Tagged: Kyle Higashioka

The Losing Skid Continues…

Credit:  Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports

A’s 4, Yankees 3…

The Yankees finished their West Coast trip with a six-game losing streak.  After winning the first game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim last Monday, they did not win another game in the Pacific Time Zone (finishing the trip with a 1-6 mark).  The A’s series is the first time the Yankees have been swept this year. This has been a long, agonizing road trip. Late games, blown leads, emotional losses, pileup of injuries, etc.  Every loss was a winnable game which makes it that much harder to accept. The starting rotation was 0-2 with 6.98 ERA for the last six games. The Yankees fly back home for a much-needed day off before resuming play on Tuesday in the Bronx against the Angels.

On Sunday, the Yankees jumped out early to a 2-0 lead over the Oakland A’s.  Matt Holliday homered off A’s starter Jharel Cotton in the top of the 2nd inning to start the scoring.  In the third, Brett Gardner led off with a double.  After Gary Sanchez struck out, Aaron Judge singled to right, scoring Gardner.

Unfortunately, like the other games, the Yankees couldn’t hold the lead.  In the bottom of the third, the A’s tied the game at two on a two-run double by Chad Pinder.  They then took the lead when Khris Davis hit his 18th home run of the season off Luis Cessa to put the A’s up, 4-2.

Didi Gregorius quickly answered with a home run leading off the fourth to pull the Yankees within a run.  But unfortunately for our guys, it would represent the last run scored in the game.

Luis Cessa (0-1) was pulled after four innings, allowing a total of 5 hits and 4 runs. One bad inning but enough to push the team to another loss.  He walked one and struck out 4 in an outing that will most likely buy him airfare to Scranton, PA.

Credit:  Thearon W Henderson-Getty Images

The Yankees had a scoring opportunity in the 9th against the A’s Sean Doolittle.  Didi Gregorius reached second on a two-base throwing error with one out.  Sadly, Chase Headley struck out and Chris Carter weakly popped out to Yonder Alonso in foul territory to strand Gregorius, the potential tying run.

It’s incredibly painful to lose so many close games.  After showing signs of fighting back in the earlier losses, the last two were feeble offensive performances after the Yankees lost their early leads.  Chris Carter is killing this team.  There’s a reason that the Milwaukee Brewers said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ when they cut Carter after a season in which he hit 41 home runs.  At least they got a plethora of bombs.  Although Carter has gotten a hold of a few mistake pitches this season, he is mostly providing rally-killing outs.

Aroldis Chapman was able to get one inning of work in to at least justify the cross-country flight to join the team for one game before boarding the eastbound plane back to NYC.  It was a clean inning for Chapman as he retired the three batters he faced with just 8 pitches.  He struck out the first batter he faced.  The other two were groundouts.

Credit:  Tony Avelar-Associated Press

The Yankees (38-29) will now have a day to regroup with the return to New York.  The Eastern Time Zone never looked so good.  The Boston Red Sox beat the Houston Astros 6-5 to move into a first place tie with the Yankees.  Every team in the AL East picked up a game on the Yankees yesterday.  The Tampa Bay Rays are just 3 1/2 games behind, followed by the Baltimore Orioles (4 1/2) and the Toronto Blue Jays (5 1/2).  The Red Sox play this evening against the Royals in Kansas City so it’s very possible the Yankees could find themselves in second place when play resumes tomorrow.

Odds & Ends…

After a two-day stint backing up Austin Romine while Gary Sanchez sat out a couple of games, Kyle Higashioka is headed back to Scranton.  He was optioned on Sunday to make room for closer Aroldis Chapman.  Higashioka did not appear in any games so he remains in search of his first Major League hit (hitless in 18 at-bats this season).

Chance Adams gets the attention at Triple A, but RHP Caleb Smith is now 5-0 for the RailRiders after throwing a one-hit shutout on Sunday.  The RailRiders defeated the Buffalo Bisons, 2-0.  Smith, 25, went the distance (7 innings), walking two and striking out seven.  His season ERA is 2.44.  Adams, who also won this weekend, is 4-2 with 2.43 ERA.

Credit:  Fred Adams-For Times Leader

Gleyber Torres has been placed on the 7-Day Disabled List with the hyperextended elbow.  He will consult with Yankees team physician Dr Christopher Ahmad on Monday.  They are saying that Torres could be out of action for more than a week.

Former Yankees prospect Peter O’Brien, who has become much-travelled, has been claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  O’Brien was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers earlier this month and subsequently placed on waivers.  The Yankees traded O’Brien to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July 2014 in the deal that brought Martin Prado to New York.  The D-Backs traded O’Brien to the Kansas City Royals this past January.  He was subsequently claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds, and then the Rangers.  The Dodgers become the fifth team to take a chance on O’Brien this year.  Teams love his power but quickly grow weary of his plate discipline and questionable defense.

Have a great Monday!  On the bright side, it is impossible for the Yankees to lose today. Here’s hoping for better results tomorrow.

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The State of the Curious…

With the impending returns of shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher Gary Sanchez within the next few weeks, the Yankees have some decisions to make.  Granted, Kyle Higashioka goes back down to AAA to become the starting catcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, retaining his seat at the table (the 40-Man roster).  But for Pete Kozma, the future is less certain.

There’s no reason to protect Kozma on the 40-man roster.  It is possible that the Yankees stash him at AAA when Didi returns for insurance, but, realistically, why?  As I type this post, shortstop Tyler Wade is the top hitter for the RailRiders with a .386 batting average (17-for-44 in 11 games).  He has also stolen 6 bags.  With Ronald Torreyes moving back to the super-sub role, Wade represents the greatest shortstop insurance going forward.  Therefore, if it’s my call, Kozma is DFA’d upon Didi’s return.  If he clears waivers, assign him to AAA.  If he is claimed, so be it.  It’s no great loss.  The downside to assigning Kozma to AAA is the fight for playing time with Wade.  So, I’d probably just cut him outright and send him on his way.

The decision then becomes what to do with the 40-man roster spot vacated by Kozma.  It probably doesn’t make sense to give it to Wade (not yet anyway).  I could see the Yankees giving it to a pitcher like Tyler Webb to be part of the bullpen shuttle throughout the summer.  The harder decisions about the 40-man roster will have to be made after the season and before the Rule 5 Draft in December.  For now, the roster decisions are about who can help us today, not tomorrow. 

I know that we didn’t quite make it, but there is something about a ten-game winning streak that I’ve always loved.  It cures all ails.  It is so fun to go more than a week without feeling the agony of defeat.  The Yankees missed making it ten-in-a-row by two games but it was still a fun ride.  The sad part is that with a few clutch hits here and there and no error by the aforementioned Kozma, the Yankees probably could have extended the win streak to nine.  But as they say, that’s the way the ball bounces, so I guess I’ll just have to look forward to the next streak to achieve my self-fulfilling objective for ten. 

Coming into the season, I really had my doubts about Luis Severino and his ability to be a quality major league starter.  I was starting to feel that his stuff played best in the bullpen.  At a quick glance, his stats do not tell the story.  He is 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in three starts.  It sounds very pedestrian, but then you look at 20 innings pitched (an average of nearly 7 innings per game) with 27 strikeouts.  More impressive is his 0.80 WHIP (14 hits and 2 walks).  He is currently behind only five pitchers for the lowest WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).  The only pitchers with better WHIP are Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins (0.45), James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners (0.57), Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros (0.62), Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers (0.70), and Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox (0.74).  Severino is in very good company.  I know it’s just three starts but this is a significant improvement over last year and it does appear to be sustainable.

Credit:  Noah K Murray/USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the improved performances of both Severino and Michael Pineda, there is reason for optimism with every starter in the rotation.  This also supports that the Yankees could have another extended winning streak coming their way in the not-so-distant future.  Good times at Yankee Stadium. 

The Yankees signed LHP Nestor Oronel, 20, to a minor league deal.  The Pittsburgh Pirates released Oronel after three years in March.  My first thought was that Oronel is just fodder for minor league starting pitching depth.  But being a lefty and only 20 years of age (he doesn’t turn 21 until December) leads me to believe that he might be viewed as a reclamation project.  

Gleyber Torres has been placed on the 7-day Minor League DL with his shoulder injury.  Manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday that he just has some inflammation in the shoulder and shouldn’t be down too long.  So, it does sound as though the team (and Torres) dodged a bullet, and he will be back in the Trenton Thunder lineup soon.

The Yankees returned to the win column with Wednesday night’s win over the Chicago White Sox, 9-1.  Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff, but he still went 7 innings, giving up only a single run.  He struck out 6 and walked two while scattering six hits.  The Yankees need this guy to be hitting on all cylinders, and he’s getting closer.  It was a great offensive night as every starter had a hit, and the team was homer happy with four.  

The Yankees only allowed former closer David Robertson to get one save opportunity as they took the three game set from the White Sox, two games to one.  At 10-5, the Yankees are percentage points behind the Baltimore Orioles (9-4).  They lead the third place Boston Red Sox by a game, although the Red Sox can cut the distance by a 1/2 game with a win today (an off day for the Yankees).  Since the Orioles also play today, the Yankees could either be 1/2 game behind the O’s at the end of the day or they could be the AL East Leaders.  

Friday, the Yankees head to Pittsburgh for a weekend series with the Pirates.  Like the White Sox, the Pirates feature a few former Yankees.  Catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, and Pitchers Ivan Nova and Wade LeBlanc.  You could loosely throw Gerrit Cole into the category although he was never officially a Yankee.  He was a former top draft pick who never signed.   Although Nova wears Andy Pettitte’s number (46) for Pittsburgh, his first start against his former team will pit him against his old number (47) when he matches up with Jordan Montgomery on Sunday.  

The Yankees deserve this day off.  They’ve exceeded expectations and have been a very exciting team to watch.  It’s amazing to think it’s only going to get better when Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius are back and Greg Bird is hitting like we know he can.

Have a great Thursday!  One in row, Baby!  Let’s make it two on Friday!

Find An Apartment In The City, Monty…

Credit:  Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

“But I like it, I love it, I want some more of it…”

He didn’t get the win, gave up a home run to a journeyman infielder, and didn’t last the length of an official game, but Jordan Montgomery has earned my respect and I am looking forward to his next start.

Montgomery was rudely introduced to the Major Leagues by Tampa’s Rickie Weeks Jr, who hit a homer with two outs and one on in the top of the first inning.  It was a moment that could have sent any young pitcher (or Micheal Pineda) into a tailspin.  Instead, he induced Corey Dickerson into a ground out and it was inning over.   He did get into a little trouble in the third when he allowed a single to Peter Bourjos and hit Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch with just one out, however, he proceeded to strike out the next two batters to end the threat.

In the fourth inning, Steven Souza Jr doubled to start the inning.  What’s with all these Jr’s in the Rays lineup?  Maybe I should just call myself Fid Jr.  Sorry, I digress.  Back to the topic at hand, Montgomery struck out the next two batters (Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria).  At that point, he was pulled in favor of Bryan Mitchell.  Souza Jr subsequently scored on a fielding error by Starlin Castro so the run wasn’t charged against Montgomery.

The line reads 4 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned runs, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts, but it doesn’t tell the story how Montgomery got tougher when the stakes were raised.  He was resilient and did not allow bad plays to influence his game.  Like Mariano Rivera, he had a short memory and was not intimidated by any of the Rays hitters, including slugger Evan Longoria.  Some guys may not profile as top of the line aces but they are just winners.  That’s what Montgomery is to me.  He seems like he can be a guy you want to hand the ball to in a pressure situation.  We need a few more of those.  

I thought it was great that the Yankees started Montgomery’s minor league catcher, Kyle Higashioka.  I am sure that helped with the transition to Yankee Stadium.  Higashioka didn’t do much with the bat, but that wasn’t why he was so important to the game.  Bravo to Montgomery for his first start and congrats to Higashioka for calling it.  I think Jordan will be even stronger the next time out.  The Yankees decision to promote Montgomery has been validated.  

For the game, the Yankees did win.  With the 8-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, they’ve won two of two out of a three game set.  The series concludes today.  At the beginning of the week, I was hopeful for two out of three.  Sorry, but now I want a sweep.  A 5-4 record would be so much better than 1-4 or in this case, 4-5.  Aaron Judge was 2-for-3 with yet another home run (his third in consecutive games).  But his single was the talk of the game.  The exit velocity of the ball was 116.5 MPH, the fastest base hit of 2017.  Is there any doubt Manager Joe Girardi made the right decision when he picked Judge over Aaron Hicks to start in right field?  All of us have known that Judge has the potential to be a monster.  He’s showing us the evidence.  

On the downside, Brett Gardner was injured in a collision at first base with Rickie Weeks Jr.  Not sure if the collision is a product of Weeks’ inexperience at first, but Gardner will be out for a few days with a bruised jaw and strained neck.  Aaron Weeks, who had completed a three game streak of starting in right, center, left figures to get a few more starts until Gardner returns.  In the interim, it pushes Jacoby Ellsbury to the top of the lineup as the leadoff hitter.  Ugh.  Here’s hoping for a quick recovery to good health for Gardy.

Credit:  Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Pitcher James Kaprielian has met with Dr Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles but no word has been released regarding Kaprielian’s decision.  I am sure this is a very difficult decision for the young hurler.  While I hope for the best result to get him back on the field again, what’s best for Kaprielian takes precedence over what’s best for the Yankees.  So, whatever decision Kaprielian makes, I will support and accept.

Regarding the 40-man roster, the loser of the seat at the table is pitcher Johnny Barbato.  While I was worried that Robert Refsnyder might be the player DFA’d, I did feel that it was most likely one of the lesser known pitchers.  I think in my mind, Barbato is the pitcher I thought of first.  Since being acquired from the San Diego Padres for reliever Shawn Kelley (now a vital part of the Washington Nationals’ bullpen), Barbato has not done anything at the Major League level.  His brief appearances have not been memorable and I was surprised over the winter when the Yankees left some quality guys off the 40-man roster to protect Barbato.  I assumed the Yankees saw something in the pitcher that I haven’t seen.    With the number of quality arms in the organization, I have no problem with losing Barbato.  Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman will be able to flip him for something of value as he’d probably be claimed off waivers by another team.  

With Montgomery’s strong start, I am hopeful that Luis Severino answers the bell today against the Rays.  After last year’s 0-8 record in starting assignments, I didn’t want to go into this year with Severino chasing wins again.  He failed his first attempt last week but today represents redemption.  I hopeful that he drops a “W” in his win-loss record so that we can get that bad boy out of the way and move into friendly debates about which young pitcher is better.  

We’ll have a Bird in the lineup today so there’s no reason we can’t fly!  Go Yankees, and have a great Thursday!

Don’t Look Now But It’s J-Mont Time!…

Credit:  Chris O’Meara, AP

Whoa, I didn’t think it would happen but Jordan Montgomery has claimed the fifth spot in the starting rotation.  As recent as yesterday, I said I expected the Yankees to go with either Bryan Mitchell (currently on the Major League roster) or Chad Green (currently in the minors) since both pitchers are on the 40-man roster.  Surprisingly, Manager Joe Girardi has announced they’ll call up Jordan Montgomery to make his much anticipated Major League Debut on Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.  

I think it’s a terrific move.  While I have been aware of the minor league accomplishments that Montgomery has achieved, I jumped on the bandwagon during Spring Training after watching him pitch.  I had been a big supporter for Mitchell but the tall young left-hander changed my mind.  I think it is tremendous to add another talented lefty to the rotation to go with CC Sabathia.  Montgomery may not profile as a frontline ace, but he can be a very effective Big League pitcher.  There will be bumps in the road but I think Montgomery can be an important part of the starting rotation when the team returns to contender status in the not-so-distant future.  

No word yet who has lost their spot on the 40-man roster.  You always have to worry about Rob Refsnyder given the lack of love he has been shown by Yankees management (regardless of how you or I feel about Ref).  I think it will probably be one of the lesser known younger pitchers but it’s really anybody’s guess for who will lose the seat at the table.

With Montgomery scheduled to start tomorrow, it pushes everyone else back a day.  Luis Severino will pitch on Thursday.  To make room on the 25-man roster for Montgomery, the Yankees have demoted lefty reliever Chasen Shreve to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  The decision regarding the 40-man roster, which was not announced, will be made by Wednesday.

Congratulations to Montgomery for his arrival at The Show and best of luck for much success on Wednesday for his Major League (and Yankee Stadium) debut!  Exciting times!  These are the steps that lay the foundation for the next World Series Championship!

It’s been announced that catcher Gary Sanchez will miss four weeks with a Grade 1 Strain of his  right brachialis muscle (behind his bicep).  I think all of us knew that this was going to be longer than a 10-Day DL stint.  A month is a long time, but all things considered, it could have been worse, much worse.  So, I guess we’ll just have delay the Yankees Regulars Reunion Party until May when Sanchez and Didi Gregorius both return.  

I’ve already seen a few articles speculating who the Yankees should acquire for interim catching help.  I think they’ll just go with the in-house candidates like they did for Didi Gregorius.  I would prefer to see a platoon between Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka rather than just give the job outright to Romine.  I really want to see what Higashioka has in his bat.  He was a late bloomer but I think he can be a better catcher than Romine.  Of the external candidates, the only name that sounds reasonably appealing to me is John Ryan Murphy of the Minnesota Twins.  But despite the good job Murphy did as the Yankees backup catcher a couple of seasons ago, he has had a difficult time staying on the Twins’ MLB roster and is currently at Triple A.  

With Sanchez out of the lineup, it’s critical for someone else to step up.  Could that guy be right fielder Aaron Judge?  Judge homered on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles and again yesterday on Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays.  He has done a good job in reducing strikeouts and maybe now his bat is coming around.  After struggling at each level, he has always overcome the challenges.  Let’s hope this is the start of success for Judge in the Major Leagues, his final frontier.  

Speaking of Opening Day, it was a magical day.  Prior to the game, I had hoped the significance of the day would help bring out the best in Pineda.  It did.  Big Mike pitched exactly the way we know he can.  He took a perfect game into the seventh inning before surrendering a double to Evan Longoria.  He lost the shutout in the eighth, thanks to a Logan Morrison home run.  Those would be the only hits (and run) allowed by Pineda, who went 7 2/3 innings.  He didn’t walk a batter and struck out eleven in one of his most magnificent performances in recent memory.  This is the Big Mike that can take us to the Promised Land.  

For the second day in a row, Aroldis Chapman saw a potential save opportunity evaporate due to multiple late inning runs.  After the top of the eighth inning was completed, the Yankees held a slim 3-1 lead.  It felt like we’d see Chapman in the ninth to try for his first save of the season.  He had even gotten up to throw in the pen but it was not meant to be as the Yankees easily scored five runs in the bottom of the 8th to ice the game.  So, for the ninth inning, Chasen Shreve cleanly delivered three outs with no hits, walks or runs, striking out one.  For his trouble, he received a free all-expenses paid one-way trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  

In addition to Judge’s fourth inning home run off Alex Cobb, Chase Headley and Starlin Castro also homered later in the game.  Matt Holliday had a good Yankee Stadium debut as he was 2-for-4, with a run scored and one ribbie.  Chris Carter, also making his Yankee Stadium debut, tripled to drive in a run during the eighth inning scoring explosion.

It was a GREAT day for the Yankees and their fans from beginning to end.  The day could not have been better scripted.  Well, I wouldn’t object to the erasure of Longoria’s hit or Morrison’s homer, but all things considered, it was a wonderful day in the Bronx neighborhood.  

For a day like yesterday, it’s fun to have a day off today to let the pleasing victory marinate.  Take these good feelings and channel them into the desire for a sensational debut performance tomorrow by New York Yankees starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery!  Wow, that does sound good…

Have a great Tuesday!