Through those first few weeks of spring training — before the games started and Manny Banuelos stole the show — Andrew Brackman was the prospect of the moment in Yankees camp. He’d made remarkable strides the year before, and camp opened with the Yankees raving about Brackman’s bullpen sessions. His fastball velocity was back, he was locating in the strike zone and even his changeup seemed to be coming together.
Three months into the regular season, Brackman has been the complete opposite. Donnie Collins did a nice job explaining the situation, noting that Brackman’s fastball velocity has peaked in the mid-90s, but it’s also sat in the mid-to-upper-80s. Brackman has also regressed in terms of command. As Donnie wrote: “Triple-A hitters are patient enough to force Brackman to throw strikes. He simply can’t right now.” When Rafael Soriano was injured, general manager Brian Cashman sugarcoated nothing. He said, with no hesitation, that Brackman wasn’t pitching well enough to be considered for a call-up.
The Yankees have since moved Brackman into the bullpen. Maybe it was to get him straightened out. Maybe it was an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle and see if Brackman could be rushed into the big league pen. Maybe it was because it simply made more sense to give other pitchers his starts.
In six relief appearances, he has a 15.63 ERA with eight walks and nine hits in 6.1 innings. Eliminate two terrific outings against Columbus, and the numbers are even worse.
For any 6-foot-10 pitcher, consistent mechanics are tricky, but Brackman seemed to figure it out last season, and he seemed to carry it into those first few weeks of spring training. Right now, it’s gone again, at a time when the Yankees could really use him.
• There’s been some interesting movement in the Yankees system in the past few days. The most recent moves are perhaps the most interesting: Right-handers Josh Romanski and Chase Whitley have been promoted from Tampa to Trenton. That puts Whitley officially on the fast-track, getting to Double-A mid-way through his first full season. He was drafted just last year and had a 1.68 ERA and 1.06 WHIP out of the Tampa bullpen. Romanski was originally drafted by the Brewers in ’08, signed with the Yankees last year and had a 2.99 ERA as a High-A starter. He’ll pitch out of the Double-A bullpen.
• In that same link, Mike Ashmore notes that Phil Hughes will in fact make his next rehab start with Double-A Trenton on Wednesday.
• Speaking of interesting call-ups, the Tampa roster is suddenly one of, as expected, J.R. Murphy has been promoted from Charleston to Tampa after hitting .297 with a team-high 23 doubles. Third baseman Rob Segedin (.323/.396/.482), first baseman Kyle Roller (.305/.379/.545) and starting pitcher Mikey O’Brien (3-4, 3.24) were also moved up from Charleston to Tampa.
• Slade Heathcott also has been promoted from Tampa to Charleston, but he’s on the DL with a minor injury so he hasn’t made his High-A debut. Just checked with a team official who confirmed that, when he returns, Heathcott be in High-A. His bat had slowed considerably in the past month and a half, but results are secondary for players at that level. The Yankees obviously feel he made the necessary strides after basically a full year in Low-A (he spent the second half of last season at that level as well).
• Helping make room for those corner infielders coming up from Charleston, Rob Lyerly has been promoted from Tampa to Trenton. He’s one of those guys who keeps doing enough to stay on the radar, even if he’s not in the spotlight. He was hitting .315 with five triples and four homers in Tampa.
• Other noteworthy promotions: Right-hander Fernando Hernandez and lefty Kei Igawa are up from Trenton to help fill pitching holes for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre… Outfielder Michael Ferraro has been assigned to Charleston. He was in extended spring… Not really a promotion, but Eduardo Sosa came on the DL to essentially take Heathcott’s spot in the Charleston outfield. He’s a little bit off the radar, but an interesting prospect out of Venezuela. He’s hitting .309…
• Not all movement has been positive. Melky Mesa was demoted from Trenton to Tampa this weekend. He was the Florida State League Player of the Year last year, but he returned after hitting just .214 with 54 strikeouts in Double-A. He’s an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and there’s been a lot of nothing this year.
• Other noteworthy demotions: Catcher Kyle Higashioka was sent down from Tampa to Charleston after hitting just .238/.300/.372. He hit just .225 in Charleston last year… Starter Scottie Allen went from Tampa to Charleston after a 7.21 ERA in 16 High-A outings. He was the guy acquired in the Juan Miranda trade… Infielder Kevin Mahoney went from Tampa to Charleston despite solid numbers. Probably a move strictly to get at-bats in the wake of the Roller/Segedin promotions.
• Steve Garrison is off the Double-A disabled list. He made his return over the weekend and allowed two earned runs on five hits through five innings. Not bad for his first Double-A start in nearly two months.
• Alan Horne is also active again. His return to Double-A was a five-walk disaster — he didn’t get a single out — but his second outing was better (2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K). It’s been a long time for Horne, but he’s got most of the season to get things going again. He’s one of the all-time bad luck, good guy pitchers I’ve ever met.
• Despite unusually high walk totals, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances continue to pitch pretty well in Double-A. Betances has been especially good with a 2.37 ERA, .177 opponents average and 71 strikeouts in 64.2 innings. Problem is that on June 21 he lasted just 2.1 innings, walked four and gave up six earned runs. He’s walked four in three straight starts. He’s well above last year’s walk total.
• There were some early season concerns about Gary Sanchez, but he was named South Atlantic League Player of the Week two weeks ago, and he’s hit .291/.365/.491 in the month of June. That’s after a similarly productive month of May.
• Newly signed corner infielders Mike Lamb and Terry Tiffee have moved immediately into the heart of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lineup. Those two have been hitting third and fifth, and they’re probably worth watching as potential alternatives to Eric Chavez if the Yankees decide they need a power-hitting infielder off the bench. Then again, Brandon Laird is also starting to hit a little bit. Jorge Vazquez has been on the DL for the past week.
• Speaking of Vazquez, he’s on the DL with a shoulder injury, and I heard today that the Yankees expect him to be out “not too much longer.” Sounds like it’s not too serious.
• The list of Triple-A pitchers currently on the disabled list: Tim Norton, David Phelps, Ryan Pope, Mark Prior, Carlos Silva, Kanekoa Texeira and Kevin Whelan. That’s three guys currently one the 40-man, two big league veterans and two guys who were pitching well enough to be on the call-up radar.
Headshots of Brackman, Romanski, Whitley, Heathcott, Mesa, Higashioka and Horne