Tagged: Masahiro Tanaka

Despite Win, Yankees Lose…

Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

Aaron Judge becomes latest Casualty…

There was immediate concern when Aaron Judge arrived at first base after his single in the bottom of the sixth and you could tell he was in pain. Even as Head Trainer Steve Donahue came out and they removed Judge from the game, there was hope it was only a precautionary move with a fairly comfortable lead over the Kansas City Royals. But when Judge dropped the F bomb as he walked through the dugout, it signaled this was worst case scenario. Although no timetables have been given, the left oblique injury will keep Judge away for awhile.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Of all the injuries the Yankees have suffered this year, I had felt that Aaron Judge was the guy the team could least afford to lose. Gleyber Torres probably runs a close second, but Judge is the ideal right fielder for this team and its heart and soul. It was no fun last summer when we lost Judge for an extended period as a result of the fractured wrist, courtesy of a Jakob Junis pitch.  But at time, at least the team had Giancarlo Stanton to step into right. As the team prepares to play today, there are only three outfielders on the team. Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier. The role of the fourth outfielder will be filled by infielder Tyler Wade, who has not exactly set the World on fire with his bat this season.

With the placement of Judge on the Injured List today, there will be an unlucky 13 players on the list. Fortunately, Gary Sanchez will back soon. He is expected to play a minor league rehab game on Monday before being activated on Wednesday. The Yankees head for Anaheim, California to begin a four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels tomorrow so Sanchez should be ready by the third game. Giancarlo Stanton is expected to return sometime during the upcoming road trip but he’s a little further out than Sanchez. The road trip concludes in Phoenix, Arizona on May 1st. The sooner, the better but we need to make sure that Stanton is 100% ready to go to avoid any setbacks.

The Yankees have very limited outfield depth in the system. Everyone knows that top prospect Estevan Florial fractured his wrist in Spring Training and is still recovering so he’s not even a thought (not that he should have been…yet…anyway). The five outfielders listed on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster are Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Omar Carrizales (who?), Matt Lipka, and Zack Zehner. Available free agents include Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, Austin Jackson, Denard Span, Danny Valencia and Chris Young. In other words, there is no help on the horizon other than the return to good health for those on the IL. The only other option is trade, but most teams are reluctant to trade this early in the season. I keep hearing Justin Smoak’s name. No doubt he’d provide a productive bat to pair with Luke Voit at first base and DH, but the Toronto Blue Jays are only a game behind the Yankees and they certainly smell the blood in the water. Not that the Jays have World Series aspirations this year and they’ve already parted with Kevin Pillar (traded to San Francisco on April 2nd) but I don’t think they’d actively help the Yankees at this point even if the teams have been receptive to inter-division trades in the past.

I am not sure what to think at this point. You can only hope the team treads water until the injured stars begin their return to the active roster. It’s hard to look at the current roster and say, ‘Oh yeah, this team is winning the World Series this year’. I am glad that Clint Frazier and recently Mike Tauchman have stepped up but it’s going to take more from the other replacement players. I can’t say that I am overly optimistic. The Yankees can simply not afford to lose any more players at this point. They are stretched as far as they can without outside help. It is imperative that the injured players come back soon but the risk is rushing them back too soon. I guess these are the times that GM Brian Cashman and his staff truly earn their paychecks. With so much bad news lately, I could really use some good news about now. At least we have the NFL Draft later in the week.

With Judge’s injury, yesterday’s 9-2 win over the Royals actually felt like a loss.  There was certainly no joy after the game. I was glad the team evened its record at 10-10 but sadly the future, at this moment in time, seems hazy. The Boston Red Sox elevated themselves out of the AL East Cellar yesterday with their second consecutive victory over the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. With such uncertainty surrounding the Yankees, I’d hate to see the Red Sox go on a roll. There’s no doubt the rash of injuries should make for a reliable battle-tested bench later in the season but that’s hardly any consolation on the 21st day of April. The coming days and weeks will go a long way toward determining how this season will play out. If there was ever a time for the team to unite and persevere through adversity, this is it. At the moment, Yankee Stadium feels a little like Winterfell as the Night King and his Army of the Dead close in for the kill.

To talk a moment about Saturday’s game, it is unfortunate that a Yankee fan interfered with the fly ball to left by Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the third inning. Initially ruled a home run, the call was overturned upon review and Torres was ruled out due to the interference. I agree the fan leaned over the wall so clearly by definition it was interference, but I honestly do not feel Royals outfielder Alex Gordon would have caught the ball. Replay seemed to show the ball just an inch or two beyond his reach. Fortunately, the Yankees didn’t need the three-run homer but I feel bad for Gleyber in losing a home run courtesy of a fan. On the other hand, the fan probably didn’t appreciate the free escort out of the stadium by Security. Tough situation since I feel I probably would have reached for the ball without thinking, like most of us, in that  situation too. Aaron Judge hit his fifth home run before he was lost to us. The Yankees also got homers from Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and with his first as a Yankee, DJ LeMahieu. It was a great bounce-back game for Masahiro Tanaka who lost on a grand slam last Sunday. Tanaka went seven innings, giving up only four hits and a run. He walked three and struck out seven to improve his record to 2-1. I thought his ability to leave the lightning quick Billy Hamilton stranded at third after Hamilton’s lead off triple in the top of the third inning (a ball that went under the glove of the defensively-challenged Luke Voit at first) was huge.

The Yankees conclude their four-game series with the Royals today. They’ll send James Paxton (2-2, 3.91 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Jorge Lopez (0-2, 4.30 ERA). The Yankees could really use a series win as they embark on the nine-game West Coast trip to Anaheim, San Francisco and Phoenix. Hopefully the remaining healthy players can provide Paxton with the necessary support for his third win of the season.

As expected, Gio Gonzalez exercised the opt-out in his minor league contract. The Yankees have until tomorrow to either elect to promote Gonzalez to the Major League roster or let him go. I fully expect the latter. No doubt he’ll get a big league job soon but it won’t be in the Bronx. Too bad he can’t play the outfield.

As always, Go Yankees! And please, stay healthy.

Advertisements

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!

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!

The Dog Days of Spring…

Less Than 3 Weeks to Opening Day…

I always love the arrival of pitchers and catchers in early February, followed shortly thereafter by the position players. The first images of Spring Training are always a welcome sight after a long, cold winter. The first glimpses of the players on the practice fields near Steinbrenner Field, the popping of catcher’s mitts and the sounds of bats as balls leave the yard. But gradually, the excitement fades and the arrival of Opening Day can’t get here fast enough. We’re here now. I am starting to lose interest in watching guys like Trey Amburgey and Isiah Gilliam playing games and want to see the MLB regulars consistently through game’s end.

Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

For the Yankees, hopefully there will be no further injuries this Spring. We know at least three players are headed for the Injured List to start the season. Luis Severino, Jacoby Ellsbury, and CC Sabathia. Sevy is currently in the midst of his two-week shutdown. It was reported yesterday that he isn’t feeling any pain after a cortisone shot. But like a doctor once told me after a cortisone shot, it masks the pain but doesn’t cure the problem. Based on Sevy’s positive words, I am cautiously optimistic that rest is the cure and there will be no further setbacks for him. Ellsbury, after such a late start to camp (expected to arrive next week), will need to stay for extended spring training, assuming he’s 100% healthy even when he arrives (unlikely if you ask me). Sabathia, as we know, had a delayed start this Spring after last December’s angioplasty and has been going a little slower than the rest of the starting rotation.

Two inactive players in camp are already destined for the Injured List as they continue their respective recoveries from Tommy John surgery: Didi Gregorius and Jordan Montgomery. I had been bracing myself for the possibility Gregorius could be out until August but he is seemingly ahead of schedule and we could see him as early as June. Regardless of how well Tulo may be playing at the time, Didi will be such a welcome sight when he is cleared to play. Montgomery is doubtful to provide any meaningful contribution this season. When he is cleared to throw and begins his rehab, he’ll head to the Minor Leagues. I see him as nothing more than a spot starter very late in the season, if at all. Many fans are acting like he’ll be a great trade deadline “acquisition” but honestly I don’t see him pitching any big games for the Yankees this year. Even healthy, he is not one of the best starters and I think it will be next season before he’s truly back and ready to help.

So, in my opinion, Opening Day seems to be pointing to the following roster:

Projected 2019 New York Yankees Opening Day Roster
Catcher Gary Sanchez
First Base Luke Voit
Second Base Gleyber Torres
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki
Third Base Miguel Andújar
Right Field Aaron Judge
Center Field Aaron Hicks
Left Field Brett Gardner
Designated Hitter Giancarlo Stanton
Super Utility D.J. LeMahieu
Bench Tyler Wade
Bench Austin Romine
SP-1 Masahiro Tanaka
SP-2 James Paxton
SP-3 J.A. Happ
SP-4 Jonathan Loaisiga
SP-5 Domingo German
Closer Aroldis Chapman
Setup Dellin Betances
Rest of the Bullpen Zack Britton
Adam Ottavino
Chad Green
Jonathan Holder
Tommy Kahnle
Luis Cessa

This is not necessarily the OD roster I want but rather what the tea leaves seem to be saying according to my eyes. I know many fans can’t let go of the homer Greg Bird hit off Andrew Miller in the playoffs a couple of years ago but Voit deserves the first base job based on last season’s performance (until proven otherwise). As the loser of the first base job, I expect Bird to begin the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I’ve seen people say one of Voit or Bird should be traded but I do think it would be unwise. As much as I like Voit, he needs to prove last Fall was not a fluke. If not, Bird needs to be ready for the call-up while playing every day for the RailRiders. LeMahieu is expected to be the backup first baseman.

This lineup forces the Yankees to use Stanton in left field more often than they would like. I know I don’t see Brett Gardner as an every day starter anymore but no doubt Manager Aaron Boone will run him out there as often as possible. I still expect Clint Frazier to eventually come up from Triple A to mount a serious threat for playing time but realistically it won’t happen until later this summer if Frazier mashes for the RailRiders unless injuries mandate an earlier call. There’s no circumstance I see Gardy as the starter when the calendar page turns to September.

I am a bit concerned about the nagging little ailments that always seem to bother Hicks. He has been held out of games over the past week due to tightness in his back and is still feeling some discomfort. He is not expected to return to play until next Tuesday at the earliest according to Aaron Boone’s words yesterday. I am hopeful the back does not become a season-long malady. I am sure Hicks wouldn’t have missed as much time if it had been the regular season but there’s still concern (if not the Yankees, at least for me).

Tyler Wade’s speed and versatility (ability to play infield and outfield positions) makes him the most logical option for the bench. If he gets the job, I really hope this serves as his breakout year.

My preferred starting lineup would feature LeMahieu at second, with Torres sliding to shortstop, until Gregorius returns. But hey, what do I know. Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone get paid a lot of money to make those decisions and they’re certainly much smarter and more knowledgeable about the Yankees than I am.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tanaka at the top of the rotation is my speculation that he’ll be named as the Opening Day starter. Otherwise, I’d rate Paxton as the slightly better pitcher (sorry Masa). Sevy is expected to be checked late next week to see if he can resume throwing. Best case scenario, we won’t see him until late April or even possibly early May. The concern here is the potential for further setbacks which would delay Sevy much longer than originally expected. Everyone keeps expecting CC Sabathia to come back pitching like he did last season but that’s not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination. The guy had a stint placed in a heart valve. It’s a serious procedure and we honestly do not know how it will affect him until he actually pitches against live hitting in games that matter. I can’t say that I am too enamored with the heavy reliance upon Loaisiga and German (or Cessa) in the early going. I know GM Brian Cashman has said the Yankees intend to go with the internal options, but really, what else is he supposed to say. Even if he is very interested in signing a free agent arm or acquiring another pitcher via trade, he is not going to tip his hand and show any signs of desperation. It would force the Yankees into an overpay situation. So, while I expect the Yankees to go into the season with Loaisiga and German as starters, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Yankees make another move to bring in a veteran starter. There’s no scenario I see Dallas Keuchel as a Yankee. The money, the years, and the draft pick compensation attached simply do not make any sense. I guess age 31 is the new 41 in Major League Baseball. The next few weeks should be interesting as the 2019 Opening Day Roster takes shape. Inevitably, there is always a surprise or two. We’ll see.

As expected, the Yankees reacquired controlling interest in the YES Network.  Holding 20% ownership in the network, they purchased the remaining 80% from Disney with the help of other investors, including Amazon, Blackstone Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group, for $3.47 billion. The transaction presumably increases the Yankees’ stake in YES to 30% and controlling interest among the financial backers. I’ve seen many fans complain about the Yankees’ investment in the YES Network over signing former free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado but, in my opinion, one does not affect the other. I don’t think the YES Network acquisition impacted the decision not to pursue Harper and Machado, nor do I feel that signing one of those guys would have prevented the purchase. Long-term, for the Yankees, I feel reacquiring control of the YES Network is a wise decision. It does underscore the fact the Yankees are a very valuable franchise and regardless of how one feels about Harper and Machado, a very financially astute one.

The sale does not require FCC approval but it is expected to take 120 days to complete. It was reported the financial partners have their own strategic plans for the acquisition but the Yankees will control programming, and the choice of announcers. We may love baseball but it’s hard to ignore the Yankees are a major business and all decisions are made for the long-term vision and success of the organization.

Speaking of the YES Network, I’ve been very pleased with their decision to have guest announcers this Spring. I particularly enjoyed the recent insight of Reggie Jackson. As a fan who grew up with the famed Bronx Zoo, it was fun listening to Reggie’s stories of those days. I loved Thurman Munson and enjoyed hearing his name again. Willie Randolph did a great job too. David Wells is scheduled to sit in the booth next Friday and Saturday when the Yankees play two of his former teams, the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. Boomer remains one of my all-time favorites and I am looking forward to his appearance.

As always, Go Yankees!

Shouldering the Arm of Discontent…

severino.5
Credit: Charles Wenzelberg – The New York Post

Rotator Cuff Inflammation Derails Luis Severino for 2 Weeks…

Spring Training threw us its first curve ball yesterday with the news that ace Luis Severino was pulled from his scheduled start against the Atlanta Braves due to pain in his right shoulder. With the words made famous by former professional boxer Roberto Duran in his 1980 bout with Sugar Ray Leonard, “No Mas!”, Severino let pitching coach Larry Rothschild know that something was wrong during his pre-game bullpen session. A subsequent trip to the hospital for an MRI revealed inflammation in the rotator cuff but thankfully, knock on wood, no indications of a possible tear.  You certainly worry about high velocity guys like Sevy and concerns that ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’. Hopefully this proves to be nothing that a little rest cannot cure.

The Yankees will shut down Sevy for two weeks. Assuming there are no further setbacks or recurrence of pain, he’ll resume throwing again around the first day of Spring (March 20th). Unfortunately, due to the injury, Severino has been scratched as the Opening Day starter. While Masahiro Tanaka is probably the sentimental favorite to start Opening Day, his history to open the regular season has not been great. In his last Opening Day start, Tanaka was dreadful. On April 2, 2017, for Manager Joe Girardi, Tanaka gave up seven runs on eight hits over 2 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. He walked two and gave up home runs to Logan Morrison and Evan Longoria in the 7-3 loss. As Girardi probably said that day, it’s not what you want. Tanaka’s start was the shortest on Opening Day since Ron Guidry was pulled after 2 2/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners in 1983. Severino started Opening Day last year, a 6-1 victory over current teammate J.A. Happ and the Toronto Blue Jays. Personally, I’d probably roll with the new guy, James Paxton, but it would be hard to argue with Tanaka despite the lack of success the last time around for no other reason than his tenure as a Yankee.

ny-1551216623-m0h8nlnem4-snap-image
Credit: Lynne Sladky – AP

When the news broke about Severino, many Yankee fans were immediately clamoring for the Front Office to sign free agent starter Dallas Keuchel. As much as I’d like to see Keuchel as part of the starting rotation, the truth is it will never happen. Keuchel, despite being unsigned this late in March, will still command a multi-year deal for as much as $20 million annually. He also carries draft pick compensation for the Houston Astros since he received and rejected a qualifying offer. I just don’t see the Yankees making that type of financial commitment for rotation insurance. Gio Gonzalez, as many have said, represents the most logical choice on the free agent market. After that, we’re talking about guys like “Big Game” James Shields who hasn’t seen a big game in years and has pitched like it. The Yankees could stay in-house and simply use guys like Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, and, ugh, Luis Cessa. I guess I am in favor of bringing in an experienced arm so I’d take Gonzalez. The Yankees head into the season with only three of five starters healthy and ready to go. CC Sabathia is behind the other starters after his angioplasty in December and resulting late start to Camp so he’ll begin the season on the Injured List. He also has to serve the five-game suspension from last season once he’s activated. In all likelihood, the Yankees will not see either Severino or Sabathia until the latter part of April (after series against the two of the best teams in the American League, Houston and Boston). I’d rather have a proven, dependable starter that can keep the team in games to help bridge the gap to full health. Keep Loaisiga and German in limited spot starts until they prove they are ready for more. The ship with Cessa as a starter has sailed for me. I’d rather keep him in a relief role so that he is not overexposed. He becomes more hittable the second and third time through lineups as the hitters gain familiarity. I’d rather keep him as a mystery in the pen facing a minimal number of batters.

Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes made a very compelling argument this morning for why the Yankees should avoid Gonzalez based on his stats in American League parks. I do not dispute Daniel’s opinion even if I may not agree. For a team with aspirations to win the World Series, a little experience goes a long way. I know that Gonzalez is not going to pitch like the second coming of Max Scherzer but, conversely, he is much better than his other former Washington Nationals teammate, A.J. Cole, whom we got to know too well last season.  Inevitably, the Yankees need to prepare for the worst-case scenario. What if Sevy’s shoulder becomes more problematic than something two weeks of rest can cure? I guess with the other questions in the starting rotation, I am not ready to pin our hopes heavily upon Loaisiga and German.  Ease them in, yes. Throw them into the fire, no way. So, while I respect Daniel’s opinion, I’d rather go with the arm of experience.

IPDLBIWNT4I6RLIKBYA67OR4YE
Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Hopefully the Yankees can avoid any further injuries in the remaining three weeks of Spring Training.  Center fielder Aaron Hicks has missed a few games with back stiffness but it does not seem too severe.  In their first nine games of the regular season, the Yankees play the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, two teams that collectively only won eleven more games than the Yankees did last year. The Yankees need to take advantage of those teams to get off to a good start this year which means we need everyone healthy. A season is not lost in April, but as the Boston Red Sox showed last year, a great start can help propel a team to tremendous accomplishments.

I am not sure why Aaron Judge was issued a warning by MLB for telling Manny Machado last year that he’d look good in pinstripes, but Bryce Harper can go on the radio saying, “But if you don’t think I’m not gonna call Mike Trout in 2020 to have him come to Philly, you’re crazy” without retribution. Harper’s words carry much stronger implications of tampering than Judge’s innocent words did. Hopefully, MLB, at the very least, issues the same type of warning to Harper as they did Judge.  In my mind, Harper’s words are premeditated as he has been saying for days that he intends to recruit players to come to Philadelphia to play. Judge’s comments seemed to be a random, spur of the moment thing.

Not sure what I think about Sonny Gray’s comments yesterday. In large part, I think his interview with Eno Sarris of The Athletic was taken out of context. Still, Gray was a little harsh in his words when he said the Yankees “love sliders” and added “Sliders are a great pitch. The numbers say slider is a good pitch, but you might not realize how many shitty counts you’re getting in while throwing all those sliders. They wanted me to be (Masahiro) Tanaka and I’m way different from him.” In describing his lack of command with his slider, Gray said, “When I try to throw sliders for a strike, I get around it and it’s just a shitty spinning pitch. I don’t know how people throw sliders for strikes that are still tight, good pitches. I’m at 2-0 and I’m throwing a slider, and either I’m throwing a shitty slider in the zone, or I’m yanking it into the direct and it’s 3-0 and I’m screwed either way.” Frankly, these words make me question Gray’s decisions on the mound.  He is in control of the pitches he throws.

I thought Manager Aaron Boone responded well when asked about Gray’s “shitty” comments. “We tried as best we could to try to get him to be successful,” Boone conveyed.  “I think we all kind of shared in the frustration at times. I know he was frustrated. We were. But we just tried to get him to be the best he could be and as successful as he could be.” Regarding the slider, Boone added “I don’t know if I’d characterize it as we pushed him to throw sliders. He throws a slider.”

I am glad that Sonny is a Cincinnati Red and not a New York Yankee. Some guys just aren’t made for the Pinstripes and Gray was not. I wish him the best in Cincinnati but I hope he takes the high road moving forward. It didn’t work out for him in New York. It happens. New York is not Oakland nor is it Cincinnati. The Big Apple is not for everyone. He has a clean slate in his new city to rewrite his accomplishments. Have at it. As for the past, it’s just water under the bridge.

Gray’s comments also brought around a new round of hate directed at Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. While I may not be a big fan of Rothschild, I recognize the Yankees have great faith and trust in the man and he is recognized, right or wrong, as one of the best pitching coaches in the business.  I also know the Yankees know more about Yankee players and coaches than I do. As long as they believe in Rothschild, I will too.  As for Aaron Boone, I really believe we’ll see an improved version in 2019 now that he has a season under his belt. There is an inevitable learning curve for any first-time manager. The Yankees knew it when they made the decision to go with Boone prior to last season. To expect him to manage a game, at the beginning of his managerial career, as well as Terry Francona or even Alex Cora, who had a year as a bench coach on a World Series championship team, is foolish and set false expectations. I think Boone will be better this year as I expect he’ll be even better in 2020. Contrary to what some may believe, the Yankees can win a World Series with Aaron Boone as the manager. He is universally liked by the players, the Front Office and the Steinbrenner Family. I am probably less concerned about the last two but as long as Boone has control of the clubhouse, all is good. As they say, analytics drive decisions these days anyway. I do not feel that either Boone or Rothschild will hold this team back from achieving its destiny if the team believes it can.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sweet Home Yankee Stadium…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Adam Hunger)

Yanks kick off final regular season home stand with an easy win…

For all of the struggles by the Yankees this month, last night was fun.  The Yankees were in charge from the start and never looked back en route to the 11-0 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays behind the stellar pitching of restored staff ace Masahiro Tanaka.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

After a disappointing nine-game road trip that saw the Yankees drop series in Oakland and Minneapolis to finish 4-5, allowing the A’s to close the gap in the AL Wild Card standings, the Yankees needed a strong game with contributions across the roster.  I suppose it was a good sign when it was announced Aaron Judge had been activated off the disabled list prior to the game, even if his bat wasn’t activated with him.  Judge will serve as a pinch runner and defensive specialist until it is time to take a few swings in simulated games in Tampa before he gets an opportunity to seek his 27th home run for the Bombers.  Given that Judge is the obvious heart and soul of this team (and its future Captain if the Yankees do what’s right), I am glad to see him on the active roster even with his limitations.

I am resigned to the fact that this has been a special season for the Boston Red Sox.  I hope they fail in the post-season (like the 2001 Seattle Mariners) but there’s been no doubt they’ve owned the regular season.  Unlike the Yankees, they’ve been able to limit the slumps and no opposing lead seems safe against J.D. Martinez and Company.  I remain hopeful that they’ll fail in the post-season with their questionable bullpen but at the moment they are the best Red Sox team of my lifetime (well, anybody’s lifetime for that matter).  I hate the Houston Astros but if the AL Championship comes down to the Astros and the Red Sox, I’d have to pull for a repeat World Series appearance for the defending champs.

There’s been so much talk about which pitcher should get the call in the inevitable Wild Card game against the Oakland A’s.  Right now, it would seem that Tanaka is the man of the hour.  Many have mentioned J.A. Happ as a possibility but as good as he has been as a Yankee, I really think the choice should be limited to Tanaka or Luis Severino.  I guess I can still remember the times when the Yankees had their way with Happ when he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform.  In his last game against the Yankees in July, he was pounded for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Toronto’s 10-5 loss to the Yanks.  Although Severino has been struggling for awhile, he pitched much better in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins when the Yankees didn’t get their first hit until the eighth inning.  He held the Twins to only one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings and didn’t walk anybody in the tough luck loss.  He struck out five.  It’s a start, both literally and figuratively.

As the Yankees begin their final home stand, it is a little sad that it could be the last regular season games at Yankee Stadium for a few of the guys.  Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, and David Robertson are the names that stick out the most to me.  Several guys, like Sonny Gray and maybe even Greg Bird, may have played themselves off the roster after the season.  It’s doubtful the Yankees will re-sign Andrew McCutchen or Zach Britton so their brief Pinstriped careers could soon be coming to an end and there is no certainty the Yankees will re-sign J.A. Happ. MLB Trade Rumors speculated this morning that Happ could earn more than a guaranteed $40 million for three years on his next deal when he becomes a free agent after the season.  That’s a lot of money for a guy who turns 36 next month. Hopefully the Yankees hang on to their Wild Card lead so that there is at least one more game at Yankee Stadium  for the impending departees after the current home stand ends.

I am not sure how I feel about the Yankees’ chances for October.  If they play like the team we’ve seen in recent weeks, it will be ‘one and done’ in the Wild Card game.  If they can capitalize on the momentum of last night’s game and propel themselves into the playoffs on a roll, anything can happen.  We know this team is capable of beating anybody including the Red Sox.  But we also know that the bats can go into silent mode with runners in scoring position at times (more often than I would like).  I guess I could say that while I am hopeful for the best, I am braced for the worst.  I do know the Yankees need a healthy Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman before we play the final regular season series in Boston at the end of the month.  We need both guys firing on all cylinders for the team’s hopes to advance deep into October.

Like many Yankee fans, I am very pleased with the production and energy that we’ve seen from first baseman Luke Voit.  I certainly never dreamed that GM Brian Cashman would be able to flip relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos for a guy who has become such a big part of the Yankees offense.  I don’t know what the future holds for Voit but I am enjoying the current ride.  I think the Yankees will look to upgrade the position in the off-season but Voit has certainly earned the right to battle Greg Bird for the starting position next Spring.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

I’ve seen so many people call for the head of Aaron Boone.  Sure, he’s made his share of rookie mistakes in his first year as Yankees manager but I think he’ll be stronger for it in 2019.  There’s not anybody out there I would prefer to see as the team’s manager at this point and I am certainly not pining for the return of Joe Girardi.  When Boone was announced as the Yankees manager last off-season, I had been hopeful that he’d select a veteran manager as his bench coach.  So I was a little disappointed when he went with Josh Bard who has not managed at any level.  Bard may be smart and confident, but I really preferred a battle tested veteran manager in the role as lead consultant for Boone.  Boone does have managerial experience on his staff with Larry Rothschild who was the original manager for the Tampa Bay Rays (then Devil Rays) when they entered the American League.  Third base coach Phil Nevin has minor league managerial experience. But that’s not the same as your right hand guy. The best case scenario would have been for the Yankees to have retained former bench coach Rob Thomson who now serves in the same role for the Philadelphia Phillies and their infant manager, Gabe Kapler.  Another veteran manager who left the organization last off-season will most likely be coaching first base for the Yankees’ Wild Card opponent.  Al Pedrique, the former manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, is presently first base coach for the Oakland A’s.  In my opinion, Thomson or Pedrique would have been much better options to sit (or rather stand) beside Boone in the Yankees dugout than Bard.

Speaking of Joe Girardi, I am not sure where he’ll get his next opportunity.  I had thought St Louis was an obvious destination but the Cardinals have committed to their interim manager, Mike Shildt, by dropping the interim tag. Shildt has made the Cardinals relevant again after their disappointing performance under former manager Mike Matheny. I thought Washington might be another possibility but it sounds like first-year manager Dave Martinez will get another shot in 2019 even if the team will be Bryce Harper-less.  The Toronto Blue Jays have been mentioned as a possibility given the speculation that their manager, John Gibbons, is managing his final games in a Blue Jays uniform.  It would be weird to see Girardi in the AL East with another team. But when you look at teams with great young prospects on the horizon, the Blue Jays would be near the top of the list with the highly rated sons of former Major Leaguers Vladimir Guerrero, Dante Bichette, and Craig Biggio among others. All things considered, I am hopeful Girardi likes his job with MLB Network well enough to wait for a Chicago job to open at some point in the future.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders beat the heavily favored Durham Bulls last night to send the International League’s Governors’ Cup Finals to the winner-take-all Game Five to be played in Moosic, PA later today.  Domingo German will start for the RailRiders against Durham’s Kyle Bird (part of the Bulls planned bullpen day). The Bulls are the defending IL champs, while the RailRiders were the Wild Card entrant and last year’s championship series loser.  Win or lose, this has been a great season for the Yankees’ top farm team.  The Bulls have been at a disadvantage for the series since all of the games have been played at PNC Field in Moosic due to the weather conditions in the Carolinas.

Entering play today, the magic number for the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East championship is six games.  The Yankees (91-56) currently trail the Red Sox by 9 1/2 games so at this point it is only a matter of time until the Red Sox are sipping champagne.  My hope is that they do not do it next week on Yankee Stadium soil.  The Yankees lead the AL Wild Card by a game and a half over the Oakland A’s but hold the tie-breaker.  The Seattle Mariners trail the A’s by 8 1/2 games so barring any miracle comebacks, the AL Wild Card will be Yankees-A’s with location being the only question.

For today’s game, the Yankees send CC Sabathia (7-6, 3.54 ERA) to the mound.  He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Sean Reid-Foley (1-3, 6.86 ERA).  Sabathia has not looked good in his recent outings and he really needs to step his game soon.  Hopefully today is the start.  We want a win, we need a win, let’s get a win.  Go Yankees!

Getting the Most Out of Two Hits…

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Yanks Beat Tigers, 2-1…

Normally, I’d be very bummed the Yankees were only able to get two hits off Tigers pitching on Saturday but thanks to Masahiro Tanaka, that’s all the offense he needed en route to the one-run victory.

The way the game started, it looked like Tanaka was going to need significantly more offense than he eventually required. The Tigers scored first with a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez. It looked like they might get more with only one out, but Tanaka worked himself out of trouble by striking out Niko Goodrum and getting Ronny Rodriguez to fly out to left.

Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the first for his first appearance as a New York Yankee. It is so weird seeing Cutch in Pinstripes. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but is still a strange sight. When I think of Cutch, I think of the long dreadlocks and the beard but now both are nothing but a distant memory. I do have to say that the beardless look makes him look younger. It wasn’t the best of times for the former NL MVP as he struck out looking in his Yankees debut at-bat. He finished the game without a hit, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. However, McCutchen was not the only Yankee hitter to struggle against Tigers starter Daniel Norris. Through four innings, Norris held the Yankees hitless and had faced the minimum of twelve batters.

Photo Credit: AP (Bill  Kostroun)

Miguel Andujar finally became the first Yankee baserunner when he walked to lead off the fifth inning. Gary Sanchez had first shot to move Andujar but he flied out to left. Next up, Gleyber Torres. The Rookie of the Year candidate made the most of his opportunity with the first Yankees hit of the game, a homer to left, which gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. After walking the next batter, Luke Voit, Norris left the game with an apparent injury (later diagnosed as a leg cramp) but the Yankees didn’t fare any  better against the Tigers bullpen.

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

The only other hit by the Yankees was an infield single by Aaron Hicks in the sixth inning but he was erased on an inning-ending double play.

Tanaka navigated his way through the biggest challenge in the seventh inning. Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner led off with a double to right field. JaCoby Jones followed with a single, moving Greiner to third. Jones subsequently stole second to give the Tigers two runners in scoring position with no outs. I would have pulled Tanaka at that point but manager Aaron Boone stayed with his right-hander and was rewarded. A ground out and two strikeouts left the two Detroit runners stranded and the Yankees still holding the slim one-run advantage.

Tanaka didn’t return but it was a great start. He evaded potential big innings for the Tigers in the first and seventh, finishing with seven hits scattered over seven innings. He limited the Tigers to the isolated first inning run, walking one and striking out six on 96 pitches. With the continued struggles of Luis Severino, Tanaka is pitching like a guy who wants the ball for the inevitable single-game elimination Wild Card playoff.

From there, it was up to the Yankees bullpen. Jonathan Holder took the eighth, and to my surprise, Dellin Betances got the call in the ninth. Personally, I would not be comfortable with Betances as my closer (he proved to me long ago that he is better in setup) but Boone showed confidence in Betances, who was only two games removed from the disaster on Thursday night when he gave up two ninth inning home runs to blow the first game of the series to the Tigers. This time, there were no late game heroics for the Tigers. Betances struck out the first batter, Jeimer Candelario, for his 100th strikeout of the season (the fifth consecutive season he has hit the milestone, a record for a reliever). The Tigers did get a runner on base but he didn’t go anywhere. A couple of ground outs and it was game over. A save for Betances, his second of the season, and a win for Tanaka (10-5) and the Yankees.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)

The Boston Red Sox won (6-1 over the Chicago White Sox) so the Yankees (86-50) remain 7 1/2 games behind the AL East leaders. The Yankees did pick up a game in the Wild Card standings over the Oakland A’s. The Athletics lost to the Seattle Mariners and slid 5 1/2 games behind the Yankees. The M’s, ten games behind the Yankees, trail the A’s by 4 1/2 games.

Like Andrew McCutchen, Gary Sanchez took an ‘O-fer’ this game. He was 0-for-4. He almost beat out an infield hit in the second inning but instant replay sent him to the bench. His season batting average dropped to .185 but then again, he wasn’t alone in his search for a hit in this game.

The Yankees conclude their four-game series with Detroit today at 1:05 pm ET. Lance Lynn (8-9, 4.84 ERA) gets the call against Detroit’s talented lefty, Matthew Boyd (8-12, 4.22 ERA). The Yankees will be managed by Bench Coach Josh Bard since Manager Aaron Boone gets the day off, thanks to a one-game suspension for the catching instruction he gave to the home plate umpire on Friday night. Giancarlo Stanton also gets a much-needed day off. Gary Sanchez will slide into the DH role. Sanchy, please feel free to mix in a hit or two…or three.

Saturday, with the expansion of rosters, was a busy day for the home team. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, acquired Friday night, was added to the active roster and assigned #29, in addition to the activation of Gary Sanchez off the 10-day DL. Shortstop Tyler Wade and RHP Luis Cessa were recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and the Yankees purchased the contract of LHP Stephen Tarpley from SWB. Tarpley was assigned #71 and will be making his Major League debut whenever he gets the call from Aaron Boone (or if today, Bard). To make room for Tarpley, the Yankees designated outfielder Shane Robinson for assignment. It remains to be seen if LHP Justus Sheffield will get the call or pinch-runner extraordinaire Quintin Berry for that matter. For either of those guys to be added, someone will have to be voted off the island.  A.J. Cole, you might want to start packing your bags, Dude.

This morning, the Yankees recalled RHP Jonathan Loaisiga from Double-A Trenton.

When the Yankees acquired Andrew McCutchen, I knew immediately that it would be a reunion with a long-time teammate (Neil Walker) but I had forgotten that Adeiny Hechavarria was the starting shortstop for the Miami Marlins for a few years before his subsequent stops in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. So, he had his own little reunion with Giancarlo Stanton.

Despite the Thursday night disaster, the Yankees have a chance to take the series today with the Tigers. With a cross-country flight to the Bay Area awaiting them, it would be great for the team to take a winning feeling with them.

Go Yankees!