Tagged: Luke Voit

The Resilient Yankees Capture 1st Place…

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Comeback Win Vaults Yankees Past Rays in AL East…

Okay, it’s just mid-May and like Aaron Boone alluded to last night after the game, it’s a long season ahead. Yet, it is satisfying to sit atop the AL East even if it is only temporary depending upon the outcome of today’s game. Standings will become more important in the months ahead but I continue to be amazed at the resiliency of this team.

Gio Urshela’s run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth inning to win it last night may have been his game-winning hit, but it’s a microcosm of this season and how well the replacement Yankees have stepped up to support the team in the wake of injuries to multiple major team stars. I was kind of hoping Kendrys Morales would have his signature Yankee moment in his second game with a home run in the bottom of the ninth, which would have been his second of the game, to win it but it was not meant to be. Kendrys was probably wishing too hard for a homer too and that’s why he struck out. Oh well, Gio was there to pick him up.

To answer your question, yes Michael Kay, the Yankees had a rally in their bones.

Credit Luke Voit for the home run to open the bottom of the ninth to cut it to a one-run deficit. Perhaps the Yankees were destined to win it anyway but the homer changed the mood in the air. As a TV viewer, I know I was feeling a lift even if the Yankees were still trailing at that point after only putting up one run (the Morales homer in the bottom of the second) the prior eight innings.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post

I’ve seen many jump on Aaron Boone for pitching Chad Green in the eighth inning when the Rays put two runs on the board to break the 1-1 tie. I had no problem with the move. After the game, Boone indicated that the decision was to avoid Zack Britton this game since he had thrown 31 pitches in Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. Aroldis Chapman would have only entered in a save situation. But even without his explanation for not using Britton (or Chapman), I had no problem with Boone’s decision to bring Green into the high leverage situation. I’m sure Green would have liked a mulligan on the sixth pitch to Brandon Lowe, which Lowe ripped to deep center for a run-scoring double, but otherwise, I thought he pitched very effectively. The unearned run on the errant throw to first base by Gleyber Torres which allowed another run to score was not Green’s fault. The bullpen has been pitching so well lately, I guess the fans have come to expect zeros every time a Yankee reliever takes the mound but guess what, shit happens. I want Chad Green to be a big part of this bullpen and I hope Boone keeps rolling him out in high leverage spots. I am convinced he rediscovered himself with his brief stay in Scranton a couple of weeks ago and the results, over a broader span, will prove it. Say what you will, but I think Aaron Boone has improved as a manager over the course of two seasons.

Great job by CC Sabathia. Outside of the fourth inning solo dinger by Willy Adames which tied the game, Sabathia was excellent. It was his longest start of the season at six innings, with an economical 84 pitches. He only walked two batters, while striking out four, and lowered his season ERA to 2.97 with the single earned run on the Adames homer. The four K’s pushed the future Hall of Famer’s career strikeout total to 3,013.

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

This is a strange season. I am excited about how well the Yankees have done despite missing so many huge parts of the team. On the other hand, I keep wondering when the shoe is going to drop. I really hope the replacements can keep this up until we start to get the big guns back.

Before the Yankees completed their comeback win, the Houston Astros exerted their position as the best team in the American League, right now, with their 3-1 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Despite their sluggish start, the Red Sox have been very strong lately as they have charged back into AL East relevance (which I had fully expected, hence, the reason I never talked smack when the Red Sox were down). The Red Sox loss and the Yankee win leaves the Sox 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees…not that it matters at this point. I didn’t watch the Astros-Red Sox game but I did see enough to shake my head and say that Alex Bregman is incredible. He didn’t do anything with his bat (1-for-4, a meaningless first inning single) but his defense play was, as usual, outstanding. Such a great all-around player. It really makes me appreciate Gio Urshela as the Yankees’ third baseman in Miguel Andujar’s absence.  A great glove at third cannot be underestimated. After the Rays game, CC Sabathia was asked if he had ever played with anyone as good defensively as Urshela, and CC couldn’t come up with a name.

Last winter, I had wanted the Yankees to sign Manny Machado for his all-around play. Who knows if he can keep it up, but at this point, Urshela has provided everything I wanted from Machado at a fraction of the cost. Manny is batting .268/.346/.470 with .347 wOBA and 120 wRC+ (1.4 WAR) in 44 games. He has 9 homers and 23 RBIs. In 10 fewer games, Urshela is batting .347/.398/.500 with .384 wOBA and 142 wRC+ (1.0 WAR).  He has 2 home runs and 16 RBIs. Granted, Machado has more power but Urshela has more than fulfilled expectations. I am not saying that Urshela will ever be the player Machado is, but I really hope that he is able to keep this up to prevent GM Brian Cashman from going outside to get further help at third base. It would be awesome if this is truly Urshela’s breakout year. Not sure how this plays out when Didi Gregorius returns to take shortstop, creating an infield crowd. But that’s a problem for another day. Today, I’ll gladly watch Urshela with amazement, play after play, day after day.

I guess it was in the back of all of our minds but it was rough hearing Carlos Beltran say that Aaron Judge will not fully recover from the oblique injury this season. I know, it’s a core muscle and anyone who has had a similar injury knows how difficult it is to let the muscle rest. In other words, you can’t. Hopefully Judge is able to get healthy enough to help the team at some point in the not-so-distant future although he hasn’t resumed baseball activities yet. I’d rather he waits until he is truly ready, even though he won’t be 100%, and not try to come back too soon. We need Judge when the summer months get here.

 

Photo Credit: Paul J Bereswill/NY Post

It’s a new day. Let’s hope the Yankees magic continues today (and tomorrow and the next day…). As with The Three Musketeers, same with The Twenty-Five New York Yankees, “all for one and one for all”.

As always, Go Yankees!

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The Year of “Next Man Up”…

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Yankees win again in the City by the Bay…

I’ve tempered my expectations for the 2019 Yankees given the savage rash of injuries that have afflicted the team, but you have to love this ‘next man up’ attitude of the replacement Yankees. No doubt if they can continue to drive the team to sustained success, the October prospects for the eventual healthy Yankees appear to be very grand.

Every year, there’s a team that somehow has the ‘it’ quality in their chase for the pennant. Last year, there is no question the Boston Red Sox had it when they busted out of the gate quickly and seemingly found a way to win every night on their way to 108 regular season wins and, eventually, the World Series championship. The 2019 Yankees have had every reason to fold up their tent and hope for next year, except they haven’t. As each new guy shows up, someone comes up big and they move on to the next game, win after win.

The Yankees will have hard decisions to make when guys start to come back from the Injured List. I’d hate to be Aaron Boone having the conversations with the replacement Yankees that their spots on the MLB roster have been eliminated, whether it is through demotion to Triple A or designation for assignment. Giovanny Urshela is one of those guys. We knew he had a superior glove in Spring Training, but despite his ‘all glove/no bat’ reputation, he has come through in clutch situations this year with the lumber to help the team score runs. Honestly, I prefer Urshela over Troy Tulowitzki. I know they play different positions but if I could only choose one for the active roster, it would have to be Gio. I don’t trust Tulo to stay healthy and right now, with his stint on the Injured List, he is proving me right. For the record, I like to be proven wrong when I have a negative perception of a certain player. But that’s on Tulo, not me.

I was a little disappointed with the series finale in Anaheim on Thursday when Masahiro Tanaka gave up a couple of two-run homers to let the LA Angels tie the game, and then Boone went to the weaker arms in the pen to allow the Angels to blow the game open. However, winning three of four games, especially in Anaheim…a place that was once a House of Horrors for the Yanks, is tremendous.  I’d gladly settle for three of four or two of three every series.

The Yankees continued their winning ways last night with a 7-3 victory in the Bay Area opener against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park Oracle Park. It was weird seeing Tyler Austin wearing orange and black and playing this game as a foe. He had San Francisco’s first hit when he singled to right off James Paxton in the bottom of the first inning. He scored the Giants’ first run on a sac fly after Brandon Belt had doubled to move him to third. But with no offense to Austin, the game’s best first baseman was Luke Voit. Louis Linwood Voit III was 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs, and two runs scored.

Paxton was unable to make a “quality” start by definition (an out away from completing six full innings when the Giants made it a two-run game in the bottom of the sixth) but he was very effective nonetheless. He finished with eight strikeouts to improve his record to 3-2.

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I shudder to think of where the Yankees would be without the Big Maple. No question he is the team’s ace while Luis Severino is away. Unlike that last game in Anaheim, Aaron Boone made the right bullpen moves this game. Well, almost. I was disappointed with the three consecutive two-out walks by Zack Britton in the bottom of the seventh to load the bases, but all’s well that ends well. Adam Ottavino came in to strike out Buster Posey, his former NL West rival, to end the threat. So, despite those walks by Britton, the bullpen did not give up any hits or runs to the Giants to preserve the win for Paxton. I continue to stand by Britton but I know there are plenty of Yankee fans who would have preferred the return of David Robertson over Britton. Robertson is currently on the Injured List for the Philadelphia Phillies as he continues to recover from a Grade 1 flexor strain in his throwing arm. I guess D-Rob would have fit well on this year’s Yankees squad.

For everyone hoping the Yankees try to acquire Giants ace Madison Bumgarner at the trading deadline, this was not a good showcase for the one-time World Series hero. The lefty surrendered 11 hits and 5 runs in 5 2/3 innings to the team some call the New York RailRiders. He is 1-4 for the season with a 4.30 ERA.  I guess he knows how Chris Sale feels this season. Pitchers are fragile creatures unless your name is Mariano Rivera.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP

One-time Yankee prospect Mark Melancon, who has struggled with injuries in recent years, surrendered a two-run homer in the ninth inning to Luke Voit. Another former Yank, catcher Erik Kratz, struck out swinging in a pinch-hitting appearance against closer Aroldis Chapman to end the game.

With the win, the Yankees (15-11) picked up a 1/2 game on the idle division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays game in Boston was rained out and won’t be made up until June. Yankees currently trail the Rays by only 1 1/2 games as the Rays have started to come back to Earth after their torrid start. Again, the replacement Yankees get so much credit for helping this team stay afloat until the big guns are back. Actually, ‘stay afloat’ is a poor choice of words because they are doing so much better. My expectation or hope was they’d stay afloat to weather this storm but, clearly, they’ve done much more.

I’ll certainly cheer on Cameron Maybin as the newest of the replacement Yankees but admittedly I was a bit underwhelmed when I heard that he had been acquired for Cash (loved the references by people on Twitter that GM Brian Cashman had sacrificed himself for Maybin). But it was the green stuff that went to Cleveland for Maybin and not the Yankees’ long-time GM. Maybin, toiling for Cleveland’s Triple A team, was no doubt excited just to get another big league opportunity. He spent Spring Training with the team he is presently facing (the Giants). Early on, it looked like Maybin was going to make the Giants’ roster but a DUI in mid-March contributed, in part, to his release on March 22nd.  To Maybin’s defense, he seems like a good guy and appreciative of his latest opportunity. I am certainly not expecting much from him and it’s more than likely his Yankees career will be brief, but hopefully he can make a contribution as the next man up.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP

I had hoped that we would soon see the return of Giancarlo Stanton to man right field until Aaron Judge returns, but it sounds like we won’t see him on this road trip due to a temporary setback. Hopefully it is just a minor thing and we’ll see him when the Yankees return to the Bronx early next month. Once fearing that he’d be lost for the season with the partially torn right labrum, it now appears Miguel Andujar could return before Stanton does. I have absolutely no idea if Andujar can make the necessary throws at third with his injury, but he deserves the chance to show he can play the position despite Urshela’s solid role in holding down third base with the help of DJ LeMahieu. If not, I agree with those who say Andujar should be moved to first base and DH to share time with Luke Voit in alternating roles. Mike Ford should be the odd man out (not Urshela) but that’s alright. Andujar is far more important to this team than Ford is.

Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

This has been a tough week with the Yankees playing the Pacific Time Zone. For those of you in the Eastern Time Zone, my hat’s off to you if you’ve stayed up to watch the games. All I can say is thank God for DVR. At least there is only one more late night game (Tuesday night in Phoenix) before the Yankees return to New York. This weekend’s games are afternoon affairs. Same with Wednesday’s getaway game in Arizona to conclude the short two-game series with the Diamondbacks.

It’s a new day and another opportunity for a replacement Yank to step up. With J.A. Happ on the mound, they’ll need a few of the bats to come alive. Somehow, I suspect they’ll do it. They generally do.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Win, Always a Good Thing…

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CC Sabathia Relishes the Role of Stopper…

Well, the last week didn’t go exactly as planned. I didn’t think the Yankees would win the three-game series in Houston but I had hoped for at least one win. They played well enough to win all three games if not for the lack of bullpen support. After Friday night’s rain-shortened loss to Eloy Jimenez and the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees had lost four consecutive games and could have been overtaken in the AL East Standings on Saturday by the Boston Red Sox, a team that has seemingly gotten off to a much worse start than our favorite team, if the Sox had won and the Yankees had not. Fortunately, CC Sabathia represented the Cavalry, arriving to save the day, while the highly paid hitless wonder known as Chris Davis helped power Baltimore past the struggling Red Sox.

It is funny how the World looks so much better after a Yankees win. Life as a Yankee fan is such a roller coaster ride at times. It was hard watching Eloy Jimenez (first two home runs of his young career) and the White Sox crush Yankee pitching during Friday night’s rain-shortened seven innings loss. Although I am sure CC Sabathia would have liked to have stayed in yesterday’s game a little longer, he combined with Domingo German, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman to shut out the White Sox, 4-0, giving the Pinstripers a very much-needed victory. Honestly, I was unsure what Sabathia would bring in his first start of his final season. Delayed by December’s Angioplasty that placed a stent in a heart valve, a five-game suspension, and a trip to the Injured List as he worked his way back into prime form, it was vintage Sabathia on Saturday. He held the White Sox to a meaningless single by second baseman Jose Rondon in the top of the third inning. It was the first and only hit the Sox would get on this day.

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Sabathia looked strong when he struck out Wellington Castilllo looking to end the top of the fifth inning but the pitch, his 62nd, would be his last. The TV cameras showed a disappointed Sabathia in the dugout as Manager Aaron Boone informed him his day was finished. I don’t blame Boone. No reason to push Sabathia this early. His 62 pitches for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A) in a rehab start last Sunday were his season high. He probably would have been good for a few more pitches but why risk it. We need the big guy in the weeks and months ahead. With an off-day last Thursday and another tomorrow, the Yankees were able to skip the fifth spot in the rotation, making Domingo German available to provide back up support for Sabathia. It was the perfect formula. German, continued his brilliant 2019 performance with two innings of hitless relief and four strikeouts. If you looked at stats alone without names, you’d think his line belonged to the team’s ace. 3-0, 1.38 ERA, 9.69 K/9, and 1.03 BABIP. Not that Luis Severino is coming back anytime soon but if he were to return today, you’d have to argue that J.A. Happ, not German, should be the loser of a rotation spot.

Zack Britton finally delivered a relief outing that we expect to see. Three-up, three down in the top of the eighth. I know, it was just the White Sox but you would have thought they were the second coming of Harvey’s Wallbangers after Friday night. Britton had to start somewhere with a solid appearance. Saturday was as good a day as any. Now if we could just get Chad Green and Jonathan Holder back on track. I’d really like to see this so-called Super Bullpen that everyone has been talking about. I know, Dellin Betances is a major cog and his absence hurts, but the other guys need to pick up the slack. They are certainly capable of so much more.

I know I was feeling much better about Aroldis Chapman from his first pitch in the top of the ninth when the radar gun clocked his strike to Adam Engel at 99 MPH. In throwing nine pitches to finish off the game, Chappy hit 100 MPH four times. He is trending in the right direction for those fearing his loss of velocity. It was not a save situation but Chapman needed the work and he did not disappoint.

Credit: Paul J Bereswill/NY Post

Credit to White Sox starter and former Yankee Ivan Nova. Back in the stadium he was raised, he delivered as well as he could have. He faced one batter in the top of the seventh, giving up a single to Gleyber Torres. Pulled at that point, Torres would eventually score the first run for the Yankees when Luke Voit singled with the bases loaded. It was almost unfair for Nova to be charged a run on this day, but he was, thus taking the tough luck loss despite holding the Yanks to only four hits, and no runs while he was standing on the mound, over six innings and the one batter faced in the seventh. No doubt he’ll look back on the day proud that he was able to compete exceptionally well with his one-time mentor as Sabathia prepares for his ride to the Sunset and eventual placement in MLB’s Hall of Fame.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

With such a great pitching performance by the Yankees, the team’s offense was almost an afterthought. The Yankees needed the runs, of course, to win the game but for inning after inning, they were unable to mount any serious threat against Nova. When Nova gave up that single to Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the seventh and departed the game, it opened the door for the Yankees. It took a little luck when Greg Bird hit into a fielder’s choice at second against White Sox reliever Jace Fry. An error by Yolmer Sanchez, booting a potential double play ball, left both runners safe at first and second. After another pitching change, Clint Frazier singled to right off reliever Ryan Burr to load the bases. Luke Voit keep it going with a broken bat single past the outstretched glove of the shortstop, scoring Torres.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Kyle Higashioka, getting the start at catcher in place of Austin Romine, hit a long sacrifice fly to right which brought Bird home with the second run. Tyler Wade displayed his athleticism with a rare squeeze bunt toward third that easily allowed Frazier to score. The Yankees were up, 3-0.

Aaron Judge accounted for the final Yankees run when he led off the bottom of the eighth with a short home run (a 335’ shot that took full advantage of the right field porch). Hey, a homer is a homer. Sure, we love the homers that reach the second deck, especially when Judge is at the plate, but I’ll take the short fly that lands into the first row of the right field porch any day.

Hopefully the win helps the Yankees “turn the corner” (as Aaron Boone would say). A win today to take the series against the White Sox would be ideal, considering the other Sox come to town on Tuesday. Nothing like changing our Sox on a positive note. The Houston Astros got hot at the right time last week to sweep the Yankees in their home park. It would be nice for the Yankees to do the same to the visiting Red Sox for the brief two-game series.

Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 1.47 ERA) gets the ball in the White Sox finale this afternoon. He’ll be opposed by the talented Carlos Rodon (1-2, 3.38 ERA) in what should be a great pitching matchup. I kind of wish Tanaka was pitching against the Red Sox this week, but if he can deliver a win today, that’s all we can ask.  Tuesday’s game will feature James Paxton against Chris Sale, two pitchers with high expectations who have, so far, delivered uninspiring results. Wednesday is the battle of 8.00+ ERA pitchers with J.A. Happ going against former Yank Nathan Eovaldi. I really hope Paxton and Happ were watching Sabathia pitch yesterday. They need to follow his lead. Get on a roll and the team’s slow start will be nothing but a distant memory. A nice ten-game winning streak would help warm things up for the summer ahead.

Stephen Tarpley was the loser of a spot on the 25-man roster when he was optioned to Triple A to make room for Sabathia. It meant that Joe Harvey’s stay in the Bronx will last awhile longer and rightfully so. He has only appeared in one game (one of the losses to the Astros last week) but he did his job when called upon (unlike Green and Holder). I’d like to see what he can do with an extended stay in the Show. Tarpley, on the other hand, is not quite ready. He’ll benefit from a little more seasoning in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

As always, Go Yankees…and, please, stay healthy!

Doom & Gloom in The Bronx…

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)

OK, it wasn’t quite that bad…

The Yankees got a great pitching performance from new Yankee James Paxton…and lose. It wasn’t exactly how it was planned to go down. I guess Sonny Gray left behind his lack of run support and they assigned to the Big Maple. The Yankees tried to make a comeback but those two insurance runs the Baltimore Orioles tacked on in the top of the ninth were too much to overcome as the Yankees dropped their first game of the season, 5-3.

The range of emotions from Yankee fans were from ‘big deal, it’s the second game of the season’ to ‘OMG, the season is lost!’. I guess you could put me somewhere in the middle. I simply hate to lose winnable games. When the season is done, the Baltimore will most likely have the most losses of any team in either league. Yet, if they win today, they win their first series of the season against a team expected to make noise in October. The Yankees need to win these games. Yes, it is only one game but these types of games can accumulate to a significant amount over the course of a 162-game schedule. I don’t like to lose. I know, I had better learn to deal with 60 losses, give or take, over the course of the summer but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. But after all these years, losing doesn’t get any easier when you are a Yankee fan.

Credit to the Orioles for using an Opener to keep the Yankee bats at bay. Nate Karns started his first game since 2017 and pitched the first two innings. The Yankees had him on the ropes with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning with only one out, but Miguel Andujar hit into an inning-ending double play.

(Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/NY Post)

New Jersey’s own Jimmy Yacabonis pitched the next three innings, giving up only a run, to earn the win for the O’s.

Meanwhile, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder failed to keep the Orioles off the scoreboard in the later innings and despite the two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees walked off the field wondering what could have been. So much for the shutdown bullpen that’s going to end games early.

Troy Tulowitzki hit the only Yankee homer, a solo shot in the ninth off former Yank Richard Bleier.

I thought it was a great game for D.J. LeMahieu, who started at third base with Miguel Andujar taking over DH duties. LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with one RBI and a run scored. He flashed his superior leather more than a few times at third, and looked like a veteran at the position. I was in a Denver, Colorado retail shop late yesterday afternoon wearing my Yankee cap, and the clerk commented to me he couldn’t believe the Yankees paid LeMahieu all that money to be a utility player. I agree.  With no offense to Troy Tulowitzki, the greater commitment should be for LeMahieu, even if it pushes Gleyber Torres to shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns. A home run by Tulo is not going to change my opinion. I do like LeMahieu at third and Andujar at DH so I hope that’s a frequent option although Giancarlo Stanton needs his time at DH as well. Although LeMahieu has not played much third in the Majors, it was his most frequent position in the Minors so it’s not like he has rarely played there. It’s just been a few years. He’ll shake off the rust.

The Yankees committed three costly errors in the game. Gary Sanchez bounced a throw past Gleyber Torres covering second base in the sixth inning which allowed a run to score. D.J. LeMahieu bounced a throw to Luke Voit at first base which Voit couldn’t handle, for a throwing error, in the top of the ninth inning, allowing Joey Rickard, leading off the inning, to reach second base. He would eventually score an unearned run. Voit had a throwing error earlier in the game (top of the 2nd) which didn’t cause any damage. After tagging first base on a grounder by Rio Ruiz, Voit tried to make an off-balance throw to second to complete the double play but the ball sailed widely to the left, allowing the baserunner, Joey Rickard, to race to third.  Fortunately, that was as far as Rickard would get.

James Paxton (0-1) took the tough luck loss. His final line was 5 2/3 innings, four hits, two runs (one earned), a walk and five strikeouts. He threw 82 pitches, one less than Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday and worked at a very quick and efficient pace. He certainly deserved to win and on most days he would have. He’ll get that first Yankee win soon with pitching performances like this.

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Okay, I’ll let the game go. It was just one game. I get it. The Yankees (1-1) complete the series today with the Orioles. J.A. Happ takes the ball for the Pinstripers while he’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy. Hopefully, Happ continues his win streak as a Yankee for at least one more game.

I followed the score of the Red Sox-Mariners game last night and was pleased when Seattle extended their lead to 6-2 on a three-run homer by Jay Bruce in the fifth inning. Then, in the 9th, it all fall apart for the M’s with three errors by third baseman Dylan Moore, filling in for the injured Kyle Seager. The Sox rallied for three runs and had the tying run at third base and go-ahead run at first with two outs, but former Yankee prospect Nick Rumbelow struck out Xander Bogaerts to end the game and preserve Seattle’s victory. Whew! Boston was almost gifted another win. Seattle’s defense looked like the Keystone Cops in that final inning.

(Photo Credit: Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)

Today is a good day for a Pinstriped victory.

As always, Go Yankees!

Opening Day Success for Tanaka & Company…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yankees Roll behind Tanaka and Voit…

I know, I am late to the party with writing about Opening Day but it was a very exciting day. Great weather, the wonderful presence of unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch (I loved watching #42 fire one from the Yankee Stadium pitching mound), solid pitching by Masahiro Tanaka despite not having his best stuff, a villainous bullpen and a couple of home runs from people not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was an awesome day in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post

The 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles felt like it could not have been better scripted. It was a great start to the highly anticipated 2019 season by the Yankees. There’s obviously a long ways to go, with 161 more games on the schedule, but it’s better to start with a win than not.

I was around some non-Yankee fans watching the game who took delight when Tanaka gave up a couple of hits in the first inning even if the second infield single hit the lead runner for the final out. They were predicting doom and gloom for Tanaka and the Pinstripers. I know the Yankees were playing MLB’s worst team but I knew Tanaka would persevere. Despite a lackluster Opening Day history, Tanaka seems locked in this year. I certainly wasn’t going to give up hope after a couple of meaningless hits. Tanaka shook off the first inning and never looked back. I think this will be a big season for him.

The Yankees didn’t have to wait long for their first home run of the season. The easy picks would have been Judge or Stanton, but it was Luke Voit who kicked off the 2019 chase to beat the Yankees’ 2018 record of 267 home runs. Granted, the Yankees would end the day six home runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but there’s no doubt many balls are going to leave Yankee Stadium this year for the home team. When Luke hit that ball in the bottom of the first inning with Judge and Stanton on base, I wasn’t sure if it was hit hard enough to go out but with his classic hop at the plate, I felt a sense of assurance it did have the necessary distance. Thankfully it easily carried over the center field wall into Monument Park for a 3-0 lead. Miguel Andujar almost made it a four-run game when his fly ball took left fielder Dwight Smith, Jr to the wall but it fell short of clearing the fence.  As many said, that ball would have easily carried out in the heat of August. In cool, crisp March, the ball decided to find Smith’s glove instead.

Aaron Judge may not have hit the first Yankee home run of the season but he did score the first run thanks to Voit’s homer. It was a great game for Judge, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of walks and three runs scored. He only struck out once, showing a very patient eye. Despite the presence of so many great offensive forces in the Yankees’ lineup, Judge is clearly the conductor and the heart and soul of the team’s engine.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

Great game for Luke Voit who also picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fifth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Voit finished with one official at-bat, the three-run homer, with the HBP and two walks. While I didn’t think last year was a fluke for Luke, he still has a long way to go to prove it was not but this was a very good way to start. I have no desire to underestimate the Yankees’ very talented baseball analytics team. The Chasen Shreve/Giovanny Gallegos trade for the former Cardinals minor leaguer, with minimal Big League opportunities, was/is a steal.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

In a game Luis Severino had been slated to start until rotator cuff inflammation forced a change in plans, Tanaka pitched very well. He lasted until the sixth inning when a two-out run scoring double by Trey Mancini (one of the few recognizable names in Baltimore’s lineup) ended his day. 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering six hits, yielding a couple of runs with only one earned and striking out five was a good day. From there, the Yankees used a bullpen formula we’ll see frequently this year. Adam Ottavino, who ended the sixth inning threat with a seven-pitch strikeout, to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman. I know there was concern with Chapman’s velocity (he was off his usual velocity by 3 to 5 mph) but it’s early. Not time to sound the alarms yet. I’ll go with those who attribute the reduced velocity to the cooler weather and Chapman’s age-induced work to transition from a hard thrower to more of a pitcher. I remain convinced we’ll see triple digits when the warmer weather returns.

Credit to Greg Bird for answering Voit’s home run with a solo dinger in the eighth after three strikeouts.  Bird got the start at first base over Voit, forcing the latter to DH. I really like Voit as the team’s first baseman but I am certainly not going to complain if Bird finally has the year we’ve long waited for. I love Bird’s swing when his bat is happy and healthy.

Although I would have really enjoyed to see David Robertson return to the Yankees for this season, I’ve been excited about the addition of Adam Ottavino since the day he was signed. He had a great Yankees debut with 1 1/3 innings pitched and three strikeouts.  His pitches are wicked. When he’s on, the batters have no chance. If D-Rob has re-signed, the Yankees most likely would not have signed AO. So I am pleased the way things turned out despite how much I liked Robertson.

I think my only disappointment with Opening Day was D.J. LeMahieu sitting on the bench through game’s end. It’s tough being a starter without a position. He is capable of so much more. Hopefully Aaron Boone figures out a good way to keep LeMahieu on the field, with his incredible glove, this season and his productive bat  in the order to help keep runners moving around the bases. LeMahieu is potentially a huge answer to the team’s RISP problem from last season.

Opening Day was a great success particularly considering every AL East team, except for the Yankees, lost. Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox were bludgeoned in Seattle, although they did claw back and win last night’s game after trailing Seattle by two runs in the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off the M’s new closer, Hunter Strickland. Bummer that the Mariners traded their great young closer, Edwin Diaz, to the New York Mets in the off-season. If Diaz had been pitching, the Red Sox most likely would have lost their second consecutive game.

It stunk there was no Bronx baseball yesterday but the Yankees and O’s resume their series today. Woohoo! James Paxton will take the ball for his Yankees debut wearing the Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium for the first time. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Nate Karns, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray. I am looking forward to watching Paxton on our side. Hopefully this will be a much better outing than his last Yankee stadium appearance. Last season, on June 21st, he surrendered two first-inning home runs to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar and lost a 4-3 decision to Luis Severino and the Yankees. On the bright side, the Big Maple won’t have to pitch to Judge and Andujar today since those guys will be playing behind him.

Poor Chasen Shreve. After being designated for assignment by the St Louis Cardinals, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to Memphis. Shreve may get another chance with the Cardinals if the injury bug hits their bullpen (very possible with the presence of injury-beleaguered Andrew Miller) but I am sure this is not how Shreve had planned for this season to play out. I was a little surprised that no team took a chance on Shreve but his stock has certainly fallen. He’s a good guy so I am hopeful he gets another chance but the game is clearly evolving away from lefty specialists. So if he can’t prove he is capable of more, his future is not bright.

Ronald Torreyes also failed to make the cut with the Twins. With an option left, Toe was assigned to Minnesota’s Triple A team in Rochester. The few times I saw him in Spring Training, I thought he looked good and had a chance to make the MLB roster. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to call Target Field home at some point this season. Former Yankees Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Michael Pineda were all part of Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. Austin’s spot seems to be the most tenuous as he’ll be the odd man out when Miguel Sano is activated off the Injured List. With no options left, Austin’s future looks murky. The Twins have C.J. Cron at first and Nelson Cruz at DH. Both spots can be backed by Marwin Gonzalez so Austin represents a luxury with no real spot once Sano is back at third. These things have a way of working themselves out so hopefully Austin carves out a significant role with the Twins. If not, he’ll be packing his bags and moving on to the next city.

Bryan Mitchell was another ex-Yank to get the guillotine. Sent to the San Diego Padres in the salary-dump trade involving Chase Headley, Mitchell had been expected to be part of San Diego’s starting rotation this year. He was designated for assignment a couple of days ago and now awaits his fate. Ex-Yank Jose Pirela, a part of the Padres’ MLB roster the last few years, was optioned to El Paso. Nobody ever watches Padres games so I’m not sure anybody will notice. Hopefully Mitchell gets an opportunity with another organization to fulfill the promise he once held as a Yankees prospect. If not, he’ll be catching up with Pirela in West Texas for some Margaritas.

Keeping on track with the ex-Yankees theme, I was glad to see Melky Cabrera get another chance. In camp as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates, he was added to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster when outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the injured list. I can still remember those great victory celebrations when Melky was a Yankee but Cabrera has traveled through many cities since that time. Hopefully he’ll get to spend some meaningful time in the Steel City. Former Yankees seem to do well in Pittsburgh.

One-time Yankees’ top prospect Mason Williams also gets another chance. After playing with the Cincinnati Reds organization the last couple of seasons, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday after being cut by the Reds a couple of weeks ago. He’ll report to Baltimore’s top farm team in Norfolk, VA. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were hoping for great things in Pinstripes for Williams. I guess if you want an opportunity to play, signing with a talent-devoid organization is the way to go. No doubt he’ll find his way to Camden Yards at some point this year if he proves himself in Triple A.

I continue to be amazed no team has signed either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. I really thought they’d be signed before the start of the season. I had fully expected the Milwaukee Brewers to grab Kimbrel after it was announced closer Corey Knebel would need Tommy John surgery but I guess the presence of premier bullpen shutdown artist Josh Hader lessens the need.  Keuchel can help almost any team win more games. I kept expecting him to be a late training camp sign by his former team, the Houston Astros, but it never happened. The Astros still seem like his best option but for now, he has to throw every five days on his own dime. If I was the GM of the Atlanta Braves, I’d be all over Keuchel to help with the highly competitive NL East. Maybe the baseball analytics are right about the regression of Keuchel, but I have to believe he can still help somebody.

I am very glad the baseball season is back. It’s been a long off-season. Spring training is nice but it gets old after awhile. It’s awesome to see games that count once again. I am hopeful these games lead to an AL East championship and a highly successful October for the Yankees. We’ve waited a very long time for this year. As they say, time will tell but I like our chances.

As always, Go Yankees!

Tired of Wading for the Outfield…

Yanks Acquire, Surprise!, Another Colorado Rockie…

The Yankees acquired outfielder Mike Tauchman from the Colorado Rockies on Saturday for reliever Phillip Diehl. Diehl had opened some eyes with his performance in Yankees camp this Spring but as a lefty specialist, he did not have a clear path to the Bronx (especially with next year’s minimum three-batter rule). Hopefully he develops into something more for the Rockies.   

Not sure why The New York Post ran with a photo of Los Angeles Angels minor league second baseman Luis Rengifo as their representation of Tauchman but to their defense, both guys do wear beards.

Granted, I don’t know Tauchman personally but I think he looks more like this:

Either way, lose the beard, Mr Tauchman.

I was surprised the Yankees made the trade. I had felt the team was comfortable moving forward with Tyler Wade acting as the team’s fourth outfielder since Aaron Hicks will begin the year on the Injured List. It would have forced Giancarlo Stanton to play more left field than the team would have liked so maybe that was the motivation behind Tauchman’s acquisition.  

Tauchman does not have much history at the game’s highest level. Despite making his Major League debut in 2017, he has only accumulated 59 at-bats in 69 plate appearances over 52 games for the Colorado Rockies. He only has nine hits, including a double and triple, and has driven in a couple of runs. That’s it in a very small sample size. Not even worth showing his batting line. Yet, the 28-year-old left-handed swinger has had very good success at Triple A. Granted, he played last year in a hitter’s friendly park for the Albuquerque Isotopes but he did manage to hit .323/.408/.571, with .978 OPS, in 403 at-bats over 112 games.  He hit 20 home runs and drove in 81 RBIs for the Isotopes. Sure, it feels a little like Garrett Cooper’s stats for Milwaukee’s top farm team in Colorado Springs, CO when the Yankees acquired him a couple years ago (inflated by the mountain air). But this also has similarities to Luke Voit. A potentially under-valued player who has not been afforded sufficient big league opportunity due to a plethora of players at his position.  

The Rockies also seem to have a glut of outfielders. Last year, their starters from left to right were Gerardo Parra, Charlie Blackmon, and Carlos Gonzalez. Parra now resides in San Francisco and CarGo is in camp with the Cleveland Indians on a minor league contract, but the Rockies still have outfield surplus. Blackmon has moved from center to right, Ian Desmond takes over in center after being pushed off first base by Daniel Murphy’s signing, and David Dahl, finally healthy, eyes a breakout year in left. Raimel Tapia, with an ability to play all three outfield spots, is the fourth outfielder. So, the Rockies outfield was still crowded and the team needed to make room for non-roster invitee first baseman Mark Reynolds. Tauchman was the odd man out and now becomes the Tauch of the Town for the Yankees.  

I feel bad for Tyler Wade. It seemed like this was finally his year. However, he was optioned to Triple A this morning which presumably opens a spot for Tauchman to join the team for its travel to New York City. D.J. LeMahieu represents the bench strength for the infield, even if he’ll play nearly every day. The Yankees will employ an infield rotation reminiscent of Dave Roberts and the Los Angeles Dodgers to keep guys fresh and LeMahieu on the field, but realistically Wade was a luxury at that point for the infield with limited experience playing the outfield. Tauchman, meanwhile, a true outfielder, can play all three outfield spots, making him a more desirable fourth outfielder. It’s not like Wade has hit at the MLB level so this appears to be another analytics-driven move and those have generally worked out well for the Yankees. It does kind of make me wonder if Wade will ever get a legitimate shot with the Yankees or if he’ll need to move to another organization for his breakout chance. At this point, injuries seem to be the only way Wade will wear the famed Pinstripes in the foreseeable future, and I’d prefer everyone to stay healthy. The Yankees cleared room on the 40-man roster for Tauchman by placing LHP Jordan Montgomery on the 60-day Injured List (expected since Gumby continues to recover from last year’s Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready to help until probably August at the earliest).

Tauchman is 6’2″ and 220 lbs. He was taken in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. The Palatine, IL native made his Major League debut in June 27, 2017. Pinch-hitting for the pitcher, he grounded out in the 12th inning of 4-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants. D.J. LeMahieu was pulled in the fourth inning of that game with a right groin cramp. Former Yankee Chad Qualls took the loss for the Rockies. The Rockies scored all of their runs on a 6th inning homer by former Yank Mark Reynolds.  

Welcome to the Yankees family, Mike! We hope, like Luke Voit, this is the opportunity you’ve waited a lifetime for. We’d love nothing more than for you to become a household name in the Yankees Universe. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to prove Brian Cashman and his Analytics Team are truly the Modern Day geniuses in Major League Baseball.

The Yankees are in Fort Meyers, FL today to play the Minnesota Twins for their final exhibition game in Florida. It will be a good opportunity to catch up with old friends Tyler Austin, Ronald Torreyes, Michael Pineda, Blake Parker and Jake Cave. The Yankees will begin the journey home tomorrow when they play their final Spring game in Washington, D.C. at Nationals Park against the Bryce Harper-less Nats. Opening Day is close, very close.  Is it Thursday yet?… 

CC Sabathia, as expected, will be on the Opening Day Roster (although he’ll be suspended for the first five games of the season). He won’t be allowed in the dugout with the team during the game, but he’ll be able to experience the final Opening Day festivities of his glorious career. For CC, I am happy he’ll be a part of Opening Day even if he’ll have to watch the game from Hal Steinbrenner’s luxury suite. Since the Yankees will open the season with only 24 active players, I am glad that they are facing the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers for the first five short-handed games, and will be back at full strength for the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros in mid-April. Jonathan Loaisiga was optioned to Triple A, but he’ll return once CC finishes his suspension and is placed on the 10-day Injured List.

Congratulations to LHP reliever Stephen Tarpley for winning the James P. Dawson Award as the best rookie in camp this Spring. Looking forward to seeing what Tarpley can do for the Yankees this year. He is part of perhaps the greatest bullpen in history. No pressure.

As always, Go Yankees!

Tanaka vs Cobb, Let’s Get This Party Started…

In two weeks, the doors of Yankee Stadium will open…

Ready or not, Opening Day is a scant fourteen days away. On Thursday, March 28th, at 1:05 pm EDT, Masahiro Tanaka will fire the first official 2019 pitch at Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles and we’ll be off to the races for 162 games PLUS (heavy emphasis on the ‘plus’). The Orioles have announced RHP Alex Cobb will get the Opening Day nod over Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner.

Cobb signed with Baltimore as a free agent in late March last year and it showed with disastrous April results. He lost his first three starts with 13.11 ERA and 2.83 WHIP.  A 6.03 K/9 pitcher for the year, he was unable to strike anyone out in two of those first three games. With the benefit of a full training camp, Cobb should be more prepared for his second season in Birdland. Steamer projects a 9-13 record in 31 starts with 4.89 ERA (4.50 xFIP) and 1.6 fWAR. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long to hear Michael Kay’s first “There it goes! See ya!” of the new season. I don’t think any of the Orioles pitchers strike fear in the hearts of the Yankees, and it should be a good opportunity to get the season started on the right foot.

It was reported this week the MLB Players Association and MLB have agreed upon the elimination of the waiver trading deadline in August which makes the July non-waivers deadline a hard date for player trades. This year’s trading deadline is Wednesday, July 31st. In theory, it should spark more trade activity in July than in years past and will force teams to make earlier decisions about whether they are buyers and sellers. I am probably most concerned about potential injuries in August and the need to fill unplanned vacancies from within the organization. Depth at certain positions can be weak so it will force organizations to work harder to cover depth at all positions in the off-season which I suppose is an intended consequence.  The change is effective this year.

Another change is the expansion of roster size from 25 to 26 players in 2020 with a maximum of 13 pitchers. On September 1st of 2020, the expansion of rosters will be reduced from 40 to 28 players and no more than 14 pitchers. At face value, I am glad to see the addition of a bench spot for another position player. The transition of the game to deeper bullpens has left bench roles perilously thin. Hopefully the addition of a player will help keep guys fresher for the long season. While the change is not effective this year, the potential 26th men at the present time are Clint Frazier and the expected loser of the first base competition, Greg Bird.

The new MLB-MLBPA deal is expected to be announced today.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, other changes include the three-batter minimum for pitchers although a start of a new inning would allow a pitching substitution. I think back a couple of years and wonder what it would have been like if the Yankees had been forced to use Tyler Clippard for at least three consecutive batters on days when he simply didn’t have it. I can see a pitcher coming into a game with an inability to throw strikes and suddenly the bases are loaded…or worse. I get the pace of play implications but I guess the traditionalist in me would like to see the game decisions in the hands of the managers. Silly me. There’s also a new $1 million bonus for the winner of the All-Star Home Run Derby. Makes me wonder if it will influence a lower paid guy like Aaron Judge to participate. I know Judge makes most of his money through endorsements right now but I am sure that a way to pick up an extra mil is enticing for some.

It was a bummer that last night’s Spring Training game against the Philadelphia Phillies was not televised. Although the game ended in a 5-5 tie, it was Bryce Harper’s first Phillies start against the Yankees.  If for no other reason, I am looking forward to the regular season so that every game is televised. Harper was booed  unmercifully by the Yankee fans at Steinbrenner Field or so they say since I didn’t actually see it. I don’t really get it. It’s not Bryce’s fault that he is not a Yankee.  The Yankees chose not to pursue him in free agency despite the wishes of the fans. Bryce is on record saying the Yankees never reached out to him despite his childhood love for the Pinstripes. If Bryce historically crushed Yankee pitching, then maybe that’s a reason to boo him but he has been largely ineffective in his short body of work facing the Yankees. I would have liked for the Yankees to sign Harper but they didn’t and we must move on. I know I am very excited to see what Year 2 brings for Giancarlo Stanton. Regardless of whether you preferred Harper over Stanton, I think Stanton is going to be more relaxed this year and will more closely resemble the player that dominated baseball in 2017 for the Miami Marlins.

Back to the first base competition, I thought it was funny when it was reported yesterday that Aaron Boone was wearing a Luke Voit t-shirt in the clubhouse. Boone also commented that Voit batting cleanup (as he did last night) could carry into the season, adding that he could see Voit anywhere from third to sixth in the order. In other words, it is Greg Bird and not Voit who should be making living accommodations in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.

Jose Canseco, shut up! Your fifteen minutes of fame came and went. Let it go, Cheater. Alex Rodriguez owes you nothing.

Credit: Getty Images

For those of you who are New York Jets fans, my apologies for the Anthony Barr situation but I am glad it worked out the way it did. Granted, Barr, a linebacker, is not a superstar level player but I like his role in Minnesota’s defense. I’ve been a lifelong Vikings fan. I think Barr is capable of so much more and I hope the Vikings use Barr as an edge rusher like the Jets intended to do. For those of you not following, Barr had agreed to a free agent deal with the Jets on Monday, only to renege the next morning and subsequently sign an extension to stay in Minneapolis. I had been dreading NFL free agency, fearful of losing Barr. The Vikings had done a good job of signing their young core players despite the massive overpay for QB Kirk Cousins, but Barr had remained unsigned. With salary cap implications, it appeared Barr would be wearing a different uniform this Fall. For a few hours earlier this week, the Jets fans thought he’d be wearing hunter green and white.  For all of Minnesota’s free agents, Barr was the one I wanted to keep. Jets fans were unhappy about his change of heart but I was truly grateful. It kind of reminded me of the time David Wells had a change of heart after agreeing to a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and signed with the Yankees on a napkin. There may not have been a napkin involved with Barr but the impact is the same. Glad he’s on my team.

As always, Go Yankees!