Tagged: Kansas City

The Calm Before The Storm…

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A Day Off and the O’s Before the Big Weekend…

The Yankees begin the new week with a day off in advance of a couple of games with Zach Britton’s old team, the Baltimore Orioles. But it is hard not to look ahead. A four-game showdown with the Boston Red Sox is looming right around the corner with the first game in Boston on Thursday, August 2nd, the 39th anniversary of the death of the late great Thurman Munson.

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First, kudos to J.A. Happ for his impressive Yankees debut. I thoroughly enjoyed how calm and controlled he was on the mound. His experience and leadership should prove invaluable for the Yankees over the coming weeks. It was hard not to compare Happ’s debut with Nathan Eovaldi’s first game as a Red Sock. Nasty Nate pitched a shutout, but I’ll gladly take Happ’s six innings of three hit, one run ball. With the 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, the Yankees took three of four for their first series win since taking two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays in early July.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

The Yankees (67-37) kept pace with the Red Sox and are 5 ½ games back in the AL East. The Red Sox host the Philadelphia Phillies for two games at Fenway Park starting tonight. They’ll have Wednesday off before the Yankees come to town. Hopefully the Yankees at least capture a split of the series in Boston, but of course three of four or a sweep would be even better. My primary goal this week is for the Yankees to not lose any further ground to the Red Sox and hopefully pick up a game or two.

Hats off to GM Brian Cashman for putting in some overtime this weekend. After Saturday night’s trade that sent relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the St Louis Cardinals for first baseman Luke Voit and $1 million in international bonus pool money, Cash sent minor league lefty Caleb Frare to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday for an additional $1.5 million in international bonus pool money. This has been a breakout year for Frare at Double-A but unfortunately it came in the same year as his Rule 5 eligibility. So, you can’t fault Cashman for moving Frare for something rather than risk losing him for nothing. Frare, who turned 25 earlier this month, struggled with control earlier in his career after lost time due to Tommy John surgery a few years ago. Last year, he walked 52 batters in 62 2/3 innings for High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. This year, with 44 2/3 inning pitched (primarily for Trenton), he has only walked 15.  At Double-A, Frare held hitters to 27 hits and 4 earned runs over 43 2/3 innings with 57 strikeouts. This was good for an 0.62 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.  Frare made a believer of Trenton manager Jay Bell who, last month, said, “He does so many things well”. Tough to lose a quality left-hander but it’s the price to pay for a stocked farm system and roster crunch in advance of this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December.

 

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

The next couple of days should be interesting to say the least. I am not really expecting Brian Cashman to make any bold moves, but you can never underestimate the Wizard. The Yankees continue to be linked to Chris Archer but if the price is Justus Sheffield, no thanks. I think the Yankees will pick up a bat, but it won’t be a big name. You never know, a reunion with Curtis Granderson is certainly possible. The Grandy Man is not going to scare anyone at this stage of his career, but he is certainly capable of helping to hold the ship until Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge are back in action. An interesting name to me is slugger Hunter Renfroe of the San Diego Padres. The 26-year-old is only hitting .233 this year (lifetime .239 hitter) with 7 dingers and 26 RBIs but he did swat 26 home runs last year for the Padres. Another name that has come up is San Francisco Giants (and former Pittsburgh Pirate) outfielder Andrew McCutcheon. I don’t see that one happening unless the Giants pay down his contract and they are a team looking for salary relief, so it doesn’t seem to make sense. Nearly every Yankees fan would love to see Bryce Harper in pinstripes by tomorrow but that’s another move that will not happen. I expect any moves made to be fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. I do not envision the trades of Sheffield, Albert Abreu, Estevan Florial or Clint Frazier. We’ll see. Brian Cashman is certainly capable of shocking the World…or standing pat. With a portion of the international bonus pool money received, the Yankees yesterday signed 16-year-old RHP Osiel Rodriguez from Cuba. The Yankees had been linked to Rodriguez since the current signing period opened earlier this month and they finally signed him for $600,000. Despite his youth, Rodriguez is already 6’3” and 205 lbs. Per MLB.com, “One of the top pitchers on the international market this year, Rodriguez is the latest in a long line of Cuban stars chasing the big league dream. The right-hander’s fastball has been clocked at 97 mph and the pitch usually hovers in the low- to mid-90’s. There is some concern about a drop in velocity at times, but evaluators attribute the decrease to normal fatigue or being overworked on the showcase circuit. A strike-thrower, Rodriguez has a good mound presence and demeanor. He changes his arm slot and throws several different pitches at different angles, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse as far as scouts are concerned. Evaluators love his “big arm”, but the club that signs him might ask the teenager to refine his approach and focus on only three pitches. He has an unorthodox – sometimes described as a ‘violent’ – delivery, but it has not impacted his pitchability.” Welcome to the Yankees Family, Osiel! We’re very pleased to have you on our side.

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Lastly, my condolences to the friends and family of Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano who died last week at age 56. The Vikings are a young and exciting team and I had been looking forward to Sparano’s leadership of the offensive line to provide support for new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Sparano, to me, had seemed overqualified to be an assistant coach but I was so grateful that he was part of Coach Mike Zimmer’s staff. The Vikings replaced Sparano in-house by moving Tight Ends coach Clancy Barone to the O-Line as Co-Offensive Line Coach along with Andrew Janocko, who was elevated from his role as Assistant Offensive Line Coach. Senior Offensive Assistant Todd Downing, the former Raiders offensive coordinator who joined the Vikings in February, will take over tight ends. I think Mike Zimmer made the best possible moves for his staff but clearly there is no replacing what Tony Sparano meant to the Vikings. He will be missed. God Speed, Coach Sparano.  May you rest in peace.

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It will be a tough day today with no Yankees baseball, but enjoy it anyway.  As always, Go Yankees!

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If You Squint, They Look Like Dodgers…

Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star via AP (John Sleezer)

Yanks Continue Struggles with Losing Teams…

The Yankees do know these are the Kansas City Royals, right? Maybe they’d fare better if they thought they were playing Manny Machado and the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was an awful feeling when the Royals, on the fast track for 100 losses, throttled Luis Severino and later David Robertson en route to the 10-5 victory in the first game of Saturday’s day/night double-header. I am concerned, very concerned, about Severino. Despite the rotation pitching woes earlier this season, the one constant was strong performances by Severino who was pitching at Chris Sale-Corey Kluber level as he raced to fourteen wins. Yesterday, Sevy was gone before the end of the fifth inning, after coughing up eight hits and six runs. For his last four starts, Severino has given up 19 runs in 19 1/3 innings. His ERA, below 2.00 not long ago, is now a run higher. Not good. The Yankees need to get him with Pedro Martinez again soon. I jest on that part, but Sevy does need to figure this out. The sooner, the better.

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

I thought the Yankees were going to climb back into the game after Sevy’s departure and a 6-0 deficit when they scored five runs  to make it a one-run game but the bullpen was not up to the task. David Robertson continues to pitch like a guy playing his final two months in Pinstripes. The 2018 version of D-Rob has not been as trustworthy as the 2017 version and it is sad to see. He’s been one of my favorites but it seems inevitable that we’ll have a second parting of the ways in a few months. Is there such a thing as too much quality in the bullpen, leading to a lack of work and rusty performances? Hopefully the pen gels with the latest moves and provides us with a stretch run to remember.

I was fearful the Royals were going to sweep the day when they forged ahead of the Yankees in the nightcap while new reliever Zach Britton, hearing the boos so familiar when he pitched as a visitor, was on the mound in the seventh, but Greg Bird, Neil Walker and Aaron Hicks saved the day. Bird’s homer in the bottom of the eighth tied the game. Walker followed with a double to deep right center, and advanced to third on a bunt single by Austin Romine (loved the Twitter comments  of “Yankees catcher sprints to first” which is not something we are accustomed to when Gary Sanchez is playing). Aaron Hicks flied out to left, but Walker tagged and scored the go-ahead run. I was hopeful the Yankees could pick up a few more runs in the situation, but Brett Gardner grounded out and Giancarlo Stanton went down swinging to strand two runners in scoring position.

From there, the game was placed into the hands of Aroldis Chapman who had the major meltdown in his last appearance before being saved by Chasen Shreve. It didn’t start well when the first batter, Adalberto Mondesi (I liked the name ‘Raul Mondesi, Jr’ better), led off the ninth with a single to center. Chappy got the next two batters but then he walked the potential go-ahead run. Mondesi stole third to put runners at the corners for the pesky Whit Merrifield. I can’t say I was feeling too good at that point, but Chapman struck him out on four pitches to end the game. Whew! A struggle to win one of two games from a team that has only won 32 games this season. We should be crushing these teams like the Red Sox do.

Boston hammered the Minnesota Twins, 10-4, so they were able to increase their lead in the AL East to five and a half games. Despite the struggles, the Yankees (66-37) can take three of four from the Royals with a win today. It is going to be very disheartening if they end up splitting the series with one of baseball’s worst teams.

Who am I going to complain about now? The Yankees traded LHP Chasen Shreve to the St Louis Cardinals last night so I no longer have a bullpen punching bag. After labeling Shreve as a DFA candidate for months, he wasn’t DFA’d and to my surprise, the Yankees packaged him with RHP Giovanny Gallegos to pick up a bag of donuts and some coin for the international market. Okay, first baseman Luke Voit is not a bag of donuts (is he?) but the guy is not exactly a prospect at 27. The Missouri native played 67 games at Triple A this year, and hit .299/.391/.500, .891 OPS, with 9 homers and 36 RBIs. He has drawn 31 walks. Voit has played in 8 games with eleven plate appearances at the Major League level this season. He is 2-for-11 with a homer and 3 RBIs.

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry

Voit will most likely head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but first base is not exactly a position of need compared to the outfield or catching for the Rail Riders. They have Tyler Austin, Mike Ford and Ryan McBroom. McBroom’s numbers at Triple A this season are nearly identical to Voit’s. In 73 games, McBroom, acquired a couple of seasons ago for Rob Refsnyder, is batting .297 with 9 homers and 32 RBIs. With the glut of first-base types, McBroom, was recently sent to Double A. It certainly wasn’t because of performance. Poor Mike Ford, who had a brief taste of the big leagues in his Rule 5 spring training with the Seattle Mariners, is never going to see the light of day at Yankee Stadium. Ford, batting .240, has 12 home runs and 36 ribbies in 67 games for the RailRiders.

For as much as I’ve wanted to see Shreve go, it was still a sad moment when it actually happened. He was a Yankee for four years and there were good times to go with the bad. Listening to his post-game interview was extremely difficult while Shreve expressed his love for his teammates. I wish the Las Vegas native the best as he moves to the Gateway to the West. The Cardinals have a strong history of tradition and success even if 2018 is not one of their better years. The Cardinals are only four games out of the NL Wild Card chase so Shreve does have an opportunity to help his new team reach October. For Gallegos, it means the end of the Scranton/Bronx Shuttle. Hopefully he’ll have a much better time sticking in the bigs with the Cardinals.

The trade opens a spot on the 25-man roster for today’s starter, J.A. Happ. Happ had been added as the 26th man prior to the start of the second game of yesterday’s double-header after his delayed arrival so the Yankees needed to clear room on the active roster for him. I had expected it to be outfielder Shane Robinson who homered in yesterday’s second game but he presumably lives to see another day in Pinstripes. His spot is the one that clearly needs to be upgraded before the trading deadline unless we can get some positive news about Clint Frazier soon.

Yesterday brought rumors the Yankees are one of the teams aggressively pursuing Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, although the San Diego Padres continue to be seen as the favorites. A report at the end of the day indicated that the Rays had two scouts watching Justus Sheffield’s start for the RailRiders last evening. I like Archer but not well enough to trade the organization’s top prospect for him. There are only a few guys the Yankees should consider trading Sheffield for and Archer is not one of them.  Blake Snell, maybe, but he’s currently on the DL.

The Yankees may be hurt by injuries, but the Houston Astros are having problems of their own. They already had star shortstop Carlos Correa on the disabled list and yesterday the 2017 AL MVP, Jose Altuve, hit the DL for the first time in his career. Altuve has lingering soreness in his right knee.

I was watching a little of the Los Angeles Angels game last night and it’s incredible what former Yankees prospect Francisco Arcia is doing for the Halos in his Major League debut. In two games and eight at-bats, the 28-year-old Arcia, a catcher, has two homers and ten RBIs. The Yankees could certainly use Arcia now but who would have known the career minor leaguer was capable of this type of performance. Okay, apparently former Yankees Assistant GM and now Angels GM Billy Eppler knew. It’s not sustainable but it is a great story. One of the Angels announcers made the comment that this is the time of year you need a player to come along and give the team a jolt. Yeah, we could use one of those guys about now.

I will be curious to see how J.A. Happ performs today. He has faced the Kansas City Royals once already this year. In Toronto’s 15-5 victory on April 18th, Happ pitched six innings, allowing five hits and four runs, to pick up the win for the Blue Jays. He walked a couple of batters and struck out eight. The way the Yankees offense is performing, he’ll need to do better than that today. Sure, the Yankees should score 15 runs on a team like KC but not the .500 club that we’ve been seeing in recent weeks. I am hopeful the excitement of a pennant race will reinvigorate Happ. After Sevy’s pitiful performance yesterday and CC Sabathia’s short outing, we could use a strong show from the rotation. We need a “jolt” and this team needs to get on a roll. Make Yankees Baseball fun again! Otherwise, the Red Sox will be waltzing to the finish line.

I’d like to see the Yankees add a bat before Tuesday’s trading deadline, but I am not expecting any earth-shattering moves. The cost of starting pitching seems too high, and I am not really interested in overpaying for another league-average starter. Maybe it is time to bring Justus Sheffield up to the Show to see what he can do out of the bullpen for the duration of the season. I am also looking forward to Jonathan Loaisiga’s return to good health.

Hopefully the Yankees simply take care of business today. We need a win. Please make it HAPPen.

Go Yankees!

Mother Nature Beats Yankees Again…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Ninth Postponement of the Season…

Friday brought another weather-related postponement for our favorite baseball team. It was the ninth of the season. The Yankees and the Kansas City Royals will play two today as a result with a day/night double-header. In one of the most used phrases ever in the Yankees Universe, ‘it’s not what you want’.

I guess if there is a positive, the Yankees opponent today will be a little weaker. They lost significant power with last night’s trade of Mike Moustakas to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers, who aggressively lost out on Manny Machado, presumably will move third baseman, and former Red Sock, Travis Shaw to second to make room at third for Moose Tacos. I am a little disappointed the Yankees were unable to acquire Moose. His left-handed bat would have played nicely at Yankee Stadium, and his power would have helped compensate for the temporary losses of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. I don’t really see any other options on the market that would appeal to me as greatly as Moustakas, who was batting .249/.309/.468, .778 OPS, with 20 homers and 62 RBIs.

I was a little surprised to see him end up with Milwaukee. Earlier in the day, it had been reported the Brewers were in heavy talks with the Baltimore Orioles for second baseman Jonathan Schoop and possibly RHP Kevin Gausman. They must have pivoted to the Royals over a failure to make any headway with Orioles GM Dan Duquette or whomever is running the show for the O’s these days (surprise, surprise).

I keep hearing Curtis Granderson’s name as a possibility. I enjoyed his time in Pinstripes but at this stage of his career, I am not really interested in a reunion. He is 37 years old and is no longer the player he once was. The Grandy Man is batting .231/.334/.421, .756 OPS, with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in 288 plate appearances. No thanks. I’d rather get Clint Frazier healthy although admittedly I don’t know how long that will take. Oh man, my head hurts. No wait, that’s Frazier, not me.

Another name that seems to come up frequently is Jose Martinez of the St Louis Cardinals. The Aaron Judge-sized first baseman/outfielder has put up some good numbers this year (.295/.358/.463, 13 homers, 58 RBIs) but he is losing playing time because of his poor defensive skills. I am not interested in a guy who can only DH. Any acquisition the Yankees make would need to be someone who can continue to help the team after Judge and Sanchez return in late August or early September.

I guess it’s not the end of the world for the Yankees to roll with what they currently have. I may not be Neil Walker’s greatest fan but I recognize he plays better with regular playing time. Using DH as a rotation between Walker and Neil Walker is certainly passable for a few weeks. I thought Tyler Austin would be the one to get the call when Aaron Judge was placed on the disabled list but the Yankees went with Tyler Wade instead. From a defensive perspective, Wade makes more sense. He can field the corner outfield positions better than Austin, making him a more useful fourth outfielder-type. But he can also spell relief at second and short, something Austin obviously cannot do. The only guy on the roster who doesn’t make sense to me right now, excluding Chasen Shreve, is outfielder Shane Robinson but he is expected to be demoted today to make room for J.A. Happ.

The month of August is filled with winnable series. The only playoff contender they face is the Boston Red Sox with a four-game series starting Thursday, August 2nd. They won’t see a potential playoff team again until Labor Day (Monday, September 3rd) when they travel to Oakland, CA to take on Dustin Fowler and the Athletics. My concern is the difficulty the Yankees have had with losing teams this year. Boston is winning the games they are supposed to and as it stands right now, it is why they are the first place club in the AL East. Last night, they blew a lead in the ninth inning but still came back to tie it to push the game into extra innings where they won it on a walk-off home run by Mookie Betts. They are finding ways to beat the losing clubs. Sorry, Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Yankees are struggling against those teams. Well, maybe not against the Twins, but the other losing teams. The Twins, who apparently have given up on the season (they are 12 1/2 games out in the Wild Card chase), are a weaker team today after trading infielder Eduardo Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday and reliever Ryan Pressly to the Houston Astros last night. I am sure the Red Sox are salivating although they probably could have used Pressly themselves if only Dave Dombrowski had not stripped the cupboards of quality prospects.

Apparently the weather is impacting J.A. Happ’s ability to get to New York City. His flight was cancelled yesterday so he has yet to join the team.  He is expected to arrive today. I am always curious about numbers since there is such a limited selection with so many retired numbers. Happ will take number 34, a number previously worn by A.J. Burnett and Brian McCann. With Zach Britton getting Phil Nevin’s #53, the third base coach will flip the numbers to grab 35. Happ is expected to get the start in the series finale with the Royals tomorrow although we’ll see if Happ’s late arrival alters those plans.

The Yankees received some good news for Sonny Gray. Assuming he is not traded, Gray will make his next start as planned. X-rays on his thumb were negative and he’s feeling much better after the come-backer off his right hand during Thursday’s game.

For today’s double-header, Luis Severino will get the start for the day game. Sevy (14-3, 2.63 ERA) looks to get back on track after a couple of bumpy starts. He’ll be opposed by Brad Keller (3-4, 3.20 ERA). For the night game, yesterday’s scheduled starter, CC Sabathia, will take the mound. CC (6-4, 3.51 ERA) will face Heath Fillmyer (0-1, 2.82 ERA). The Yankees enter the day five games behind the Boston Red Sox. A perfect day would find the Yankees trailing the Sox by only 3 1/2 games when the clock strikes midnight tonight. It’s a great day for two wins and a Red Sox loss. Let’s do this.

Go Yankees!

Stanton Goes From “Want” to “Need”…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Yanks lose despite win…

When the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton last December, everyone talked about how it was filling a “want” and not a “need”. Sadly, he has become the “need” as he is now the team’s regular starting right fielder for the foreseeable future.

Although I am a little concerned about the defense we give up with Stanton playing right field compared to Aaron Judge, the chip fracture in Judge’s wrist forced the move. I am confident we’re in good hands with Stanton…and August is normally his most torrid month. He’s fully capable of pulling the team on his back and charging toward the finish line.

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The loss of Judge hurts, no doubt about it. It will be three weeks before he can pick up a bat again and he’ll need additional time to get back into form so we probably won’t see him again until September. If there is a positive in this, Judge should be rested and ready to go at the season’s most critical point.

Losing the offense provided by Judge and Gary Sanchez, the other guys have to pick it up. At one time, it seemed like we had a glut of outfielders and now we have Shane Robinson on the roster. If he hadn’t been traded yesterday, I am sure that Billy McKinney would have been in the Bronx today. When you look at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre active roster, there is only one outfielder listed (Mark Payton).

Who replaces Judge on the roster? The most likely candidate, to me, is Tyler Austin given his ability to play first base and the corner outfield positions. It’s not ideal but it is what it is.

The big question is whether the Yankees should make another trade to provide an offensive bridge for the eventual return of Sanchez and Judge. I still like the idea of acquiring Mike Moustakas and we have a firsthand view of the player right now given his team is playing in the Bronx. Moose Tacos would allow the Yankees to use the DH rotation for him and Miguel Andujar. I’d prefer to see Moustakas at third over Neil Walker. The prorated portion of his salary would fit despite the acquisitions of Zach Britton and J.A. Happ. The Yankees have the ability to move some salary to make it fit if necessary. When Judge returns, slide Stanton back to left and use Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks in a platoon in center. Moustakas could also replace Walker as the backup support at first base for Greg Bird. There’s no guarantee Judge comes back 100%. Wrists can be very troublesome as we’ve seen with past injuries to other players. Moustakas is an excellent hedge.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

I am glad to see that lefty J.A. Happ has joined the Yankees rotation but I thought the cost was excessive. I’ve said all season I like Brandon Drury despite his non-disclosure of health issues earlier this year which caused headaches for all of us. At the time of his acquisition, the Yankees felt there was much more potential in Drury’s bat than he had shown in Arizona and I still believe that to be the case. I would have been okay with the Yankees trading Miguel Andujar for a premium starting pitcher and playing Drury at third even if Andujar has the higher ceiling.  Starting pitching is the greater need. That’s a moot point now.  The Yankees no longer have the luxury of considering a potential trade with the inclusion of Andujar. Billy McKinney was a tough loss. I think he is going to be a very good Major League outfielder. From a trust standpoint, I have far greater faith in McKinney than I do Clint Frazier. Frazier seems too injury prone at the moment. Multiple concussion issues within a single season are a great concern. There’s no doubt the Toronto Blue Jays won the Happ trade. If the Yankees win the World Series, I’ll probably have a different point of view but as it stands right now, I feel that Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins got the better of Brian Cashman.

It is interesting that our two big mid-season acquisitions are battle-tested AL East veterans. I really enjoyed it when Zach Britton took over for David Robertson in the eighth inning of last night’s game. Britton seemed to be in control from the first pitch and I had an immediate sense of confidence with his presence on the mound. I really like the guy and his stuff. Those deadly sinkers are unlike anything else we have on the pitching staff. It’s been my desire to see the Yankees sign Andrew Miller when the free agency period opens in November, but I have to say that I might prefer Britton. I love Andrew Miller but every time I look up, he’s on the disabled list. Sure, Britton knows the DL about as well as anyone not named Jacoby Ellsbury, but he’s a Yankee and I’d like to see him stay. If the Yanks can’t get Britton to sign, then they should definitely go after Miller. I am not really expecting the Yankees to make a strong effort to re-sign David Robertson, which pains me because he is another guy that I love having on this team. So, in my opinion, Britton should be a top free agent target for the Yankees in a few months.

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Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

The Yankees did win yesterday despite the loss of Aaron Judge. They beat the Kansas City Royals, 7-2, behind surprisingly good home pitching from Sonny Gray, until he suffered his own hand injury, and a three-run bomb by Didi Gregorius. That throw by Aaron Hicks to nail Alex Gordon at the plate for the final out in the ninth inning was stellar. On paper, it looks like Chasen Shreve did his job.  An inning of scoreless relief after the three up-three down performance by Zach Britton. But those three hits that Shreve gave up could have been very costly if not for A-A-Ron’s heroics. I am really hopeful that Britton’s presence will eventually lead to Shreve’s exit. He continues to be the bullpen’s weakest link and my favorite candidate for DFA.

While the Yankees (65-36) were winning, the Boston Red Sox were not. They dropped a 2-1 decision to the Minnesota Twins. Kyle Gibson held the Red Sox hitters at bay, a fact that probably did not go unnoticed by Brian Cashman and his staff. I believe it was TGP’s Daniel Burch who recently suggested the Yankees should go after Gibson. Not many guys have been able to shut down the Red Sox offense this year. Not only did Gibson hold the Sox to four hits and an isolated run over eight innings, he struck out seven and did not allow a homer to the dinger-happy Red Sox lineup. I know the Yankees just acquired J.A. Happ, but I’d gladly take Gibson too if we can get him. After all, we are the Greedy Pinstripes.

So, the Yankees begin play today four and a half games behind Boston in the division. There’s still plenty of baseball to be played. It hurts that we have lost Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge for the immediate future, but this is still a very good team. Perhaps Brian Cashman is finished with the heavy lifting but then again maybe he isn’t. The next few days should be fun.

Meanwhile, let’s continue to take care of business. Last night, the Yankees played like the team that went on the great run in May and June. They need to continue to be that team. If the Yankees make no further moves, so be it. I have confidence in this group of 25 guys. Well, maybe not Chasen Shreve, or Shane Robinson…or Neil Walker.  But this group of guys can win in the coming days and weeks, and will only get better in September when Judgey and El Gary come back. The division is not lost. The race has only begun. Buckle up, boys, let’s take down the Red Sox!

Go Yankees!

Sonny Gray, We Found You!…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Ed Zurga)

Yanks win eighth consecutive Series…

Backed by uncharacteristic run support (at least for him), Sonny Gray finally pitched on Sunday like the guy who was an ace in Oakland. We’ve seen few glimpses of that guy since he became a Yankee last July. I know, it was against one of the worst teams in the American League but it was a great Sonny Gray start. For a game anyway, this warrants a ‘Sonny Gray DOES NOT suck’ from me.  

As you know, I am quick to criticize Gray so I owe it to him to recognize a wonderful performance. Gray (3-3) pitched eight innings, holding the Kansas City Royals to four hits and a single run. He didn’t allow the run until the eighth inning when he was starting to tire. He walked a batter and struck out five in the 10-1 victory. The four homers, including two by Tyler Austin, were fantastic but there was no doubt Gray was the star of this game.

A.J. Cole, in a rare appearance, pitched a clean ninth inning. Sure, he had a big lead but ask the Miami Marlins about holding a big lead in the ninth inning. They had a 9-4 advantage Sunday against the Atlanta Braves (a team many are starting to liken to the 2017 Yankees) and had Brad Ziegler on the mound to close it out. Six runs later, the Braves walked off the field a winner. So, I try to never underestimate a mop up role like the one Cole faced. 

Now for the home runs. Tyler Austin is making a very convincing case to stay with the Major League club despite the impending return of Greg Bird. I’ve felt all along Austin is the most susceptible for a demotion to Triple A to make room for Bird. Even with his two home runs on Sunday, I still think he’ll be the odd man out since he has options remaining. The Yankees aren’t getting rid of Ronald Torreyes and I don’t see them cutting bait with Neil Walker. Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media speculated this morning that the Yankees will DFA Walker and trade him for a minor leaguer to use the remaining balance of his $4 million contract at the trading deadline (in addition to the space they already have) to open a spot for Bird. I suppose he may be right but I have liked the versatility Walker brings and he has hit better of late. But I have to admit that a tandem of Bird-Austin at first base is a bit scary (in a good way).    

Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star (John Sleezer)

Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine tacked on solo homers in the ninth which did more to help their personal statistics than the team’s result.

Yankees Twitter was aghast before the game when the lineup was posted. Many had expected to see Gary Sanchez at DH, Didi Gregorius at short, and Clint Frazier in left. Instead, Giancarlo Stanton was the DH, Brett Gardner in left, and Ronald Torreyes was the shortstop for the second day in a row. I understood the move with Sir Didi who is mired in a 1-for-45 slump. Nothing against the great Brett Gardner, but I would have preferred to see Red Thunder in left. But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The Yankees cranked out fourteen hits with Aaron Boone’s lineup to power the offense.  

Nice job by Austin Romine. During the off-season, so many Yankees fans (maybe even me) wanted the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to replace Romine as the backup catcher. Yesterday, Romine had perhaps his greatest game as a Yankee. He was 3-for-5 with two RBI’s. He had a run-scoring single in the fourth inning in addition to the ninth inning dinger. It’s worth noting that Romine is batting .326 in 48 plate appearances with the homer and nine RBI’s, while Avila is only batting .132 with two homers and four RBI’s in nearly twice as many plate appearances and has opened the door for more playing time for former Yankee John Ryan Murphy with the Snakes.   

It was great to see the Yankees dominate two consecutive games against the lowly Royals after Friday night’s disappointing loss. It had been a very tough week for the Yankees with the rainouts in Washington, D.C. It was not surprising they played sluggishly in their only loss in the Royals series, but I was glad to see that it lasted only one game before they were back in expected form.  

The lone disappointment yesterday was the option of outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple A after the game. I know, it was inevitable. It was a numbers game and Frazier is better served by playing every day for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He’ll head to Pennsylvania and await the next call to Yankee Stadium. It’s not what you want (to borrow Joe Girardi’s line), but Frazier is only an injury away from returning. 

The Yankees now head to Dallas/Fort Worth to face the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have under-performed this year (18-30) but they are generally a handful for the Yankees. The first two games of the series feature Yankees Past and what could be Yankees Future. Today, the Yankees will face a former Yankee in the ancient Bartolo Colon while Tuesday features 2009 World Series foe Cole Hamels, whose name has been mentioned as a possible trading deadline candidate for the Yankees. There are other trade candidates I’d like to see over Hamels, but he is a proven veteran arm. After the Yankees finish the three game series in Texas, they’ll head back to the Bronx to meet up with Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a series that starts Friday night.

David Hale just keeps coming back like a bad penny. I really thought we’d seen the last of Hale when he was designated for assignment for the second time this year by the Yankees. When he elected free agency after his most recent DFA, I felt sure he’d go elsewhere. It was not to be as Hale signed another minor league deal with the Yankees and will head to Scranton, PA to join the starting rotation for the RailRiders. His addition led to the release of former Yankees prospect Daniel Camarena. I had hoped for better results from Camarena who had been re-acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this year after signing a minor league free agent contract with the Cubs in the off-season. But a 2-3 record and 5.08 ERA (44 hits and 20 walks in 39 innings) led to Camarena’s second exit from the organization. I wish him the best with his next opportunity.  It’s unfortunate he was unable to realize his dream in Pinstripes.

Speaking of the RailRiders starting rotation, their latest addition (besides Hale) is prospect Erik Swanson. Swanson’s name hasn’t really been mentioned much since he was acquired in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers a couple of seasons ago. Dillon Tate was the more highly regarded name in the trade, but Swanson is the minor league pitcher of the moment. The guy has been sensational in Double A this year. The 24-year-old righty started six games for the Trenton Thunder, winning five with no defeats. He has given up a paltry two earned runs in 40 2/3 innings (0.44 ERA) while striking out 52. He has only allowed 12 walks. The superb performance led to his recent promotion to Triple A. In an organization with so many talented young prospects, Swanson has illuminated his name.

Photo Credit: Martin Griff, via Pinstriped Prospects

The Yankees did so well with the 2016 trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they are generally recognized as the trades that highlight the genius of GM Brian Cashman. Nevertheless, the returns for Beltran (namely Swanson and Tate) and Brian McCann (Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, who helped bring Giancarlo Stanton to New York) were spectacular.  Cashman and Company were certainly well prepared when they made those “under-the-radar” trades that opened roster space for younger, more talented players.

Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox keep winning so the Yankees and Sox remain tied atop the AL East although the Yankees (30-13) continue to hold a slight advantage in winning percentage.  New York is at .698 while the Red Sox (32-15) are .681.  Boston is off today so the Yankees could pick up a half-game to take sole possession of first place or they could lose to fall into second place.  With 119 games to play, I suppose it does not really matter either way in the grand scheme of things but I always prefer to see the Red Sox in the rear view mirror.

Credit: Frank Galasso Illustration

Go Yankees!

False Start by the Pinstripers…

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

Yanks fall to Royals…

My fear after nearly a week of no Yankees baseball is that they’d go ‘thud’ against one of the worst teams in the American League. Sadly, my fear became reality when the Yankees lost Friday night against the lowly Kansas City Royals, 5-2. It was a close game but, at least for me, it never felt like the Yankees were in it.  For Royals manager Ned Yost, it was his 1,100th career managerial victory.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

It’s been a tough week for the Yankees. They played their way to a 3-3 tie with the Washington Nationals through 5 1/2 innings on Tuesday, only to have the game suspended for rain. The rain wiped out the resumption of the suspended game and the regularly scheduled one the next day, leaving the Yankees to spend the night at Washington Dulles International Airport due to the unavailability of hotel accommodations.  They had an off day on Thursday but it didn’t help. There were no extra base hits to be found in Yankee bats last night. Eight singles equated to two runs and a loss. The legendary Jake Junis (who?) gets the win, and CC Sabathia gets saddled with his first loss of the young season.

When an uncharacteristic error was made by Gleyber Torres in the first inning which allowed the Royals to pick up the game’s first run, it felt like it was not going to be the Yankees’ night.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

I guess if there was any solace about the loss, the Boston Red Sox lost too. Boston fell 7-4 to Alex Cobb and the Baltimore Orioles so the Red Sox and Yankees remain tied atop of the AL East standings. The Red Sox have two more wins than the Yankees (30 to 28), but the Yankees have the slight advantage in winning percentage (.683 to .667) thanks to two fewer losses (13 to 15). It would have been nice for the Yankees to have won to create a game advantage but today is a new day. On paper, Luis Severino (6-1, 2.14 ERA) versus Danny Duffy (1-5, 6.51 ERA) looks like a mismatch. Of course, those tend to be the ones we struggle with the most.

The Didi Gregorius for MVP talk has subsided with his 1-for-45 slide. Hopefully, he’ll rediscover his stroke while the team is in Kansas City. April’s Player of the Month has been MIA in May.

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Howard Simmons)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player on the DL incur so many consecutive injuries while out as Jacoby DL’s-bury. The latest ailment for Ellsbury seems to be a back injury. I’ve forgotten the original reason he was placed on the DL or the variety of injuries that have subsequently sidelined him. Maybe I am just looking forward to the day the Steinbrenner family says enough is enough and they pull the trigger to cut bait despite the cost. The guy is nearly untradeable (IDK, is that a word or was it just made up for Ellsbury?). At this point, even if the Yankees back up a Brink’s truck to haul oodles of cash to another team to take the disabled veteran, there would be no takers. The true travesty would be for Ellsbury to actually get healthy and take a 25-man roster spot from a more deserving player. I am ready for Ellsbury’s post-Yankees career.

Speaking of the DL, a good Yankees center fielder is lost until August. Top prospect Estevan Florial (technically, Gleyber Torres is the top prospect but since he’s in the Major Leagues to stay and will soon lose prospect status, Florial is the top prospect by default) will be out for a few months after it was determined that he’ll need surgery on his hamate bone (right hand, unlike the illustration below).

Hopefully all goes well with Florial’s surgery and recovery and this is not a roadblock or delay for his eventual arrival in the Bronx within the next few years.

Another injured player made a triumphant return yesterday. Greg Bird, on rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton, homered off Bowie Baysox reliever Reid Love in the eighth inning of a 2-0 Thunder win. There’s no doubt Bird will soon be back with the big league club and he’ll be a welcome addition. With no offense to Tyler Austin or Neil Walker, I can’t wait to see Bird manning first base for the Bombers once again.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Billy McKinney also had two hits for the Thunder as he works his way back too, but the roster crunch will send him to Scranton, PA when he is ready.

Given how long it has been since Dellin Betances last pitched, you just know that he is going to implode the next time out. Betances last threw an inning of relief in the 6-2 win over the Oakland A’s on May 13th. I always cringe whenever there are extended delays between appearances for Betances.

In a non-baseball related topic, here is a shameless plug for a new TV series that will air on FX Network this fall, Mayans MC.

Mayans MC stars J.D. Pardo, Emilio Rivera and Edward James Olmos. The show was created by Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, and is set in the post-Jax Teller Sons of Anarchy universe. The story focuses on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (Pardo), a prospect in the Mayan MC Santo Padre charter on the California/Mexico border.  According to the official storyline, EZ is the gift son of a proud Latino family, who American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape. Rivera reprises his SOA role as Marcus Alvarez, the President of the Mayans MC Oakland charter and the MC’s National President. Olmos plays EZ’s father, Felipe Reyes.  Michael Irby is featured as Obispo “Bishop” Losa, President of the Santo Padre charter. I’ve been tracking this show for several years now and it is exciting that it will finally be part of the Fall TV lineup.

Hopefully today brings the more resilient Yankees team we are familiar with as they’ve shaken off the rust from the long delay between games. The Yankees have proven they can beat the best teams in the American League. Now, they just need to prove they can beat the worst ones.

Go Yankees!

The Washington Washout…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mitchell Layton)

Rain sweeps the Yankees away to Kansas City…

I guess we have Tyler Austin to thank for the last couple of days not being a total loss. Without his heroics (3 RBI’s), the Yankees would have lost Tuesday’s game which was ultimately suspended after 5 ½ innings with the score tied at 3. The Nats would have won the game if Austin hadn’t tied the score with the sac fly after his earlier home run. When the game is resumed, the Yankees will have nine outs to twelve for the Nationals so the odds favor the Nats. Nevertheless, credit goes to Austin for helping to avert a rain-shortened loss.

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Photo Credit: AP (Pablo Martinez Monsivais) via BTA

With rain sweeping away the resumption of the suspended game and Wednesday night’s scheduled game, the Yankees have a couple of days off until they take the field in Kansas City tomorrow night for the first game of a three game weekend series.

I saw a good tweet on Twitter earlier this week that angrily asked why Robinson Cano got suspended for 80 games but the Yankees were only suspended for one. I see no association between Cano’s situation and the Yankees (he hasn’t worn pinstripes since 2013) but it was a good comeback for a day that saw both Cano and the Yankees get suspended (obviously for quite different reasons).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

As for Cano, I am disappointed. I don’t know all the facts of his case, but I am glad the Yankees didn’t try to match the huge offer the Seattle Mariners made to Cano after the 2013 season. I was not in favor of a ten year deal then, and this incident only reaffirms what can go wrong with inflated extended deals (I know, we have our own ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’ to bear). I always liked Robbie even if I did get frustrated at times with his lack of hustle. But as we stand here today, I’d much rather have Gleyber Torres as the Yankees starting second baseman than Robinson Cano, even if he hadn’t fractured a bone in his hand or was not currently serving a suspension for banned substances. The only injustice I saw about Cano’s suspension is he gets to begin serving it while he is on the disabled list. So, the actual playing time he’ll miss as a result of the 80-game suspension will be much less since the bulk of the time will be spent recovering and rehabbing from the surgery on his hand. I am glad he was ruled ineligible for post-season play, should the Mariners make the playoffs. It’s very convenient (and fortunate) for the Mariners that they have another All-Star second baseman on the roster with Dee Gordon who was serving as a first-time starting center fielder for the M’s prior to Cano’s injury and subsequent suspension.  The M’s will still, no doubt, miss Cano in their lineup.

I do hope for Cano’s sake, he is able to put this behind him and he has no further acts of indiscretion for the duration of his playing career. I will continue to root for and support the former Yankee.

Poor David Hale. He’s been DFA’d three times this year (twice by the Yankees and once by the Minnesota Twins). Honestly, I am not really sure why the Yankees picked him up a second time. I’d rather see him cut this time rather than going to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on an outright assignment if he clears waivers. There’s nothing special in Hale’s arm and I’d rather see a young, hungry pitcher get his opportunity. I wish Hale the best in his future non-Yankee endeavors.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

The latest DFA for Hale cleared a temporary spot for Clint Frazier. It was speculated his latest time with the big league club would be limited to the Nationals series (to provide an extra bat off the bench for the National League-style of play) but with the rainouts, Frazier traveled with the team to KC and will hopefully get some time in the outfield with Aaron Judge and company before he gets the inevitable call to head back to Pennsylvania. It would be great if Red Thunder and his bat make it very difficult to demote him. Admittedly, I am growing tired of Aaron Hicks in center. Hicks may be the better defender and the more “true” center fielder, but I think Frazier has the better promise and potential for the now and in the future. Hicks is too inconsistent for me. I only wish that Estevan Florial was more advanced in his development and maturity. Dude, hurry up and age, will ya??!!

To sidetrack for a moment, I do have to say I’d gladly put Frazier in a trade package if it meant the Yankees could pry LHP Madison Bumgarner from the San Francisco Giants. I know Mad Bum has suffered some fluke injuries in recent years and has as much familiarity with the DL as Jacoby Ellsbury and Clayton Kershaw but when healthy, he’s a gamer. I’d love to roll with Luis Severino and Bumgarner as my top two pitchers heading into October. However, if Frazier is not traded, I hope he gets his chance to stay with the Pinstripes even if it comes at the expense of Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Shanna Lockwood)

Back to the Yankees and Nationals, the makeup day will be Monday, June 18th at 5:05 pm Eastern. It is going to make for a very long night for the Yankees with at least 12 innings of baseball. They finish a series against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx on the preceding Sunday afternoon, and then after the game and a half on Monday night in the Nation’s Capital, they quickly head back to Yankee Stadium to begin a series against the Cano-less Mariners the next day.

Despite the washout in Washington, the Yankees (28-12) are currently a ½ game ahead of the Boston Red Sox (29-14) in the AL East Standings.  Boston plays tonight at Fenway Park against the lowly Baltimore Orioles so it’s possible the Yankees and Red Sox could be tied entering play tomorrow. But then again, the spineless David Price is on the mound for the Sox so I’ll gladly take my chances with Greg Bird’s high school buddy Kevin Gausman and the O’s.

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Photo Credit: The Aurora Sentinel (Heather Longway)

I really feel bad for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans. I am a known Dodgers sympathizer (they’re my NL team) and this has been an awful start to the year for the defending National League champs. Entering the season, many had them making the World Series for the second year in a row, but after another loss to the Miami Marlins last night, the Dodgers are 16-26 and have fallen into last place in the NL West.  Well, technically they are tied with the San Diego Padres, but the Padres have the slight advantage in winning percentage.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

Injuries have been tough but there were so many parallels between the Yankees and the Dodgers at the start of the season. Both are big market teams trying to reset luxury tax penalties with strong, young teams. But the similarities end there. The Dodgers had to let valuable role players like Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson walk in the off-season to keep payroll down and they’ve lost superstar players like Corey Seager (out for the year) and Clayton Kershaw to injury. This is Justin Turner’s first week back after his DL stint to start the year. The Dodgers face a lost season or they need to quickly spend to bring in strong reinforcements if they hope to salvage the season. The Dodgers have a strong farm system (okay, not as strong as the Yankees) but it is not ready to help.  They’re already leaning on young guys like Walker Buehler in the starting rotation.  Manny Machado’s name keeps coming up as an option for the Dodger Blue but he’d probably eliminate any chance of the Dodgers staying under the luxury tax threshold. Plus, they’d have to find a position for him if they have any hopes of signing him after the season since Seager will be back next year to reclaim shortstop. The Dodgers situation shows how much luck plays into strategy when it comes to navigating the treacherous waters of payroll. The Yankees and Dodgers are clearly trending in opposite directions.

I have tickets to two upcoming Dodgers games. Sounds like I’ll probably have a more enjoyable time watching the out of town scoreboard to see how the Yankees are doing.

To the Yankees and all of us fans, enjoy your day off. We look forward to watching the road team step up to the plate at Kaufman Stadium on Friday night.

Go Yankees!