Justus Sheffield, a former Indians prospect who arrived with Clint Frazier, among others, in the Miller trade.
After the second run through the rotation, which included a rookie, it’s hard to believe that the worst starting performance was courtesy of Masahiro Tanaka (last Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, which is also the last time the team has lost). After Micheal Pineda’s masterful performance on Opening Day, Luis Severino delivered a gem of his own. In getting his first starting victory since September 27, 2015, Sevy went seven strong innings and struck out eleven Rays batters. He only surrendered five hits, one walk and two runs. He did give up a fifth inning home run to Peter Bourjos but all things considered, he limited the damage and set the Yankees up for the win despite minimal offense. It’s the type of quality start that we consistently need from Severino and one that was so elusive last year when Sevy went 0-8 as a starter.
Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP Photo
The only offense was provided by Aaron Hicks and his two home runs. Thanks to Sevy’s great start, that’s all we needed for the 3-2 win. Dellin Betances did get into a bit of bind in the eighth inning when he had runners at the corners with no outs, but he worked out of trouble to escape the inning with no runs. The strikeouts for the first two outs of Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria on called third strikes were huge. I was a little worried when Brad Miller came to the plate but he was tagged out by Betances on a soft roller hit toward first base for the final out.
Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth and picked up his second save of the season. Man, I love having that guy back from the Chicago Cubs.
After sitting at 1-4 following Saturday’s loss, the Yankees are 5-4 with the sweep of the Rays. The Yankees now begin a three game set with the St Louis Cardinals at the Stadium. The Cards have gotten off to a slow start this year and are currently in last place in the NL East with a 3-6 record (tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates). They are capable of so much more but I hope they don’t wake up in this series. It’s a reunion for Yankees DH Matt Holliday who spent eight years in St Louis. Michael Wacha faces Masahiro Tanaka in what should be a great pitching matchup. It’s time for a dominant Tanaka performance like we saw during Spring Training.
Have a great Friday! Let’s keep this winning streak alive! Go for five!
Credit: Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports
“But I like it, I love it, I want some more of it…”
He didn’t get the win, gave up a home run to a journeyman infielder, and didn’t last the length of an official game, but Jordan Montgomery has earned my respect and I am looking forward to his next start.
Montgomery was rudely introduced to the Major Leagues by Tampa’s Rickie Weeks Jr, who hit a homer with two outs and one on in the top of the first inning. It was a moment that could have sent any young pitcher (or Micheal Pineda) into a tailspin. Instead, he induced Corey Dickerson into a ground out and it was inning over. He did get into a little trouble in the third when he allowed a single to Peter Bourjos and hit Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch with just one out, however, he proceeded to strike out the next two batters to end the threat.
In the fourth inning, Steven Souza Jr doubled to start the inning. What’s with all these Jr’s in the Rays lineup? Maybe I should just call myself Fid Jr. Sorry, I digress. Back to the topic at hand, Montgomery struck out the next two batters (Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria). At that point, he was pulled in favor of Bryan Mitchell. Souza Jr subsequently scored on a fielding error by Starlin Castro so the run wasn’t charged against Montgomery.
The line reads 4 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned runs, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts, but it doesn’t tell the story how Montgomery got tougher when the stakes were raised. He was resilient and did not allow bad plays to influence his game. Like Mariano Rivera, he had a short memory and was not intimidated by any of the Rays hitters, including slugger Evan Longoria. Some guys may not profile as top of the line aces but they are just winners. That’s what Montgomery is to me. He seems like he can be a guy you want to hand the ball to in a pressure situation. We need a few more of those.
I thought it was great that the Yankees started Montgomery’s minor league catcher, Kyle Higashioka. I am sure that helped with the transition to Yankee Stadium. Higashioka didn’t do much with the bat, but that wasn’t why he was so important to the game. Bravo to Montgomery for his first start and congrats to Higashioka for calling it. I think Jordan will be even stronger the next time out. The Yankees decision to promote Montgomery has been validated.
For the game, the Yankees did win. With the 8-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, they’ve won two of two out of a three game set. The series concludes today. At the beginning of the week, I was hopeful for two out of three. Sorry, but now I want a sweep. A 5-4 record would be so much better than 1-4 or in this case, 4-5. Aaron Judge was 2-for-3 with yet another home run (his third in consecutive games). But his single was the talk of the game. The exit velocity of the ball was 116.5 MPH, the fastest base hit of 2017. Is there any doubt Manager Joe Girardi made the right decision when he picked Judge over Aaron Hicks to start in right field? All of us have known that Judge has the potential to be a monster. He’s showing us the evidence.
On the downside, Brett Gardner was injured in a collision at first base with Rickie Weeks Jr. Not sure if the collision is a product of Weeks’ inexperience at first, but Gardner will be out for a few days with a bruised jaw and strained neck. Aaron Weeks, who had completed a three game streak of starting in right, center, left figures to get a few more starts until Gardner returns. In the interim, it pushes Jacoby Ellsbury to the top of the lineup as the leadoff hitter. Ugh. Here’s hoping for a quick recovery to good health for Gardy.
Credit: Julie Jacobson/Associated Press
Pitcher James Kaprielian has met with Dr Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles but no word has been released regarding Kaprielian’s decision. I am sure this is a very difficult decision for the young hurler. While I hope for the best result to get him back on the field again, what’s best for Kaprielian takes precedence over what’s best for the Yankees. So, whatever decision Kaprielian makes, I will support and accept.
Regarding the 40-man roster, the loser of the seat at the table is pitcher Johnny Barbato. While I was worried that Robert Refsnyder might be the player DFA’d, I did feel that it was most likely one of the lesser known pitchers. I think in my mind, Barbato is the pitcher I thought of first. Since being acquired from the San Diego Padres for reliever Shawn Kelley (now a vital part of the Washington Nationals’ bullpen), Barbato has not done anything at the Major League level. His brief appearances have not been memorable and I was surprised over the winter when the Yankees left some quality guys off the 40-man roster to protect Barbato. I assumed the Yankees saw something in the pitcher that I haven’t seen. With the number of quality arms in the organization, I have no problem with losing Barbato. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman will be able to flip him for something of value as he’d probably be claimed off waivers by another team.
With Montgomery’s strong start, I am hopeful that Luis Severino answers the bell today against the Rays. After last year’s 0-8 record in starting assignments, I didn’t want to go into this year with Severino chasing wins again. He failed his first attempt last week but today represents redemption. I hopeful that he drops a “W” in his win-loss record so that we can get that bad boy out of the way and move into friendly debates about which young pitcher is better.
We’ll have a Bird in the lineup today so there’s no reason we can’t fly! Go Yankees, and have a great Thursday!
Where did the excitement of the new season go?…
The season began with so much optimism. The Yankees had the best Spring of any team in Major League Baseball (24-9-1) which was their best Grapefruit League performance since the 2009 World Championship year.
The Yankees may not be World Series contenders this year, but I expected more than a 1-3 start through four games. With 157 games to go, there’s still much baseball to be played. But it’s important to see the team gel with a winning mindset sooner rather than later. It’s not feasible or possible to win every game, but the attitude for expecting to win should be there. With a downward spiral, it’s too easy to get caught up in the losses and the negativity spreads like wildfire.
My concern this month is the schedule. It is not an easy path in April. With two more games to go in Baltimore, the Yankees will play a total of eleven games this month against the AL rival Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. The series against the Red Sox is at Fenway Park which isn’t exactly an inviting place for the Yankees (or their fans). The Yankees also play the St Louis Cardinals in inter-league play. Mike Matheny’s squad always comes to play. The Yankees really need to get on top of this, and pull out a few stretches of two or three consecutive wins.
Despite Friday’s loss to the Orioles, it was good to see Gary Sanchez connect for his first home run on the season. It is unrealistic to expect 20 home runs in 50 games again, but just getting the first one out of the way helps the mental approach to each at-bat.
Credit: Ron Sachs, The New York Post
Right now, the young trio of Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Greg Bird are all hitting below the Mendoza Line. Sanchez has the best batting average of the three (.167). Judge stands at .133, while Bird, with one hit in 16 at-bats, is a pathetic .063. You’d expect Judge to be the team’s strikeout leader (given Chris Carter is not an every day starter) but he trails Bird by two. It’s sad when the team’s best hitter is Chase Headley (7-for-15).
Collectively, as a team, the Yankees need to start hitting. The formula of a few hitters making contact with the majority of the bats being silent does not work. A few more pitching performances like the one CC Sabathia delivered in the second game of the season would also be nice. With no fifth starter needed until April 16th, the Yankees have cycled once through the rotation. Sabathia gave the only defined quality start. Tanaka’s start may have been the worst of his Yankees career. As we proceed into the second run through the rotation, much better results are expected and needed.
Losing is like negativity. It is very infectious. If the Yankees can start running out a few stretches of consecutive wins, they can change the attitudes and mindset of the team (and its fans).
Let’s see what the second week of the young season will bring…
Tommy John was a good Yankee but I am tired of hearing his name…
The Yankees received bad news regarding top pitching prospect James Kaprielian this week. He has been shut down and placed on the Minor League DL. He underwent a MRI on his pitching elbow (which include dye-contrast). The results have been shared with the Yankees team physician and Kaprielian will now head to Los Angeles to meet with noted Tommy John surgeon Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D. Dr. ElAttrache is the team physician for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. He also is on the Board of Directors for the famed Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic which was co-founded by Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered Tommy John surgery.
If Kaprielian needs Tommy John surgery, it’s very possible that we won’t see him again until 2019. With CC Sabathia’s contract up at the end of the year, I had hoped that Kaprielian would be in position to compete for his rotation spot next Spring. Now, his career is in doubt. This is starting to feel like the Andrew Brackman situation. A pitcher with so much promise who was never able to overcome arm injuries, leading to his eventual release and exit from baseball.
With Kaprielian sidelined, the focus will shift to young pitching prospects like Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams, and Justus Sheffield to lead the way for future rotation help.
I remain hopeful that Kaprielian receives the best possible medical opinion from Dr ElAttrache and if Tommy John surgery is the only answer, I wish him much success on the long journey to recovery and hope that the Major League dream is still within his grasp.
He said, she said…
This seems to be the week of fake news. Two separate reports were leaked, only to be quickly shot down by the Yankees. News reports spread quickly that Yankees prospect Clint Frazier had asked the Yankees to un-retire Mickey Mantle’s number. Both the team and the player quickly denied the reports and Frazier stated that he was only concerned with the front of the jersey and not the back of it. The story obviously got its start from somewhere, whether it was words take out of context or spoken in jest, but I do not believe that Frazier made the request.
The other report was that the Yankees have no intention of re-signing starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka should he decide to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract at the end of the year. Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner stated that no discussions have taken place. The Yankees would be foolish not to consider all their options, and re-signing Tanaka to a new longer term deal does represent risk. He’ll be 29 in November and the slight tear in his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) is not going to improve without eventual surgery.
Both stories sound like writers fishing for stories. Finding a shred of truth it and then embellishing it for the sake of sensationalism.
Bad trade rising…
The Yankees have made their share of bad trades over the years, but one that doesn’t get much recognition is the trade of infielder Eduardo Nunez to the Minnesota Twins three years ago yesterday. Nunez was subsequently traded to San Francisco and is now their starting third baseman (hitting .400, 8-for-20 so far this season). Meanwhile, the prospect that the Yankees received from the Twins for Nunez (23-year-old lefty Miguel Sulbaran), currently with AA Trenton, has been suspended for 25 games due to a drug policy violation.
Credit: Jessica Kovalcin
While it has not been reported what Sulbaran did to lead to the suspension, it’s safe to say that the Yankees would not make this trade if they had a chance to do it over again.
A memorable Opening Day…
In all my years as a baseball fan, I’ve never attended an Opening Day game. That changed yesterday when I saw the Colorado Rockies open Coors Field for the 2017 season against their division rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although I am a Yankees fan, the Dodgers are my favorite National League team so I have to admit that I was wearing some Dodger blue yesterday.
But the day belonged to the Rockies and their young starting pitcher, Kyle Freeland, who made his Major League debut. Freeland, who was born and raised in Denver, delivered a very solid performance while picking up his first Major League victory. He went 6 innings, giving up only 4 hits and 1 run. He walked 2 and struck out 6. He was never on the ropes and seemed in command for the duration of the game. The Rockies won, 2-1, in a pitcher’s duel (with Hyun-Jin Ryu) which is not something you ever expect to see at Coors Field. The game’s only home run was delivered by backup catcher Dustin Garneau. The Dodgers starting lineup was missing two regulars (Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez) although both made their way into the game in later innings. But it wasn’t enough, and Freeland departed with the win.
Credit: The Denver Post
I remember seeing Jake Peavy make his Major League debut in San Diego years ago (against the Yankees) and it always stuck with me throughout Peavy’s career that I was there at the start. I guess I can now say that about Freeland too. Time will tell if he is as successful as Peavy.
Despite pulling for the Dodgers, it was a fun day in the Mile High city. The weather was uncharacteristically warm for this time of year (mid 70’s) and the stadium was energized by its fans. I expected to see more Dodger Blue but Purple was clearly the color of the day.
At the conclusion of the World Series, the off-season seems like it will be so long. We wait for the opening of free agency, then the winter meetings which generally brings a short frenzy with signings and trades. Then we wait through the holidays, and go through a quiet January. Finally, around Valentine’s Day, we are able to get our baseball fix as training camps begin to open.
Then, we blink, and here we are a week away from Opening Day. Cubs fans are probably still trying to recover from the hangovers, but the rest of us are anxious to begin the new year and at this point, everyone is optimistic.
The Yankees’ off-season was relatively quiet. The major move, aside from the return of Aroldis Chapman, was to sign free agent Matt Holliday, now the team’s starting DH. Matt’s days in the field, at age 37, are over but the bat remains effective and so do the leadership abilities. I’ve been very pleased this spring with the impact that Matt has had on the younger players, most notably Aaron Judge. With only a one-year contract, it is possible that this is Matt’s only year in pinstripes. Time will tell, but given what I’ve seen so far, I hope the team is able to find a way to bring him back next year.
Credit: Matt Rourke, AP
I am not sure what can be said about Masahiro Tanaka other than he’s been amazing this spring. Through five starts and 18 2/3 innings, he’s only surrendered six hits while striking out 22 to go with a sparkling 0.00 ERA. I realize that spring stats do not mean a great deal but Tanaka appears to be setting himself up for a career year. Of course that carries good news/bad news as Tanaka can opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but that’s something to worry about after the season. For now, let’s just enjoy what could be a tremendous year for the young right-hander.
Manager Joe Girardi has announced that CC Sabathia, rather than Michael Pineda, will slot in the rotation behind Tanaka. It was something of a surprise given CC was fighting for the fifth spot last spring. Girardi gave the ‘right-left’right’ strategy as his logic for the move, putting the left-handed Sabathia between two righties. He also referenced Sabathia’s numbers last year…3.91 ERA in 30 starts. His record was only 9-12 but wins and losses are deceiving for pitchers as they are dependent upon run support.
I am not sure how Pineda will react to the move back to third in the rotation. If it motivates him to overcome his inconsistency, I am all for it. The starting rotation needs a solid year from Pineda if it is going to be successful.
The fight for the last two spots in the rotation has been interesting. At the start of training camp, I felt the favorites were Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell. Severino started strong and then has struggled with starts recently (although he did throw three hitless innings in relief yesterday). Mitchell has been good but not great. Chad Green has probably pitched the best among the contenders but the dark horse that is emerging is tall left-hander Jordan Montgomery. Luis Cessa, one of the early hopefuls, has already been sent to minor league camp for re-assignment. At 6’6” with an ability to pitch inside, I am very intrigued by Montgomery. He has proven himself at both the AA and AAA levels, and I think the 24-year-old is ready for the major leagues.
Credit: Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports
In the right field competition, I think Aaron Judge has done enough to hold off Aaron Hicks. The stats are fairly comparable. Judge is batting .300 (15-for-50) with 2 HR and 4 RBI. Although he is still among the leaders in strikeouts (with 12), he is striking out less than he did last season in the Bronx. Hicks is batting .279 (12-for-43), also with 2 HR and 4 RBI. Hicks has struck out seven times. Judge has also displayed a terrific arm in right. For me, Judge has done what he needs to this spring and deserves the opportunity to take right field.
Greg Bird has been named the starting first baseman to the surprise of no one. Bird currently carries a .432 BA (19-for-44) with 6 HR and 11 RBI. I don’t think there was any chance that Chris Carter was going to beat out Bird, but Carter has been almost non-existent during training camp. He is currently batting .136 (6-for-44) which is actually up from where it was a few days ago. He only has one home run to go with 22 strikeouts. I think there’s a very strong argument for why Carter should be DFA’d when Tyler Austin returns from his foot injury.
With the final days of training camp winding down, the greatest uncertainty lies with shortstop. Didi Gregorius is out for the next month after suffering the shoulder sprain in the World Baseball Classic, so the question is who will replace Didi at short. The most logical move would be to slide Starlin Castro to short, and use a platoon of Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder at second. For me, it’s not ideal because Castro is still learning the nuances of second base and it should remain his focus. The only problem is there are no other true shortstops on the 40-man roster. Prospect Tyler Wade is the most advanced shortstop in the system and he’s probably my favorite for the temporary replacement but he’s young (only 22). He’s batting .342 in Grapefruit League action (13-for-38) but doesn’t have much power. Other possibilites are non-roster invitees Pete Kozma and Ruben Tejada. Didi’s bat will certainly be missed while he is away.
With the latest minor league re-assignments, the Yankees have 39 players remaining in camp. This includes the injured players (Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius). With Opening Day just a week away, there will be more cuts this week as the Yankees pare down to 25 for the trip to St Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rays on April 2nd.
This has been a fun spring. The Yankees have the best record in the Grapefruit League (or the Cactus League for that matter). I know that spring stats mean nothing when the regular season starts but winning is always fun. We’ve seen some great stuff from the talented super-prospects in the organization like Gleyber Torres and James Kaprielian. Although they won’t be heading north with the big league club, they’ve given us glimpses of their incredible futures. Gary Sanchez has continued to impress and Greg Bird has shown that last year’s shoulder injury is no longer an issue. I am anxious and ready for the season to start. The Cubs are yesterday’s news.
How will the Yankees “manage” potential change?…
Will Joe Girardi be the Yankees manager this time next year? As the manager enters the final year of his contract, the expectation is that he’ll re-sign with the Yankees in October or November. But anything is possible. The Steinbrenner family might have a change of heart and decide that a change is needed. Girardi has held the job for a long time (this will be his 10th season as Yankees skipper).
Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
I get frustrated with Girardi at times. He’s never been one of my favorite managers. I had greater confidence in Joe Torre’s ability to lead. Among current managers, I hold Don Mattingly and Terry “Tito” Francona in highest regard.
Mattingly was my favorite player so sentimentally that’s probably why he is my favorite manager. In 2008, when the Yankees hired Girardi over Mattingly, I did think it was the right decision given Mattingly’s lack of managerial experience at the time. Mattingly was not able to succeed in Los Angeles for the Dodgers, but I’ve felt he has continually improved each year. Today, I’d easily take Mattingly over Girardi. My only reservation with hiring Mattingly as Yankees manager (assuming the Yankees could pry him from Miami) is preservation of his Yankees legacy. Managers are hired to be fired or so the saying goes. I wouldn’t want my final memory of Mattingly in pinstripes to be him walking away after being fired.
I have admired Francona since he was manager of the Boston Red Sox. I had great respect for the champions he built and of course he was responsible for ending The Curse of the Bambino, along with then general manager Theo Epstein. I doubt that Francona would ever leave the Cleveland Indians (by his own choice). The Yankees could have hired him after he was fired in Boston but they did not express any interest. Francona has history with the Cleveland Indians franchise (pre-dating his time in Boston), and after taking the team to the World Series last year, he is very beloved in the city.
If the Yankees do decide to make a managerial change at the end of the season, I just don’t see any overwhelming candidates who could do a better job. Mattingly would be great, but he is under contract, so it would take a trade to make it happen. I am not enthused by simply elevating one of the coaches (Rob Thomson or Tony Pena).
This situation bears watching over the course of the season. I think the odds are much better that GM Brian Cashman, also in the final year of a contract, re-signs with the Yankees than Girardi. Time will tell.
Let the competition be Judged…
The Yankees have various degrees of competition at certain positions this spring. The most obvious is the two open spots in the pitching rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. The early leaders, in my opinion, are Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell. But there is still time for Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and perhaps Adam Warren to state their case. I am anxious and excited for Jordan Montgomery and James Kaprielian but it does not appear to be their times yet. Kaprielian has the higher ceiling but he won’t make an appearance at Yankee Stadium, barring injuries, until September at the earliest. Montgomery could show up sooner and might be the first or second option if someone gets hurt.
The competition at first base evaporated somewhat when Tyler Austin broke his foot. Greg Bird clearly holds the advantage over Chris Carter despite the latter’s 41 home runs last season. Unlike Carter, Bird is good defensively (even if he’s not on par with former first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove) and hits for average. As Bird has shown this spring, he still has his power following last year’s injury.
Right field was also a speculated position of competition. Most assume that Aaron Judge will get the job, but technically, he is in competition with Aaron Hicks. Judge has a much greater upside, but he did strike out 42 out of 84 times late last season. If he is not able to make the necessary adjustments at the big league level, it could open the door for Hicks to take the job. I personally hope it does not happen. I am hopeful that Judge figures it out at this level like he has at every level thus far.
The flaming red hair is left on the barbershop floor…
Kudos to OF Clint Frazier for cutting his bushy red hair this week. While I personally feel that the Yankees current hair policy is outdated, I thought it was a good move by Frazier to cut his hair after a talk with Manager Joe Girardi. Girardi felt that the hair had become a distraction. It was a mature statement by Frazier in saying that he loved playing for the organization more than his hair.
Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Frazier won’t break camp with the Yankees, but he’ll be there soon enough. This is all part of his maturation into a dynamic young future star outfielder for the Pinstripers.
There’s other baseball on TV…
I should probably watch the WBC more but I’ve never been into it. Still, I fully understand the importance of placing Baseball on the World Stage and should reconsider my complacency. I guess I am just get tired of seeing the Dominican Republic or Japan always win the competition.
Regardless, it was fun to see the USA defeat Columbia, 3-2, on a run-scoring single by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles. Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard picked up the win. The game featured a very strong start by Jose Quintana for Columbia. The rumors continue to swirl about Quintana’s future and the Yankees remain one of the potential destinations. His WBC performance yesterday did nothing to dispel those rumors.
Credit: Logan Bowles, USA TODAY Sports
Have a great weekend, everyone!