Tagged: Jorge Posada

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, Take 2…

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

Let’s Try This Again…

Here we are…Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York! Of course, it’s not a certainty the game will be played given the rain currently in the forecast. According to my weather app, there is an 85% chance of rain at scheduled game time of 4 pm Eastern. Decreasing rains are expected throughout the evening.  Will the game be played or not?  Stay tuned.

If the game is rained out, there is a possibility the Yankees could play a double-header tomorrow. More rain is anticipated, however, the likelihood decreases later in the day. The Rays do not return to New York until Thursday, June 14th for the start of a four-game set. Monday, June 18th is an off day between home series.  Hopefully, the weather cooperates and there is no need to strategically alter the schedule for a makeup game.

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The way the schedule has played out, the Yankees will face the two best (healthy) Rays starters, Chris Archer and Blake Snell. Meanwhile, when the Rays travel to Boston this weekend, they’ll use the bullpen for at least one of the starts with their current four-man rotation. Sure, they go easy on Boston. The Red Sox have clearly benefited from the schedule early. They opened with a four-game set in St Petersburg, FL against the Rays, winning three of the games. They traveled down to Miami yesterday to beat the Marlins in front of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, with another game scheduled for today and their best starter, Chris Sale, on the mound. Then, they’ll fly back to Boston to face the lowly Rays again. The Red Sox do not face a playoff caliber team until they see the Yankees at Fenway Park next Tuesday. Aside from another series at Yankee Stadium in May, the Red Sox do not face a 2017 playoff team again until the end of May/first of June when they travel to Houston. Meanwhile, during that time in addition to the two Boston series, the Yankees face the Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and Washington Nationals.  It doesn’t get any easier for the Pinstripers. Manager Aaron Boone needs to improve his bullpen management in a hurry and the big guys need to hit.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kevin Sousa)

Entering play today, the Red Sox lead the American League East by one game over the Toronto Blue Jays and a game and a half over the beloved Yankees. The Sox have won four consecutive games after losing the season opener against the Rays. I am looking for the Yankees to be aggressive in their series with the Rays and the upcoming weekend set with the Baltimore Orioles before next week’s showdown in Boston. Time to show the Sox the better team wears Pinstripes.

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Former Yankee Stephen Drew has called it quits. I am not quite sure what Daniel Burch will do now with his Stephen Drew Sucks Award. He may have to find a new player to recognize although the Yankees bullpen…presently…is giving him plenty of candidates to choose from. For his Yankees career (2014-15), Drew played in 177 games. He swatted 20 home runs and drove in 59 RBIs. His batting line was a horrific .187/.257/.352. He struck out 107 times in 583 plate appearances, managing to draw only 50 walks. Farewell, Stephen. I hope your post-playing career accomplishments exceed those on the baseball field.

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Photo Credit: USATSI

How good would Bryce Harper look in Pinstripes right now? He belted a three-run homer last night against the Atlanta Braves, and has three home runs on the year and seven RBIs. His batting line is .417/.550/1.167. Here’s $400 million, Mr Harper. Please sign here. We’re keeping #34 warm for you (please don’t pay any attention to the A.J. Burnett stains).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Kevin C Cox)

I saw some tweets yesterday that the Yankees had reacquired Minor League LHP Daniel Camarena, however, I’ve been unable to confirm it. Wikipedia states that he was traded back to the Yankees organization on April 1st. Camarena, originally drafted by the Yankees in 2011, had signed with the Chicago Cubs in January as a minor league free agent. The Yankees could certainly use more lefties at Triple A, but Camarena is still showing on the Iowa Cubs roster and there have been no announcements through either the Cubs website or the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders site. Camarena did not have a great training camp for the Cubbies. He pitched in five games covering 4 1/3 innings. He gave up eight hits and six runs for an inflated 12.46 ERA. He walked two and struck out four. To his defense, he did register two saves. But until his acquisition is confirmed, I don’t know whether to say ‘Welcome back’ or ‘Good luck with the Cubs’. I’ll gladly take any decent left-handed options over the newly signed Oliver Perez.

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Well, here’s hoping there is a break in the afternoon’s storm clouds so that we can play nine.

Go Yankees!

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Three Weeks to Opening Day…

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First day of Spring is March 20th but Life Begins Anew on March 29th

It’s Jorge Posada Day! 20 more days until the start of the regular season and the Yankees walking up to the plate at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada to begin their quest for the 28th World Series championship in franchise history. Hip, hip, Hor-hay! 

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I have to admit I feel badly for third baseman Mike Moustakas. A career high 38 home runs and he gets less money this year than Todd Frazier. For his one year “pillow” contract with the Kansas City Royals, he’ll get $5.5 million with the opportunity to earn an additional $2.2 million in incentives. There is a mutual option for 2019 for $15 million which carries a $1 million buyout. Odds are that the Royals either trade Moose Tacos at the trading deadline or they exercise the buyout next off-season. I bet Moustakas does not make it through the season as a Royal. This shows how truly remarkable it was that GM Brian Cashman was able to get the San Diego Padres to absorb Chase Headley’s $13 million contract by simply attaching RHP Bryan Mitchell, who had no clear role with the Yankees.

 2018 San Diego Padres Photo Day
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Andy Hayt)

I don’t blame the Yankees for not playing in the Moose Tacos sweepstakes. Actually, it appears that no team wanted to play. I liked the idea of Moustakas taking aim at the right field porch in Yankee Stadium, but once the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury (a player I like) to pair with Miguel Andujar, I didn’t give it another thought. The Yankees were never going to offer Moustakas a long-term deal and it didn’t seem wise to forfeit the draft choices (2nd and 5th round picks) and the international bonus pool money for a short-term investment. Last year’s second round draft choice (RHP Matt Sauer) is currently the Yankees’ 12th best prospect according to MLB.com. Considering how strong the Yankees farm system currently is, that’s no small feat and there is good value with high draft selections. I don’t think draft choices alone would have been reason not to sign Moustakas, but all things considered, I feel comfortable with the players currently at third for the Pinstripers.

The Yankees made their first cuts yesterday as the team begins paring down for the Opening Day roster. The first camp casualties were Justus Sheffield, Cale Coshow, Raynel Espinal, Trevor Lane, Chace Numata, and Dillon Tate. In light of the rough day that Sheffield had yesterday against the Philadelphia Phillies, I wish he could have departed under better circumstances. Top Sheff gave up three hits and runs in 1 2/3 innings to balloon his Spring ERA to 11.81. But it was a learning experience and there’s no doubt we’ll see Sheffield in the Bronx at some point later in the season. Better, faster, stronger and we won’t need to rebuild him.

I am starting to see more and more writers and bloggers saying that Tyler Wade is the leader for the second base job. I’ve felt all Spring the Yankees would break camp with Wade as the starting second baseman. Without regard to the delay in service time, I felt (and still feel) that Gleyber Torres will benefit from further experience at Triple A as he continues his road back from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. The guy is so incredibly young although extraordinarily talented.  He’ll make his Major League debut sooner than later in the 2018 season. Once he arrives, I have no doubt he’ll own second base for years to come. In the meantime, I look forward to the opportunity that awaits Tyler Wade.

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Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire (Doug Murray)

While I think Ronald Torreyes will make the Opening Day roster (with non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa opting out of his contract at the end of training camp), it would seem that he is an inevitable candidate for DFA at some point during the season. Once both Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar arrive at the Show to join Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade, there’s simply not going to be any room for Toe. He is the weakest of the group despite how valuable he’s been the last couple of years.

I am glad to hear that Aaron Judge has no current plans to participate with this year’s Home Run Derby.The Derby is fun for the fans but I’d prefer to see Judge focus on rest and relaxation regardless of whether or not he makes this year’s All-Star team. Too many are trying to speculate whether his participation last year was the direct cause for his second half slump. I don’t really care. It’s all water under the bridge now. Judge knows and understands his body better than anyone and I know that he’ll make the right decisions going forward. It was a learning experience. He has won the Derby and there is nothing left to prove. Winning a championship is all that matters.  There’s no doubt Judge knows that better than any of us.

Billy McKinney has proven the Yankees have nothing to fear if they include Clint Frazier in a trade for a starting pitcher. I’ve been very impressed with McKinney’s work with the bat and at first base this Spring. While I think it’s possible that Adam Lind could supplant Tyler Austin as the backup first baseman, McKinney, with more experience at first base, could replace both of them and is an heir-apparent for left field if the Yankees do not re-sign Brett Gardner next off-season and if Frazier is included in the inevitable deal for an upper echelon starting pitcher. McKinney could make his presence felt in the Bronx this year if, Heaven-forbid, injuries strike.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

We’re moving into the “dog days” of training camp. The point where the excitement of Spring baseball is over and the joy and anticipation of Opening Day is starting to seep in. I’m ready and anxious to see the latest Yankees take the field at Yankee Stadium (by way of Rogers Centre, of course).

Go Yankees!

Workin’ on the Weekends…

The First Round continues…

Brian Cashman, the general manager currently working on a handshake deal with Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner, was burning the weekend oil yesterday.

After interviewing Hensley Meulens and Aaron Boone over the previous two days, Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward was in town to meet with Cash on Saturday. I don’t know Woodward and perhaps he may be a wonderful manager one day, but I don’t think he’s the right guy for the job right now. In his post-interview comments, he talked much about what Dave Roberts did. I am less concerned about what Roberts did and more concerned about what Woodward would do. I don’t want Dave Roberts 2.0.  Roberts did an outstanding job, but the new Yankees manager needs to be his own man. I know that Roberts name came up because the questions were asked about how Woodward gained insight working with the man who led the Dodgers to the doorstep of a World Series championship this year. But I really want a manager who is strong and confident in his own words and style. I thought Aaron Boone did a better job addressing the media despite the lack of any coaching experience.

It is well known the Yankees want a manager who will accept analytics and input from the front office. When Woodward was asked about analytics, he responded, “As a coach, it took the progression from Seattle to L.A. for me to understand the benefit of it.” That tells me he didn’t come to fully appreciate analytics until the last two years considering he joined the Dodgers on December 17, 2015.

Maybe I am overly negative about Woodward because I do not really know anything about him. I wasn’t in the room when he talked with Cashman, but he’s probably the least preferred (for me) of the candidates interviewed. I’d rank the candidates, based solely on those who have interviewed, in this order:

YANKEES MANAGER

  1. Hensley Meulens
  2. Aaron Boone
  3. Rob Thomson
  4. Eric Wedge
  5. Chris Woodward

Here is my order for preferred bench coaches:

YANKEES BENCH COACH

  1. Al Pedrique
  2. Eric Wedge
  3. Rob Thomson
  4. Jay Bell
  5. A name that has not expressed interest in coaching or managing…Jorge Posada (if he did have interest, I’d move Hip-Hip-Jorge further up the list)

I feel strongly that Pedrique needs to be part of the 2018 coaching staff. He knows the young Baby Bombers better than anyone. There is no one that has the same level of relationships that he’s built with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier, Jordan Montgomery, Gleyber Torres, Greg Bird, Chance Adams and others. He is credited for believing in a smallish-16 year old Jose Altuve when no one else would. After many other teams, including the Yankees, passed on Altuve for being too small, Pedrique talked the Houston Astros into giving the 2017 AL MVP and World Series Champion $15,000 to sign. That might be the best $15,000 ever spent in Major League Baseball, at least in modern times. Pedrique was able to see beyond the physical size to view the talent and the heart of the player.

Credit:  Cheryl Pursell, via Pinstriped Prospects

I had to put Posada’s name on the list. I miss the guy’s passion and intensity. When he’s on the field, there’s probably not too many guys that want to win more.

You may have different thoughts but that’s fine.  No one said that we had to agree.

No word if the Yankees will continue to interview more guys before moving on to Round 2. I had expected Jerry Hairston, Jr to talk but there have not been any indications he will.  Brad Ausmus has made it known that he wants to take a year off before resuming his managerial career. He was interested in the Red Sox job only because it was close to his home in Cape Cod and he grew up as a Red Sox fan. Aside from the Red Sox, Ausmus wants to devote the next year to his family. You can’t blame him for his priorities. I thought maybe the Yankees should interview Pittsburgh Pirates coach Joey Cora so that the Red Sox-Yankees Wars could be the Battle of the Cora Brothers. Okay, I am just kidding on that one. For the reasons I cite Pedrique as the preferred bench coach, I believe he should be afforded the opportunity to interview for the managing job.

We’ll see. The process continues and should gain better clarity over the next days and weeks as we move forward.

Making Room on the 40-Man…

Monday, November 20th is a big day for the Yankees. The 40-man roster of record for Rule 5 eligibility must be set by 7 pm Central Time. The Yankees had previously moved outfielder Jake Cave and reliever Nick Rumbelow to the 40-man roster, which left two spots open. With big names like Gleyber Torres, Albert Abreu and Billy McKinney, among others, that need to be protected, something has to give on the 40-man roster.

On Saturday, the first move was made when the Yankees sent Rumbelow to the Seattle Mariners for two lower level prospects…LHP J.P. Sears and RHP Juan Then.  Sears, 21, was an 11th round selection in the 2017 MLB Draft. Then, 17, was an international signing for $77,500 in 2016 out of the Dominican Republic.

John Patrick Sears pitched at Class A level after his draft selection last year. A reliever, he pitched a total of 27.2 innings for two teams.  In 17 games, he struck out 51 batters while walking only 12.  His ERA was a combined 0.65, but he did not give up any earned runs when he moved from Short Season-A Everett to Full Season-A Clinton (10 innings of work).  He is “Sonny Gray-sized”…alright, an inch taller (5’11”).  According to Baseball America, he works in the 88-92 mph range with a high spin fastball and uses deception from a low delivery slot.

Credit:  Citadel Athletics

Juan Then (man, did the ‘now and then’ jokes start popping up on Twitter) is obviously still very young (and raw). He carries high upside and projects as a mid-rotation starter.  Then pitched rookie level ball in the Dominican Summer League and was 2-2, 2.64 ERA in 61.1 innings. He struck out 56 batters. His fastball sat in the 90-92 mph range, and he also worked with a couple of offspeed pitches.

It’s tough to see a Major League-ready arm depart for future hopefuls, but it is the price that must be paid when you own one of the best farm systems in baseball. The Yankees will lose quality talent through Rule 5 but moves like this help protect more players. Last year was tough when the Yankees lost young catching prospect Luis Torrens who stuck on the San Diego Padres’ roster all season. I expect this year to be no different. For Rumbelow, he’s 26 and will have a much clearer shot at making a 2018 opening day roster with an opportunity to join the Mariners bullpen already stocked with former Yankees David Phelps and James Pazos.

I wonder if Brian Cashman is working today. Stupid question, I know he is. Go Yankees!

All Rise with Thumbs Down!…

Yankees 13, Orioles 5…

It is fun to have these kind of games. After Masahiro Tanaka set down the Baltimore Orioles with seven pitches in the top of the 1st inning, the Yankees offense jumped all over Orioles starter Wade Miley with six runs in the bottom of the inning enroute to the easy victory.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off for the Yankees with a single up the middle. Aaron Judge’s single to center, a fly that dropped in, advanced Ellsbury to third. Gary Sanchez doubled to the left field corner with a hard line drive that scored Ellsbury. Judge moved to third. Matt Holliday recorded the first out on a grounder to third, but Judge, running on contact, scored easily. The hits kept coming as Chase Headley singled to right over the second baseman’s glove, scoring Sanchez. Didi Gregorius lined a single to right, Headley moved to second. Todd Frazier made it a 6-0 game with his blast into Monument Park. End of the night for Miley after giving up six runs while getting only one out. Mike Wright came in for long relief.  Despite a two-out walk to Clint Frazier, Wright was able to get the O’s out of the inning without any further damage.

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

The Orioles got a run back when Jonathan Schoop led off the 4th inning with a homer to left, a high fly that momentarily looked foul but stayed in. They threatened for more when Adam Jones followed with a single and Trey Mancini reached base on a fielding error by Todd Frazier, but Masahiro Tanaka struck out sluggers Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, and was able to get Wellington Castillo to ground into a force play at second to end the inning.

The Yankees quickly answered the call.  In the bottom of the 4th, Clint Frazier reached on a single to center and Jacoby Ellsbury walked. Aaron Judge stepped to the plate and drew the ‘It is high, it is far, it is gone!’ call from John Sterling with his shot to right center.  9-1, Yankees.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-Associated Press

Trey Mancini homered in the top of the 6th with one out and no runners on, a fly into the second deck of right field. But like the 4th inning, the Yankees responded. Clint Frazier led off the bottom of the 6th with a double bouncing off the center field wall and Jacoby Ellsbury took another walk. Aaron Judge stepped up again.  While he was batting, I was thinking that his last homer was nice but it wasn’t crushed like we know that Judge can do.  Boom! He made up it for it with a monster blast to the second deck in left to make it a 12-2 game.  While we were still enjoying the thought of Judge’s 43rd homer, Gary Sanchez followed with a home run to center (another ball landing in Monument Park).  It was his 31st homer of the year, setting a new mark for Yankees catchers, breaking a tie with Jorge Posada and Yogi Berra.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-Associated Press

In the top of the 7th, Orioles top prospect, catcher Chance Sisco, recorded his first major league hit with a double to the right field corner off Tanaka.  With runners at second and third, and only one out, Tanaka struck out Anthony Santander and Austin Hays to get out of the inning with no runs allowed. They were the final pitches thrown by Tanaka, who was replaced by Bryan Mitchell to start the 8th.  

I’ve always liked Bryan Mitchell, but this hasn’t been a great year for him.  Trey Mancini led off the 8th with a single to right on a line drive.  Mitchell was able to retire the next two batters on ground outs but Joey Rickard’s double to the left  field wall scored Mancini. Caleb Joseph followed with a double to the right field wall between the outfielders, scoring Rickard. Mitchell was finally able to get out of the inning when he got Tim Beckham to ground out.

Giovanny Gallegos took over for Mitchell in the top of the 9th inning.  Chance Sisco came to bat again after getting his first MLB hit two innings earlier and accomplished another first when he homered to the right field porch leading off.  I suspect that we’ll be seeing more…much more…from Sisco in the future.  The next batter, Anthony Santander, hit a high fly to right that looked like it had a chance for a back-to-back HR but it sailed just to the right of the foul pole.  Gallegos subsequently got Santander to strike out.  He retired the next two batters (great catch of a line drive by Ronald Torreyes at second to end the game), and the Yankees had the win.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox defeated the Oakland A’s, 6-2, to maintain their three game lead over the Yankees (80-66).  The Yankees remained three games up in the Wild Card Standings.  The second-place WC team, the Minnesota Twins, beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-2, in extra innings.  

Masahiro Tanaka (12-11) was the winner.  His final line was 7 innings, 8 hits (a bit high but he did a good job in leaving the runners stranded), 2 runs, 2 walks, and 8 strikeouts.  He was also able to lower his season ERA to 4.73.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Sonny Gray was probably wondering why he can never get this type of run support…

Luis Severino (12-6, 2.96 ERA) takes the hill for the Yankees tonight.  He’ll be opposed by Gabriel Ynoa (1-1, 4.19).  Hopefully, the Yankees win and continue to put pressure on the Red Sox.  

Odds & Ends…

It was not a good night for the Yankees top two farm teams.  

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders lost Game 3 of the Governor’s Cup Finals to the Durham Bulls, 6-2.  Chance Adams took the loss. The Bulls lead the series, 2 games to 1, and can take the championship with a win tonight at PNC Field in Moosic, PA. Brady Lail will draw the start and attempt to even the series.

The Trenton Thunder bowed out of the Eastern League Championship Series when they were swept by the Altoona Curve. The Curve defeated the Thunder, 4-2, to win the best-of-five series in three games. Will Carter was the starter and loser.  

Have a great Friday! Let’s have another thumbs-down performance! Go Yankees!

Credit:  YES Network

Tyler Clippard, Yankee Killer…

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-The New York Post

Rangers 8, Yankees 1…

You have to score runs to win so starter Luis Cessa should not be faulted for this one.  Aaron Judge tried too.  He hit his league-leading 26th home run to extend his current hitting streak to 26 games.  For as disappointing as the offense was from everybody else, the Yankees entered the 9th inning just a three-run jack away from tying the game.  

However, Manager Joe Girardi chose to bring in game-killer Tyler Clippard.  Perhaps we should just call him Relyt Drappilc because he is pitching so damn back-ass-wards right now.  If you are feeling generous and want to give the other team the opportunity to score lots of runs, just bring Clippard into a game.   But more rips on Clippard later.

Who is Austin Bibens-Dirkx?  The Yankees never seem to do well against unknown rookies but this dude is a 32-year-old in his sixth major league organization.  He spent 12 years in the minor leagues and was in the independent leagues last year.  When the Rangers pitching staff gets healthy, we’ll probably never hear his name again.  But on Saturday, he owned the Yankees.  Aside from Judge’s solo home run in the sixth, Bibens-Dirkx only allowed four other meaningless hits in seven innings of work.  He’ll be telling his grandkids one day about the time he shut down the high and mighty Yankees on the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium.  

Credit:  Randy Miller-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Cessa (0-2) was not awful but he did depart the game after five innings (having thrown 86 pitches).  He allowed three runs on three hits, walked two, and struck out eight.  His mistake pitch was a slider thrown to Carlos Gomez in the fourth inning that ended up in the left field stands for two runs, giving the Rangers a 3-0 lead.  As YES Network announcer David Cone put it, it was a slider that stopped sliding or a slider that takes a seat (pulled up a chair).  

Credit:  Randy Miller-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

After Judge had brought the Yankees to within two runs with his homer, Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos answered with a solo shot of his own in the seventh off Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder.  It was the tenth home run of the season for Chirinos in only 95 at-bats. 

With two outs in the seventh, Tyler Webb entered the game in relief of Holder.  It was Tyler’s Major League debut and he got his first batter (Shin-Soo Choo) to line out to end the inning.  Webb pitched the eighth, retiring the three batters he faced, including one by strikeout, to complete a perfect debut.

Credit:  Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Sadly, Girardi opted to turn to Clippard for the ninth and he snuffed any chance for a comeback.  Before he had recorded the third out, Clippard had allowed four more runs on a wild pitch and two doubles.  He allowed a total of four hits in the inning and gave up two walks.  The once-reliable set up artist is now a huge albatross. I am not sure how you can turn him around in games without costly implications.  This is one of the worst stretches that I’ve ever seen.  While he pitched well for the Yankees last year after his acquisition from the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trading deadline, his numbers in the Sonoran Desert weren’t that great.  For the 2016 D-Backs, he was 2-3 with 4.30 ERA.  That’s closer to the pitcher that we are seeing today.  I hope Clippard can turn this thing around but at the moment, I am not optimistic.  Clippard’s too valuable (I think?) to cut so hopefully he does work through this funk.  I apologize for being so harsh but the last few weeks with Clippard have not been enjoyable.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-Associated Press

Facing the huge deficit, the Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th, with two strikeouts, and the Rangers walked away with the victory.

Fortunately for the Yankees (40-32), the Los Angeles Angels defeated the Boston Red Sox, 6-3, so the teams remain tied atop the AL East Standings.  The Tampa Bay Rays also lost (8-3 to the Baltimore Orioles) so they stayed 2.5 games back.  

Tyler Austin, making his season debut, finished hitless in three at-bats with two strikeouts and a grounder into a double play. There was concern in the fifth inning when Pete Kozma, standing off first base, jarred Austin’s left wrist while racing back to first standing up after a line out by Choo.  Austin shook it off and continued the game.  It does raise the question of who is the safety net for Austin should he get hurt.  Chase Headley is currently unable to play due to back spasms and it is best to not over-expose Matt Holliday at the position. 

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees have signed their top pick, RHP Clarke Schmidt, to an ‘as-expected’ below-allocation contract.  By signing for $2,184,300 (or $1,274,300 below the allocated value of the 16th overall pick), the Yankees had the money to “overpay” RHP Matt Sauer, RHP Trevor Stephan, OF Canaan Smith, and RHP Dalton Higgins.  With a signing bonus of $2.5 million, second round pick Sauer ended up as the most costly of the signed draft choices.  The Yankees have only one player in the top 20 that remains unsigned…18th pick RHP Garrett Whitlock. 

Credit:  Allen Sharp-Spurs & Feathers

Jacoby Ellsbury made a rehab start yesterday for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.  He broke up a no-hitter with a double in the fifth inning of SWB’s 8-0 loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox.  He finished 1-for-3.   He’ll start at DH today for SWB before moving over to AA-Trenton when the RailRiders hit the road.  

Today is one of the best days of the year for the Yankees.  It’s Old Timer’s Day.  Pre-Game introductions begin at 11:30 am Eastern.  It is always so fun to hear the name announcements for the Yankees legends as they run (or walk) out onto the field.  Jorge Posada will be making his first Old Timer’s appearance at Yankee Stadium.  Hip, hip, Jorge!  This year’s participants will include Jesse Barfield (no offense, we should have kept Al Leiter), Scott Bradley, Homer Bush, Rick Cerone, David Cone, Bucky Dent, Al Downing, Brian Doyle, Mariano Duncan, John Flaherty, Whitey “Chairman of the Board” Ford, Joe Girardi, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Ron “Louisiana Lightning” Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Reginald Martinez “Mr October” Jackson, Scott Kamieniecki, Pat Kelly, Don “Gooney Bird” Larsen, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Sparky Lyle, Kevin Maas, Constantino “Tino” Martinez, Lee “Maz” Mazzilli, Ramiro Mendoza, Stump Merrill, Gene “Stick” Michael, Jeff Nelson, Paul “The Warrior” O’Neill,  Tim “Rock” Raines, Willie Randolph, Mickey “Mick the Quick” Rivers, Tanyon Sturtze, Ralph Terry, Marcus Thames, Joe Torre, Mike Torrez (sorry, but I still think of him as a Red Sock), Roy White and Bernie “Bern Baby Bern” Williams.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Have a great Sunday!  It will be a fun day!  Go Yankees!

The Dawn of the New Season…

It seems like we were just getting excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp.  Now, here we are at the end of the Grapefruit League season and awaiting the first pitch to start the 2017 MLB season.

It was a very successful Spring for the Yankees.  It was far better than I could have imagined.  Heading into Spring, we were concerned about Greg Bird.  He hit well late in the 2015 season but missed most of last year due to his shoulder injury.  There was doubt about how he would perform and if the shoulder would hold him back like, say, the way Mark Teixeira’s wrist did.  Bird smashed any concerns that he is ready.  I know that Spring stats do not really mean much, but Bird led the Yankees with 8 home runs and was second on the team behind Gary Sanchez with 15 RBI’s.  He played first base like a veteran and by all accounts, he is posed to be a future star in New York.  I’ve always thought of Bird as a professional hitter and not one who will be susceptible to prolonged slumps.  I am very glad to see that he is ready to fly (no pun intended).

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Credit:  John Raoux, AP

What can you say about Gary Sanchez?  He continued the great success from last Fall without missing a beat.  His bat delivered (5 homers and 16 RBI’s), and do did his arm (.983 fielding percentage in 102 innings worked, with a sub .500 stolen base percentage against him as he threw out 6 runners while only allow 4 SB’s).  He is arguably the most exciting Yankees catcher since Jorge Posada or to place him higher, Thurman Munson.  Good times ahead for the catching position, no doubt.

Aaron Judge held off Aaron Hicks to win right field in the Battle of Aarons.  I feel bad for Hicks because I know that he needs to play every day to be successful.  It’s hard to get into rhythm with limited, spot starts.  But I would have been very disappointed to see Hicks get the right field job over Judge.  At this point, sending Judge down to Triple A serves no purpose.  He has proven himself at that level.  He needs to master the Major Leagues and he can only do that by being here and playing every day.  His ceiling, if successful, is so much greater than Hicks.  Dating back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, I love powerful right fielders at Yankee Stadium.

If I was the General Manager of the Yankees, Brett Gardner would be living in a different zip code.  Nothing against Gardner, he’s been a good Yankee but his best days are behind him.  He needs to open the way for younger guys.  I’d prefer to start Hicks in left over Gardner, so I’d find a way to move Gardy even if the return is not ideal.  The perfect scenario would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and move Gardner to center, but that’s not going to happen with nearly $90 million left on Ellsbury’s contract.

In the starting rotation, Luis Severino won the fourth spot but it was not an overpowering Spring performance.  Last year, Severino chased his first win as a starter without success (he picked up a few wins in the bullpen but was 0-8 in his starts).  I really hopeful that we do not go weeks or months trying to get that elusive first win this year.  Severino has so much potential but he still leaves so many wondering if his stuff plays better out of the pen.  It would be nice if he could prove those naysayers wrong (including me) to become a vital part of the rotation.

Manager Joe Girardi has delayed his decision for a fifth starter.  With three scheduled off days during April including two days in the first week, a fifth starter is not needed until Sunday, April 16th at home against the St Louis Cardinals.  Of the competitors for the fifth spot, only Bryan Mitchell made the Opening Day roster as a reliever.  Chad Green will go down to AA Trenton while Jordan Montgomery will go to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Both Green and Montgomery will have early April starts in the minors for further auditions.  I am sure that Mitchell will get some audition opportunities through long relief.  Mitchell had been my favorite for the rotation but Jordan Montgomery changed my mind.  So, I am hopeful that Montgomery gets the call-up when it is time for the fifth starter.

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Credit:  Associated Press

I was glad to see Chasen Shreve make the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind Tommy Layne.  Well, technically the third but Aroldis Chapman doesn’t really count since he’s on the mound at the end of games regardless of who is at the plate.  When the Yankees toyed with the minor league signings of Ernesto Frieri and Jon Niese, I was fearful that Shreve would be one of the odd men out.  Perhaps he still is given the Yankees’ propensity for the using the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle to keep the bullpen fresh.  Another young reliever I am happy for is Jonathan Holder.

Utility player Ronald Torreyes won the interim shortstop role while Didi Gregorius begins the year on the Disabled List.  I am not excited about Torreyes in an every day role, but there were limited internal options.  The Yankees will make room on the 40-man roster to bring up Pete Kozma to back up Torreyes, but Kozma has no bat.  It did not make sense for the Yankees to trade for a shortstop since Didi will be back by the end of April or early May, and, unfortunately,  prospect Tyler Wade is not quite ready.  I also didn’t want to see the Yankees slide Starlin Castro back to short.  He is still relatively inexperienced at second and needs to continue his work at the position.  The Yankees obviously agreed as they never played Castro at short during training camp.  Many thought the Yankees should have slid Castro to short to allow Rob Refsnyder to start at second.  I am not sure that Refsnyder, for whatever reason, will ever get a legitimate chance in the Bronx.  He was sent down to AAA for the start of the season with earlier reports that he was on the trading block.

I am not expecting this to be a playoff year for the Yankees.  They could surprise and nab a Wild Card spot but I don’t think this is their year to unseat the Boston Red Sox as AL East Champions.  They are still a year or two away from being a legitimate World Series contender.  I do think this will be a more exciting team than last year’s team from beginning to end.  The Baby Bombers proved that last year when the deadline deals moved Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians, and Alex Rodriguez was released.  It was only a preview of the excitement and energy the younger players can bring, which is further enhanced by the presence of Greg Bird this year.

Despite the quick arrival of the regular season, I am ready.  Play ball!…

Baseball Equipment Laying on Grass

The Man said he was sorry…

You had me at…, um, no, you didn’t…

We are supposed to simply accept a handwritten apology?  Right.  Sorry, I don’t buy it and I don’t think it would matter if A-Rod spoke before a packed house at Yankee Stadium.  Alex Rodriguez is sorry for only one thing.  He got caught.  He could care less about you or me.  Honestly, at this point, the only thing that I’d accept out of A-Rod’s words would be a retirement announcement.

I saw a few New York sportswriters commenting that home runs will bring the fans back.  Are we so shallow that we could forgive Alex for his behavior by simply forgetting all with the first ball that clears the fence?  I know that I will not be a fan of Alex Rodriguez today nor would I be one if by September he has hit 40 home runs.  My days cheering him are over.   I am still a Yankees fan, and of course, I want the team to win.  I would not wish for A-Rod to do anything detrimental to the team (well beyond the damage that he’s already done) but I will only accept his contributions as team contributions, not individual accomplishments.

I admit that I hope Alex plays so poorly in the spring, the Yankees bite the $60 million bullet and release him.  But that’s too far fetched to be possible.  He won’t need to do much to hold his own on the roster.  Rob Refsnyder could play twice as well in spring training and end up in Scranton/Wilkes Barre while A-Rod is the team’s full time DH.  But still, the thought of an outright release would be the best possible outcome in my mind.

As good as the Boston Red Sox’ front office has become, it’s too bad they weren’t better back in 2003 when they failed to acquire A-Rod from the Texas Rangers.  How differently things might have been had A-Rod gone to Beantown.

Ifs and buts, I know…

It’s a numbers game…

There was a time when it seemed odd that Phil Hughes wore #65 or that Joba Chamberlain wore #62.  Now, with the announcement plans to retire numbers 20, 46 and 51, the lower numbers are slowly going away.  Of course #2 will soon be retired for Derek Jeter and I’ve always wondered if some day #21 will be taken down for Paul O’Neill.  Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams were all great Yankees and they deserve becoming legends of Monument Park.  It was also very classy of the Yankees to announce plans for a plaque for former second baseman Willie Randolph.

It thought it was cool when Manny Ramirez wore #99 for the Los Angeles Dodgers a few years ago.  Now, we’re probably just a few seasons away from someone donning the same number with the Yankees.  Hopefully, I won’t live to see the days when players are wearing triple digits.

Make or break a farm system…

Based on all reports, I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada.  However, based on what I’ve read, I do expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the bidding.  I hope the Yankees emerge victorious.  Given they’ll be limited in the international market for the next few years, Moncada would be icing on the cake for the fantastic international draft they had this year.  I know that there are no certainties but Moncada does sound like the real deal.  I guess if the Dodgers win the bidding, I shouldn’t fret too much since I live just a few miles away from Dodger Stadium.  But after an off-season of largely inactivity, signing Moncada would make this winter well worth the wait.  I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks.

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Open the door…

Count me among those who hope that new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred re-opens the Pete Rose case.  It’s time to let Pete the Ballplayer take his rightful place in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  I will never defend Pete the Man, but I saw the ballplayer play, and he remains one of the greatest that I’ve ever seen.  He has served his sentence and deserves to stand among the game’s greats.

*      *     *

It’s hard to believe that it is time for pitchers and catchers to report.  With this off-season’s inactivity and losses, it is hard to envision October baseball in the Bronx.  Yeah, yeah, if all things go right and everyone stays healthy, I know they have a chance.  But realistically, this is a third place team at best with the potential for the cellar if things go horribly wrong.  As always, I will throw in the caveat that I hope I am wrong.  But if anything, I do think the Yankees are laying the groundwork for future success.

Let’s play ball…

–Scott