Tagged: Joe Girardi

Tanaka and His Extended BP for Rays Hitters…

Credit:  Brian Blanco/Getty Images

No hole is too deep to climb out of…except when Masahiro Tanaka is on the mound.  I am seriously concerned about Tanaka after his latest disaster.  In Fantasy Baseball, I’ve seen many owners dumping Tanaka from their rosters for no return.  I am not suggesting that the Yankees cut him and I am hopeful that he rediscovers his touch. But as the New York papers are screaming, Tanaka is in full-blown crisis mode.  You have to admit that this is very disconcerting.  For a rotation that had many questions coming into the season, none of the questions were directed at the team’s ace who is, right now, the rotation’s weakest link.

I am not sure what has to be done.  They’ve tried different arm angles and placement on the the pitching rubber, but Tanaka’s pitches are still getting hammered.  Kevin Kernan of The New York Post had the best line, “that just meant he had a different view of baseballs zooming out of the ballpark”.  

 

In Saturday’s 9-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Tanaka lasted only three innings.  Rays hitters got nine hits and six runs off Tanaka, including three home runs.  Tanaka (5-3) also walked three batters in the loss, which elevated his season ERA to 6.56.  In his last two games combined, Tanaka has given up seven home runs in 4 2/3 innings…and fourteen friggin’ runs.

At the beginning of the year, the fear was that Tanaka would opt out of his contract at the end of year.  Now, the fear is that he won’t.  My first thought at the latest stinker was the partially torn UCL in his elbow, but the Yankees insist he is healthy. Of course, their recent “surprise” about Aroldis Chapman either tells you that the players are not always being honest with the team or the team is withholding information.  If Tanaka is healthy, then this scares the h**l out of me.

At this point, I am probably in favor of skipping Tanaka in the next run through the rotation to give him extra time to right the ship.  There’s no doubt he lost his splitter and slider on one of these  recent road trips and can’t remember where he left them.   

As for the game, the Yankees did get home runs from Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.  Nevertheless, this was a game we’d just as soon forget.  Both pitching coach Larry Rothschild and manager Joe Girardi were tossed in the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes.  Girardi even covered home plate with sand and the ump (Scott Barry) refused to clean it.  Gary Sanchez  finally took it upon himself to wipe home plate.  Speaking of Sanchez, he didn’t play on Friday night due to a stiff neck so I’ll take Rob Thomson off the hook for not using Sanchez as a pinch hitter in the loss.  I just hope the foul tip Sanchez took off the mask yesterday doesn’t worsen his health concerns. 

Credit:  Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times

Rays starter Matt Andriese was tossed in the sixth inning for plunking Aaron Judge with a pitch.  Tommy Layne had hit the Rays’ Corey Dickerson in the back with a pitch the prior inning.  Dickerson had hit two home runs in the game.  The tired lines of ‘the ball got away’ were used but I still don’t appreciate the potential harm to our young slugger.  

Credit:  Getty Images

The Yankees (24-16) fell a half-game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East standings with the loss.  The Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-5.  As losers of three in a row and seven of their last ten, the Yankees are on a faster track to be the 80-win team they were forecasted to be at the start of the season rather than a division contender.  Good hitting beats poor pitching every time.  Hopefully, the Yankees re-discover the Cinderella slipper sooner rather than later.

Tyler Austin made his 2017 debut with the AA-Trenton Thunder (rather than High-A Tampa) on Saturday.  He went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored.  He was also hit by pitch in the Thunder’s 5-2 loss to the Portland Sea Dogs.  

The Yankees conclude their three-game set in Florida with the Rays today.  CC Sabathia will be on the mound versus the Rays’ Chris Archer.  I am really hopeful that we get the most recent version of Sabathia (6 2/3 innings of scoreless pitching) and not the Masahiro Tanaka-version that we saw in the preceding weeks.

Have a wonderful Sunday!  Let’s have some fun today…finally!

Bryce Harper’s a great player BUT…

How much are these stats worth?

13 Home Runs

36 RBI’s

.355 Batting Average

.468 OBP

.702 SLG

1.170 OPS

New speculation is placing the value of Bryce Harper’s next contract closer to $500 million than the previously thought $400 million.  With an argument that Harper is twice the player Giancarlo Stanton is, is he worth twice the contract (or $650 million)?  Harper is going to bring new meaning the term “franchise player”.  How much did George Steinbrenner pay for the Yankees back in 1973?  It’s a rhetorical question but the answer is $10 million (with 60% in borrowed funds).  Granted, the Yankees are now worth more than $3.7 billion but it’s still phenomenal to think how much money Harper is going to get.  

At face value and with a strong right-fielder already in place, I have to say that despite Harper’s greatness, Manny Machado is looking better and better every day.  As luck would have it, we happen to need a third baseman.  I am just not so sure about the one more year of Chase Headley part…

Credit:  Patrick Smith/Getty Images

As a Yankees fan, I am not a supporter of the Toronto Blue Jays but their players continue to provide more reasons to dislike them.  The bat flip by Joey Bats after a home run against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday was ridiculous.  I had no problem with Braves catcher Tyler Flowers pointing at Bautista with an inside-fastball sign on a pitch selection the next night.  Braves pitcher Julio Teheran promptly drilled one into Bautista’s thigh.  But the homophobic comments that Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar directed at Braves reliever Jason Motte were totally unacceptable.  The anti-gay slur resulted in a two-game suspension for Pillar.  I hope the Atlanta Braves fans realize that the Blue Jays are not representative of all AL East teams.  

Tyler Austin has joined High-A Tampa to begin his rehab assignment.  The Yankees will have some decisions to make when he finishes the rehab assignment.  With Greg Bird ready to begin his rehab assignment next week, it increases the likelihood that Austin heads to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  But the RailRiders have a good recent addition at first already.  Mike Ford, called up last week from AA-Trenton, has three homers in six games and eight RBI’s.  He is 8-for-26 (.308).  The RailRiders are also loaded in the outfield with Clint Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Mason Williams, and Mark Payton.  If it were up to me, I’d think hard about moving/cutting Chris Carter and slotting Austin in as backup first baseman/outfielder. 


Roy White Day.  


Alright, I’ll join the bandwagon.  My awareness of White was more acute during his age 30+ seasons, but he was a trusted, reliable and a bit under-appreciated member of the Yankees and those back-to-back World Championships in the late 70’s.  For a team that was overflowing with superstars, White simply did his job when called on.  With no disrespect to Joe Torre who retired #6, I still think of White when I see the number.  Not many players stay with one team their entire career, but White was one of them with fifteen years in Pinstripes.  The other outfielders, Reggie Jackson and Mickey “Mick the Quick” Rivers, were more flamboyant but White always seemed to come up big whenever you needed him.  I agree, he gave his baseball life to the Yankees and it is only right that they give Roy his day at Yankee Stadium.



The Yankees have a new manager!  

Credit:  Brendan Kuty/NJ Advance Media

Okay, it was just one game.  Bench coach Rob Thomson was manager of the New York Yankees on Friday night so that Joe Girardi, could attend his daughter’s high school graduation.  Congrats to Joe Girardi for showing (and the Steinbrenner Family for allowing) that family does truly matter.

Credit:  YES Network

A lost night in St. Petersburg…

Rob Thomson, you’re fired (just kidding…well, maybe a little serious).  One-game manager Rob Thomson, filling in for Joe Girardi, failed in his one attempt to steer the ship.  Back to the bench for you, Rob.  The Yankees were undone by a pitcher who couldn’t make it more than five innings, thereby placing a heavier burden on the bullpen, a bad defensive play at third, and Thomson’s decision to leave his best hitters on the bench in a three-up, three-down ninth inning that led to the 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. 

Luis Severino only gave up one run, a first inning double by Logan Morrison that scored Evan Longoria, and struck out seven Rays.  But he gave up five hits and three walks with 89 pitches (only 59 for strikes) and was gone by the sixth inning.  

After the Rays had tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning at 2-2 with runners at second and third and two outs, the Yankees could have avoided further damage.  With third baseman Ronald Torreyes thinking about the runner advancing to home plate, a hopper by Rickie Weeks Jr went under his glove into left field, scoring the two runners on base.  Weeks Jr was credited with a double in a very liberal decision as it probably should have been an error by Toe.

Matt Holliday did his part in trying to bring the Yankees back.  After a walk to Brett Gardner and a pop-out by Jacoby Ellsbury to open the eighth, Holliday homered to right to tie the game at 4.  The Rays came right back in the bottom of the inning when Tyler Clippard (0-2) gave up a run-scoring single by Evan Longoria after putting two men on base through walks.  Longoria has gotten off to a slow start this season but against the Yankees, he always looks All-World.  A 4-for-5 night, with two runs scored and the RBI, ensured the Yankees were playing from behind.  

Credit:  Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Still, the Yankees could have rallied again in the ninth inning, but Thomson kept both Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks on the bench so we’ll never know.  Sanchez and Hicks, both of whom had the night off, could only watch as Chris Carter struck out (surprise, surprise) and Austin Romine grounded out to end the game. 

The loss dropped the Yankees to 24-15.  With Baltimore’s 5-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in extra innings, the O’s closed the gap in the AL East to just a half-game again.  The Boston Red Sox lost so I guess the evening wasn’t a complete disappointment.

Welcome back, Joe Girardi.  I will be glad to have you back in the saddle for today’s game.  I hope the graduation ceremony was a tremendous success for Serena and the family, but it will be great to have you making the lineup decisions today.  

Have a great Saturday!  Let’s win the games we should win and not give them away.

Fifteen wins for April? Sign me up…

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

All things considered, I’d rather talk about wins than losses…  

After reeling off two wins against the Baltimore Orioles, it felt like the chances were good for a sweep when the Yankees rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie Sunday’s game 4-4.  But unfortunately, luck ran out and the Yankees lost 7-4 as they now await the arrival of the Toronto Blue Jays later today.  

The loss dropped the Yankees to 15-8 and back into a tie for first place with the Orioles.

Although the Yankees had their chances late in the game, I thought the inability to push more runs across early in the game was key.  Had they broken open the game early, there would have been no need for late game heroics.  Through the first three innings, the Yankees left seven men on base.  The Yankees had runners on second and third with no outs in the second inning, but failed to score when O’s starter Wade Miley struck out Kyle Higashioka, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks in succession.

For the game, the Yankees left sixteen runners on base.  Still, they had a chance, thanks to a single by Didi Gregorius in the bottom of the ninth that scored Aaron Judge and Chase Headley to tie the game.  After Gregorius took second due to defensive indifference, the Yankees had runners at second and third.  Unfortunately, Chris Carter struck out to end the threat with a weak at-bat.  

From there, things got interesting.  Manager Joe Girardi moved reliever Bryan Mitchell, who had pitched the top of the ninth, to first base, and brought in Aroldis Chapman.  By keeping Mitchell in the game, the Yankees lost the DH spot in the lineup as it was taken by the new pitcher.  Had the Yankees won the game in the bottom of the tenth, it would have been a brilliant move.  Mitchell did commit one error (dropped foul pop) but Chapman prevented any other damage.  Sadly, with no DH, Matt Holliday was out of the game, and the Yankees had to pinch hit Greg Bird with the winning run at third base and only one out.  Bird was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and the next batter, Starlin Castro, hit into a force out that got Austin Romine out at the plate.  With the bases still loaded and two outs, Aaron Judge had a chance to send his team to victory, but it was not meant to be as he struck out.  

The lost chances eliminated the Yankees’ hopes for a win as the Orioles scored three runs in the top of the eleventh against Bryan Mitchell, who had moved back to pitching from first base to replace Chapman at the start of the inning.  

It was a frustrating set of circumstances that led to the lost DH but I do not fault Girardi for trying to get creative.  With a depleted bullpen, the Yankees did not have the men for an extended extra inning affair.  I would have preferred to have seen Holliday batting in the tenth with the winning run 90 feet away but you cannot fault Girardi’s logic.  He was trying to win a game and it could have (coulda, woulda, shoulda) worked out.  

I am not going to worry about a loss on April 30th.  The Yankees are still playing very well, and there’s nothing about yesterday’s loss that can detract from the excitement about the team.  If the Yankee took two games out of three for every series, they’d be in excellent shape.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Tonight, the Yankees begin a three game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.  After a horrific start to the season, the Blue Jays are starting to win.  They took two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend.  This will be a big test for the young Yankees.

The scheduled pitching match-ups are:

MONDAY

Blue Jays:  Marco Estrada (0-1, 2.70 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (2-1, 3.00 ERA)

TUESDAY

Blue Jays:  Mat Latos (0.00, 3.27 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (3-1, 4.20 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (2-2, 2.97 ERA)

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (2-1, 4.34 ERA)

The former Yankees in this series are Blue Jays starting catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Steve Pearce.

Speaking of ex-Yankees, infielder Pete Kozma, who had been designated for assignment when Didi Gregorius returned, has been claimed by the Texas Rangers.  To make room for Kozma, the Rangers demoted former top prospect Jurickson Profar to Triple-A.  Best of luck to Kozma and thanks to him for his brief efforts in the Bronx.

As for current Yankees, catcher Gary Sanchez begins a rehab assignment with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tomorrow with eyes on returning this weekend at Wrigley Field in Chicago.  

Have a great Monday!  Let’s get this machine back in the win column!

Who Was That Masked Man?…

On Saturday, the Yankees were led by slugging outfielder Brett Gardner and the Hit Machine, Austin “So Fine” Romine.  Wait a minute!  Say what?  You’re friggin’ kidding me, right?  Gardner entered the game hitting .188 with no home runs or RBI’s.  Romine, a seemingly career minor leaguer until he finally became a Major League back up last year at age 27, came into the game with a more respectable .277, but only a single homer and five RBI’s.  On Saturday, the two went off for combined nine RBI’s as the Yankees throttled the Baltimore Orioles, 12-4.  The Yankees, in scoring 26 runs in two victories, have ensured that they’ll leave April, pending the outcome of today’s game, no worse than tied for the American League East lead.

Gardner hit not one but two home runs in doing his best impersonation of Aaron Judge, albeit a short one, and drove in four Yankees runs.  His 2-for-4 performance raised his batting average above .200 (to .206).  With a 2-for-3 day (which also included a home run), Romine boosted his average to .300 and bested Gardner’s RBI total by one.  I really didn’t expect Romine to start on Saturday after catching Friday night’s game, but I am glad Manager Joe Girardi penciled his name in.  By the way, Aaron Judge sent one out but that’s getting to be old news.  The big news anymore is the days he doesn’t send a ball screaming out of Yankee Stadium at record speed.  Seriously, Judge is locked in right now and is tied with Khris Davis of the Oakland A’s for the most home runs in the American League with ten.  Things are going so well for Judge, he even stole a base against the O’s, with footsteps that must have reverberated throughout the Stadium as the big man ran toward third.  

Credit:  Al Bello/Getty Images

Michael Pineda was the winning pitcher with 5 1/3 innings of work.  He got into some trouble in the sixth inning when Manny Machado doubled and subsequently scored on a Chase Headley throwing error.  Girardi had a quick hook and pulled Pineda despite the 7-1 lead to avoid a potential return to “Bad Mike”.  Big Mike’s day finished with five hits, two runs (although none earned), one walk, and eight strikeouts.  He picked up his third win (3-1) of the year.  

The Yankees are 15-7, and a game up on the Orioles for the AL East lead.  Aaron Judge is on pace for 74 home runs (I know, it’s not sustainable) and this is an absolutely fun team to watch.  What a difference a year makes!  Last year on April 29th, the Yankees fell to the Boston Red Sox 4-2 to drop their season record to 8-13.  Last April, the 2016 club felt lethargic and old. This year’s team is enthusiastic, supportive and energetic.  I am not saying this is the 1998 Yankees but this is the best team chemistry I have seen since the golden years of the late 90’s.  

Credit:  Noah K Murray/USA TODAY Sports

Today, the Yankees will send Jordan Montgomery to the mound to face the O’s Wade Miley in the finale of the three game series.  The Yankees stay at home to begin a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.

Yankees pitching prospect Chance Adams is soon going to be making noise for Big League consideration.  So far this season, he is dominating Double-A for the Trenton Thunder.  Through four starts, the 22-year-old is 3-0 with 0.82 ERA (13 hits and 2 earned runs in 22 innings).  Although he has walked 10 batters, he was struck out 22.  He’ll no doubt get the call to make the trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre soon and is positioning himself for a possible late-season call-up to the Bronx.  If the Yankees need an emergency starter, I am sure that it would be Chad Green or Luis Cessa.  But Adams is ensuring that his name will soon be in the conversation.  Good problems to have.

News around Baseball the last few days has shown the risk of making big trades.  On December 9, 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks packaged promising young shortstop Dansby Swanson, pesky outfielder Ender Inciarte, and pitcher Aaron Blair in a deal to acquire starting pitcher Shelby Miller and a minor leaguer.  Miller has struggled in Arizona and this week it was announced that he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery.  Like James Kaprielian, he won’t be back until late 2018 at the earliest.  Last year on December 7th, the Washington Nationals traded top young pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning to the Chicago White for outfielder Adam Eaton after their failed attempt to acquire Andrew McCutheon from the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Yesterday it was announced that Eaton will miss the remainder of the 2017 season with a torn ACL in his left knee.  Ouch!  These were very high prices to pay for nothing.  I hope that both Miller and Eaton are successful in their respective recoveries and return one day stronger than ever, but it doesn’t help either the D-Backs or the Nationals today.  The Nationals have a World Series contending club and now they need outfield help in addition to the desperate need for a proven closer.  

Have a great Sunday!  I have no desire to see former Yankees manager Buck Showalter gain a victory today…let’s sweep this series!

Hal’s $3 Million Investment for Home Runs…

Credit:  Joe Sargent/Getty Images

What a difference a day makes!  

Chris “All he does is hit home runs”¹ Carter made my Saturday a fun day after Friday night’s loss.  Michael Pineda, like CC Sabathia the day before, did not have his best stuff and only lasted five innings.  I had felt prior to the game that Pineda needed to be at his best with talented young right-hander Jameson Taillon on the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but fortunately, the Yankees were able to get to Taillon (thanks Starlin!).  The game was tied at 5 in the eighth when Chris Carter came to the plate to pinch hit for Dellin Betances.  The inning had looked like it would be over quickly when the first two Yankee batters flied out (if Bird’s fly could have gone just a few more feet…).  But an error by Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier allowed catcher Austin Romine to reach base and shortstop Ronald Torreyes followed with a single.  Carter is paid to do one thing and against Pirates reliever Felipe Rivero, he did it.  His beautiful swing was met with “it is high, it is far, it is gone!”.  The Yankees had taken a commanding 8-5 lead.

The Yankees would score a couple more times that inning, thanks in large part to another error by the Pirates, but the signature moment was the ninth inning even though the game was already out of reach for the Pirates.  In what is becoming a typical day at the office, Aaron Judge got all of an Antonio Bastardo pitch to send the ball screaming 116 mph for a ‘no doubt about it’ home run.  When all was said and done, the ball had traveled 457 feet.  It is starting to feel like not a question of ‘if’ Judge can hit a ball 500 feet, but ‘when’.  Five batters, including Matt Holliday, have hit longer home runs this year (a total of five feet separates the leaders) but it’s only a matter of time before Judge takes charge of the Statcast leaderboard.  

Credit:  Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Yankees won the game, 11-5 .  They head into today’s game with a chance to take the series against an old friend, Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova.  Jordan Montgomery, wearing Nova’s old jersey number, will take the mound for the Yankees.  

Despite the win, the Yankees failed to gain any ground on the Baltimore Orioles (12-4) who took another game from the Boston Red Sox.  So, the Yankees remain 1 1/2 games out of first with an 11-6 record.  I get the feeling that the Red Sox (10-8) will be playing like a wounded dog when the Yankees get to Fenway Park on Tuesday.  

I was glad to see manager Joe Girardi put Aaron Hicks in Saturday’s lineup.  He acknowledged that he needs to find ways to put Hicks’ hot bat into the game.  But really, left field is the only viable solution.  The $153 million man is actually producing in center (he’s still dead to me despite the .323 batting average) and Aaron Judge is becoming a marquee event in right.  Despite Chris Carter’s home run, I still think first base should stay exclusively with Greg Bird.  I know that he’s only hitting .111 after another 0-for-4 performance, but he seems to be hitting the ball well even if they are going for outs.  It is only a matter of time before the balls start falling in (or leaving the park).  I think he’s close to catching fire.  

I always keep an eye on former Yankees to see how they are doing.  I guess it is a Jay Buhner/Fred McGriff disorder, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for former Yankees prospect Rob Segedin.  Traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deal that originally brought Ronald Torreyes to New York, the third baseman recently got another call up to the Dodgers when they placed former Yankees pitcher Rich Hill on the DL.  Two days later, Segedin was on the DL himself with a strained right big toe.  The taste of the Major Leagues can be so elusive for many and it certainly is for the 28-year-old former Yankees third round draft pick.

Credit:  David Crane/Southern California News Group

Have a great Sunday!  Let’s hope this is another Fun Day!  

 ¹A nod to Buddy Ryan’s infamous quote “All he does is catch touchdowns” in reference to Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter.  

The Calm Before The Storm…

“Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.”

—Arthur Ashe

The Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox both won Thursday, so the Yankees find themselves a 1/2 game behind the O’s this morning.  All three teams have ten wins, although the Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox have four, five and six losses, respectively.  Surprisingly, the Tampa Bay Rays have nine wins albeit with eight losses.  The biggest surprise is the cellar dwelling Toronto Blue Jays at 3-12.  It’s still very early with 147 games yet to be played for the Yankees but crucial games are on the horizon.

The AL East is the only division in baseball with at least four teams over .500 although just one game separates every team in the AL Central with just a single win needed to put the bottom of the division at .500.  Again it’s early, but the AL East is one of the most competitive divisions in baseball at this point.

The next week will be a challenge for the new and improved Yankees.  When they complete the current three game set in Pittsburgh, they’ll head to Boston for three games beginning on Tuesday.  They are certain to face Red Sox ace Chris Sale who pitched yesterday and gave a performance that justified Boston’s decision to give up their best hitting and pitching prospects over the winter.  Although he didn’t figure in the extra inning decision, he went eight innings, allowing no runs and four hits.  Walking only one batter, he struck out thirteen.  Unfortunately, he’s in prime shape for his next start.  

After the Boston series, the Yankees return home to face the Baltimore Orioles.  Not to look too far ahead, but these series are followed by the Toronto Blue Jays, the World Champion Chicago Cubs, and arguably baseball’s hottest team, the Houston Astros.

Next week’s schedule represents the most difficult stretch the young Yankees have faced this year so it will be interesting to see how they respond.  The Red Sox and Orioles begin a three game series tonight so on the bright side, they can beat each other up before the Yankees face them.  

I am hopeful that Greg Bird’s bat starts coming around before the team gets to Boston.  Aaron Judge has the “wow” factor with his behemoth home runs in games (and batting practice) but Bird remains the team’s best hitter (potentially) even if the stats don’t show it yet.  I remain convinced he’ll soon be raising eyebrows with his hitting prowess but it would be nice if his offensive show could begin sooner rather than later.  Maybe it’s waiting for him at Fenway Park.

Based on stats, Chase Headley is arguably the current best hitter with a .396 batting average.  He’s off to a great start and admittedly, I didn’t see this coming.  We’ll see if it is sustainable, but for now, he’s a vital part of the lineup.  I wish I felt as good about Jacoby Ellsbury.  Even though he is hitting .302, has stolen four bases and has been Joe Girardi’s clean up hitter of choice in recent games, he just doesn’t do it for me.  Too often, and this is a very generalized statement without digging into the actual stats, it seems like he is underperforming in critical situations.  I really have to wonder if an outfield of Aaron Hicks-Brett Gardner-Aaron Judge is better than Gardner-Ellsbury-Judge.  The way Hicks is hitting right now, it is.  Gardner is hitting worse than Ellsbury but this probably gets into a debate about who do you trust more.  

Being in Pittsburgh tonight means that Matt Holliday’s bat takes a seat on the bench with no DH.  This probably puts even more pressure to get Hicks into the lineup, especially with the pitchers taking at-bat’s.  Both Gardy and Bird need to start mixing in a few hits.  

Have a wonderful Friday!  Let’s make this two in a row tonight!

Warp Speed to Opening 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.

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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.

Matt Holliday

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.

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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.