Tagged: Rob Refsnyder

Is the awful Tanaka the new Tanaka?…

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Orioles 10, Yankees 4…

Disappointing, to say the least…

Masahiro Tanaka, proving that his last start was just a facade, got hammered again as the Orioles cruised to victory.  In 5 2/3 painful innings, Tanaka (5-5) was pounded for nine hits and seven runs.  The latest implosion pushed his ERA up to 6.34 for the season.  

The Yankees had their opportunities to get back into the game but couldn’t deliver.  The Yankees bullpen, most notably Giovanny Gallegos who had been called up earlier in the day to replace Bryan Mitchell, let the Orioles break the game open.  Gallegos allowed a two-run homer to Chris Davis in the seventh inning and three runs overall in his 1 2/3 innings.

For the Orioles, Adam Jones was the offensive force of the night.  After missing multiple games due to a sore ankle and hip, Jones was back in the lineup on Wednesday night.  Apparently he felt that he had to make up for lost time as he was 3-for-5 with 5 RBI’s.  His crushing hit was a three-run homer off Tanaka in the fourth inning.  

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

To the Yankees credit, they completely shut down Manny Machado in the series.  He was 0-for-5 and struck out twice.  In the three games played, Machado was hitless in 15 at-bats which dropped his batting average to .205.  It’s unfortunate that the Yankees couldn’t hold the other Orioles sluggers in check as they lost the three game series, two games to one.  

I guess on the bright side, the Yankees had no need to use their top bullpen arms so Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren will be fresh for the latest series in Toronto.  

Every Yankees starter got at least one hit except for Chase Headley, who was hitless in three at-bats with two strikeouts although he did walk twice.  Rob Refsnyder, manning first base for the second game in a row, picked up two hits in his four plate appearances.  The hits were Refsnyder’s first of the season.   

It is very hard to find any positives with this game.  I am not sure what can be done to fix Tanaka.  It’s up to him to make the necessary adjustments but for whatever reason, his adjustments so far have been futile.  

Things do not get any easier for the Yankees as they now travel to Toronto to face a suddenly red-hot Blue Jays squad (8-2 in their last ten games).  

The Yankees (30-20) lost ground in the AL East as the Boston Red Sox pulled within two games with their 4-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.  The Orioles moved up to 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.  Last-placed Toronto is only 5 1/2 games back so they have an opportunity to make some noise over the next few days.  

Yankees in the News…

Future Yankees outfielder Bryce Harper (hey, if everyone else can talk about it, so can I!) received good news on Wednesday.  His four-game suspension for this week’s fight with Hunter Strickland and the San Francisco Giants has been reduced to three games.  The suspension should not impact Harper’s availability to open the 2019 season for the Yankees.  

Greg Bird is getting ready to fly.  After playing in three simulated innings on Wednesday, he’ll begin a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa today.  I am really hoping to see the bat that wore out pitchers in Spring Training and not the Mark Teixeira Annual April-Ice-Cold bat we saw after his ankle injury.  

Tyler Austin didn’t do much for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders yesterday in their 4-3 victory over the Columbus Clippers in the second game of a doubleheader.  He was penciled in at DH (did not play in the first game).  He went hitless in four at-bats, striking out three times, in his best impersonation of Chris Carter.  I guess to be Chris Carter and take his job, you have to become Chris Carter.  Still, Austin is a better first baseman than either Carter or Rob Refsnyder.  So, once that bat starts humming, it will be Bronx-bound.  

As for the first game of the RailRiders doubleheader, WHOA!  Chance Adams was spectacular.  He threw a one-hitter over six scoreless innings of work.  He struck out twelve batters while walking only two.  He is now 3-1 at the AAA Level with a 1.57 ERA.  The RailRiders won the game, 6-0.  Adams has the accelerator mashed to the floor in his drive for the Bronx.  At some point, somebody is going to have to make room in the rotation.  

Credit:  MiLB.com

Reliever Ernesto Frieri, currently at AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, has an opt-out clause in his contract that can be exercised today.  Let him go.  I see no compelling reasons to create room on the 40-man roster for Frieri.  He has been the RailRiders’ closer, picking up his seventh save in yesterday’s second game of the double-header.  He was touched for two runs in the bottom of the seventh as the Clippers tried an unsuccessful rally against the RailRiders.  He walked a batter in his one inning of work and one of the two hits he allowed was a homer.  Frieri hasn’t been relevant in years and he is not going to be relevant in 2017.  Pass.

Life North of the Border…

The Yankees begin a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays this evening.  Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (5-2, 4.42 ERA)

Blue Jays:  Marco Estrada (4-2, 3.15 ERA)

FRIDAY

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (6-2, 3.32 ERA)

Blue Jays:  Francisco Liriano (2-2, 6.35 ERA)

SATURDAY

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (2-4, 4.11 ERA)

Blue Jays:  Joe Biagini (1-3, 3.64 ERA)

SUNDAY

Yankees:  Luis Severino (4-2, 2.93 ERA)

Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (6-2, 3.28 ERA)

This puts Masahiro Tanaka on track to open the three-game series against the Boston Red Sox next Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.  Things do not get any easier…

Have a great Thursday!  Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.  Don’t quit.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Putting Crooked Numbers on the Board…

Credit:  Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Yankees 8, Orioles 3…

For a moment there, I thought the Yankees were playing a game of Home Run Derby between Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday.  By the fourth inning, both players had two home runs.  After chasing Orioles starter Chris Tillman and roughing up reliever Logan Verrett, the Yankees offense was finished for the night but like the 70’s show, Eight is Enough.  

For both Gardner and Holliday, it was their tenth and eleventh home runs of the season.    After the game, Gardner said, “Offensively we got off to such a great start early in the season, the last week or two we slowed down a bit collectively. It’s nice to put some runs back up, put some crooked numbers on the board and give Sevvy a lead he’s comfortable with.” The Yankees were able to put up crooked numbers in three of those first four innings as they cruised to the victory.

The maturation of Luis Severino continues.  I thought he did an excellent job escaping the bases loaded jam in the second inning when he struck out JJ Hardy with Gary Sanchez completing the out by throwing to first.  Severino (4-2) lasted 6 1/3 innings, limiting the O’s to only one run on seven hits.  He walked a batter and struck out eight.  

Credit:  Ron Sachs/CNP

Aaron Judge didn’t join the Home Run Derby but his bat was just as lethal.  He had a two-run double in the fourth to cap the Yankees’ scoring and was 2-for-4 on the day, raising his season batting average to .323.

Rob Refsnyer got the start at first base.  He was 0-for-3, but had a nice defensive play in the bottom of the third with a diving stop and quick run to first base to erase Seth Smith.  Refsnyder, lifted for Chris Carter in the bottom of the seventh inning, was the only Yankees starter without a hit.

The Yankees bullpen did a great job except for a sloppy eighth inning when Bryan Mitchell  committed a throwing error and subsequently allowed two runs.  Tyler Clippard, overcoming his recent woes, cleanly got the final four outs.  He struck out the dangerous Mark Trumbo to finish the game.

Credit Yankees pitching for the great job they’ve done with the O’s great Manny Machado.  Machado was hitless in five at-bats with four strikeouts.  In the first two games of the series, he is 0-for-9 with six strikeouts.

The Yankees did receive a scare in the ninth when Didi Gregorius was hit on the hand with a pitch from former Yankees pitcher Richard Bleier, but he was able to shake it off and continue playing.  X-rays after the game revealed no fractures.  Whew!

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Boston Red Sox hammered the Chicago White Sox, 13-7, behind former White Sock Chris Sale (who received a standing ovation from the crowd prior to the game).  So, the Yankees  (30-19) maintained their three game lead over the Sox in the AL East.  Baltimore fell 4 1/2 games back.

The series concludes this evening with Masahiro Tanaka seeking to continue his rebound from an earlier slump.  Greg Bird’s Grandview High School (Aurora, CO) teammate, Kevin Gausman, will oppose Tanaka.  

Yankees in the News…

Okay, we may have to fast-forward to 2019 for this one…future Yankees outfielder Bryce Harper has been suspended for four games.  After he was plunked on Monday by Hunter Strickland of the San Francisco Giants, Harper “charged the mound, threw his helmet, and fought”.  Strickland was suspended for six games.  Both players have appealed.  The penalty is harsher for Harper as an every day player.  We’ll have to wait and see if Gerrit Cole plunks a Giant in defense of his future Yankees teammate when San Francisco visits Pittsburgh at the end of June…

Credit:  Ben Margot/Associated Press

Wanted:  Billionaire.  Yankees Legend Derek Jeter is searching for a new investment group after Jeb Bush dropped out of the bidding for the Miami Marlins.  It will be interesting to see if Jeter joins up with the group headed by Tagg Romney, which also includes Tom Glavine and Dave Stewart.  Jeter remains part of the Bush-less group so time will tell if they have the financial resources to top the Romney group.  If not, it’s potentially the old ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ situation.  

Jacoby Ellsbury is feeling better (finally) and has been cleared to fly to Toronto with the team on Wednesday.  He is eligible to come off the DL on Thursday but there’s still no timetable when he’ll be ready.  He could be activated this weekend.  Given that I am completely comfortable with Aaron Hicks in center, I really wouldn’t mind if Ellsbury wanted to take another week off.  

Tyler Austin was the starting DH last night for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in a 5-0 loss to the Columbus Clippers.  He had two hits in four at-bats with a single and a double.  

Considering Austin’s multi-position eligibility and much cheaper price tag, it will be interesting to see what the Yankees do with Chris Carter when Greg Bird returns to health.  Carter hasn’t hit enough to warrant future consideration in my mind.  He is a below average hitter and fielder so if he’s not hitting home runs like a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, he’s not worth the roster space.  Maybe Austin should start taking some reps at third to expand his resume.  Seriously, I think there’s more value with Austin than Carter.  So, to Carter, I’d say SEE YA!

After taking a rest day yesterday, Aroldis Chapman will throw again today.  Hopefully, all continues to go well for Chapman as he eyes a mid-June return.  

Have a great Wednesday!  Here’s hoping the Yankees take the series tonight before embarking on their flight to Toronto.  Safe travels to the team and of course, Go Yankees!

Sevy and the Blazing Fast Goose Eggs…

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Yankees 3, Royals 0…

Luis Severino continued the recent albeit short trend of stellar pitching performances by Yankee starters.  Masahiro Tanaka excluded, the rotation has pitched to win the last four games.  Severino was tremendous, pitching eight innings.  He was still clicking the radar gun at 99 mph in the 8th.  By completing eight, Severino was able to pass the baton to Dellin Betances for the one inning save without relying on any of the tired arms in the pen. 

Severino (3-2) was incredible in the scoreless outing with a season high 114 pitches.  He allowed only one extra base hit (a double by Brandon Moss in the 5th inning) and did not allow any runners past second base.  Sevy only allowed four hits and walked one while striking out seven.  He lowered his season ERA to 3.11.

Jason Hammel kept the Yankees in check most of the night but the Pinstripers didn’t need much.  Didi Gregorius hit a solo homer in the third inning to give the Yanks an early 1-0 lead.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

In the 6th inning, the Yankees picked up another run through great-base running effort by Gary Sanchez.  Sanchez singled to open the inning and then stole second.  Thanks to a throwing error by Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Sanchez alertly raced on to third.  Matt Holliday brought him home with a sac fly.

The Yankees picked up their final run when Gregorius led off the 7th inning with a double.  A ground out by Chris Carter moved Gregorius to third, which brought Brett Gardner to the plate.  With two strikes, Gardner was the beneficiary of a called ball on a pitch by Royals reliever Matt Strahm that seemingly landed well within the strike zone.  It should have been the third strike for the second out of the inning but with the next pitch, Gardner singled to center to drive in the run.

Betances struck out the side in the 9th inning to earn his fourth save of the season, lowering his season ERA to 0.57.

The Yankees (27-17) moved 2 1/2 games up on the Baltimore Orioles.  Baltimore lost 4-3 to the Minnesota Twins and their fine rookie pitcher Jose Berrios.  The Boston Red Sox remained 3 1/2 games back with their 9-4 win over the Texas Rangers.

I want one of those guys…

Last night, Chris Sale of the Red Sox attempted to become the MLB pitcher in the Modern Era to record at least 10 strikeouts in nine straight games.  He failed but he is still the fifth pitcher since 1900 to reach 100 strikeouts in his first 10 starts.  It probably wasn’t one of his better games, but Sale still kept the game within reach for the Red Sox until their offense exploded for 7 runs in the 7th inning of their game against the Texas Rangers.  Sale finished the night with 7 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.  

Credit:  Christopher Evans

Sale has such a presence when he is on the mound.  I can’t think of any potential trade targets that can match Sale as a frontline ace.  I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will surprise me, but I think most of us know who the available trade suspects are.  

Gleyber Torres Watch (with a little Tyler Austin thrown in)…

It was another night at third base yesterday for Yankees top prospect Gleyber Torres as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Columbus Clippers, 5-0. 

Watching the RailRiders this closely shows me one thing.  Clint Frazier is on fire.  He hit his eighth home run (and 28th RBI) in the first inning of the RailRiders’ game against the Columbus Clippers on Wednesday.  He also had a two-run shot on Tuesday during Gleyber’s first game at the AAA Level.  But enough about ridiculously hot outfielders and how the Yankees like to keep them down while parading the $153 Million Man in center field at Yankee Stadium on a nightly basis.  Note:  To Jacoby Ellsbury’s defense, he was injured during last night’s game against the Royals when he collided into the outfield wall after making a catch.  He suffered a neck sprain and a concussion, and has been placed on the 7-Day DL.  I wish him no ill will and hope that he returns to the health sooner than later.  It does kind of make me wish that the padding on the outfield walls was a little more player-friendly.  Rob Refsnyder has been recalled to the Bronx to replace Ellsbury.  On performance alone, Frazier would have been the best option, but Refsnyder is already on the 40-Man Roster which was the difference-maker.  

Credit:  Andy Grosh/MiLB.com

Torres was a wee bit cooler than Frazier.  With an ‘O-fer’ night (0-for-3), he wasn’t really doing much with the bat but he did walk twice, stole a base, and avoided striking out.  All things considered, it was another game in the education and development of the Yankees premier prospect as he climbs the ladder for the eventual call to the Bronx.  

I thought Mike Ford did a good job for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the short time since his call-up.  In nine games, he hit 4 homers and 10 RBI’s, batting .306/.432/.750.  But he was returned to AA-Trenton yesterday when Ji-Man Choi was activated from the 7-Day DL for the RailRiders.  

Credit:  Cheryl Pursell

Maybe I should have re-named this section the Minor League Report.

As promised, here’s a little Tyler Austin…


Finally…

The Yankees conclude their four-game set against the Kansas City Royals this afternoon at 1:05 pm Eastern.  The Royals have announced a change in starters for the game as Miguel Almonte, called up on Tuesday from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Double-A), will replace Nathan Karns who was placed on the DL with forearm stiffness. He was 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 6 starts for the Naturals. For Almonte, the start at Yankee Stadium will be a treat.  “That was my favorite team growing up”, Almonte said yesterday through an interpreter.  No worries, Miguel, they are our favorite team too.
Masahiro Tanaka takes the hill for the Yankees in an outing that will probably have me watching the game between my fingers.  I really hope that he has rediscovered the touch and can continue the streak of solid pitching performances.  Otherwise, the fans in the outfield bleachers should receive hazard duty pay.
Have a great Thursday!  Why settle for two when you can take three??!!…

 

There’s Time For Sleep in November…

Sleep?  Who needs stinkin’ Sleep!  The Yankees arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio at 5:08 a.m. yesterday following their 18-inning marathon win over the Chicago Cubs and by the end of the day, they had their sixth consecutive victory with the 10-4 pounding of the Reds.  The Yankees treated their former top prospect Rookie Davis, banished to Ohio in the Aroldis Chapman trade, like, well, a rookie.  Run-scoring singles by Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius put three runs on the board in the first inning and the sleepless Yanks were in charge early.

It was another okay, but not great, pitching performance by Masahiro Tanaka.  He definitely went the ‘bend but not break’ route in picking up his fifth win of the year.  The Reds had the bases loaded with no outs in the fourth inning, trailing the Yankees by three.  But a pop out and a double play ended the threat.  It was probably the game-defining moment.

Credit:  John Minchillo/AP

In the seventh inning with former Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen on the mound, three Yankees were hit by pitches.  It wasn’t intentional but that’s a lot for one inning.  The last one, a pitch that hit Chase Headley on the bone just below his knee (ouch!) with the bases loaded, scored a run.  Ronald Torreyes, after being knocked down by a high, inside pitch from the wild Storen, singled to put the Yankees up 7-2.  The second runner, Gary Sanchez, was easily thrown out at the plate, for the final out.   

In the bottom of the seventh inning, with Tanaka running on fumes after reaching the 100-pitch mark, he walked Zach Cozart and then gave up a no doubt-about-it home run to Reds slugger Joey Votto.  With his 112th pitch, Tanaka somehow got Adam Duvall on a swinging strikeout to end the inning.  As Tanaka walked off the mound, he was clearly upset about the Votto home run but his night was done with the Yankees leading 7-4.

The eighth inning featured another long home run to right by Brett Gardner, scoring two runs, and a solo shot by Matt Holliday, playing his second straight game at first base.  

From there, it was up to the depleted Yankees bullpen.  With most of the relievers unavailable, the Yankees went with Tyler Clippard for the eighth.  Clippard was his usual self with a quiet inning that saw three up and three down.  I have to admit that I got a sick feeling to my stomach when I saw lefty Tommy Layne warming up for the ninth inning.  A six-run lead should make one feel fairly secure, but if any Yankee could blow a large lead, it’s Layne.  It didn’t help when the first batter reached on an infield single.  The next batter hit into a ground out but the Yanks were unable to turn a double play, capturing only the lead runner.  That brought the speedy Billy Hamilton to the plate.  Layne fell behind in the count very quickly with three successive balls.  I started to have chills, knowing the heart of the Reds order was coming up.  After a couple of well-placed strikes, Hamilton hit a grounder to Didi Gregorius.  This time, the Yankees were successful in turning the double play and it was game over.  Yankees win, 10-4.

The Yankees (21-9) maintained their half-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles.  The O’s withstood a late challenge to beat their former catcher Matt Wieters and the Washington Nationals 6-4.  The O’s have won five in a row as they seemingly match the Yankees step-for-step on a nightly basis.  The Boston Red Sox had the night off.

Prior to yesterday’s game, there had been speculation the Yankees might send down Sunday night heroes Chasen Shreve and/or Jonathan Holder to bring up fresh arms.  But in the end, it was Rob Refsnyder who got the ticket to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  In his place, the Yankees recalled pitcher Chad Green.  

For the Reds, the loss cost them first place in the NL Central as they were overtaken by the St Louis Cardinals.  

The Yankees face a more challenging pitcher today in Tim Adleman (1-1, 4.22 ERA).  For the Yanks, CC Sabathia (2-1, 5.45 ERA), who hasn’t instilled confidence in anyone except opposing hitters in recent starts, takes the mound.  I expect to see a much stronger Reds team today so hopefully the Yankees offense can rise up to the challenge.  It will be good to see a rested Aaron Judge back in the lineup.  

Tomorrow is a day off so the Yankees will be able to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Have  a great Tuesday!  Let’s grab a W and head back to New York!

O Say Can You CC…

I have to admit that I wasn’t a believer.  I did not think that CC Sabathia could make the transformation from a young dominant power pitcher to a crafty veteran at the top end of a starting rotation.  Weight issues, age, injuries, alcoholism…whatever the cause…I didn’t think he could do it.  He has proved me wrong.  

After Saturday’s 3-2 win over the St Louis Cardinals, Sabathia leads the team with a 2-0 mark, compiling a 1.47 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts.  While the most dominant single game belongs to Michael Pineda, Sabathia has been the most dominant overall.  

I had gotten to the point where I thought of Sabathia as a five inning starter.  Yet, here he was on the mound on April 15, 2017 at 36 years of age, throwing 7 1/3 innings, allowing only three hits and one run with just one walk.  He punched out six.  THAT was not the Sabathia that we had come to expect in recent years.  

I am so glad that he has been able to make the transformation.  I don’t know if it is the time he has spent with Yankees legend Andy Pettitte but we tend to hear Pettitte’s name come up a lot in interviews with not only Sabathia but other pitchers when they talk about success.  Pettitte’s annual visits to training camp for a few days always seem to have such a tremendous impact.  I think Pettitte is an assistant on a high school coaching staff these days, but I would love for his return to New York as an eventual successor to Larry Rothschild.  

At the beginning of the year, I felt it was obvious this would be Sabathia’s final year in Pinstripes.  With the youth movement in full bloom, I didn’t see a future for Sabathia or a veteran’s salary in Team Hal’s budget for 2018.  If Sabathia expects to make his 2017 salary ($25 million) next year, I still think it’s unlikely he returns.  He’ll have to take a pay cut to stay and perhaps he will.  But for now, I am just enjoying the ride.  I love watching Sabathia’s accomplishments this year, and I know that he is a huge influence on the younger pitchers.  If Sabathia, Pineda and Severino can continue pitching like their most recent starts, this is definitely a team that can outperform expectations in 2017.  Of course, Greg Bird does need to start mixing in a hit or two.

I was reading an interview with Jordan Montgomery this morning.  Or should I call him “Gumby”?  I had to laugh when I saw him refer to the famous Serendipity 3 on 60th Street as “some dessert place”.  Give him time.  He’ll figure the City out.   If he keeps pitching like we know he can, he’ll be here for a very long time.  

With the inability of Matt Holliday to play on Saturday due to lower back stiffness, I hope this is not a sign of things to come.  His final years with the Cardinals, while he was still playing in the field, came with significant DL stints. I had hoped the ‘DH-only’ role would help preserve his health.  Hopefully, this is just an aberration and he’ll back with bat in hand shortly.  The loss of Holliday did show the significance of having Chris Carter on the roster as Carter provided what proved to be the winning run in Saturday’s game with a run-scoring single in the sixth inning.  

As for Greg Bird, he needs to figure this out soon.  His 1-for-26 start is dreadful.  I remain hopeful that he’ll work through the challenge and will start to hit like he did in Spring Training.  He is too much of a professional hitter for the current sample to be representative of his ability going forward. No offense to Chris Carter, but I strongly prefer Bird at first in any scenario.  I wish that Tyler Austin was closer to returning but he’s not an option for now and there’s no one else in the organization that would be superior to the current duo of Bird and Carter.  Rob Refsnyder is only hitting .192 in AAA and Ji-Man Choi is not on the 40-man roster.  Choi is batting .280 but he has only 2 RBI’s and no home runs.  

I hate to be politically-incorrect, but the words of former Arizona Diamondback Mark Grace resonate in my ears when I think of Bird’s slump.  “A slumpbuster is if a team’s in a slump, or if you personally are in a slump, you gotta find the fatest, gnarliest, grossest chick and you just gotta lay the wood to her. And when you do that, you’re just gonna have instant success. And it could also be called jumping on a grenade for the team.”  Bird, just do it…take one for the team.

Have a great Sunday!  Hopefully, it will be a sweeping success for the Yankees!

Don’t Look Now But It’s J-Mont Time!…

Credit:  Chris O’Meara, AP

Whoa, I didn’t think it would happen but Jordan Montgomery has claimed the fifth spot in the starting rotation.  As recent as yesterday, I said I expected the Yankees to go with either Bryan Mitchell (currently on the Major League roster) or Chad Green (currently in the minors) since both pitchers are on the 40-man roster.  Surprisingly, Manager Joe Girardi has announced they’ll call up Jordan Montgomery to make his much anticipated Major League Debut on Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.  

I think it’s a terrific move.  While I have been aware of the minor league accomplishments that Montgomery has achieved, I jumped on the bandwagon during Spring Training after watching him pitch.  I had been a big supporter for Mitchell but the tall young left-hander changed my mind.  I think it is tremendous to add another talented lefty to the rotation to go with CC Sabathia.  Montgomery may not profile as a frontline ace, but he can be a very effective Big League pitcher.  There will be bumps in the road but I think Montgomery can be an important part of the starting rotation when the team returns to contender status in the not-so-distant future.  

No word yet who has lost their spot on the 40-man roster.  You always have to worry about Rob Refsnyder given the lack of love he has been shown by Yankees management (regardless of how you or I feel about Ref).  I think it will probably be one of the lesser known younger pitchers but it’s really anybody’s guess for who will lose the seat at the table.

With Montgomery scheduled to start tomorrow, it pushes everyone else back a day.  Luis Severino will pitch on Thursday.  To make room on the 25-man roster for Montgomery, the Yankees have demoted lefty reliever Chasen Shreve to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  The decision regarding the 40-man roster, which was not announced, will be made by Wednesday.

Congratulations to Montgomery for his arrival at The Show and best of luck for much success on Wednesday for his Major League (and Yankee Stadium) debut!  Exciting times!  These are the steps that lay the foundation for the next World Series Championship!

It’s been announced that catcher Gary Sanchez will miss four weeks with a Grade 1 Strain of his  right brachialis muscle (behind his bicep).  I think all of us knew that this was going to be longer than a 10-Day DL stint.  A month is a long time, but all things considered, it could have been worse, much worse.  So, I guess we’ll just have delay the Yankees Regulars Reunion Party until May when Sanchez and Didi Gregorius both return.  

I’ve already seen a few articles speculating who the Yankees should acquire for interim catching help.  I think they’ll just go with the in-house candidates like they did for Didi Gregorius.  I would prefer to see a platoon between Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka rather than just give the job outright to Romine.  I really want to see what Higashioka has in his bat.  He was a late bloomer but I think he can be a better catcher than Romine.  Of the external candidates, the only name that sounds reasonably appealing to me is John Ryan Murphy of the Minnesota Twins.  But despite the good job Murphy did as the Yankees backup catcher a couple of seasons ago, he has had a difficult time staying on the Twins’ MLB roster and is currently at Triple A.  

With Sanchez out of the lineup, it’s critical for someone else to step up.  Could that guy be right fielder Aaron Judge?  Judge homered on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles and again yesterday on Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays.  He has done a good job in reducing strikeouts and maybe now his bat is coming around.  After struggling at each level, he has always overcome the challenges.  Let’s hope this is the start of success for Judge in the Major Leagues, his final frontier.  

Speaking of Opening Day, it was a magical day.  Prior to the game, I had hoped the significance of the day would help bring out the best in Pineda.  It did.  Big Mike pitched exactly the way we know he can.  He took a perfect game into the seventh inning before surrendering a double to Evan Longoria.  He lost the shutout in the eighth, thanks to a Logan Morrison home run.  Those would be the only hits (and run) allowed by Pineda, who went 7 2/3 innings.  He didn’t walk a batter and struck out eleven in one of his most magnificent performances in recent memory.  This is the Big Mike that can take us to the Promised Land.  

For the second day in a row, Aroldis Chapman saw a potential save opportunity evaporate due to multiple late inning runs.  After the top of the eighth inning was completed, the Yankees held a slim 3-1 lead.  It felt like we’d see Chapman in the ninth to try for his first save of the season.  He had even gotten up to throw in the pen but it was not meant to be as the Yankees easily scored five runs in the bottom of the 8th to ice the game.  So, for the ninth inning, Chasen Shreve cleanly delivered three outs with no hits, walks or runs, striking out one.  For his trouble, he received a free all-expenses paid one-way trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  

In addition to Judge’s fourth inning home run off Alex Cobb, Chase Headley and Starlin Castro also homered later in the game.  Matt Holliday had a good Yankee Stadium debut as he was 2-for-4, with a run scored and one ribbie.  Chris Carter, also making his Yankee Stadium debut, tripled to drive in a run during the eighth inning scoring explosion.

It was a GREAT day for the Yankees and their fans from beginning to end.  The day could not have been better scripted.  Well, I wouldn’t object to the erasure of Longoria’s hit or Morrison’s homer, but all things considered, it was a wonderful day in the Bronx neighborhood.  

For a day like yesterday, it’s fun to have a day off today to let the pleasing victory marinate.  Take these good feelings and channel them into the desire for a sensational debut performance tomorrow by New York Yankees starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery!  Wow, that does sound good…

Have a great Tuesday! 

The Dawn of the New Season…

It seems like we were just getting excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp.  Now, here we are at the end of the Grapefruit League season and awaiting the first pitch to start the 2017 MLB season.

It was a very successful Spring for the Yankees.  It was far better than I could have imagined.  Heading into Spring, we were concerned about Greg Bird.  He hit well late in the 2015 season but missed most of last year due to his shoulder injury.  There was doubt about how he would perform and if the shoulder would hold him back like, say, the way Mark Teixeira’s wrist did.  Bird smashed any concerns that he is ready.  I know that Spring stats do not really mean much, but Bird led the Yankees with 8 home runs and was second on the team behind Gary Sanchez with 15 RBI’s.  He played first base like a veteran and by all accounts, he is posed to be a future star in New York.  I’ve always thought of Bird as a professional hitter and not one who will be susceptible to prolonged slumps.  I am very glad to see that he is ready to fly (no pun intended).

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Credit:  John Raoux, AP

What can you say about Gary Sanchez?  He continued the great success from last Fall without missing a beat.  His bat delivered (5 homers and 16 RBI’s), and do did his arm (.983 fielding percentage in 102 innings worked, with a sub .500 stolen base percentage against him as he threw out 6 runners while only allow 4 SB’s).  He is arguably the most exciting Yankees catcher since Jorge Posada or to place him higher, Thurman Munson.  Good times ahead for the catching position, no doubt.

Aaron Judge held off Aaron Hicks to win right field in the Battle of Aarons.  I feel bad for Hicks because I know that he needs to play every day to be successful.  It’s hard to get into rhythm with limited, spot starts.  But I would have been very disappointed to see Hicks get the right field job over Judge.  At this point, sending Judge down to Triple A serves no purpose.  He has proven himself at that level.  He needs to master the Major Leagues and he can only do that by being here and playing every day.  His ceiling, if successful, is so much greater than Hicks.  Dating back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, I love powerful right fielders at Yankee Stadium.

If I was the General Manager of the Yankees, Brett Gardner would be living in a different zip code.  Nothing against Gardner, he’s been a good Yankee but his best days are behind him.  He needs to open the way for younger guys.  I’d prefer to start Hicks in left over Gardner, so I’d find a way to move Gardy even if the return is not ideal.  The perfect scenario would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and move Gardner to center, but that’s not going to happen with nearly $90 million left on Ellsbury’s contract.

In the starting rotation, Luis Severino won the fourth spot but it was not an overpowering Spring performance.  Last year, Severino chased his first win as a starter without success (he picked up a few wins in the bullpen but was 0-8 in his starts).  I really hopeful that we do not go weeks or months trying to get that elusive first win this year.  Severino has so much potential but he still leaves so many wondering if his stuff plays better out of the pen.  It would be nice if he could prove those naysayers wrong (including me) to become a vital part of the rotation.

Manager Joe Girardi has delayed his decision for a fifth starter.  With three scheduled off days during April including two days in the first week, a fifth starter is not needed until Sunday, April 16th at home against the St Louis Cardinals.  Of the competitors for the fifth spot, only Bryan Mitchell made the Opening Day roster as a reliever.  Chad Green will go down to AA Trenton while Jordan Montgomery will go to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Both Green and Montgomery will have early April starts in the minors for further auditions.  I am sure that Mitchell will get some audition opportunities through long relief.  Mitchell had been my favorite for the rotation but Jordan Montgomery changed my mind.  So, I am hopeful that Montgomery gets the call-up when it is time for the fifth starter.

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Credit:  Associated Press

I was glad to see Chasen Shreve make the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind Tommy Layne.  Well, technically the third but Aroldis Chapman doesn’t really count since he’s on the mound at the end of games regardless of who is at the plate.  When the Yankees toyed with the minor league signings of Ernesto Frieri and Jon Niese, I was fearful that Shreve would be one of the odd men out.  Perhaps he still is given the Yankees’ propensity for the using the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle to keep the bullpen fresh.  Another young reliever I am happy for is Jonathan Holder.

Utility player Ronald Torreyes won the interim shortstop role while Didi Gregorius begins the year on the Disabled List.  I am not excited about Torreyes in an every day role, but there were limited internal options.  The Yankees will make room on the 40-man roster to bring up Pete Kozma to back up Torreyes, but Kozma has no bat.  It did not make sense for the Yankees to trade for a shortstop since Didi will be back by the end of April or early May, and, unfortunately,  prospect Tyler Wade is not quite ready.  I also didn’t want to see the Yankees slide Starlin Castro back to short.  He is still relatively inexperienced at second and needs to continue his work at the position.  The Yankees obviously agreed as they never played Castro at short during training camp.  Many thought the Yankees should have slid Castro to short to allow Rob Refsnyder to start at second.  I am not sure that Refsnyder, for whatever reason, will ever get a legitimate chance in the Bronx.  He was sent down to AAA for the start of the season with earlier reports that he was on the trading block.

I am not expecting this to be a playoff year for the Yankees.  They could surprise and nab a Wild Card spot but I don’t think this is their year to unseat the Boston Red Sox as AL East Champions.  They are still a year or two away from being a legitimate World Series contender.  I do think this will be a more exciting team than last year’s team from beginning to end.  The Baby Bombers proved that last year when the deadline deals moved Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians, and Alex Rodriguez was released.  It was only a preview of the excitement and energy the younger players can bring, which is further enhanced by the presence of Greg Bird this year.

Despite the quick arrival of the regular season, I am ready.  Play ball!…

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