Yankees Overhaul Training/Strength-and-Conditioning Team…
The Yankees have made their first significant acquisition of 2020. No, they have not landed Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians or Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers. In a story broken on Friday night by Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, the Yankees have hired Eric Cressey of Cressey Sports Performance to oversee their training and strength-and-conditioning departments.
Admittedly, I was probably most familiar with Cressey as a former employer of Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, who served time as a pitching coordinator for the company. However, Cressey is nationally recognized for his work in kinesiology and biomechanics, and has worked with baseball stars such as Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer.
Per Corey Kluber’s quote on Cressey’s website, “CSP has been a crucial part of the success I have had in my career to this point. The programs have helped me gain velocity as well as put my body in position to remain healthy throughout a long season.”
For a team that set a MLB record last season for most players (thirty) on the Injured List in a single season, Cressey represents a major leap forward for the organization. We knew change was coming when word spread a few weeks ago that former strength-and-conditioning coach Matt Krause had been relieved of his duties with the Yankees. I expected an upgrade in the department but certainly not someone of Cressey’s caliber.
As part of the deal, Cressey will be allowed to continue to operate Cressey Sports Performance which has locations in Hudson, MA and Palm Beach Gardens, FL.
I am excited about Cressey’s hire and feel it is as critical to the training and strength-and-conditioning areas as last year’s addition of Driveline’s Sam Briend as the organization’s director of pitching and the offseason hire of Blake as the new Major League pitching coach, replacing Larry Rothschild. The hitting instruction group has also received major upgrades within the past year with the hiring of Dillon Lawson as hitting coordinator and Rachel Balkovec as a minor league hitting coach, among various other additions.
According to Lindsey Adler, longtime trainer Steve Donahue, who has been in the organization since 1979, will transition to a role she says is “akin to trainer emeritus” and he is expected to maintain an active role in the organization.
To replace Donahue as head trainer, the Yankees will promote assistant athletic trainer/physical therapist Michael Schuk, 37, who is entering his seventh season with the Yankees. His bio on the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society website indicates he holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Science-Athletic Training from the University of Central Florida and a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Nova Southeastern University. Prior to joining the Yankees, Schuk worked as an intern for the Cleveland Indians and the NFL’s Washington Redskins.
For those of you who continue to feel that Hal Steinbrenner is “cheap”, you may want to rethink your narrative. We know the Yankees spent $324 million to bring one of the best starting pitchers in Baseball to the Bronx, but these organizational hires like Cressey most certainly come at very high costs. Outside of the Cincinnati Reds, who hired Driveline founder Kyle Boddy as director of pitching initiatives/pitching coordinator last October, no team has been as aggressive as the Yankees in rebuilding their organizational infrastructure with premium talent in nearly every area of instruction and conditioning. None of this happens without Hal Steinbrenner’s authorization (and his money, of course).
As for the team on the playing field, the Yankees have been quiet since the highly successful press conference last month to introduce Gerrit Cole. The re-signing of Brett Gardner has yet to be officially announced but that seems to be a product of the holidays and the formal announcement could be coming any day now, along with the corresponding roster move to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Barring a trade of J.A. Happ, the most significant moves before pitchers and catchers report next month will probably be players coming in on minor league deals with MLB camp invites.
Some Yankee fans wanted a reunion with former Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro, however, All-Starlin signed a two-year deal with the World Champion Washington Nationals to be their second baseman next season, replacing Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera. After a few years living in obscurity in Miami, I am glad to see Castro get another chance with a contender. Credit to Starlin who could have been a malcontent with losing under the Marlins, he was nothing but a positive, inspirational force on Don Mattingly’s team and I am happy to see him land with a good club.
Probably a couple of the remaining free agent names I am watching with interest are second baseman Scooter Gennett and first baseman Eric Thames. Not that I feel it is absolutely critical the Yankees bring in another left-handed hitter, but it would be nice.
Fangraphs, via Steamer, projects Gennett to hit .261/.311/.421 with .310 wOBA and 90 wRC+ this coming season with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs (0.6 fWAR) in 112 games. 2019 was a lost season due to injuries. He missed three months of the season after severely straining his groin in March. When he came back he only hit .217 in 22 games and was traded at the July deadline to the San Francisco Giants. The Giants, who had cut former second baseman Joe Panik, another name recently linked to the Yankees, to make room for Gennett, released Scooter on August 27th. Gennett is infamous for the four home run game in 2017, but I think there’s potential for a rebound in a part-time role. Whether the Yankees bring in Gennett or Panik on a minor league deal, I’ll use the words of The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch, “No such thing as a bad minor league deal.” I agree. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If it doesn’t work, you sever ties and move on. I like to bring in as much competition at certain spots as possible and let the cream rise to the top. It’s not that I have anything against Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada. I think one of them will serve a very valuable role as backup at shortstop for Gleyber Torres and there’s no question I love Wade’s speed. But there is room for a guy like Gennett who could provide some flexibility to use D.J. LeMahieu around the diamond like last year.
As for Thames, he may not hit for average but when he gets a hold of a mistake pitch, the balls go a very long way. That plays nicely with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium. I am comfortable with Luke Voit and Mike Ford at first base, but would certainly not be opposed to bringing in Thames on a minors deal.
It was a little tough watching Dellin Betances wearing Mets gear at his press conference this week. Last off-season, I wanted the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson, perhaps over then free-agent Adam Ottavino. D-Rob signed with the Phillies and only pitched in seven games before missing the remainder of the season due to injury. He subsequently had Tommy John surgery and is not expected back anytime soon. Meanwhile, Ottavino was signed and became a very valuable part of the Yankees bullpen despite the late season slide. The Yankees called that one right and perhaps they’ve made the right call about Betances. I’ll miss Dellin and I hope the achilles injury does not resurface for him. We know how critical your legs are for power as a pitcher so if anything’s off, it could be very problematic for a pitcher who occasionally struggles with command. I’d love to see Dellin return to form in 2020 and then opt out after the season to re-sign with the Yankees. In my dreams, I know, but Dellin will remain a favorite for his time in the Bronx.
For those of you who may have forgotten, potential fifth starter Jordan Montgomery was 9-7 in 2017 with 3.88 ERA. His K/9 rate was 8.34 and he started 29 games. His fWAR was 2.6. I’d gladly take that production in the fifth spot again. I still expect the Yankees to trade J.A. Happ and his contract to lessen the team’s payroll for luxury tax purposes, but I think Montgomery represents a great replacement for Happ. Montgomery is a better starter, in my opinion, than 18-game winner Domingo German, who will miss the season’s first 63 games after his suspension for domestic violence was handed down this week by MLB.
Speaking of German, I’ve seen many Yankee fans call for his release. While I in no way, shape or form, condone German’s actions, I do feel that he deserves the opportunity to serve his sentence and get the help he needs to be a better man. It would be wrong to cut him for no return. As a player he has value, and I’d hate to see him land in Boston to help the Red Sox who seem to be crumbling at the moment. If the Yankees opt to trade him and control where he goes, I would not be opposed. I feel the Yankees owe German nothing, but for letting his teammates down, he owes the team everything (same with his family, actually more so, who suffered the domestic violence). I am willing to forgive although I doubt I’ll ever forget his actions which form my impressions of his character, but let’s give him a second chance to prove he is better than this.
This time next month we’ll be anxiously awaiting the start of Spring Training (as if we aren’t already). February 12th is not that far away and we’ll soon see Gerritt Cole walking up to Steinbrenner Field as a member of everybody’s favorite team. Good times.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Giancarlo Stanton takes a pass…
Although the Yankees clobbered the Miami Marlins, 12-1, on Monday night at Yankee Stadium, it is probably not a game Giancarlo Stanton will want to remember. He was the only regular without a hit against the Fish although he did score a run after being hit by a pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning, thanks to a Gregoriusly beautiful home run by the Yankees shortstop.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)
Stanton is used to being “The Man” but here he is being picked up by his teammates on nearly a daily basis, much to the dissatisfaction of the Yankee Stadium crowd. He had two more strikeouts with his ‘O-fer’ night. The one thing I learned about Yankees fans, they’ll boo their own players when they passionately care. Yes, they’ll boo for players who suck too but everyone wants Stanton to succeed. The home crowd has yet to see the real Gone-carlo. There’s no doubt he will achieve great success in the Bronx but the journey in Pinstripes is not an easy one.
It’s way too early to say Stanton is not meant for New York. As Marlins manager Don Mattingly said about playing in NYC, “You struggle, you pay, that’s all there is to it. It’s a day-in, day-out place. It doesn’t matter what you did last year. I’m not surprised by it, but also in the same sense, I know it changes once he gets his feel and stuff like that.”
While everyone focused on Stanton’s performance against his old team, poor Starlin Castro went under the radar with his 0-for-3 night. I am sure it was a tough and emotional evening for All-Starlin who most likely would have preferred being in the opposing dugout with his former mates.
It would be nice for Giancarlo go yard tonight against the Fish but it won’t be the end of the World if he doesn’t. He’ll have another shot at his friends and former teammates when the Yankees travel to Miami in late August. I am sure playing in front of the Miami fans will carry much deeper meaning for Stanton. Hopefully by then, Stanton will be crushing pitchers like we know he can.
What can you say about Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius? In one word, spectacular. Aaron Judge’s home run in the second inning was his fourth of the year and 60th in 197 games (the fastest player in MLB history to record sixty career homers). Didi’s two home runs were his second multi-homer game of the season, and the sixth time in fifteen games that a Yankee player has hit two home runs in a game. Didi now leads the Yankees with five home runs on the season. Where is that flawed hitter the Yankees acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks a few years ago? The only flaw these days are rainouts which keep the Yankees great shortstop off the field. Didi continues to amaze…and get better.
I know Manny Machado is a great player and younger than Didi Gregorius but I’d rather lock up #18 on an extension and use resources in the off-season to strengthen starting pitching and the bullpen. Well, if Stanton continues to struggle, I’d trade him to Los Angeles after the season and sign Bryce Harper but that’s beside the point. The Yankees do not need Machado if his heart is set on playing short for the immediate future and I do not feel that Gregorius should be asked to move to another position to make room. I am still hopeful that either Miguel Andujar or Brandon Drury provide the long-term answer at third but as it stands, third base would be the only spot I’d keep for Machado. Didi is the Yankees shortstop…period and end of story.
Photo Credit: SI.com
The Yankees made a surprise move yesterday when they re-signed Jace Peterson to a major league contract. He was in uniform last night and was a late inning replacement. The Yankees had an open spot on the active roster when they optioned Luis Cessa to Triple A on Sunday and did not immediately make a corresponding move. The spot of the 40-man roster was open when the Yankees waived Shane Robinson after his brief appearance with the big league club. Robinson was subsequently sent outright to Triple A. The Yankees had waived Peterson when Robinson was added to the 25-man roster but after clearing waivers, Peterson elected free agency over minor league reassignment. So, his re-signing caught me by surprise. Eventually, Peterson will be the odd man out and will lose his seat at the table, perhaps for good as a Yankee, if/when the guys on the DL return to good health.
Congratulations to the great Gleyber Torres! He has been recognized as the International League Player of the Week (the first weekly award of the young season). In his first ten games with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Torres batted .385 (15-for-39) with a homer and ten RBI’s.
Gleyber caused a stir last night when he was pulled from the RailRiders game due to “stiffness”. I am sure there are a few jokes that could be driven from that term (e.g., his girlfriend didn’t mind), but from what I’ve been able to determine, the removal from the game was primarily caution-driven. It was a cold night and there was no reason to risk the health of one of baseball’s top prospects. Gleyber will be re-evaluated today but at this point there does not seem to be any cause for concern or at the very least I hope not. The Gleyber Torres to the Bronx Watch will become magnified after tonight’s game as any MLB service time will extend free agency by a year.
Jacoby Ellsbury has yet another ailment? Seriously? I guess now he has a sore heel in addition to the injured hip. I honestly cannot keep up with his current maladies. Wasn’t there something else prior to the hip injury? Who knows? Who cares. When can we cut bait and move on? The biggest hope I have for Ellsbury at this point is the honor to place the word “former” in front of the word “Yankee” when describing the brittle outfielder.
Hopefully today will be a new and better day for Giancarlo Stanton. Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 5.19 ERA) takes the mound looking for better results than his last outing when he gave up six runs to the Boston Red Sox despite grabbing the win. Tanaka will be opposed by Miami’s Jarlin Garcia (0-0, 1.13 ERA). Garcia should change his name to Jarlin Castro to make things interesting.
Never a better time to have a Fish fry in the Bronx than tonight…Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)
Walker, New York Yankee…
When I heard the news the Yankees had signed free agent infielder Neil Walker, I admit it did not excite me. I had thought Walker might be an infield possibility before the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks (in fact, TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen called it out as a move the Yankees should make before Drury found himself in Tampa with our favorite team). But once Drury arrived, I didn’t give it another thought.
Credit: Pittsburgh Magazine
The reaction among the Yankees Universe has been very mixed. Countless fans feel that Walker blocks the very talented rookies, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. I don’t look at it that way. For a one-year contract at $4 million plus incentives, this is not a marriage. It is a dinner date at McDonald’s. Walker may break camp as the starting second baseman but there’s no doubt that Gleyber Torres will be the man when he is ready. Gleyber needs the additional time at Triple A as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He has shown this Spring that regardless of his MLB service time clock, he would greatly benefit from the added time in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Torres is going to be a star and there is nothing that Neil Walker can do about it.
Brandon Drury is the starting third baseman. With no offense to Miguel Andujar, Drury was not acquired to be a backup. The Yankees see too much potential in the player and feel that they can convert a number of those Drury doubles into home runs. The Yankees gave up two talented prospects in second baseman Nick Solak and pitcher Taylor Widener. At that price, they weren’t paying to get Drury as a part-time player. Perhaps Andujar goes to Pennsylvania and crushes Triple A pitching. There’s nothing wrong with two players fighting for one position. It’s a very good problem to have. For now, Walker’s arrival most likely means that Andujar will be joining Torres in Scranton. But like Torres, Andujar will be back. When he proves his defensive game has caught up with his bat, only a major trade for a starting pitcher could keep Andujar from pulling on the pinstripes. Walker certainly won’t stop that from happening.
I felt and probably still feel that Tyler Wade will see significant starts at second base. Worst case, I can see him in a platoon role with Walker at the position until young Gleyber arrives to take control. Best case, he breaks camp as the starter with Walker on the bench.
To me, the potential losers with the Walker signing are utilityman Ronald Torreyes and non-roster first baseman Adam Lind. Torreyes may make the Opening Day roster. In fact, I think it’s almost a certainty. But, when Torres and Andujar arrive in the Bronx with their minor league assignments completed, Torreyes is the potential odd man out. I thought Lind might have a chance to make the roster since the Yankees, for whatever reason, do not seem enamored with Tyler Austin. But with Walker’s ability to play first base (not to mention Drury too), Austin brings more to the team than Lind does as a right-handed first baseman (nice complement to the lefty-swinging Greg Bird) who can also play corner outfield. Lind is strictly 1B/DH. But Austin’s spot is not a given as the Yankees could opt for Billy McKinney if Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier are unable to start the season. McKinney has limited experience at first base, but the presence of Walker helps offset his inexperience.
To make room for Walker, the Yankees designated outfielder Jake Cave for assignment and released non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa. Shortstop Kyle Holder was also re-assigned to minor league camp. I’ve always liked Cave but he was squeezed by players ahead of him like Frazier and McKinney and was feeling the heat from hard charging younger prospects. Cave was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds a couple of years ago as a Rule 5 draftee. He opened some eyes although he proved he wasn’t quite ready for the Show. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman is able to flip Cave for a younger prospect rather than simply letting him go for nothing. I was never excited about the addition of Espinosa. He was a decent player for the Washington Nationals a few years ago, but he wasn’t going to scare anyone with his bat. His poor reaction when the Nats acquired outfielder Adam Eaton which pushed star Trea Turner from the outfield to shortstop, displacing Espinosa, always bothered me. So, for me, I’ll gladly take Walker over Espinosa. The switch-hitter still has some pop left in his bat, and he is a very versatile dude (health-permitting).
Walker was assigned Starlin Castro’s number 14 (most recently worn by Espinosa). For me, the number is forever associated with the great “Sweet Lou” Pinella.
Photo Credit: UPI
By now, I don’t think any Yankees fans are expecting the team to add a starting pitcher before the start of the season. My early favorites for trade deadline candidates are Chris Archer and Danny Duffy. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been interested in Archer, so I’d probably rate Duffy as the most likely choice if he can be pried from the Kansas City Royals. Personal preference, no doubt, is Archer. The health and performance of the existing starting five will obviously dictate what the Yankees do in July. It’s early, but I’ve been impressed with young right-hander Domingo German and would like to see him become the rotation’s sixth man in place of Luis Cessa.
Good times. I am ready for the season to start.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Joe Robbins)
No fear, Bird will fly…
Spring stats mean nothing. A few homers against mostly Double-A pitching and everyone felt that Miguel Andujar should be the starting third baseman. Now, I see that there are fans starting to grip about first baseman Greg Bird and his cold bat. Entering play today, Bird is batting .095 (2-for-21 with no home runs). Chill…when the season starts, Bird will be a competent and reliable bat in the Yankees batting order. If there is a certainty, Bird knows how to hit. Health is always questionable but when/if healthy, I fully expect Bird to get his share of big knocks.
|Photo Credit: MLB.com|
Poor Sonny Gray. He pitched great against the Atlanta Braves yesterday, going 3 2/3 innings and allowing only one hit and no runs. But the Yankees were held to one run on Gary Sanchez’s solo home run in the 6th inning and lost to the Braves, 3-1. No run support as usual for the Tennessean. I know, spring games are meaningless, but I did think it was humorous as the guy never seems to get any runs. Of course, the Yankees offense did not have its full arsenal since this was a road game. Honestly, with the benefit of training camp with the Yankees and time to adjust to being a New York Yankee and all that entails, I am expecting this to be a big year for Sonny Gray. I think he’ll pitch closer to the ace he was with the Oakland A’s and not the pitcher we saw at the end of last season (which was still very good). I am excited to see what a full season of Gray in the rotation will bring. I am very confident it will yield great results.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Abbie Parr)|
Speaking of starting pitching, Jordan Montgomery, as expected, has been announced as the team’s fifth starter by Manager Aaron Boone. Monty has looked very good this Spring. In 3 games covering 8 2/3 innings, he is 1-0 with 1.04 ERA. He has only allowed five hits and one run, while striking out eleven batters. He has walked four. Armed with his trusty change-up, a pitch missing for much of last year, we should see an improved Montgomery this season. I would not surprise me if Monty ends up with better stats than Houston’s Gerrit Cole by the time the post-season begins.
Ivan Nova, who probably couldn’t crack the Yankees top five, was recently named as the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day starter. There is much to like about the potential of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery.
The Yankees play the New York Mets today at Steinbrenner Field. The game is at 1:05 pm Eastern. The scheduled starters are:
Brett Gardner, CF
Aaron Judge, RF
Giancarlo Stanton, LF
Brandon Drury, 3B
Tyler Austin, 1B
Austin Romine, C
Jace Peterson, DH
Ronald Torreyes, SS
Tyler Wade, 2B
The starting pitcher will be former Mets prospect Luis Cessa. After the recent Twitter wars between the Yankees and Mets, I hope the Yankees send the Mets home on a disappointing bus ride back to Port St Lucie.
Today’s game will be televised by the YES Network but not tomorrow’s game when the Yankees travel to Jupiter, FL (Giancarlo Stanton’s old stomping grounds) to play the Miami Marlins. The Yankees who are making the trip (like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez) will see old friend Starlin Castro. Stanton is not expected to make the trip. If he had, I would have been really disappointed about Sunday’s game not being televised. The Marlins travel to Steinbrenner Field a week from Sunday so that should be a good game to watch as Stanton most likely will be in the lineup. Hopefully Starlin makes the trip so those of us not fortunate enough to be in Florida can see him again.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Robert Deutsch)|
The Yankees made a few more cuts yesterday. RHP Albert Abreu, slowed by recent appendectomy surgery, and Thairo Estrada, continuing to recover from the gunshot with bullet still lodged in his hip during a failed robbery attempt in late January, were reassigned to minor league camp. Johnny Lasagna aka Jonathan Loaisiga was also reassigned.
As I watch Shohei Otani attempt to both pitch and bat for the Los Angeles Angels, I am so glad that the Yankees are not dealing with the distraction. While I love Otani, the pitcher, I much prefer the bat of Giancarlo Stanton regardless of what the Japanese superstar is able to accomplish in Anaheim, CA this year.
Bummer…the Chicago White Sox eliminated the future possibility of their All-Garcia outfield when they released outfielder Willy Garcia. He had played a couple of times last year in a starting outfield that also featured fellow Garcia’s, Avisail and Leury. Willy was not expected to make this year’s White Sox squad. Thus endeth the All-Garcia outfield. I guess the Yankees need to acquire Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr so that they can feature an All-Aaron outfield. Ha, not really. Maybe Brett can just change his name to Aaron Gardner…
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)|
Shhh, the Yankees are playing…
The primary takeaways from Friday’s exhibition opener at Steinbrenner Field which saw the Yankees defeat the Detroit Tigers, 3-1, were how great Giancarlo Stanton looks in pinstripes and how comfortably Aaron Boone fits into the manager’s chair. Sure, I was carefully watching Gleyber Torres and I held my breath when he laid out for the first inning grounder he was unable to handle, but overall he was solid for his five innings of work after missing so much time last year following Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
Stanton didn’t really do anything with the bat in the meaningless game but he has such a presence at the plate. You get the sense that when the games matter, this guy is going to be such a huge part of the team’s offense (in a classic statement of the obvious on my part). I watched parts of the Miami Marlins home game against the St Louis Cardinals later in the day and there is clearly a major difference in the vibe and energy generated by the home crowds (Tampa versus Jupiter). Starlin Castro hit a solid single to right before he was lifted for a pinch-runner in the Marlins game but maybe because I have no interest in the Marlins or the Cardinals, the overall mood of the game felt lethargic. Steinbrenner Field, by comparison, was buzzing with enthusiasm.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)|
I couldn’t help but think of Joe Girardi when Austin Romine was batting, wearing Girardi’s #28 jersey. I am sure in time Romine will make it his number but for as much as I like Aaron Boone, I did sentimentally think of Girardi and what he meant to the team for ten years.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jeff Zelevansky)|
The pitcher I am watching closely this Spring is Ben Heller. I think he’s capable of being the breakout reliever of the year for the Yankees. The right-hander is 26 (27 in August) and was 5-4 with 2.88 ERA last season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He struck out 82 batters in 40 games covering 56 1/3 innings. He spent limited time with the big league club, striking out 9 batters in 11 innings, while giving up only 5 hits and 1 run. In yesterday’s game, Heller followed starter Luis Cessa and gave up 2 hits but no runs in 2 innings of work, while striking out 3. Heller is a high character guy and I am really pulling for him to succeed with the big league club this year. He was acquired in 2016, along with Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and J.P. Feyereisen, from the Cleveland Indians in the deal that sent Andrew Miller to the Tribe. He may not break camp with the Yankees when they head north in late March but I am sure that we’ll be hearing his name frequently this season.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Kathy Willens)|
Waiting for J.D. Martinez and Scott Boras…
I haven’t been closely following the situation with J.D. Martinez in Fort Myers, FL with the Boston Red Sox but it’s funny that the team hasn’t announced the contract signing yet. Martinez took his physical on Wednesday but there’s been no word, good or bad. It is causing angst in the Red Sox Nation. I’ve heard things like the delay is normal in the off-season for free agent signings and that the team’s doctors are in Boston and not Fort Myers where Martinez had the physical. Manager Alex Cora has made comments that he is not concerned and I still fully expect Martinez to be in the heart of the Red Sox lineup this year but the drama surrounding his signing is enjoyable from afar. For the record, I find no humor in any potential physical issues that may be causing the delay. I do hope this works out for Martinez.
Help Wanted: Baseball Players to play for alleged MLB team in St Petersburg…
I really feel badly for the Tampa Bay Rays and their fans. It’s become worse than the Marlins situation as they continue to unload their best players. Days after being designated for assignment, the Rays traded their lone 2017 All-Star representative, outfielder Corey Dickerson, to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dickerson will help make up for the loss of offense when the Pirates traded star Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants. The Rays received reliever Daniel Hudson, a minor league prospect and cash considerations from the Pirates for Dickerson. The Rays will also be without the services of top pitching prospect Brett Honeywell, one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, after it was revealed he has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will require Tommy John surgery. Looks like the Rays will be leaning very heavily on Chris Archer and “Nasty Nate”, Nathan Eovaldi, this season.
|Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times|
Spring Training, Game 2…
The Yankees take on the Pittsburgh Pirates today at 1:05 pm for their second exhibition game. They’ll be at Lecom Park in Bradenton, FL. The lineup for today’s game is:
Tyler Wade, 2B
Brandon Drury, 3B
Tyler Austin, 1B
Clint Frazier, LF
Danny Espinosa, DH
Ronald Torreyes, SS
Estevan Florial, CF
Erik Kratz, C
Shane Robinson, RF
The starting pitcher will be Domingo German.
Credit to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com for this Aaron Boone quote, “I want us to be obsessed with controlling the strike zone. That’s one of our bumper stickers.”
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
Hats off to the Yankees and Major League Baseball for the very classy decision to wear the Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps to honor the victims of the senseless tragedy in Parkland, Florida for the exhibition openers.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)|
It’s fun to watch the Yankees back on the field against live pitching even if the games mean absolutely nothing. Good times.
|Photo Credit: CBSSports.com|
Will Gleyber-Mania Sweep the Yankees Universe?…
As the gates of Spring Training prepare to open, the Yankees’ 2018 entrant for Rookie of the Year should be Gleyber Torres (with no disrespect to Miguel Andujar, who easily has the talent to walk off with the hardware himself at the end of the year). It would be wonderful to see the Yankees win ROYs in consecutive years, the way the Los Angeles Dodgers used to do it.
Will Gleyber start the year as the starting second baseman or will he spend the first few weeks at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre? Bet on the latter. I’ve seen many say that the Yankees would make Torres the Opening Day starter if he has a tremendous Spring but with literally millions of dollars at stake, I have no doubt the Yankees will delay his MLB service time clock to push potential free agency back one year. With so many young stars, the Yankees will have to spend significant payroll for guys like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and others in future years. Team Hal is not going to leave dollars on the table when they can send Gleyber to Triple A until mid-April to save money for future payroll. So, the ‘will they or won’t they’ open the season with Gleyber on the Opening Day Roster is moot. We’ll have to wait a couple of weeks.
|Ronald Torreyes, Gleyber Torres and Luis Cessa|
In the interim, I am fully confident that Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes can fill the void.
Torreyes covered for Didi Gregorius for the first month of last season and did a fine job. It helped solidify his role as the utility player for the team. This came at a time when Torreyes was trying to prove that he belonged in the Major Leagues. He’ll come into the season this year with much greater confidence that he does, in fact, belong. The 25-year-old finished the season last year with 3 home runs and 36 RBIs in 108 games and 336 plate appearances. His batting line with .292/.314/.375, with .689 OPS. There will be many more opportunities for the Toe-Night Show.
Tyler Wade underwhelmed us with his performance in 2017 but everyone expects the 23-year-old to play closer to his minor league numbers this year. In 85 games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Wade hit 7 home runs with 31 RBIs. His batting line, in 386 plate appearances, was .310/.382/.460, with .842 OPS.
The Yankees do not need an offensive beast at second base. There’s plenty of firepower in other areas of the starting lineup. They just need guys that can get on base. I feel either Torreyes or Wade or a combination of both can hold down the fort until Gleyber…and Hal Steinbrenner’s wallet…are ready for him to make his MLB debut.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Gleyber David Torres Castro was born in Caracas, Venezuela on December 13, 1996. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs as an international free agent in July 2013 for $1.7 million. Here is the bio from the year he was signed per MLB.com: “The top player from Venezuela in this year’s class, Gleyber does everything well. He has a smooth compact swing and the ball jumps off his bat. Scouts like that he can spray the ball all over the field with power and believe he has a chance to be a special hitter. A solid defender, Torres has excellent hands, great feet and he’s known to have an accurate arm with above-average strength. He’s impressed scouts with his ability to make all of the routine plays and an occasional great play. He is particularly adept on his glove-hand side and continues to show improvement on all-around defense. Torres isn’t the biggest prospect on the field but he has an athletic build and is strong for his size. Scouts have taken notice of his baseball instincts and his leadership abilities, and he quickly built a reputation as a fundamentally sound player.”
ESPN’s Keith Law recently released his 2018 Top 100 Prospects and rated Torres as the fifth best prospect behind Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves; Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, Toronto Blue Jays; Fernando Tatis, Jr, San Diego Padres; and Victor Robles, Washington Nationals. That’s pretty good company. Law credits a high batting average and OBP as the potential to make Torres an All-Star caliber player.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)|
Torres is still very young, having just turned 21 in December. He’ll have a strong support network with the group formerly known as the Baby Bombers. Giancarlo Stanton, the addition that helped restore the Yankees to their reputation as the Evil Empire, made his MLB debut at age 20 and will have plenty of advice to help Torres cope with life in the Major Leagues. One thing is for sure, Gleyber Torres is going to be in the Bronx for a very long time. We will soon see the start of the next great Yankees career, and I am excited about the future and potential for Gleyber. I have seen too many Yankees fans calling for the return of Starlin Castro. Why? Torres is or at least will be a better all-around player than Castro and will soon have the opportunity to prove it on the field.
|Gleyber Torres and Starlin Castro|
There are exciting times ahead for the Yankees Universe. Prepare for the Gleyber Torres Show. Gleyber Torres, the starting second baseman for the New York Yankees.
Lots of Sun in Florida for the Yankees…
The Baseball Winter Meetings are always my favorite time of the off-season and this year did not disappoint.
I just returned from a trip (hence, my silence on the site for the past few days). As I was departing on Saturday morning, I first read some tweets that the Yankees had been talking aggressively overnight with the Miami Marlins. By the time, I reached the airport, Twitter was exploding with tweets that the Yankees had pulled off the trade that brought the great Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx.
|Credit: Willie J Allen, Jr, Associated Press|
I hadn’t really thought about Stanton in pinstripes until recently when Bryan Van Dusen had raised the possibility on The Greedy Pinstripes website. At first, I dismissed the idea, thinking there was no way to fit Giancarlo into Hal Steinbrenner’s budget for 2018. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Still, I thought either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals, with negotiated trades in place with the Marlins, would be successful in their talks with the slugger to get him to waive his no-trade clause. I also kept thinking the Los Angeles Dodgers were waiting in the weeds to make their strike. Much to my surprise, Stanton’s representatives announced on Friday that the Cardinals were out, followed later that he would not be going to San Francisco. We didn’t know it at the time, but the Yankees had already been making headway in their talks with Miami and Stanton had rejected St Louis and San Francisco because he had knowledge that he would be headed to one of his original four desired destinations.
I had a strong feeling that the Yankees were going to trade Starlin Castro this winter based on some reports that I had heard. Perhaps he would have stayed in Pinstripes if Stanton hadn’t fallen into GM Brian Cashman’s lap. But regardless of his faults, I am sorry to see Castro go. There were a lot of jokes about how the Yankees fleeced the Marlins and got Stanton for nothing, but I disagree. The Marlins landed an All-Star second baseman and an all-around good guy in All-Starlin. The two prospects acquired by the Marlins were lower level but we’ve all heard about the 100 mph arm of Jorge Guzman (one half of the return, along with Albert Abreu, for former Yankees catcher Brian McCann from the Houston Astros last winter). Guzman has a chance to be a quality Major League arm. The other, infielder Jose Devers, is only 18, and is a cousin of Rafael Devers, the young Boston Red Sox third baseman. Granted, the Yankees didn’t relinquish any of their top prospects but they still paid a good price to take Stanton’s contract. If Stanton doesn’t exercise his opt-out in three years (his agent has already said that he will not), the Marlins will send $30 million to the Yankees to help pay down the contract. There’s no doubt this was a trade the Yankees had to make and any of us would have pulled the trigger on it, but it does carry a sense of loss for those players the Yankees sent to South Beach. So, I am tired of hearing that the Yankees acquired Stanton for nothing.
|Credit: Joseph D Sullivan|
From a roster standpoint, I really like that it opened second base for super prospect Gleyber Torres. I’ve felt that second or short would be a much better fit for Torres than the previously projected third base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius is not going anywhere anytime soon so second is the next best spot. There’s no doubt that Torres could have been special at third base but I like him better as the team’s second baseman. I doubt we see Torres at the start of the season as the Yankees will delay his service time for a few weeks to gain an extra year of control. This means we’ll have patchwork at second until Torres arrives…most likely some combination of Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade.
It’s probably too early to speculate how the Yankees will use Stanton and Aaron Judge. At first, I thought Judge would probably be moved to left to make room for Stanton in right, but Judge’s defense is too valuable. There’s the speculation that the outfield will be a rotation with the DH spot which makes sense, but I think we’ll have better clarity in the coming days and weeks. Both Stanton and Judge are too young to be used exclusively at DH. It would be huge if the Yankees could somehow find a way to move Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract along with oodles of the cash it will take.
Tuesday’s trade that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres surprised me. The biggest surprise was San Diego’s willingness to take Headley’s contract. The Yankees paid half the assignment bonus (or $500,000 in this case) but did not have to ship cash to accompany the monies still owed to Headley. I figured that Mitchell’s time was coming to an end. I really like the pitcher but he’s been very inconsistent in his limited opportunities in the Bronx. If he hadn’t been traded, he was probably a candidate to be designated for assignment at some point in the upcoming season to free up room on the 40-man roster. I think Mitchell will thrive in San Diego and will achieve the potential we had projected for him (which is obviously the reason that the Padres were willing to take Headley’s contract). Last night, there were strong reports that the Padres could possibly trade Headley to the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels had acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers earlier in the evening as they attempt to rebuild the talent around Mike Trout and newly signed two-way Japanese star Shohei Otani. Angels GM Billy Eppler was behind the Yankees’ acquisition of Headley from San Diego a few years ago so he’s a Headley fan.
Coming to the Yankees organization from San Diego is outfielder Jabari Blash. Blash hit .213 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 164 at-bats for the Padres last year. His numbers at Triple A were much better (.285, 20 HR, 62 RBI in 235 at-bats). Outfield is a position of redundancy in the Yankees organization so this leads me to believe that some of the congestion will be relieved in a future trade.
The Yankees now have openings on both sides of Didi Gregorius. I find it unlikely they’d go with rookies at both second and third, but stranger things have happened. Ideally, it would be great if the Yankees and Todd Frazier could come together on a short time deal. However, the Toddfather has earned a multi-year deal opportunity which probably removes the Yankees from the equation.
The Yankees are expected to make a play for a starting pitcher but I hope that it doesn’t result in the loss of free agent CC Sabathia. There’s room to add a starting pitcher and bring back CC, the team’s leader. Sabathia’s camp has talked with the Angels and the Toronto Blue Jays. It would be difficult to watch Sabathia go to either of those teams. The longer the Yankees put off Sabathia, the greater the chance he goes elsewhere. If one of the Bay Area teams came calling, it would probably be hard for Sabathia to pass up the chance to go home to play for his final season(s).
Regardless of Josh Bard’s qualifications, I was disappointed with his selection as the Yankees new bench coach. Last year, the Yankees had a wealth of experience with Rob Thomson sitting next to Joe Girardi. When Thomson left after not getting the manager’s job, I was hoping that the Yankees would find someone with commensurate experience. The toughest part for new Yankees manager Aaron Boone to master will be in-game action and I was hopeful that he’d have someone who has served time on the battle lines to help his learning curve. Granted, Boone has managerial experience with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and new third base coach Phil Nevin but Bard will be the chief lieutenant on the bench. I hope that ‘smart’ and ‘confident’ help yield the right in-game decisions. As expected, the Yankees promoted minor league coaches Reggie Willets and Carlos Mendoza. Willets will take first base (replacing long-time Yankees coach Tony Pena), while Mendoza will serve as infield coach/quality control and will be in uniform during games. Marcus Thames (hitting coach) and Mike Harkey (bullpen coach) are expected to return.
I knew the Rule 5 Draft was going to be difficult in terms of potential losses and it was. In the first round of the Major League Phase, the Yankees lost RHP Anyelo Gomez (Atlanta Braves), LHP Nestor Cortes (Baltimore Orioles) and 1B Mike Ford (Seattle Mariners). In the third round, the Orioles grabbed RHP Jose Mesa, Jr. I don’t think any of the names are a surprise as all of them had been cited as potential losses. Of course, they have to stick on their new team’s MLB roster for the entire year or they must be offered back to the Yankees. Last year, the Yankees lost C Luis Torrens to the San Diego Padres when he stuck the entire year on their active MLB roster. I am expecting at least one of this year’s draftees to stick. Nestor Cortes is probably the one that I wanted to keep the most as quality left-handers are hard to find. I thought RHP J.P. Feyereisen would be taken but he was not. In the Minor League Phase, the Yankees lost RHP Yancarlos Baez (Minnesota Twins) and C Sharif Othman (Miami Marlins). These are permanent losses. The Yankees grabbed a Single-A outfielder, Junior Soto, from the Cleveland Indians. In 2017 for Single A-Lake County Captains, Soto hit 9 home runs and 17 RBI’s in 52 games while batting .172. He struck out 61 times in 174 at-bats, while taking only 6 walks.
The Winter Meetings have come to an end but the Yankees still have much work to do. There are rumors that the Orioles have Manny Machado in play but I seriously doubt the O’s would trade him intra-division. To me, it would make sense. The O’s will lose Machado at some point and why not grab top prospects from a key division rival. But O’s owner Peter Angelos is 88 and I am sure that he does not want to spend his final years watching Machado star for the Yankees. All things considered, I’d rather use the prospects to grab another frontline starter and then potentially sign Machado after next season when he is a free agent. But of course, the “greedy” side of me would love to march both Machado and Stanton out onto the field at Yankee Stadium next year for simultaneous debuts along with another quality starter to join the rotation.
I wonder what Joe Girardi thinks about all this?…
|Credit: Mario Tama, Getty Images|
Like it or not, Aaron Boone will be the new Yankees manager…
The reaction to the impending announcement that Aaron Boone will be named the next manager of the New York Yankees has met with a broad range of emotions. I don’t think he was the first choice for any of us, but he is NOT a bad choice. I am getting a little tired of the ‘we should have kept Joe Girardi…’ comments. That ship has sailed. For whatever reasons, GM Brian Cashman and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner determined that a new voice is needed for the next era of Yankees Baseball. Girardi had a good run but times change.
Yesterday, I was perusing YouTube for Aaron Boone video clips (for personal research). This morning, I woke to find that NJ Advance Media for NJ.com’s Randy Miller had been doing the same thing and he posted a few clips on their website. I love the imitations of Joe Torre’s walk and Alex Rodriguez at bat. There’s no question that Boone is going to bring a humorous, relaxed vibe to the Yankees clubhouse. Tough when necessary, but supportive and collaborative at other times. Former Yankees manager Joe Torre brought such warmth to the position, which was lacking under Girardi’s leadership. I see more shades of Torre in Boone. I think he brings the right leadership to a young team at the right time. I am onboard with Boone’s selection and feel strongly that he deserves to be given a chance by the Yankees Universe.
I realize that Boone has never managed or coached at any level, but he deserves our support. He successfully sold Cashman (and ultimately the Steinbrenner family) on the reasons why he should be the next manager of the New York Yankees. They know the Yankees better than any of us and we should trust their decision.
|Credit: Kathy Willens, AP|
Boonie will have to choose a new number since his old number (19) is currently occupied by Masahiro Tanaka. His dad’s number and the number Aaron wore at the end of his playing career with the Houston Astros is also out due to the retirement of the number for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra (8).
I look forward to the formal announcement of Boone as the new manager. Hopefully it will happen this week. I also look forward to the composition of the new coaching staff to join holdover pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
Go Boonie! Bring us World Championship #28! We have faith and confidence in you…well, most of us anyway…
|Credit: Allen Kee, Getty Images|
Making the Cut…
It’s nice to know that the Shohei Otani talk will be finished by December 22nd…except for whatever city lands the two-way superstar. All 30 teams were given an opportunity to make their presentation plus answering a questionnaire for the highly talented 23-year-old. Apparently, Otani will be working with his agents to make a cut by weekend’s end to determine which teams will have an opportunity to talk with Otani’s agents this week.
|Credit: Shingo Ito/AFLO/Zuma Press/TNS|
It’s a certainty the Yankees will make the cut, but where Otani ultimately lands is really anybody’s guess despite reports the Yankees are the favorites. There are too many variables at play. While I am sure the Yankees have full resources in Los Angeles, I hope they do not lose sight of re-signing free agent pitcher CC Sabathia.
One Week and Counting…
The annual Baseball Winter Meetings always represent the height of excitement for the baseball off-season and we are a week away from the drama. All eyes will be on Orlando, Florida this time next week. The Yankees are not expected to be big players in free agency (aside from the Shohei Otani sweepstakes) but there’s always the potential for a significant trade or two.
One of the early decisions for new manager Aaron Boone next year will be where to play top prospect Gleyber Torres when he is ready.
There’s no doubt we’ll see him make his Major League debut at some point in the 2018 season…the only question is when. No one really expects him to break camp with the big league club but it won’t be too deep into the season. The easy answer is to play him at third base in place of Chase Headley but there is speculation that he might be better suited for second base (particularly given how close third base prospect Miguel Andujar is to being Major League-ready). Therefore, it would not surprise me if the Yankees moved Starlin Castro. I don’t think they will, but the possibility is certainly there.
The Winter Meetings would be a tremendous success if the Yankees could somehow find a taker for Jacoby Ellsbury and boatloads of cash. I would not be disappointed to see Chase Headley go either. I’ve heard David Robertson’s name mentioned but I’d really hate to see D-Rob go. It was so great having him back in the Bronx last year. He was a Yankee that I missed when he left and I don’t want to see his departure any time soon.
|Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images|
I know the Yankees have no plans to re-sign Matt Holliday but I really liked the veteran leadership that he brought to the team last year. I really wish that we could have seen a full healthy season for Holliday. He’d be great for a coaching staff one day.
The Giancarlo Stanton talk has centered on the San Francisco Giants and the St Louis Cardinals, but the latest rumors indicate that Stanton has no desire to go to the Midwest. So far, his preferred destination, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have not entered the conversations. With the Giants appearing to be the frontrunner, I am a little surprised the Dodgers would let the big slugger go to their chief division rival especially since the motivation for the Miami Marlins is more on salary relief than it is prospect/talent return. I keep expecting Andrew Friedman and company to rise up late in negotiations to snag Giancarlo. I’d love to see Stanton in the Bronx but I just don’t see the Yankees taking on that contract this year.
Given their luck with Yankees catchers, maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates should make a run for Austin Romine…
It is nice to see that things are picking up for the Hot Stove League. Every year, I am excited about the Baseball Winter Meetings. As a Yankees fan, they are not always fruitful (not like they were under the reign of George Steinbrenner) but it is a very fun and exciting time for baseball in general.
For now, let’s see what this week brings. Go Yankees!
|Credit: Eric Christian Smith-AP|
American League Championship Series
Astros 7, Yankees 1…
Series tied, 3-3
If the Yankees are going to win the ALCS, they’ll need to figure out how to score more than a single run in a game at Minute Maid Park. Three runs in three games is not going to get ‘er done. The Yankees were getting hard hits against Justin Verlander on Friday night, but they had nothing to show for it. Meanwhile, the Astros bats came alive and they seized the win in Game 6.
On the bright side, the Yankees have responded to adversity the entire post-season, winning ‘do or die’ games against the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians. It’s that time once again so hopefully the Yankees can find a way to score runs and take the victory tonight.
Brett Gardner led off the game with a single to center over the outstretched glove of shortstop Carlos Correa. Unfortunately, Aaron Judge followed with a grounder to Correa that the Astros quickly turned for a double play.
After Luis Severino easily set down the Astros in the bottom of the 1st, Gary Sanchez reached first base on a soft grounder to third to open the 2nd inning. But El Gary wasn’t able to do more than have a brief conversation with first base coach Tony Pena when Verlander struck out two of the next three hitters (Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks) and got the middle batter (Starlin Castro) to fly out to center.
The Yankees got another hit in the 3rd inning, a one-out single up the middle into left center field by Chase Headley, but again the runner had no place to go as he was left stranded.
Meanwhile, through the first three innings, Luis Severino had yet to give up a hit. Carlos Correa finally got the first hit for the Astros with a two-out single to right center in the bottom of the 4th. Correa was left stranded but the tide was turning. Instead of the hits against Verlander and none against Severino, the reverse pattern developed. Verlander set the Yankees down in order in the 4th and 5th innings.
|Credit: Eric Christian Smith-AP|
The Astros led off the bottom of the 5th with a walk by Alex Bregman. A groundout to Starlin Castro by Marwin Gonzalez moved the runner to second. Sevy was unable to throw strikes to Evan Gattis and walked him on four pitches. Brian McCann took advantage of the runner in scoring position with a drive to right that bounced over the wall on one hop for a ground-rule double, scoring Bregman and moving Gattis to third. Like Gattis, Sevy was unable to throw strikes to George Springer, also walking him on four straight pitches. The bases were loaded, with only one out. Josh Reddick lofted a fly to center for the second out but it wasn’t deep enough to score the runner. It brought Jose Altuve to the plate with the bases still jammed with Astros. To borrow a line from Manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want. Altuve rapped a hard drive to left to score Gattis and McCann. The Astros were up 3-0. It was end of the line for Severino. Chad Green came in and got the final out when Carlos Correa popped out to Starlin Castro. It was a very disappointing inning for the young 23-year-old starter and quite possibly his final inning of the year if the Yankees cannot find ways to score runs in Houston.
|Credit: NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg|
The Yankees finally got a couple of hits in an inning against Verlander when they got two singles in the top of the 6th. Chase Headley led off with a single to center. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge recorded outs (pop out to short and strikeout, respectively) but then Didi Gregorius lined a single to right, the ball dropping in front of right fielder Josh Reddick. Runners at first and second with two outs for Gary Sanchez. With one swing of the bat, El Gary had the potential to tie the game. Sadly, all he could do was hit a grounder to short for the final out.
More promise but ultimately disappointment continued in the top of the 7th when Greg Bird walked and Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch. The HBP was not initially called by the home plate umpire but Girardi, learning from prior lessons, challenged the call and it showed that Castro had, in fact, been hit on the wristband. Aaron Hicks had the first crack at Verlander but he struck out. Todd Frazier was next and he hit a high fly to center, to the wall, and a leaping catch by George Springer. Oh man, just another foot or so and the game would have been tied.
|Credit: NY Post: Anthony J Causi & Getty Images|
Chase Headley grounded out to the right side to end the threat, missing a huge opportunity for the road team.
In the top of the 8th, Verlander was finally out of the game, replaced by Brad Peacock. After Peacock got Brett Gardner to fly out in left field foul territory (credit left fielder Marwin Gonzales for the running catch with very limited room), Aaron Judge blasted a pitch, nearly to the roof, over the wall in left center to make it a 3-1 game.
|Credit: Houston Chronicle: Karen Warren|
Signs of life…not. Didi Gregorius flied out to left and Gary Sanchez struck out to end the inning.
For the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees replaced Chad Green with David Robertson. Great job by Green. After replacing Severino in the bottom of the 5th, Green did not allow a hit or run over 2 1/3 innings pitched. He only walked a batter and struck out three ‘Stros. For David Robertson, the results were not the same. He was greeted with a homer to left over the scoreboard by Jose Altuve. After the game, D-Rob said that he threw the 2-2 pitch where he wanted but Altuve still went yard. Carlos Correa was next and he doubled to left into the corner. Yuli Gurriel singled to right and the Astros had runners at the corners and still nobody out. Alex Bregman lined a double to left center on a ball that dropped between Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks to bring both runners around to score. A throwing error by Didi Gregorius to home plate that got away from Gary Sanchez allowed Bregman to move to third. Four batters, four hits, three runs (with a fourth to eventually score), no outs. An ugly line for D-Rob and the end of his latest outing.
|Credit: NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg|
Dellin Betances entered the game. It started well when he struck out Marwin Gonzalez for the first out. But then Evan Gattis lofted a fly ball deep enough to right center to score Bregman on the sacrifice as the throw from Aaron Hicks to Gary Sanchez was off the line. The Astros had increased their lead to 7-1 over the offensively-challenged Yankees. Brian McCann followed with a single to right that Starlin Castro couldn’t quite reach, but Betances got George Springer to ground out to third with a broken bat for the final out. Two very ugly innings for the Pinstripers…the 5th and the 8th.
The Astros brought their closer, Ken Giles, out for the top of the 9th despite the six-run lead. It seemed odd to bring in your best reliever in that situation but Astros manager A.J. Hinch gets paid a lot more money than I do to make those decisions. Greg Bird flied out to right for the first out, but then Starlin Castro singled to left center. Aaron Hicks walked and the Yankees had two runners on base with only one out. After a coaching visit to the mound, Giles settled down and retired Todd Frazier on a fly out to left. He struck out Chase Headley swinging for the game-ending out.
I don’t know what you say after a game like this. The Yankees were whipped in all facets of the game. It was a game that you quickly forget and move on.
The Yankees will pull out their stopper, CC Sabathia, for the seventh and final game of the series. No doubt this is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation. Dallas Keuchel has already said on record that he’ll be ready to thwart any rallies out of the bullpen, and even Justin Verlander was saying that he might be ready depending upon how his arm feels today. Charlie Morton will make the Game 7 start for the Astros. The childhood Yankees fan will get the opportunity to disappoint the many of us who are still Yankees fans. Sabathia has not been defeated following a Yankees loss this year. Let’s hope that streak continues one more time.
Odds & Ends…
Yesterday, I wrote about the managerial openings but I could not have envisioned that the Washington Nationals would emerge as a team with an opening. Their firing of Dusty Baker caught me by surprise. Both John Farrell and Baker have proved that simply winning your division to make the play-offs is not enough. There’s no doubt that Baker mishandled the Stephen Strasburg injury situation earlier in the post-season and that may have been the ultimate cause for his dismissal. The Nationals have one more shot next year before star Bryce Harper becomes a free agent so whomever gets the job will carry high expectations. It’s a tough job to walk into and I thought they would have been stronger with the continuity of Baker, a very good manager, at the top. The Nationals reportedly want to talk to Astros bench coach Alex Cora which could throw a monkey wrench into Boston’s plans to hire Cora. There will be no honeymoon period for the guys who get the jobs with the Nationals and the Red Sox. Win now or walk.
Of course, there’s still a chance that the Yankees could be looking for a new manager soon. Never a dull moment in Major League Baseball.
|Credit: NY Daily News: Andrew Savulich / TNS|
Have a great Saturday! Bring home the AL Championship, Guys! Thumbs down, you got this! Go Yankees!
American League Championship Series
Yankees 6, Astros 4…
Series tied, 2-2
The 2017 Yankees seem to thrive in the face of adversity. Down by four runs and facing a potential 3-1 disadvantage in the ALCS, the young Baby Bombers rose up and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
The game was expected to be a pitching duel between Sonny Gray and Lance McCullers, Jr but then again, with the exception of Monday night’s game, every game has featured stellar starting pitching. Former Yankee Carlos Beltran picked up the game’s first hit when he doubled to the right field wall off Yankees starter Sonny Gray with two outs in the second inning. Fortunately, he didn’t get to experience third base but the early goings of the game saw a few runners left stranded. All dressed up and nowhere to go.
I knew that Lance McCullers, Jr was going to be tough on the Yankees. Despite his inconsistent year, he has generally been very strong when facing his dad’s old club.
The bottom of the 4th brought an interesting play albeit with no runs for the Yankees. Aaron Judge walked to start the inning for the Yanks. With one out, Gary Sanchez flied out to right. On El Gary’s fly, Judge was running with the pitch. He turned after running past second and ran back to first after realizing the ball had been caught but was called out as he slid back into the bag. The Yankees challenged the play which confirmed Judge’s foot had reached the base before the ball, however, when Judge was at second and passed the bag, he did not re-step on the bag on his way back to first. As the Astros prepared to throw to second as a follow-up to the challenge play at first, Judge made the break for second. The Astros threw Judge out on the play but, technically, he was out for that “misstep”, ending the inning. A lesson learned for the big guy.
|Credit: Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle|
Poor Sonny Gray. The guy never gets any run support and Tuesday was no exception. The game entered the sixth inning still scoreless for both teams. After Gray walked George Springer, Gray’s former Oakland teammate Josh Reddick reached base on catcher’s interference by Austin Romine (much to Romine’s chagrin). Despite allowing only one hit up to that point, Manager Joe Girardi made the decision to pull Gray one pitch into the next at-bat (Jose Altuve), a ball in the dirt, and replaced him with David Robertson.
|Credit: Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle|
D-Rob walked Altuve which loaded the bases with no outs. After striking out Carlos Correa for the first out, Yuli Gurriel cleared the bases with a double down the line, just inches past the glove of the diving Todd Frazier at third, to the left field corner. Brett Gardner threw the ball in to Didi Gregorius and the Yankees were able to catch Gurriel between second and third for an out. Alex Bregman subsequently grounded out to third to end the inning for the Astros, but they had taken a 3-0 lead.
Chad Green replaced Robertson in the top of the 7th inning. He struck out former Yankee Carlos Beltran for the first out, but then gave up a double to right center by Marwin Gonzalez. Brian McCann hit a grounder to second baseman Starlin Castro in shallow right but the ball ate up Castro for an error, allowing McCann to safely reach base. Gonzalez scored on the play to increase Houston’s lead to 4-0. George Springer hit a grounder to third that Todd Frazier turned for a double play, second to first, to avoid further damage and send the game to the bottom of the 7th.
Trailing by four runs with Lance McCullers, Jr pitching a shutout, Aaron Judge stepped to the plate. Judge hammered McCullers’ first pitch over the wall in center field into Monument Park for a home run. The Yankees were on the board.
|Credit: Howard Simmons-New York Daily News|
The Astros still held a 4-1 lead, but McCullers was finished. The Astros brought in Chris Devenski to face Didi Gregorius. Didi tripled to the left-center field wall. Gary Sanchez was next and he hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Didi. The Yankees had closed the deficit to two runs. Greg Bird walked to finish Devenski’s stay and Joe Musgrove came in to retire Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks. Still, the Yankees had chipped away and their bats were starting to show signs of life.
After three up-three down for Chad Green in the top of the 8th, the Yankees got to business in the bottom of the inning. Todd Frazier singled to left to get things started. Chase Headley, pinch-hitting for Austin Romine, singled to left in the gap, moving Frazier to third. Headley took second on the throw in from the outfield, after stumbling between first and second. He was able to make it to second ahead of the throw after cut-off man Carlos Correa had thrown the ball to first.
|Credit: Andrew Savulich-New York Daily News|
The Astros pulled Musgrove to bring in their closer, Ken Giles. Brett Gardner hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who threw to first for the out but Frazier scored to make it a one-run game. Headley moved to third, and was replaced by pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury. Aaron Judge doubled to left off the wall to score Ellsbury and the game was tied at 4. Didi Gregorius singled to left, a roller under the glove of shortsop Carlos Correa, with Judge advancing to third. It set up Gary Sanchez’s double to the wall in right center to score both Judge and Gregorius. The Yankees had captured the lead, 6-4.
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After Ken Giles intentionally walked Greg Bird, he was pulled and replaced by Luke Gregerson. Starlin Castro worked a walk to load the bases but the Yankees were unable to capitalize when Aaron Hicks hit a slow grounder toward first allowing the Astros to get the force out of Sanchez at home and Todd Frazier grounded out to third.
On to the 9th inning and the awaiting arm of Aroldis Chapman. Chapman struck out fellow Cuban Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman for the first two outs. With Carlos Beltran due up, the Astros sent in pinch-hitter Evan Gattis to hit. I personally would have stayed with Beltran but Astros manager A.J. Hinch had different ideas. It didn’t pay off for him as Gattis lofted a fly to left for the final out. The Yankees had overcome a four-run deficit to win the game and tie the ALCS at two games apiece. The Yankees win! Woohoo!
Chad Green (1-0) was the winner, while Aroldis Chapman earned the save. Ken Giles (0-1) took the loss for the Astros.
The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by former Yankee great Paul O’Neill with Ronald Torreyes catching. O’Neill looks like he could still take a few hacks at home plate or at the very least, overturn a water cooler or two.
Credit Aaron Judge. His home run changed the offensive temperature from very cold to very hot. It was the tandem of Judge and Didi Gregorius that set the pace for the Yankees to score six unanswered runs. Very nice to see Gary Sanchez join the action after an 0-for-13 skid in the ALCS.
|Credit: Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle|
The two errors by Starlin Castro on what appeared to be two fairly simple grounders was not fun to watch.
There were complaints prior to the game about Joe Girardi’s decision to have Austin Romine catch Sonny Gray with Gary Sanchez sliding to DH. I had no issue with the move. In the limited sample size since Gray joined the Yankees at the trading deadline, his ERA with Romine has been significantly better (3 starts, 1.45 ERA) than when El Gary is behind the plate (8 starts, 4.63 ERA). Among Matt Holliday, Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley, there’s no doubt that Headley deserves the next start at DH. I am disappointed see Holliday’s Yankee career end on the bench but the simple truth is that he has not hit since returning from the DL after his bout with the Epstein-Barr Virus. I know that to get hits, you need at-bats, but the Baseball Gods have not smiled upon Holliday in the second half. It would still be cool if he could get a crucial pinch-hit at some point before the Pinstripes become a distant memory for him.
It was a very solid performance by Sonny Gray and is certainly a tremendous preview of coming attractions for the 2018 season (if not the remainder of the 2017 post-season).
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By winning, the Yankees have guaranteed that the series will head back to Houston for Game 6. Hopefully, they can win today to make it a much sweeter plane flight to Texas. The challenge is difficult with Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander slated for the mound over the next two games. However, the 2017 Yankees have beaten Chris Sale and Corey Kluber and they tend to excel when their backs are to the wall. Win or lose, you can be assured that the Yankees will never, ever quit.
Have a great Wednesday! Let’s just get a win today. Only one win. Thumbs down, let’s do this! Go Yankees!