Tagged: Miguel Andujar

Now Batting, I Have No Friggin’ Clue…

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Yankees struggle to stay healthy…

With no offense to Aaron Judge, I think I am starting to prefer having outfielders who are 6’4” or less. The big guys just seem to have too much trouble staying on the field. It was a little disheartening yesterday to learn Judge has a stress fracture in his right first rib. He apparently suffered the injury last September while making a diving catch. After weeks of not knowing what was wrong, I am glad they were finally able to diagnose the issue with Judge. But on the other hand, it’s a bit frustrating that the team has suffered multiple injuries that occurred last year, only to find out about them this Spring and not earlier.

Whether we are talking about Luis Severino, James Paxton, or Aaron Judge, it seems like earlier diagnosis or action would have been better but I am not a doctor and I only know what I can see from afar.  I hope medical treatment and rest will help Judge overcome the latest setback. Surgery has been mentioned as a possibility but I really hope it doesn’t come to that. If so, it will be more significant lost playing time for one of the team’s best players. If Judge can’t stay healthy, he’ll hit the proverbial fork in the road in a few seasons when the team no longer has control and the Yankees could choose to walk away. It’s not like we’ve never seen popular guys leave before.  Judge is one of my favorite Yankees and I really hope that he overcomes the rash of injuries to be the productive player we know he can be.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
Photo Credit: CBS Sports

This probably almost guarantees Miguel Andujar will be primarily an outfielder and DH this season. Granted, Mike Tauchman is going to be a busy man but he’ll be needed to spell Brett Gardner in center. I am sure the Sock Man will play corner outfield positions too (obviously) but I think I am excited about Miggy’s potential. The caveat is that Gio Urshela must prove that last year was not a fluke, otherwise, MIggy will be back at third which, admittedly, I’d prefer not to see. I’d rather have Andujar as the full-time DH if he can’t master the outfield. The Yankees do need his bat in the lineup and I am glad he’s there at time when Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are not.

This probably also ensures Clint Frazier will head to Baltimore with the team in less than three weeks rather than making the trip to Moosic, PA. I’ve long stated Frazier needs to play at the Major League level. I am firm in my opinion the Yankees either need to play him or trade him. He gets a chance to either prove the Yankees need him or he can showcase himself for other teams. Frazier is probably my early candidate for ex-Yankee by the time the July trading deadline rolls around. But honestly, I’d prefer watching him excel with the Yankees. The problem is the crowded outfield once Stanton and Judge return.  Granted, the Yankees will probably put Stanton in bubble wrap and house him at DH but still. There’s no scenario that I see which benefits sending Frazier to Triple A again. It’s not good for him and it’s not good for the Yankees (a waste of Frazier’s talent and potential).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

It is good to hear James Paxton is getting close to resuming baseball activities after his successful recovery from back surgery. It does give hope he’ll return in May rather than June which is best case scenario. As for the role of fifth starter while Big Maple is out, I had been pulling for Mike King with the belief Jonathan Loaisiga should be in the pen. However, Loaisiga has been one of the Yankees’ best pitchers this Spring and he’s starting to change my mind. I continue to harbor fear the injury risk is greater as a starter for him, but there’s no doubt Loaisiga can play a huge role for the Yankees this year. I am pulling for him.

I received my copy of the latest Yankees Magazine in the mail yesterday. I think it was a twisted joke that one of the headlines at the top reads “SEVY’S READY FOR 2020”. Oh my, wondering what could have been with Sevy and Gerrit Cole at the top of the rotation this year. I guess we have something to look forward to in late 2021 or for the 2022 season when Sevy returns at full strength.

I was a little disappointed to see the Boston Red Sox sign former Houston pitcher Colin McHugh. I thought McHugh might be a good option for the Yankees with his ability to pitch effectively in both starting and relief roles. The Yankees seem committed to their in-house options, although there has been some smoke lately about other pitchers they might be looking at on the trade market. Miguel Andujar for Steven Matz? No, thank you. The downside is the lack of motivation for teams to make March or April trades when everybody thinks they have a chance. Well, except for the Baltimore Orioles.

I remain optimistic Gary Sanchez will have a good season and it is disappointing to hear the boos for him, especially after last night’s loss to the Orioles. Gary isn’t exactly helping his own cause with one hit in 17 Spring at-bats, but I am not going to fret about Spring Training. If I did, I’d be on the ledge for all those home runs Gerrit Cole gave up the other day. This is probably where I miss Austin Romine. I’ll never be one of those who thought Ro should start over El Gary, but it was nice having him as a safety net. I like Kyle Higashioka but he hasn’t proven himself yet so I just don’t have the same confidence in Gary’s backup as years past. Chris Iannetta has carved out a nice little Major League career over the years but there’s not really anybody behind Higgy that provides more comfort. I really hope Gary hits the ground running in three weeks and doesn’t look back. Higgy playing the role of a backup quarterback with baseball cap turned around, holding a clipboard, is ideal. I know, you can’t wear your caps backwards in baseball and you can’t hold a clipboard but you know what I mean.

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Photo Credit: J Conrad Williams, Jr, Newsday

Although I do not follow the Kansas City Royals, I read this morning that former Yankees farmhand Ryan McBroom is expected to play in a first base platoon for the Royals to open the season. Good for him. I will always think of McBroom as the guy we got for Robert Refsnyder. Sitting here without looking it up, I have absolutely no clue who the Yankees got for McBroom but he’ll be forever connected to Refsnyder, at least in my mind. For the record, the Yankees didn’t get anybody for McBroom. He was purchased from the Yankees (“international bonus pool money and a player to be named later or cash considerations”). Money talks.

After living in Denver for the past four years and having to watch National League baseball at Coors Field, I am glad to be returning to Los Angeles and the American League. I’ll be in Orange County near Angel Stadium so, unlike the Angels, I guess I can’t say I am from Los Angeles but close enough. All things considered, I prefer to be closer to Dodger Stadium (lived two miles away the last time I lived in LA) but it’s just a train ride and bus trip away. I am looking forward to getting a firsthand look at Mike Trout and already have tickets for multiple games. I’ve seen a lot of games at Angel Stadium over the years so that part is not a new experience, but I am anxious to see what Joe Maddon can do with the Halos even if the Angels are still short in the starting pitching arena. Anthony Rendon helps give the team some optimism and Jo Adell looks like the real deal in the not-so-distant future. Nevertheless, I am not suddenly going to become an Angels fan. I never embraced the Colorado Rockies, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy good baseball.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Shall Overcome…

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Photo Credit: Seth Wenig, AP

Despite injuries, Yankees are very good…

The talk about the Yankees having the best starting rotation in baseball sure ended quickly. It was disappointing to lose Luis Severino for the season when his forearm tightness led to Thursday’s Tommy John surgery. We’ll be left to wonder what could have been.

I had really been excited to see what Sevy could do as the second best starter on the staff but now that job falls to Masahiro Tanaka (or James Paxton when he returns). I like Masa and Pax but they are clearly a step down from Sevy’s potential. Oh well, injuries are a part of life and although the Yankees always seem to have more than their share, Sevy is not going to be the last good pitcher in the Major Leagues to go down for Tommy John surgery this year. There will be a time with Gerrit Cole and Sevy pair to give the Yankees a fantastic tandem but for now, we move on.

While I had hoped the Yankees would acquire a good veteran starter (and probably still do), I get the excitement about the Yankees’ younger arms. I am glad, for now, the Yankees retained J.A. Happ. He had been the guy I wanted the Yankees to trade all winter (to clear out his salary), but he clearly becomes an important part of the rotation. His talk about wanting to stay with the Yankees certainly played a part in my change of opinion, but the bigger factor was his off-season work to make adjustments and the involvement of Sam Briend, the Yankees’ Director of Pitching, Driveline to help Happ become a better version of himself. I’d love to have a replay of late 2018 season Happ or the guy who won 20 games in 2016.

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Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, AP

Even though the Yankees haven’t handed a starting spot to Jordan Montgomery, I think all of us believe he is ready to return and play a big role for this team.

So it leaves one spot open in the rotation until Paxton returns. Admittedly, I’ve been seduced by the arm of Clarke Schmidt, like everyone else, but considering he does not currently have a spot on the 40-man roster and has only pitched three games in Double A, I can’t see him breaking camp and heading to Baltimore next month. No doubt we’ll see Schmidt at some point this year, but I think it will be later this summer. Everybody loves to talk about Deivi Garcia and Jonathan Loaisiga but Michael King is the guy I’d like to see as the fifth starter to open the season. He is a brilliant strategist who embraced Driveline before Sam Briend joined the Yankees, and there’s part of his makeup that reminds me of David Cone. Who knows if he can have a Cone-like career, but I think he can be a good Major League pitcher. He may not have the front of the rotation potential like Schmidt but he doesn’t have to be to help the Yankees win.

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Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Maybe Garcia is ready now. If the Yankees feel he is, then I obviously would support the decision so I rate him as my second choice. I personally think he needs a little more time in the minors for his MLB preparation, but there’s no denying the talent of his arm.

Loaisiga scares me as a starter if for no other reason than his injury history. I see him as an effective bullpen weapon and that’s where I’d like to see him stay.

If Chad Bettis or Nick Tropeano win the fifth spot, I’ll be disappointed. I feel bad. Bettis has overcome so much to get here. I know the Colorado Rockies fans, having lived in Denver the last four years, really like and admire Bettis. Tropeano is a New York kid who is getting a chance to play for the primary local team. Nevertheless, I do not see the upside play in either Bettis or Tropeano and would rather take a chance on one of the younger arms.

Listening to CC Sabathia’s podcast this week, it was sad to hear Sonny Gray talk about the inability of the Yankees to help him. With the disclaimers both CC and Sonny gave about really liking former Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild, it was interesting to listen to them say Larry didn’t really have any answers. I guess I didn’t really understand how “behind” the Yankees were in current analytics and what drove the massive overhaul this past-offseason. I was dumping on Sonny Gray as much as anyone while he was a Yankee, but in retrospect, it would have been interesting to see what the Yankees current array of pitching coaches could have done with him.

I am not sure what to think about Giancarlo Stanton’s latest injury (calf) that will delay his start to the 2020 season. I am not ready to say he is ‘Jacoby Ellsbury Revisited’ but the injuries are disappointing. I am not going to blame Giancarlo for the injuries. They happen. But at this point, his contract looks like a sunk cost. If you could go back in time, there’s no doubt Brian Cashman should have snagged Christian Yelich instead of Stanton.  I remain hopeful Stanton can overcome these annoying injuries and be the player he was in 2017 when he won the NL MVP Award or in 2018 when he hit 38 homers for the Yankees. Yet, playing him anywhere except DH seems like a major risk at this point. We’ll see. For now I just hope he’s healthy soon and back on the field or rather the batter’s box.

This is a great opportunity for Clint Frazier to finally prove he belongs, but I am probably most excited about the limited work in left field by Miguel Andujar. With third base occupied by Gio Urshela, it would be fantastic to see Miggy grab left field for his own. Mike Tauchman will play a role but he’ll need to help Brett Gardner in center. I know many people would love to move Miggy for a quality starting pitcher and maybe I’ve been one of them, but with Stanton out, I want Andujar’s bat in the lineup. Last year, we had the Parrot. This year, we can have the Helicopter (a hat tip to Miggy’s swing).  As for Frazier, if he doesn’t make the team, I’d rather see the Yankees trade him than send him back down to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He really has nothing more to prove in the minor leagues. Love him or hate him, I’d like to see him get a big league opportunity even if it isn’t with the Yankees.

It’s funny how ex-Yankees always grow facial hair immediately after leaving the Yankees. Watching the Padres on MLB Network last night, it was weird seeing Larry Rothschild in San Diego’s dugout with a beard. I didn’t take a pic but thankfully James Kelly of ESNY did:

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Photo Credit: James Kelly, ESNY, via Twitter @jkellyESNY

I had caught Detroit’s game earlier in the day and Tigers catcher Austin Romine looks so different with his Civil War-like beard.

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You kind of half expect Didi Gregorius to throw the razor away.

With the fan uproar when the Yankees started the exhibition season with a couple of losses, I really hope the Yankees avoid a sluggish start to the regular season. Frankly, I didn’t care if the Yankees lost all of their 33 spring games so long as the players got the necessary work to get ready for the season. There are no trophies awarded for the best Spring record. It’s nice to see the team win like they have the last few days but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really mean anything. The pitchers are experimenting and not offering their full array of pitches and strategy. It’s more about readiness to play at the game’s highest level for an extended period over the course of a long season. But if the Yankees lose a few games in late March to the lowly Baltimore Orioles, there’s no doubt the Yankee fans will be on the ledge. I feel bad for Gerrit Cole when he gives up his first home run. Let’s embrace this team. Even with the injuries, they still have the potential to be the best of the American League with an excellent chance to have a dinner date with the NL representative in October.  As they say, don’t sweat the small stuff.  There will be bumps along the way, but we’ll be there in the end.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

It’s a good time to be a Yankees fan.

As always, Go Yankees!

Nolan Arenado and the Yankees…

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Photo Credit: SI.com

The lovely Rumor Mill is churning hard…

The dream was like any other but it stood out as one so vivid and exciting. I picked up my cell phone on a cool, crisp February evening, logged into Twitter, and was incredibly amazed to find the Yankees had acquired veteran third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies.

Arenado, who turns 29 a few weeks after Opening Day, hit 41 home runs in 2019, driving in 118 runs. His batting line was .315/.379/.583 with .392 wOBA and 128 wRC+. This has basically been Arenado’s consistent production for the past five years.  A .300 hitter who will give you 40 bombs and drive in more than 110 RBIs every season, and play tremendous defense. Unsurprisingly, Steamer provides these projections for Nolan’s 2020 season…40 HR, 114 RBIs, .296/.370/.571. So, in other words, more of the same for the foreseeable future.

Late last February, the Colorado Rockies and Arenado agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth $260 million. The contract includes a player opt-out provision following the 2021 season and has full no-trade protection. At the time, Arenado and the Rockies were all smiles. “I think the future is brighter in Colorado than it’s been in the past,” Nolan said at the time. “That excites me and makes me very aware of what’s going on here.” Fast forward to 2020, after the Rockies finished 71-9 last season, good for fourth place in the NL West, a game ahead of the rising San Diego Padres. Nolan’s words now read, “I really don’t care what’s being said. I just know that I feel disrespected over there.” What a difference a year…and losing…makes.

Trevor Story signed a two year extension with the Rockies yesterday that provides the talented shortstop with $27.5 million. On the surface, it looks like the Rockies are trying to retain their core talent. But in reality, this was an extension that covers Story’s final two years of arbitration eligibility and sets the expected dollar cost with certainty for the Rockies. It does not touch any of Story’s free agent years, and as one Rockies blogger noted, sets the price for Story’s final two years with the Rockies before he hits the free agent trail. Colorado’s big free agent acquisition this winter, on a minor league deal, has been former Arizona infielder Chris Owings who spent time late last season with Boston.

For Nolan, the sad decline of the Rockies almost ensures that he’ll exercise the opt-out after the 2021 season. Some would question walking away from $35 million per year, but if Nolan performs like he always has, the money will be there. For the Rockies, trading Nolan, with his permission, makes the most sense this off-season. He carries greater value with two years of control versus just one next off-season.

So, how did Arenado end up with the Yankees? He did not. It was just a dream.

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The Yankees third basemen today, Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar, are the same players that will be part of the Yankees team that shows up at Camden Yards on March 26th. I’d love for the Yankees to acquire Nolan and I’d like to think he’d gladly waive his no-trade to join his buddy D.J. LeMahieu in the bright lights of the Big Apple. But realistically, it will never happen. Fun to think about, sure, but like Power Ball, a near impossibility. I’d say the odds are 70 million to 1, or the dollars on Nolan’s contract before the opt-out. I am not getting my hopes up about this one, and wish the rumors would die. Let’s be happy about the guys on the roster and recognize the Yankees will field a very good team in 2020.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention how difficult this week has been. Sunday morning, we woke up to the horrible news that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, CA. As a Lakers fan, I know how much Kobe means to the City of Los Angeles and surrounding area. This week, we found out how much the entire country cares about the Lakers legend. Just this past December, we all saw the video clip of Kobe talking to his daughter, Gianna, at a basketball game, a scene that is now painful to watch, knowing we lost both young lives.

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The victims of the tragic crash:

  • Kobe Bryant
  • Gianna “Gigi” Bryant
  • John Altobelli
  • Keri Altobelli
  • Alyssa Altobelli
  • Christina Mauser
  • Sarah Chester
  • Payton Chester
  • Ara Zobayan

This one hurts. I’ve seen people make comparisons to the tragic death of Thurman Munson on August 2, 1979. I am not sure I can make a comparison. My perspective is different. When Thurman died, I was a kid and it was devastating to lose my favorite player so suddenly. It does not mean that the loss of the above nine people was not equally devastating (or probably more so because of the loss of so many lives). My heart is heavy and I am deeply saddened the young girls, in particular, had their lives end before they really even started. Gigi, born in 2006, had already showed us that she was proudly walking in the footsteps of her father and I have no doubt she would have been a force in basketball in the years ahead. I always enjoyed watching Kobe on talk shows, bringing his Mamba Mentality to his words of wisdom.

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On a morning when the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded their helicopters because of the weather conditions, I wish Kobe and his pilot would have made the same decision. They are gone too soon and we were clearly not ready for their departure. May all nine Rest in Peace and know this World loves them, today, tomorrow and forever-more.

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Stepping back to Baseball, there is only one open managerial position (Boston Red Sox) with Houston’s hiring of veteran manager Dusty Baker. Good for Dusty. I never really understood Washington’s decision to part ways with Baker a couple of years ago. He might not have a World Series ring for his efforts, but he has been a winning manager. I know the current trend is to hire young, analytics-driven managers and Dusty represents the last of the old guard, but he seems like the right guy for the right time in Houston. Most likely the stay is short and that’s fine. Dusty brings structure, credibility, and discipline back to the Astros clubhouse. You know the Astros will play the game the right way this season. I’d be surprised if Dusty is the Astros manager in two years but I am sure when he leaves, the franchise will be better for it.

Selfishly, I was glad Buck Showalter did not get the job. I enjoyed Buck’s return to the Yankees family late last season with his appearances on the YES Network and I’d like to see more as we move forward. There’s a chance he could get the job in Boston, which I’d really hate to see, but hopefully we can keep Buck on our side.

As for the Red Sox job, I liked Terry Cushman’s words yesterday on Twitter. Cushman, a Red Sox blogger/podcaster, said “Tomorrow is February. The same month the Red Sox will report to spring training with their ‘manager to be named later’. Nobody has literally ever uttered those words.” It does seem strange the calendar page has turned to February, with players heading to Arizona and Florida, and Boston’s leadership role sits vacant.

Farewell to former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, who announced his retirement yesterday. His stay in the Bronx was brief but enjoyable. The likeable Grandy Man has been good for baseball and I hope he stays in the game in some capacity. Here’s hoping his post-playing career is as successful as his playing days. A good baseball player, a better man.

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Photo Credit: Michael L Stein, US Presswire

It’s Super Bowl weekend. I lost my horse in this race when the San Francisco 49ers made mince-meat out of my Minnesota Vikings a few weeks ago  but I am pulling for the Niners to bring home another Super Bowl championship to the Bay Area. During a year when the Raiders closed up shop in Oakland for their relocation to Las Vegas, it would be great to see the Niners ring the championship bell for the entire Bay Area, including the East Bay. I respect Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes as one of the great young talents in the game but I cannot bring myself to cheer for Kansas City.

As always, Go Yankees!

Let’s Secure The Machine…

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Photo Credit: AP


Time to Focus on D.J. LeMahieu…

I have to say this baseball off-season has been more eventful than years past, and has been nice to see the big free agents off the board before Christmas. Last year, it seemed like free agent signings and trade activity were frozen while the World waited to see where Manny Machado and Bryce Harper would land. The Yankees had started early with their trade for James Paxton but it was relatively quiet for them until January. Even then, their signing of D.J. LeMahieu in 2019’s first month was met with indifference from the Yankees fan base, maybe some frustration for those who really wanted to see Manny Machado suit up in Pinstripes.

Nearly a year later, we see how invaluable the acquisition of D.J. LeMahieu really was. Many felt that he was the team’s MVP and warranted consideration for the AL MVP Award (he finished a disappointing fourth). I felt he should have been at least third in the voting with no offense to Marcus Semien (being a Yankee always seems to be a negative factor with these types of awards).

LeMahieu, who will turn 32 in July, enters the final year of his two year, $24 million contract with the Yankees. I’d really like to see the team sign him to an extension now rather than wait until after the season. I think LeMahieu proved his worth in his first Bronx season. He showed he was not a product of Coors Field and actually improved his power numbers away from the Mile High City. His final batting line was .327/.375/.518 with ..375 wOBA and 136 wRC+. He had 26 home runs, eclipsing his previous high of 15 with the Colorado Rockies, and 102 RBIs. His K% was only 13.7%, in line with his career numbers. A superior defender, he is slated to be the Yankees starting second baseman in 2020 with the move of Gleyber Torres to shortstop. Setting the numbers aside, it felt like LeMahieu was always coming up with the big hit when the Yankees needed him the most, almost singlehandedly solving the Yankees’ problem with runners left in scoring position.

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Photo Credit: Tim Warner, Getty Images

For whatever reason, the Yankees are less aggressive with their own free agents than they are when enamored with an outsider like Gerrit Cole. That’s probably a false generalization but I remember how difficult it seemed for Derek Jeter to get new contracts in his later years, with negotiations very tenuous at times. We saw it this Winter when the Yankees let Didi Gregorius walk and to this date appear ready to let Dellin Betances leave. While I am not sure the Yankees had any intention of bringing back Didi (if they had, they would have given him the qualifying offer), Gregorius said at his Phillies introductory press conference that he had only heard from Brian Cashman once and he was told the Yankees were focused on Gerrit Cole. To me, unless a player is very invested in Pinstriped legacy like Jeter or Mariano Rivera, it is easy for a Yankee free agent to go elsewhere if things get contentious.

Last off-season, the Yankees gave extensions to Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks. Unfortunately, both subsequently missed significant time with injuries. Maybe that gives the Yankees pause when considering extensions this off-season.  With the need for Torres at short, the Yankees need to stabilize the future of second base and lock up LeMahieu while they have exclusive negotiating rights. Treat him right.  He is a very valuable part of this team and he has proven his worth. As it sits right now, the Yankees need to add a potential left-handed bat, perhaps in a utility infield role. I know, it is well documented the Yankees’ right-handed hitters hit lefties as well as they do righties, and the need for a left-handed bat is overrated. Still, with the departure of Didi, the only left-handed bats are Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman and Tyler Wade. Of course, when he returns next summer after completion of his rehab from Tommy John surgery, the switch-hitting Aaron Hicks can hit from the left side too.

Slowly, some of the free agent options I’ve liked are starting to come off the board, I thought former Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez might have been a decent option although he has only really played second base. But there are more than a few critics with his game, and he is no longer an option after signing with the Cleveland Indians yesterday. Another guy I really liked as a bounce-back candidate, Travis Shaw, signed in the division with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Going into the season, I see Tyler Wade as the primary backup for shortstop. He’ll be challenged in Spring Training by Thairo Estrada but when camp breaks toward the end of March, I feel the difference-maker will be Wade’s speed. So, perhaps the best current free agent option for left-handed infield help appears to be former Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. I know Kipnis, 33 in April, is not the player he once was. But the Yankees would not be asking him to play a major role.  He was some pop as evidenced by his 17 bombs last year even if he is not going to hit for average (.245/.304/.410 in 2019). It’s probably more likely the Yankees bring in a guy like Joe Panik on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, if anyone at all.

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Photo Credit: George Nitikin, AP

It appears the Yankees will be going with Kyle Higashioka as the backup catcher. I thought they might make a play for Gerrit Cole’s 2019 personal catcher, Martin Maldonado, but he re-signed with the Houston Astros. Another possibility, former Yankee Francisco Cervelli, signed with the Miami Marlins. Considering Cervelli signed for only $2 million, it seems like the Yankees could have easily had him if they had wanted, which reinforces their ‘all or nothing’ approach with Higgy. I am a little uneasy if Gary Sanchez misses considerable time due to injuries but it is time for Higgy to show that he is ready. He has literally spent years training and waiting for this opportunity. I hope we do not see the 39-year-old Erik Kratz in the Bronx but unfortunately, at this point, it appears inevitable we will for at least some stretches next season.

The last spot to be addressed is the bullpen. Despite the rumors continuing to flurry about Josh Hader, I’d still prefer to see the return of Dellin Betances.  I know, he’ll be delayed by his Achilles Heel injury which has been addressed only by rest and not surgery, and carries great risk entering the 2020 season. I guess I am not really ready to see Betances leave and I continue, or at least try, to think optimistically about his recovery. It’s not that I am against Hader, it’s just the incredibly high cost it will take to bring him to the Bronx. The Yankees are almost guaranteed to lose Miguel Andujar in any deal for Hader, as well as some very good and high-ranked prospects. As much as I appreciated Gio Urshela’s breakout last year, I am not 100% convinced the late bloomer can sustain his performance into the new season. No doubt I prefer Gio’s glove over Andujar at third, but if hecan’t hit, it makes more sense to return Andujar to third despite his defensive shortcomings because we know the man can roll out of bed and hit bombs. To his credit, he is trying to get better with the glove and that’s all we can ask.

The Yankees were connected with Kansas City Royals reliever Tim Hill earlier this off-season and it’s probably more likely the Yankees pursue a lesser name like Hill than one of the best in the game for the bullpen need. Speaking of the Royals, they acquired Chance Adams from the Yankees yesterday. Adams had been designated for assignment last week when the Yankees officially announced Gerrit Cole. When I first heard that Adams was going to the Royals, I was a bit hopeful he was part of a bigger deal to bring Hill to New York, but getting anything more than a “slapdick prospect” (using Blake Snell’s words) for Adams was asking too much. Straight up, the Yankees received a lower level infielder with no power (Cristian Perez). There was a time when we thought Adams was going to be something special for the Yankees but sadly it was not meant to be. I still think he can be an effective reliever so we’ll see if he thrives with the Royals, a lesser pressurized environment for sure.

It’s nice to know that pitchers and catchers report to Tampa in less than two months. I am ready for MLB’s return (especially after last night’s disappointing loss by my Minnesota Vikings which handed the NFC North division championship to the hated Green Bay Packers). It will be fun to watch the arrival of Gerrit Cole to camp and the barrage of media it is sure to bring when the Yankees highest paid player makes his debut at Steinbrenner Field, surrounded by his new teammates. James Paxton, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka will almost certainly go unnoticed as they prepare for the 2020 season.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! Enjoy the time with friends and family, and take the time to appreciate all we have with this life.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Doubleheader with Sweeping Success…

Photo Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images

Yankees take 2 from the lowly O’s…

After a couple of rainy days and no Yankees baseball, everybody’s favorite team returned yesterday with a sweep of the doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles to salvage two of the three scheduled games of the series. The third game, Tuesday’s rainout, will be played as part of another doubleheader on August 12th.

The two wins, by scores of 5-3 and 3-1, put the Yankees a half-game behind the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays, who won a 1-0 pitching duel with the Miami Marlins, entering this weekend’s AL East Showdown between the Yankees and Rays. I really wish that Donnie Baseball’s team could have put up a couple of runs against Tampa. A Rays blowout would have been easier to take than a one-run victory.

A common phrase during this injury-challenged year is ‘where would we be without (insert player name)?’  Yesterday, the man was Gleyber Torres. His three home runs (two in the first game and one in the second) represented the first time a Yankee at age 22 or younger, had homered three times in one day since Joe DiMaggio homered three times during a game in 1937. Joltin’ Joe actually did it twice with three homers during a 1936 doubleheader, but still, anytime you can put your name with DiMaggio, you’re doing something right.

Domingo German (8-1, 2.41 ERA) continues to amaze. Entering the season, it was a question if he’d even make the MLB roster and if so, a swing role probably represented his best opportunity. Asked to step in for the injured Luis Severino, German has never looked back. His eight wins, one more than Houston’s Justin Verlander, lead Major League Baseball. If he continues to pitch like this, there’s no doubt he’ll be at Progressive Field in Cleveland on July 9th for the All-Star Game. Yesterday, he pitched seven innings in the second game, yielding only a single run although he did have to escape a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh inning. He struck out eight. His emotion in getting the final out on a groundout to third by Joey Rickard told the story. He was great this game. Despite the struggles in his final inning, he pitched very efficiently with only 85 pitches, walking just one (the next to last batter he faced).

When James Paxton and Luis Severino return, the Yankees will have an interesting decision to make. Of course, this is one of those situations where you worry about it when it happens, but there’s no way the Yankees can pull German from the starting rotation if he continues to pitch like this. I can easily see J.A. Happ as the odd man out, but then the question is what do you do with Happ. Signed to a two year deal, with vesting option for a third year, in the off-season, Happ seems to be coming around despite the two homers he allowed yesterday.  His vesting option is not impacted by innings or starts in 2019 so he seemingly is a candidate to move into the bullpen as the long man if necessary.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Seems a bit of a waste of a proven Major League starter but honestly who else are you going to pull from the starting rotation? Tanaka is not going anywhere and CC Sabathia, in his final season, has earned the right to start to season’s end. These things usually work themselves out and while I don’t want to see any more injuries, it is inevitable somebody will go down beyond the present list of injured players. If Happ gets on a summer-time roll or pitches like he did down the stretch last year for the Yankees, it will be hard to remove him from the rotation but I honestly see no other alternatives and do not feel the Yankees would move to a six-man rotation. Oh well, that’s a problem to think about if/when it happens. I’d much prefer having guys Domingo German and Gio Urshela take strangleholds on their positions and forcing the hard decisions by Brian Cashman and his team.

Speaking of Urshela, his long-term future with the Yankees for the season was solidified with the somber news that Miguel Andujar has opted for season-ending surgery to repair the torn labrum in his right shoulder. While Miggy was contemplating whether or not to have the surgery, I felt it was the right move from the start. He tried rest and rehab and it didn’t work. Rather than gamble with continued rest and potential setbacks, get the problem fixed and come back healthy and strong. It may mean 9-12 months lost, but that’s better than trying to play deeper into the 2019 season  with unsuccessful results and potentially losing all of next year. Hopefully Andujar comes back as good as new and enjoys a Didi Gregorius-like road to recovery.

Someone mentioned the Yankees should make a trade for Toronto’s Brandon Drury for third base. No question he is a good player, the Yankees liked him and he only lost out with the team because of Andujar’s stellar play. However, I think the Yankees are in good hands with Urshela and DJ LeMahieu. I really liked Drury during his brief Yankees career but once Didi comes back, Torres will take back second base. You have to keep LeMahieu in the lineup so I think you’ll see him spend the majority of his time at third when Didi and Gleyber are on the field. Regardless of whether it is Gio or DJ at third, you know great glove work will be in play. No offense to Andujar but I love above-average defense at third base.

I am not sure what I think about the Yankees’ acquisition of Kendrys Morales. I don’t necessarily look at him as a feared hitter but he always seemed to have the annoying knack of clobbering home runs at the worst times against the Yankees. At least he can’t do that anymore since his dingers will only help the team. I guess i’s a good, cheap move. The Yankees have no long-term commitments to Morales and he can help now. I think his body of work in 2019 with the Oakland A’s was too limited to draw any conclusions, and feel he’ll be closer to the guy he was last year in Toronto. He is what he is. He’s a .250 hitter that will potentially give you 20 bombs.  Nothing special but he can help until the Yankees get the big bats back in the lineup. When Morales was at first base three times during yesterday’s second game (two walks and a single), I couldn’t help but think it was a reunion of sorts for Morales and first base coach Reggie Willits. Willits is only two years older than Morales and they were teammates on the Los Angeles Angels for a few years, as recently as 2011 (Willits’ final year as an active player). If Morales helps, great. If not, GM Brian Cashman will be on to his next “discovery”. I have confidence this will work out. But no doubt I’ll sleep better once Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are back in the everyday lineup. I doubt Morales is on the team by season’s end but if he is, it means his bat made the difference.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I am proud of the 2019 New York Yankees. They’ve faced more adversity than most teams, yet they are 26-16. If you had told me during Spring Training the Yankees would be ten games above .500 by mid-May without Severino, Betances, Judge, Stanton, Gregorius and others, I would have laughed at you. I would have been thinking about division battles for positioning with the Baltimore Orioles, not the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. I am not sure how this season will play out if we don’t start getting some of the big guns back but I am sure the ‘never quit’ mentality will persevere. It’s a little early to say the team has the “it” quality to it this year, but they are on their way of proving the point.

After no Yankees baseball in two of the last three days, it’s another off-day today. At least we have yesterday’s wins to carry us into the AL East Showdown that starts tomorrow night in the Bronx. Thank God we don’t have to play at the horrific Tropicana Field this series. Not that I mind road games, but man, I hate that empty warehouse posing as a Major League park.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Year of “Next Man Up”…

Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Yankees win again in the City by the Bay…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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

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

Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP

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

Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

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

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

As always, Go Yankees!

The Yankees Deserve Your Patience…

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Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Injury-riddled start does not end World Series aspirations…

The Yankees are 2-4 entering play today. The season-opening homestand against two of the AL’s worst teams didn’t exactly go according to plan.  The only saving grace is the Boston Red Sox have one more loss than the Yankees.  It’s disappointing but what are you going to do?  This ship will right itself.  I am certainly not going to declare this a lost season the first week in April.

I’ve said it before but I hate losing winnable games and that’s exactly what every one of those four losses have felt like. I don’t think anybody could have foreseen the rash of injuries that have hit the Yankees. I am certainly not going to join the ‘I wish we had signed Machado or Harper’ crowd or those who are still pining for Joe Girardi to return as Yankees manager. If the Yankees had signed Machado or Harper, who knows, they could have been hurt wearing the famed Pinstripes. I don’t think Girardi wins you more games than Aaron Boone. The Yankees turned that page and we’re not going back to Girardi regardless of what happens. There’s no doubt the Injured List is overflowing but this would have been impossible to predict regardless of any moves made by the Yankees Front Office during the past off-season.

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Now is the time for the guys given opportunities to step up. Greg Bird, Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Mike Tauchman, and, later today, Thairo Estrada, your time is now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Now. If a few of these guys can play up to potential, the Yankees will be alright. I am comfortable with D.J. LeMahieu and his glove at third base. He was a minor league third baseman and in his limited sample size in the Bronx, he’s looked like a veteran at the position. With the unexpected injury to Troy Tulowitzki…I take that back, no injury with Tulo is unexpected…the inevitable injury, shortstop is in good hands with Gleyber Torres. The pressure is on Tyler Wade to perform at second.

I am sure the Yankees see Luke Voit potential in Mike Tauchman but so far, the former Colorado Rockie looks like a 4A player. He may be great at Triple A but so far, like Tyler Wade, he has yet to prove it at the Major League level. Time to kick off the training wheels and let ‘er rip. They can establish their Major League careers right here, right now.  The dreams they’ve held since childhood are within their control.

I have my thoughts about the ability of some of these guys to live up to the hype but it’s up to them to prove they belong here. There’s a reason most were touted as top prospects at one time or another.

After one run through the starting rotation, and Masahiro Tanaka’s second start, I’ve been pleased with the quality of the starting pitching. Domingo German was great and Jonathan Loaisiga did a fine job yesterday in a limited appearance. The only forgettable performance was J.A. Happ but he’ll rebound.  We’re a couple of weeks away from the return of CC Sabathia and I am anxious to see how he performs but all in all, I like what we’re seeing from the rotation. It would be better with Luis Severino, but for now, the starting rotation is not the weak link. Sadly, I see no fit for Gio Gonzalez and fully expect him to either opt out on April 20th or decide to stay in Triple A to keep his arm fresh until somebody calls. It’s a little disappointing that a few of the losses have been bullpen failures but they haven’t exactly been given high run support.  Watching David Robertson blow a game yesterday for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Washington Nationals by walking in the winning run with the bases loaded shows things could be worse. I’d rather get beat throwing a hard fastball over the middle of the plate than letting the other team win on walks. I’ll gladly take my chances with Adam Ottavino in the fireman role previously held by D-Rob.

Once the healthy regulars start hitting, the Yankees can and should get on a roll. I never really dreamed that New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom would have a home run this season before Aaron Judge. Let’s have hope the guys will hit because they will. Death, taxes, and monstrous Aaron Judge bombs.  You can count on it.

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Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

I am not sure what I think about Miguel Andujar’s desire to return this season. If he avoids surgery and attempts to return, he may be limited to DH duties since it is harder to throw than it is to bat. He was already a defensive liability without the labrum tear.  I’d hate to see him try to play this year, need surgery in the off-season and potentially impact his availability in 2020. I’d almost prefer the surgery now to resolve the problem so that we know he’ll be at full speed for next season. Although it’s not great to play Giancarlo Stanton in the field and risk potential injury, the best use of the DH role is an open rotation to keep guys fresh.

To replace Troy Tulowitzki, I thought the Yankees would call up Gio Urshela to provide third base support for D.J. LeMahieu. The downside is Urshela is not on the 40-man roster so the Yankees would have needed to make room (either by moving someone to the 60-day Injured List or going the DFA route).  Instead, the Yankees will call up Thairo Estrada who is on the 40-man.  Estrada, 23, had been the starting shortstop for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders although his Triple A experience is extremely limited.  Personally, I’d love to see Estrada outperform Tyler Wade.  Well, I’d like to see Wade prove he belongs in the Big Leagues but I am not holding my breath. I’ve seen people suggesting the Yankees should make a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays to acquire Freddy Galvis or Brandon Drury. I wouldn’t be opposed to either player.  Galvis probably makes the most sense, but I liked Drury, despite the health issues, when he was here. I’ve even seen Ian Happ’s name mentioned. Happ is currently assigned to the Cubs’ top farm team in Iowa and can play multiple positions. I guess you can never have too many Happs on your team. But for now, let’s see what Estrada and Wade can do.  They might surprise a few people.

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Photo Credit: Jake Danna Stevens/The Citizens Voice

The Yankees hit the road today to face the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore for the O’s Home Opener. After losing their first two series of the season, the Yankees need to take these three games at Inner Harbor or at least win two of three. The road doesn’t get any easier next week when the Yankees travel to South Texas to play the Houston Astros. They really need to build some momentum against the Orioles before playing a team they will face in October if all goes according to plan. James Paxton takes the ball today in the Road Grays. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Alex Cobb who was supposed to get the Opening Day start at Yankee Stadium last week before getting pushed back.  Hopefully today is the day the Big Maple picks up the first of many Yankee wins. The Yankees will have a rare Friday off before resuming the series on Saturday and Sunday.

I am not ready to throw in the towel. Let’s give these Yankees a chance to overcome the early season injury woes. At least one of the replacement players will step up in a huge way, I am sure. This is still a very good team. Once we get into May and guys like Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton are back, things will look much better. No reason to panic. Play today, win today. We’ll worry about Saturday on Saturday and there’s plenty of time to think about Houston after Sunday’s game.

As always, Go Yankees!