|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)|
Johnny Lasagna captures first MLB win in debut…
The much-anticipated Major League debut of Jonathan Loaisiga, a/k/a Johnny Lasagna, was a great success. Domingo German didn’t win his first game until Thursday, his seventh start of the season and his 12th appearance overall. Loaisiga, who was in Double A earlier this week, delivered five solid innings, holding the Tampa Bay Rays to three hits and no runs, en route to the Yankees’ 5-0 win. He threw 91 pitches, while walking an uncharacteristic four walks for the strike-thrower and sending six to the bench by strikeout.
I’d blame the walks on jitters for pitching at Yankee Stadium for the first time but Loaisiga had the calmness of a savvy veteran on the mound. A very good impression left by the young right-hander who picked up first first Major League win. During the game, someone tweeted that Domingo German and Loaisiga are better than last year’s duo of Luis Cessa and Caleb Smith. That’s an understatement. When Cessa pitches, I always feel it’s inevitable he’ll give up 3 to 4 early runs and the team will need to rely upon its offense for any hope. To Smith’s defense, he has pitched much better for the Miami Marlins this year (5-6, 3.75 ERA, 83 strikeouts in 72 innings) but he certainly didn’t “wow” anyone last year like German and Loaisiga have done. His Yankees career stands at 0-1, 7.71 ERA in nine games (two starts).
The nice thing about the respective jobs this year’s rookie pitchers have provided is the elimination of the immediate desperation for the Yankees to acquire proven Major League pitching talent for the stretch run. Sure, the Yankees will no doubt acquire another proven starter by the July trading deadline but the performance of the young guys will help GM Brian Cashman to acquire pitching on his terms as opposed to other team smelling blood in the water and circling the Yankees with demands of over-payment.
I thought the fourth inning was a terrific moment for Loaisiga. With one out, Wilson Ramos recorded the first hit off Loaisiga with a single to right. A ground out by Joey Wendle moved Ramos to second for the second out of the inning, but the Rays loaded the bases on another single and a walk. Yankee Stadium and the pressure of the situation could have been overwhelming for Loaisiga but after several mound visits, Loaisiga was able to settle down and ended the threat with a strikeout of Christian Arroyo (the return for when the Rays traded Yankee killer Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants). It was a huge moment for the youngster, especially with the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead at that point.
Let’s talk about that 1-0 advantage. Didi Gregorius, who disappeared during the month of May (bat, not defense) has returned with a vengeance. His homer to right in the third inning gave the Yankees their first run of the game. He was 3-for-4, with two runs scored and the RBI on the homer. No strikeouts for Sir Didi despite the presence of the hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi on the mound. It’s great to see Gregorius back in form. I had to go back and watch the video replay of Didi’s first Major League home run at Yankee Stadium while he was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks to re-live the excitement on his face and holding the knowledge that he’d one day be a star at the Stadium.
I felt bad for Eovaldi. Well, not bad enough that I wanted to see him emerge with a victory over his former teammates. Nevertheless, it has been a long, hard road for Nasty Nate with his Tommy John surgery, the second of his career, and subsequent injuries since his release by the Yankees. He pitched into the eighth inning and had held the Yankees to two runs until the Yankees loaded the bases on two hits and an intentional walk. Exit Eovaldi and enter fellow multiple Tommy John recipient Jonny Venters, the former Atlanta Braves reliever, who, after striking out Greg Bird, served up a bases clearing double to Gary Sanchez with all the runs charged to Eovaldi. So, the final pitching line does not show how well Eovaldi pitched on this night. I wish him success as he moves forward with his Rays career, but if he pitches too well, he’ll find himself on another team next month.
Hopefully the double is a positive sign for El Gary. The hit helped him evade an ‘0-fer’ night and left him with a season batting average of .189. I’d love to see him follow up with a couple of hits today to get his bat going and return him to his status as one of the key bats in the Yankees lineup. The Yankees need Sanchez playing like we know he can for the long summer ahead.
|Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun|
Another stellar job by the Yankees bullpen. Jonathan Holder, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Adam Warren, in that order, held Tampa to one hit, no runs, a walk and four strikeouts. I wouldn’t want to say anything to Betances right now. He’s like a guy throwing a no-hitter in the late innings. We would not want to jinx that bad boy.
I thought the Yankees would remain in second place in the AL East last night when I went to bed. The Boston Red Sox had jumped all over Seattle Mariners starter James Paxton with six runs (five earned). Paxton couldn’t make it out of the third inning. The Sox had a 6-3 lead when I shut the TV off. It was nice to wake up to news that the Mariners had rallied against Sox starter Rick Porcello and the Boston bullpen for a 7-6 win. The loss dropped Boston (48-23) into a first place tie with the Yankees (45-20) although the better team (Yankees of course) lead by sixteen percentage points (.692 to .676).
To make room for Jonathan Loaisiga, the Yankees optioned Tyler Austin to Triple A. While I wish Austin could have hit well enough to stay, I really hope this eventually leads Brandon Drury back to the Major Leagues where he belongs. I have been intrigued to see what the Yankees have with pitcher A.J. Cole but at this point, he is offering nothing and does not seem to be an option for any meaningful role. Therefore, when the Yankees complete this current stretch of consecutive games, I’d like to see them DFA Cole to open a spot for Drury. I am appreciative of the job Neil Walker has done but I’d trade Walker if necessary to get Drury back to the Bronx. It seems like almost every trade suggestion by Yankees Twitter now includes Drury but I’d love to find a way to keep him and have him provide infield support for Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, and Greg Bird. I’d trade Andujar for the right pitcher to open third base for Drury but of course I’ve been a fan of Drury all along despite the “headaches” he caused the Yankees and their fans.
How great was it to see Andy Pettitte pitching batting practice before yesterday’s game? I love that guy. Friday was Andy’s 46th birthday which made it very appropriate for him to be at Yankee Stadium. He’s in town, along with a number of other former Yankees greats, for Sunday’s Old Timer’s Day. Pettitte has always been one of my favorite Yankees. With no disrespect to Larry Rothschild, I am hopeful that Pettitte will one day return to the Yankees as the team’s pitching coach. There was talk Pettitte might have joined Lance Berkman as his pitching coach if Berkman had gotten the Rice University coaching gig, but that job went to Matt Bragga on Friday. Congratulations to Andy for the recent birth of his first grandchild. Hard to believe that #46 is now a grandfather. Andy looks like he could still suit up for the Yankees and deliver a win.
|Photo Credit: Mike Mazzeo/@MazzNYDN (Twitter)|
It’s Luis Severino day. The Yankees ace (9-2, 2.27 ERA) will be opposed by Tampa’s Ryne Stanek (1-1, 2.76 ERA). Let keep this two-game winning streak going and take the series against the Rays today. It is a good day and a great day for a Yankees victory.
As expected by many, Jonathan Loaisiga (Loh-AYE-see-gah) will make his Major League debut against the division rival Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Yankee Stadium. No pressure. He’ll be pitching for baseball’s best team in America’s greatest ballpark in front of thousands and thousands of rabid Yankees fans.
I do not doubt the potential of Loaisiga’s arm but the concern is that he’s never pitched higher than Double A. In essence, he leap-frogged over higher rated pitching talents like Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams, but the 23-year-old is viewed as having a Major League-ready arm and has the notable advantage of holding a 40-man roster spot which means the Yankees do not have to remove someone from their seat at the table like they would if they called up Sheffield or Adams, or Josh Rogers.
I suppose it’s better to give the young right-hander a shot over an underwhelming name like David Hale or the rehabbing Luis Cessa but I probably would have gone with Sheffield. The Yankees need to place Sheffield on the 40-man roster before December’s Rule 5 Draft so it’s inevitable they’ll soon need to make room. I am not sure why A.J. Cole is still on the Yankees roster. He was routinely in the mix for the back-end of the Washington Nationals rotation the last few years but has never gotten the opportunity to start for the Yankees since his acquisition on April 24th. For basically a month and a half, Cole has primarily been paid to watch the Yankees play, only with a better seat than you or I. Manager Aaron Boone has called upon Cole for a grand total of eleven innings. It’s not his fault that his first name is not Gerrit. Cole (1-0) has been effective in his limited volume of work. In six games, he has only given up one run on six hits for 0.82 ERA. He has walked six batters but has struck out twelve. He started two games for the Nationals to begin the season, and opened with one of the worst pitching lines you’ll ever see (3 2/3 innings, 10 hits, 10 runs) in a 13-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves on April 3rd. In fact, he gave up runs in all four appearances he made for the Nats in April before he was sold to New York for cash. Still, I would give Cole an opportunity based on his MLB experience. There is talent in his arm even if the results have been fleeting. The Yankees either need to use him or lose him to open a 40-man roster spot for a guy like Sheffield. Keeping him around for late inning blowouts seems like a waste of resources.
|Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke|
Loaisiga was born in Managua, Nicarauga in November 1994. He originally signed with the San Francisco Giants, but missed the 2014 and 2015 seasons due to injury and had Tommy John surgery in 2016. He is only 5’11” and 165 pounds but according to MLB.com, “While Loaisiga is small and skinny, he has surprising power to this three-pitch repertoire. His quick arm repeatedly generates 93-96 mph fastballs that top out at 98 with life down the strike zone. His low-80s curveball features a high spin rate and his upper-80s changeup has a nice fade, albeit with a bit too much velocity.”
Personally, I would have preferred to have seen Loaisiga, nicknamed Johnny Lasagna, pitch a few games at Triple A. I didn’t really like the Yankees decision to re-sign David Hale who doesn’t have much upside (in my opinion) other than being a below-average, replacement level starter. Loaisiga should have been the starter at Triple A over Hale.
Yesterday’s 3-0 win over the Washington Nationals marked the start of a 16-day, 16 1/2 game schedule before the next day off so the Yankees need to get results from Loaisiga plus continued improvement from Domingo German to hold up the rotation until the Yankees can make trades for more experienced help next month and Masahiro Tanaka returns from the disabled list.
As for the win, it was great to see the return of Sir Didi’s bat. After dominating MLB in April, Gregorius spent May as an imitation of Brendan Ryan. Okay, that’s not fair. The slick-fielding, no-hit Ryan had a mustache. Didi’s two home runs last night helped power the offense, but enough cannot be said about the great job Austin Romine has done as backup catcher this year. Romine was 1-for-2 and his sac fly accounted for a run. During the off-season, it seemed like most people (yeah, me too) wanted the Yankees to sign someone like Alex Avila to backup Gary Sanchez but Romine answered the bell and has been one of the game’s best backup backstops.
The game featured a good performance from the elderly CC Sabathia (4-1). The soon-to-be 38 year old held the Nationals to 4 hits and no runs over 5 2/3 innings. He both walked and struck out three batters on 101 pitches. The bullpen chipped in 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, holding the Nats to only one hit while striking out six batters. Another fine performance by the reinvigorated Dellin Betances and another save for the Cuban Missile (his 18th).
The game was probably one that Bryce Harper would like to forget. I am sure that he’s still getting over the loss by his beloved Las Vegas Golden Knights to his baseball hometown’s Capitals in the Stanley Cup Finals but two unintentional plunking’s by Yankees pitchers last night before he pulled himself from the game did not help.
|Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)|
If Yankees fans, well, some of us, get their way in the off-season, Bryce will have the potential for much better days at Yankee Stadium minus the road grays he wore last night. Realistically, do I think the Yankees will sign Harper? No. Honestly, would I prefer Harper over Giancarlo Stanton? As much as it pains me, yes.
X-rays were negative and Bryce is expected back today for the series finale but let’s hope that memorable days in the Bronx are delayed by at least one game.
The Yankees (43-19) could not gain any ground on the Boston Red Sox (46-22). The Yankees and the Sox are tied atop the AL East although the Yanks lead by 0.018 percentage points. Boston beat the Baltimore Orioles, a team that seems permanently stuck on 19 wins, 6-4. The O’s had their chances and did score two runs in the bottom of the 9th against Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, but Pedro Alvarez, representing the tying run, struck out to end the game. Seriously, I do not see how Buck Showalter can survive this season. It is a sad ending for the former Yankee.
In the category of ‘I don’t know why it took so long’, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders started Brandon Drury at first base in the second game of a double-header against the Rochester Red Wings yesterday. The first game saw Drury’s 32 game on-base streak end. He was 0-for-3 with a run scored (reached base on a fielding error by former Seattle Mariners infielder Taylor Motter, the Ben Gamel look-alike). Drury was 1-for-3 with a triple and 2 RBI’s in the second game to start a new streak. The RailRiders won both games.
The way Drury has played, he deserves a promotion back to the big league club. In 34 games and 112 at-bats for the RailRiders, Drury is hitting .313/.442/.455 with .897 OPS. He has 2 homers and 14 RBI’s. As dismal as Greg Bird has looked at the plate since his return, I’d pull a ‘Torreyes’ on him (unexpected demotion to Triple A) in order to call up Drury. I’d take Drury over either Bird or Tyler Austin right now. We already know that Neil Walker can play decently at first and Drury is capable of learning the nuances of the position. I think it is more important for the Yankees to get Greg Bird going so that’s why he would be my choice for the temporary sabbatical in Pennsylvania over Tyler Austin. For now, Austin and Walker can man first base effectively.
Over the weekend, there was a story about how Drury was unhappy in the Minor Leagues. What is he supposed to say? ‘Ya know, I really like it here in Scranton. The people are nice, the food is good, I don’t have 50,000 fans screaming in my ear’. I want Drury to be unhappy where he is. He has earned the right to be a Major League player and he is one. I have been a fan of the player and I will continue to be regardless of the accomplishments garnered by Miguel Andujar. There’s room for both Andujar and Drury on the Yankees roster.
|Photo Credit: The Scranton Times-Tribune (Butch Comegys)|
It’s a home game today for Sonny Gray so I am a bit concerned. Too bad he can’t wear the road uniform on the mound. Anyway, I hope Gray’s recent resurgence continues and he finally shows that he can be dominant at Yankee Stadium. Let’s sweep the Nats.