Tagged: Luis Cessa

Great Britton Has Joined the War…

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Yanks acquire elite Reliever for Stretch Run…

I am not sure how I felt when I first heard that trade negotiations were heating up between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles.  In 2016, there was not a more dominant reliever in baseball than Zach Britton. He was 2-1 with 47 saves and was virtually unhittable with 0.54 ERA (giving up only four earned runs in 67 innings pitched). He struck out 74 batters and was only touched for one home run. He thrust his name in the arena of elite closers, but then the last couple of years have been injury-filled. After accumulating 120 saves between 2014 and 2016, he has only 19 this year and last. By comparison, the interim closer for the O’s, Brad Brach, has 29 saves for 2017 and YTD 2018.

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When healthy, there are not too many pitchers better than Britton. Plus, he’s a lefty so that’s huge plus for Yankee Stadium. Hopefully this means that Chasen Shreve’s days are numbered. When Britton returned from the DL, he was generally effective although his ERA was torched by a bad outing in Atlanta on June 22nd when he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits while recording only a single out. But in July, he’s been his dominant self, allowing no runs over 7 innings and striking out 13. He shut down the Yankees for an inning on July 10th (the two-homer game by former Oriole Manny Machado), picking up the win on the walk-off single by Jonathan Schoop. He struck out the last two Yankees he faced (Miguel Andujar and Greg Bird).

I am in favor of the Britton trade, but I think I was as grateful he wasn’t traded to the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox as I was with the thought of him restoring the three-headed beast in the bullpen that has been missing since the Yankees traded away Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in 2016 (with no offense to David Robertson, who remains one of my favorite Yankees).

Yesterday must have been weird for Britton.  His team was playing the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards in Baltimore. When the game started, Britton and the Orioles were 42 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East Standings. By the time the rain-delayed game ended, Britton had gained 37 ½ games on the Red Sox, thanks to his new Pinstripes. Britton first became aware of the potential Yankees trade during the rain delay when he was met with countless messages and texts on his cell phone so it must have been bittersweet for him to watch his teammates defeat the Red Sox when play resumed. Part of me wished that the O’s had brought Britton out one last time (nothing better than to see him defeat the Red Sox), but the Orioles were not going to risk potential injury to jeopardize the trade. So Brad Brach came in to close it out and nearly blew the game in the rain-marred 9th inning. But in the end, he left the game-tying and -winning runs stranded on base by inducing the great Mookie Betts to hit into a game-ending double play. The win allowed Britton to walk away from Camden Yards on a positive note.

So, welcome to the New York Yankees, Zach Britton! Whether your stay is only for a few months or long-term should you decide to sign with the Yankees in the off-season, we are glad to have you. With Chapman’s knee issues, I am sure that there will be save opportunities for you. Looking forward to watching you send AL hitters home frustrated with that deadly sinker.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)

As for the guys the Yankees gave up, the one I probably hated to see leave the most was Cody Carroll. I’ve liked the reliever for the last few years but the loaded Yankees pen has kept him at Triple A. Although he has been assigned to the O’s Triple A club in Norfolk, there’s no doubt he’ll soon be making his Major League debut for his new club. Former Yanks like Richard Bleier and Yefry Ramirez (the winner pitcher in Baltimore’s win over the Red Sox yesterday) have done very well for the Orioles and I expect no less from Carroll. The headliner was Dillon Tate who has restored his stock as a quality prospect this year after once being selected fourth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. Tate, acquired in the trading deadline deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers two years ago, may turn out to be a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter or a good setup reliever but he was never going to get that opportunity in New York. There are too many better guys in front of him. Josh Rogers has been a nice left-handed starter for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but I agree with one Yankees beat writer that labeled him as a “poor man’s Jordan Montgomery”. With so many players needing protection from the Rule 5 Draft in December, I have no problem clearing the board of some of the fringe prospects. The fact the Yankees got an elite reliever without giving up a player from the cream of their prospects is incredible. The Yankees paid more for Britton than the A’s paid for Mets closer Jeurys Familia but it was worth it. Casey Stern’s famous quote (“Prospects are cool…Parades are cooler”) is very appropriate in this situation. If the Yankees win the World Series, I am not going to worry about future damage that Tate, Carroll and Rogers may do to the Yankees just like Cubs fans do not regret the trade that sent the very talented young Gleyber Torres to the Yankees.

There’s now less than a week to go to the non-waivers trading deadline next Tuesday. I still fully anticipate a trade for a proven starter although I do not feel the Yankees will be making any surprise stealth moves to acquire premium starters like Jacob deGrom or Madison Bumgarner. At this point, I probably feel more strongly than ever that J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays has a future in the Bronx. Given the Yankees are responsible for the full pro-rated balance of Britton’s one-year deal, I think they’ll tread lightly for luxury tax avoidance purposes. So, Happ makes more sense to me than Cole Hamels even though the latter has the better post-season resume. Although Happ has generally been awful for his last few starts, he held the Orioles to 1 run on 4 hits over 5 innings in his most recent start, striking out 9. He has shown the ability to beat the Astros and Red Sox so I’d have no qualms about adding him to the rotation. Zach Britton represents huge insurance and protection for Happ’s addition.

Lost in the Britton trade was the dominating performance of Masahiro Tanaka last night as the Yankees took down the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-0. Tanaka pitched a complete game shut-out, giving up only three hits and avoiding his usual obligatory home runs. He walked a batter and struck out 9 while throwing 105 pitches and lowering his season ERA to 4.09. After watching Luis Severino fall down against the Rays the night before, the Yankees needed a solid effort from Tanaka and they got it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Ehrmann)

The win allowed the Yankees (64-35) to pick up a game on the Red Sox (71-32). The Yankees are 5 games behind the Red Sox entering play today and they are 5 games up on the Seattle Mariners in the AL Wild Card Standings.

I haven’t heard yet when Britton will join his new team but I think it would be foolish to make him travel to Tampa, Florida for today’s game, particularly given its early start time. The Yankees bullpen is rested and they can afford to wait a day for Britton’s arrival. Therefore, I’d send Britton to New York in anticipation of Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. It would give Britton a breather to adjust to the change and to make temporary living accommodations. I’ve wondered if third base coach Phil Nevin will give up #53 for Britton. It’s not like he is married to the number. I guess we’ll soon find out.

Luis Cessa (1-1, 3.00 ERA) makes his return to the Yankees today for the start in the series finale with the Rays. He’ll be opposed by former (and maybe future?) Yank Nathan Eovaldi (3-4, 4.26 ERA). The Yankees are expected to activate Gleyber Torres before today’s game. It will be interesting to see the roster move made to open a spot for Torres. Cessa’s spot was opened by last night’s demotion of Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A. The most likely guy to join him with the RailRiders is Tyler Wade although Brandon Drury could certainly be an option if he needs a stint on the DL following his hand injury yesterday. Test results on the hand were negative but Drury’s hand is bruised and he could miss a few days.  A short stint on the DL might be good for him. Inevitably, I see the road coming to an end for Neil Walker but I don’t expect to see his name on the transactions wire today. Getting Torres back might be the single greatest “acquisition” the Yankees make this month. The Yankees have done a much better job winning with Gleyber’s name in the lineup than not so his presence is tremendous for the team.

Today is a great day for a Yankees victory. Cessa, please make it happen. Go Yankees!

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Thud! Starts the Second Half…

Yankees fall to the lowly Mets in Series Opener…

Well, that was disappointing. I can’t say I met the news the Yankees would start Domingo German and Sonny Gray to open the second half with great optimism. Still, I had hoped for a better performance from German on Friday but it was not to be. From the time German walked the lead-off hitter with four consecutive balls to start the game, it felt like it wasn’t going to be his night.

The Mets had a 3-0 lead before the Yankees had even come to bat, and German was headed for the showers after 3 2/3 innings and four runs. He somehow made the pathetic Mets offense look like a juggernaut. The Yankees tried to rally but the hole dug by German and reliever Adam Warren was too great as the Yankees fell to the Mets, 7-5. German’s season record dropped to 2-6 with the loss, paired with a 5.68 ERA. After the game, German was given a ticket to catch up with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in Columbus, Ohio to work on his mechanics. I can’t say that I am sorry to see him go.

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

This really underscores the inability of GM Brian Cashman to secure much-needed reinforcements for the starting rotation. We’ve known for a long time the team needed help. I know Jordan Montgomery’s Tommy John surgery was unforeseen but Cashman was openly talking about the need for another quality starter last winter (an obvious need that everyone saw). German and Jonathan Loaisiga may turn out to be great middle-of-the-rotation arms but for a team in contention, we don’t have the luxury of learning with their bumps and bruises. Last start excluded, I don’t think anyone thought Sonny Gray would be this bad and that has magnified Cashman’s inability to find adequate help. If the deal-breaker to acquire former Pittsburgh Pirate Gerrit Cole last winter was Clint Frazier, it was a huge error on Cashman’s part.  Cole (10-2, 2.52 ERA for the Houston Astros) would look great in the Yankees rotation right now.

After last night’s game when German was demoted, manager Aaron Boone said Luis Cessa would make German’s next start. The Yankees were expected to temporarily call up a reliever until it was time for Cessa to make his start and today they promoted Domingo Acevedo to take German’s spot. Acevedo, a starter for Double-A Trenton, is expected to provide long relief for the Yankees until it is time for Cessa to make his start. He provides Boone with another power arm in the pen for now. I think Acevedo’s long term future is the bullpen so this is his moment to impress.

Photo Credit: Martin Griff

Cessa pitched fine his last time out for the Yankees but I am starting to join the crowd that wants to see top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield. I don’t think Sheffield will be a starter for a pennant-chasing team as we head toward the stretch run, at least not this year particularly given he’ll be bumping up against an innings limit, but I am intrigued to see what he can do.  It can’t be any worse than German has already given us. The downside with the promotion of Sheffield is the need to create room on the 40-man roster, which is not a factor for either Cessa or Acevedo. The Yanks have to place Sheff on the 40-man roster prior to December’s Rule 5 Draft, but that’s a move for later.

Prior to yesterday’s game, the Yankees recalled infielder Brandon Drury to fill the spot vacated when they optioned Clint Frazier to Triple A prior to the All-Star break. By spend ing more time in the Minors, the Yankees secured an extra year of control on Drury. I hope he’s here to stay. It remains my opinion that I’d be very comfortable with Drury at third should the Yankees find it necessary to include Miguel Andujar for a top starting pitcher. Andujar is a very nice young player but there’s no doubt this team’s greater need is starting pitching.

The Yankees apparently lost out on reliever Brad Hand when they refused to include Andujar in a potential trade with the San Diego Padres before he was dealt to the Cleveland Indians. As much as I would have liked to have given the bullpen a Hand, I agree if Andujar is moved, it should be for a top starter (not guys like Cole Hamels or J.A. Happ) and certainly not for relievers. I really like Baltimore’s Zach Britton but Andujar should not be part of the discussion despite the O’s obvious need for a third baseman now that Tim Beckham has moved back to short.

Drury is penciled in to play second base today against the Mets and Steven Matz. The two ribbies last night by Neil Walker was nice but I’ll gladly take Drury over Walker any day of the week. “Yankees DFA Walker” remains the headline that I am most anxious to see. Well, maybe “Yankees acquire elite starting pitcher…” but the elimination of Walker is not far behind.

The most painful aspect of last night’s loss was the win by the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox made a solo first inning run hold up in the 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers behind former Tiger David Price. The win allowed the Red Sox to increase their lead in the AL East to 5 1/2 games. If the Yankees can’t shake this tailspin, the Red Sox are going to run away with the division as they’ve shown no signs of losing anytime soon. The Red Sox continue to show that they can do what the Yankees cannot, beat the teams you are supposed to.

Gary Sanchez, who struck out to end the eighth inning last night with the bases loaded, remains a disappointment.  His batting line stands at .191/.289/.428. Entering the season, I felt Sanchez was the Yankees best hitter but clearly I was wrong. I saw one random Twitter post suggest the Yankees should include Sanchez in a trade for Jacob deGrom and then swing a deal with the Miami Marlins for their catcher, J.T. Realmuto. A few months ago, I would have laughed at the thought but today it is one that gives you pause. I remain hopeful that El Gary starts hitting like 2017 and there’s still time. We need his bat.

Manny Machado’s debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers was a successful one. He singled in his first at bat against the Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee, and finished the game with two hits and a couple of walks. The Dodgers used a three-run homer by Kike Hernandez to hold off the Brewers for a 6-4 win to make Machado’s first game as a Dodger a winning one. Machado was met with boos from the Milwaukee crowd. Milwaukee had fallen short in their quest to acquire Machado. As if it was Manny’s fault Orioles GM Dan Duquette made the decision to send him to sunny LA rather than the Beer Capital of the World. I enjoyed how seamlessly Manny fit in with the Dodgers on his first day, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I hope he doesn’t like it well enough to prevent him from signing with the Yankees in the off-season.

When it was speculated that Manny had chosen #8 with the Dodgers out of respect for Orioles great Cal Ripken, Jr, he should have run with it even if it wasn’t the case.

During his press conference for his Dodgers introduction, he stated that he was a fan of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant (even has a dog named after him) and chose the number for Kobe. I know that Kobe won more titles with #8, but I tend to remember him as #24. Machado also stated the number 8 was symbolic of “new beginnings”. Orioles fans are grieving about the loss of Machado and I think it would have been very soothing for them to hear that he had chosen the number for Ripken rather than Bryant. But on the other hand, you can’t blame Manny for wanting to turn the page. Hopefully he’ll be turning the page on the Dodgers in a few months and making plans for finding a new home in Manhattan.

I remain hopeful Brian Cashman surprises us all with a golden stealth move to strengthen starting pitching and help give the Yankees the necessary weapons to take down the Boston Red Sox. We’re ten days away from the non-waiver trading deadline so there’s time. Personally, I am feeling the urgency, especially considering starts like German last night, but I am optimistic that Cash will not let us down. There is too much potential for the 2018 Yankees to let it slip away.

Sonny Gray, please man up today. I know you’re pitching at Yankee Stadium, a venue you do not seem to appreciate if your pitching stats are any indication, but today is a new day. And these are the Mets. Just win, that’s all I ask.

Go Yankees!

The Rivalry Resumes Tonight in the Bronx…

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Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry, sorry Dodgers-Giants, is back…

Yankees-Red Sox.  It doesn’t get any better than this. The two teams open tonight for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium in the continuing battles for the AL East. The season series is currently tied at three games apiece. The Sox took two of three at Fenway Park in April, and the Yanks countered with two of three in the Bronx during May. After this series, the teams will meet ten more times with the next series a four-game set in Boston which starts on the 39th anniversary of the death of legendary Yankees catcher Thurman Munson (August 2nd). I still miss Munson’s intensity in these Yankees-Red Sox games.

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I am disappointed in former Yankees Assistant General Manager Billy Eppler. The Los Angeles Angels GM has arguably the best baseball player in the World on his team and he can’t put other guys talented enough around Mike Trout to beat the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox enter tonight’s series in the Bronx with a one-game advantage on the Yankees in the AL East. Boston swept their six-game season series with the Halos, thanks to a 4-2 win at Fenway Park yesterday. If the Angels could have taken just one of those games, the Yankees and Red Sox would be tied atop the AL East. I know, it’s still June. Don’t get worked up about the Standings. But, hey Billy, thanks for nothing. That’s literally what you gave us.

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I don’t know what I was more disappointed about. The lack of effort by the Angels against the Red Sox or the “throwaway game” that Aaron Boone served up on Wednesday when he started the underwhelming Luis Cessa against the Philadelphia and inserted the legendary hitless bat of Kyle Higashioka in place of the much better Austin Romine and also sat Aaron Judge even though the Yankees had Thursday off with a very short commute from Philly back to New York. I know that Cessa only let one hitter beat him but the three-run homer by Rhys Hoskins was all the Phillies needed to take down the Yankees on a night the offense was a no-show. In my opinion, Cessa is better used in limited relief appearances. I really wish the Yankees would quit giving him spot start assignments. He is no Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga and never will be.

I get wanting to push CC Sabathia back so that he could open the Boston series tonight but with Cessa’s loss, it didn’t really seem worth it. Sabathia draws a tough opposing pitcher this evening in the form of Eduardo Rodriguez who brings a 9-2 record into the game with a 3.86 ERA. It doesn’t get any easier for the Yankees tomorrow when they’ll throw out Sonny Gray (Sucks!) against Boston ace Chris Sale. The only pitching match-up that favors the Yankees this weekend is Sunday when Luis Severino (12-2, 2.10 ERA) takes on David Price (9-5, 3.66 ERA).

After Wednesday’s game, the Yankees optioned Cessa to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will be recalling Brandon Drury today. Yay! I am very excited to see the Triple-A All-Star back in the Bronx. I like the options to use both Drury and Miguel Andujar at third and move Drury around the infield bags. I hope Drury is here to stay but I think he has at least one more trip to Scranton before he finishes his minor league career. If it was up to me, I’d pat Neil Walker on the back, thank him for his efforts, and send him on his way with bags in hand. Drury has greater long-term value for the Yankees and can easily meet or exceed current production.

The Boston Red Sox have baseball’s highest payroll and a decimated farm system thanks to Dave Dombrowski trades but it didn’t stop the Sox from trying to get better yesterday. They made a deal to acquire 35-year-old infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce from the Toronto Blue Jays for an infield prospect (Santiago Espinal) and cash considerations.  Toronto is apparently contributing $1.66 million toward Pearce’s contract to keep the Red Sox from entering the top tier of tax penalties. Pearce is effective when healthy, but health has been the issue. He has only played 26 games for the Blue Jays this season.  He had a memorable 2017 season when he blasted two walk-off grand slams within a week. He also provided the Jays with a walk-off homer against the Angels earlier this season. When Pearce puts on the Red Sox uniform, he will have worn the uniform for every AL East team  (he appeared in a dozen games for the Yankees early in the 2012 season). Everyone keeps saying the Yankees have the advantage over the Red Sox with a much deeper farm system to deal from, but it doesn’t seem to be holding back the Red Sox. Brian Cashman, your move.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)

There’s talk that the Texas Rangers could move Cole Hamels before the All-Star Game which will be held on Tuesday, July 17th, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Yankees continue to be mentioned as a possible destination, along with Hamels’ old team, the Philadelphia Phillies. I think I still prefer J.A. Happ but I certainly would not complain if Cashman drops Hamels into the Yankees rotation. I know the Yankees have long been connected to Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers but despite the youth and controllable years for the former Rookie of the Year, Fulmer just does not excite me. The Yankees had a scout present for his last start yesterday in Detroit against the Oakland A’s. Fulmer took the loss, pitching eight innings, giving up nine hits and four runs, in the A’s 4-2 victory. For the season, Fulmer is 3-7 with a 4.20 ERA for the 36-46 Tigers. Detroit is apparently asking for the moon and the stars in any trade for Fulmer. I do not feel that he is worth the price of Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Albert Abreu and others. I am okay with short-term options to buy time for the young arms in the system to mature. I’d make an exception for Jacob deGrom but despite the noise that the Yankees and Mets are talking, I don’t think they’ll make a deal. It would be very hard for the Mets to watch their ace excel in the Bronx without getting top flight, Major League-ready talent in return.

Okay, Yankees. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to win at least two of the next three games this weekend, and start next week in a dead heat with the Red Sox. If you want to sweep the Sox, please, by all means, go ahead. Good pitching and good hitting (plus some solid D). Let’s bring it. All I want to hear this weekend is Michael Kay yelling, “There it goes…see ya!” and to watch Aroldis Chapman shake hands with Austin Romine at the end of the games.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Go Yankees!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The AL Starter in the MLB All-Star Game Should Be…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Hunter Martin)

An Easy Decision for Astros Manager A.J. Hinch…

I am starting to think that Luis Severino simply plays at a higher level than anyone else. If there was a league higher than Major League Baseball, he would have already graduated. I remember being so frustrated in 2016 when Sevy couldn’t buy a win as a starter. I was among many who felt that his future might be better served in the bullpen. Thank God I am not a baseball scout. Severino plays with confidence but that does not begin to equate to the level of confidence he gives us as fans when he takes the mound.

I remember the Summer of ’78 when Ron Guidry dominated the opposition (25-3, 1.74 ERA) and represented almost a guaranteed win every time he pitched. There have been some good pitching seasons by other pitchers since then but I don’t think I’ve had the confidence in any pitchers like I did Gator that summer until now. The fact that Severino is homegrown and not a product of free agency or trade makes it even better. I am very proud of the pitcher Severino has become and look forward to his exciting years ahead.

A day after Jonathan Loaisiga took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, Severino completely shut down the Phillies offense. Sevy (12-2) owned the strike zone and toyed with the Phillies hitters. He may have started to tire late but he gave the Yankees seven strong scoreless innings, scattering six hits and did not walk a batter. He had nine strikeouts to increase his season total to 132 (seventh best in MLB). If Severino is not chosen as the AL Starter for the All-Star Game, it will be a travesty.  He has clearly outpitched the two usual suspects (Chris Sale and Corey Kluber) and has three more wins than A.J. Hinch’s own stud, Justin Verlander.

The day started right when Aaron Hicks led off Tuesday’s game with a homer over the center field wall against Phillies starter Jake Arrieta.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Yankees extended their lead to 4-0 in the third inning, thanks to a two-run single by Gleyber Torres which was immediately followed by Greg Bird’s RBI single.

Austin Romine, promoted to full-time starter for the next three or four weeks, opened the fourth inning with a double to deep left center. Sevy was the next batter and although it was anticipated that he’d be the first out, he did take a couple of good hacks before striking out. Rather than being an easy out, he battled and it paid off when Arrieta thew a wild pitch to advance Romine to third. Even though Sevy struck out, I felt his at-bat was productive. Aaron Hicks took advantage of Romine’s presence on third with a deep fly to right to score the runner. 5-0, Yankees.

The Yankees closed out their scoring in the top of the fifth inning when Didi Gregorius led off with a solo homer to right center, his 15th of the year. From there, it was Sevy and the bullpen to the finish. Adam Warren pitched a clean eighth inning, but I have to admit I got sick to my stomach when Aaron Boone brought Chasen Shreve in for the ninth despite the six-run lead. It got worse when Shreve walked Carlos Santana after the first out and was down 3-1 on the next hitter (Nick Williams). A two or three-run homer and the Phillies were back in this game. Fortunately, Williams grounded out and Scott Kingery hit a liner right at Gleyber Torres to end the game. Shreve did his job, but I am sorry, he still sucks.

Regardless of what happens today, the Yankees have won their series with the Phillies which helps overcome the weekend sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays. After the game, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said that Severino was “as dirty as you possibly could be”. Agreed and it’s quite alright by me. I am really hopeful Sevy is throwing like this when he makes his next start against the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees (52-25) maintained their half-game lead on the Red Sox (53-27). The Sox had an easy time with Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels, winning 9-1 at Fenway Park behind David Price. Don’t look now but the Rays are hot. Fresh off their sweep of the Yankees, they’ve taken the first two games of their series with the Washington Nationals. Yesterday, Nathan Eovaldi and the Rays beat Max Scherzer and the Nats, 1-0. Nasty Nate is looking good. The Rays have won five in a row and have closed the gap with the Yankees to fourteen games. Ha! They’re not going anywhere but if the Rays win today, they’ll be back to .500. Not bad for a team that looked like a mess in the preseason.

Brandon Drury has cooled off at Triple A with only two hits in his last seven games but I remain hopeful that he’ll be back in the Bronx soon. He played first base again yesterday for the second time in five days. Aaron Boone was quoted yesterday as saying Drury at first was not on the front burner, but from my perspective, the versatility certainly helps. I remain a fan of Drury and I’d prefer to see him play for the Yankees as opposed to being part of a July trade for pitching.

Why do so many non-Yankees fans try to sell the idea of a Gleyber Torres-for-Jacob deGrom trade? Look, I’d love to have deGrom on the Yankees, but there’s no way that I would trade Torres for him. With Torres, we have second base locked up for the next decade (or more) with a player that should make a few All-Star teams. Pitchers are too fragile. deGrom is great but not at the cost of Torres. Down the road in about five years when deGrom is trying to reinvent himself as an older pitcher, Torres will still be a superstar in his mid-20’s.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Another former Yankee was thrown on the scrap heap this week when the San Diego Padres designated reliever Tyler Webb for assignment. He’s one of those guys I always wanted to succeed but for whatever reason it has never happened for him. Hopefully he’ll find better luck with his next organization. If not, maybe he can play cards with Chase Headley, Rob Refsnyder and Jesus Montero.

Although I was very confident yesterday thanks to Luis Severino, today is “not-so-much”. The Phillies stand a very good chance of taking the series finale since the Yankees will be throwing out Luis Cessa to make the spot start in order to push CC Sabathia to the Red Sox series. The Phillies will start Zach Eflin (5-2, 3.44 ERA). Advantage Phillies. I really wish that I could bring myself to like Cessa as a starter but I just can’t do it. Oh well, with the Yankees offense, it’s always possible that Cessa could win despite himself.

Go Yankees!

High-Flying Yankees Invade Florida…

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Another Series Win, check…

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

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

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

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

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Making Easy Things Hard…

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Yankees Able to Overcome Betances…

The Yankees won their game on Friday night but it was not without unnecessary drama. The Yankees thoroughly dominated the Detroit Tigers in all phases of the game, yet the Tigers had the go-ahead run at the plate in the bottom of the eighth, thanks to a mess created by Dellin Betances. Although he was able to get two outs in the inning, it was not before the Tigers had gotten five hits and three runs off him. Mercifully, Chad Green came in to get the final out against his former team, leaving two runners stranded, to help propel the Yankees to the 8-6 victory.

After the game, Manager Aaron Boone was very supportive of Betances. Betances felt he was throwing good pitches but the Tigers were hitting everything. Betances made the comment that if he picked up the rosin bag and threw it, it was going to be hit. If the delivery is correct and both the fastball and breaking pitches are working, we can only hope good results are right around the corner. We’ll see. It’s troublesome to watch the All-Star reliever struggle in key spots. Fortunately, it didn’t cost the Yankees a game last night, but Boone had to burn Chad Green on a night he didn’t want to.

Nice job by Aroldis Chapman who struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to earn his second save of the season.

The game was a much stronger outing for starter Jordan Montgomery. He pitched better than his final line, 6 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, no walks and 4 strikeouts, in picking up his first victory of the season.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

The star of the game was Aaron Hicks. It was so fun to watch his inside-the-park home run in the second inning off Tigers starter and former Astro Mike Fiers. The ball hit by Hicks to right-center looked like it had the distance to go yard, but it careened off the wall and away from the Tigers outfielders. Gary Sanchez, who had doubled in the preceding at-bat, scored on the play, while Hicks came around and slid headfirst into home plate ahead of the throw with a huge grin on his face.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Gregory Shamus)

Hicks added a traditional home run in the sixth inning to become the fifth Yankee hitter with a multi-home run game this year. This is an incredible accomplishment considering only fourteen games have been played. Plus, Aaron Judge has yet to join the multi-HR parade and you know it is only a matter of time. The way this season is going, Ronald Torreyes will probably be the next hitter to have a two home run game.

This weekend’s games against the Tigers are looking very questionable right now. The weather forecast calls for rain on both Saturday and Sunday. The Yankees do not make any further trips to Detroit this season so if either one of the next two games are postponed, it will create a schedule challenge for the makeup. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to a double-header tomorrow before the Yankees head for home.

I am not excited about the anticipated start today (weather-permitting) by Luis Cessa. I really prefer to see Cessa in limited relief appearances.  But I guess the hand-writing was on the wall that he’d be the spot starter in place of the injured CC Sabathia when Domingo German pitched three innings in relief of Sonny Gray (very effectively, I might add) on Thursday. Hopefully, if they get the game in, Cessa will pitch much better than I expect.  I’d love to see him prove me wrong. Sadly, he never seems to but today is a new day.

I hate to dwell on what could have been, but reading this morning’s sports page shows that Todd Frazier hit two home runs last night to help the New York Mets improve their record to 11-1 and Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros struck out 14 batters for his third consecutive game with 10+ strikeouts. Cole would look really good in the Yankees rotation right now but it was not meant to be. I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will deliver us something better by the trading deadline but the early results do not look good.

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

If the Yankees decide to promote top prospect Gleyber Torres next Thursday, they have very difficult roster decisions to make. The obvious move is to option Tyler Wade to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. At the start of the season, I thought that Ronald Torreyes was the most vulnerable potential roster casualty but the guy simply performs every time he is called upon. His versatility and ability to come into games with effective results after sitting on the bench for days makes him too valuable to lose. The only way I can see Torres and Wade on the active roster together would be through a trade of an active roster member (but who?). As I’ve said before, I’ll gladly take Torres over Wade any day of the week. It’s not that I don’t think Wade will be a good player, I just feel Gleyber will be a star. Not right away, but I am ready for the maturation process in the Majors for the young superstar-in-waiting.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (John Raoux)

It’s not my money but I’d cut bait with Jacoby Ellsbury. I know, that’s a lot of money down the drain but Ellsbury’s presence, when he comes back from the DL, is a hindrance. I know that he’s still a good player but I’d prefer to see him play elsewhere. Let him go back to Boston, even if we are paying the freight. I don’t really care at this point. I am done with Ellsbury.

Jace Peterson cleared waivers yesterday and was sent outright to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders so we may not have seen the last of the former Padre/Brave second baseman.

Another former Yankee made his return to the Yankees organization when Rule 5 draftee Nestor Cortes, Jr was offered back to the Yankees by the Baltimore Orioles. The return of Cortes means that none of the players drafted from the Yankees in the Major League phase of last December’s Rule 5 Draft stuck with their new teams. I saw a story a few days ago that blamed misuse of Cortes by Orioles manager Buck Showalter for putting the young left-hander in a no-win situation. Cortes had yielded two grand slams within a week. Showalter said “If we could have gotten a little deeper into our games with starting pitching, I think I could have protected him more. But, we were forced into some things. I still think he’s got a chance to be a good pitcher.” When Baltimore had selected Cortes, they had high hopes that he’d make the starting rotation and felt that they had “stolen one” from the Yankees. It didn’t work out but we’re glad to see Cortes back in the Yankees family. Cortes will be assigned to Double-A Trenton where he’ll join the other Orioles Rule 5 returnee Jose Mesa, Jr.

Tyler Austin has appealed his five-game suspension. The appeal will most likely be heard early next week but the downside is that once Austin begins serving his suspension, he can’t be replaced on the roster so the Yankees will be a man down.  Neil Walker would be the full-time starter at first, backed by Austin Romine. That’s dangerously thin for the Yankees, particuarly considering the team will soon embark on a very difficult stretch on the schedule.

Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will not be coming to Yankee Stadium for the two game series between the Yankees and the Miami Marlins which starts on Monday. Jeter will make the trip to New York, but won’t travel to the Bronx to see the games in person at Yankee Stadium.  Jeter told ESPN, “I went to a spring training game when we played New York, but it would be an awkward situation for me to actually go to Yankee Stadium. I’m just being honest with you guys, so that’s why I’m not going.” I saw a great twitter line yesterday that said Jeter decided to send Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees as his representative. Works for me.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Michael Reaves)

Well, let’s hope the Rain Gods allow us to get in today’s game. Never a better time for a win than today.

Go Yankees!

Always Sonny in Yankee Stadium…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

Yesterday was a much better day… 

If the Yankees can win again today, it will be even better. After losing the first two games of the four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees have a chance to even up the series this afternoon before the Orioles hop on a plane to head home.

In one of the most overused phrases in the Yankees Universe, Saturday was a Sonny Day.  Sonny Gray gave the Yankees what they needed en route to the 8-3 victory. He held the O’s to four hits over six innings. He did give up a tying two-run double to Manny Machado in top of the third and a go-ahead run-scoring double to Pedro Alvarez the next inning, but from there, he held the Orioles in check. By the time he had exited after the sixth inning, Gray had only thrown 86 pitches (55 for strikes) and felt he could have kept going.

For a few minutes, it looked like the move to pull Gray and insert RHP Adam Warren for the top of the seventh might backfire on Manager Aaron Boone. Warren got the first batter out but proceeded to give up a single and a double to put runners at the corners. Enter David Robertson into the dangerous situation with the Yankees nursing a two-run lead. D-Rob did what he does best. He struck out Manny Machado (admittedly on a questionable call) and Jonathan Schoop to leave the runners stranded and get the Yankees out of the jam. Robertson shutting down the Orioles at that point and keeping the momentum with the Yankees was a very powerful moment in the game. In the bottom half of the seventh, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin padded the lead with three more runs…a run-scoring double by Judge and a two-run single by Austin (thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double but not before both runs had scored).

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

I was a little nervous when Luis Cessa entered the game in the top of the ninth despite the five-run lead, but he did his job. This is why I prefer Cessa in relief so that hitters do not get multiple looks at him. He retired all three batters he faced, two by strikeout. I remain hopeful that Domingo German will be the designated spot starter in place of the injured CC Sabathia.

Congrats to Miguel Andujar for his first 2018 hit…a single to center to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Andujar was 1-for-3 and knocked in the run that gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth. It would be great for the Yankees if Andujar can start hitting like we know he can.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Also, nice job by Jace Peterson. He played Friday night in the season opener for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, got a call at 2 am Saturday morning telling him that he needed to be in New York for the 1:05 pm ET game on Saturday, and was game ready in the Bronx, starting in left field. The infielder with limited outfield experience made some good plays and was 1-for-3. Peterson’s time in the Bronx should be short with the expected return of Aaron Hicks by mid-week, but I am glad to see him take advantage of the opportunity.

The World always feels better, despite its many problems, when the Yankees win.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

They kept pace with the Boston Red Sox and remain 2 1/2 games behind the Beantown Bunch in the AL East standings. The Toronto Blue Jays lost so the Yankees (5-4) were able to move into a tie for second place. Hopefully the Yankees can make it two in a row this afternoon before the team departs for Boston. Monday is an off-day, then they’ll play the Red Sox at Fenway Park for a three-game series beginning Tuesday evening. The Red Sox have Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello lined up and waiting for the Yankees.

I still haven’t figured out the 40-man roster following Saturday’s flurry of transactions.  Excluding Ben Heller who is on the 60-day DL (more on Heller later), I count a total of 41 players on the 40-man roster reflected on MLB.com’s website. I am sure there’s a reasonable explanation but so far I have not seen one addressed.

The Ben Heller story took an unexpected turn yesterday. Before the season started, the Yankees had optioned Heller to Triple A. Then it was announced that the option had been voided and Heller was placed on the 10-day DL due to bone spurs in his pitching elbow. He was subsequently moved to the 60-day DL. Yesterday morning, Ben posted a pic on social media, talking about how his old elbow had served him well but it was time for a new one.

Later in the day, it was announced that Heller had undergone Tommy John surgery in addition to the removal of the bone spurs. I didn’t see this one coming. Heller had been my expected bullpen breakout this year, but now, the Yankees won’t see him until mid-2019 at the earliest assuming that they hold him a spot on the 40-man roster over the off-season. That’s not a given as the Yankees have cut the last couple of arms which required TJ surgery (Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren). Perhaps the goal was to re-sign them to minor league contracts outside of the 40-man roster but both times the moves failed as the pitchers signed with other organizations. Good moves with both of those pitchers due to subsequent surgeries which keep them sidelined but who knows what awaits Heller. I wish him the very best in his recovery and rehab and I truly hope he achieves the Major League success he seems destined for. I’d prefer to see it in Pinstripes but I will cheer for him regardless of what uniform he wears next time he takes the mound.

I am disappointed with the developments regarding third baseman Brandon Drury. I was such a fan of the trade that brought the former Arizona Diamondback to New York. It was one thing for Drury to be placed on the 10-day DL with migraine headaches yesterday but to subsequently find out that this is an on-going problem that has afflicted Drury for years was a shock.  Not that I want to be critical of GM Brian Cashman, but how did the Yankees not know about this?  Drury has exams scheduled for tomorrow so hopefully we’ll know more soon. I am hopeful that this is not a long-term problem or in Drury’s case, a life-threatening one. I am concerned but hopefully we’ll have better news tomorrow or later in the week.

I know many fans would love to see the Yankees sign pending free agent Bryce Harper in the off-season but with each loss, the pressure is on the Los Angeles Dodgers to make impact moves. They’ll need to do whatever it takes to keep Clayton Kershaw, but I fully expect the Dodgers to be in play for Harper. The Dodgers lost a heart-breaking fourteen-inning game to the San Francisco Giants last night after they had taken a one-run lead on a walk-off three-run homer by Andrew McCutcheon. The loss dropped the Dodgers, an expected World Series contender, to 2-6. It is their worst start since 1976. The Dodgers were Giancarlo Stanton’s preferred destination last off-season since he is a Los Angeles native. I am glad the Dodgers weren’t aggressive in pursuit of Stanton, leading the big man to New York, but underachievement this season will make the Dodgers desperate to make a big splash next year. Like the Yankees, the Dodgers are trying to reset the luxury tax penalties this season so if successful they’ll have the cash to spend big. LA is close to Harper’s Las Vegas home so all signs are pointing to the Dodgers as the slugger’s eventual new home.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)

Well, it will be Gumby-Time in a couple of hours. Here’s hoping for another win by the home team. Austin Romine makes his second consecutive start in place of Gary Sanchez who was pulled for a leg cramp during Friday night’s loss.  I am optimistic the rest will help El Gary recapture his health and ignite his bat.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Go Yankees!