Tagged: James Paxton

Is the World Series over yet?…

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Preparing for the 2019-20 Hot Stove League…

While many continue to watch the World Series, except for an occasional check-in, the 2019 MLB season ended for me last weekend with the ALCS. It’s hard to get enthused about either the Houston Astros or the Washington Nationals. Sure, the Nationals as a first time participant are a nice story but I don’t really care to see either team win the World Series so let’s just get this over so that we can move on to the Hot Stove League.

It’s hard to not wonder what could have been if the Yankees had taken a better hitting approach against the Astros. Oh well, it was not meant to be. Time to move on and hope the Yankees make a stronger run in 2020. The window remains wide open. This is certainly not the last we’ve heard from this core group of Yankees.

Photo Credit: The New York Post

As much as I would like Gerrit Cole leading the Yankees’ starting rotation next season, the reality is it will never happen. Cole’s agent, none other than the infamous Scott Boras, will ensure that his client becomes very wealthy this winter. I just don’t see Hal Steinbrenner’s willingness to write a blank check. It seems as though this will end like the Patrick Corbin negotiations. The Yankees will host Cole for a visit at Yankee Stadium, they’ll toss him a token offer, and he’ll leave empty handed. Some team is going to throw stupid money at him and it won’t be the Yankees. You can talk all day about how the Yankees can afford it, but that’s not the point. The Yankees are not going to devote so many dollars to one player. They have in-house financial decisions to make. Last off-season they locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks. Granted, both players missed considerable time during the regular season so you can question the wisdom of the moves, but in Severino’s case in particular, he still represents the future. An extension for Aaron Judge seems appropriate this off-season.  I feel Gleyber Torres too but I think the Yankees will wait a season or two before securing the long-time services of the young burgeoning superstar. Judge can be a free agent after the 2022 season so the urgency is beginning to develop for him. Torres can’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season.

The Yankees need an ace. I think Sevy can be that guy, but last year showed you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. James Paxton has shown at times he can be an ace but he needs to show sustained excellence over the course of a long season. I think a very strong #1 starter, followed by Sevy, Big Maple, and Masahiro Tanaka would make for a championship caliber rotation. The question is who the #1 starter would be. Names will develop in the coming weeks. I keep seeing Yankee fans pining for Lucas Giolito but there’s no way the Chicago White Sox, with their abundance of blossoming young talent, will part with their young ace. If they did, they’d need quality, major league-ready talent in return, not prospects years away from the Show. I think there’s a better chance the Yankees could get the Cincinnati Reds to part with Luis Castillo, but even then the price tag will be very high. On the free agent front, Madison Bumgarner certainly represents an option. I am intrigued what he could do on a highly competitive team. I really feel the Yankees would re-energize him so I’d be happy if they were able to land him. I don’t know where Cashman’s search for starting pitching will lead. None of us do. Inevitably, he’ll surprise us.  I just don’t want another season of missed opportunity and Cashman’s statements that he tried. Love or hate Houston, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, has shown the willingness to pull the trigger when it matters. He has two World Series appearances in the last three years to show for it. It’s not that I want Brian Cashman to make stupid decisions or saddle the Yankees with another Jacoby Ellsbury contract albatross. But there are times you have to spend more than you want to get what you need.

The news that Aaron Hicks will miss the next 8-10 months due to Tommy John surgery left me wondering why the Yankees ever brought him back for the ALCS. Sure, the home run was great but in the end, it didn’t matter. I would have preferred to have Hicks for the majority of the 2020 season if he could have had the inevitable surgery earlier.  The news about Hicks brought immediate speculation the Yankees have to re-sign Brett Gardner. I felt the Yankees and Gardner would come together on another one-year deal before the Hicks news and I still feel the same, but I don’t think the vision that he’ll be no more than the fourth outfielder has changed. I think Mike Tauchman has a better chance to be the regular starting option in center field with the possibility that it could be someone not currently on the roster. I really wish Estevan Florial was closer to readiness, but he’s not. I am sure the Yankees’ analytics team is at work trying to discover the next Mike Tauchman, a centerfielder who is undervalued in his current organization but blossoming with hidden talent.  

I am not sure what I think about the “reports” that the Yankees could move Giancarlo Stanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers or Angels, if they can find the right mix of dollars to part with the slugger. I like Stanton and I feel he’s received unfair treatment from the Yankees fan base. Maybe there’s some validity to the criticisms he has received, but I still think he has the Dave Winfield-like ability to carry a team on his back. I’d like to see him stay with the Yankees, and have the opportunity to show he’s “the man” in October. I like Mike Tauchman but there’s no way in the World I’d take him over Stanton in left field.  Stanton needs our support, not the unfair hate directed his way. If he does get traded, I’ll be disappointed, but I will enjoy watching baseball in sunny Southern CA with the Angelino kid crushing pitches in front of his hometown fans. 

Photo Credit: UPI.com

Not that I think reunions are in store, but two former Yankees quietly became free agents in recent weeks. Chasen Shreve, part of the deal that brought Luke Voit to New York, is a free agent. Giovanny Gallegos has blossomed in the St Louis Cardinals’ bullpen so I doubt the Cards regret their decision to part with Voit, but I do feel bad it didn’t work out for Shreve. Same in San Diego with former Yankees prospect Bryan Mitchell. He was the prospect attached to Chase Headley in the successful contract unload a few years ago. I always liked Mitchell and had really hoped he would thrive in San Diego. He didn’t, and now he’s a free agent. Both are young enough (28 and 29, respectively) to be reclamation projects. Hopefully, for both, they’ll find better success with their next organizations.

Speaking of former Yanks, it was a surprise to see Joe Girardi land in Philadelphia. Granted, all signs started pointing in that direction over the last week or so, but before the Phillies fired manager Gabe Kapler, I felt strongly that Girardi would be the next manager for either the New York Mets or the Chicago Cubs. I never saw him as a Philly guy. I do think he’ll be better for that team than Kapler (okay, that was a statement of the obvious). It’s cool that his bench coach, Rob Thomson, is already in place. There’s been some speculation if he’ll take any of the current Yankee coaches who served under him (bullpen coach Mike Harkey, a close friend, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild). I think Rothschild gets unfair criticism but I’ve long wanted David Cone as the pitching coach so I’d be okay with Rothschild’s departure if it meant getting Coney back in the pinstripes. My absolute favorite for pitching coach is Andy Pettitte but I am not convinced he is ready to leave Texas yet. A dark horse hope for pitching coach would be former San Francisco Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti. He was the pitching coach for three World Series champions over the past decade and he oversaw Madison Bumgarner’s greatest days as a Giant. Anyway, back to Girardi, I think he’ll do well for the Phillies. He’ll have to learn the NL style of play. I know, he has one year of NL managing under his belt but that was a long time ago. For Girardi’s sake, it is a good thing that his former and future bench coach, Thomson, had a one year head start. I am glad that Girardi avoided the mess known as the Wilpon’s.  

Good hire by the Boston Red Sox when they named former Tampa Bay Rays executive Chaim Bloom as their new head of operations. Assistant GM Brian O’Halloran will be promoted to GM to work under Bloom’s leadership. I wish I could criticize this move by Boston but I think they made the best possible hire if Bloom is allowed to truly run the show. I feel the New York Mets erred when they selected Brodie Van Wagenen as their GM over Bloom last year. It seems as if more and more teams are going the “chief baseball officer” route. I really wish the Yankees would promote Brian Cashman to chief baseball officer, and promote Tim Naehring to GM. Love him or hate him, Cash deserves the promotion in my opinion.

It’s funny. Last season, I could hardly wait for the World Series to be over and for the free agency period to open in November. I won’t hide the fact that I wanted either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper and was so anxious to see if the Yankees would sign one of the talented young superstars, or grab the best free agent starter in Patrick Corbin. It was a long winter that led to none of the above in Pinstripes. This season, I think I am more passive. I am not really looking forward to free agency this year like I was last year. I am very interested in seeing the moves that Brian Cashman and company will make, but not with the same excitement. What will be will be. I was never against the DJ LeMahieu signing (I knew he was better than advertised) but I never dreamed he’d be as valuable to the Yankees as he was. It only shows that we need to allow any moves time to marinate. We don’t need big splashes. We need a clubhouse full of the right mix of players to bring the 28th World Championship to the Bronx.  

As always, Go Yankees!

Better Pitching Equals Better Results…

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

Happ, turning back the clock, turns back the Sox…

I’ll admit that J.A. Happ has surprised me the last couple of starts. I had written the guy off a few weeks ago and I didn’t want him anywhere near a post-season start but I think I am starting to soften on that position. His terrific performance yesterday, holding the Boston Red Sox to two hits and no runs over 6 1/3 innings, was an illustration why the Yankees re-signed Happ in the off-season and not Lance Lynn. Behind his latest great start, the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 5-1, to even the  four-game series with two to play.  

Photo Credit: AP

Happ has historically been a good pitcher against the Red Sox which, as we know, is why the Yankees acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays last summer. He may not be facing Boston this post-season but this is exactly the Happ we need to show up for the big games in a few weeks.  

It’s great that both Happ and James Paxton are rounding into form at the right time. The Tampa Bay Rays, currently 8 1/2 games back, are on fire right now. The Rays have won 9 of their last 10 games, and one of their top injured pitchers, Tyler Glasnow, was activated today to start later this afternoon. With last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell, nearing his return from the Injured List, the Rays are getting reinforcements at exactly the right time for them. I don’t expect the Yankees to blow a 8 1/2 game lead but conversely, the Rays do not appear to be going away.  

Fortunately, for the Yankees, they’ll be getting some reinforcements with Luis Severino and Dellin Betances in the not-so-distant future. I am not sure how Sevy will used, but just having him on the pitching staff will be significant. Early on, it appeared he’d probably be used as either an opener or out of the bullpen, but lately, there appears to be some optimism he can start. Regardless of how Manager Aaron Boone decides to deploy him, the Yankees are a better team with Sevy on the active roster.  

Severino could make his 2019 season debut soon. After Sevy’s second rehab start for the Trenton Thunder (AA) on Friday, Boone told The New York Post, “Overall, it was pretty successful. We’ll talk about whether one more (rehab start) is beneficial or [if he will] come with us.” 

Photo Credit: Staton Rabin, AP

Betances needs more time in the minors before he’s ready but, if all goes well, we should see him within the next few weeks. A pending free agent, Betances has much to prove to ensure a big pay day after the season. Not that I think Betances needs added incentive to pitch well for the Yankees but it can’t hurt.

A setback by Aaron Hicks has seemed to stall any hopes he’ll be able to help the team anytime soon. Aaron Boone said yesterday that “He’s not feeling quite right.” It’s unfortunate but at least the Yankees have a reinvigorated Brett Gardner and the surprisingly successful Mike Tauchman to provide the necessary coverage in center field.  

Now if we could just get Giancarlo Stanton back, all would be good on this roster. Yes, I want Stanton in big moments next month. Regardless of how other guys are playing, Stanton remains a huge threat and I think he’ll have his defining Yankee moment next month. And no, it won’t be swinging and missing at a low outside pitch.  This guy remains a game-changer with one swing of his bat.  

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

Was there really a report this week that the long-forgotten Jacoby Ellsbury has begun indoor activities? Now there’s a guy I never expect to wear the Pinstripes again. If he reaches full health after several years of inactivity, I think the Yankees should just cut bait and eat the remainder of his contract. There’s no scenario I want to see Ellsbury take a roster spot over more deserving guys. Troy Tulowitzski proved how effective an aging veteran can be after missing a few seasons. I wouldn’t expect any better from Ellsbury. At least Tulo showed some heart and still failed. There’s no apparent evidence Ellsbury has any heart.  

The season is over for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The Tampa Bay Rays were able to grab scoreboard with their Triple A affiliate, the Durham Bulls. The Bulls swept the RailRiders in the opening round of the International League’s Governor’s Cup playoffs, pounding the RailRiders, 17-2, in Game 3 last night. I’m sure this how the Rays envision their future against the Yankees, as early as this October. Hopefully the big league team fares better against the Rays.

RailRiders reliever Ben Heller is expected to join the Yankees later today. Since he is not currently on the active Major League roster (60-day IL), he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster before he can join the team. Personally, I’d cut Ryan Dull who has no future with this team beyond 2019.  Heller has been my dark-horse favorite for a role in the bullpen as he further distances himself from last year’s Tommy John surgery. I like the guy and I think he can be an effective arm among the quality relievers currently in the Yankees’ bullpen (unlike the much-travelled Dull). Heller was the only effective pitcher in yesterday’s blow-out loss to the Bulls with two innings of hitless/scoreless relief, a walk, and five strikeouts.  

Everyone expects Deivi Garcia to get the call but I don’t think he’s ready. His line yesterday against the Bulls was very forgettable. One inning, two hits (including a homer), four walks, and five runs. Bring the 20-year-old to Spring Training, but I wouldn’t call him up now. I am not basing that on yesterday’s performance but rather his overall time at Triple A. He finished 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and 5.77 FIP.  He did have 45 strikeouts in 40.0 innings, but issued 20 free passes and hit four batters. I know the Yankees have a seemingly comfortable lead in the AL East but the team is still battling for best record in the AL (currently tied with the Houston Astros at 93-50). Every game matters. I think Garcia will have a long Major League career but let’s pump the brakes until he is truly ready.

Getting back to the Boston Red Sox, their season hangs on the balance. After last night’s loss, they are 7 games out in the AL Wild Card hunt. The Rays and the Oakland A’s hold the top two spots, with the Cleveland Indians hanging in, 1 1/2 games back. With just 20 games to play, the Red Sox literally need two of the three teams ahead of them to collapse. Maybe the Indians fade, but I don’t see the Rays or the A’s relinquishing their current positions. It will be a fun day when I hear the Red Sox have been eliminated from playoff contention. Until then, regardless of the odds, they have a chance. Hopefully the Yanks can take the next two games from Boston to help drive a few nails into their coffin.  

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

Don’t look now but the Atlanta Braves could be making a move for the best record in Major League Baseball. All season, everyone has talked about how the Los Angeles Dodgers have run away with the NL but suddenly they have the Braves nipping at their heels. Entering play today, the Dodgers are 92-52 after losing two in a row to the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Braves, who have won 9 consecutive games, are 89-54. They are within striking distance of Yankees, Astros and Dodgers for MLB’s best record. They say the playoffs are not about the best team but the team that gets hot at the right moment. At this point, you’d have to say that the Rays and Braves are Baseball’s hottest teams. Much can change between now and October, but these two teams are intent on making noise in the coming weeks. Time for Team Pinstripes to put ‘the pedal to the metal’. 

The Yankees have announced a few moves today but none featured Ben Heller. I remain optimistic he’ll get the call, but here’s the day’s transaction per the Yankees:

    • Reinstated Gio Urshela from the 10-day IL
    • Returned Thairo Estrada from rehab and reinstated him from the 10-day IL
    • Recalled Kyle Higashioka and Breyvic Valera from the RailRiders

I am glad to see Urshela back on the field. DJ LeMahieu does a great job at third, but having flexibility with him, helps the team. These moves were simple paper transactions, whereas, Heller will require some maneuvering so perhaps there will be more transactions announced later today. For Heller’s sake, I hope so. 

Photo Credit: Rich Gagnon, AP

I was surprised to see former Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda receive a 60-game ban yesterday for taking a diuretic. Pineda, who has been the Twins’ best pitcher the last few weeks, said in a statement that he took an over-the-counter medication to help control his weight, but it contained hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic that can mask other substances. The ban was initially 80 games, but Pineda was able to get it reduced to 60 games on appeal after making a compelling case he was not attempting to mask performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t think Pineda had an intent to deceive but it’s an unfortunate situation for the one-time Yank and it certainly hurts Minnesota’s chances for October success.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Power of Pitching and Power…

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, Associated Press

Yanks End 4-Game Skid…

As Michael Kay of the YES Network said after the game, the Yankees used pitching and power, after three lackluster games in Oakland, to halt their four-game losing streak in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. But then again, we didn’t need to hear Michael say those words. The arm of James Paxton and the bats of Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and others spoke very loudly during the game, which the Yankees won, 10-2.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times

I have to admit I was a little shocked when Paxton had a clean 1-2-3 inning to start the game. I have grown to really despise First Inning Paxton regardless of how much I still like the pitcher (I do). But for this game, First Inning Pax looked nothing like previous versions. Maybe someone told him it was the second inning and that he must have blacked out the first. Seriously, whatever it took, I am glad that Paxton stepped up his game against the best team in the National League. We need Paxton to be successful in October and this was a great step in the right direction.

Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG

Thanks to Paxton, the Yankees didn’t have to dip too deeply into the bullpen.  Excellent job by Nestor Cortes, Jr to finish off the game with a big lead. The big boys, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Chad Green, enjoyed a night of rest to ready them for the weekend.

Cody Bellinger leads the National League with 42 home runs (tied for the MLB lead with Mike Trout), but on this night, he was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. With no offense to former Yank Clay Bellinger, I am glad his son was unable to launch a Belli-Bomb in the first game of the series. I want Bellinger to stay ahead of Christian Yelich in the race to NL MVP but I am okay if he wants to take the next two games off.

Photo Credit: John McCoy, Getty Images

After his first couple of at-bats, I certainly didn’t think Didi Gregorius had a multi-homer night in store for him. His two home runs which included a grand salami in the fifth and five RBIs ensured the the Dodgers would not be making one of their patented late inning walk-offs this game.

Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG

Congratulations to Gary Sanchez for his 100th career home run. His third inning shot off Hyun-Jin Ryu (a tremendous lower body power shot that brought his knee to the ground) allowed him to reach one hundred faster than any player not named Ryan Howard. For those worried about El Gary, I think he’s doing just fine. I’ve never doubted the player, even through those difficult slumps. I am glad he’s the Yankee catcher and there isn’t anyone that I’d rather have. Well, I’d take 1970’s Thurman Munson but that’s not an option.

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, Associated Press

I was a little bummed the Yankees fared so poorly in Oakland. West Coast games are tough since they start so late, and then to have every result end in defeat is harder to take. I jumped off the J.A. Happ bandwagon long ago. He was the guy I wanted the Yankees to replace at the trading deadline. I say this knowing how ineffective CC Sabathia has been at times. I’d rather have Sabathia in the rotation as the fifth starter over Happ, but Happ has pitched so poorly, he is the rotation’s weakest link, moving Sabathia up in the pecking order which admittedly is “not what you want”. I am really hoping that Luis Severino can come back next month to at least form a multi-inning opener tandem with Happ. With another year committed to Happ, I really hope the Yankees can find a way to move him this off-season. I’d be fearful of Happ reaching the milestones to trigger a third year in his contract if he stays in the rotation.

I am not a big fan of the Players Weekend uniforms with the white and black themes. It reminds me of the old Spy vs Spy comics.

I actually liked the refusal of Jon Lester to wear a black cap, instead donning the traditional Cubs hat in their home game against the Washington Nationals. The pitchers wearing the home white uniforms had to wear black caps instead of the white ones worn by the rest of the players to ensure hitters had no difficulty with seeing pitches. Lester’s action was adopted by his entire team who wore the traditional Cubs caps. That was/is much better than those funky white and black caps, in my opinion. The Dodgers, as I’ve said before, are my favorite NL team, and I would have preferred the classic Dodger white with blue lettered and red numbered uniforms against the traditional Yankee road grays. I like the weekend of player individuality but this year’s theme is not a favorite.

Photo Credit: Stacey Wescott, The Chicago Tribune

I love Dodger Stadium so I really enjoy these games at Chavez Ravine. When I lived in Los Angeles, I lived near Dodger Stadium (two miles away) so I frequently drove by the stadium when not there for games. I certainly hold affection for the stadium and the area despite my love of the Yankees.

It was a surprise yesterday to see the Yankees release former top prospect RHP Domingo Acevedo when they claimed Seattle Mariners reliever Cory Gearrin.

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

I know, the bloom is off Acevedo as a prized prospect, but I thought there are other guys who were better candidates to go (like Ryan Dull or, in my opinion, Luis Cessa). I still have hope Acevedo can become a late-blooming relief option but it appears that he’ll do it elsewhere unless he re-signs a minor league deal with the Yankees. Whatever happens, I wish him the best of luck. It’s kind of funny that Gearrin has become a Yankee because of former Yankee prospect Justus Sheffield. Gearrin was the casualty when the Mariners decided to recall Top Sheff to the Majors this week. I don’t really see a long-term future in the Yankees’ organization for Gearrin. He’ll no doubt be one of the casualties when the Yankees begin to activate some of the guys off the 60-day Injured List, like Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton and Jacoby Ellsbury. Ha-ha, the last name was just thrown on there to see if you are awake! Ellsbury is never coming back or at least I hope not.

Speaking of Sheffield, he made his Major League starting debut last night against the Toronto Blue Jays but received a no-decision in the M’s 7-4 victory. He went four innings, throwing 86 pitches, giving up seven hits and three runs. He both walked and struck out three. His first inning was Paxton-like, 37 pitches and two runs but he persevered. Hopefully for him, his next start goes better. I’d like to see him fulfill his promise even if he doesn’t wear the Pinstripes anymore (so long as he doesn’t do it against the Yankees).

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

The Yankees should soon see the return of first baseman Luke Voit. Voit has begun his minor league rehab assignment and is expected to be activated in time for next Friday’s game against the Oakland A’s at Yankee Stadium. Voit made his first appearance last night with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, going 0-for-3, with a walk and run scored, in the RailRiders’ 11-4 victory over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Hopefully Voit can begin ramping up his play (i.e., recapture his timing) over the next few days so that he can make a good contribution to the Yankees again when he returns. He is a vital part of this team’s potential post-season success.

The calendar page soon turns to the final month of the regular season so it’s nearing time to finish off those pesky Tampa Bay Rays to win the AL East and ensure a one-game do-or-die Wild Card game will not be played the Bronx this year. Although I didn’t experience it firsthand, the long ago story of the collapse of the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies (the “Phoid of ’64’”) has stuck with me since I first heard about it as a child. The Phillies looked like a World Series team through the summer of ’64, and held a 5 1/2 game lead over the Cincinnati Reds on September 1st. They went 12-9 for the month and held a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 games to play. But when the regular season reached its end, the Phillies were a game behind the St Louis Cardinals and their season was over. While I don’t expect the Yankees to have that type of collapse, I can’t shake the belief it can happen because it has. There’s no doubt a four-game losing streak can leave me thinking the worst, like many Yankee fans, so I am just glad the Yankees took care of business last night on a night that both the Rays and the distant Boston Red Sox also won. Today is a wonderful day to start a winning streak.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Baseball Season Did Not End July 31st…

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Destination: World Series Championship is alive and well…

Admittedly, I was very disappointed with the trading deadline. I felt it was a missed opportunity to provide enhancements for the team. The Houston Astros are a very good team from top to bottom, and they are led by a very smart manager. I know I will not underestimate them nor will I compare them to a rotation-strong Tiger team that couldn’t win when it mattered. Nevertheless, Houston did not secure a guarantee of October success with their moves.

I do wish I had better confidence with the return the injured Yankee players. It’s being reported that Luis Severino will finally return to the mound next Friday as he begins his rehab back to the Major Leagues for possibly September. Honestly, he is a setback away from not pitching for the club at all this year. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but at best, he appears to be help for the bullpen barring no further setbacks. There does not appear to be sufficient time to get him stretched out for a starting role, or if he comes back to start, he’ll be like one of the starting pitchers who miss Spring Training and then struggle mightily. Still, I’d rather have Sevy on the post-season roster than not.

Photo Credit: Severino40 on Instagram

Maybe Dellin Betances can come back and recapture his 2018 effectiveness. It does not exactly feel like a sure bet. I probably have more confidence in Dellin at this point than Sevy but we’ll see. The Yankees really need both if they are to win the 2019 World Series. It’s not impossible but it would clearly help.

I am not even sure what to think about Giancarlo Stanton. If he hasn’t even begun baseball activities, I don’t see his return anytime soon. And when he does come back, there is the inevitable struggle to recapture his timing. In other words, we’re looking at some painful at-bats until he becomes the Giancarlo we all know and love.

It’s not great news the Yankees could be without Luke Voit for up to six weeks, a certainty if he does have surgery for his sports hernia. But at least the Yankees have Edwin Encarnacion and DJ LeMahieu to cover first base, and Mike Ford waiting in the wings at Scranton for support. When I saw the San Francisco Giants had designated Tyler Austin for assignment yesterday, my immediate thought was potential help for the Yankees. But I think that was just a sentimental feeling. While I think some team with a higher priority claim will take a shot at the former Yank, I don’t care for Austin’s splits and although he has some power, I think the Yankees have better options in-house. I really thought a trade for Justin Smoak at the trading deadline made sense, but if you truly believe the injured guys will be back, there’s not necessarily any long term room on the roster.

Oh well, the Yankees didn’t get the needed help for the rotation. It sucks but it is what it is. Time for the starters we do have to step it up. Domingo German has certainly earned his standing among the top five. After allowing the first-inning  two-run homer to JD Martinez last night, James Paxton pitched like we know he can in holding the Red Sox to two hits and those two runs over six innings. This is the Pax we need down the stretch. If only he can overcome those first inning jitters. First innings with Paxton are becoming very painful to watch. I still have hope that Paxton can come up big in October. Despite his struggles, I do not believe this to be a ‘Sonny Gray-like’ situation. I think Pax will have his huge moments in Pinstripes. The talent and the desire are there. Pax just needs to find the answer within himself and I am confident he will.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

J.A. Happ continues to concern me. I think it was his spot in the rotation that I wanted to see upgraded. His three-year contract is starting to worry me a bit. Technically, it is a two-year deal with an option, but the third year vests with 165 innings pitched or 27 games started in 2020, which, if he stays in the rotation, should be easily achievable. Frankly, I hope the Yankees can find a way to move Happ in the off-season and find a better option, but they’ll have to send a few Benjamin Franklins with him to find a taker.  But for now, Happ needs to find what he had last year at this time. Currently out on paternity leave, hopefully the newly born Happ will help J.A.’s rebirth as an effective Yankees starter.

With CC Sabathia on the Injured List for his knee, a deadline starter would have been ideal but I guess we’ll have to continue with Chad Green, Opener. Green and Nestor Cortes Jr have proven to be a reliable tandem so it’s not the end of the World they have to provide the necessary support. When CC returns, I am not going to go against him. He is a crafty veteran and the final starts of his career will have a very strong impact on him in terms of the desire to go out on his own terms. I am confident he’ll have his magical moment before this is said and done.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Masahiro Tanaka, but like the great Andy Pettitte, Masa has a way of raising the bar in October. I have no doubt he’ll be very effective when it matters, even if he continues to give up those annoying obligatory dingers.

For those who think Deivi Garcia is the next Great Savior, my take is not this year. While it has been said he’d be in the bullpen if he does get the call up in September, I doubt he makes a significant difference until 2020 at the earliest. I am not resting any hopes on him. The kid is only 20 and he’s struggled with the promotion to Triple A. I don’t blame him for those struggles. They were inevitable. Rare is the player who can immediately master every level of the minor leagues from the start. I think he’ll be a very good pitcher one day, just not this year. At least not at the big league level. I have no doubt he’ll be frustrating International League hitters by season’s end.

I’ve always liked Aroldis Chapman, but if he opts out of his contract in the off-season, let him go. I am not interested in a renegotiation of his contract. I know Yankee fans either love or hate Zach Britton, but he’d be my choice to take over the closing duties. Not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Dellin Betances, but he’s better suited for setup. He’d be the only other name I’d consider for closer even though I’ve never been a fan of using him in that role despite his limited success. I also think Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle are better in their current roles. The Colorado Rockies tried Otto as closer a couple of years ago without success, but I realize that was before Otto rediscovered himself in his makeshift NYC pitching studio. Still, Otto’s propensity for walks when he doesn’t have his control does not play well in the ninth inning.

I keep reading there’s no way the Yankees sign Gerrit Cole in the off-season and perhaps that’s true. There will be teams like the Los Angeles Angels that will be desperate for starting pitching, particularly for someone with Cole’s resume. I think any chance Houston would re-sign Cole was eliminated when they acquired Zach Greinke and his contract. So, if anything, it gives me some hope the Yankees will be contenders for Cole’s services. We’ll see. Hopefully he doesn’t end the Yankees’ season before we get there.

I was very appreciative of the first inning grand slam by Gleyber Torres last night to answer the home run by JD Martinez and fortunately it held up to give the Yankees a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. Last year at this time, the Yankees started a four-game series in Boston on the exact same date (August 2nd, the anniversary of the death of Yankee great Thurman Munson). The Yankees entered the series in much better position than the Red Sox are in now, trailing the then-AL East leaders by only 5 1/2 games. Boston swept the four-game series which effectively ended the Yankees’ hopes of winning the division. I am really hoping the Yankees can do the same to the Red Sox this year. I remember the defeated feeling I had last year after that series. It’s a feeling the Boston fans should experience this year, in my opinion. I am not really expecting a sweep but taking 3 of 4, especially after last weekend’s disaster in Boston, would be huge. It would also leave the Red Sox severely wounded with their playoff aspirations and three good teams ahead of them in the AL Wild Card hunt.

Since the Tampa Bay Rays had the night off, the Yankees were able to increase their AL East lead to 7 1/2 games. The Red Sox are back to 11 1/2 games behind our favorite team. Too bad, so sad. I’d really enjoy it if the Red Sox players have to make non-baseball plans for October. Time to go for the jugular and race to the AL East title crown. If it happens, I will be so glad the Yankees do not have to play a one-game ‘do or die’ playoff this year. But no Boston baseball in October would almost be as exciting.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

The Yankees play two today. The afternoon game will pit Domingo German, searching for his 14th win, against Chris Sale. It’s been a very disappointing year for Boston’s ace so hopefully the disappointment continues today. In the night cap, Chad Green-Opener will face lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson was activated off the Injured List earlier today. He has been out since June 27th with an intestinal issue. A sweep by the Yankees would obviously leave the entire Red Sox team with intestinal issues.

Before I go and despite the disappointment experienced a few days ago, I am glad the Trading Deadline has come and gone. I was tired of the endless speculation and the ridiculous trade proposals in the minds of many Yankee fans. Next year, I’ll be in favor of moving the trade deadline to August 15th to help teams better decide if they are buyers or sellers. However, on August 3, 2019, this is our team and this is THE team that can take us to the promised land. To hell with the Astros and anybody else, the Yankees have the players capable of delivering champagne in the final MLB game of the year. Let’s do this.

Go Yankees!

KC Rain 1, Yankees 0…

Photo Credit: USA Today

Rainout forces Day/Night Doubleheader Today…

Although the rain clouds seem to have followed the team on their trip to the Midwest, not much else has dampened the excitement of the 2019 New York Yankees. The unprecedented rash of multiple injuries that has landed so many guys on the 10-day/60-day Injured Lists has not seemed to slow down this fun and exciting team. In the long run, the team will be better off when Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and others return, but for now, I am certainly enjoying the ride.

We were given some great news yesterday when Manager Aaron Boone announced that shortstop Didi Gregorius will begin a rehab assignment in Tampa on Saturday.  With a maximum of 20 days allowed for rehab, we’re less than three weeks away from Sir Didi’s return. It could be sooner than later since Didi probably does not need the full 20 days to get Major League ready. This feels like a great, great mid-season pickup. I don’t want to take away from the tremendous job done by Gleyber Torres during Didi’s absence. Gleyber and DJ LeMahieu have been outstanding working together at shortstop and second. Once Didi reclaims short, Gleyber will slide back over to second and LeMahieu will most likely be redeployed at third base, moving Giovanny Urshela, who has also done a brilliant job, into the utility role. I love the job Gio has done and his glove is special but you can’t take LeMahieu out of the lineup. He’ll probably see time at first base too on the days Luke Voit handles DH. The potential losers, to me, appear to be Kendrys Morales and Troy Tulowitzki.  Tulo has expressed willingness to play other positions but seriously I’d rather have Gio and Thairo Estrada than Tulo on the Major League Roster. Estrada will probably lose out since he has options but it’s too bad because he has proven he belongs. There’s no scenario I see Tulo with the Yankees next year.

When Didi had his Tommy John surgery last year, I thought it was ridiculous of those who said he could be back by May or June. I honestly felt that has an overly aggressive timetable, yet here we are.  We’re very fortunate Didi has not dealt with the setbacks encountered by other injured team players like Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton. For Didi, everything has seemed to go according to plan from the first day following the surgery. It is a credit to the man Didi is, mixed with a little luck, I am sure. For as great a player Didi is, I’ve missed his infectious personality despite how fun the 2019 Yankees have been. While I feel bad for those who will lose playing time, I am excited about Didi’s return and the team is better with his presence. I know my Twitter account is looking forward to seeing Didi’s post-game Emoji tweets.

Credit: @sirdidig18 on Instagram

I thought Giancarlo Stanton would be back before Gregorius but it does not appear to be the case. Hopefully the current rest for Stanton puts him back on track when he returns to baseball activities within the next couple of weeks. I’m all for limiting Brett Gardner’s play in left field and putting Stanton in right until Aaron Judge returns would go a long way toward making Gardy the valuable bench player he should be at this stage of his career.

I am not going to lie, I am worried about James Paxton. The reports of continued pain in his balky knee are troubling.  Everyone is holding their collective breath for how Paxton feels today. Pitching four innings in extended Spring Training yesterday, there is concern how the knee will react to the workload today. I know my knee would be saying “F**k this s**t!” Paxton has expressed the desire to pitch through the pain but that’s hardly comforting. As much as I like Paxton as a starter, there’s no denying that him and the Injured List are fond of each other. To be fair, I am sure Paxton doesn’t want to be on the Injured List. It is what it is. I am not going to overreact to say the Yankees need to sign Dallas Keuchel now or after the June draft to avoid draft pick compensation, but there’s no question the Yankees will need to do something to reinforce the starting rotation.

I don’t really think Keuchel is the answer. If he was, other teams would be rushing to sign him yet there has been nothing but crickets surrounding the pitcher who was clearly on the downward slope of career regression last season. If Keuchel was all that and a bag of chips, the Houston Astros would have resigned him long ago. I probably feel the same way about Madison Bumgarner. The guy continues to live off a World Series reputation from five years ago but doesn’t have the current stats to justify ace status or his post-season aura. I think there are better options and trust that GM Brian Cashman and staff will uncover the right arm to add. There’s no reason to overpay for pitchers that have seen their better days. Yankees Twitter seems to be implying that a deal for Max Scherzer is imminent (I highly doubt it) but that’s the type of arm I’d like to see in July. Scherzer remains among the best in Baseball and his team, the Washington Nationals, are going nowhere. A couple of bad games have inflated his ERA and his win/loss total is more reflective of the team he plays for, but generally speaking Max will give you seven innings every outing, limiting the opponent to two or fewer runs. He’s a workhorse and would significantly improve the Yankees rotation and help keep the bullpen fresh. I am sure a pennant chase would energize him. I thought Scherzer would have been a perfect Yankee when he was a free agent a couple of years ago when the Yankees were mentioned as the favorite to sign him. It didn’t happen but Scherzer has done nothing to sway my high opinion of him. The cost to get him is another matter, but that’s a problem for Brian Cashman to figure out.

Photo Credit: Hunter Martin, Getty Images

Manny Machado makes his first return to Yankee Stadium this week when the San Diego Padres arrive in the Bronx on Monday for a three-game series. It will be Manny’s first appearance there since he played for the Baltimore Orioles last season. No doubt, good or bad, he’ll receive a reaction from the Bronx crowd, more so than any other Padre who takes the field. Sorry, Adam Warren. Machado has already made the Los Angeles Dodgers pay for their decision not to resign him. In five games against his former team, he has hit 4 home runs and has driven in 7 RBIs. He is batting .368/.429/1.105, with 1.534 OPS in those games. I am sure he’ll be as motivated against the Yankees as he was with the Dodgers. While I wanted the Yankees to sign Machado last winter, that ship sailed and I am not going to cry over spilt milk. I just hope Yankee pitching is up for the task and is able to keep Machado’s bat relatively quiet for the three games. Let him take out his frustrations on the Orioles when they play next month.

Photo Credit: KC Alfred, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Don’t look now, but the Yankees’ home record of 267 team homers last year is in jeopardy. Before the season, we thought the 2019 Yankees might be the team to assault last year’s record but it is the Minnesota Twins who are currently leading the pack. Through 50 games, the Twins have slugged 101 homers and are on pace for 327 round-trippers. Although they have yet to be acknowledged as one of the AL’s best teams, they possess the best record in MLB at 34-16 (.680 winning percentage). Things seem to be going right for first-year Manager Rocco Baldelli in the Twin Cities. I kind of feel badly for Tyler Austin who was shipped from the Twins to the San Francisco Giants earlier this season. The Giants have settled in to the NL West Cellar and will undoubtedly camp out there for the duration of the year. At least Tyler is getting some great pics in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: @taustin2121 on Instagram

Speaking of San Francisco, the Giants are calling up outfielder Mike Yastrzemski according to Jon Heyman. I know, why talk about a young player with a direct bloodline to a former Red Sox great (grandson of Carl Yastrzemski), but I’ve been following young Yaz since he was a baby prospect in the Baltimore Orioles organization. I lived in Frederick, MD when he played for the Single A Frederick Keys. He didn’t succeed for the O’s but he is enjoying second life in the Giants organization (a team that, it seems, is annually in search of outfielders). At 28, he’s no longer a “prospect” but I wish him the very best as he finally arrives in The Show.

If you haven’t signed up to subscribe to Mike Axisa’s twice-weekly newsletter (https://www.patreon.com/RABthoughts), you are missing out. For the low price of $3 per month, Axisa continues to deliver the outstanding commentary, backed by  his deep insight, thoughts, and statistics, we grew accustomed to with the late River Ave Blues blog. Axisa remains one of my favorites, if not the favorite, and he’s so much better than many of the professional (allegedly) Yankee beat writers. Trust me, you look forward to Tuesdays and Fridays when Axisa’s Patreon email lands in your inbox.

Credit to Max Wildstein (@MaxWildstein on Twitter) for this one: “Domingo Germán is 9-1. Chris Sale is 1-6.” Baseball is funny or as John Sterling says, “Well, Suzyn, you know, you just can’t predict baseball”. But it reinforces why 2019 is so much more enjoyable than 2018.

The Yanks play two today, thanks to yesterday’s rainout. I couldn’t ask for a better scenario than last night when both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox lost while the Yankees watched the rain fall in Kansas City. Today would be an awesome day for two NYY victories.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Year of “Next Man Up”…

Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Yankees win again in the City by the Bay…

I’ve tempered my expectations for the 2019 Yankees given the savage rash of injuries that have afflicted the team, but you have to love this ‘next man up’ attitude of the replacement Yankees. No doubt if they can continue to drive the team to sustained success, the October prospects for the eventual healthy Yankees appear to be very grand.

Every year, there’s a team that somehow has the ‘it’ quality in their chase for the pennant. Last year, there is no question the Boston Red Sox had it when they busted out of the gate quickly and seemingly found a way to win every night on their way to 108 regular season wins and, eventually, the World Series championship. The 2019 Yankees have had every reason to fold up their tent and hope for next year, except they haven’t. As each new guy shows up, someone comes up big and they move on to the next game, win after win.

The Yankees will have hard decisions to make when guys start to come back from the Injured List. I’d hate to be Aaron Boone having the conversations with the replacement Yankees that their spots on the MLB roster have been eliminated, whether it is through demotion to Triple A or designation for assignment. Giovanny Urshela is one of those guys. We knew he had a superior glove in Spring Training, but despite his ‘all glove/no bat’ reputation, he has come through in clutch situations this year with the lumber to help the team score runs. Honestly, I prefer Urshela over Troy Tulowitzki. I know they play different positions but if I could only choose one for the active roster, it would have to be Gio. I don’t trust Tulo to stay healthy and right now, with his stint on the Injured List, he is proving me right. For the record, I like to be proven wrong when I have a negative perception of a certain player. But that’s on Tulo, not me.

I was a little disappointed with the series finale in Anaheim on Thursday when Masahiro Tanaka gave up a couple of two-run homers to let the LA Angels tie the game, and then Boone went to the weaker arms in the pen to allow the Angels to blow the game open. However, winning three of four games, especially in Anaheim…a place that was once a House of Horrors for the Yanks, is tremendous.  I’d gladly settle for three of four or two of three every series.

The Yankees continued their winning ways last night with a 7-3 victory in the Bay Area opener against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park Oracle Park. It was weird seeing Tyler Austin wearing orange and black and playing this game as a foe. He had San Francisco’s first hit when he singled to right off James Paxton in the bottom of the first inning. He scored the Giants’ first run on a sac fly after Brandon Belt had doubled to move him to third. But with no offense to Austin, the game’s best first baseman was Luke Voit. Louis Linwood Voit III was 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs, and two runs scored.

Paxton was unable to make a “quality” start by definition (an out away from completing six full innings when the Giants made it a two-run game in the bottom of the sixth) but he was very effective nonetheless. He finished with eight strikeouts to improve his record to 3-2.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I shudder to think of where the Yankees would be without the Big Maple. No question he is the team’s ace while Luis Severino is away. Unlike that last game in Anaheim, Aaron Boone made the right bullpen moves this game. Well, almost. I was disappointed with the three consecutive two-out walks by Zack Britton in the bottom of the seventh to load the bases, but all’s well that ends well. Adam Ottavino came in to strike out Buster Posey, his former NL West rival, to end the threat. So, despite those walks by Britton, the bullpen did not give up any hits or runs to the Giants to preserve the win for Paxton. I continue to stand by Britton but I know there are plenty of Yankee fans who would have preferred the return of David Robertson over Britton. Robertson is currently on the Injured List for the Philadelphia Phillies as he continues to recover from a Grade 1 flexor strain in his throwing arm. I guess D-Rob would have fit well on this year’s Yankees squad.

For everyone hoping the Yankees try to acquire Giants ace Madison Bumgarner at the trading deadline, this was not a good showcase for the one-time World Series hero. The lefty surrendered 11 hits and 5 runs in 5 2/3 innings to the team some call the New York RailRiders. He is 1-4 for the season with a 4.30 ERA.  I guess he knows how Chris Sale feels this season. Pitchers are fragile creatures unless your name is Mariano Rivera.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP

One-time Yankee prospect Mark Melancon, who has struggled with injuries in recent years, surrendered a two-run homer in the ninth inning to Luke Voit. Another former Yank, catcher Erik Kratz, struck out swinging in a pinch-hitting appearance against closer Aroldis Chapman to end the game.

With the win, the Yankees (15-11) picked up a 1/2 game on the idle division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays game in Boston was rained out and won’t be made up until June. Yankees currently trail the Rays by only 1 1/2 games as the Rays have started to come back to Earth after their torrid start. Again, the replacement Yankees get so much credit for helping this team stay afloat until the big guns are back. Actually, ‘stay afloat’ is a poor choice of words because they are doing so much better. My expectation or hope was they’d stay afloat to weather this storm but, clearly, they’ve done much more.

I’ll certainly cheer on Cameron Maybin as the newest of the replacement Yankees but admittedly I was a bit underwhelmed when I heard that he had been acquired for Cash (loved the references by people on Twitter that GM Brian Cashman had sacrificed himself for Maybin). But it was the green stuff that went to Cleveland for Maybin and not the Yankees’ long-time GM. Maybin, toiling for Cleveland’s Triple A team, was no doubt excited just to get another big league opportunity. He spent Spring Training with the team he is presently facing (the Giants). Early on, it looked like Maybin was going to make the Giants’ roster but a DUI in mid-March contributed, in part, to his release on March 22nd.  To Maybin’s defense, he seems like a good guy and appreciative of his latest opportunity. I am certainly not expecting much from him and it’s more than likely his Yankees career will be brief, but hopefully he can make a contribution as the next man up.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP

I had hoped that we would soon see the return of Giancarlo Stanton to man right field until Aaron Judge returns, but it sounds like we won’t see him on this road trip due to a temporary setback. Hopefully it is just a minor thing and we’ll see him when the Yankees return to the Bronx early next month. Once fearing that he’d be lost for the season with the partially torn right labrum, it now appears Miguel Andujar could return before Stanton does. I have absolutely no idea if Andujar can make the necessary throws at third with his injury, but he deserves the chance to show he can play the position despite Urshela’s solid role in holding down third base with the help of DJ LeMahieu. If not, I agree with those who say Andujar should be moved to first base and DH to share time with Luke Voit in alternating roles. Mike Ford should be the odd man out (not Urshela) but that’s alright. Andujar is far more important to this team than Ford is.

Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

This has been a tough week with the Yankees playing the Pacific Time Zone. For those of you in the Eastern Time Zone, my hat’s off to you if you’ve stayed up to watch the games. All I can say is thank God for DVR. At least there is only one more late night game (Tuesday night in Phoenix) before the Yankees return to New York. This weekend’s games are afternoon affairs. Same with Wednesday’s getaway game in Arizona to conclude the short two-game series with the Diamondbacks.

It’s a new day and another opportunity for a replacement Yank to step up. With J.A. Happ on the mound, they’ll need a few of the bats to come alive. Somehow, I suspect they’ll do it. They generally do.

As always, Go Yankees!

Despite Win, Yankees Lose…

Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

Aaron Judge becomes latest Casualty…

There was immediate concern when Aaron Judge arrived at first base after his single in the bottom of the sixth and you could tell he was in pain. Even as Head Trainer Steve Donahue came out and they removed Judge from the game, there was hope it was only a precautionary move with a fairly comfortable lead over the Kansas City Royals. But when Judge dropped the F bomb as he walked through the dugout, it signaled this was worst case scenario. Although no timetables have been given, the left oblique injury will keep Judge away for awhile.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Of all the injuries the Yankees have suffered this year, I had felt that Aaron Judge was the guy the team could least afford to lose. Gleyber Torres probably runs a close second, but Judge is the ideal right fielder for this team and its heart and soul. It was no fun last summer when we lost Judge for an extended period as a result of the fractured wrist, courtesy of a Jakob Junis pitch.  But at time, at least the team had Giancarlo Stanton to step into right. As the team prepares to play today, there are only three outfielders on the team. Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier. The role of the fourth outfielder will be filled by infielder Tyler Wade, who has not exactly set the World on fire with his bat this season.

With the placement of Judge on the Injured List today, there will be an unlucky 13 players on the list. Fortunately, Gary Sanchez will back soon. He is expected to play a minor league rehab game on Monday before being activated on Wednesday. The Yankees head for Anaheim, California to begin a four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels tomorrow so Sanchez should be ready by the third game. Giancarlo Stanton is expected to return sometime during the upcoming road trip but he’s a little further out than Sanchez. The road trip concludes in Phoenix, Arizona on May 1st. The sooner, the better but we need to make sure that Stanton is 100% ready to go to avoid any setbacks.

The Yankees have very limited outfield depth in the system. Everyone knows that top prospect Estevan Florial fractured his wrist in Spring Training and is still recovering so he’s not even a thought (not that he should have been…yet…anyway). The five outfielders listed on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster are Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Omar Carrizales (who?), Matt Lipka, and Zack Zehner. Available free agents include Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, Austin Jackson, Denard Span, Danny Valencia and Chris Young. In other words, there is no help on the horizon other than the return to good health for those on the IL. The only other option is trade, but most teams are reluctant to trade this early in the season. I keep hearing Justin Smoak’s name. No doubt he’d provide a productive bat to pair with Luke Voit at first base and DH, but the Toronto Blue Jays are only a game behind the Yankees and they certainly smell the blood in the water. Not that the Jays have World Series aspirations this year and they’ve already parted with Kevin Pillar (traded to San Francisco on April 2nd) but I don’t think they’d actively help the Yankees at this point even if the teams have been receptive to inter-division trades in the past.

I am not sure what to think at this point. You can only hope the team treads water until the injured stars begin their return to the active roster. It’s hard to look at the current roster and say, ‘Oh yeah, this team is winning the World Series this year’. I am glad that Clint Frazier and recently Mike Tauchman have stepped up but it’s going to take more from the other replacement players. I can’t say that I am overly optimistic. The Yankees can simply not afford to lose any more players at this point. They are stretched as far as they can without outside help. It is imperative that the injured players come back soon but the risk is rushing them back too soon. I guess these are the times that GM Brian Cashman and his staff truly earn their paychecks. With so much bad news lately, I could really use some good news about now. At least we have the NFL Draft later in the week.

With Judge’s injury, yesterday’s 9-2 win over the Royals actually felt like a loss.  There was certainly no joy after the game. I was glad the team evened its record at 10-10 but sadly the future, at this moment in time, seems hazy. The Boston Red Sox elevated themselves out of the AL East Cellar yesterday with their second consecutive victory over the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. With such uncertainty surrounding the Yankees, I’d hate to see the Red Sox go on a roll. There’s no doubt the rash of injuries should make for a reliable battle-tested bench later in the season but that’s hardly any consolation on the 21st day of April. The coming days and weeks will go a long way toward determining how this season will play out. If there was ever a time for the team to unite and persevere through adversity, this is it. At the moment, Yankee Stadium feels a little like Winterfell as the Night King and his Army of the Dead close in for the kill.

To talk a moment about Saturday’s game, it is unfortunate that a Yankee fan interfered with the fly ball to left by Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the third inning. Initially ruled a home run, the call was overturned upon review and Torres was ruled out due to the interference. I agree the fan leaned over the wall so clearly by definition it was interference, but I honestly do not feel Royals outfielder Alex Gordon would have caught the ball. Replay seemed to show the ball just an inch or two beyond his reach. Fortunately, the Yankees didn’t need the three-run homer but I feel bad for Gleyber in losing a home run courtesy of a fan. On the other hand, the fan probably didn’t appreciate the free escort out of the stadium by Security. Tough situation since I feel I probably would have reached for the ball without thinking, like most of us, in that  situation too. Aaron Judge hit his fifth home run before he was lost to us. The Yankees also got homers from Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and with his first as a Yankee, DJ LeMahieu. It was a great bounce-back game for Masahiro Tanaka who lost on a grand slam last Sunday. Tanaka went seven innings, giving up only four hits and a run. He walked three and struck out seven to improve his record to 2-1. I thought his ability to leave the lightning quick Billy Hamilton stranded at third after Hamilton’s lead off triple in the top of the third inning (a ball that went under the glove of the defensively-challenged Luke Voit at first) was huge.

The Yankees conclude their four-game series with the Royals today. They’ll send James Paxton (2-2, 3.91 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Jorge Lopez (0-2, 4.30 ERA). The Yankees could really use a series win as they embark on the nine-game West Coast trip to Anaheim, San Francisco and Phoenix. Hopefully the remaining healthy players can provide Paxton with the necessary support for his third win of the season.

As expected, Gio Gonzalez exercised the opt-out in his minor league contract. The Yankees have until tomorrow to either elect to promote Gonzalez to the Major League roster or let him go. I fully expect the latter. No doubt he’ll get a big league job soon but it won’t be in the Bronx. Too bad he can’t play the outfield.

As always, Go Yankees! And please, stay healthy.