Tagged: Jonathan Holder

4th of July Fireworks in the Bronx…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Yankees take Braves Series with a win…

It may not have been a no-hitter like Dave “Rags” Righetti’s no-no in 1983 but I’ll take it. It didn’t look like it would be CC Sabathia’s day when the Braves loaded the bases in the first inning, but, as they say, ‘all’s well that ends well’. Sabathia escaped the first inning jam without giving up a run and he pitched six strong innings, limiting the Braves to  a couple of runs in the fifth and sixth innings, for the 6-2 win.

Credit to Sabathia for the adjustments he has made to become an effective older pitcher. I’ll admit that I had my doubts and I thought he was done just a couple of years ago. Thanks CC for proving me wrong. For all the other issues in the starting rotation, there’s no telling where the Yankees would be without Sabathia. CC improved to 6-3 and maintained his season ERA at 3.02.  

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

I always like games where the Yankees score first and this was one of those games. Didi Gregorious ripped a one-out liner to left inside the foul line for a double in the second inning. After Gleyber Torres struck out for the second out, Greg Bird singled to right, bringing Didi home for the first run.  

The Yankees got more runs in the third inning. Neil Walker led off the bottom of the inning with a single to right. Following outs by Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks drew a walk from Braves starter Julio Teheran. Walker and Hicks came around to score when Giancarlo Stanton blasted a shot to the right field porch to put the Yankees ahead, 4-0. Maybe it’s just me but it sure seems like Giancarlo is starting to crank it up for one of his annual monster tears.  

Kyle Higashioka continued his dislike for anything but round-trippers with a solo shot in the fourth inning, his third consecutive home run to start his Major League career (matching the Yankees record set by Alfonso Soriano).  

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Gleyber Torres exited the game in the top of the 5th inning when the Yankees moved Neil Walker from third to second and inserted Brandon Drury at third. Later we learned Torres was pulled due to the hip flexor issue that had limited him to replacement duties on Tuesday. After the game, Gleyber was placed on the 10-day DL when the MRI results revealed a mild strain. Hopefully Gleyber will only serve the minimum time on the DL and will be back after the All-Star break.

The fifth inning started right for CC Sabathia when he struck out Dansby Swanson, but then he issued a free pass to Ender Inciarte in a 10-pitch at-bat. Ozzie Albies single to center to put runners at the corners. Danny Santana grounded out to second but Inciarte scored on the play for the Braves’ first run. CC was able to escape any further damage by getting Nick Markakis to line out to center.

The Braves got another run in the sixth inning when Johan Camargo deposited a Sabathia pitch into the left field seats. Charlie Culberson, the former LA Dodger who always seems to come up with the big hit, followed Camargo’s homer with a double to left. Manager Aaron Boone stayed with Sabathia who was able to exit the inning by inducing Dansby Swanson to ground out to second.

The seventh inning brought the rested Chad Green into the game, and although the Braves made noise, they had no runs to show for it when all was said and done. Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies both singled to lead off the inning, with Inciarte moving to second. Representing the tying run, both Danny Santana and Nick Markakis hit deep flies off Green to cause momentary alarm but neither was deep enough to do any damage. Subsequently, a double steal advanced the runners to second and third. Kurt Suzuki had a chance to be the hero for the visiting Braves, but he lined out to right on a 2-0 pitch from Green to end the threat.  

Aaron Judge gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eighth when he hit his 24th home run of the season with a blast to right off Braves reliever Luiz Gohara. Hey, Gohara, that ball go far-ah! Well, not too far but it was still deep enough to set off the siren. Don’t worry about it, Mr Gohara, Judge has a tendency to do that to a lot of pitchers. The Judge homer made it 6-2, Yankees.  

Jonathan Holder, another rested arm, entered the game in the ninth in relief of Dellin Betances who had pitched a scoreless, one-hit inning (double by Charlie Culberson) in the eighth with a couple of strike outs. Holder, like Betances, allowed a hit (a single by Ozzie Albies who subsequently advanced to second on defensive indifference), but the runner could not advance beyond second as Holder closed out the game for the Yankees’ win. 

In retrospect, the Yankees could have easily swept this series but taking two of three from the NL East leaders is still a noteworthy accomplishment. I was glad they prevented the Braves from becoming the second NL team to reach 50 wins. The Yankees (56-28) stayed a game behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings. The Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the disappointing Washington Nationals with a 3-0 victory on Wednesday behind a much-improved Eduardo Rodriguez. The Sox are only a win away from becoming MLB’s first 60-game winner.   

The Yankees have a much-needed day off today as they prepare for a weekend series in Toronto, Ontario against the Blue Jays. All eyes will be on Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ when he takes the mound against the Yankees on Saturday. With trade speculation connecting Happ to the Yankees, he has an opportunity to show his potential future teammates what he can do. I guess it’s one of those situations where I want him to pitch really well but still take the loss. There’s a part of me that is quietly hoping GM Brian Cashman is able to pry Jacob deGrom from the New York Mets, but the realist in me knows that is very unlikely. Happ may not be in deGrom’s class, but he’d still represent an experienced improvement for the rotation. He would not shy away from the challenge of taking down the Houston Astros or Boston Red Sox.  

Neil Walker becomes the starter at second base while Gleyber Torres is sidelined. Brandon Drury, who served as the regular starting second baseman for the 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks, is also an option. I am hopeful that some regular playing time will help bring around Walker’s bat to minimize the pain of Gleyber’s loss. Ronald Torreyes is currently on the temporary inactive list with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so he is not expected to be an option to replace Torres on the active roster. Tyler Wade seems most likely, but we’ll see. The Yankees have options given the terrific depth at Triple A.  

A happy belated birthday to Yankees broadcaster John Sterling who celebrated his 80th birthday on the 4th of July (a birthday he shared with the Boss). George Steinbrenner would have been 88 yesterday. Michael Kay paid tribute to Sterling with his home run call for Giancarlo Stanton’s third inning homer using Sterling’s “Giancarlo, non si puo stoparlo” tag line.

Masahiro Tanaka made a rehab start for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders against the Buffalo Bisons on Wednesday. It didn’t start off very good. The first batter singled and the second, Richard Urena, took Tanaka yard for a two-run homer. But Tanaka recovered nicely, retiring fourteen in a row at one point. He finished with five innings of three-hit ball, giving up only the two first inning runs, and struck out four. He didn’t walk anybody, and did not factor into the decision. The RailRiders won the game, 4-2, thanks to a four-run seventh inning that included a double, scoring two runs, by likely call-up candidate Tyler Wade.  

Enjoy the day off. I am sure that with the 4th of July celebrations, we could all use some rest. Tomorrow is a new day, and the Yankees will be back in action north of the border and on a TV near you.  

Go Yankees!

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High-Flying Yankees Invade Florida…

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Another Series Win, check…

What a week! After splitting Monday’s quasi-double-header with the Nationals in Washington, D.C., the Yankees swept the resurgent Seattle Mariners in the Bronx.

The games against the Mariners couldn’t have been more exciting. After a fairly easy win on Tuesday night, Wednesday featured the Yankees’ rally from a 0-5 deficit with a game tying two-run homer in the 8th inning by Gary Sanchez followed by Giancarlo Stanton’s dramatic two-out, two-strike walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th. Yesterday, the Yankees used two first inning two-run dingers by Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar to hold off the M’s for the series sweep.  

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Honestly, I did not expect the Yankees to sweep the Seattle series. The Mariners entered the game 20 games above .500, and were hanging with the Houston Astros atop the AL  West. The M’s left NYC yesterday with a four-game losing streak and 3 1/2 games behind the Astros.  Not a fun week for them. Still, the Mariners are playing much better than people expected when their star player, former Yankee Robinson Cano, was injured and then subsequently suspended for 80 games due to suspected PED use. There’s no doubt with a play or two here and there, the M’s could have easily taken two of the three games.  

I didn’t really get Aaron Boone’s decision to bring in Chasen Shreve to relieve Jonathan Loaisiga during Wednesday’s game. Sure, Loaisiga created the fourth inning mess that had given the Mariners an early 1-0 lead and he departed the game with two outs and runners at first and second, but Shreve did him no favors by allowing a two-run single to Dee Gordon, with both runs charged to Loaisiga. When Shreve entered the game, it felt like it was a great opportunity for the M’s, not the Yankees, and it was. I do not trust the lefty and if there’s a spot in the bullpen that desperately needs an upgrade, it is Shreve. In a bullpen of stars, he is the weakest link.    

Fortunately, after Shreve allowed a couple more runs, Boone made the decision to bring in Jonathan Holder who has been the best reliever not named Dellin Betances in recent weeks. Holder held the M’s scoreless over 2 1/3 innings to set the stage for the late inning heroics by Sanchez and Stanton. For me, Holder’s performance was the key to winning the game. 

I don’t know if it (the dramatic 9th inning game-winning home run) was Giancarlo Stanton’s “signature moment” but it was certainly a huge one for the Yankees and their fans. Stanton benefited from a misplaced pitch but to his credit, he didn’t miss it. Seattle reliever Ryan Cook knew he had made a mistake almost as quickly as the ball had left his hand. Hopefully, for Stanton’s sake, it is a sign of great things to come at Yankee Stadium for the slugger who has been much better on the road than at home ala Sonny Gray.  

On a day when the Yankees used a walk-off home run by #27 to win a game, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders did the same when Zack Zehner, wearing #27, hit a 9th-inning two-run homer to beat the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, 5-3. Very ironic and coincidental.

Yesterday, the Yankees scored four runs on two homers in the first inning against Seattle’s James Paxton, and then had to hold on when Luis Severino did not have his best stuff. Sevy allowed a two-run homer in the second to Kyle Seager and was touched again for a run-scoring single in the sixth inning by former Yankee Ben Gamel to make it a one-run game. The bullpen trio of David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman kept Seattle off the board from there to deliver Sevy his 11th victory of the season and it almost certainly ensures the young right-hander will be part of the AL All-Star team next month.  

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Thursday’s game also featured the first time that both Seattle’s Andrew Romine and his brother, Austin, started the same game.  It seems like that would have happened while Andrew was playing for the Detroit Tigers but it never did. Andrew started at shortstop for the Mariners and was 1-for-4 (seventh inning single; stranded at second) while Austin was 0-for-4, starting at catcher in place of Gary Sanchez. I loved the punch that Andrew threw at Austin while at the plate.  

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

With the Yankees  (50-22) in St Petersburg, Florida to face the Tampa Bay Rays for a weekend series, they enter play today with a two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox (50-26) in the AL East. The Red Sox averted a series sweep by the home team at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN yesterday when they beat the Twins, 9-2, but the two-game lead for the Yankees is the largest they’ve held this month. It’s incredible that both the Yankees and Red Sox are on a path for more than 100 wins and the Yankees have yet to play their best baseball. Yesterday was the first day of summer but it should be a very fun summer for the Yankees and their fans. Somewhere in other Major League cities, there are several talented players and/or pitchers that will soon find themselves on the roster of the greatest team in baseball. No offense to the All-Star Game, but the MLB trading deadline is THE event of July. We’re buyers this year, boys…

The Brandon Drury Watch continues to yield fruit. On Thursday, Drury’s two-run single keyed a series win by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders over the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Drury played first base (second time this season) in the 3-1 win and made some good defensive plays.

A.J. Cole finally got to pitch Tuesday after 22 days as a spectator with a good seat for Yankees games, holding Seattle scoreless over the final two innings in the Yankees’ 7-2 win and now he’s on the 10-day DL. Bummer. Cole apparently suffered a neck strain prior to Wednesday’s game while playing catch. I guess that’s better than landing on the DL after injuring yourself while pulling on your pants like Chicago Cubs closer Brandon Morrow. Luis Cessa, on a rehab assignment with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, was recalled to take Cole’s place. Pardon me if I am feeling a little underwhelmed.

Given the Yankees are back in Florida to play the Rays, it means more starts against “openers”. Ryne Stanek opens tonight. He opened for the Rays last Saturday in New York when the Rays lost to the Yankees, 4-1. Stanek pitched an inning and a third before making way for a more extended stint by Ryan Yarbrough. I expect the same 1-2 formula tonight. Yarbrough hasn’t pitched since Saturday’s game, while Stanek pitched an inning of relief for Blake Snell on Tuesday night when the Rays snapped Houston’s 12-game consecutive win streak. CC Sabathia will open, okay start, for the Yankees. The Rays (34-40) are currently tied for third place in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays, 17 games behind your favorite Pinstripers.

The Rays go with another opener on Saturday (Wilmer Font) against Sonny Gray. As a road game, I am looking for much better things from Gray. Sunday will feature the first legitimate starter for Tampa when the talented Blake Snell takes the hill. He’ll face the ever-improving Domingo German in what should be a great pitcher’s duel.  

A great time to be a Yankees fan. A great day for a Yankees win.

Go Yankees!

NL MVP Loves Flushing Meadow…

Photo Credit: New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Stanton hits 22nd Career Homer at Citi Field…

I should be leading off by saying how instrumental Brett Gardner’s home run off Mets ace Jacob deGrom was to the Yankees’ 4-1 victory over the Mets or the brilliant job Masahiro Tanaka did after giving up the lead off right field upper deck homer to Brandon Nimmo, but watching Giancarlo Stanton go yard, even if it was just a tack-on run, was a game highlight for me.

We know Stanton will eventually get hot and start hitting home runs seemingly every day.  Maybe this is the start. His homer was the 22nd of his career at Citi Field. In 109 career games against the Mets, Stanton has 36 home runs and 82 RBIs. It is the most career homers he has against any opponent. The next closest opponent is the team the Yankees face for a two-game series starting Tuesday (the Washington Nationals). Stanton has 34 career homers against the Nats. Then, it’s the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that has lost its best starting pitcher (Chris Archer, injury-DL) and best reliever (Alex Colome, trade to Mariners). It is easy to see how this could be the start of a very hot summer for Giancarlo.

Brett Gardner, the veteran easily written off by most Yankees fans at the start of the year, provided the hit that powered the victory. With Jacob deGrom pitching like he always does against the Yankees (dominating) and a deadlocked game at 1-1 in the eighth inning, Gardy’s two-run homer off deGrom gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish. On a team filled with big sluggers, Gardner is the unlikely hero but there he is leading by example time and again.

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

As for deGrom, I couldn’t help but imagine how he’d look in Pinstripes. Honestly, I do not think the Mets would ever trade their ace to the Yankees but realistically it does make sense. The Mets could garner a boatload of top prospects from their NYC rivals which would help restore some luster in Queens, even if it meant watching deGrom win a World Series championship, or two or three…, with the Yankees.

Credit to Masahiro Tanaka for shaking off the Nimmo dinger to start the game. He got the obligatory home run out of the way early. I am worried that he left the game with hamstring tightness, but before he departed, he did not allow another hit to the Mets and recorded eight strikeouts before his early departure after completing five innings. Not to be confused with Shohei Ohtani at bat, Tanaka reached base in the top of the sixth inning, thanks to an  uncharacteristic fielding error by Mets first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Tanaka worked his way to third with a single by Gleyber Torres and a walk by Brett Gardner. Aaron Judge’s fly to right brought Tanaka running home to score the run to tie the game, but something did seem wrong with his body language as there was no excitement in his face as he walked back to the Yankees dugout. He left the game with what was described as hamstring tightness and will undergo further tests today. Hopefully this is nothing serious. Naturally, the apparent injury brought back memories of Chien-Ming Wang who was never the same after suffering a foot injury in a National League park. I have never been against the lack of a DH in the NL except for the risk to AL pitchers who do not regularly come to the plate with bat in hand. It puts them at an obvious disadvantage and opens the possibility of unnecessary injury.

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

The Yankees bullpen also gets kudos for keeping the Mets off the board to set the stage for the late game heroics by Gardy and Giancarlo. Jonathan Holder, Chad Green, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman combined for four innings of three-hit, scoreless relief. Green gave up two hits but struck out two, including an inning-ending strikeout of Devin Mesoraco, to stifle a potential Mets rally. Courtesy of Gardy’s homer to follow the next inning, Green (4-0) picked up the vulture win. For Chapman, it was his 16th save of the season. The Mets had the tying run at the plate when Chappy hit a batter and another reached on an infield hit, but he induced a fly out by slugger Jay Bruce to end the game. Trainer Steve Donahue visited Chapman while he was on the mound but he stayed in the game. He has apparently been dealing with tendonitis in his left knee, although Aaron Boone said after the game it was “no big deal”. I hope not. Chapman, for all his sweatiness, has been fantastic this year. Quietly, I have enjoyed the performances of Betances lately. In his most recent games, Aaron Boone hasn’t tried to squeeze more than an inning out of Betances and it has yielded very good results. So credit to Boonie for making good use of the pen. The Mets, for as miserable as they’ve been at times this year, have the bats to get back into a game in a hurry.

The Yankees (41-18) leaped over the Boston Red Sox (43-21) in the AL East by a half-game with the victory. Chris Sale pitched masterfully against his former club, the Chicago White Sox, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox used Dylan Covey and their bullpen to shutout Boston, 1-0. It was the third consecutive loss for Sale.  Too bad, so sad. Um, not really.

If the Yankees have to pull a spot starter out of the minor leagues, I fully expect Jonathan Loaisiga to get the call. The 23-year-old righty is 6-0 with 2.30 ERA this year with High A-Tampa and Double A-Trenton. The only concern is that he has yet to pitch at the Triple A level. He has a spot on the 40-man roster which gives him an “arm” up on the guys who are not.  Justus Sheffield certainly threw his name into the hat with yesterday’s outstanding performance. He only gave up one hit and two runs (none earned) in six innings of work to help power the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders to a 4-3 win over the Louisville Bats in front of a packed house at PNC Field in Moosic, PA. Top Sheff did walk three batters and threw a wild pitch but he struck out eight to pick up his first Triple A win this year. There’s no doubt Sheffield will make his Major League debut this year. It is just a matter of whether it will be sooner or later.

Photo Credit: Todd Hiller

Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors and the Washington Capitals for their championships in the NBA and NHL, respectively. Championships are old hat for the Warriors but it was exciting to see the Capitals win their first, especially for their great player and captain, Alex Ovechkin. Somehow it didn’t seem right for the Las Vegas Golden Knights to win a championship in their inaugural year so I was happy to see the Caps emerge as the Stanley Cup Champions. Plus the Golden Knights had knocked my team (the San Jose Sharks) out of the playoffs so it was sweet revenge.

Today is a new day but a good day to continue the Mets losing streak. Go Domingo German and, as always, Go Yankees!

Turbulent World Series Dreams…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

The Sky is Falling…

Unlike TGP’s fearless leader, Daniel Burch, I did not wake up in a happy, cheerful and loving mood. Sorry. I know, all things considered, things could be worse. But the last couple of days have not been enjoyable. We’re Yankees fans. We want and expect nothing less than complete dominance and success. The 2018 Yankees have a roster capable of playing, hit-for-hit and pitch-for-pitch, with the best teams in Major League Baseball. But while other teams revel in early success, the Yankees are getting off to a sluggish start.

I get it…we’re only eight games into the season and there are still 154 games to play (or the length of the regular season games when Babe Ruth and his friends played). It’s not the end of the World and there are many, many games before the AL East is decided.

The Yankees lost a heart-breaker last night in extra innings. The Baltimore Orioles took the second game of the series, thanks to a grand slam by catcher Caleb Joseph in the top of fourteenth inning, winning 7-3. Despite fighting back to tie the game multiple times, the home team could never take the lead and were inches from victory in the bottom of the eleventh when Orioles reliever Mychal Givens threw a wild pitch and Didi tried to score from third. Givens came sliding across the plate to block Didi and take the throw from catcher Caleb Joseph to tag the out.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

For those of you who feel Aaron Judge owns the Orioles, I’d have to counter Buck Showalter owns the Yankees…at least for the first two games of the season series. George Steinbrenner is probably rolling over in his grave.

The Yankees fell to 4-4 and trail the Boston Red Sox by 2 1/2 games in the AL East. The Red Sox are on a roll, winners of six straight while they ride their cream puff schedule. The Toronto Blue Jays are a game ahead of the Yankees. It’s early but so far the Red Sox and the Houston Astros appear to be the early class of the AL. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have also started the season strong (Shohei Otani homered for the third consecutive game) and the  improved Minnesota Twins, as expected, lead their division.

Last night’s loss was more costly than just the score. Four Yankees were pulled from the game for various ailments. CC Sabathia exited after four innings with a right hip strain, Brandon Drury was replaced by pinch-hitter Ronald Torreyes in the bottom of the sixth (Toe stayed in the game at third; we later learned Drury is suffering from migraine headaches and blurred vision), Neil Walker slid over to second base from first in the top of the ninth to replace Tyler Wade (suffering from the flu), and Gary Sanchez left the game during the fateful fourteenth inning with a leg cramp.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Yankees also checked on the health of closer Aroldis Chapman during a ninth inning visit by when it was observed that the Cuban Missile’s velocity was down. Chapman blamed it on a cold night.

An MRI after the game revealed no issues for Sabathia, however, the Yankees placed him on the 10-day DL earlier today. Drury was also placed on the disabled list. Jonathan Holder, the reliever on the mound when Caleb Joseph hit the game-winning grand slam for the Orioles last night, was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. RHPs Domingo German and Luis Cessa (ugh!) were promoted to the big league club.  Also, the Yankees signed IF/OF Jace Peterson to a Major League contract. Peterson was 1-for-4 with a strikeout in the RailRiders’ season-opening win last night. Peterson’s time with the Yankees appears to be over when Drury comes back since he’ll most likely be placed on waivers (rather than kept on the 40-man roster). It could end sooner given the expected return of OF Aaron Hicks in a few days.

Sabathia is only expected to miss one start. As for Drury, we won’t really know anything until Monday when he undergoes testing to determine the cause of the migraine headaches. An avowed Minnesota Vikings fan, it was frustrating for years when former Viking Percy Harvin struggled with migraines. I hope Drury’s problem is not as severe as the one that afflicted the very talented Harvin.

I haven’t figured out how this impacts the 40-man roster yet. The Yankees recently moved reliever Ben Heller to the 60-day DL which freed up a spot but the Yankees acquired third baseman Cody Asche. Even though Asche was optioned to Triple A, MLB.com is showing Asche on the 40-man roster. It would seem that something’s got to give to make room on the active roster for Peterson. I could be looking at this wrong. I’ve seen comments that the 40th spot was opened when the Yankees waived Trayce Thompson, who briefly took Heller’s spot, but that does not account for why MLB.com and the RailRiders website are showing Asche on the 40-man roster.  Maybe Asche was never truly on the 40-man and the sites are in error. Who knows? The Yankees and MLB have this figured out so I don’t need to.

I am not happy about Cessa on the big league roster.  He’s been my ideal DFA candidate for some time. I truly hope the Yankees use German over Cessa to make CC’s next start (which should be next Saturday). I’ve seen enough of Cessa to know that he is not a reliable starting pitcher. Let’s see how his stuff plays in limited spots in the bullpen. I’d rather take that chance over giving opposing teams multiple looks at the pedestrian pitcher when he is on the mound. German won me over with a very strong Spring so I’d like to see him get his first audition in the rotation.

Peterson, playing left field today, is not going to scare anybody with his bat.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

In the off-season, everybody (except maybe me) wanted Miguel Andujar as the starting third baseman for the Pinstripers. I wanted the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier and was subsequently supportive of the Drury acquisition. Well, here we are. Andujar is now your starting third baseman. This season, Andujar is 0-for-12 with no walks and four strikeouts. He is on the fast track to reach Kyle Higashioka’s 0-for-18 performance from last year. At least Higashioka managed to mix in a couple of walks and runs. I know, Andujar WILL hit. But obviously I’d prefer sooner than later. Never a better time to start than today.

Hopefully the Yankees can get into a groove and starting winning games. There are still two games to salvage at least a tie in the series with the O’s. Things will look much better if the Yankees can emerge from the weekend with a 6-4 record.

Here’s to hoping that today is a better day. Go Yankees!

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Winslow Townson)

Ty, Ty, Tyler Again…

On a wing and a prayer. Unfortunately, that’s life with Greg Bird as your first baseman.

The Yankees Universe collectively groaned a sigh of disappointment when Bird was pulled before the start of an exhibition game with the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista, FL at the Walt Disney Resort yesterday with an apparent foot injury. He underwent an MRI and a CT scan yesterday afternoon and it was determined that he had right foot inflammation. It is in the same general area where he had ankle surgery last summer to remove excessive bone growth. The reason for the inflammation is not currently known.

Bird will see noted New York Orthopaedic Surgeon Martin J. O’Malley in the Upper East Side on Monday to determine the cause of the inflammation.

Every year, it seems like it is something with the talented but fragile first baseman. He missed the entire 2016 season following shoulder surgery. Then last year, the foot injury at the end of training camp led to the eventual ankle surgery in July which limited him to 48 games although he did have a memorable post-season.

If Bird is forced to the disabled list, Tyler Austin appears to be the beneficiary. GM Brian Cashman has indicated that the Yankees will use in-house options. Neil Walker has been mentioned as a possibility, but it’s hard to envision the second baseman as the regular first baseman. Backup or platoon maybe. Brandon Drury played first base in the minors but he is firmly planted as the third baseman. The Yankees always seem to be looking for alternatives to Austin (for whatever reason), so it is not a given that Austin will make the roster if Bird cannot.

When Austin was forced to move from DH to first base to replace Bird for the game against the Braves, the Yankees pulled first baseman Ryan McBroom out of the minor league camp for DH duties. McBroom, the return when the Yankees traded Rob Refsnyder last year, responded with a home run and a run-scoring single (the latter hit produced two runs but the second one was courtesy of a throwing error). McBroom will be 26 in a couple of weeks but he has never played above Double A. Another option surfaced on Saturday when the Seattle Mariners returned Rule 5 draftee Mike Ford to the Yankees. He was assigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Ford batted .259 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 54 at-bats for the Mariners this Spring, but regular first baseman Ryon Healy returned from hand surgery sooner than expected and Daniel Vogelbach won the backup job as the team’s hottest hitter in camp. So Ford didn’t do a bad job for the M’s…it was just a numbers game. Between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, Ford batted .270/.404/.471 with .875 OPS to go with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs. The guess is that Austin gets the job if Bird is not ready, but Ford looms as a potential option.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Chris Carlson)

I really like Greg Bird as a player and his swing is a thing of beauty. But the succession of injuries is taxing to say the least. I will continue to hope for the best and I am trying to be optimistic that the latest inflammation is not a sign of much deeper problems. Let’s hope that Bird receives positive news from Dr O’Malley tomorrow and the foot inflammation is solved with treatment and rest.

With Ford’s return, the Yankees have recaptured two of the four players taken in last December’s Rule 5 Draft. Anyelo Gomez was previously returned to the Yankees by the Braves.  The Baltimore Orioles designated Jose Mesa, Jr for assignment on March 21st when they signed free agent Alex Cobb. If Joe Table, Jr clears waivers, he’ll be offered back to the Yankees. Nestor Cortes, Jr remains in Orioles camp and is the scheduled starter in today’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun

I’ve seen a lot of negative reaction from the Yankees fan base over the decision to give RHP Jonathan Holder the final spot on the Opening Day roster over Domingo German. I don’t get it. With the RailRiders, German can continue to start and will be stretched out if/when the Yankees need an emergency or extra starter. I’d prefer that to German sitting in the bullpen waiting for opportunities. Some fans seem to think the Opening Day roster is etched in stone.  If we’ve learned anything, the final spots on the roster are very fluid with movement aboard the Scranton Shuttle.

Baseball is tough.  It’s hard to believe that closer Greg Holland has been unable to find a job.  He had 41 saves in 2017 for the Colorado Rockies. He turned down an off-season offer from the Rockies and their money went to new closer Wade Davis. I keep hearing that teams continue to stay away from Holland due to his asking price. At what point does Holland say ‘uncle’ and accept an offer simply to play? Same with Mark Reynolds who hit 30 home runs last season for the Rockies. I feel bad for the guys who can still play the game at its highest level but can’t find a job. The next few days will be even tougher as teams make the necessary cuts to reach their 25-man rosters. You wonder if it is the end of the line for older players like Jayson Werth, Jose Bautista and Matt Holliday. Scott Kazmir, part of the salary dump that sent outfielder Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers, was released by the Braves yesterday. He had exited the game against the Yankees with left arm fatigue (after reportedly having thrown 90-100 pitches in a bullpen session last Wednesday). Despite on the hook for $16 million, the Braves opted to part ways with the left-hander who missed the 2017 season with injuries. Now, Kazmir is one of many on the unemployment line (although I am fairly confident the $16 million will help him pay bills while he looks for a new job).

Today is the final day in Florida for the Yankees. After today’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, the Yankees will head for Atlanta, GA to play the Braves at SunTrust Park on Monday. Then, MLB camp is done. The Gang of 25 will head to Toronto and the Aaron Boone Era will officially begin with Opening Day on Thursday against the AL East rival Blue Jays. It’s almost time.

To borrow words from the great John Sterling, let’s give the team a “Stanton ovation”! It’s going to be a very exciting season. Go Yankees!

Let’s Put the Red Sox in the Rearview Mirror…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Losing to Boston is ALWAYS unacceptable…

It was just a meaningless Spring game but I hate, really despise, losing to the Boston Red Sox. The game proves nothing regarding the American League East or the nineteen games the two teams will play in the regular season. Yet, I do not enjoy watching the Red Sox walking off the field in celebration under any circumstances. TGP’s Daniel Burch, who has been in fine prediction mode lately, feels that the Yankees will win the AL East by four games over the Red Sox. I hope he’s right. I would love nothing better than the Red Sox Nation in full anxiety and dread at the end of the season despite their flashy new toy (J.D. Martinez).

On Friday, the Red Sux (oops, sorry for the typo) blanked the Yankees, 5-0, behind starter Brian Johnson. Johnson, 27, a lefty, pitched 4 2/3 innings and held the Yankees, which featured Aaron Judge batting leadoff for the “Stripers” (Boone’s word, not mine), to only two hits while striking out five. After the game, Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced that Johnson had made the Opening Day Roster and will be in the starting rotation. Johnson has been solid all Spring (and is out of options) but beating the Yankees convincingly certainly helps one’s case.

The scare of the game occurred when Johnson hit Brandon Drury with a pitch in the fifth inning. The ball came in high and inside, striking the Yankees third baseman above the left elbow. He seemed to shake it off and took first base. But after Neil Walker ripped a ground rule double to left, moving Drury to third, he departed the game for a pinch runner after realizing the arm was swelling. Test results after the game proved negative so hopefully Drury will be back within a few days and will not miss Opening Day.

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Later in the day, Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants showed how quickly you can lose one of your star players. MadBum took a liner off the hand which broke the fifth metacarpal of his pitching hand and will miss 4-6 weeks. It reinforced how lucky the Yankees were in not losing Drury for an extended period. No time frame for Drury was given but for now he’s day-to-day. This morning, Drury said that he is feeling better but will take a rest day. His plan, assuming all goes well, is to resume baseball activities tomorrow. His intent is to be ready for Opening Day.

The Yankees play split squad games today against the Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves and the scheduled third base starters are Miguel Andujar and Tyler Wade, respectively. Drury had been scheduled for the Blue Jays game but the Yankees pulled Andujar out of Minor League camp to make the start.

The Yankees continued reducing the roster yesterday in the ‘March to 25’. Luis Cessa, who has certainly lost my support (as if that matters to Aaron Boone), was optioned to Triple A and left-handed reliever Wade LeBlanc was provided his release. With the elimination of competition for a bullpen role, Chasen Shreve responded by giving up a two-run homer yesterday to Boston’s Sam Travis and allowed three total runs while on the mound for one inning of work even if one of those runs was charged to Tanaka. Shreve’s fault; not Tanaka which proves the fallacy of ERA. Hopefully Shreve rises to the occasion for the regular season and matches the performance of his stellar bullpen mates and doesn’t become the pitching staff’s weakest link. LeBlanc wasn’t unemployed for long as he was picked up by the Seattle Mariners today, signing a Major League contract. The M’s lost former Yankee David Phelps earlier this week when it was announced that he’d need Tommy John surgery.

In the latest roster move, the Yankees optioned Domingo German to Triple A which probably means RHP Jonathan Holder has made the Opening Day roster as the 13th man. I hope so. I am pulling for Holder to emerge as a key weapon in the pen. With David Robertson due to hit to free agent market after the season (which I absolutely hate to see), young guys like Holder will need to step up. D-Rob presents a dilemma. Do you trade him at the deadline or do you let him walk away at the end of the year for nothing? If the Yankees are in the heart of a pennant race (which we expect them to be), D-Rob is critical for mission success in October.  But conversely, he could bring in quality prospects as a rental for another contending team in need of relief help in July. If other young arms like Holder prove that they can be this year’s Chad Green, Robertson might be expendable (which tortures me to write). I do not envy GM Brian Cashman for the decisions ahead.

Congratulations to Miguel Andujar! An-DU-jar received the James P Dawson award for the best rookie in camp this year. When the calendar flips to October this season, there’s no doubt that the 2018 Yankees will have been powered, in part, by the young Andujar. In other words, I fully expect him to make a significant contribution for the team this year even if he doesn’t get to travel to Toronto next week for the start of the regular season.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

There are some ex-Yankees that I continue to pull for and RHP Bryan Mitchell is no exception.  However, it was very painful to watch last night’s exhibition game between the San Diego Padres and the Texas Rangers. Joey Gallo hammered two home runs off Mitchell, who gave up seven runs over four innings. Mitchell was saved from the loss when the Padres erased the seven-run deficit by scoring nine runs. Not pretty for the former Yankee but he is still expected to be part of the starting rotation for the Padres this year. Hopefully the regular season will be much kinder to him. It was weird watching Chase Headley in Padres gear (and sporting a beard like Mitchell) with his familiar batting swing but there’s no doubt I prefer Brandon Drury and Miguel Andujar at third for the Yankees. Sorry Chase, I appreciate your contributions to Pinstripes but I am glad you are in the land of Sunny and 74 degrees.

Photo Credit: Getty Images North America (Patrick Smith)

After today, the Yankees have only two Spring games left. Today’s split-squad game against the Blue Jays represents the final game at Steinbrenner Field. Tomorrow, the Yankees travel to Port Charlotte to face the Tampa Bay Rays. On Monday, they go to Atlanta to face the Braves at SunTrust Park and the Spring schedule will be done. The roster of 25 will make their way to Ontario for Thursday afternoon’s opener against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The road to the World Series begins now. We got this.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)

Go Yankees!

On A Clear Day, I Can See Toronto…

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The Dog Days of Spring…

One week to go until the games become “real”. The thought of Toronto, Canada on a day in late March gives me a rather chilly feeling but watching the Yankees play brings the necessary warmth. The current weather forecast calls for cloudy skies with an expected high of 47 degrees and a 20% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, the temp inside the Rogers Centre should be very comfortable for the away team. Let the homers begin!

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

It sounds like Manager Aaron Boone intends to have his 25-man roster in place by the weekend. I was surprised to see that first baseman Tyler Austin didn’t make the cut. I assume that places Neil Walker and Austin Romine as the backup first basemen. The speculation is that the Yankees will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. We know that Tyler Wade has made the team as the second baseman and Brandon Drury will be the starter at third. So, the bench appears to be Austin Romine, Neil Walker, and Ronald Torreyes as it appears that neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier will be ready. Under this scenario, the Yankees won’t carry a fifth outfielder with Ellsbury expected to open the season on the disabled list. The outfield rotation would be limited to the four outfielders currently in play (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) using the DH slot primarily for Stanton and Judge. This is where multi-position versatility is very helpful. Although Drury has only played third base for the Yankees, he was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and he has also seen time in the outfield for the Snakes. Torreyes as the emergency catcher is funny but it makes sense. Walker will be all over the infield except shortstop and catcher.

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

So it appears the critical decision with be the 13th pitcher.  Luis Cessa simply no longer has my trust or support. I do not want him as the rotation’s “sixth man” and after a good Spring, I feel much better about Domingo German in that role. I thought this would be the breakout year for Ben Heller but he had a few rough outings recently and has found himself with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. There is still time for him to shine but it won’t be at the start of the season. I really like Jonathan Holder. He blazed through the Yankees farm system until struggling last year. I am convinced he will be much stronger this year. So, for me, I’d like to see either German or Holder get the last spot on the 25-man roster. German would be a true long man, but if the Yankees need an emergency starter, there’s always the Scranton Shuttle. I’d probably go with Holder to start the season but like last year, the final spot on the roster will be very fluid.

I was surprised to see the return of Rule 5 draftee Anyelo Gomez from the Atlanta Braves.  We know that the Braves will be bad this year. I thought they’d bite the bullet and keep Gomez on the MLB roster all season to keep the talented young pitcher. But Gomez’s performance spiraled downward as the MLB-caliber competition in exhibition games increased and it led to Atlanta’s decision to offer Gomez back to the Yankees. Similarly, Jose Mesa, Jr has struggled with the Baltimore Orioles and he was designated for assignment this week when the O’s signed free agent pitcher Alex Cobb. If Mesa clears waivers, the O’s will have to offer him back to the Yankees. So, this leaves only Nestor Cortes, Jr (Orioles) and Mike Ford (Mariners) as the only Rule 5 draftees still with the teams that selected them from the Yankees in December. I remain convinced Cortes will make the O’s Opening Day Roster despite the three-run homer that he gave up to Aaron Judge in yesterday’s exhibition game. I still expect Ford to be offered back to the Yankees by the Mariners in a numbers crunch at first base.

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

Speaking of the Mariners, I was saddened to learn that former Yankees reliever David Phelps will miss the upcoming season with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. I thought it was cool that Ichiro Suzuki had followed Phelps to the Yankees, Miami Marlins and then back to Seattle. Now, it appears their reunion on the active regular season roster will be delayed assuming that Ichiro continues to play for the M’s beyond this year. We wish David the very best with his surgery and recovery.  Hope to see him back in the Mariners’ bullpen sometime next year and as good as ever (except when he pitches against the Yankees, of course).

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Photo Credit: Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)

If you have a subscription to The Athletic, you should be sure to check out Marc Carig’s piece this morning on Brandon Drury entitled “Brandon Drury brings a serious edge to Yankees clubhouse”. Drury has become one of my favorite players in a short period of time. I love his quiet intensity. Like many believe including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I feel very strongly that Drury’s best days are ahead. I think he’ll be a force at third base and will make us forget we ever knew Chase Headley or Todd Frazier. I am very pleased to see Carig covering the Yankees again after a few years away on the Mets beat. He’s an excellent writer and very insightful. Solid work, once again, by Carig.

It’s been tough with no televised Yankees games for the last few days. Fortunately, the Yankees will be on ESPN2 this afternoon against Jake Cave and the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen the lineups for the game yet but hopefully we’ll see Cave. I haven’t been following the Twins so I assume that Cave is remains in the Major League camp. The scheduled starter for the Twins will be former Yankee Phil Hughes.

7 Days to Toronto. I’m ready. You’re ready. They’re ready. Let’s Go Yankees!