Welcome to the Bronx!…
With one swing of the bat, Carlos Beltran has arrived as a Yankee. On Friday night, with the Yankees down by one run and two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, Beltran crushed his most important hit to date into the left center stands with two on to give the Yankees a 5-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News
For many new Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka excluded, it takes a while to get acclimated to pinstripes. I remember that it took Jason Giambi a season or so to really feel comfortable. Brian McCann started his Bronx career a little on the slow side, and in many Fantasy Baseball rankings, his replacement in Atlanta and former backup, Evan Gattis was rated higher among catchers. He delivered a key hit this past week to win a game and perhaps that was his “moment”. He is starting to hit so there’s no reason not to believe that he’ll be an offensive force for the remainder of the season. But Beltran came with high expectations even at his age. Not to say that McCann didn’t, but perhaps the bar is a little higher for Beltran given his history in the City with the Mets.
Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports
Ironically, Beltran may never have gotten his “moment” if not for a clutch RBI single by McCann in the prior at-bat. The game had many heroes. A diving stop by Jacoby Ellsbury that could have easily bounced past him to allow more Oriole runners to score in the late innings, David Huff limiting the O’s to one run in the top of the 9th after an error by Yangervis Solarte, and the very strong performance by Hiroki Kuroda. Conversely, Solarte could have been the goat with the error, in combination with his inning ending at-bat with two on in the bottom of the 8th. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the Gatorade was dunked on Beltran and all was good in the Bronx.
If second basemen were as plentiful as catchers…
I like Francisco Cervelli as backup catcher given his versatility. But it was still sad to see John Ryan Murphy sent down to AAA. I know, he’ll get the chance to start every day, but I thought he did a great job backing up McCann. I know that when the Yankees make a deadline move in July, it will almost certainly include one of the young catchers (Murphy or top prospect Gary Sanchez). If the Yankees somehow swing a deal for David Price (unlikely in my opinion), Sanchez would have to be one of the pieces headed to Tampa. But in other deals, it’s more likely that Murphy will go unless the Yankees move Cervelli. Austin Romine seems to have become an afterthought.
Have bat, will travel…
I am glad to see that prospect Peter O’Brien is thriving. Another catcher, he has been performing well at first base and is perhaps an option to replace Mark Teixeira at some future point if he doesn’t get moved in July. Conversely, it is sad to see that talented prospect but oft-injured Slade Heathcott is dealing with, surprise, injuries…
Mark LoMoglio/Yankees, via MLB.com
Sabathia, Nova and Pineda who?…
Hats off to the young Yankee pitchers. Entering the season, the bullpen was perceived as a weakness but young arms Dellin Betances and Adam Warren have become go-to guys, and represent superior upgrades to guys like Joba Chamberlain and other former relievers. But the biggest surprise is how well the replacement pitchers, Chase Whitley and David Phelps in particular, have performed. Vidal Nuno has done a decent job but he is the top candidate to go to the pen or to AAA when CC Sabathia returns after the All-Star break. It’s almost a given that the Yankees will pursue another starting pitcher in July but the reason the Yankees are buyers and not sellers is directly attributable to the support that Whitley and Phelps have provided for ace Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda.
The bearded brigade…
I am glad to see that Phil Hughes has found a home in Minneapolis but I am among those who believe his strong performance would not have happened in the Bronx. I wish that he could have worked out for him, but he did need the change of scenery. It wasn’t that long ago that Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain were cited as the next great Yankee pitching hopefuls, and now they play in Minnesota, San Diego and Detroit, respectively. The only one that the Yankees received a return for was Kennedy and in retrospect it was not for market value. Kennedy went to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers when the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson. Given that Granderson left as a free agent, the Yankees essentially have nothing left to show for the losses of the three former top prospects.
What’s with the former Yankees who feel the need to grow a beard when they leave New York?…
I know the Yankees have history and tradition with their no facial hair policy, but I feel that it is something that the new Steinbrenner regime should consider relaxing. Some guys just need a beard. Sorry McCann…
No reminder needed, thank you…
I have to admit that I had almost forgotten about Alex Rodriguez (it was nice) until I heard his name yesterday after it was announced that he had dropped his lawsuit against the team’s doctor. I don’t know what A-Rod has left in his bat but honestly I do not care. I am not looking forward to his return next year and remain hopeful that the Yankees will find a way to sever ties. But I know that’s wishful thinking on my part. For now, I just have to enjoy that the team is doing fine without A-Rod and know that he is not missed.
Where’s the reset button?…
2014 has been a year of disappointment for many. Pitchers are lining up for Tommy John surgery at an alarming rate and proven star performers like Prince Fielder and Bryce Harper are on the DL.
Certainly, the Boston Red Sox rank of one of the year’s greatest disappointments (as discussed in Nick Cafardo’s column today in the Boston Globe). I realize the team has struggled with the losses of Jacoby Ellsbury and Jared Saltalamacchia, but the effort and focus of the team collectively seems to be lacking. I know, a Yankee fan making negative comments about the Red Sox…shocking. But still, watch the 15th inning of yesterday’s Sox-Rays game seemed to be a microcosm of Boston’s season. While everyone was critical of reliever Andrew Miller’s errant throw at second base that allowed Tampa Bay to score the winning run, it was an earlier play that I felt was equally as critical. The Rays laid down a perfect bunt toward third and Miller had the closest line to the ball, yet he pulled up and didn’t make an attempt for it. It appeared to me that they would have been able to record an out had Miller gone for the ball, but instead the runners advanced. Sure, the loss cannot be placed on Miller alone. But it was a random sample of what ails the Sox.
Kim Klement/USA Today Sports
I know better than to ever underestimate the Red Sox. They’ve overcome adversity too often to think their season is done. But they need to find the “magic” soon if they intend to defend their crown.
Battling to stay above .500…
Of course, as I write about the Red Sox, my team…the Yankees…have their own problems. Entering the season, there were two primary concerns: the infield and the bullpen.
The latter has become a strength with the emergence of young relievers like Dellin Betances and Adam Warren. I have lost no sleep about Joba Chamberlain being in Detroit, whlle Betances has become a late inning force. David Robertson has been very effective as Mariano Rivera’s replacement (regardless of the two run walk-off home run by Chicago’s Adam Dunn the other night). But time will tell how long it will hold up with the collapse…at least injury-wise…of the starting rotation. With CC Sabathia, ivan Nova and Michael Pineda on the DL, the bullpen has lost reliable arms to the rotation (Vidal Nuno and David Phelps). The Yankees ability to find a permanent solution for the losses of Sabathia and Nova and the successful return of Pineda will go a long way toward determining where the Yankees will be in late September.
The infield has been as expected. Sure, Yangervis Solarte has been a pleasant surprise but I do not realistically expect him to keep it up for the duration of the season. Brian Roberts, to no surprise, is nicked up and hasn’t played for a couple of games. Kelly Johnson is a better role player than starter. But sadly, the biggest disappointment might be Derek Jeter. A sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, Derek is unquestionably on his last legs. I am not trying to knock Jeter but he’s just as susceptible to age as the rest of us. Only Mariano Rivera was exempt…
So, it becomes a question of what changes can be made at what price…and when?…
The end of the streak…
In a way, it was good to see Masahiro Tanaka finally lose his first regular season game since 2012. The streak was becoming the focus and with it, a distraction. Everyone has a bad day and Tanaka is no exception. But now, he can just pitch and continue to improve his game without the added pressure of maintaining the streak.
The loss was inevitable and the many storylines about it have been written. Let’s move on.
Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports
The Boy Who Cried Wolf…
Now that Kim Kardashian’s wedding in Florence, Italy is over, I wonder what she’ll do for her next wedding when she gets re-married…
I wonder if Mike Mussina can still pitch…
It’s still early in May but the Yankees have only two remaining starters in the pitching rotation from the Opening Day roster. With the placement of CC Sabathia (knee) on the DL, the two Japanese starters, Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka, are the only remaining starters with Ivan Nova (elbow/Tommy John surgery) and Michael Pineda (back) already on the DL. This means the remainder of the rotation after Kuroda and Tanaka, are David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and perhaps Chase Whitley or Alfredo Aceves. That’s not exactly a rotation that strikes fear in the heart of opposing batters.
The Yankees are so very fortunate that they won the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes in the off-season. I’d hate to think where this rotation would be without Tanaka. Or the team for that matter.
The Yankees will need to do something to address the starting rotation. Nova is gone for the year, and Sabathia is still showing difficulty in adjusting to the latter stages of his pitching career. I am really not sure what to expect when Pineda comes back and Kuroda has not shown consistent dominance since early last year.
But with the July trading deadline still over two months away, there are simply no quality options available. Well, at least not at more reasonable prices. Hopefully, someone among the Phelps, Nuno, Whitley et al group step up to show that they belong in The Show. The Yankees need a new starter next year to replace Kuroda, who, more than likely, will retire or return to play in Japan. Rather than vastly overpay for an upcoming free agent, it would be preferable for a young starter in the organization to step up and take his spot (obviously).
Passing the torch…
With Stephen Drew still available and the June draft upcoming, the rumors are picking up again that Drew would be a great fit for the Yankees. I do not disagree. No disrespect for Derek Jeter but he simply is not the player he was once. He will not ride to the sunset like Mariano Rivera at the top of his game. It’s unfortunate, but age has a funny way of doing that to the best of us. I have felt that Drew would be a very solid addition since spring training and better than adding Brian Roberts or Kelly Johnson. I know it would cost a draft pick, but the Yankees should pull the trigger now and sign Drew rather than wait until the competition is much stronger once Drew no longer has compensation tied to his signing following the player draft.
Brendan Ryan is a great fielder at shortstop but this team needs quality, clutch bats and Drew would be perhaps the best option for production among the middle infielders if signed.
The quarterback who wears gloves picked the right city…
As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I bought into the hype of Johnny Manziel. After experiencing life as a fan of Donnie Baseball, it was appealing to think of my favorite football team being led by Johnny Football. When the Vikings were on the clock at #8 and Manziel was still available, I was hopeful, along with many other Vikings fans apparently, that the team would call his team. But instead, the Vikings swapped places with the Cleveland Browns at #9, and took a defensive player (Anthony Barr). While I recognize the team needed defensive help, particularly the linebackers and defensive backfield, but the team needs a true leader. I had been hopeful Christian Ponder would be the guy but it has never worked out. Perhaps offensive coordinator Norv Turner can pull something out of Ponder but in many ways it is too late. Matt Cassell will be the starter in 2014 barring injury, so it was a given the Vikings would take a QB in the draft.
After failing to trade up to #22 (the Philadelphia Eagles accepted a better offer from the Cleveland Browns who then took Johnny Football), the Vikings traded back up into the first round (last pick at #32) with the Seattle Seahawks and grabbed the guy who was number one on many top QB lists, Teddy Bridgewater. So, while I was disappointed the Vikings didn’t get Manziel, it is certainly not difficult to be excited about the potential of Bridgewater. He’ll have great weapons with Adrian Peterson, Cordarelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings and others. Ponder now becomes an afterthought, unless he is somehow able to find his way back into the starter’s role before Bridgewater takes the position for good.
Happy Mother’s Day!
24: Live Another Day…
To some, that title refers to the upcoming 12-episode FOX TV Series with Kiefer Sutherland returning as Jack Bauer, but it is also has some parallels with the current state of the Yankees. 24 is the continuation of the roster size until Sunday when Michael Pineda’s suspension ends and he is subsequently placed on the DL. 24 was the return of Robinson Cano to New York even though he now wears #22. 24 seems like the length of yesterday’s 14-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. 24 is the description of the day by day adventure that is a major league baseball season.
Clearly, the Yankees are in a funk right now with a shortened two game sweep by Cano and the Seattle Mariners, followed by last night’s series opening loss to the Rays.
There was a brief stretch earlier in the season where I was feeling very confident with the starting rotation but that lasted about one cycle through the rotation as the Yankees lost Ivan Nova for the season due to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda to suspension and subsequently an injured back. So, Vidal Nuno becomes the #4 starter with David Phelps filling the role of the last man in the rotation. If CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were pitching to their proven levels, it would be a different story but they are not. So, it places so much more focus on the back end. Right now, there is only one starter that conveys a sense of confidence. It doesn’t mean that he’ll win every time out, but you feel as though you’ll have the best possible chance for success. That pitcher, of course, is Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka who has been everything as advertised. I hate to think where the Yankees rotation would be if he was a Chicago Cub or a Los Angeles Dodger. We’d probably be bracing for the return of Freddy Garcia at this point.
The Yankees need to do something. With Nuno and Phelps in the rotation, the bullpen, which had actually started to gel after some early concerns, is a mess. Nuno strikes me as no more than a good long man, not a starter. I think Phelps has promise but relying on the combo of Nuno-Phelps is too much. The Yankees need to find a proven starter, somewhere…somehow, so that they can push, ideally, Nuno back to the pen. Of course, where that starter is going to come from is anybody’s guess. It’s not exactly like the Detroit Tigers are going to hand Max Scherzer to the Yanks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the return of Alfredo Aceves to the Bronx. It’s too bad that Manny Banuelos didn’t develop as planned as this would have been a good time for him to make his introduction into the major leagues if he hadn’t encountered injury along his path. He may still make it one day but unfortunately, he’s not an answer right now. He’s probably not an answer but you gotta love Graham Stoneburner’s name if nothing else about his game. Hopefully, the Yankees can make some necessary improvements now rather than having to wait until closer to the July trading deadline.
Death, Taxes, and MLB Injuries…
This has been a tough year for injuries given how many pitchers have had to have Tommy John surgery, and frontline players like Bryce Harper and Jason Kipnis currently on the disabled list. While the Yankees have been plagued with injuries, they are fortunate it hasn’t been more severe. Losing Nova for 12-18 months hurts, but still, it could be worse. These are the times that GM Brian Cashman is asked to prove his mettle. How he responds to the Yankees current situation will shape the remainder of the season. As presently constructed, I am not sure that this is a team that will be knocking in October. It was an older, vulnerable team that has had to deal with injuries and one without able, capable young bodies in the farm system ready and capable to make their mark in The Show. But, as the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…
The (new) Yankee Stadium hits leader in road gray…
Speaking of Robinson Cano, I had mixed feelings about his return to the Bronx. There was criticism directed at him in the form of the very loud boos and chants against him, but the louder the Bronx cheers, the more you realize how much the player meant to the fans. I hated to see Cano leave but I felt and continue to feel the Yankees made the right decision not to match the Mariners’ $240 million offer. It wasn’t about disrespect, but rather a decision that was in the best interests of the long-term health of the team roster through the next 10 years. I had no issue with the fans booing and it was clear that Cano was prepared to handle it. His appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon illustrated how ready he was to confront the fans. The clip where fans thought they were booing a picture of Cano only to have the real thing step out was classic. It also showed that how much we may boo Cano and how unhappy we were he didn’t take less money to stay in pinstripes, the bottom line is that he is a quality human being and he sets a good example for the game.
Naturally, I hope he fails in Seattle. Okay, not really. I recognize that he is the best at his position. That won’t be the case in 7-8 years and perhaps the Yankees will have found their long term answer at the position by then. It was good to see Cano back in the Bronx and despite the sweep, I do wish him well. But, when he returns to the Bronx the next time, I will boo him. Sorry, it’s just what we do…
Have a wonderful weekend!
A swing and a miss, another miss, yet another miss…
This morning, I saw a post on the MLB Trade Rumors website (http://www.MLBTradeRumors.com) that asked the poll question of which MLB team had the best draft in 2002? Of all the examples shown, no Yankees were anywhere to be found. For a draft that started with Bryan Bullington and B.J. Upton, there was some great talent uncovered in the 2002 draft. Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto and a guy who would eventually find his way to the Bronx, Brian McCann, were among the great choices by their respective teams. But sadly, not a single Yankee selection stuck that year.
Number 26 selection Phil Coke is a major leaguer but with the Detroit Tigers. He had his moments in the Bronx but was never anything special and was sent to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson trade.
But removing Coke, there are 50 rounds of names that Yankee Stadium never heard from. I really do not recognize any of the names outside of the first round selection and that’s only because he was later the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns (Brandon Weeden).
I know that there are many sad tales among the 2002 draft picks, like 2nd round pick Alan Bomer, a pitcher, who reinjured his shoulder after a previous injury several years earlier, bringing an end to his major league hopes.
But it’s also a testament to the drafting ability of major league teams and 2002 was clearly not a good vintage for the Yankees. I know the team’s re-focus on the minor league system didn’t occur until a few years later but hopefully barren draft years like 2002 are a thing of the past. But looking ahead a few years, it’s not too pretty.
2003 really wasn’t much better with top pick third baseman Eric Duncan long gone from baseball. The only name that stands out to me from that draft is Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard.
2004 was the year the Yankees selected pitcher Phil Hughes and can only wonder what could have been. Time will tell if he can fulfill his promise in the Twin Cities or if he was simply one of the most overhyped young players of our time.
For the Yankees, solid draft picks do not appear until 2005 which Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson were chosen. Interestingly enough, the Yankees also chose pitcher Doug Fister that year but he opted to return to college for his final year, and was taken by the Seattle Mariners the next year. Granted, Fister is currently on the Nationals’ DL, but he’d certainly look good in the Yankees rotation about now.
In 2006, the Yankees made some good choices, but it’s rather humorous that the first round pick went to Joba Chamberlain, a journeyman reliever for the Detroit Tigers, while current Yankees closer, David Robertson was selected in the 17th round. Ian Kennedy and Zach McAllister were both chosen after Chamberlain, and they are solid starting pitchers for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians, respectively. Dellin Betances was also taken that year and after years of hype, he’s finally contributing as a force in the Yankees bullpen. Mark Melancon, currently the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Jason Grilli’s injury, was also a draft selection.
Of the decisions the Yankees made regarding trades, the one I didn’t like was dumping McAllister. He went to Cleveland in 2010 for Austin Kearns who only stayed in the Bronx for the remainder of the season. That trade felt like the foolish ones that we had grown accustomed to in the 1970’s and 80’s. McAllister is having a very solid year for the Indians and is another guy who would have looked great in the Yankees rotation.
I will never find fault with the decision to trade Ian Kennedy even though he almost won the Cy Young after leaving the Yankees. I just never found him to be a good fit in New York.
2007 was another disappointing draft year as the Yankees really only have catcher Austin Romine, currently at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, to show for it. Top pick Andrew Brackman was coming off a major injury at the time of the selection and was never able to find his way back.
As I advance to 2008, it’s disappointing to see how poor, outside of 2006, the draft has been for the Yankees. Atop the list in ’08 is a pitcher the Yankees were unable to sign and who is now entrenched in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole. Talk about another guy who would have been a brilliant option for the Yankees rotation. What could have been…
This really shows how incredibly difficult it is to determine those who will be able to achieve results and success at the Major League level. It also shows how many people fail to find their way for whatever reasons.
It’s a small wonder that the Yankees have had to spend so much in the free agent market to ensure the team remains competitive. In a statement of the obvious, the Yankees would be smart to improve the quality of their scouting and development to ensure that the older players are replaced by younger, cheaper talent with high ceilings.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are solid teams because of their drafting ability. For the Yankees, they are successful despite it. I get why owner Hal Steinbrenner believes in the power of the farm system. This is not rocket science. Sustainability will only be maintained through youth and controlling costs.
Stupid is as stupid does…
The fans of the Boston Red Sox took great delight when Michael Pineda was tossed from a Yankees-Red Sox game last week due to the blatant smear of pine tar on his neck. After the fiasco caused during his previous start against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium (“brown dirt”), he had to have known he would be under the magnifying glass. Yet, he risked detection by continuing the use of pine tar and ended up applying a more generous amount than he had intended to. So, Boston manager John Farrell had absolutely no choice but to call out Pineda. This is one instance where I felt the Red Sox were 100% correct in a controversial decision involving the Yankees. Pineda’s 10-game suspension hurts the Yankees, at a time when they’ve already lost starter Ivan Nova for the season due to an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery.
For a rotation that looked so strong and full of promise for a few starts, the Yankees now have to replace both Nova and Pineda, plus the top of the rotation has been questionable at times with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. The only source of consistency has been Masahiro Tanaka, who faces an incredibly difficult challenge today against the Los Angeles Angels and the likes of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.
Baseball is a team-first sport and Pineda made a “me-first” decision. I hope that he learns a valuable lesson during his suspension and comes back with choices that are for the good of the team.
For the record, I do believe that Major League Baseball should allow pine tar to some degree for gripping purposes only in colder temps. But until the rules are changed, it’s a violation and should be handled accordingly. Baseball has been tolerant of discreet behavior regarding its use, but to blatantly violate the policy warrants the appropriate punishment until such a time the rules are changed.
Where is Lyle Overbay when you need him? I know, he’s enjoying the early season winning in Milwaukee, but the Yankees are clearly in need of someone who can play first base better than just a fill-in. I am still not convinced that Mark Teixeira will be a reliable force anytime soon even though his DL stint ends on Sunday. He hasn’t been hitting and he never hits in the early stages of a season. It’s made worse this year given that he is coming off a year lost to injury. Maybe we’ll experience a renaissance at first with Tex but put me in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category.
Poor Kelly Johnson. Signed to play second base, he became the starting third baseman when he who shall remain nameless was banned for the season. Johnson subsequently had to move across the diamond to play the other corner when Teixeira went on the DL. What’s next? Catcher? Or maybe he’ll be the team #5 starter should anything happen to a member of the rotation. He’s versatile, but seriously, I’d rather see Johnson stick to the left side of the infield. It’s too bad that someone with talent like Stephen Drew remains unsigned when he could help the Yankees in so many ways. I know, the cost is too great and we’re spoiled Yankee fans. But seriously, the team needs to protect its investment. The starting rotation has been solid and is capable of taking the team further than expected. But the bats and defense have to perform.
With the placement of backup catcher Francisco Cervelli on the DL, I was wondering what moves the Yankees would make. They have subsequently called up catcher John Ryan Murphy and signed Scott Sizemore to the major league roster after sending pitcher Shane Greene down to AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre. I’ve never been excited about Sizemore’s bat so the move doesn’t exactly resolve my infield concerns but to his defense, he had gotten off to a good start at AAA.
Interesting that the Yankees called upon Murphy rather than catcher Austin Romine. Brian Cashman made the comment that Murphy was the “better player”. When a GM talks, you always have to wonder if it is the truth or simply posturing for potential future trades. I fully expect the Yankees to move one of their minor league catchers in the days leading up to the trading deadline. Could be Murphy, Romine or even Gary Sanchez. But at some point, someone has to go to upgrade other areas in need.
Shawn Kelley has allayed my early concerns about his ability to close games. After blowing a game shortly after he became the interim closer, he’s been fairly solid the last few games. While it is good to see him gain closing experience, I’ll be glad to see David Robertson return.
Even with the help of some liquid brown dirt (yeah right), Michael Pineda has been everything I’ve expected since 2011. When people were calling the trade a bust, I stayed patient as I wanted to see Pineda perform when healthy. Yes, he could turn out to be another Carl Pavano but I don’t really expect that to happen. It’s great to have someone with his ability as the fifth starter. In many ways, he is better than the so-called “ace” of the staff. Speaking of the latter, I really hope CC Sabathia can successfully return to his status as a frontline starter if he can make the necessary transition and changes to his pitching style with the loss in velocity.
So far, I’ve been pleased with the performance of the Yankees. They’re holding their own and they just came off a series victory over arch-rival Boston. It’s still a long season and the team will have to do something about the holes in the infield but at least they are not in a dire situation at the start.
The nice thing about the Yankees…they’ll always give me something to complain about. Well, 1998 excluded.
Introducing the 2014 New York Yankees. With the demotion of Eduardo Nunez to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees have finalized, for now, their major league roster as the team heads to Houston to open the season against the Astros.
- CC Sabathia
- Hiroki Kuroda
- Ivan Nova
- Masahiro Tanaka
- Michael Pineda
No great surprises here. There was talk of a spring battle between David Phelps and Pineda, but I never expected Pineda to lose the last spot in the rotation regardless of how well Phelps pitched. I personally prefer to see Phelps as the long man in the pen. I think he is better suited for that role than Pineda and of course he’ll be the first arm called upon if the Yankees lose any of the starters to injury.
- David Robertson
Again, no surprises. This job is Robertson’s to lose. While the Yankees do not have any relievers with proven closing experience on the active roster should Robertson falter, Andrew Bailey looms in the wings when he returns to active duty later in the year. My hope is that Robertson takes the job and runs with it. He disappointed in the role a couple of years ago when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and Rafael Soriano ended up as the team’s primary closer. But that was then and this is now. It is my hope the Yankees never have to look for Plan B.
- Shawn Kelley
- Dellin Betances
This is an area of concern. It was great having a setup artist like Robertson. Kelley was good in the pen last year, but he’s no David Robertson. I am hopeful that this is Dellin’s niche after his previous prospect status as a future starter. I would like to see him develop into the clear-cut 8th inning option to set the bridge to Robertson. It’s also great to see a NYC-born player on the main stage.
- Matt Thornton
His departure in free agency was very quiet, but I was sad to see Boone Logan leave. I am not convinced that Matt Thornton is the answer. He’s been a great reliever over the course of his career but his best days are behind him. The Boston Red Sox even left him off the post-season roster last fall. I thought that Cesar Cabral would make the team as second lefty, but the Yankees expressed a greater need for long relief in the early days of the season so that solidified a position for Vidal Nuno. Thornton may be starting the season as the Yankees’ lefty specialist but I doubt he finishes it.
- David Phelps
- Adam Warren
- Vidal Nuno
I expect it to take a few months for Joe Girardi to find the right pieces for the bullpen but I fully expect him to make it a team strength by September. Tampa’s Joe Maddon has shown a tremendous ability to piece together a strong bullpen from a collection of spare parts, and I have every confidence Joe Girardi has the same ability.
- Brian McCann
- Francisco Cervelli
Honestly, I thought the Yankees would trade Cervelli in spring training and make Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy the backup catcher. But, aside from my disappointment with Cervelli last year due to his drug suspension, I do like the player and his intensity. McCann has been everything as advertised. I have been particularly impressed by how he was gone out of his way to get to know his pitchers. I had always heard he was a great team leader on the Atlanta Braves and that continues to hold true with his presence in the Yankees locker room.
- Mark Teixeira
Let’s just say that I am cautiously optimistic there are no lingering problems related to last year’s wrist injury.
- Brian Roberts
- Yangervis Solarte
I really do not expect Roberts to stay healthy so I hope he proves me wrong. I was glad to see Solarte make the team over Eduardo Nunez, and I hope his success in the spring carries over to the regular season. But it will be a long time before we see Robinson Cano-like production at this position. I just hope the position doesn’t become the team’s Achilles heel this year.
- Derek Jeter
- Dean Anna
It will be bittersweet watching Jeter on his farewell tour, but a key to the season will be the performance of Jeter’s backups as he won’t be able to do this alone.
- Kelly Johnson
Solarte will also spend time at this position, but overall, I am disappointed the Yankees did not do more to try and upgrade this position. I do not like uncertainty at both second and third, in combination with a 40 year old shortstop and a first baseman attempting to come back from a serious wrist injury. After years of rumors, maybe this is the year that Chase Headley becomes a Yankee. Time will tell.
- Brett Gardner
The team has made a significant investment in Gardner despite their acquisition of Jacoby Ellsbury. While I love team speed, I always shutter when I think of the Yankees attempt to convert to speed in the 1980’s with the signing of Dave Collins. I know this is a complete different situation that draws no parallel to the 80’s disaster, but I still prefer the three run homer.
- Jacoby Ellsbury
It still seems weird to see this name in the Yankees lineup. Nevertheless, he’s here and I hope, really hope that he can stay healthy. I know, that’s asking a lot. If he’s hurt, Gardner slides to center and Soriano is the starting left fielder which will weaken team offense and defense.
- Carlos Beltran
This might the position that I have the least amount of concerns with. I fully expect it to be business as usual for the 36 year old Beltran. He’s happy and excited to be in the Bronx, and he’s played under more difficult conditions in the past and has prospered.
- Alfonso Soriano
I expect some of the team’s older players to rotate through DH, but Soriano should get the bulk of the at-bat’s in what most likely will be his final year in pinstripes regardless of whether or not his playing career continues. I can see Derek Jeter getting a healthy number of DH at-bat’s but this goes back to how well Jeter’s backups at short can perform.
Role to be determined:
- Ichiro Suzuki
In actuality, he’ll be the team’s fifth outfielder. I expect Soriano to be the first option should any holes open in the outfield. This is a sad way for a Hall of Fame career to end. I had hoped that the Yankees would trade Ichiro to a team that had a greater need for his services than they do out of respect for the legendary player. It may still happen, but at this point, I’d rather see someone like Zoilo Almonte as the reserve outfielder behind Soriano.
Ichiro aside, I think the two most vulnerable players for roster moves are Dean Anna (when Brendan Ryan returns in May) and Vidal Nuno (I can see Cesar Cabral being promoted in mid-April).
I’d like to say that I am very optimistic about the 2014 season but the uncertainty of the infield and the unproven bullpen give me hesitation. I do not think the Yankees have done enough (despite all those dollars) to close the gap with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. Neither the Toronto Blue Jays nor the Baltimore Orioles will be pushovers in what is arguably baseball’s toughest division.
I do feel better about this team than last year’s version. People have said the Yankees over-achieved to reach 85 wins and that the Yankees are still an 85 win team despite the upgrades. I think they can reach 90 wins and perhaps a few more if the pieces come together (younger players take it to the next level, the right in-season acquisitions, and strong overall performance from the team collectively). It may not be enough to reach October, but the Yankees will help determine who does go.
I am glad that the baseball season is upon us. It should be an exciting and memorable year. Time for Joe Girardi’s masterful encore performance…