|Photo Credit: AP|
Continued waiting game for possible MLB Season…
I had been hopeful MLB would resolve the plan to return for the 2020 season by now but so far, it’s been a stand-off. Meanwhile, the NBA and NHL in what seemed to be peaceful and easy negotiations from afar, are preparing for their modified seasons.
I thought the proposal by the players association for a 114-game season was a bit aggressive with October seemingly right around the corner, but the owners’ idea of a 48 to 54 game season makes even less sense. Personally, as much as I would like 100 games, a season of 82 games seems reasonable and possible if we can get Spring Training restarted soon. Probably the one thing I do not like about the NBA’s plans is the season extending to December 1st which delays the start of their 2021 season. I’d rather see season modifications made for this year, without impacting next. If MLB is still playing baseball in December, next season would have to be delayed. Honestly, the thought of baseball past Halloween is bone-chillingly cold.
It seems like in what could have been (should have been?) a championship year for the Yankees, we’ll somehow get cheated out of watching this talented team perform at its highest level. A random team will get hot and ride it to short season success. No doubt a reduced schedule will help teams like the Boston Red Sox as their flaws can be masked over a shorter collection of games. The cheaters win again. However this season plays out, I am ready to begin and finish it so that we can move on to, hopefully, 162 regular season games next year. 2020, despite the numbers, has not been a good year to see clearly.
I do think the longer this drags out, the more I am in favor of scraping the entire season. I never thought I’d say that, but I am tired of the MLB owners using their own self-serving agendas in an attempt to get far-reaching concessions from the players. I know the players may be guilty of their own selfishness but if the two sides wanted to play baseball as soon as possible, it would happen…particularly the greedy owners.
I know it’s easier for the NBA and NHL to put together plans for their respective post-season schedules since they’ve both already played the bulk of their regular season games this year whereas MLB is just trying to get started. That’s a big difference and surely accounts for some of the delay in the two sides coming together for the greater good. I think what bothers me more is that a labor dispute is right around the corner when the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season. There is potential for more disruptions in play regardless of what happens this season. The next couple of years are going to be rocky. I wish MLB had a better, stronger commissioner in place than Rob Manfred. As they say, it is the difficult times that define us. Manfred faces the biggest challenges that have been encountered by his office in years. Good or bad, he will be remembered for how he handles this path and the success (or lack thereof) emerging from his choices and decisions.
|Photo Credit: John Raoux, AP|
I think there is still some optimism for a 2020 season but honestly I think it’s anybody’s guess. This could easily go either way. You’d think eventually the almighty dollar would be the winner for bringing back baseball but when you have billions like a many of the MLB owners, it’s easy to move on to other play things.
Thinking about a potential season, I know I am, like many, anxious and excited to see Gerrit Cole in Pinstripes but I am equally excited to see the potential of young players who will get their first significant opportunities for the Show, like Michael King, Deivi Garcia, and others.
I can still remember when Don Mattingly was in the minors and referred to as “just a singles hitter”. The excitement of opportunity and changing perceptions is the beautiful aspect of our favorite sport. Mike Ford surprised many people last year. Going into the season, it appeared he was just another name on a long list of prospects that would probably need a change of scenery for any hope to accomplish his Major League dreams. A Ryan McBroom type of dump on the Kansas City Royals (no disrespect to McBroom…just making the point that the door of opportunity never opened for him at Yankee Stadium). I want to see what Ford can do now that his stock has been raised in the eyes of the Yankees. I like the current combo of Ford and Luke Voit, certainly more so than the previous Voit/Greg Bird duo. I liked Bird but you couldn’t trust him to stay healthy. Ford seems more durable. They may not be Mattingly, Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi or Mark Teixeira, but they can be World Series champions.
|Photo Credit: AP|
Is Gio Urshela for real? This remains a valid question. I am glad the roster includes Miguel Andujar, defensive shortcomings and all, as a fallback plan if Urshela proves to be a one season wonder. Ideally, I hope Gio builds upon last season and is even better, with greater consistency, this season. There’s a role for Andujar on this team regardless of what happens with Gio.
If I have one big concern, it has to be the mystery of Aaron Judge’s health. We really need Giancarlo Stanton to stay healthy so that he can be the monster bat if Judge is not ready for whatever reason. It seems weird that I am more concerned about Judge’s health than Stanton’s but it is what it is. I think Judge is such an important part of the team and I don’t want to see injuries derail his luster in the Bronx and lead to an eventual premature exit. For Stanton, I would just like to see a strong beginning to end with no or minimal time on the DL. I may be asking for a lot but the lineup is better with one or both of these guys in it.
While I think Aaron Boone has really grown into a great manager, I am interested in seeing how the dynamics of a new bench coach play out with Carlos Mendoza taking over for the departed Josh Bard. We didn’t really get to see much of the relationship during the shortened Spring Training in late February and early March. I am excited for Mendy and I think he’ll be successful in his new role. He certainly has the command and respect of the players. A bench coach is a bit of an unsung role but the power of in-game decisions is hugely important and Boonie needs as much input as possible to make the best possible decisions. I know Bard is a smart guy but from the outside looking in, Mendy seems to be more of a players coach. I could be wrong on that one since I don’t have any insight into the relationships but from my outside view, there seems to be better trust in the new bench coach.
Lastly, but most importantly…
|Photo Credit: Adam Berry, Getty Images|
This week has been a very challenging time for our Nation. I am not a political person and I don’t want to use the blog as a soap box, but I would be remiss for not saying anything. I believe George Floyd was a good man and I believe his death was wrong, so very wrong. I am grateful his killer has been charged with second degree murder but I want more, I want a conviction with the maximum sentence. I am glad his accomplices, the other Minneapolis police officers who stood by doing nothing, have also been charged.
Too many men and women have died unfairly for the color of their skin. White supremacy or privilege must end. We are all people with genuine feelings and emotions who love our friends and family. We’re all capable of accomplishing great things in this world and making it a better place for our children. I support the peaceful protests staged around the country, while separating the looting and violence as acts of ignorance and greed. I tend to be an eternal optimist but I hope the tragedy that befell George Floyd can be used to exact the necessary change from our country to make this a safer world for everyone and eliminate racial injustice forevermore. The realist in me knows this will be an ongoing fight but I truly hope we can make positive advances in the right direction and the end of wrongful injuries and death and police brutality are near. When we’re dead and gone, we’ll just be a collection of bones or ashes. The time to make a difference is now. Together, we can bring unity to the United States and make this a better place for everyone.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Winslow Townson)
Ty, Ty, Tyler Again…
On a wing and a prayer. Unfortunately, that’s life with Greg Bird as your first baseman.
The Yankees Universe collectively groaned a sigh of disappointment when Bird was pulled before the start of an exhibition game with the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista, FL at the Walt Disney Resort yesterday with an apparent foot injury. He underwent an MRI and a CT scan yesterday afternoon and it was determined that he had right foot inflammation. It is in the same general area where he had ankle surgery last summer to remove excessive bone growth. The reason for the inflammation is not currently known.
Bird will see noted New York Orthopaedic Surgeon Martin J. O’Malley in the Upper East Side on Monday to determine the cause of the inflammation.
Every year, it seems like it is something with the talented but fragile first baseman. He missed the entire 2016 season following shoulder surgery. Then last year, the foot injury at the end of training camp led to the eventual ankle surgery in July which limited him to 48 games although he did have a memorable post-season.
If Bird is forced to the disabled list, Tyler Austin appears to be the beneficiary. GM Brian Cashman has indicated that the Yankees will use in-house options. Neil Walker has been mentioned as a possibility, but it’s hard to envision the second baseman as the regular first baseman. Backup or platoon maybe. Brandon Drury played first base in the minors but he is firmly planted as the third baseman. The Yankees always seem to be looking for alternatives to Austin (for whatever reason), so it is not a given that Austin will make the roster if Bird cannot.
When Austin was forced to move from DH to first base to replace Bird for the game against the Braves, the Yankees pulled first baseman Ryan McBroom out of the minor league camp for DH duties. McBroom, the return when the Yankees traded Rob Refsnyder last year, responded with a home run and a run-scoring single (the latter hit produced two runs but the second one was courtesy of a throwing error). McBroom will be 26 in a couple of weeks but he has never played above Double A. Another option surfaced on Saturday when the Seattle Mariners returned Rule 5 draftee Mike Ford to the Yankees. He was assigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Ford batted .259 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 54 at-bats for the Mariners this Spring, but regular first baseman Ryon Healy returned from hand surgery sooner than expected and Daniel Vogelbach won the backup job as the team’s hottest hitter in camp. So Ford didn’t do a bad job for the M’s…it was just a numbers game. Between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, Ford batted .270/.404/.471 with .875 OPS to go with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs. The guess is that Austin gets the job if Bird is not ready, but Ford looms as a potential option.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Chris Carlson)|
I really like Greg Bird as a player and his swing is a thing of beauty. But the succession of injuries is taxing to say the least. I will continue to hope for the best and I am trying to be optimistic that the latest inflammation is not a sign of much deeper problems. Let’s hope that Bird receives positive news from Dr O’Malley tomorrow and the foot inflammation is solved with treatment and rest.
With Ford’s return, the Yankees have recaptured two of the four players taken in last December’s Rule 5 Draft. Anyelo Gomez was previously returned to the Yankees by the Braves. The Baltimore Orioles designated Jose Mesa, Jr for assignment on March 21st when they signed free agent Alex Cobb. If Joe Table, Jr clears waivers, he’ll be offered back to the Yankees. Nestor Cortes, Jr remains in Orioles camp and is the scheduled starter in today’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
|Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun|
I’ve seen a lot of negative reaction from the Yankees fan base over the decision to give RHP Jonathan Holder the final spot on the Opening Day roster over Domingo German. I don’t get it. With the RailRiders, German can continue to start and will be stretched out if/when the Yankees need an emergency or extra starter. I’d prefer that to German sitting in the bullpen waiting for opportunities. Some fans seem to think the Opening Day roster is etched in stone. If we’ve learned anything, the final spots on the roster are very fluid with movement aboard the Scranton Shuttle.
Baseball is tough. It’s hard to believe that closer Greg Holland has been unable to find a job. He had 41 saves in 2017 for the Colorado Rockies. He turned down an off-season offer from the Rockies and their money went to new closer Wade Davis. I keep hearing that teams continue to stay away from Holland due to his asking price. At what point does Holland say ‘uncle’ and accept an offer simply to play? Same with Mark Reynolds who hit 30 home runs last season for the Rockies. I feel bad for the guys who can still play the game at its highest level but can’t find a job. The next few days will be even tougher as teams make the necessary cuts to reach their 25-man rosters. You wonder if it is the end of the line for older players like Jayson Werth, Jose Bautista and Matt Holliday. Scott Kazmir, part of the salary dump that sent outfielder Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers, was released by the Braves yesterday. He had exited the game against the Yankees with left arm fatigue (after reportedly having thrown 90-100 pitches in a bullpen session last Wednesday). Despite on the hook for $16 million, the Braves opted to part ways with the left-hander who missed the 2017 season with injuries. Now, Kazmir is one of many on the unemployment line (although I am fairly confident the $16 million will help him pay bills while he looks for a new job).
Today is the final day in Florida for the Yankees. After today’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, the Yankees will head for Atlanta, GA to play the Braves at SunTrust Park on Monday. Then, MLB camp is done. The Gang of 25 will head to Toronto and the Aaron Boone Era will officially begin with Opening Day on Thursday against the AL East rival Blue Jays. It’s almost time.
To borrow words from the great John Sterling, let’s give the team a “Stanton ovation”! It’s going to be a very exciting season. Go Yankees!
The Dog Days of Spring…
One week to go until the games become “real”. The thought of Toronto, Canada on a day in late March gives me a rather chilly feeling but watching the Yankees play brings the necessary warmth. The current weather forecast calls for cloudy skies with an expected high of 47 degrees and a 20% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, the temp inside the Rogers Centre should be very comfortable for the away team. Let the homers begin!
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
It sounds like Manager Aaron Boone intends to have his 25-man roster in place by the weekend. I was surprised to see that first baseman Tyler Austin didn’t make the cut. I assume that places Neil Walker and Austin Romine as the backup first basemen. The speculation is that the Yankees will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. We know that Tyler Wade has made the team as the second baseman and Brandon Drury will be the starter at third. So, the bench appears to be Austin Romine, Neil Walker, and Ronald Torreyes as it appears that neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier will be ready. Under this scenario, the Yankees won’t carry a fifth outfielder with Ellsbury expected to open the season on the disabled list. The outfield rotation would be limited to the four outfielders currently in play (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) using the DH slot primarily for Stanton and Judge. This is where multi-position versatility is very helpful. Although Drury has only played third base for the Yankees, he was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and he has also seen time in the outfield for the Snakes. Torreyes as the emergency catcher is funny but it makes sense. Walker will be all over the infield except shortstop and catcher.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
So it appears the critical decision with be the 13th pitcher. Luis Cessa simply no longer has my trust or support. I do not want him as the rotation’s “sixth man” and after a good Spring, I feel much better about Domingo German in that role. I thought this would be the breakout year for Ben Heller but he had a few rough outings recently and has found himself with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. There is still time for him to shine but it won’t be at the start of the season. I really like Jonathan Holder. He blazed through the Yankees farm system until struggling last year. I am convinced he will be much stronger this year. So, for me, I’d like to see either German or Holder get the last spot on the 25-man roster. German would be a true long man, but if the Yankees need an emergency starter, there’s always the Scranton Shuttle. I’d probably go with Holder to start the season but like last year, the final spot on the roster will be very fluid.
I was surprised to see the return of Rule 5 draftee Anyelo Gomez from the Atlanta Braves. We know that the Braves will be bad this year. I thought they’d bite the bullet and keep Gomez on the MLB roster all season to keep the talented young pitcher. But Gomez’s performance spiraled downward as the MLB-caliber competition in exhibition games increased and it led to Atlanta’s decision to offer Gomez back to the Yankees. Similarly, Jose Mesa, Jr has struggled with the Baltimore Orioles and he was designated for assignment this week when the O’s signed free agent pitcher Alex Cobb. If Mesa clears waivers, the O’s will have to offer him back to the Yankees. So, this leaves only Nestor Cortes, Jr (Orioles) and Mike Ford (Mariners) as the only Rule 5 draftees still with the teams that selected them from the Yankees in December. I remain convinced Cortes will make the O’s Opening Day Roster despite the three-run homer that he gave up to Aaron Judge in yesterday’s exhibition game. I still expect Ford to be offered back to the Yankees by the Mariners in a numbers crunch at first base.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
Speaking of the Mariners, I was saddened to learn that former Yankees reliever David Phelps will miss the upcoming season with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. I thought it was cool that Ichiro Suzuki had followed Phelps to the Yankees, Miami Marlins and then back to Seattle. Now, it appears their reunion on the active regular season roster will be delayed assuming that Ichiro continues to play for the M’s beyond this year. We wish David the very best with his surgery and recovery. Hope to see him back in the Mariners’ bullpen sometime next year and as good as ever (except when he pitches against the Yankees, of course).
Photo Credit: Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)
If you have a subscription to The Athletic, you should be sure to check out Marc Carig’s piece this morning on Brandon Drury entitled “Brandon Drury brings a serious edge to Yankees clubhouse”. Drury has become one of my favorite players in a short period of time. I love his quiet intensity. Like many believe including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I feel very strongly that Drury’s best days are ahead. I think he’ll be a force at third base and will make us forget we ever knew Chase Headley or Todd Frazier. I am very pleased to see Carig covering the Yankees again after a few years away on the Mets beat. He’s an excellent writer and very insightful. Solid work, once again, by Carig.
It’s been tough with no televised Yankees games for the last few days. Fortunately, the Yankees will be on ESPN2 this afternoon against Jake Cave and the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen the lineups for the game yet but hopefully we’ll see Cave. I haven’t been following the Twins so I assume that Cave is remains in the Major League camp. The scheduled starter for the Twins will be former Yankee Phil Hughes.
7 Days to Toronto. I’m ready. You’re ready. They’re ready. Let’s Go Yankees!
Looking Forward to Today’s Game…
Today’s Spring Game featuring the Miami Marlins at Steinbrenner Field is one I’ve been looking forward to all Spring. When the Yankees traveled to Jupiter, FL last Sunday, Giancarlo Stanton didn’t make the trip and the game was not televised. That’s not the case today. Stanton is in the lineup and the game will be on TV (YES Network).
For the game starting at 1:05 pm Eastern, here is the scheduled lineup:
Brett Gardner, CF
Aaron Judge, RF
Greg Bird, 1B
Giancarlo Stanton, LF
Gary Sanchez, C
Didi Gregorius, SS
Neil Walker, 2B
Brandon Drury, 3B
Tyler Austin, DH
The starting pitcher will be Luis Severino. The starter for the Marlins will be a familiar face (Caleb Smith). Another former Yankee (Garrett Cooper) will be the starting right fielder for the Fish. It’s always good to see the great Don Mattingly even if he is tasked to lead the Stanton/Ozuna/Yelich-less Marlins for CEO Derek Jeter.
It would be fun to see Stanton go yard against his old club today. It would have been nice to see old friend Starlin Castro but as with most veterans, he did not make the road trip. Nevertheless, as noted above, there is no shortage of former Yankees in the park.
By Order of Aaron Boone…
The Yankees announced the order of the starting rotation on Saturday. Luis Severino gets the Opening Day assignment at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada on March 29th against the Blue Jays. I thought the honor would go to Masahiro Tanaka as the recognized ace of the staff but there’s no disputing that Sevy was the Yankees’ best starter in 2017 when he finished third in the AL Cy Young voting behind elite starters Corey Kluber and Chris Sale.
1. Luis Severino
2. Masahiro Tanaka
3. CC Sabathia
4. Sonny Gray
5. Jordan Montgomery
At first, I was surprised when I saw that Gray was penciled in behind Sabathia but it does make sense to break up Sabathia and Montgomery. You can also insert short jokes about Sonny Gray here while stating he gives hitters a different look between the two left-handed six-foot-sixers. Admittedly, I am a little concerned about Sabathia pitching on the turf at Rogers Centre with his balky knee. Boone had better get the bullpen up early in that game.
Jordan Montgomery draws the assignment for the home opener at Yankee Stadium on Monday, April 2nd against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Congratulations to Severino for his anointment as the King of the Pitching staff. I suspect it will be many years before he is ready to relinquish the crown. Hard to believe the guy is only 24 years old. Unless the Yankees sign Clayton Kershaw next off-season (very unlikely), Severino should have an extended reign.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
The Rule 5 Draft Revisited…
2017 Rule 5 Draft – Major League Phase – Yankees Lost
Round 1, 7th Selection: RHP Anyelo Gomez, Atlanta Braves
Round 1, 9th Selection: LHP Nestor Cortes, Baltimore Orioles
Round 1, 11th Selection: 1B Mike Ford, Seattle Mariners
Round 3, 18th Selection: RHP Jose Mesa, Jr, Baltimore Orioles
Last year, the Yankees lost catcher Luis Torrens when he stuck on the MLB roster for the San Diego Padres all season long despite batting .163/.243/.203 with .446 OPS. He didn’t have any home runs and only 7 RBI’s in 56 games and 139 plate appearances. The Padres can now send the 21-year-old to the Minors for more seasoning with no fear of losing him.
As prospects continue to season in the Yankees farm system, there will be more significant losses in the years ahead. You cannot protect everyone on the 40-man roster when they become Rule 5 eligible and this figures to get more challenging over the course of the next few seasons.
Anyelo Gomez, Braves
1-1, 10.80 ERA, 7 games, 8.1 innings pitched, 10 hits, 10 runs (earned), 4 BB, 6 SO’s
Gomez was having a good Spring for the Braves until he got hammered by the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday, giving up four runs over two innings. However, MLB.com is still projecting that he’ll make the Braves Opening Day roster despite the hiccup. Expectations are low for the Braves this year so they can afford to take their chances with the talented young right-hander.
|Photo Credit: Atlanta Braves|
Nestor Cortes, Jr, Orioles
0-1, 4.35 ERA, 4 games (3 starts), 10.1 innings pitched, 12 hits, 5 runs (earned), 3 BB, 9 SO’s
Cortes is getting a long look in O’s camp as he is second on the team with most innings pitched. Given the dearth of pitching for the Orioles, it is a certainty that he’ll break camp with the big league club. He is under consideration for the rotation and even if he is not successful, he’ll be moved to the bullpen for now. I am not expecting Cortes to come back.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)|
Mike Ford, Mariners
.182/.321/.341, .662 OPS, 20 games, 44 at-bats, 4 doubles, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 8 walks
When training camp first opened and Ford started strong for the Mariners, I thought he was a lock to make the Mariners (especially when it was announced that new starting first baseman Ryon Healy had surgery to remove a bone spur in his right hand). But Ford has cooled off and Healy is not expected to miss much time, if any. Daniel Vogelbach (.400, 4 HR, 10 RBI) has had a much stronger Spring than Ford and appears to be the leader for first base behind Healy. If Healy starts the season on the DL, Ford could make the Opening Day roster but I doubt he sticks for the entire season. Healy feels that he will be ready for Opening Day. He made his first appearance of the Spring yesterday against the Los Angeles Angels and was 1-for-3 with a RBI double. More than likely, Ford will be back to take his place as the starting first baseman for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
|Photo Credit: The Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)|
Jose Mesa, Jr, Orioles
3-1, 5.87 ERA, 5 games, 7.2 innings pitched, 10 hits, 5 runs (earned), 7 BB, 5 SO’s
Looking a pure numbers, it would seem unlikely that Mesa would stick on the Orioles roster but then again, we’re talking about the Orioles and their underwhelming cast of pitchers. While I think it’s unlikely they would carry two Rule 5 pitchers on the active roster, it is a strong possibility that both Cortes and Mesa will make the Opening Day roster. Whether Mesa remains there all season remains to be seen.
Of these players, I think Ford and Mesa are the players most likely to be returned to the Yankees. Dependent upon performance (or maybe not as Luis Torrens showed), I think that Gomez and Cortes are gone for good.
|Photo Credit: AP (Chris O’Meara)|
2017 Rule 5 Draft – Triple A Phase -Yankees Lost
These players were lost and will not be returning to the Yankees organization.
Round 1, 18th Selection: RHP Yancarlos Baez, Minnesota Twins
Round 2, 32nd Selection: C Sharif Othman, Miami Marlins
I guess it’s a good problem to have when your team has so many strong prospects that good players are lost (“the cup runneth over”) but it’s still painful to see these guys that we’ve cared for thrive in other uniforms with no return for the Yankees. I know, that’s a bit of a ‘prospect-hugging’ statement. Seriously, I do hope they find MLB success. I just hope it isn’t against the Yankees.
As we begin the last full week before the start of the regular season on Thursday, March 29th, the answers for the Yankees’ Opening Day Roster seem to be taking shape. However, the one question I am already tired of is ‘will Jacoby Ellsbury begin the season on the DL?’ Of course he will…next question. Regardless of whether or not Ellsbury is ready, I don’t really care. The guy has become an afterthought for me. If he helps the team this year, fantastic. But let’s just say that I am keeping expectations low…very low. A good player “when on the field”, but that’s not a bet I’d want to make. He becomes a greater injury risk with each passing year and he was already the King of the DL dating back to his Red Sox days (with no intended offense to Troy Tulowitzki who certainly has every right to lay claim to the throne).
Danny Espinosa was 4-for-4 with a RBI in his Spring debut with the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday. Where was that bat during his few weeks with the Yankees this month? That’s the right way to make a good impression for his new club. The odds are against him making the Blue Jays’ MLB roster to open the season but days like yesterday certainly help. Jake Cave’s debut for the Minnesota Twins didn’t go so well. He started in center field and was 0-for-3 with a strikeout in a game that saw former Yankee Phil Hughes get hammered for 9 runs (5 earned) in 3 1/3 innings.
It will soon be game time for Yankees-Marlins. Let’s Go Yankees!
A’s 8, Yankees 7…
I love California but this road trip has been horrific.
The Yankees fought back in this game time and again and took the lead in the 10th, only to lose another game with a rookie pitcher on the mound. I am not pinning this on Giovanny Gallegos but it’s a testament to the mounting bangs and bruises on this team.
After the Yankees failed to score with the bases loaded in the first inning, the A’s took the early lead in the bottom of the frame with a solo shot by Jed Lowrie. The A’s took a 3-0 lead in the second when Adam Rosales doubled off Jordan Montgomery, following a walk by Matt Chapman, making his Major League debut, and a ground-rule double by Josh Phegley, scoring both base runners.
The game stayed that way until the sixth. In the top of the inning, Chase Headley singled with the bases loaded to score two runs. Chris Carter followed with a single to tie the game at 3. The A’s replaced starting pitcher Sonny Gray with Sean Dolittle who retired the next two Yankees to get out of the inning. In the bottom of the 6th, Yonder Alonso homered as the A’s re-captured the lead, 4-3.
The seesaw battle continued in the 7th inning when Gary Sanchez doubled with Starlin Castro on second, scoring Castro with the tying run. But the A’s answered the run with a run-scoring single by Chad Pinder in the bottom of the inning and the A’s were back up, 5-4.
Chris Carter homered in the top of the 8th to once again tie the game, 5-5. Like the inning before, the A’s answered the call in the bottom of the inning when Matt Joyce hit a grounder into a force out with the bases loaded and only one out, scoring the lead runner. 6-5, A’s. Tyler Clippard had started the inning but he was ineffective (again) as two of three batters he faced reached base through a single and a walk. Dellin Betances was on the mound when the A’s scored their run, but he was able to strike out Rajai Davis to prevent any further damage.
The 9th inning saw the Yankees tie the game again when Starlin Castro doubled off A’s closer Santiago Casilla and Gary Sanchez followed with a run-scoring single. Gary Sanchez stole second to give the Yankees a runner in scoring position (replaced by pinch runner Ronald Torreyes as Sanchez came out of the game with a tight groin) with only one out, but Didi Gregorius and Chris Carter could not move the runner. Didi flied out, and Carter went down swinging on a 3-2 count. In the bottom of the 9th, the A’s loaded the bases with two outs against Betances but he was able to get out of the inning by striking out Matt Chapman.
The Yankees took their first lead of the game in the 10th when Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. Matt Holliday, entering the game at DH to replace Torreyes, struck out against A’s reliever Liam Hendricks to end the inning. The Yankees could have used a few insurance runs on this night. In the bottom of the 10th, Giovanny Gallegos replaced Betances. He retired the first two batters he faced, but then Rajai Davis singled and Chad Pinder doubled to move Davis to third. Jed Lowrie was intentionally walked to load the bases. Khris Davis ended the game with a single just over Starlin Castro (ball tipped off his glove), scoring Davis and Pinder with the winning runs. A’s emerged with the 8-7 victory in another lost opportunity for the Yankees.
|Credit: Jason O Watson-Getty Images|
Manager Joe Girardi summed it up after the game, “It hurts because it’s a matter of a couple inches that you lose that game by and it’s frustrating.”
This was another game that shows how much the Yankees miss closer Aroldis Chapman. It will be good to get Chapman back this weekend (hopefully on Sunday) so that Betances can get into games earlier and lessen the reliance on other arms.
Fingers crossed for both Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks who also left the game in the 9th with tightness in his Achilles Heel. After the game, it was disclosed that reliever Adam Warren is battling tightness in his trapezius muscle which accounted for his unavailability. Hopefully, none of these ailments are serious.
Didi Gregorius singled in the game to extend his current hitting streak to 17 games.
Fortunately, the Yankees (38-26) did not lose any ground to any AL East team except the Toronto Blue Jays as everyone else lost. The Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays remain 2 games and 5 1/2 games behind, respectively, while the Blue Jays moved up to 6 1/2 games back (bringing the Baltimore Orioles into a tie for the AL East cellar).
Hopefully, better results await the Yankees today.
Odds & Ends…
Ronald Herrera, we hardly knew ye. After taking the loss in his lone Big League appearance on Wednesday night, Herrera has found himself back with the Double A Trenton Thunder. I thought it was much to ask of Herrera to make the jump from AA to the Majors, and the proof was in the pudding with the pitch he threw Andrelton Simmons. What works in AA goes for a long home run in the Big Leagues. The Yankees also placed CC Sabathia on the Disabled List, as expected. To replace Herrera and Sabathia, the Yankees have recalled Luis Cessa and Domingo German. Sunday’s starter has not yet been determined but Girardi has a pool of Cessa, German and Chad Green to choose from. Cessa appears to be the favorite to start on Sunday (or on Saturday if Girardi decides to push Masahiro Tanaka back a day).
The Yankees stopped the rehabilitation for Greg Bird yesterday and he’ll see Team Physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad today. Bird told Trainer Steve Donohue on Thursday morning that the leg was not feeling right and not functioning right. This is not good news. The Yankees are already suspect at both infield corners. Tyler Austin has not exactly set the World on fire at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He is currently batting .303 but only has 1 homer and 6 RBI’s in 17 games (66 AB’s). In my opinion, the best first baseman in the system is Thunder first baseman Mike Ford. This year, including his time at AAA, Ford, 24, is batting .289/.410/.509 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI’s. He has played 61 games and has walked 44 times. He even stole a base…once. But he has the same disadvantage as Chance Adams and others, he does not have a place on the 40-man roster.
There was already talk the Yankees needed to upgrade at third. If the priority becomes first base, does this increase the likelihood that we’ll see Gleyber Torres as soon as next month? I still think it is too premature for him and his AAA manager is on record saying that he is not ready yet. I guess this is why GM Brian Cashman is paid to make these decisions. The added pressure on him is the moves over the next 45 days will go a long way toward determining his future at the end of the year with the expiration of his contract.
Have a great Friday! Let’s win one of these close games for a change…
Yankees 3, Royals 0…
Luis Severino continued the recent albeit short trend of stellar pitching performances by Yankee starters. Masahiro Tanaka excluded, the rotation has pitched to win the last four games. Severino was tremendous, pitching eight innings. He was still clicking the radar gun at 99 mph in the 8th. By completing eight, Severino was able to pass the baton to Dellin Betances for the one inning save without relying on any of the tired arms in the pen.
Severino (3-2) was incredible in the scoreless outing with a season high 114 pitches. He allowed only one extra base hit (a double by Brandon Moss in the 5th inning) and did not allow any runners past second base. Sevy only allowed four hits and walked one while striking out seven. He lowered his season ERA to 3.11.
Jason Hammel kept the Yankees in check most of the night but the Pinstripers didn’t need much. Didi Gregorius hit a solo homer in the third inning to give the Yanks an early 1-0 lead.
|Credit: Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports|
In the 6th inning, the Yankees picked up another run through great-base running effort by Gary Sanchez. Sanchez singled to open the inning and then stole second. Thanks to a throwing error by Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Sanchez alertly raced on to third. Matt Holliday brought him home with a sac fly.
The Yankees picked up their final run when Gregorius led off the 7th inning with a double. A ground out by Chris Carter moved Gregorius to third, which brought Brett Gardner to the plate. With two strikes, Gardner was the beneficiary of a called ball on a pitch by Royals reliever Matt Strahm that seemingly landed well within the strike zone. It should have been the third strike for the second out of the inning but with the next pitch, Gardner singled to center to drive in the run.
Betances struck out the side in the 9th inning to earn his fourth save of the season, lowering his season ERA to 0.57.
The Yankees (27-17) moved 2 1/2 games up on the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore lost 4-3 to the Minnesota Twins and their fine rookie pitcher Jose Berrios. The Boston Red Sox remained 3 1/2 games back with their 9-4 win over the Texas Rangers.
I want one of those guys…
Last night, Chris Sale of the Red Sox attempted to become the MLB pitcher in the Modern Era to record at least 10 strikeouts in nine straight games. He failed but he is still the fifth pitcher since 1900 to reach 100 strikeouts in his first 10 starts. It probably wasn’t one of his better games, but Sale still kept the game within reach for the Red Sox until their offense exploded for 7 runs in the 7th inning of their game against the Texas Rangers. Sale finished the night with 7 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.
Credit: Christopher Evans
Sale has such a presence when he is on the mound. I can’t think of any potential trade targets that can match Sale as a frontline ace. I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will surprise me, but I think most of us know who the available trade suspects are.
Gleyber Torres Watch (with a little Tyler Austin thrown in)…
It was another night at third base yesterday for Yankees top prospect Gleyber Torres as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Columbus Clippers, 5-0.
Watching the RailRiders this closely shows me one thing. Clint Frazier is on fire. He hit his eighth home run (and 28th RBI) in the first inning of the RailRiders’ game against the Columbus Clippers on Wednesday. He also had a two-run shot on Tuesday during Gleyber’s first game at the AAA Level. But enough about ridiculously hot outfielders and how the Yankees like to keep them down while parading the $153 Million Man in center field at Yankee Stadium on a nightly basis. Note: To Jacoby Ellsbury’s defense, he was injured during last night’s game against the Royals when he collided into the outfield wall after making a catch. He suffered a neck sprain and a concussion, and has been placed on the 7-Day DL. I wish him no ill will and hope that he returns to the health sooner than later. It does kind of make me wish that the padding on the outfield walls was a little more player-friendly. Rob Refsnyder has been recalled to the Bronx to replace Ellsbury. On performance alone, Frazier would have been the best option, but Refsnyder is already on the 40-Man Roster which was the difference-maker.
Credit: Andy Grosh/MiLB.com
Torres was a wee bit cooler than Frazier. With an ‘O-fer’ night (0-for-3), he wasn’t really doing much with the bat but he did walk twice, stole a base, and avoided striking out. All things considered, it was another game in the education and development of the Yankees premier prospect as he climbs the ladder for the eventual call to the Bronx.
I thought Mike Ford did a good job for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the short time since his call-up. In nine games, he hit 4 homers and 10 RBI’s, batting .306/.432/.750. But he was returned to AA-Trenton yesterday when Ji-Man Choi was activated from the 7-Day DL for the RailRiders.
Credit: Cheryl Pursell
Maybe I should have re-named this section the Minor League Report.
As promised, here’s a little Tyler Austin…
|Credit: Brian Davidson/Getty Images|
After giving up 22 runs in his previous four starts, CC Sabathia had his best game since his season opening start. He pitched 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball to help the Yankees defeat the Kansas City Royals, 7-1. He only gave up five hits and two walks while striking out four. The effort dropped his season ERA from 5.77 to 4.93. He did get into a little trouble in the seventh inning when the Royals loaded the bases with two outs. Joe Girardi pulled Sabathia, and Tyler Clippard was able to get the last out by swinging strikeout to preserve the scoreless outing for Sabathia.
This is one of those games where everyone who played contributed in some way with a run, hit, or RBI. The biggest hit was clearly the three-run homer by Gary Sanchez in the third inning. It set the tone early and the Yankees were in control throughout. Chris Carter finally did the one thing he is paid to do with a two-run dinger in the fourth, his second of the year. Carter was 3-for-4 on the night, making it easily his best game as a Yankee. Chase Headley deserves kudos for his amazing catch of the first pitch hit to start the game.
|Credit: John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS|
The Royals scored their only run in the ninth inning against Jonathan Holder on a fielder’s choice force-out with the bases loaded. Things could have gotten hairy from there, but Holder got Alcides Escobar to pop up to Didi Gregorius to end the threat and the game.
I have to say that the outing by Sabathia was bittersweet. It buys the left-hander more time in the rotation, potentially setting us up for disappointment when we need him the most. It’s one of those things that I hope I am wrong and CC shows he is capable of putting up more quality starts than not. But one must recognize this wasn’t the Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles or Boston Red Sox facing Sabathia. The Royals are the worst hitting team in the American League at .226/.289/.355.
For his career, Sabathia is 20-11 against the Royals in 38 starts, with a 3.11 ERA. I am glad that he likes to pitch in Kansas City, where he is 13-5. Now, I am hoping that Michael Pineda and Jordan Montgomery enjoy Kauffman Stadium as much as Sabathia has.
The Yankees (23-13) remain a half-game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. The Orioles beat the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night in slugfest, 13-11. It took two homers by Chris Davis in extra innings for the O’s to win. Former Yankee Justin Wilson blew a save opportunity for the Tigers in the ninth, while former Yankee Richard Bleier took the win for the O’s. Sadly, the Boston Red Sox also won, defeating the St Louis Cardinals, 6-3. The Sox are four games back.
I was surprised to see the Arizona Diamondbacks have released former Orioles lefty Brian Matusz. It doesn’t seem like that long ago he was a highly touted pitcher for the O’s but struggled as a starter. He eventually found some success in the pen. I always liked him and wanted to see him fulfill his promise (albeit not against the Yankees) but it was not meant to be. Matusz is only 30 but I don’t see anything in his numbers to warrant consideration as a reclamation project. It’s sad to see. I am sure that someone will take a flyer but I don’t think the Yankees should.
Speaking of former Yankees, Robinson Cano has been placed on the disabled list for the first time since 2006 when he was still with the Yankees. He injured his right quadriceps last week and had been expected to return yesterday. The Seattle Mariners opted to place Cano on the 10-Day DL retroactive to May 13th. While Cano had a great season in 2016 and was off to a good start in 2017, he is 34 and the risk of injury continues to increase. Proof the Yankees were smart not to pay Cano $240 million for ten years (as much as I would have liked to have seen the player wear pinstripes throughout his career with an eventual Robinson Cano Day that he’ll never see at Yankee Stadium). I do wish Cano a quick return to good health and that he is able to return to the Mariners lineup on May 23rd.
Congratulations to Mike Ford. The first base prospect was recently promoted from the AA Trenton Thunder to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and he had a big game yesterday to help defeat the Pawtucket Red Sox, 7-2. Ford was 2-for-3 with a two run shot off Henry Owens, a pitcher the Yankees are familiar with at the big league level. Tyler Webb took the win in relief of Bryan Mitchell with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless work and six K’s. Webb, returned to the Yankees this spring after being taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule 5 Draft, should get a shot in the Yankees bullpen sometime this year if a spot on the 40-man roster opens up.
Meanwhile in AA, Gleyber Torres hit a tie-breaking game-winning two run homer in the eighth inning yesterday as the Thunder beat the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 4-2. Just another day at the office for the supremely talented infielder.
Have a great Wednesday! I hope it’s another royally wonderful day for Yankees fans!