Tagged: Rays

I’m Glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee…

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Don’t Worry, I’ve Got Your Back…

Aaron Judge recently put it in the best perspective. One of the things he likes most about the Yankees was something to the effect that if you don’t do your job, there are 24 guys ready to pick you up. I don’t remember the exact words but that really isn’t the point. This is a team and a group of guys that are ready to back each other, regardless of the circumstances. Team chemistry made the 1998 Yankees a very special team. I am not saying that the 2018 Yankees are the version of 20 years ago, but this is one of the most closely knit teams that I’ve seen in recent years.

Didi Gregorius had a huge night last evening for the Yankees, powering the team to victory with two home runs and eight RBIs, yet many Yankees fans chose to boo Giancarlo Stanton instead or trash him on social media. Whoa, please step away from the ledge and relax.

There’s no doubt Stanton had a night to forget with five strikeouts in his Yankee Stadium Pinstriped debut. But, never once did I find myself in a position wanting to boo the man. In jest, TGP’s fearless leader, Daniel Burch, tweeted #TradeGiancarlo. It was amazing how many Yankees reacted like that but with full sincerity. Granted, Daniel was not serious (he tagged the comment with #TotallyJoking) but the fans who booed Stanton acted like he was the biggest Yankee disappointment since Chris Carter.

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

Stanton’s fault, if anything, was trying too hard to impress the Yankees faithful. He wanted to be the difference-maker, perhaps a little too much. There will be better days. That’s not just my opinion…it is fact. Looking at the attendance figures for the Miami Marlins, it’s obvious that Giancarlo has never played before an Opening crowd of over 47,000 people. The Marlins averaged barely more than 15,000 last year despite an MVP season by Stanton. Stanton has said the right words and we know that he loves New York and he wants to deliver. The pressure he puts on himself is far greater than the pressure we can put on him. He needs our support; not our boos. He didn’t stumble upon 59 home runs last year by accident. Pitchers weren’t lobbing him freebies to hit over the fence. I remember how Dave Winfield would carry the team on his back for weeks. Stanton is that kind of player, only better.

My favorite quote after the game was Stanton’s remarks about the incredible accomplishments by the Yankees shortstop who batted fourth behind Giancarlo. “That’s what a cleanup hitter does. You clean up the garbage in front of you.” He took ownership of his performance but was not going to let it defeat him.

Aaron Boone was asked about Stanton after the game and he talked about how the slugger can have an off-night and yet the team produces eleven runs. As Boonie said, “There’s going to be a lot of days when we jump on his back”. Boone added that he was not at all worried about Stanton. Why should he be? Stanton is a stud and I am glad he’s a Yankee.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

What can you say about Didi’s performance?  It was the greatest game for a Yankees shortstop in franchise history. He was 4-for-4 and helped to ensure the snow-postponed, rain-delayed home opener was a success despite the questionable weather conditions. When interviewed after the game, Didi deflected the attention away from him individually and spoke how it was a team effort.

It was crazy in the off-season when everyone was developing top ten lists and Didi’s name was rarely mentioned in the conversations. I honestly cannot think of anyone that I’d rather have at shortstop for the New York Yankees than Sir Didi (with no offense to Manny Machado or others). Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa are incredibly gifted but I am glad we can call Didi Gregorius our own. He’s a worthy successor to Derek Jeter and has proven he is his own man. He’ll go down as one of GM Brian Cashman’s best trade acquisitions.

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

I know all of us kind of wish that Jordan Montgomery had been allowed to go a little deeper into the game, but he was excellent for five innings despite the four walks he gave up. 80 pitches, two hits, one run, and four strikeouts to start the year with an ERA of 1.80. He has looked noticeably better than last year when he did a really good job as a rookie. You have to really like the progress he is making to become a reliable force in the rotation. In many cities, the fifth starter is either a Triple A performer or an older veteran trying to hang on. Gumby has the potential to be an October star. He’ll never be Luis Severino but you don’t need five Severinos to win a World Series championship. You need winners and Montgomery is one. A single run through the starting rotation this season and I am feeling very good about the state of the starting staff. Knock on wood that the present outfield injury plague doesn’t spread to the pitchers.

Speaking of outfielders, the Yankees claimed outfielder Trayce Thompson yesterday off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers. I realize that Thompson did absolutely nothing in 2017 (55 plate appearances, one home run, two RBIs, .122/.218/.265, .483 OPS) but I like the move. Thompson, 27, was well-liked by Dodger fans and his availability was due to the glut of right-handed outfielders on the Dodgers roster. Thompson, brother of Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and the son of former NBA player (and champion) Mychal Thompson, hit 13 homers in 2016 before a back fracture ended his season so he has some pop. The guy just needs to play. Sure, he could be back on the unemployment line once guys like Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier return to good health but I think it was worth taking a flyer on Thompson.  The Yankees have one coach who is very familiar with Thompson, bench coach Josh Bard. Bard served as the Dodgers bullpen coach for the two years that Thompson was in LA. So I am sure that Cashman sought input from Bard before making the waiver claim.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Lisa Blumenfeld)

To make room for Thompson on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved reliever Ben Heller from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL (right elbow bone spur). No word yet if Thompson will be immediately added to the 25-man roster or if he’ll start the season with extended spring training. He is out of options. While I am saddened to see Heller’s season start off on the wrong foot, kudos to the Yankees. They had optioned Heller to the minors, but when the decision was made to place him on the DL, they voided the demotion to keep him at the Major League level which means that he is accruing MLB service time and pay while on the disabled list.  I don’t know the circumstances behind the decision but it appears to me they could have placed him on the DL after the minor-league assignment which would have prevented the service time accrual at lesser minor league pay. Outwardly, it appears to be a very generous move by the Yankees to look out for Heller’s best interests. Heller was my breakout candidate for the year so I am hopeful that he has his opportunity before the season is done.

It’s a new day. When Giancarlo Stanton takes his position in the batter’s box later today, I know I’ll be cheering. Regardless of whether the result is a home run or a strikeout, I will be proud #27 wears Pinstripes. And #18 too, oh, hell yes!

Go Yankees!

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Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, Take 2…

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

Let’s Try This Again…

Here we are…Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York! Of course, it’s not a certainty the game will be played given the rain currently in the forecast. According to my weather app, there is an 85% chance of rain at scheduled game time of 4 pm Eastern. Decreasing rains are expected throughout the evening.  Will the game be played or not?  Stay tuned.

If the game is rained out, there is a possibility the Yankees could play a double-header tomorrow. More rain is anticipated, however, the likelihood decreases later in the day. The Rays do not return to New York until Thursday, June 14th for the start of a four-game set. Monday, June 18th is an off day between home series.  Hopefully, the weather cooperates and there is no need to strategically alter the schedule for a makeup game.

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The way the schedule has played out, the Yankees will face the two best (healthy) Rays starters, Chris Archer and Blake Snell. Meanwhile, when the Rays travel to Boston this weekend, they’ll use the bullpen for at least one of the starts with their current four-man rotation. Sure, they go easy on Boston. The Red Sox have clearly benefited from the schedule early. They opened with a four-game set in St Petersburg, FL against the Rays, winning three of the games. They traveled down to Miami yesterday to beat the Marlins in front of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, with another game scheduled for today and their best starter, Chris Sale, on the mound. Then, they’ll fly back to Boston to face the lowly Rays again. The Red Sox do not face a playoff caliber team until they see the Yankees at Fenway Park next Tuesday. Aside from another series at Yankee Stadium in May, the Red Sox do not face a 2017 playoff team again until the end of May/first of June when they travel to Houston. Meanwhile, during that time in addition to the two Boston series, the Yankees face the Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and Washington Nationals.  It doesn’t get any easier for the Pinstripers. Manager Aaron Boone needs to improve his bullpen management in a hurry and the big guys need to hit.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kevin Sousa)

Entering play today, the Red Sox lead the American League East by one game over the Toronto Blue Jays and a game and a half over the beloved Yankees. The Sox have won four consecutive games after losing the season opener against the Rays. I am looking for the Yankees to be aggressive in their series with the Rays and the upcoming weekend set with the Baltimore Orioles before next week’s showdown in Boston. Time to show the Sox the better team wears Pinstripes.

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Former Yankee Stephen Drew has called it quits. I am not quite sure what Daniel Burch will do now with his Stephen Drew Sucks Award. He may have to find a new player to recognize although the Yankees bullpen…presently…is giving him plenty of candidates to choose from. For his Yankees career (2014-15), Drew played in 177 games. He swatted 20 home runs and drove in 59 RBIs. His batting line was a horrific .187/.257/.352. He struck out 107 times in 583 plate appearances, managing to draw only 50 walks. Farewell, Stephen. I hope your post-playing career accomplishments exceed those on the baseball field.

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Photo Credit: USATSI

How good would Bryce Harper look in Pinstripes right now? He belted a three-run homer last night against the Atlanta Braves, and has three home runs on the year and seven RBIs. His batting line is .417/.550/1.167. Here’s $400 million, Mr Harper. Please sign here. We’re keeping #34 warm for you (please don’t pay any attention to the A.J. Burnett stains).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Kevin C Cox)

I saw some tweets yesterday that the Yankees had reacquired Minor League LHP Daniel Camarena, however, I’ve been unable to confirm it. Wikipedia states that he was traded back to the Yankees organization on April 1st. Camarena, originally drafted by the Yankees in 2011, had signed with the Chicago Cubs in January as a minor league free agent. The Yankees could certainly use more lefties at Triple A, but Camarena is still showing on the Iowa Cubs roster and there have been no announcements through either the Cubs website or the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders site. Camarena did not have a great training camp for the Cubbies. He pitched in five games covering 4 1/3 innings. He gave up eight hits and six runs for an inflated 12.46 ERA. He walked two and struck out four. To his defense, he did register two saves. But until his acquisition is confirmed, I don’t know whether to say ‘Welcome back’ or ‘Good luck with the Cubs’. I’ll gladly take any decent left-handed options over the newly signed Oliver Perez.

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Well, here’s hoping there is a break in the afternoon’s storm clouds so that we can play nine.

Go Yankees!

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium (Not Today)…

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Greg Joyce)

Frosty the Snowman punches out the Yankees…

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As I type this post, it is in the low 30’s and snowing in New York for today’s now-postponed Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Snow and baseball do not mix. I love baseball at Yankee Stadium but admittedly it would be more enjoyable facing the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida right now. The game has been re-scheduled for Tuesday. Tomorrow will be a little warmer…temps in the 40’s…but rain is expected in the afternoon (there is a 95% chance at the expected 4 pm Eastern game time, according to Weather.com). April in New York, you gotta love it…

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I was really hoping the Yankees could have won three of four heading back to the Bronx, but it was not meant to be. I am not ready to crucify Manager Aaron Boone but the same could not be said about the Yankees Universe on Twitter. You would have thought Boone burned Derek Jeter’s famed #2 jersey after yesterday’s loss. Give Boonie a break. He’s going to make mistakes. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton’s two home runs last Thursday, the Blue Jays did a great job shutting down our best hitters. Credit to them for a job well done. When we are forced to rely upon the bats at the bottom of the lineup, we put ourselves into situations where the bullpen has no safety net.

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Four games into the season, I know two facts. The bullpen is going to perform better than this and the big sluggers are going to hit. Aaron Boone is a smart man and I think he grows stronger by the day. I don’t want the return of Joe Girardi even if it was possible. That ship has sailed and Girardi awaits his next managerial gig in Chicago or St Louis. For better or worse, I am behind Boone as the manager of this team. The last two losses were agonizing, to say the least, but there are better days ahead. In the coming weeks and months, Boone will prove himself to be a master strategist and will be a worthy foe to the game’s best.

The next seven games will be at home against the Rays and the Baltimore Orioles.These are the games to win. The Yankees need to take both series before heading to Boston a week from tomorrow. The O’s series will be a big test for Boone as he’ll be going against one of the greater managerial minds in the game. Buck Showalter may not have the talent on the field to match the Yankees but one must never underestimate the power of the former Yankees manager. This will be a series of the student against the master. One game at a time. I am confident that Boone will use these games as building blocks for his managerial greatness.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Brown)

Until further notice, I’d like to avoid hearing the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball. At the moment, the only trustworthy guy appears to be Chad Green. Regardless, I am convinced the bullpen will be dominant but it gets old to continually hear they are the best, followed by another implosion. The most disappointing aspect of yesterday’s game for me was the inability of Sonny Gray to get out of the fifth inning. It put too much pressure on the pen, after several days of early starter departures. The bullpen will get better and Boone will make stronger choices. The current mood of disappointment can easily be swept away by a nice seven-game winning streak.

I know that many of you were glad GM Brian Cashman didn’t blink during  the  failed off-season trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates and RHP Gerrit Cole ended up moving to Houston to play for the World champions. I was in favor of the trade even if it meant losing Clint Frazier and a top pitching prospect so it was kind of tough to see Cole’s strong debut for the Astros yesterday. He was the winning pitcher in Houston’s 8-2 win over the Texas Rangers.  He pitched seven strong innings, allowing only two hits and a run.  He walked three and struck out eleven. His only mistake pitch was a slider to the second batter he faced to start the game, Joey Gallo. Gallo homered to left on Cole’s second pitch to give the Rangers an early lead, but former Pirate and childhood Yankees fan was dominant from there. I suspect that there will be more than a few AL pitchers who watch their offerings deposited into the outfield seats by Gallo, including a few Yankee pitchers, before this season is done. Now let’s see if Cole can continue to pitch at this level, particularly as AL hitters gain familiarity. The verdict is still out on that one, but for one day, Cole pitched like an ace and would have looked awfully nice in Pinstripes.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

Let’s hope that the Weather Gods decide to smile upon New York tomorrow so that we can get Opening Day at the Stadium underway. Rain, rain, go away, come again when we’re on the road. I know, that doesn’t rhyme but I never said I was a poet.  I just want to watch some Pinstriped Baseball.

Enjoy the snowy day.  Go Yankees!

Booking a Flight from Phoenix to Tampa…

Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Michael Chow)

Please, stop with the Judge & Drury jokes…

Yankees fans were waiting for some news but Tuesday’s announcement that the Yankees had acquired 2B/3B Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks brought, surprisingly at least to me, mixed reactions.

The news first broke late afternoon that the Yankees had sent 2B prospect Nick Solak to the Tampa Bay Rays. There were a few minutes of no updates so I tried to speculate. I didn’t think Solak alone would be enough to entice the Rays to move starting pitcher Chris Archer so I figured it had to be a middle or corner infielder. The only players that came to mind were infielders Christian Arroyo, acquired in the trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco, and Matt Duffy, also a former Giant. Arroyo would have been a decent option but I didn’t think the Rays would move him so soon since he is the favorite to replace Longoria at third. While starting to worry that a potential trade might involve Duffy, word came that the Yankees had acquired Drury from Arizona, with Solak going to the Rays and reliever Taylor Widener headed to the Desert. The D-Backs acquired Steven Souza Jr from the Rays, while Arizona sent pitcher Anthony Banda and two players to be named later back to the Rays. To make room for Drury, the Yankees designated outfielder Jabari Blash for assignment. Blash, acquired from the San Diego Padres in the salary-dumping deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to Southern California, seemed like an odd fit from the start with a team full of talented outfielders.

Personally, I like the move. Nothing against the rookies (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar) but I’ve felt all along the Yankees would bring in a veteran to help ease the transition for them. Earlier in the off-season, I had hoped that guy would be Todd Frazier but it was not meant to be as the Toddfather ended up in Queens with the Mets as their new third baseman. Many, including this blog, were starting to talk about free agent 2B Neil Walker as a possibility.

Although Drury played more second base last year (114 games versus only one at third), he is considered a natural third baseman who was blocked by D-Backs starting third baseman Jake Lamb. During his MLB career, the 25-year-old has played 41 games at third so he does have experience.

Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Tom Tingle)

Drury is not arbitration-eligible until next year and under team control for four years. He’ll make no more than $700,000 for the 2018 season. He played 135 games in 2017, hitting 13 home runs and 63 RBI’s. His batting line was .267/.317/.447 with an OPS of .764. He hit 16 dingers in 2016 so he clearly has some pop in that bat.

The nice thing about Drury is that he won’t block Andujar and/or Torres when they are ready. But he’ll help with the transition and will remove some of the pressure off the younger players. I can see the scenario where both Andujar and Torres start the year at Triple A, with Tyler Wade or Danny Espinosa heading north to the Bronx as the starting second baseman while Drury takes third. But regardless of what happens, we will see both Andujar and Torres in the Bronx this year and at least one (or both) of those guys will be the starter at some point in the not so distant future. I think Torres is closer to the bigs than Andujar but the gap is probably not that great.

Photo Credit: NorthJersey.com (Chris Pedota)

Eventually, I think the odd man out could be Ronald Torreyes. Drury is incredibly versatile. During his short three season MLB career, he’s played every position except center field, catcher and pitcher. The Grants Pass, OR native is very excited about the opportunity that awaits him. Drury told the New York Post on Tuesday night, “Oh man, I am pumped and can’t wait to get there.  I am thinking about the opportunity I have.  Playing for the New York Yankees is a dream and I have to take advantage of it. I was a Yankee fan (as a kid).”  He is expected to arrive in Tampa today.

I saw free agent Neil Walker as the most obvious choice for veteran help after Frazier signed with the Mets. But Walker’s age (32), and limited experience at third, concerned me. The Yankees have multiple options at second behind Torres.  Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Danny Espinosa, and Jace Peterson are the most notable. At third, there really wasn’t much standing behind Andujar. Torreyes was probably the most experienced but he’s not an ideal starter. For me, I’d much rather have the youth and upside with Drury who knows how to play third versus an aging middle sacker. Alright, 32 is not old but Walker, at least to me, is starting to show signs of decline with his recurring back problems.

I will admit that there was a part of me that wanted the Yankees to find a way to sign free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. I really wanted to see one year of Moose Tacos taking his shots at the short right porch in Yankee Stadium. I loved the idea of mixing his lefty bat into the lineup with fellow lefties Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird to break up the right-handed hitters. But signing Moustakas would have required a trade (most likely either Brett Gardner or David Robertson) if the Yankees are committed to staying under the $197 million luxury tax threshold as we’ve been led to believe. It also would have eliminated the possibility of adding a quality starter to the rotation. There was one Kansas City Royals blog yesterday (before the Drury trade) that pitched a trade idea to acquire Jacoby Ellsbury (along with Miguel Andujar and $27 million in cash) for a Royals prospect as a way to open up salary space for the Yankees to add Moustakas.  No idea if Ellsbury would consider waiving his no-trade clause for that idea but the Royals do train in Arizona and he would have to clear path to the starting center field job since last year’s starter, Lorenzo Cain, recently signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.

I know, every time the issue of trading for or signing a free agent starting pitcher is mentioned, many of you get defensive. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery represent a quality staff, I know. But, I am concerned about the depth. At this point, we simply do not know if Chance Adams is ready and capable for the Major Leagues. We think he is but we don’t really know for sure until he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium. Justus Sheffield is perhaps the best arm in the system but he’s never played above Double A. At the moment, neither Adams nor Sheffield are on the 40-man roster. I like Luis Cessa but he does not excite me as a starter. We’ve been down that road enough to tell me that I don’t want to pin replacement rotation hopes on Cessa. I certainly would not want to pull Chad Green from his valuable bullpen role to start. I’d prefer to add a quality starter and push Montgomery to Triple A for a few starts. Even adding a starter, Monty is almost certain to get more than 20 starts for the big league team this year. I like Monty as the insurance card so much better than Cessa. Later in the year, perhaps Adams or even Sheffield can become options. The likelihood that all of the starters remain healthy this year is slim. The Yankees are in position to add either Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn now if the price is right or wait until the trading deadline to add reinforcements. Options, I love options.

Photo Credit: St Louis Post-Dispatch (Chris Lee)

At the end of the day, the Drury trade simply shows us that GM Brian Cashman has a plan (as if we needed to be reminded). He is not going to overpay and is not afraid to walk away from “his” guy if necessary. But, he will be diligent to ensure that the moves he does make will improve the team. He understands that the stakes now are as high as they’ve been during his 20-year career as the team’s GM. He has a very talented Major League team, backed by a tremendously strong farm system. Rare is the organization that has that deadly combination.

The Yankees chief rival significantly improved themselves over the weekend when the Boston Red Sox signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez (Drury’s former teammate). The Red Sox Nation were back to puffing out their chests this week after a winter of feeling inferior. So, I really like the timing of the “we’re not done” message that Cashman sent out to American League competitors. Going back to TV/Radio personality Casey Stern’s words, “Prospects are cool, parades are cooler”. Brian Cashman is not done nor should we expect him to be. He has his sights set on the 28th World Championship in franchise history. Trust the Master.

Go Yankees!

Get to Class Before the (Yankees) Bell Rings…

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Corey Sipkin)

Aaron Boone is present and accounted for in Tampa…

As we bear down on the reporting date for pitchers and catchers (with many players already at camp) in a few days, it has continued to be very quiet for the Yankees and their primary division rival, the Boston Red Sox.

It really does not feel like there is any team willing to match or exceed the alleged offer made to free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez by the Red Sox. There has been some talk that the Arizona Diamondbacks could come up with a $100 million contract offer but they’d need to move salary to make it happen (sounds like the Yankees and their interest in free agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish except their ‘Jacoby Ellsbury-like’ albatross is the heavy contract of starting pitcher Zack Greinke who at least remains a vital part of the team’s plans). Martinez would prefer to play right field which probably makes Phoenix more desirable (to him) than Boston but I remain convinced that dollars will win in the end and that Martinez will be on display at Fenway Park as the team’s primary DH. There’s always the chance they could trade Jackie Bradley, Jr and move Andrew Benintendi to center but that would weaken the outfield defense.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

If the Red Sox fail to sign Martinez, names like Mike Moustakas and Logan Morrison have been mentioned. None are easy fits. Signing Moose Tacos would require an adjustment with plans for young starting third baseman Rafael Devers. Morrison probably makes more sense as he could share 1B and DH with Mitch Moreland. Nevertheless, I really feel the Red Sox will persevere and eventually sign Martinez. The Red Sox know that they need a big bopper to compete with the Yankees this year. I am not quick to say the Yankees are the superior favorites in the AL East. I feel the Red Sox are the champions until proven otherwise. I also expect the Red Sox starting rotation to be stronger this year, with bounce backs by David Price and Rick Porcello. It was great that Chris Sale couldn’t get a victory against the Yankees last year, but the odds of that happening again are similar to the odds of the Yankees successfully trading Ellsbury. Boston is not going away and the Yankees won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year like they did in 2017. Baseball Prospectus released its annual PECOTA projections last week and they have the Yankees winning the division by 9 games over the Red Sox with 96 wins. I think the division will be much closer than that, especially if the Sox are successful in snagging Martinez.  I have been a Yankees fan too long to underestimate the Sox.

PECOTA, for what it’s worth, projects Aaron Judge with a batting average of only .247 (really?), with 37 home runs and 94 RBI’s. Giancarlo Stanton is projected at .259, 41 home runs and 106 RBI’s. Gary Sanchez is not far behind with .269 BA, 34 homers and 97 RBI’s.

The one that really stands out to me is first baseman Greg Bird. The projection has him getting over 500 plate appearances, while batting .246 with 28 homers and 86 RBI’s. I am really hopeful that this is the year that Bird finally stays healthy. I love his swing and his bat in the stacked Yankees lineup. But until he proves that he can stay on the field for the duration of the season, I am going to be a bit skeptical.

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)

My fear is that the Yankees have to lean on Tyler Austin at first base more heavily than expected. I guess all things considered that’s better than rolling out Chris Carter, but I’d prefer no question marks at first base as the Yankees attempt to break in rookies at second and third bases.

The Tampa Bay Rays might actually play in Tampa…

On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they’d like to build a new stadium in Ybor City, a historic Latin community northeast of downtown Tampa. There are many hurdles before it can come to fruition, but I hope the Rays are successful. I don’t know much about Tampa politics but it makes more sense to have the Rays in Tampa than St Petersburg. Watching a baseball game at Tropicana Field always feels like watching a game in an oversized warehouse. I really hope that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is successful in getting his stadium initiative approved and funded. This seems like such a win-win situation for the Rays and the greater Tampa metropolitan area.

Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times (Marc Topkin)

Ybor City is about five miles east of Steinbrenner Field and Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I don’t like the smell of that rumor…

Speaking of the Rays, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported this week that the Yankees had checked in on Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is only 27 (28 in late March) but the right-hander had a down year in 2017. He was 10-8 with 4.14 ERA in 28 starts. He only struck out 127 batters while walking 61, the worst K/BB ratio of his career. A fly-ball pitcher, he gave up 30 home runs, which obviously would not play well in Yankee Stadium. One Rays blog proposed sending Odorizzi and reliever Alex Colome to the Yankees for outfielder Clint Frazier and a low-level lottery ticket. I wouldn’t do it. I would consider sending Frazier to Tampa for a trade circled around Chris Archer, but not Odorizzi.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Cunningham)

“Odo” would not be a significant upgrade over any of the starters in the current Yankees rotation so I dismiss the thought that the Yankees might be interested. I’ll gladly take a promising young arm like Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield over Odorizzi. The only reason you’d make a trade for Odorizzi would be on his potential as a breakout candidate but I’d prefer the in-house options…and keeping Red Thunder in pinstripes.

But wait, weren’t we part of the exciting young Yankees?…

Yesterday, Tyler Kepner of The New York Times wrote an article about which teams stand a chance in 2018. It was kind of sad looking for the photo that he posted with the caption, “The Yankees reached the American League Championship Series last season, but fell short against the Astros.” Of the recognizable faces, only one player and one coach remain from this pic taken just last October.

Photo Credit: The New York Times (Chang W Lee)

Joe Girardi can now be found on the MLB Network sporting a suit and defending his managerial choices during last season’s post-season. Rob Thomson is helping set up training camp in Clearwater, Florida for the Philadelphia Phillies as new manager Gabe Kapler’s bench coach and most likely the lead training camp organizer. No word about the future plans for former hitting coach Alan Cockrell, seen in the photo standing next to current hitting coach Marcus Thames. Yankees centerfielder Aaron Hicks looks at a trio of ex-Yankees. Todd Frazier will soon be headed to Port St Lucie, FL for the New York Mets; Starlin Castro, assuming he is not traded, will go to Jupiter, FL for the Miami Marlins; while Chase Headley returns to the Valley of the Sun in Peoria, AZ to play for his original team, the San Diego Padres. Hicks, as we know, will help ensure that Jacoby Ellsbury is the most expensive bench player in baseball. Thames, I am sure, is salivating at the opportunity to work with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, and others. Good times…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Go Yankees!

How to Lose the AL East with One Pitching Move…

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

Rays 9, Yankees 6…

Despite four home runs, the Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in the series finale and their AL East title hopes are clinging on life support.  I thought Manager Joe Girardi mismanaged the fateful 5th inning after Sonny Gray had relinquished the lead, bringing in the woefully inconsistent arm of Jonathan Holder when there were many superior options available.  

The first sign that Sonny Gray might not have it on Thursday night was Corey Dickerson’s first inning home run to the second deck in right which gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  

The Yankees wasted no time in coming back when Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge led off the bottom of the 1st inning with back-to-back home runs.  Both players took Rays starter Jacob Faria deep to right into the second deck.  It was Judge’s 51st home run of the year.  The Yankees had taken the lead, 2-1.

Credit:  Noah K Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays had a potential scoring opportunity in the top of the 2nd when Gray walked two batters, Daniel Robertson and Cesar Puello with only one out. There was a brief delay when a Gray pitch hit the dirt and bounced up to hit Gary Sanchez on the collarbone during Robertson’s at-bat.  Sanchez was able to shake it off and stay in the game.  After Peter Bourjos lined out to right for the second out, Mallex Smith singled to left.  The Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo unwisely sent Daniel Robertson home rather than holding him up at third.  Brett Gardner’s arm was smarter than the coach as Robertson was easily thrown out at home for the final out.

The Yankees picked up another run in the bottom of the inning.  Jacoby Ellsbury singled to right past a diving Lucas Duda with one out.  While Todd Frazier was batting, a passed ball off the glove of Rays catcher Wilson Ramos allowed Ellsbury to take second.  Frazier then singled to left, scoring Ellsbury.  A  pitch got away from Ramos with Brett Gardner batting and Todd Frazier tried to advance to second but was thrown out.  Gardy subsequently walked but Aaron Judge flied out to end the inning. As Michael Kay put it, “A sky high fly”.  Nevertheless, the Yankees were up 3-1.

Chih-Wei Hu took over for Jacob Faria on the mound in the bottom of the 4th (Who is on the mound? I don’t know, Hu?).  He was quickly introduced to the game when Greg Bird led off with a home run to the first row of the right field seats.  Hu retired the next three batters, but the Yankees had increased their lead to 4-1. 

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

The dreadful 5th inning arrived with Sonny Gray still on the mound for the Yankees. The previous inning had gone so well for Gray.  Three outs on six pitches.  It was hard to foresee the disaster that awaited him in the 5th.  Gray was able to get the first batter, Peter Bourjos, out on a grounder to short.  Then the Rays rally began.   Mallex Smith singled to right on a fly that dropped in.  Corey Dickerson hit a line drive to center for a single with Smith moving to third.  A wild pitch from Gray allowed Smith to come home to score.  Gary Sanchez tried to throw to Gray covering home but his throw was too far right for Gray to catch as Smith slid safely into home plate.  Sanchez was charged a throwing error on the play as it allowed Dickerson to advance two bases to third.  

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Evan Longoria struck out for the second out, but Dickerson subsequently scored when a passed ball went through El Gary’s legs.  Lucas Duda walked, and it brought Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild out to the mound.  It always seems like Larry’s talks fail and this was no exception. The next batter, Wilson Ramos, homered to center just over the wall into Monument Park and the Rays had taken a 5-4 lead.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single to center and it was the end for Sonny Gray.  Gray made a couple of throws to first during Daniel Robertson’s at bat to buy time for the bullpen, but I have to admit that I was bewildered by Joe Girardi’s decision to bring in Jonathan Holder even though I’d seen Holder warming up.  Holder is a fine prospect and did a decent job for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but he hasn’t really pitched in many big spots for the Yankees this year.  He may eventually become a leading arm in the pen but I would have gone with one of the tried and true in an effort to keep the game close.  Holder hit the first batter he faced, Daniel Robertson, with a pitch.  Runners at first and second.  Cesar Puello singled to center on a ball that dropped in front of Jacoby Ellsbury with Hechavarria coming around to score.  Robertson moved to second.  Peter Bourjos tripled to left on fly that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall, clearing the bases, and it was 8-4 Rays.  Girardi finally pulled Holder and brought in Chasen Shreve who struck out Mallex Smith to end the inning.  But the Rays had scored seven runs.

In the bottom of the 5th, with Tommy Hunter taking over for Chih-Wei Hu, Brett Gardner led off with a walk.  After Aaron Judge struck out, Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch on the back of his left shoulder.  Runners at first and second.

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to second and the Rays were able to force Sanchez for the second out, with Gardy moving to third.  Starlin Castro hit an infield single to short, beating the throw to first which brought Gardner home to score.  Greg Bird, representing the potential tying run, struck out to end the inning but the Yankees had gotten a run back, 8-5.  

With Chasen Shreve still on the mound, the Yankees retired the first two Rays in the top of the 6th.  But Trevor Plouffe, pinch-hitting for Lucas Duda, homered to left into the second deck, to restore the Rays’ four run lead.  Shreve walked Wilson Ramos next and was pulled in favor of Ben Heller.  Heller struck out Adeiny Hechavarria to end the inning without any further damage.

The Rays bullpen kept the Yankees offense quiet from there.  Aaron Hicks, pinch-hitting for Todd Frazier, did manage to hit a solo home run to right into the bullpen in the bottom of the 9th against Chaz Roe but it was too little, too late.  The other Yankees went down quietly, with Aaron Judge flying out to right to end the game.

This was a disappointing loss and I am bewildered why Girardi trusted Holder with the game on the line when the pitcher has done nothing this year at the MLB level to warrant consideration at that point.  The Boston Red Sox lost 12-2 to the Houston Astros so the Yankees (89-70) could have picked up a game.  Instead, they remain three games out with three to play.  The best they can do is tie the Red Sox if they sweep the Blue Jays and the Astros sweep the Red Sox.  More than likely, the Red Sox sew up the AL East title either tonight or tomorrow.  

I hate losing winnable games.  If the 5th inning hadn’t gotten away from the Yankees, they would have/could have won this game.  If the Yankees play like this next Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, it’s going to be a very short post-season experience.  

Next Up:  Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…

And so, we’ve reached the final series of the regular season.  It seems like we were just playing exhibition games at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.  The Blue Jays completed a successful three-game road trip in Boston on Wednesday, winning two of three games.  They are also the only team to win a series against the Yankees this month.  Hopefully, the wins come our way in the latest and final series before the post-season begins.

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Blue Jays:  Joe Biagini (3-12, 5.34 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (12-12, 4.94 ERA)

SATURDAY

Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (13-8, 3.06 ERA)

Yankees:  Jaime Garcia (1-3, 4.70 ERA)

SUNDAY

Blue Jays:  Brett Anderson (2-2, 6.04 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (9-7, 3.96 ERA)

This is most likely Jaime Garcia’s final start for the Yankees.  I hope that it’s not the final regular season start for Masahiro Tanaka’s Yankees career.  We all know that this is just the conclusion of the great start of Jordan Montgomery’s career in Pinstripes.  Looking forward to many successful wins going forward, including the 2017 post-season.

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees are planning to activate RHP Adam Warren off the disabled list today.  Hopefully, he’ll be able to get in some work this weekend in preparation for the post-season (which, we hope and pray, is much longer than a one-game stay).  

Have a great weekend!  Let’s get the momentum rolling for October!  Go Yankees!

Sevy & The Case of Homers & K’s…

Credit:  Bill Kostroun

Yankees 6, Rays 1…

Pitching like I hope he does next week against the Minnesota Twins, Luis Severino dominated the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday behind home runs from Starlin Castro, Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks.  He amassed nine strikeouts to put place his name among the greatest statistical leaders in franchise history.

On paper, the matchup looked like a mismatch in favor of the Yankees.  However, Rays starter Matt Andriese kept the game scoreless for the first four innings.  Then, Tampa’s Adeiny Hechiavarria led off the top of the 5th with a home run, a high fly into the left field seats, to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  

Fortunately, the Yankee bats finally woke up in the bottom of the inning.  Jacoby Ellsbury got it started by working a walk off Andriese.  Aaron Hicks hit a grounder into right field, on a ball that got past a diving Brad Miller at second, for a single.  Ellsbury raced around to third base.  After Brett Gardner hit a line drive right at the shortstop for the first out, Aaron Judge doubled to the left field corner to score both Ellsbury and Hicks.  The Yankees had taken the lead, 2-1.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

After Severino breezed through the Rays in the top of the 6th, retiring two batters by strikeout, Starlin Castro led off the bottom of the inning with a home run to left center into the Rays bullpen.  The Rays pulled Andriese and brought in reliever Xavier Cedeno.  Greg Bird, with his beautiful swing, greeted Cedeno with a homer to right.  Chase Headley kept it going with a single to left that squeezed through 3B Evan Longoria and SS Adeiny Hecchavarria.  Jacoby Ellsbury grounded back to the pitcher for the out at first, while Headley moved to second.  Aaron Hicks ended Cedeno’s short stint when he homered on a high fly into the left field seats.  The Rays pulled Cedeno and replaced him with Jose Alvarado.  It looked like the Yankees’ big inning, with four runs already across, might continue.  Brett Gardner doubled to left, and Aaron Judge walked. However, Alvarado struck out Gary Sanchez on three pitches and got Didi Gregorius to hit into a ground out at short.  However, the Yankees had increased their lead to 6-1.

In the top of the 7th, Chasen Shreve replaced Severino.  As the team’s primary lefty in the bullpen, Shreve has been consistently inconsistent for weeks.  He walked the first batter he faced, Stephen Souza, Jr.  Corey Dickerson hit a grounder to first and the Yankees were able to force Souza out at second.  But Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single to right.  Shreve was able to strike out Brad Miller, who has been struggling this year.  But that would all as Joe Girardi opted to go with Chad Green to face Jesus Sucre.  Green retired Sucre on a grounder to short that forced Hechavarria out at second with a flip from Didi Gregorius to Starlin Castro to end the inning.  

Dellin Betances pitched the 8th inning and looked strong.  He retired the three men he faced with a total of 13 pitches.  No walks, no hits, his 100th strikeout of the season…this is the Dellin that we need for October.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Aroldis Chapman pitched a clean 9th inning, ending the game on a swinging strikeout of Corey Dickerson.  The Yankees win!

The Yankees (89-69) moved to twenty games above .500 for the first time this season.  Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox took a step closer to sewing up the AL East Championship with a come-from-behind 10-5 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Yankees remain three games behind the Red Sox with four to play.  The Minnesota Twins lost 4-2 to the Cleveland Indians but they clinched the second Wild Card spot when the Los Angeles Angels fell to the Chicago White Sox in extra innings, 6-4.  The Twins become the first team to reach the playoffs after losing 100 games in the preceding season.  

Credit:  Ron Schwane-AP

Luis Severino (14-6) now awaits the probable Wild Card game start next week against the Twins in the Bronx.  He lowered his season ERA to 2.98.  His six innings of work yielded only four hits, a walk and a single run for the Rays. His nine strikeouts allowed him to reach 230 for the season, putting him in a third place tie with CC Sabathia for the most strikeouts in club history.  Sabathia reached the mark in 2011.  The strikeout leader is Ron Guidry who struck out 248 batters in his magical 1978 season, while Jack Chesbro had 239 K’s in a mind-blowing 454 2/3 innings in 1904.  

This was another great team win with multiple hitting stars.  The Yankees can become a 90-win team with their next victory.  Honestly, that seemed impossible at the start of the season.  Without so many key injuries, I have no doubt the Yankees would be leading the AL East right now.  But the Yankees are now nearly healthy as they approach the season’s biggest game next week against the Twins.  I am not giving up on the AL East until the numbers say it’s over, but at this point, it does seem improbable.  This is a much better team than the one that lost the 2015 Wild Card game to Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros. 

Odds & Ends…

MLB Owners officially approved the sale of the Miami Marlins to the investment group headed by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter.  The sale is expected to close within the next few days.  I was never a big Jeter fan so I guess I am a little indifferent to the end of his direct association with the Yankees.  I am sure that the true Jeter lovers are having a more difficult time but realistically, the Yankees won’t see the Marlins very often.  If they meet in the World Series, great!  Otherwise, it’ll just be a few games every few years in interleague play.  I am not going to lose any sleep about Jeter.  He was a great Yankee and he is immortalized in Monument Park.  But he’s a Marlin now.  I don’t wish him any more luck than I’d wish Brian Sabean in San Francisco or Billy Eppler in Anaheim.  They are simply other teams and…they are not the Yankees.  

Credit:  Getty Images

My favorite Core Four player was Mariano Rivera.  No disrespect for Jeter and what he did for the Yankees.  But now, he’s just another guy trying to beat the Yankees.

I hate the one-game ‘do or die’ Wild Card format.  I prefer at least a three game series that MLB could squeeze in without pushing the World Series to November.  I still think the best team may or may not win a three-game series but it’s a thousand times better than the single game elimination.  I take this position regardless of whether or not the Yankees win the Wild Card game.  

Have a great Thursday!  Let’s say goodbye to the Rays in good fashion…with a win!  Go Yankees!