Tagged: Neil Walker

Sonny Gray, We Found You!…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Ed Zurga)

Yanks win eighth consecutive Series…

Backed by uncharacteristic run support (at least for him), Sonny Gray finally pitched on Sunday like the guy who was an ace in Oakland. We’ve seen few glimpses of that guy since he became a Yankee last July. I know, it was against one of the worst teams in the American League but it was a great Sonny Gray start. For a game anyway, this warrants a ‘Sonny Gray DOES NOT suck’ from me.  

As you know, I am quick to criticize Gray so I owe it to him to recognize a wonderful performance. Gray (3-3) pitched eight innings, holding the Kansas City Royals to four hits and a single run. He didn’t allow the run until the eighth inning when he was starting to tire. He walked a batter and struck out five in the 10-1 victory. The four homers, including two by Tyler Austin, were fantastic but there was no doubt Gray was the star of this game.

A.J. Cole, in a rare appearance, pitched a clean ninth inning. Sure, he had a big lead but ask the Miami Marlins about holding a big lead in the ninth inning. They had a 9-4 advantage Sunday against the Atlanta Braves (a team many are starting to liken to the 2017 Yankees) and had Brad Ziegler on the mound to close it out. Six runs later, the Braves walked off the field a winner. So, I try to never underestimate a mop up role like the one Cole faced. 

Now for the home runs. Tyler Austin is making a very convincing case to stay with the Major League club despite the impending return of Greg Bird. I’ve felt all along Austin is the most susceptible for a demotion to Triple A to make room for Bird. Even with his two home runs on Sunday, I still think he’ll be the odd man out since he has options remaining. The Yankees aren’t getting rid of Ronald Torreyes and I don’t see them cutting bait with Neil Walker. Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media speculated this morning that the Yankees will DFA Walker and trade him for a minor leaguer to use the remaining balance of his $4 million contract at the trading deadline (in addition to the space they already have) to open a spot for Bird. I suppose he may be right but I have liked the versatility Walker brings and he has hit better of late. But I have to admit that a tandem of Bird-Austin at first base is a bit scary (in a good way).    

Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star (John Sleezer)

Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine tacked on solo homers in the ninth which did more to help their personal statistics than the team’s result.

Yankees Twitter was aghast before the game when the lineup was posted. Many had expected to see Gary Sanchez at DH, Didi Gregorius at short, and Clint Frazier in left. Instead, Giancarlo Stanton was the DH, Brett Gardner in left, and Ronald Torreyes was the shortstop for the second day in a row. I understood the move with Sir Didi who is mired in a 1-for-45 slump. Nothing against the great Brett Gardner, but I would have preferred to see Red Thunder in left. But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The Yankees cranked out fourteen hits with Aaron Boone’s lineup to power the offense.  

Nice job by Austin Romine. During the off-season, so many Yankees fans (maybe even me) wanted the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to replace Romine as the backup catcher. Yesterday, Romine had perhaps his greatest game as a Yankee. He was 3-for-5 with two RBI’s. He had a run-scoring single in the fourth inning in addition to the ninth inning dinger. It’s worth noting that Romine is batting .326 in 48 plate appearances with the homer and nine RBI’s, while Avila is only batting .132 with two homers and four RBI’s in nearly twice as many plate appearances and has opened the door for more playing time for former Yankee John Ryan Murphy with the Snakes.   

It was great to see the Yankees dominate two consecutive games against the lowly Royals after Friday night’s disappointing loss. It had been a very tough week for the Yankees with the rainouts in Washington, D.C. It was not surprising they played sluggishly in their only loss in the Royals series, but I was glad to see that it lasted only one game before they were back in expected form.  

The lone disappointment yesterday was the option of outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple A after the game. I know, it was inevitable. It was a numbers game and Frazier is better served by playing every day for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He’ll head to Pennsylvania and await the next call to Yankee Stadium. It’s not what you want (to borrow Joe Girardi’s line), but Frazier is only an injury away from returning. 

The Yankees now head to Dallas/Fort Worth to face the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have under-performed this year (18-30) but they are generally a handful for the Yankees. The first two games of the series feature Yankees Past and what could be Yankees Future. Today, the Yankees will face a former Yankee in the ancient Bartolo Colon while Tuesday features 2009 World Series foe Cole Hamels, whose name has been mentioned as a possible trading deadline candidate for the Yankees. There are other trade candidates I’d like to see over Hamels, but he is a proven veteran arm. After the Yankees finish the three game series in Texas, they’ll head back to the Bronx to meet up with Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a series that starts Friday night.

David Hale just keeps coming back like a bad penny. I really thought we’d seen the last of Hale when he was designated for assignment for the second time this year by the Yankees. When he elected free agency after his most recent DFA, I felt sure he’d go elsewhere. It was not to be as Hale signed another minor league deal with the Yankees and will head to Scranton, PA to join the starting rotation for the RailRiders. His addition led to the release of former Yankees prospect Daniel Camarena. I had hoped for better results from Camarena who had been re-acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this year after signing a minor league free agent contract with the Cubs in the off-season. But a 2-3 record and 5.08 ERA (44 hits and 20 walks in 39 innings) led to Camarena’s second exit from the organization. I wish him the best with his next opportunity.  It’s unfortunate he was unable to realize his dream in Pinstripes.

Speaking of the RailRiders starting rotation, their latest addition (besides Hale) is prospect Erik Swanson. Swanson’s name hasn’t really been mentioned much since he was acquired in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers a couple of seasons ago. Dillon Tate was the more highly regarded name in the trade, but Swanson is the minor league pitcher of the moment. The guy has been sensational in Double A this year. The 24-year-old righty started six games for the Trenton Thunder, winning five with no defeats. He has given up a paltry two earned runs in 40 2/3 innings (0.44 ERA) while striking out 52. He has only allowed 12 walks. The superb performance led to his recent promotion to Triple A. In an organization with so many talented young prospects, Swanson has illuminated his name.

Photo Credit: Martin Griff, via Pinstriped Prospects

The Yankees did so well with the 2016 trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they are generally recognized as the trades that highlight the genius of GM Brian Cashman. Nevertheless, the returns for Beltran (namely Swanson and Tate) and Brian McCann (Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, who helped bring Giancarlo Stanton to New York) were spectacular.  Cashman and Company were certainly well prepared when they made those “under-the-radar” trades that opened roster space for younger, more talented players.

Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox keep winning so the Yankees and Sox remain tied atop the AL East although the Yankees (30-13) continue to hold a slight advantage in winning percentage.  New York is at .698 while the Red Sox (32-15) are .681.  Boston is off today so the Yankees could pick up a half-game to take sole possession of first place or they could lose to fall into second place.  With 119 games to play, I suppose it does not really matter either way in the grand scheme of things but I always prefer to see the Red Sox in the rear view mirror.

Credit: Frank Galasso Illustration

Go Yankees!

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Waking Up in First Place…

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Yankees win latest series with Boston…

We have often heard it in recent days. On April 20th, the Yankees were 7 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East after Boston’s blazing 17-2 start at the beginning of the year. The Yankees, then 9-9, were getting ready to embark on the most brutal stretch of their schedule, struggling to stay above .500, with multiple series ahead against division leaders and winning teams.

Yet, here we are on May 10th, and the Yankees lead the AL East by one game with the best record in Major League Baseball. I guess I was worried for nothing, thanks to the twenty-five men on the Yankees roster who have contributed to the legendary winning run the team is currently on. Well, make that twenty-four, reliever A.J. Cole has just been along for the ride.

First place, how sweet it is…

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It is amazing the last Yankees team to win 17 of 18 games were the 1953 Yankees which included a young Baby Bomber named Mickey Mantle. That’s pretty good company for the 2018 Yankees. I wasn’t alive then but I hear the 1950’s Yankees were pretty good.

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The Yankees are spoiling second baseman Gleyber Torres. He’s quickly learning losing is unacceptable in the Bronx, having experienced only one loss in his first seventeen games. The Yankees are supposed to win every day, right?

Last year, it seemed like the Yankees were consistently losing the close games. Yet, this year, no deficit (it seems) has been too much unless we’re playing the lowly Baltimore Orioles. When Red Sox manager Alex Cora brought his closer, Craig Kimbrel, into last night’s game with five outs to go, it did not feel as intimidating as it had in years past. When Brett Gardner laced the triple to recapture the lead for the Yankees, it wasn’t a surprise to me. It felt like this team was going to find a way to victory. The two run homer by Aaron Judge off Kimbrel was icing on the cake. Loved seeing Astros closer Ken Giles blow the recent game against the Yankees, but watching Kimbrel lose was better even if he didn’t slug himself coming off the mound.

This run won’t last forever (will it?) but I am certainly enjoying it while it lasts. Back in early April, I felt we’d have a good litmus test on the Yankees by May 10th. Well, I’d say they aced the exam and have proven they are among the very best in Major League Baseball. Win or lose today, the team’s accomplishments have far exceeded my expectations.

Going into the Boston series, I had hoped the Yankees would win at least two of three so that they’d have at least a share of the AL East when the Red Sox headed for the airport. However, with two wins in the bag, let’s “Get Greedy” and go for the sweep!

I am not going to get too high. It is only mid-May and there’s so much baseball yet to be played before anything is decided. Gleyber Torres, sadly, will one day learn it is indeed possible to lose two or three games (or…yikes!…more) in a row at the MLB level. I am not going to dismiss the Red Sox. They are a very good team that’s not going away. But then again, neither are we. It should be a great summer of baseball ahead.

I did have to check out Boston newspapers today. The Boston Globe featured the Boston Celtics on their Sports page. The Celtics won their Eastern Conference semi-finals matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers and will advance to the Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I suppose that’s big news in Boston but it is funny how the Red Sox became a secondary thought in the Globe.

Credit to Giancarlo Stanton who had two homers in the first game of the Red Sox series and a two-run double yesterday. The best way to stop boos at Yankee Stadium is to show up in a big way against the dreaded Red Sox. Nice job, Giancarlo. This is what you were hired to do.

And for all of you who wanted to cut Neil Walker, ala Chris Carter style, I think he’s given his answer to you. On a team that has featured a different hero almost every night, Walker has been a key ingredient in many of the rallies. I think there’s a much better chance of Tyler Austin finding his way to Scranton, PA than Walker hitting the unemployment line. Sorry Tyler, it’s not you. Walker has simply appeared so graceful at first base even though he is out of position and now his bat is showing why he was an offensive force for the Pirates and Mets.  His veteran leadership meshes well with the team, and I am glad he’s here.

Hopefully CC Sabathia can close out the Red Sox this evening and send them out of town on a three-game losing streak. Since Rick Porcello had to move up his start by a day when Wednesday’s scheduled starter, David Price, returned to Boston for medical tests, Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 5.29 ERA) will take the mound later today for Boston.

The Yankees open a three-game set against the Oakland A’s on Friday night for their last home series before a road trip to Washington, Kansas City, and Dallas/Fort Worth. While it is cool Sonny Gray gets the start in the series opener against his former team, the player I will be watching most is former Yankee Dustin Fowler. The A’s called up Fowler yesterday.  I had wondered if he’d make his season debut and first official MLB at-bat against the Yankees, but a pinch-hit appearance yesterday against the Houston Astros gave Fowler the first Major League at-bat that eluded him last year in Chicago when he suffered the devastating knee injury. Pinch-hitting for Mark Canha in the 7th inning (with Houston’s Will Harris on the mound), Fowler lined out to second. So, he’ll come to Yankee Stadium seeking his first Major League hit. While I don’t want the A’s to win (obviously), I hope Fowler gets that hit and draws a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd. He deserves it. A good man who deserves the very best life has to offer. He will always be one of my favorite ex-Yankees.

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Photo Credit:  Getty Images

Gotta admit that it is really fun to be a Yankees fan right now. I know, it’s always fun, but the World seems like a better place when the Greedy Pinstripes are winning.

Go Yankees!

Drama-Free Saturday Night…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Mark J Terrill)

Yanks Score Early, Win Big…

The Yankees put up ten runs in the first two innings in Anaheim, CA and coasted to an 11-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.

I guess the Yankees were telling their East Coast fan base it was okay to go to bed early. Very considerate of these young and very talented Yankees.  Always looking out for Yankees fans.

The FOX announcers were quick to point out that no team had ever scored five runs in consecutive innings to start a game against the Angels in the history of the franchise. Considering the Yankees have not matched up well against the Angels in recent years, it was even sweeter for the Yankees to win the first two games of the series. What’s amazing to me is the Yankees did it without any home runs or Didi Gregorius (0-for-3, although he did score a run after walking in the first inning, thanks to a couple of errors by the Angels’ Zack Cozart and a huge double to the left field corner by Gary Sanchez). If the Yankees are doing this well with minimal contributions from Giancarlo Stanton, what happen when the big guy goes on one of his home run tears? It’s scary to think what this offense is capable of when they are hitting on all cylinders.

When the Yankees scored those early runs, I felt this would be the game we’d see the Yankees debut of former Washington National A.J. Cole. Sure enough, Cole was assigned mop-up duty for the game’s final two innings. He extended the game a little further than I would have liked, leaving two baserunners in each frame, but at least he didn’t allow any runs. I’d love for pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the Yankees to figure out a way to unleash the potential talent in Cole but the first outing only reinforced that he is an eventual DFA candidate.

As for Masahiro Tanaka (4-2), it was a great start. Yes, he gave up another home run (as he, unfortunately, often does), but solo shots when you are leading by ten runs are not consequential. Masa’s final line was excellent…6 innings, two hits, one run, two walks, and nine K’s. He only threw 88 pitches but there was no need to extend him deeper into the game although he certainly could have. This is the Masahiro Tanaka we need for the long summer ahead.

Photo Credit: Orange County Register (Bill Alkofer)

The win was the eighth consecutive for the Yankees (17-9) but surprisingly they are not the hottest team in baseball. They share honors with the Tampa Bay Rays who also won their eighth straight with a big 12-6 win over their former ace, David Price, and the Boston Red Sox. The Rays were expected to reign supreme in the AL East Cellar this year but they’ve hurt their cause with a six-game lead on the pathetic Baltimore Orioles. Meanwhile, the Yankees have quietly slipped to within two games of the front-running Boston Red Sox and the calendar has not yet flipped to May. I guess they were right when they said that the AL East would not be decided in the month of April. Seriously, I didn’t grip when the Red Sox took off running to start the season but there were many Yankees fans who did. It’s still a very long season and it will be awhile before anything is decided…except that these Yankees are very good.

The Yankees conclude their three-game series with the Angels this evening and will be featured on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.  Alex Rodriguez has been in town getting ready to provide color on his favorite team for the ESPN broadcast crew. The game features CC Sabathia (1-0, 1.86 ERA) against Tyler Skaggs (3-1, 2.96 ERA). The Yankees have a flight to Houston, Texas so they’ll have to work quickly tonight if they have any plans for sleep. The most brutal stretch of the schedule continues but at least the Yankees are winning.  I know that helps me sleep better at night.

The Yankees lost RHP David Hale last week when he was claimed by the Minnesota Twins on waivers.  However, his stay with the Twins did not last long.  He gave up four runs in three innings during his Twins debut on Friday night and was subsequently designated for assignment. I suspect he’ll clear waivers this time around and will head to the minor leagues for the Twins. I wish the 30-year-old the very best as he tries to recapture the pitches necessary to sustain MLB success.

There has been much talk and debate about the impending return of third baseman Brandon Drury. It’s tough. Miguel Andujar has shown that he is ready and capable of being the regular at third. I was and remain a big fan of Drury and I still feel the Yankees will unlock greater magic from the bat of the former Arizona Diamondback. But admittedly, I agree you cannot sit Andujar. Perhaps Andujar goes into a slump and is inevitably sent down to Triple A. I hope not and doubt it but as the FOX crew frequently reminded us, “these things have a way of working themselves out”.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Although I think it will be a pitcher that does down to make room for Drury’s return from the 10-day DL, Neil Walker’s position the roster is becoming tenuous. Sure, he did have 2 RBI’s during yesterday’s win over the Angels but he is only 11-for-67 (.164/.219/.194, .413 OPS) and has yet to rediscover his power stroke. Drury’s ability to play first and second make Walker a redundant luxury since we know Ronald Torreyes is not going anywhere and Gleyber Torres is firmly planted as the team’s starting second baseman.

Walker is going to hit and he is capable of helping someone so armed with a team friendly contract, the Yankees should get some level of return for him in a trade rather than simply cutting him. I like the guy but there are only so many roster spots.

It blows my mind the guys the Yankees are connected to on the international market this summer were born four to five years after the great 1998 World Series championship. It seems like it was only yesterday the Yankees were on their magical run en route to 125 victories including the post-season.

Like many people, I thoroughly enjoyed Avengers: Infinity War this weekend and encourage everyone to see it. With lengthy trailers that carry the overall theater time to more than three hours (as with any Marvel movie, you have to stay through the end of the closing credits), I was caught up in every sequence of the movie and it certainly did not feel like I had been planted in my seat for three hours. It is highly recommended to visit the bathroom ahead of the movie and avoid any drinks. This is not a movie to step away for a few minutes for a trip down the hall.

Enjoy your Sunday and make it a wonderful day before you settle in to watch ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Let’s keep this winning streak alive. Only two games from my goal of ten in a row.

Go Yankees!

The Land of Confusion…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

He’s out or was he?…

I couldn’t help but think of the old Phil Collins/Genesis song during the eventful sixth inning of last night’s game between the Yankees and Angels. The title; not necessarily the lyrics although I could hear the music in my mind when Giancarlo Stanton was ruled out for not tagging second base on the near-home run by Neil Walker that was caught by the Angels’ Kole Calhoun above the right field wall.  Video replay showed Stanton did tag up when Walker’s fly was caught so he should not have been doubled off second.  The photo above occurred earlier in the game when Stanton stumbled after hitting his single in the second inning but it seemed appropriate for the game’s events.

Even though the Yankees could not specifically challenge the tag play at second, they could have challenged the overall play which started with the catch by Calhoun and would have encompassed the ‘did he or didn’t he’ play at second. By the time the Yankees figured it out, it was too late to challenge. So much for Joe Girardi as the only manager in Yankees history for not getting a challenge call right. Sorry Boonie, we still love you.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Fortunately, the Yankees scored a run on the play when Didi Gregorius tagged from third and scored ahead of the questionable tag out of Stanton at second.  There was some doubt whether Didi touched home plate prior to the out at second but the Yankees got that call which was perhaps the only one that eventually mattered. Kudos to Didi for starting that inning by reaching base on a perfectly placed bunt to third.

As the saying goes, all’s well that ends well. Didi Gregorius ensured the continuation of the Yankees winning streak with a tenth-inning home run, the margin of victory preserved by Aroldis Chapman (despite a two-out double by Zack Cozart) to close out the game, for the 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Didi Gregorius is doing it all for the Yankees right now. It’s amazing that he hit 25 home runs last year and didn’t play his first game until a year ago today.  This year, Sir Didi enters April 28th with 10 home runs and 30 RBI’s. He is batting .368/.459/.828 with 1.286 OPS. Forget Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Yankees are going to need big money to re-sign Didi at this point if he keeps up his All-World performance. And he’ll be worth every penny.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Didi Gregorius for President.  But he’s not as good as Derek Jeter or one of the ten best shortstops in the game, right?  There is no other man I would want covering shortstop for the Yankees right now than Sir Didi.

When I lived in the Los Angeles area, I would frequently attend the Yankees games in Anaheim and was always amazed at the high number of Yankees fans among the Sea of Red. So it was no surprise to me that the seemingly partisan-Angels crowd called Didi out for a curtain call. Weird for a road curtain call but then again the Yankees are like traveling rock stars especially when they are doing well. The Bandwagon is open, hop aboard!

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

The game’s first score came courtesy of a second inning solo shot by Japanese rookie Shohei Ohtani.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Jayne Kamin-Oncea)

I had viewed this game as a match up of the Yankees off-season targets. The guy they got against the guy they didn’t. Although he departed the game early (trying to run out a ground ball in the bottom of the fifth) with a sprained ankle, the first matchup goes to Ohtani over Stanton for his home run. Stanton was 1-for-4 (single) but struck out twice and did not score a run. Hopefully Ohtani is okay and won’t miss much time. I am still not happy about how the Ohtani signing went down but I certainly do not wish any ill will on the player. I am a firm subscriber in the belief that to be the best you have to beat the best so I want the best Angels on the field.  I had been looking forward to today’s match-up featuring Masahiro Tanaka against Ohtani but I assume we’ll most likely have to wait for another time.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Granted, Gregorius was the star of this game (as he is in nearly every game), but one has to throw mention to Brett Gardner. His ninth-inning sacrifice fly with the bases loaded tied the game and set the stage for Didi’s dramatic game-winning home run. Gardy rolled off the bench and pinch-hit for Ronald Torreyes in the key spot, simply doing his job. It was the first blown save of the season for the Angels’ young new closer Keynan Middleton. It would have been great to pick up a few more runs but the Angels could have easily shut the Yankees down from there to emerge with the victory. Brett was unwilling to accept no for an answer and delivered the game-tying sac fly.

Angels first baseman Albert Pujols picked up a hit in the game and now has 2,995 hits for his career. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for Pujols to join the 3,000 Hit Club this weekend but it will most likely happen for him some time next week. He’ll be able to feast on Orioles pitching when the Yankees leave town. I liked the stat Yankees starter Luis Severino was only 7 years old when Prince Albert got his first MLB hit.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Thanks to the win, the Yankees (16-9) were able to gain a game on the division-leading Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox lost a one-run game (4-3) to the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. The game featured a home run by former Yankee Robert Refsnyder, his first of the year. Thanks Ref! It’s always great when the Yankees win and the Red Sox lose. The Yankees are now only three games behind the Red Sox after Boston’s scorching start to the season. The Rays have matched the Yankees game for game on this current seven-game winning streak as they are unbeaten in the same number of games. I hope their winning streak continues. For whatever reason, the Red Sox Nation does not seem to be beating their chests like they did earlier this year.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

I am grateful for a night game this evening even if the East Coast Yankees fans pay the price with lack of sleep. My afternoon features Avengers: Infinity War so I have my priorities. Thanks for your “willingness” to bypass sleep so that I can see the latest and greatest superhero movie.

Go Yankees (and Avengers, of course)!

On A Clear Day, I Can See Toronto…

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

They Some Kind of Shut Us Down…

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

Astros win ALCS Rematch…

The headline of this post are Aaron Boone’s words, not mine.

I preface this by saying I know Spring games mean absolutely nothing. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say my fear of the Houston Astros is their starting pitching. I think the Yankees’ offense is equal to the World Champions. Some argue the Yankees are better while other put the Astros on top. Either way, both offenses will be among the very best in the game. Now, the starting pitching, at least in my opinion, is not quite so close.

Yesterday’s matchup featured the number five starters for both teams. For the Yankees, Jordan Montgomery gave up two solo home runs. Meanwhile, Houston’s Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees hitless until Miguel Andujar’s lead-off single in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Astros limited the Yankees to two hits, winning the game 2-0. The game felt like a microcosm of the difference between the Yankees and the Astros. Of course I didn’t actually get to “see” the game since it was not televised and I am not in Tampa. Manager Aaron Boone felt that Montgomery was “crisper” than earlier Spring starts.  Giving up two runs is not the end of the World and in fact it fits within the definition of a quality start (outside of the shortened number of innings for Spring starts).  A good start by Monty but a dominant one by the son of a former Yankee.

The top of the Yankees order (Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius) went 0-for-12, with five strikeouts.

I am not going to fret over a meaningless Spring game but it is the back end of the starting rotation that concerns me when you compare the Yankees to the Astros. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jordan Montgomery but seriously I’d rather have McCullers, Jr. The difference maker is the depth. The Astros have Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh, two very capable pitchers in reserve, if there are any injuries in the rotation. The Yankees have Luis Cessa and Domingo German. The top young prospects like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield have shown they are not quite ready to be a force at the MLB level, now, even if we know they eventually will.

Maybe I am unnecessarily concerned about the rotation and the young guys will rise to the challenge if the chips are on the line. But if it was my team, I’d be trying to find a way to sign Alex Cobb, a ‘tried and true’ AL East pitcher.

Is Tyler Austin bound for Scranton?…

I was wrong yesterday when I said that Ronald Torreyes might be the one most adversely impacted by Neil Walker’s presence on the roster.  After hearing Boone’s words yesterday, it sounds like the guy who should be most concerned about making the Opening Day roster is Tyler Austin. Boonie sounds like he is comfortable with a second base tandem of Tyler Wade and Walker, finding regular at-bats for both, and indicated Walker is the one who could provide relief for Greg Bird at first base.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

I can’t really put my finger on it, but it has never seemed like the Yankees have fully embraced Austin despite his big hits. I know that health is part of it, but it just doesn’t seem like they want him on the MLB roster. I hope I am reading that wrong and Austin turns out to be a major contributor for the team this year.

Cave finds a home…

I have always liked Jake Cave but I recognized there was simply no room for the talented outfielder. I remember how excited he was to participate in Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds as a Rule 5 draftee a couple of years ago. He started the Spring off strongly and was drawing raves, but he cooled off and was subsequently returned to the Yankees.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Tringali)

After Cave was designated for assignment earlier in the week to make room for Neil Walker, the Yankees shipped the 25-year-old outfielder to the Minnesota Twins for young Dominican RHP Luis Gil, 19. Gil was not rated among the Twins top prospects and has yet to play outside of the Dominican leagues. He continues the Yankees trend of stockpiling young power arms with tremendous upside. Cave was inserted at #26 for the best Twins prospects by MLB.com, ahead of Twins outfielder and New York native Zack Granite.

In Minnesota, Cave is expected to help at the Major League Level or provide depth at Triple A. For his sake, I hope it’s the former. The Twins made statements yesterday they’ve been interested in Cave since last year’s Jaime Garcia trade. They noticed the power surge and it is something that they want to “keep on track” in the words of Twins manager Paul Molitor.

We wish Cave the very best as he continues his journey to reach the Major Leagues.

Speaking of finding jobs…

The Toronto Blue Jays have signed infielder Danny Espinosa, recently released by the Yankees, to a minor league contract with an invite to camp. Espinosa will have a very short time to prove that he belongs on the field when the Blue Jays open Rogers Centre on March 29th against Espinosa’s old club. The best way for an infielder to play in the Major Leagues? Find the team that employs Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo owns the DL in a way that only Jacoby Ellsbury understands.

The odds are probably against Espinosa this late in March so he’ll probably toil in Triple A until injuries open up big league opportunities.

Well, it’s Saturday. For most of us, that’s a day off. Nothing better than sitting back to watch a Yankees game on a lazy afternoon. Fortunately for us, today’s Spring game between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida (1 pm Eastern) will be televised. Masahiro Tanaka on the mound and Estevan Florial in center field. It should be a fun day!

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Go Yankees!

The Battle of the AL Titans…

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With the help of a Walker…

Neil Walker makes his much anticipated debut in a Yankees lineup today in the only Spring rematch of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros…and the game is not televised…ugh! With no offense to the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, this is one Spring game that could be a preview of coming attractions for October. Obviously, the outcome of this game decides nothing but I look forward to the Yankees-Astros battles over the course of the coming season. Hey, H-Town, we’re coming for you…

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Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)

As it stands, based on the comments floating out of camp, it appears that Tyler Wade has the advantage to start at second base for the Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 29th. His at-bat yesterday against Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Rivero was epic. After Rivero sent Wade backwards into the dirt with a high and inside pitch, Wade battled back and worked a hard-fought walk. Last year, I have no doubt he would have struck out in that situation, allowing Rivero to get inside his head. Time and again, Wade is making the plays to show that he belongs. Given how much corporate executives raved about him over the winter and his subsequent performance this Spring, it’s easy to see why his name will be on the Opening Day roster. Walker’s flexibility to play multiple positions will most certainly keep his bat in the lineup even if Wade becomes the starter. Both Danny Espinosa and Adam Lind paid the price for the Walker signing  as evidenced by their releases, but I think the remaining player most adversely impacted will be Ronald Torreyes. It is interesting and perhaps telling that Walker’s debut against the Astros will feature him at first base rather than second base.  Have bat; will travel. Walker is ready to help wherever he is need in the infield except for shortstop and catcher. But something tells me he’d play those positions if they let him.

I remain very high on Brandon Drury. At the beginning of training camp, so many jumped on the Miguel Andujar bus after his series of home runs, but based on the signals I was reading, the organization feels that he needs more time to work on his defensive game. Also, given the many signs that there is mutual interest between the Yankees and Manny Machado, it makes you wonder about Andujar’s future in the organization. It seems like he is destined to be trade bait at some point. Nevertheless, for now, I am excited about Brandon Drury’s presence at third base even if Andujar or maybe Machado takes his job at some point in the future.

Joel Sherman of The New York Post recently ran an article which detailed how highly Drury is thought of by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They didn’t want to trade him but it was the only way they could land Steven Souza Jr from the Tampa Bay Rays to replace slugger J.D. Martinez who, as we know, left via free agency to sign with a certain team in Massachusetts. In his column, Sherman quotes D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo saying Drury might hit 30 home runs this year. Admittedly, that might be a bit too optimistic, but I like the potential of the player. The quote by Lovullo that stuck out with me is: “A great competitor, a great teammate. Cares on a pretty impressive level about being the absolute best he can be every single day. The Yankees got a special player. Very quiet. Very intense. But very attentive.”  I feel strongly that Drury is going to be a significant contributor for the 2018 Yankees. Frankly, I’d love for him to play so well the Yankees decide they don’t need Machado.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)

It was disappointing to see Chance Adams’ reassignment to Minor League Camp on a down note. It wasn’t a great spring for him. He pitched in three games for a total of 4 2/3 innings, departing with 0-1 record and 11.57 ERA. 9 hits…ouch…6 runs…ouch…3 walks…ouch. In my eyes, both Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu represent stronger future rotation possibilities.  I am starting to side with those who believe that Adams’ future lies in the bullpen.  It wasn’t only this Spring, there were signs last year in Triple A that started making me question his future as a starter. With all sincerity, I hope he proves me wrong. But that’s up to him, not me.

I like Jordan Montgomery but realistically, if the price is right, I’d still sign Alex Cobb. Pitching, pitching, pitching…you can never have enough.

Manager Aaron Boone is going to have so many options when he writes up his lineups depending upon matchups, but I really liked yesterday’s Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton-Gary Sanchez sequence against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sanchez, of course, killed it with 5 RBI’s.  I am convinced that El Gary can be “the beast” in the batting order all season long. Best hitter on the team in my opinion. Then again, there are no weaknesses, top to bottom. Boone could use a Power Ball machine to determine his batting order and not be wrong. Okay, that approach might be a little too much, but how many first-time managers are handed the keys to a Lamborghini?  Poor Ron Gardenhire was the most experienced manager hired in the off-season and he was given a Ford Pinto. For Boonie, life is good.

I’d take $84 million guaranteed too…

With my apologies to those of you who are Jets fans, I am glad that QB Kirk Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, I say that as a lifelong (long suffering?) Vikings fan.  Perhaps Minnesota overpaid for a QB with a losing record, but I like Cousins as the team’s new field general. I have greater faith in him than I did the three Vikings quarterbacks who departed via free agency. Case Keenum.  Great guy, but was it him or the system?  Could be a one-season wonder. Maybe not, but I’d rather have the guy who is coming off three consecutive 4,000 yard seasons. Sam Bradford. Love the arm, but the dude can’t stay healthy. Teddy Bridgewater. He looked like the future star of the organization until the devastating knee injury. Do we really know if he can successfully make it back? For a team that is Super Bowl-caliber, the Vikings couldn’t take the chance. Bridgewater could blossom for the Jets and provide them with the QB they’ve been lacking. From a character standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find many better than Bridgewater. I think the Jets made the right move to sign him.  I really hope that he realizes the greatness that seemed destined for him in Minnesota.  There’s no doubt he has championship-quality drive and determination.

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During the press conference yesterday in Minneapolis to announce the signing, Cousins sounded a bit like Brian Cashman talking about Aaron Boone in his description of how the city and team “checked all the boxes”. I kept anticipating some type of “expect to be great” line in Kirk’s speech but he did “check the boxes” for me by mentioning Super Bowls (plural).  Works for me. Congratulations to Kirk and his family. I wish him much success and happiness in the Twin Cities. Now, just bring me the Super Bowl, I means Super Bowls, that I’ve waited all my life for!

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Photo Credit: Star Tribune (Elizabeth Flores)

But, back to baseball. Go Yankees!