Tagged: Sonny Gray

Losing the Battle of Baltimore…

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Photo Credit: The Baltimore Sun/TNS (Karl Merton Ferron)

Splitting the Series is better than losing it but…

Why is it that the Yankees waited until the final game of the series in Baltimore to play like they are supposed to against Baseball’s worst professional team? Okay, I’ll give you the Luis Cessa game but realistically, the Yankees should have taken three of four or all four of the games in B-more.

Sonny Gray was great last night, but honestly, I still do not trust the pitcher. He has a long way to go before I’ll have confidence in his starts. One game does not a season make.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Scott Taetsch)

If the Yankees lose the AL East, the deciding factor will be the Battle of Baltimore. The Boston Red Sox have beaten the O’s nine times out of ten, while the Yanks and Orioles have split ten games. If the Yankees had matched Boston’s record against the woeful O’s, the Yankees would have had a better winning percentage than the Red Sox even though the Sox have currently won nine games in a row.

The Yankees face a tough challenge starting tonight with a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians.  The pitching matchup for the opener doesn’t get any better than the marquee event pitting Luis Severino (14-2, 2.12 ERA) against Corey Kluber (12-4, 2.49 ERA). The Yankees swept the Indians in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium in early May but it took two walk-off performances. In the latest series, the Indians will have last at-bat. The Indians (50-41) currently hold an 8 ½ game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. Cleveland’s had some bullpen issues but they remain a very dangerous team. I learned long ago to never underestimate Cleveland manager Terry Francona.

The Yankees (60-31) have fallen 3 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East after no more than a two-game separation in June.  Boston is on a historic run for their organization. There’s still plenty of time for the Yankees to catch Boston but hats off to them for their refusal to lose. Earlier in the season, I was a bit frustrated by Boston’s cream puff schedule (seemed like they were mostly playing losing teams) but the truth is they know how to beat those teams better than the Yankees. For the Yankees to have a better record against winning teams than the losers, it makes no sense to me. They really need to stop playing down to the level of their opponents and start playing more like last night’s game.

I am not sure what to think about the Manny Machado rumors which have been running rampant the last couple of days. I’d love to have Manny in Pinstripes. But acquiring Manny only seems to make sense if the Yankees already have a plan in place to acquire an upper echelon starting pitcher, they are fearful the Red Sox might swoop in and grab him, or if they see the pitching market as a collection of Sonny Grays and feel that making further enhancements to the team’s potent offense is the way to go.

I am intrigued by the idea of having Manny on my team. He is one of the best players in the game today.  Probably the only deal-killer for me is if he continues to insist on playing shortstop. I have no desire to replace Didi Gregorius. But if Miguel Andujar is included in a deal for a top starting pitcher or if the Yankees decide to move Andujar to first base to make room for Manny at third, I am on board. I know Greg Bird has hit home runs in the last couple of games including a grand slam yesterday, but health-wise and production-wise, I have more faith in Andujar than I do Bird. I could be very wrong on this given Bird’s history as a clutch performer in the Minor Leagues, but conversely, I am all about doing whatever is necessary to make the Yankees a better team. There’s no guarantee the Yankees re-sign Machado after the season so that’s certainly the risk of trading top prospects to Baltimore who could potentially become Yankee killers. Growing up, it bothered me to see Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez and Rick Dempsey thrive in Baltimore after starting their careers with the Yankees. Not that they were great players (although McGregor did win 20 games for the O’s in 1980) but it’s hard to see your team’s prospects thrive elsewhere, particularly for teams in the AL East. I’d like to think that Manny would enjoy his time in the Bronx and would aggressively work to stay. I don’t think the Yankees would make the move to acquire Machado unless they felt they had a strong chance to sign him to a new contract after the season. Not that I think he’d give the Yankees any type of discount (in fact, it might the opposite given the high cost of living in America’s largest city), but it would be better than him going to Los Angeles and developing a love for Dodger Blue or becoming a Beer King in Milwaukee.

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So, my vote is to acquire Machado now. Realistically, I don’t think he ends up in New York, at least not yet but it’s fun to think about.

I enjoyed hearing that Justus Sheffield would not be part of any trade for Machado but I would absolutely include Top Sheff in a deal for an ace like Jacob deGrom, Blake Snell or Madison Bumgarner. I wouldn’t do it for one of the lesser caliber pitchers including Michael Fulmer. The Yankees have a wealth of talented young arms in the system. There’s simply no way every one of them will reach the Majors with the Yankees. If Sheffield leaves, other young, talented pitchers will ascend to the top of the prospect lists.  Luis Medina was drawn much praise this season, and Luis Gil, acquired from the Minnesota Twins, is drawing accolades in the lower level of the farm system.  I still have very high hopes for Albert Abreu and Domingo Acevedo but you keep hearing great things about guys like Trevor Stephan, Nick Nelson, Garrett Whitlock and others. The top pitching prospects tend to be mostly right-handers (unlike Sheffield) but I would trade a potential ace for a proven ace any day of the week, especially considering the team is prepared to win now.

I want the Yankees to capture the World Series THIS year, not next year or the year after (well, actually I want all of the above but for now, let’s take the 2018 World Series). I don’t want to see the team play a one-game Wild Card ‘do-or-die’ playoff to determine their fate. Even a five-game series is not a true test of the best team, but that’s better than ending the season because of one off-night. So I am in favor of whatever GM Brian Cashman wants to do to improve the Yankees and their chances for October. There will be painful losses. As they say, you have to give up quality to get quality. The Chicago Cubs felt it was the right thing to do to give up their top prospect a couple of years ago for a chance to win the 2016 World Series. The Yankees were the beneficiary of that decision but now they are the team with the great opportunity to win it all.  We’ve had trust in Cashman’s decisions up to this point so there’s no reason to believe that he’s going to go ‘George Steinbrenner-style’ and start trading away premier prospects for aging veterans who have seen their better days. I always trust Cash with the vision to simultaneously look at today and tomorrow. He has not led us astray yet.

I am kind of glad that Giancarlo Stanton is not going to this year’s All-Star Game. He’s heating up and I’d prefer to see him take some rest days next week. I am really glad that he opted to pass on the Home Run Derby even though it means no Yankees will be represented. We need Giancarlo humming through October and I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks with him. Hopefully AL Manager A.J. Hinch opts to replace Aaron Judge sooner rather than later in right field and Luis Severino doesn’t pitch more than an inning. We need a rested and ready team for the second half.

I don’t envy Brian Cashman. He has some very tough decisions to make in the coming days and weeks leading up to the non-waiver trading deadline at the end of the month. Even if he does nothing, the Yankees still have a very good team. We need starting pitching but that’s been a known fact for a very long time. When opportunity presents itself, guys step up. Either Cashman believes in the guys we have or he sees opportunity with players currently wearing other uniforms. Regardless, he has my faith and confidence. He’ll do the right thing, and we’ll be enjoying some great baseball in October.  Life is good.

Go Yankees!

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Life’s a Gardy Party…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yanks Vet lead Bombers past Blue Jays….

Brett Gardner may be the oldest position player on the Yankees roster, but age didn’t slow him down on Saturday. He took the first offering from Toronto Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ and deposited it into the right center field stands, much to the chagrin of the Blue Jays crowd. Not to be outdone, Aaron Judge followed Gardy with a homer to right. Back-to-back jacks are a very nice way to start the day (unless the guys play for the other team, of course).

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

The first inning continued with walks of both Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks. Happ was able to strike out both Miguel Andujar and Didi Gregorius, and might have been able to get out of the inning without further damage if not for Brandon Drury. Drury laced a double to center which bounced in front of Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar and up off his glove to score both Stanton and Hicks. The Yankees had a 4-0 lead and Luis Severino had yet to throw a pitch. It looked like Kyle Higashioka was going to get a hit for extra bases but a great diving catch to end the inning was made by former Yankee Curtis Granderson. Grandy’s way of keeping Higgy’s homer streak intact although Higgy would later blow it with an eighth inning single.

It looked like the second inning might be another big one for the Yankees. A couple of walks and an infield single had the bases loaded against Happ and only one out. Happ was able to escape the jam when he struck out both Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andujar.

Kevin Pillar made an atonement for his inability to get to Drury’s hit in the first inning when he blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the second inning to bring the Jays within two of the Yankees.

Didi Gregorius led off the third inning against Happ with a walk.  He advanced to second on a two-out steal, although Greg Bird took a walk that would have pushed Didi to second anyway. The Bird walk ended Happ’s not-so-pretty audition for the Yankees. The Jays brought in reliever Jake Petricka to face Brett Gardner. With the two men on base, Gardy tripled to deep center to add two more runs.  He scored when a Petricka pitch got by Jays catcher Luke Maile for a passed ball. The Yankees led the Blue Jays, 7-2.

The Jays got to Luis Severino again in the fourth inning when Randal Grichuk homered to left, a solo shot.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Yankees made some defensive changes with Clint Frazier, called up earlier in the day after David Hale had been DFA’d, entering the game in left and Brett Gardner sliding over to center to replace Aaron Hicks. The Hicks exit was later described as cramping and not considered serious.

Severino exited the game after completing the fifth inning. It was not one of his better performances but he was in position for the win. For five innings  of work and 97 pitches, he gave up five hits and three runs. He walked a couple of batters and struck out five. The two uncharacteristic homers increased his season ERA to 2.12 which is still very, very good.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

Jonathan Holder replaced Sevy in the sixth and was greeted by a double from Justin Smoak when Brett Gardner was unable to make the backhanded catch in center. Kendrys Morales singled to put runners at the corners for Kevin Pillar. Pillar lofted a fly to center that was deep enough to score Smoak and it was 7-4. Holder was able to retire the next two to get out of the inning. All things considered, it could have been worse.

The Yankees had the bases loaded again in the top of the eighth inning with two outs but Clint Frazier grounded into a fielder’s choice at short to strand the runners. I had really been hoping that Red Thunder could come up big in that spot but it was not meant to be.

In the top of the ninth, Miguel Andujar led off with a ground rule double to left that bounced off the chalk line into the stands against Jays reliever Rhiner Cruz. It was Andujar’s 25th double of the season. A single to left field by Sir Didi brought Andujar home with the Yankees’ eighth run. With two outs and two men on, Cruz left the game with an apparent injury but John Axford came into retire Brett Gardner on three consecutive strikes to prevent the Yankees from adding any further insurance runs.

For the Jays’ last swings, Manager Aaron Boone made the curious decision to bring in Aroldis Chapman in the non-save situation. Chapman had been warming up in the bullpen along with Chasen Shreve. Not that I wanted to see Shreve enter a game, but with a double-header against Baltimore coming up on Monday, I wanted to make sure that Chapman was rested and ready. Boone had other thoughts, but after Chapman struck out Randal Grichuck, he appeared to land poorly on his left knee (has been dealing with tendonitis in the knee). Boone opted not to take any chances (was observed mouthing it was “not worth it”) and pulled Chappy.  Chasen Shreve came in and was able to retire Luke Maile with a come-backer to the mound for the second out. But then Aledmys Diaz blasted a ‘no doubt about it’ shot to left center to make it a three-run game again. Thoughts of “Chasen Shreve, you suck!” started seeping into my mind but fortunately he was able to strike out Teoscar Hernandez to end the game.  Yankees win, 8-5.

My frustration with this game was the continued problem with men in scoring position. The Yankees ended up leaving eleven men on base and were unable to score two separate times with the bases loaded. Fortunately, the offense was strong enough to withstand the comeback by the Blue Jays.

Even if it was not one of Luis Severino’s better performances, he picked up his league-leading 14th victory of the season. At 14-2, this is reminiscent of the great season posted by Ron Guidry in 1978 when he finished 25-3 with 1.74 ERA. I liked Aaron Boone’s quote that he didn’t mind if Sevy started the All-Star Game…but was pulled after an inning. I hear ya, Skip.  We need this dude for the second half.

Nice job by Dellin Betances yet again. I love it. I am so glad to see the big guy back on track and pitching like the perennial All-Star he is.  An inning of work.  No hits, no runs, two strikeouts.  Just another day at the office.  He has owned the eighth inning for months and it does not bode well for American League hitters.

The Yankees (57-29) remained two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Red Sox spotted the Kansas City Royals an early 3-0 lead and then pounded them into submission with a 15-4 drubbing. It was a costly victory for the Sox as they lost their starting catcher, Christian Vasquez, with a broken pinky. It is unclear how much time Vasquez will miss, but he’s headed for the 10-day DL so he’ll be out for at least ten days dependent upon the severity of the injury. I hate to see anyone get hurt and I always believe in playing the best team possible so it is my hope that Vasquez is able to rebound from the injury very quickly.

Looking at the pitching lines for the most rumored Yankees targets yesterday were mostly forgettable, but one stands out. I think I know which pitcher I want. Blake Snell is a guy that I’d gladly trade a boatload of top prospects for.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Listening to the Blue Jays TV announcers yesterday (which included former Yankee Pat Tabler), they were speculating that the pitcher (or pitchers) GM Brian Cashman will acquire by the trading deadline are most likely name(s) we are not currently hearing associated with the Yankees. It makes sense. After all, Cash did legitimately earn his Ninja nickname. I remain hopeful that he’ll bring in a top arm or two, leaving all of us flabbergasted at how he did it…once again.

The best Tweet on Twitter yesterday was the one by the fake Ken Rosenthal reporting the Yankees had traded Sonny Gray to the Oakland A’s for a glazed doughnut. One commenter said the most disappointing part was realizing the tweet was fake and the Yankees weren’t really getting glazed doughnut back. Nice…

It’s Domingo German Day. A great day to end the latest Canadian visit with a win. Go Yankees!

Well, That Was Disappointing…

Photo Credit: AP (Fred Thornhill)

Sonny Gray leads Yanks to another loss…

I was worried when I saw that Sonny Gray would be starting for the Yankees on Friday night to open the three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Gray can’t bat so I can’t speak for the offense but Sonny Gray Sucked!

I am tiring of his presence on the Yankees roster. Some guys just are not cut out for the Pinstripes and I am starting to think that Gray and the Yankees are not a good fit. He has the stuff to attack hitters but his approach to each game always seems a little off. Gray, single-handedly, could be the reason the Yankees are fighting for a Wild Card spot in September versus walking away with the division. Bryan Van Dusen mentioned it yesterday but the Yankees could win over 100 games only to see their season ended on a one-and-done playoff game.

It has gotten to the point that I trust Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga more than I do Gray. Nothing against those guys, but they are not who I want on the mound when the calendar page turns to October. In the years ahead, I am sure German and Loaisiga will be trusted playoff arms but they’re not ready for that type of pressure quite yet.  The Yankees need a legitimate #2 starter to slot in behind Luis Severino. I thought Sonny Gray would be that guy but clearly he is not. CC Sabathia is a great guy and someone who has reinvented himself but, seriously, the guy is going to be 38 in a couple of weeks. He’s not exactly in Tom Brady-like condition. Masahiro Tanaka, scheduled to be activated off the disabled list in a couple of days, has to prove that he is the Masahiro of old and not the guy who likes to play Homer Ball. That remains to be seen. I am concerned, very concerned, about the current state of the pitching staff for any guy not named Luis Severino.

Sorry, this is my therapy. I have to get out my anger and frustration with Gray.

The Yankees looked like they were in good shape when the game started. Brett Gardner’s single and a steal plus a walk by Giancarlo Stanton had runners at the corners with two outs in the first inning. Unfortunately, Didi Gregorius struck out against Blue Jays start Sam Gaviglio to leave Gardy and Giancarlo stranded, taking a called third strike after changing out his bats.

The first warning sign for Gray came in the bottom of the first when he loaded the bases with a couple of walks and a hit. He escaped any damage when he struck out Russell Martin, but it was a signal of things to come.

Gray lost the game with his pathetic second inning when nine Jays batters came to the plate.  Randal Grichuk opened the inning with a double to left. He advanced to third on a ground out, and scored when Devon Travis singled up the middle. A wild pitch by Gray allowed Travis to take second, putting him in position to score when Curtis Granderson singled to right. After Teoscar Hernandez struck out for the second out, Yangervis Solarte singled to center to put two men on base for Justin Smoak. After taking a called strike, Smoak smoked a Gray pitch into the right field stands to give the Blue Jays a 5-0 lead.  Gray proceeded to hit Kevin Pillar to put another runner on base, but he was able to strike out Martin again to end the inning.

Mercifully, Gray was finished for the game.  His final pitching line was awful. Two innings, six hits, five runs, and two walks. He threw 62 pitches in those fateful two innings. I’d mention the four strikeouts but there were no positive takeaways from Gray’s performance. More and more, Gray looks like a perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Pirates to me.

Photo Credit: The Canadian Press via AP (Fred Thornhill)

David Hale entered the game for Gray in the bottom of the third inning. Although he did allow an 8th inning RBI double, he was much more effective than Gray. He gave the team length with 5 2/3 innings, and limited the Jays to only one run on five hits and a walk. In other words, he did his job…unlike Gray.

The Yankees had their opportunities. The Yankees offense could have gotten the team back into this game despite Gray. Aaron Hicks got the Yankees on the board with a solo shot in the top of the third inning.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Four runs down, the Yankees had the bases loaded in the fifth inning with only one out. Aaron Hicks took a walk to force in the Yankees’ second run of the game, setting up a perfect opportunity for Giancarlo Stanton. One swing of the bat and the Yankees could have taken the lead. Sadly, he struck out with the bat on his shoulder and Didi Gregorius lined out to left for the final out leaving the bases juiced. A huge missed opportunity.

The Yankees had the tying run at the plate in the top of the eighth inning for Austin Romine but he struck out looking to waste what would prove to be the last real chance the Yankees had to get back into the game.

Tyler Clippard, Tyler Friggin’ Clippard who couldn’t prevent a run to save his life last year for the Yankees, shut his old team down in the ninth with three up and three down.

The Yankees loss, combined with a Red Sox win, puts Boston two games up in the AL East. The teams are tied in the loss column but the Red Sox have four more wins. It’s too early to look at the Standings (I know) but the Yankees hold a two-game advantage on the Seattle Mariners for the top Wild Card spot. Everyone talks about how great this Yankees team is, but right now, the Red Sox are better.  They are not showing any signs of losing anytime soon. They, unlike the Yankees, are getting the big hits to win games. Throwing Chris Sale at the Kansas City Royals is a mismatch any day of the week, but a win is a win and the Sox keep winning.

Neil Walker got the first start at second base in place of the injured Gleyber Torres. He was 0-for-3 with a walk. His season batting line is .185/.268/.254. Like Gray, I’ve seen enough of Walker. I’d really prefer to see Brandon Drury or even Tyler Wade starting at second.

Many news reports yesterday linked the Yankees to Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas as a potential first base option over Greg Bird. I haven’t really warmed up to the possibility although I recognize that Bird needs to start hitting and soon. Moose Tacos has had a cold bat of late, but he did blast a two-run bomb against the Red Sox last night in a losing effort.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Denny Medley)

The Yankees get a look at another potential trade candidate today when they face J.A. Happ (10-4, 4.03 ERA). Happ was shelled his last time out when he gave up seven runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers. It was the second time this season that Happ has given up seven runs in a game. The Yankees will counter with Luis Severino (13-2, 1.98 ERA). It’s easy to say that I feel more confident heading into today’s game than I did last night.

Let’s get a win today. Go Yankees!

Hey Cash, Omar’s on Line 1…

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‘Tis the Season to Make Trades…

I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of July and the excitement of the non-waiver trading deadline at the end of the month. It’s my favorite time of the year except for when the Yankees are playing in the Fall Classic. We know that GM Brian Cashman has openly talked about adding starting pitching since last winter. Yet, admittedly, I am starting to feel like a bit of a prospect-hugger.

I’ve seen the names of Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ and have dreamed what they might look like in Pinstripes, but the more I think about it, the more I think they are not worth the price of admission.

Here are the top ten Yankees prospects according to MLB.com:

Outfielder Estevan Florial

LHP Justus Sheffield

RHP Albert Abreu

RHP Chance Adams

RHP Luis Medina

RHP Freicer Perez

RHP Domingo Acevedo

SS/2B Thairo Estrada

RHP Dillon Tate

RHP Matt Sauer

Perez is out for the year after surgery last month to clean up bone spurs in his right shoulder, but I know the Yankees are very high on him.  There’s not a name that I would want to sacrifice for a “rental”. I would absolutely hate to see the Yankees send someone like Albert Abreu to Toronto for a couple of months of J.A. Happ. Happ is not going to be a difference-maker in October and Abreu has the potential to haunt the Yankees for years.  That’s not worth it to me.

If the Yankees are going to send talented, high-ranked prospects out of the organization, it needs to be for frontline players. I know it’s unlikely the Yankees will pry Jacob deGrom from the New York Mets, but that’s how high the Yankees need to set their sights.  Otherwise, we’re just throwing talent away.

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I think the Yankees will have another starting pitcher by the end of the month, but I hope that it’s not an overpay situation. I would like to see an upgrade for Chasen Shreve’s spot in the bullpen even if the pitcher’s last couple of outings have been decent.  I am sure that Cashman is burning the midnight oil and is making daily phone calls to his buddies around both leagues. My hope is that he surprises us with a significant upgrade. He has done it before and there’s no reason he can’t do it again.  He has 26 days counting today. No pressure, Cash, the eyes of the Yankees Universe are upon you.

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The Boston Red Sox are rumored to be looking at Tampa Bay’s Nathan Eovaldi. I wouldn’t really want Nasty Nate back in Pinstripes but I can’t say that I’d be too excited to see him in Boston. I’d rather see him go someplace like Atlanta if he is moved as expected.

It’s sounding increasingly like the Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado. There’s no real chance the Yankees are in play nor should they be. He’s another player that I’d hate to see end up in Boston, although I don’t think the Red Sox have the prospects to entice the O’s to trade within the division (or least I hope hot).  For the sake of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I hope Machado does not go to Brandon Drury’s old team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. I’ve heard the Philadelphia Phillies mentioned but I think the Philly market is too close to Baltimore. It would be hard for the Angelos family to watch Manny thrive in the Delaware Valley. The St Louis Cardinals make perfect sense to me as a possible destination. Last off-season, it felt like Manny would be an eventual Yankee but now I am not so sure. There’s also a chance that Manny goes someplace that he really likes and decides to stay for his next contract (like the NBA’s Paul George just did in opting to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder after it had been rumored for months, even years, that the Palmdale, CA native was destined to play for the Los Angeles Lakers). I am a little miffed about George although I have my new LeBron James shirt to pacify me.

The Los Angeles Dodgers failure to sign their first round pick in the recent MLB Draft showed me how fortunate the Yankees were to lock up young high school catcher Anthony Seigler. Prior to the draft, Seigler had committed and signed to play for the University of Florida. He bypassed that opportunity when he signed with the Yankees, and admittedly, it was a huge sacrifice on his part despite the dollars he received from the Yankees. There are no guarantees that he’ll make the Major Leagues but a college education is forever. It’s always a wakeup call for how much these guys sacrifice to play the game we all love. So very few ever make the millions and millions that await guys like Machado and Bryce Harper. For the Dodgers, they lost J.T. Ginn, a hard-throwing high school pitcher from Mississippi who announced that he’ll attend Mississippi State instead of signing with the them. The Dodgers had taken Ginn with the 30th pick in last month’s draft. They also lost another first-rounder four years ago when Louisville pitcher Kyle Funkhouser opted to stay in school for an additional year. You certainly cannot blame these young men for trying to better their lives as they see fit. But conversely, it underscores the risk of trying to sign young players. I wish everyone who tried could succeed but unfortunately life doesn’t work that way and there are not enough opportunities to go around. So, we make the best we can do, one day at a time.

As expected, infielder Tyler Wade will be promoted to the active roster today to replace Gleyber Torres who was placed on the 10-day DL on Wednesday. I had been quietly hoping for the promotion of Clint Frazier but the presence of Wade makes more sense in terms of roster makeup. I’d really prefer to see Wade and Brandon Drury get the opportunities at second over Neil Walker. Walker remains my preferred DFA candidate. After it had been announced that Wade would be called up before today’s game in Toronto, all Clint Frazier did was hit two home runs and drive in four runs in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s 9-6 win over the Buffalo Bisons. Clint, we miss you.

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Lastly, Jon Paul Morosi wrote on MLB.com earlier today that the Yankees have considered trading for Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas with the intent to play him at first base. Nothing against Moose Tacos. I like him well enough but he has less experience at first base than Brandon Drury. I remain hopeful that Greg Bird will start hitting like we know he can. If he does, Moustakas is better off going to Atlanta. If there is any truth to the rumor, I guess it at least shows that Brian Cashman is thinking outside the box.

After a day of no Yankees baseball, our team will soon take the field against at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario. It’s a wonderful day for a Yankees win. Oh crap, Sonny Gray is on the mound. On the bright side, at least the game is not being played at Yankee Stadium. Time for #55 to start showing us he is a reliable part of the rotation.

Go Yankees!

A Gray-fully Pathetic Start…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Can I get the Men in Black Neuralyzer, please?…

Aargh! That’s one game that I’d just as soon forget. It looked like a mismatch on paper with Chris Sale versus Sonny Gray and sadly it was. The Yankees were hammered 11-0 and could only muster two hits against Sale and the Red Sox bullpen. No game highlights for this one. Maybe the mercy killing when Aaron Boone finally pulled Gray with one out in the third inning after 68 miserable pitches.

Of course this game was not all on Gray. Despite the seven hits and six runs he allowed, the bullpen was not up to the task  as they would let five more Red Sox runners cross home plate and the Yankees hitters could not buy a hit on Sale. When Giancarlo Stanton singled in the first inning, it was the first and only hit that Sale would give up. By the time he departed after seven innings, he had racked up eleven strikeouts. Gleyber Torres registered the second hit for the Yankees with a meaningless two-out single in the ninth against Sox reliever Hector Velasquez but the Yankees were unable to get any extra base hits on this night. By the time it was done, the Sox had accumulated 17 hits (or 15 more than the Yankees) and Chris Sale had the easy victory over the Yankees.

I hate games that are over before they really start and that’s what happened yesterday. A grand slam in the first inning by Rafael Devers gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead before the Yankees had taken an at-bat.

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

The Red Sox picked up a couple more runs in the second inning and the most positive of Yankees fans (which wouldn’t include me) were screaming that it was still early and lots of time to make up ground. Unfortunately, the Yankees were never in this one.  It’s best to forget the loss and look forward to today when a much more reliable starting pitcher takes the mound for the Yankees. Of course that could be any other pitcher in the Yankees starting rotation not named Sonny Gray but thankfully for us it will be Luis Severino as the Yankees attempt to take the series despite the pitiful loss on Saturday. My goal for this series was to take two of three and it’s still very possible.

I really think we need to come to the realization that Sonny Gray is not cut out for New York.  It happens. Not every pitcher is meant to play on Baseball’s biggest stage. I am sure that he can be a very good pitcher for a team in a more forgiving and less pressurized environment. He has all the makings of a future Pittsburgh Pirates starter, following in the footsteps of former Yankees A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova. Or send him back to Oakland. The A’s are third in the Wild Card standings and have three months to make up seven games on the Seattle Mariners. Maybe they’d like to get their former ace back for the stretch run. I keep waiting for Gray to have his Yankees moment but it never happens.

After the game, he was quoted as saying “I feel like we’re the best team in baseball four out of five days, and then I go out and do that.  It just sucks.” I guess even he acknowledges that Sonny Gray sucks.

I have seen a few suggestions that the Yankees should trade Gray-for-Gray. Jon Gray of the Colorado Rockies is another pitcher who might benefit from a change in scenery. The Rockies optioned Gray to Triple A yesterday.  He is 7-7 with a 5.77 ERA for the season, but has ace-like stuff. In 108 innings this season, he has struck out 119 batters (fourth in the NL) and has only allowed 11 homers which is noteworthy considering he pitches in the hitter-friendly high altitude of Coors Field. The Yankees drafted Gray in the tenth round of the 2011 MLB Draft but he did not sign. Nonetheless, he’s a pitcher they’ve scouted and potentially one they could turn around. I’d gladly send Sonny Gray and a prospect to Colorado for Jon Gray.

I’ve been talking up Brandon Drury for weeks and in his return to the lineup, he goes 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. But it wasn’t just him. Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres also struck out three times. An O-fer night was prevalent among most of the hitters.

As if it wasn’t bad enough, the Yankees lost catcher Austin Romine after six innings when he tweaked his left hammy. MRI results came back negative, but it most likely means that Romine will be lost for a few games even if a trip to the disabled list is not in the cards. Kyle Higashioka, 0-for-21 in his MLB career, becomes the starter if Romine misses any time. If the Yankees have to bring up a catcher from the minor leagues, they’ll have to make room on the 40-man roster (with several guys on the 60-day DL, I believe the 40-man currently stands at 39). The most likely and the most expendable option appears to be 34-year-old Wilkin Castillo. Castillo hasn’t appeared in the Major Leagues since 2009 with the Cincinnati Reds. I liked some of the work that 27-year-old Jorge Saez did during Spring Training but he has missed time this year with injury and has only appeared in 15 games for Double-A Trenton, batting .224/.296/.245 (no homers, 3 RBI’s). Currently healthy, his last ribbie happened on April 21st so Saez does not appear to be ready for a promotion. The injuries at catcher certainly reveal the lack of depth at the position, at least in the upper levels of the farm system and why the Yankees went so heavy for catchers in the recent draft. I kind of wish the Yankees had held onto Erik Kratz, who was traded to Milwaukee in May.  Ronald Torreyes has been listed as an emergency catcher in the past. Okay, I wouldn’t trust Toe catching but his bat would certainly be more reliable than others. However, I believe that he is currently on a personal leave of absence at Triple A. Another catching option, Francisco Diaz, delivered a game-winning walk-off RBI single yesterday as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders took down the Pawtucket Red Sox in extra innings. Diaz, 28, is hitting .302/.417/.373, with a homer and 20 RBI’s in 41 games (mostly at the Single and Double A levels). Whichever catching option gets promoted will lose his 40-man roster spot when the need is over which makes it seem like Castillo is the best option.

Photo Credit: Newsday (J Conrad Williams, Jr)

The loss dropped the Yankees (53-27) a game behind the Red Sox (56-28) in the AL East, and two games ahead of the Mariners in the Wild Card standings.  The Yankees still have the second best winning percentage in MLB.  The third-place Tampa Bay Rays beat the Houston Astros, the team many call the best team in Baseball, and Justin Verlander to reach .500.

After the game, the Yankees optioned Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A. So, they have an open spot on the active roster. You’d think they would fill the position with a pitcher since they previously sacrificed a pitcher to promote Brandon Drury. So, if the Yankees do promote a catcher, it would seem that a position player (Drury?) will have to go the other way. Using a catcher to fill the spot vacated by Gallegos would leave the Yankees with only eleven pitchers which seems very unlikely. Sorry, Brandon, you look like the odd man out even if I’d rather see Neil Walker get DFA’d.

It’s a new day. Today is a good day. A great day for a Yankees win. We got this. Go Yankees!

I Thought the Yankees Owned Tampa…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)

Tampa’s Best Resident treated rudely by the St Pete Rays…

The last couple of days have not been fun.

I was afraid after the Yankees finished off the sweep of the surging Seattle Mariners, the Yankees might struggle against a losing team. I know, every team goes through mini-slumps and it is inevitable the Yankees will lose from time to time as difficult as it may be for Yankees fans. They’ll eventually lose around sixty games (give or take) by the time the season is finished so Loss #24 on June 23rd is not the end of the World. Winning 116 games in the regular season does not guarantee anything. Just ask the Mariners. The goal is to win the division, not to see if the Yankees can top the 114 victories by the 1998 Yankees.

I think the toughest part of Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was the inability of the Yankees to score runs off the Rays rotation by bullpen. Trailing 2-0 in the 7th inning, Aaron Judge delivered a run-scoring single off one-time brief Yankee Chaz Roe and had the Yankees set up in scoring position with Brett Gardner at second and Judge at first and only one out. But both Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorious both grounded out to end the Yankees best chance to tie the game. Otherwise, it was a very quiet night.

On the same night as the Yankees were floundering in St Petersburg, the Boston Red Sox overcame deficits of 0-5 and 5-10 to defeat the Seattle Mariners by a score of 14-10. The Yankees couldn’t squeeze out one more run while the Red Sox had no problem erasing not one but two five-run deficits.

Yesterday’s loss might have been easier to take for no other reason than the Red Sox finally lost. The Mariners snapped their five-game losing skid with a 7-2 victory over Boston and nine-game winner Edwin Rodriguez.

There were not very many positives with Saturday’s game as the Rays bullpen held the Yankees scoreless on four hits en route to the 4-0 win over the Yanks. Sonny Gray gave up three runs in the first two innings to put the Yankees in a hole and the last hitter he faced in the bottom of the 7th, rookie Willy Adames, took him yard. Credit Gray for the stretch of hitters when he retired 15 Rays in a row, but ultimately it was just another loss for the disappointing Gray (5-5, 4.93 ERA).

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I do not understand Wilmer Font’s mastery of the Yankees. Font lost jobs earlier this year with the Los Angeles Dodgers (11.32 ERA) and Oakland A’s (14.85 ERA) but against the Yankees, Font is 1-0 and has limited the team to only 2 runs over 11 1/3 innings with 9 strikeouts. The Yankees have almost single-handedly revived Font’s career.

The most painful at-bat for me yesterday was Giancarlo Stanton’s strikeout (against Rays reliever and Friday night’s “opener” Ryne Stanek) to end the top of the 6th inning, leaving Aaron Judge stranded at third. Leaving runners in scoring position has plagued the Yankees in both losses and the last couple of weeks. Friday night, they were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and they left nine men on base. Yesterday, they were 1-for-8 (Didi Gregorius advanced Judge from second to third prior to Stanton’s swinging strikeout) but couldn’t get anyone home.

The Yankees offense really hasn’t done anything since the two-homer outburst in the first inning of the series finale with the Mariners last Thursday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)

The Yankees (50-24) hold a slim one-game lead over the Red Sox (51-27) in the AL East. After helping the Rays climb closer to .500, the Yankees have a tough week ahead. When today’s game is over, they’ll hop on a plane bound for Philadelphia to play a three-game set against the Phillies. The Phillies currently have a better record than the Washington Nationals and sit just a game and a half behind the surprising Atlanta Braves in the NL East. There’s no doubt they’ll be ready to play when the Yankees come to town. The Phillies are riding a three-game winning streak entering play today. After a much-needed day off on Thursday, the Yankees return home to face the Boston Red Sox for three games next weekend. The Braves follow the Red Sox so the Yankees have clearly missed an opportunity to beat up on a losing team before another difficult stretch. Time to get the team’s offense going. Today is better than tomorrow. I’ve really missed Michael Kay’s “See ya!” calls.

I was going to rip on Chasen Shreve but the Yankees did it for me. Shreve relieved Sonny Gray yesterday after the homer by Willy Adames and he had the Rays set up for more runs with a couple of walks and a hit to load the bases. Fortunately he struck out Wilson Ramos to leave the bases full, but it appears this may have been his final Yankees appearance. The Yankees designated Shreve for assignment today, recalling Tommy Kahnle from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. As a lefty who has experienced some success at the MLB level, I doubt Shreve clears waivers so thus endeth his Yankees career. The Yankees need another lefty for the pen but I am not sad to see Shreve go. He was the bullpen’s weakest link.

Welcome back, Tommy Kahnle!  The Philadelphia Eagles fan was 1-1 with 3.12 ERA in eight games for the RailRiders. He struck out 15 batters in 14 innings and yielded only 3 walks. I am glad to have Kahnle back even if his 7th inning role has been supplanted by Jonathan Holder.  He gives Aaron Boone a few choices before he pulls the Dellin Betances-Aroldis Chapman card late in games.

I cannot talk about the RailRiders without mentioning Brandon Drury. Drury’s two-run homer  yesterday was the difference-maker in the RailRiders’ 4-2 win over the Rochester Red Wings.  Drury continues to be an on-base machine even if he was only 1-for-4 in the game. For a big league club that’s struggling to advance base runners, Drury could help. At this point, I’d be ready to eat the balance of Neil Walker’s contract to open a spot for Drury. Walker has done a fine job supporting first base, but the athletic Drury can be equally as effective (if not more so).

Very nice job on Saturday by Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A). Whitlock, 22, picked up the win over the Jupiter Hammerheads with a three-hit shutout. He beat former Yankees prospect Jorge Guzman (the hard-thrower who went to Miami in the Giancarlo Stanton trade), striking out eleven Hammerheads over seven innings while only walking one. Whitlock was drafted in the 18th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He is currently rated as the 26th best Yankees prospect by MLB.com. He is exceeding expectations (5-3, 1.41 ERA  in combined A ball, with 81 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 70 innings) and should advance his stature within one of baseball’s best farm systems with his breakout season. Whitlock has only given up one homer this year (only the second of his minor league career) and none for the Tarpons. I suspect that we’ll be hearing more and more about Whitlock in the coming months.

Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio

Hard to believe that the calendar will soon turn to July. Trade talks should be heating up in the coming weeks. That should spark some good Bryan Van Dusen posts. It will be a fun month, made even better if the Yankees can put some distance between themselves and the Red Sox.

Never a better day to start winning than today. Go Yankees!

 

Update:  Sounds like the DFA of Chasen Shreve was fake news or just my wishful thinking. Bummer.  I am ready for the guy to go and for Tommy Kahnle to rejoin the Yanks.

Oh, I See Ya, Jonathan Loaisiga…

Photo Credit: La Prensa/Oscar Navarrete/Archivo

Rookie to Make MLB Debut on Friday…

As expected by many, Jonathan Loaisiga (Loh-AYE-see-gah) will make his Major League debut against the division rival Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Yankee Stadium. No pressure. He’ll be pitching for baseball’s best team in America’s greatest ballpark in front of thousands and thousands of rabid Yankees fans.  

I do not doubt the potential of Loaisiga’s arm but the concern is that he’s never pitched higher than Double A. In essence, he leap-frogged over higher rated pitching talents like Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams, but the 23-year-old is viewed as having a Major League-ready arm and has the notable advantage of holding a 40-man roster spot which means the Yankees do not have to remove someone from their seat at the table like they would if they called up Sheffield or Adams, or Josh Rogers.  

I suppose it’s better to give the young right-hander a shot over an underwhelming name like David Hale or the rehabbing Luis Cessa but I probably would have gone with Sheffield. The Yankees need to place Sheffield on the 40-man roster before December’s Rule 5 Draft so it’s inevitable they’ll soon need to make room. I am not sure why A.J. Cole is still on the Yankees roster. He was routinely in the mix for the back-end of the Washington Nationals rotation the last few years but has never gotten the opportunity to start for the Yankees since his acquisition on April 24th. For basically a month and a half, Cole has primarily been paid to watch the Yankees play, only with a better seat than you or I. Manager Aaron Boone has called upon Cole for a grand total of eleven innings. It’s not his fault that his first name is not Gerrit. Cole (1-0) has been effective in his limited volume of work. In six games, he has only given up one run on six hits for 0.82 ERA. He has walked six batters but has struck out twelve. He started two games for the Nationals to begin the season, and opened with one of the worst pitching lines you’ll ever see (3 2/3 innings, 10 hits, 10 runs) in a 13-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves on April 3rd. In fact, he gave up runs in all four appearances he made for the Nats in April before he was sold to New York for cash. Still, I would give Cole an opportunity based on his MLB experience. There is talent in his arm even if the results have been fleeting. The Yankees either need to use him or lose him to open a 40-man roster spot for a guy like Sheffield. Keeping him around for late inning blowouts seems like a waste of resources.  

Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Loaisiga was born in Managua, Nicarauga in November 1994.  He originally signed with the San Francisco Giants, but missed the 2014 and 2015 seasons due to injury and had Tommy John surgery in 2016.  He is only 5’11” and 165 pounds but according to MLB.com, “While Loaisiga is small and skinny, he has surprising power to this three-pitch repertoire. His quick arm repeatedly generates 93-96 mph fastballs that top out at 98 with life down the strike zone. His low-80s curveball features a high spin rate and his upper-80s changeup has a nice fade, albeit with a bit too much velocity.”

Personally, I would have preferred to have seen Loaisiga, nicknamed Johnny Lasagna, pitch a few games at Triple A. I didn’t really like the Yankees decision to re-sign David Hale who doesn’t have much upside (in my opinion) other than being a below-average, replacement level starter. Loaisiga should have been the starter at Triple A over Hale.  

Yesterday’s 3-0 win over the Washington Nationals marked the start of a 16-day, 16 1/2 game schedule before the next day off so the Yankees need to get results from Loaisiga plus continued improvement from Domingo German to hold up the rotation until the Yankees can make trades for more experienced help next month and Masahiro Tanaka returns from the disabled list.   

As for the win, it was great to see the return of Sir Didi’s bat. After dominating MLB in April, Gregorius spent May as an imitation of Brendan Ryan. Okay, that’s not fair. The slick-fielding, no-hit Ryan had a mustache. Didi’s two home runs last night helped power the offense, but enough cannot be said about the great job Austin Romine has done as backup catcher this year. Romine was 1-for-2 and his sac fly accounted for a run. During the off-season, it seemed like most people (yeah, me too) wanted the Yankees to sign someone like Alex Avila to backup Gary Sanchez but Romine answered the bell and has been one of the game’s best backup backstops.  

The game featured a good performance from the elderly CC Sabathia (4-1). The soon-to-be 38 year old held the Nationals to 4 hits and no runs over 5 2/3 innings. He both walked and struck out three batters on 101 pitches. The bullpen chipped in 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, holding the Nats to only one hit while striking out six batters. Another fine performance by the reinvigorated Dellin Betances and another save for the Cuban Missile (his 18th).  

The game was probably one that Bryce Harper would like to forget. I am sure that he’s still getting over the loss by his beloved Las Vegas Golden Knights to his baseball hometown’s Capitals in the Stanley Cup Finals but two unintentional plunking’s by Yankees pitchers last night before he pulled himself from the game did not help.

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

If Yankees fans, well, some of us, get their way in the off-season, Bryce will have the potential for much better days at Yankee Stadium minus the road grays he wore last night. Realistically, do I think the Yankees will sign Harper?  No.  Honestly, would I prefer Harper over Giancarlo Stanton?  As much as it pains me, yes.

X-rays were negative and Bryce is expected back today for the series finale but let’s hope that memorable days in the Bronx are delayed by at least one game.

The Yankees (43-19) could not gain any ground on the Boston Red Sox (46-22). The Yankees and the Sox are tied atop the AL East although the Yanks lead by 0.018 percentage points. Boston beat the Baltimore Orioles, a team that seems permanently stuck on 19 wins, 6-4. The O’s had their chances and did score two runs in the bottom of the 9th against Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, but Pedro Alvarez, representing the tying run, struck out to end the game. Seriously, I do not see how Buck Showalter can survive this season. It is a sad ending for the former Yankee.

In the category of ‘I don’t know why it took so long’, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders started Brandon Drury at first base in the second game of a double-header against the Rochester Red Wings yesterday. The first game saw Drury’s 32 game on-base streak end. He was 0-for-3 with a run scored (reached base on a fielding error by former Seattle Mariners infielder Taylor Motter, the Ben Gamel look-alike). Drury was 1-for-3 with a triple and 2 RBI’s in the second game to start a new streak. The RailRiders won both games.

The way Drury has played, he deserves a promotion back to the big league club. In 34 games and 112 at-bats for the RailRiders, Drury is hitting .313/.442/.455 with .897 OPS. He has 2 homers and 14 RBI’s. As dismal as Greg Bird has looked at the plate since his return, I’d pull a ‘Torreyes’ on him (unexpected demotion to Triple A) in order to call up Drury. I’d take Drury over either Bird or Tyler Austin right now. We already know that Neil Walker can play decently at first and Drury is capable of learning the nuances of the position. I think it is more important for the Yankees to get Greg Bird going so that’s why he would be my choice for the temporary sabbatical in Pennsylvania over Tyler Austin. For now, Austin and Walker can man first base effectively.

Over the weekend, there was a story about how Drury was unhappy in the Minor Leagues. What is he supposed to say? ‘Ya know, I really like it here in Scranton. The people are nice, the food is good, I don’t have 50,000 fans screaming in my ear’. I want Drury to be unhappy where he is. He has earned the right to be a Major League player and he is one. I have been a fan of the player and I will continue to be regardless of the accomplishments garnered by Miguel Andujar. There’s room for both Andujar and Drury on the Yankees roster.

Photo Credit: The Scranton Times-Tribune (Butch Comegys)

It’s a home game today for Sonny Gray so I am a bit concerned. Too bad he can’t wear the road uniform on the mound. Anyway, I hope Gray’s recent resurgence continues and he finally shows that he can be dominant at Yankee Stadium. Let’s sweep the Nats.

Go Yankees!