Tagged: White Sox

A Hole Too Deep…

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Rangers 7, Yankees 6…

Bad Mike seems to be making more frequent appearances these days.  Unfortunately, Michael Pineda chose the day of the 71st Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium to throw up another stink ball.  

The Yankees were immediately in the hole when the Texas Rangers opened with three runs in the top of the first.  Delino DeShields, Jr. led off with a double and scored on a single by Elvis Andrus.  Old-Timer Adrian Beltre, showing that he still has it, followed with a homer to left.

In the Rangers’ second, after Jonathan Lucroy opened with a single, Pineda came within a strike of getting out of the inning when he walked DeShields.  Shin-Soo Choo made Pineda pay for it with a three-run blast to the second deck in right.  It was 6-0 Rangers before most people had time to settle in to watch the game.  

Pineda gave us a little view of his dominant side in the third when he retired the three batters he faced, two by strikeout.  It was a facade. In the 4th, with two outs, the Rangers added what would prove to be the game-winning insurance run when rookie second baseman Drew Robinson grabbed his first major league hit with a solo home run to center.  The Rangers held a commanding 7-0 lead.

Pineda (7-4) didn’t come back for the fifth so his final line was ugly.  4 innings, 6 hits, 7 runs, 3 home runs, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts.  The outing pushed his ERA back over 4 to 4.12.  

Tyler Webb, making his second major league appearance, pitched the fifth.  It didn’t start well for Webb when he walked the first two batters on 3-2 counts.  But he rebounded to get Beltre to hit into a double play and struck out Rougned Odor.  

In the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees made it a game again.  Mason Williams led off with a single.  Following outs by Ronald Torreyes and Brett Gardner, Austin Romine struck out but reached first base on a wild pitch by Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez.  Aaron Judge followed with a run-scoring single to push the first Yankee run across the plate.  Gary Sanchez made it 7-4 with a three-run shot to center.  

The Yankees continued to chip away when Ronald Torreyes led off the bottom of the 7th with his second home run of the season, a shot to left.  Both Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez walked with two outs. Didi Gregorius singled to right to score Judge, but Sanchez was tagged out at third to end the inning.  The Yankees had closed to within one run, 7-6.  “That’s a mistake on my part.  I should never be the last out at third base.” — said Sanchez through an interpreter after the game.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

A scoring opportunity was wasted in the eighth inning when Chase Headley opened with a double, but he was left stranded at second, thanks to a ground out and two strikeouts.  The Yankees had one more shot in the 9th when Aaron Judge hit a two-out single but Gary Sanchez went down swinging against Rangers closer Matt Bush to end the game.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect top of the 9th, striking out the side in the losing effort.  Despite the loss, it was good to see a solid effort by the Yankees bullpen.  Webb, Chad Green, Dellin Betances, and Chapman pitched five scoreless innings after the Pineda debacle.

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Aaron Hicks left the game with right oblique tightness.  He was scheduled to have a MRI last evening and the immediate word is that he could miss up to 3-4 weeks.  Jacoby Ellsbury is the most likely choice for activation after a weekend of rehab starts.  He was 2-for-5 on Sunday, with 2 RBI’s, for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  This would be a great time to promote Dustin Fowler, but then again, there is the small issue of room on the 40-man roster.  No word yet on the Yankees plans when Hicks is placed on the DL.

Both Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro missed the game.  Holliday is still dealing with the allergic reaction that arose in Oakland while Castro had a cortisone shot for a sore wrist.

The Yankees (40-33) remained tied for first place in the AL East as the Los Angeles Angeles defeated the Boston Red Sox again, 4-2.  The Tampa Bay Rays lost to the Baltimore Orioles, 8-5, so they are still 2 1/2 games behind.  The bottom two teams in the AL East were the only ones to gain ground.  The Orioles are 4 games back, while the Toronto Blue Jays, who beat the Kansas City Royals 8-2, are 5 games.  

Hopefully, the Yankees can rediscover the magic that has alluded them since the West Coast road trip.  They’ll be in Chicago tonight to start a four-game series against the White Sox.  If they can’t start winning with consistency, next weekend in Houston is not going to be pretty.

2017 Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium

The weather cooperated for the 71st Old Timer’s Day.  It was a beautiful setting for the pre-game announcements and it was spectacular to see so many Yankee greats and their families.  

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

Following a recorded intro by the late Bob Sheppard, Michael Kay and John Sterling had the honors of the pre-game introductions.

Widows of Yankee Greats

Helen Hunter, wife of Jim “Catfish” Hunter

Jill Martin, wife of Billy Martin

Diana Munson, wife of Thurman Munson

Kay Murcer, wife of Bobby Murcer

Former Players and Managers, and a Long-Time Trainer

Scott Bradley

Pat Kelly

Jesse Barfield

Scott Kamienicki

Tanyon Sturtze

Homer Bush

Marcus Thames

John Flaherty

Kevin Maas

Rick Cerone

Stump Merrill

Lee Mazzilli

Gene Michael

Gene Monahan

Mariano Duncan

Charlie Hayes

Graeme Lloyd

Jeff Nelson

Ramiro Mendoza

David Cone

Brian Doyle

Mike Torrez

Mickey Rivers

Roy White

Bucky Dent

Sparky Lyle

Al Downing

Ralph Terry

Hector Lopez

Don Larsen

Bobby Brown

Tino Martinez

Paul O’Neill

Willie Randolph

Ron Guidry

Bernie Williams

Jorge Posada

Rickey Henderson

Rich Gossage

Reggie Jackson

Joe Torre

Whitey Ford

Tim Raines

The Chairman of the Board
Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Yankees presented two chairs from the old Yankee Stadium to Raines in recognition of his entry into the Hall of Fame, Class of 2017.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

They also gave tribute to the many members of the Yankees family that have departed in the past year.

The Old Timer’s Game saw the Clippers defeat the Bombers, 2-1.  

Next Up:  The Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, IL

Here are the pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (5-4, 3.74 ERA)

White Sox:  David Holmberg (1-1, 2.84 ERA)

TUESDAY

Yankees:  Luis Severino (5-3, 3.30 ERA)

White Sox:  Jose Quintana (4-8, 4.69 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-7, 5.74 ERA)

White Sox:  Mike Pelfrey (3-6, 3.73 ERA)

THURSDAY

Yankees:  Luis Cessa (0-2, 6.57 ERA)

White Sox:  James Shields (1-1, 4.26 ERA)

Have a great Monday!  Let’s Go Yankees!

The State of the Curious…

With the impending returns of shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher Gary Sanchez within the next few weeks, the Yankees have some decisions to make.  Granted, Kyle Higashioka goes back down to AAA to become the starting catcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, retaining his seat at the table (the 40-Man roster).  But for Pete Kozma, the future is less certain.

There’s no reason to protect Kozma on the 40-man roster.  It is possible that the Yankees stash him at AAA when Didi returns for insurance, but, realistically, why?  As I type this post, shortstop Tyler Wade is the top hitter for the RailRiders with a .386 batting average (17-for-44 in 11 games).  He has also stolen 6 bags.  With Ronald Torreyes moving back to the super-sub role, Wade represents the greatest shortstop insurance going forward.  Therefore, if it’s my call, Kozma is DFA’d upon Didi’s return.  If he clears waivers, assign him to AAA.  If he is claimed, so be it.  It’s no great loss.  The downside to assigning Kozma to AAA is the fight for playing time with Wade.  So, I’d probably just cut him outright and send him on his way.

The decision then becomes what to do with the 40-man roster spot vacated by Kozma.  It probably doesn’t make sense to give it to Wade (not yet anyway).  I could see the Yankees giving it to a pitcher like Tyler Webb to be part of the bullpen shuttle throughout the summer.  The harder decisions about the 40-man roster will have to be made after the season and before the Rule 5 Draft in December.  For now, the roster decisions are about who can help us today, not tomorrow. 

I know that we didn’t quite make it, but there is something about a ten-game winning streak that I’ve always loved.  It cures all ails.  It is so fun to go more than a week without feeling the agony of defeat.  The Yankees missed making it ten-in-a-row by two games but it was still a fun ride.  The sad part is that with a few clutch hits here and there and no error by the aforementioned Kozma, the Yankees probably could have extended the win streak to nine.  But as they say, that’s the way the ball bounces, so I guess I’ll just have to look forward to the next streak to achieve my self-fulfilling objective for ten. 

Coming into the season, I really had my doubts about Luis Severino and his ability to be a quality major league starter.  I was starting to feel that his stuff played best in the bullpen.  At a quick glance, his stats do not tell the story.  He is 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in three starts.  It sounds very pedestrian, but then you look at 20 innings pitched (an average of nearly 7 innings per game) with 27 strikeouts.  More impressive is his 0.80 WHIP (14 hits and 2 walks).  He is currently behind only five pitchers for the lowest WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).  The only pitchers with better WHIP are Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins (0.45), James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners (0.57), Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros (0.62), Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers (0.70), and Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox (0.74).  Severino is in very good company.  I know it’s just three starts but this is a significant improvement over last year and it does appear to be sustainable.

Credit:  Noah K Murray/USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the improved performances of both Severino and Michael Pineda, there is reason for optimism with every starter in the rotation.  This also supports that the Yankees could have another extended winning streak coming their way in the not-so-distant future.  Good times at Yankee Stadium. 

The Yankees signed LHP Nestor Oronel, 20, to a minor league deal.  The Pittsburgh Pirates released Oronel after three years in March.  My first thought was that Oronel is just fodder for minor league starting pitching depth.  But being a lefty and only 20 years of age (he doesn’t turn 21 until December) leads me to believe that he might be viewed as a reclamation project.  

Gleyber Torres has been placed on the 7-day Minor League DL with his shoulder injury.  Manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday that he just has some inflammation in the shoulder and shouldn’t be down too long.  So, it does sound as though the team (and Torres) dodged a bullet, and he will be back in the Trenton Thunder lineup soon.

The Yankees returned to the win column with Wednesday night’s win over the Chicago White Sox, 9-1.  Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff, but he still went 7 innings, giving up only a single run.  He struck out 6 and walked two while scattering six hits.  The Yankees need this guy to be hitting on all cylinders, and he’s getting closer.  It was a great offensive night as every starter had a hit, and the team was homer happy with four.  

The Yankees only allowed former closer David Robertson to get one save opportunity as they took the three game set from the White Sox, two games to one.  At 10-5, the Yankees are percentage points behind the Baltimore Orioles (9-4).  They lead the third place Boston Red Sox by a game, although the Red Sox can cut the distance by a 1/2 game with a win today (an off day for the Yankees).  Since the Orioles also play today, the Yankees could either be 1/2 game behind the O’s at the end of the day or they could be the AL East Leaders.  

Friday, the Yankees head to Pittsburgh for a weekend series with the Pirates.  Like the White Sox, the Pirates feature a few former Yankees.  Catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, and Pitchers Ivan Nova and Wade LeBlanc.  You could loosely throw Gerrit Cole into the category although he was never officially a Yankee.  He was a former top draft pick who never signed.   Although Nova wears Andy Pettitte’s number (46) for Pittsburgh, his first start against his former team will pit him against his old number (47) when he matches up with Jordan Montgomery on Sunday.  

The Yankees deserve this day off.  They’ve exceeded expectations and have been a very exciting team to watch.  It’s amazing to think it’s only going to get better when Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius are back and Greg Bird is hitting like we know he can.

Have a great Thursday!  One in row, Baby!  Let’s make it two on Friday!

To Trade A Gardner Is To Believe In Tomorrow…

Credit:  Presswire

Prior to the season, I was saying the Yankees should move veteran outfielder Brett Gardner.   Now, fourteen games into the 2017 season, I am more convinced than ever he should be moved.  Granted, it is not his fault that he turns 34 on August 24th (I personally blame his parents) but he does not fit into the long-term view for the new and improved New York Yankees. 

For the season, Gardner is batting .205 with no home runs or RBI’s.  He has stolen five bags but all things considered, his production is replaceable.  The Yankees need to find room to consistently start fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks.  Hicks, 27, has shown he can be a productive hitter when he regularly knows that he’ll be in the lineup.  For the season, Hicks has much better numbers than Gardner (outside of the total stolen bases).  Hicks has received 15 less at-bats than Gardner but only has two less hits.  Hicks has three home runs on the year, with eight RBI’s.  His two stolen base attempts ended in failure but regardless, Hicks has been the better player.  Even though he hasn’t put up the numbers for AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre-Barre this month, I think Mason Williams, 25, is a very capable fourth outfielder.

I would love to unload center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury but with his contract, he’s not going anywhere.  We’re four years into his 7-year, $153 million contract and at this point, there’s nothing he can do for redemption (at least not in my eyes).  He is what he is, and he’ll never be more, and he’ll never be that dude who tore up the league for the Boston Red Sox in 2011.  That was his Brady Anderson year.  Chained to Ellsbury for the foreseeable future, it means that Hicks would need to play either left or right.  Aaron Judge is the awakening Giant in right so he’s not going anywhere.  That only leaves left field.  It makes the most sense to move Gardner and begin the outfield youth movement with full intensity.  Gardner’s been a good Yankee so slap him on the back, give him a watch, and send him on his way. 

I suppose the opposing point of view is that Ellsbury will be hurt at some point and it will be necessary to slide Gardner to center, creating a left field opening.  At some point this season, the Yankees need to begin placing higher value in Dustin Fowler as the center fielder of the future unless they plan to discard Fowler (a mistake in my opinion) to make way for Jorge Mateo.  I wish Mateo was closer to the Majors so that he could force a competition but at this point, Fowler will be ready much sooner.  Since Mateo is still learning the position, he is much further behind Fowler than just levels in the Minor Leagues. 

I wouldn’t want to over-expose Matt Holliday but he could still play left occasionally in a pinch.  As former Yankee Lee Mazzilli once said (regrettably), “Left field is a position for idiots”.  Not trying to demean the position, but there are others in the organization that can play the position as back up for Hicks, Ellsbury, and Judge.  There always seems to be fourth outfielders readily available as free agents or ones that could easily (and cheaply) be had.  I am not worried about the outfield depth.  As we move deeper and deeper into the season, guys like Clint Frazier move closer to potential callups.  

It’s time to move Gardy.  Maybe not this exact minute but no later than July if not sooner.   

Now that I’ve ripped Gardner for the day, he will probably go on a hitting tear.

Why is it that the best Yankees beat writers always move on?  I remember loving the work of Peter Abraham on the LoHud Yankees Blog, and these days he is a Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe.  I get it, he’s a Boston guy so it was an opportunity to go home.  Then, I loved reading Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News and listening to his podcasts.  Now, he is a writer for MLB.com writing about, Egads!, other teams.  Or Marc Carig of The Star Ledger moving from the Yankees to the Mets.  Next, you’ll probably tell me that Brendan Kuty or Bryan Hoch have found other things they’d like to do.  Sorry, just my rant about losing Feinsand.  I enjoyed his time as the Yankees beat writer for the Daily News.

The win streak ends at eight.  Bummer.  Usually, when a starting pitcher goes eight innings and only allows three hits and strikes out ten, the end result is a win.  But on a night when the other team’s starter was a wee bit better and the Yankee bats were quiet, Luis Severino took the loss as the Yankees fell to the Chicago White Sox, 4-1.  The Yankees had a chance at the end with the winning run at the plate, but Aaron Judge grounded into a force out to end the game.  A grand slam would have been so cool at that moment.  

The Yanks still have the chance to take the series when the teams meet for the third and final time this evening.

Tuesday evening turned out to be a double loss as top prospect Gleyber Torres was scratched from the lineup for AA Trenton Thunder due to biceps tendonitis.  He will undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury.  Hopefully, the news will be favorable.  

James Kaprielian underwent successful Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, so now the long road to recovery begins.  

Have a great Wednesday!  I think it’s time to start a new winning streak!

Trying To Temper The Enthusiasm…

Credit:  Andy Martin/USA TODAY Sports

With the better-than-expected start to the season, it’s easy to get caught up with the thinking that the Yankees could actually win the American League East.  Sadly, I still do not believe that will be the case.  I think the Boston Red Sox remain the heavy favorite to win the division.  While the Yankees may be playing great without Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, the Red Sox are starting to gather some steam even though Jackie Bradley, Jr. and arguably their best player, Mookie Betts, are currently on the DL.  Add Betts to the stellar starting rotation, and the Red Sox will be a very formidable force throughout the summer.  We’ll have some bumps and bruises with the younger starters as time goes by, and there’s no certainty that Michael Pineda has finally turned the corner.  My only reservation with the Red Sox is that they do not seem to have the same heart they did with David Ortiz in the lineup.  Hanley Ramirez is a great baseball player but he’s no Big Papi.  

Nevertheless, I do feel the strong start has positioned the Yankees to make a run at a Wild Card spot, especially with the horrific start of the perennial playoff contending Toronto Blue Jays. 

While the Yankees are currently chasing Baltimore, the Orioles lost their lock-down closer Zach Britton for at least ten days with a left sore forearm (his throwing arm).  Britton is obviously an elite closer so this severely weakens the O’s pen.  Although it’s possible that Britton will be back before the O’s get to New York late next week, they do go into a head-to-head showdown with the Red Sox starting Friday night for a three-game set in their weakened state.

It is amazing to think that the Yankees have played this well without Gregorius and Sanchez.  If they can continue to get solid pitching from the starting rotation, the return of Gregorius and Sanchez in a few weeks should be a great lift.  It’ll almost be like getting All-Star caliber players at the trading deadline with the only difference being the Yankees do not have to give up any premier prospects (or any prospects, for that matter, other than the probable DFA of Pete Kozma). 

The Yankees announced they’ve traded reliever Johnny Barbato to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash.  Those types of deals usually turn out to be cash.  Barbato was optioned to AAA by the Pirates.  It’s unfortunate that the Yankees didn’t get more out of Barbato considering they gave up dependable reliever Shawn Kelley to get him.  The Pirates always seem to get high mileage out of Yankee rejects.  Barbato will probably be their ace closer within a couple of years.  

I apologize in advance for going off topic (non-Yankees talk) but I have been very interested in watching Cody Bellinger, a first baseman in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.  Bellinger, son of former Yankee Clay Bellinger, is the Dodgers top prospect and the heir apparent to Adrian Gonzalez.  On Sunday, Bellinger was responsible for all three runs in Oklahoma City’s 3-2 win over the Memphis Redbirds.  Bellinger scored a run after walking in the fourth; tied the game with a solo homer in the fifth; and singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh.  For the season, the 21-year-old Bellinger is batting .372 (16-for-43) with 4 doubles, 3 homers, and 12 RBI’s.  Meanwhile, for the Big League Dodgers, the 34-year-old Gonzalez is hitting .250 with no homers and 4 RBI’s.  If Bellinger keeps it up, there could soon be a changing of the guard at first base in Dodger Stadium.  Looks like the Dodgers could be back to the days of bringing up an All-Star to the Majors every year.  If Bellinger does not get the call, top pitching prospect Julio Urias most certainly will.  

Credit:  Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Speaking of the Oklahoma City Dodgers (in an attempt to keep this Yankees-oriented), it’s kind of cool that their stadium, Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, is located at 2 S. Mickey Mantle Drive.  Too bad there was no room to build the stadium across the street and down a little for 7 S. Mickey Mantle Drive.

In other non-Yankees news (or is it?), Bryan Harper stepped to the plate on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, with the Washington Nationals trailing the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 and Philly closer Joaquin Benoit on the mound.  With two runners on base, Harper homered to center to win the game, 6-4.  It was his second home run of the game and it gave him 5 RBI’s for the day.  Preview of coming attractions at Yankee Stadium?  Time will tell, as it often does.  Hal, what’s a half-billion in the grand scheme of things?  It’s just money…

Welcome back, Matt Holliday!  After sitting out two games against his former team, the St Louis Cardinals, this past weekend, Matt Holliday returned on Monday to absolutely crush a baseball which allowed the Yankees to jump ahead of the Chicago White Sox with an early 3-0 lead.  The ball traveled 459 feet, with exit velocity of 113.9 MPH, and according to Statcast was the second longest homer of the year (two feet behind a Carlos Gomez blast). 

Aaron Judge also homered in the fourth inning with one on and two outs.

Jordan Montgomery impressed once again.  You gotta love his calm demeanor on the mound (unflappable).  His deceptive arm angle is a thing of beauty with the over the top motion.  Montgomery gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of work, with two walks and two strikeouts.  The runs didn’t come until the seventh inning when Montgomery was tiring (a three run bomb by Yolmer Sanchez that ended Montgomery’s night).  Regardless of the end, Montgomery was better the second time around (as I thought he would be).  He’s an exciting part of the rotation and is quickly earning his pinstripes for the long haul.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Adam Warren did what he does best.  After Montgomery’s exit, he bridged the gap to the ninth inning.  Although he finally allowed a run, he did his job and turned the game over to Aroldis Chapman with one out and a runner on base.  Although Chapman did allow a single to the first hitter, pushing the lead runner to third, he needed just two pitches to earn his fourth save.  The next batter, Tyler Saladino, hit into a game-ending double play.

The Yankees won 7-4, and have now won eight consecutive games.  

Have a great Tuesday!  Nine would be just fine!  

Free As A Bird…

The slump is over.

On a night the Yankees completed their seventh consecutive win (sixth straight at home for the first time since 1998), thanks largely to another good pitching performance by Michael Pineda, the star of the game, for me, was first baseman Greg Bird.

After Aaron Judge’s apparent home run in the second inning was ruled a triple due to fan interference, Bird smashed a ‘no-doubt-about-it’ 444 foot homer to right, scoring Judge.  The Baseball Gods smiled.  Mystique and Aura were alive and well, and dancing throughout the Stadium.  

Bird was 3-for-3 for the game with two runs scored and the two RBI’s courtesy of the long homer.  He raised his batting average by 100 points (from .038 to .138).  It was a beautiful sight to see.  Bird’s bat is instrumental to the long term success for the team so it was great to see the strong offensive explosion.  Maybe he did take my slump-busting advice after all (reference to Mark Grace’s infamous slump buster quote).   

A week ago Saturday, when the Yankees stood at 1-4, it was hard to be optimistic.  Now, at 8-4 and just a half-game behind the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles, the glass is half full once again.  If not for the Orioles (8-3 in one less game), the Yankees would be tied for the best record in all of Baseball.  

Michael Pineda delivered a very solid pitching performance, allowing only two runs in seven innings of work.  He did allow six hits (including Yadier Molina’s home run in the seventh) but he walked only one and struck out six.  I was thinking to myself that the Yankees pitchers, excluding Masahiro Tanaka (so far), seem to be playing a game of ‘one-up-manship’.  But then I came across a Jordan Montgomery quote.  “Yeah, well every staff I’ve been a part of, (when we) get rolling like this, we’re all just trying to beat the last guy that were out there.  Kind of one-up him, and one-up and then one-up.”  Yep, he one-upped me.  Now, if Masahiro Tanaka could join the One-Up Party.

Hats off to Ronald Torreyes.  He was not my choice for starting shortstop when Didi Gregorius but the so-called “Toe” has been a great fill-in.  He drove in two with a ground rule double in the eighth inning to push his team-leading season RBI total to ten (two more than the Aarons who both have eight).  I am looking forward to the return of Gregorius, but Torreyes has impressed.  He’s doing his best to ensure that Ruben Tejada never puts on the Yankee pinstripes at Yankee Stadium.  

I hate to say that I was nervous with a 9-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning but I gotta admit that Bryan Mitchell had me a little worried.  The inning did not start well with a double by Eric Fryer.  A wild pitch advanced Fryer to third, and Mitchell ended up walking the next batter (Jedd Gyorko) on four pitches.  Randal Grichuk then hit a ball toward third which Torreyes made a great stop but then hurriedly threw the ball to second baseman Starlin Castro for a force out attempt.  The throw was too low and Castro couldn’t come up with it, and Torreyes was charged with the throwing error.  Fryer scored on the play. A home run at that point could have brought the score to 9-6 (too close for comfort).  Fortunately, Mitchell settled down and got the next three batters out by strikeout and two fly balls, and it was game over.

I felt bad for Matt Holliday as he missed his second game with the lower back stiffness.  So it wasn’t much of a reunion for Holliday with his old mates, and he finished the series with his Friday night performance (0-for-4, three strikeouts).  Per Manager Joe Girardi, he was available to pinch-hit so hopefully that means he’ll be back in the saddle tonight against the Chicago White Sox.  Of all the things I want to see with the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury as the clean-up hitter has not been one of them.  Hopefully, Girardi is able to pencil in #17 for the clean-up spot tonight.    

Playing the Chicago White Sox brings a few former Yankees back to the Bronx.  Starting pitcher Jose Quintana, Closer David Robertson, relievers Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak, and outfielder Melky Cabrera.  Friday night, in a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, the White Sox made “Garcia” history when every starting outfielder was named Garcia.  Willy in left, Leury in center, and Avisail in right.  Quintana pitched on Saturday in a 6-0 loss to the Twins and will not be available this series.  I’ve already read a few ‘trade for Quintana’ articles this morning.  Stop it.  Forget Quintana and move on with life.  

Have an awesome Monday!  Eight would be great!

Mr Kuroda, it was our pleasure…

Quite simply, a great Yankee…

One thing is assured.  Yankees fans will not be enjoying any of the hoopla that fans of the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs et al have been experiencing this off-season.  The Winter of Our Discontent (hat tip to John Steinbeck) continues with the loss of starter Hiroki Kuroda, who has signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Leagues.

Getty Images

Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, David Phelps, and now Hiroki Kuroda.  The Yankees have lost some great personalities from the 2014 team and it ensures that 2015 will be “different”.  It remains to be seen if it will be different-good or different-bad, but will definitely be different.

I remember when Hiroki Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in his early 30’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I think in my mind I viewed him as nothing more than a #3 starter but I remember watching a Dodgers game a few years (with the legendary Vin Scully announcing…what a treat!).  He was masterful that game.  I don’t remember the outcome but I do believe it was a Kuroda win and he only gave up a few hits.  I was impressed by his performance, but I don’t think I truly appreciated how great he was until he came to New York.  I was so wrong.  He was more than a #3 starter.  He may not have been an ace, but he was the type of #2 starter every team needs.  He was a stopper, and he kept his team in games consistently from game to game.  After watching A.J. Burnett flame out with essentially the same spot in the rotation with his roller coaster performances, Kuroda gave us stability and an arm that could be counted on.  It’s too bad the team was unable to reward him with a World Series championship.  Everyone knows the high class and character of Derek Jeter, but Kuroda is every bit the man of honor.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

I am glad that Kuroda was able to be a part of Masahiro Tanaka’s first year and to help with his transition.  In a way, there is a bit of an unknown in what it will be like for Tanaka without fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team.  This is why it would make tremendous sense to add Hideki Matsui to the coaching staff.  I haven’t heard Matsui’s name mentioned as a hitting coach but what about first base?  He had one of the greatest clutch bats in recent Yankees history and is well liked by his former teammates and coaches.

But back to Kuroda.  I read The New York Post headline that blared “Kuroda spurns Yankees, to return to Japan”.  I don’t really view this as Kuroda spurning the Yankees.  It has been known his desire was to finish his playing career in Japan.  The man Kuroda has proven to be is one who would want to put the best possible product on the field in front of his home country.  He wouldn’t want his last year to be a pitcher who stayed a year too long.  I do not view this as a spurning so much as it was a man trying to do the right thing for his fans and country.  As a fan, I know the tremendous respect that he holds for both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.  Not many people can play for both and only the Yankees and Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka wore #18 prior to his arrival in New York.  I wonder if he’ll now change his number from 19 to 18 out of respect for his mentor.  Tanaka is one of the few guys worthy of wearing Kuroda’s jersey.

Here’s hoping that we see Kuroda at future Yankees Old Timer’s Day games.  He will be missed and we look forward to his eventual return to stand among the Legends.

–Scott

Waiting patiently for the Cavalry…

A week’s worth of crickets…

For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans.  The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.

Losing David Robertson hurt.  I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller.  Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.

David Robertson mug

USA Today Sports

Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities.  After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees.  With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must.  With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen.  But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players.  Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.

I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training.  I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others.  A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close.  His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful.  The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.

Mariano Rivera was an exception.  Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time.  The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over.  From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates.  Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not.  He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there.  He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million.  Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer.  Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.

The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas.  Bring back Chase Headley.  Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli.  Make a run for Max Scherzer.  But the key is to do something.  The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.

 

How much?  See ya…

Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy.  I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal.  But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy.  He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies.  I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…

Slowly but surely…

The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good.  The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties.  It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.

I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter.  Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter.  Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement.  So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position.  It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter.  I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support.  Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.

It is possible that Gregorius fails.  If so, the Yankees move on to another option.  ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’.  But at this point in time, it is his time.  Let’s give him a chance…

Paul Ruhter/Gazette Staff

All I want for Christmas is…

Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway.  I know, it’s not that easy.  The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history.  It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer.  Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome.  But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.

–Scott