Archive for April, 2012
Game 19: Tigers at Yankees • 04.27.12
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Nick Swisher RF
Raul Ibanez LF
Eric Chavez 3B
Russell Martin C
RHP Ivan Nova (3-0, 3.79)
Nova vs. Tigers
Austin Jackson CF
Brennan Boesch RF
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Prince Fielder 1B
Don Kelly LF
Brad Eldred DH
Alex Avila C
Jhonny Peralta SS
Ryan Raburn 2B
RHP Justin Verlander (2-1, 1.72)
Verlander vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network/MLB Network
WEATHER: Mainly clear skies, but cold and windy. Tonight’s low is 37 with temps hovering in the low 40s for the game. Winds will blow 15-25 mph.
UMPIRES: HP Joe West, 1B Andy Fletcher, 2B Rob Drake, 3B Cory Blaser
GRANDY MAN CAN: Curtis Granderson has reached bases safely in each of his last 17 games after going hitless (and walkless) on Opening Day.
GETTING MO’ FROM MO: Mariano Rivera has retired 16 of the last 18 batters he’s faced with six strikeouts and no walks. He has four saves in four tries over six appearances, all since blowing the save in the season opener at Tampa Bay.
OH CAPTAIN YOUR CAPTAIN: Derek Jeter continued his hitting streak on Wednesday, extending it to 15 games. He’s batting .456 since my birthday (4/9) with four homers, 13 RBI, six doubles, three walks and 14 runs scored. He’ll try to match his longest hitting streak since 5/17-6/2 of 2009, when the shortstop hit safely in 16 straight. Already, Jeter has hit safely in 17 of 18 games in 2012, including a club record 34 hits through 18 games.
ON TWITTER…: This is Josh in for Chad tonight. I’ll post some updates here, but follow along for more on Twitter @LoHudYankees (if you’re not already).
UPDATE, 7:28 p.m.: As Girardi said in the pregame, you have to get Verlander early. His fastball was only 90 to start the game. Granderson turned one pitch around for a double, and A-Rod placed one over the outstretched arm of Fielder. 1-0 Yanks.
Their only regret may be not getting more. We shall see.
UPDATE, 8:04 p.m.: The Tigers lead 3-1 midway through the third thanks to four straight singles off Nova. None of them were hit all that hard, but the Tigers took exactly what Nova gave them. He throws ground balls and that’s basically where they hit them. Even the powerful Cabrera and Fielder practiced patience, each placing a soft single to drive in the runs.
Nova has already allowed seven baserunners through three innings. His win-streak is in jeopardy here against Verlander.
UPDATE, 8:51 p.m.: Verlander had not allowed a home run all season. Now he’s allowed two. Martin’s two-run blast gives the Yankees a 4-3 lead.
Once again, an imperfect Nova is in position to keep his win streak going.
UPDATE, 9:16 p.m.: That was a big out recorded by Cory Wade to end the sixth. It meant the Yankees have at least some chance here. Still, the story is that the Yanks continue to get poor starting pitching. Nova has been terrific this year, but he has allowed too many baserunners. Tonight, he just couldn’t dance out of every jam.
Nova’s final line: 5.1 IP, 11 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. No pitcher will survive 14 baserunners in a little over five innings, and now his streak of 15 straight winning decisions is in serious jeopardy.
UPDATE, 9:50 p.m.: There’s Manny being Manny. And Joe West being Joe West.
West got himself on TV tonight. He just tossed Girardi after Girardi came out to argue and kicked a little dirt around home plate. It was presumably about a called third strike on Martin.
That’s 18 career ejections for Girardi, 15 as a manager. He’s been tossed 14 times as a Yankee now — 13 as manager and once as a player.
The Yankees still trail by a run, but they continue to have success here against Verlander. In five starts, he’s now 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA, allowing 12 ER in 24 IP. (Obviously, this decision is still pending and he’s in line for the win.)
UPDATE, 10:12 p.m.: Fans, you should start calling him Ivan Drago. Nova simply can’t lose. He’s off the hook again, as Teixeira’s sac fly ties the game 6-6. Verlander remains winless in this park.
An enthusiastic and noticeably thinner Joba Chamberlain joined the Yankees for their homestand and said he had “butterflies” just getting back to the ballpark. He shared his optimism throughout the chat with reporters, saying, “My arm feels better than it ever has.”
Of course, of greater concern is the open dislocation in Chamberlain’s right ankle. His elbow had been well on the road to recovery before the gruesome ankle injury, but progress has continued on both fronts. The right-hander made 50 throws this afternoon and said he has continued to throw throughout recovery from his most recent injury. He only stopped throwing bullpens.
“It feels great,” he said. “It feels like nothing happened, which is good. You just want to continue to keep that strong, keep that healthy, and take some worry off my mind as far as getting my ankle ready.”
Chamberlain had been on crutches but has recently switched to a boot for his right ankle. He is able to remove the boot at home and said one of the most challenging steps has been learning to walk like normal again. But the recovery has obviously been steady. Chamberlain saw the doctor yesterday and joked that it was the first time he received positive news. He hopes to have the boot removed for good after another week.
“It’s just one of those things where I’m very fortunate compared to what it looked like five weeks ago,” he said.
Despite his optimism, Chamberlain has not set a timetable for his return. He has remained true, and said he will work with the intention of pitching again this year.
Joe Girardi said, “I think it’s possible,” but added that he would consider Chamberlain’s return “a bonus.”
Here’s audio from today…
Of note: Chamberlain looked thinner, which was especially surprising for a guy whose spent several weeks either in crutches or hobbling around in a boot. He said he has watched his diet closely but didn’t seem interested in discussing the topic in depth.
“More than a couple,” he said when asked about dropping weight. “Obviously, I look different, so that’s what I can tell you guys.”
• Despite not wanting to dissect it and perhaps disrupt his mojo, Derek Jeter talked extensively about his hot start, which now has him batting .420 entering tonight’s game.
Girardi explained Jeter’s success simply: “He’s just being Derek. He’s not ready yet to not be Derek.”
• Andy Pettitte will pitch Monday for Trenton, which is scheduled to play in Portland (Maine). He will throw about 95 pitches after exceeding 80 in his last outing.
• Girardi on why Alex Rodriguez will DH tonight: “We have a day game tomorrow. I’ll probably play him throughout for a while and maybe DH someone else. It’s just with the turnaround a little bit shorter.”
• Brett Gardner (elbow) was scheduled to bunt this afternoon. He will see the doctor for a checkup this evening.
• Justin Verlander is making his fourth start at Yankee Stadium. He is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA in 10 career starts against the Yankees but just 0-2 with a 4.00 ERA in 18 innings here.
Girardi said the key is to attack Verlander early before he gets into a rhythm.
“He’s effectiveness is he’s got four plus-pitches,” Girardi said. “His fastball can be anywhere from probably 92, 93 to 100 miles per hour with movement. It seems like when he struggles it’s early in the game. If you get those opportunities, you cannot miss them. Once he seems to find his rhythm, he can be very, very good.”
Here’s the full audio of Girardi discussing Moose Skowron, Verlander, A-Rod, Gardner, Joba and a whole lot of Jeter…
Yankees mourn the passing of Moose Skowron • 04.27.12
Bill “Moose” Skowron played 14 seasons with the Yankees and was a beloved fixture at Old Timers’ Day. The organization remembered Skowron this afternoon after he passed away earlier today of congestive heart failure at 81.
Skowron died Friday morning at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Ill.
“Moose will always be remembered as being one of the key members of the Yankees’ dynasties in the 50s and early 60s,” Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “He was a winner in every sense of the word, and someone the Yankees family cared deeply for. Baseball lost one of its finest ambassadors, and on behalf of the entire organization, I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Cookie, and his entire family.”
Skowron signed with the Yankees in 1950 out of Purdue. He played first base for 14 seasons in the Major Leagues, including 1954-62 with the Yankees. He won four World Series in New York (1956, 1958, 1961-62) and appeared in eight overall. That included a fifth championship in 1963 with the Dodgers.
Skowron hit eight home runs in 39 career World Series games, highlighted by a three-run, eighth-inning homer in Game 7 of the 1958 Series against the Milwaukee Braves. It came on the heels of his game-winning RBI in the 10th inning of Game 6.
Moose was an eight-time All-Star who batted .282 with 211 home runs and 888 career RBI.
“There weren’t many better guys than Moose,” Yogi Berra said. “He was a dear friend and a great team man. A darn good ballplayer, too. I’m going to miss him.”
In his retirement, Skowron was a popular face at Old Timers’ Day for fans and players alike.
“He was always one of the people you looked forward to seeing on Old Timers’ Day,” Derek Jeter said. “I’m going to miss him.”
“He was great to be around,” Joe Girardi said. “Very energetic. I went to some of the fantasy camps that he put on. I’d see him every year. … A real zest for life. He loved the game. He loved to talk about the game. He was really fun to be around.”
The Yankees will hold a moments of silence prior to tonight’s game to honor Skowron. Funeral arrangements are pending, according to the team.
A-Rod at DH as Yanks set for Verlander • 04.27.12
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Nick Swisher RF
Raul Ibanez LF
Eric Chavez 3B
Russell Martin C
RHP Ivan Nova
Pitching matchups vs. Tigers • 04.27.12
RHP Ivan Nova (3-0, 3.79)
RHP Justin Verlander (2-1, 1.72)
7:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
RHP Freddy Garcia (0-1, 9.75)
LHP Drew Smyly (0-0, 1.13)
4:05 p.m., YES Network
LHP CC Sabathia (2-0, 5.27)
RHP Max Scherzer (1-2, 8.24)
1:05 p.m., YES Network and TBS
Yankees prepared for Prince and the Tigers • 04.27.12
When the Yankees first came home two weeks ago, it was to face the Angels and their new first baseman, Albert Pujols. This time it’s to face the Tigers and their new first baseman, Prince Fielder. Combined with Miguel Cabrera, the addition of Fielder might have given the Tigers the best one-two punch in baseball.
“They’re probably as good as it’s gonna get,” Joe Girardi said. “These guys can really swing the bats.”
Truth be told, the Tigers haven’t been overwhelmingly good this year, and Prince hasn’t provided the immediate impact most expected, but the Yankees are well aware that this is a dangerous team. It’s hard to forget last year’s division series.
“You better not make mistakes,” Girardi said. “Prince is dangerous because of the power. Miguel is dangerous because he has power to all fields. That right porch is short, and we’ve seen him use it many times. I’ve seen him use it when I managed him in 2006 and the stadium in Florida wasn’t a short porch. You have to be careful with both of them. There are a lot of guys in that lineup that, if you don’t make your pitches, they’re going to put big numbers up on you.”
Of course, the Tigers biggest weapon is the guy starting tonight’s series opener. Justin Verlander beat the Rangers in his last start, and he pitched at least eight innings each of his three starts before that.
“I’m sure we’ve beat him before,” Russell Martin said. “He’s definitely an ace — one of the best in the game, if not the best — but I’ll take our lineup against him any day.”
Associated Press photo
Off day notes and links • 04.26.12
I feel like I spent my entire off day traveling. I hope some of you had more productive and exciting Thursdays. There really didn’t seem to be much going on with the Yankeees. This was just the day after the labrum announcement. That news still hung over pretty much everything.
Just a few notes and links from today…
• Over at ESPNNewYork, Andrew Marchand talked to Curt Schilling about Schilling’s experience coming back from labrum surgery. Schilling believes Michael Pineda can be back sooner than 12 months, though past cases suggest it’s hard to know anything for certain. “He clearly had a very weak shoulder,” Schilling said. “When you have a weak shoulder, your shoulder will start to droop and you will start to tax muscles and you get tears.”
• Pineda’s former teammates weren’t happy to hear about his injury. “I’m not calling him because he’s probably a little frustrated,” Felix Hernandez said. “He’s just got to work hard and come back, because he’s a great pitcher.”
• Mike Ashmore posted last night’s Andy Pettitte press conference on YouTube. You can also find yesterday’s Brian Cashman’s press conference (this was after the conference all announcing the Pineda injury).
• The Yankees Triple-A affiliate was officially sold today, a plan that’s been in the works for a long time. The intention seems to be keeping the team in Northeastern Pennsylvania in a new stadium, and plans for that new stadium were also released today. Looks perfect for that space.
• Before this weekend’s series against the Yankees, the Tigers cut ties with Brandon Inge, who had become a significant offensive drain. Inge has said he’d like to play elsewhere. Can’t really see him as much of a fit for the Yankees.
• First President Obama, now CC Sabathia. The Yankees ace will be on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon tonight. I ate dinner in a restaurant next to Fallon once. I’m betting he’ll have a longer conversation with CC than he had with me.
During yesterday’s conference call to discuss Michael Pineda’s career-threatening shoulder injury, general manager Brian Cashman was asked about the Yankees rotation depth. It was a question primarily about Pineda’s injury and the ongoing struggles at the Major League level, but Cashman took it upon himself to mention the struggles in Triple-A as well.
Manny Banuelos is on the disabled list with a back injury, Dellin Betances has more walks than strikeouts, and Adam Warren’s ERA is up to 6.10 after a rocky start yesterday in Pawtucket. Veteran Ramon Ortiz hasn’t been much better through his first two starts.
Then there’s D.J. Mitchell.
Perpetually overshadowed in this pitching-rich organization, Mitchell has picked up where he left off. He leads the team with 21 strikeouts, opponents are hitting .165 against him and his 3.13 ERA looks almost identical to last year’s 3.18.
After very nearly making the big league roster out of spring training, Mitchell has established himself as the best rotation alternative available in Triple-A.
• As some of you know, I usually don’t pay a lot of attention to the lower levels of the minor league system — there’s just too much road between there and the big leagues — but it’s impossible to ignore this year’s Low-A Charleston roster. Loaded with elite prospects, the team is off to a 15-3 start. Mason Williams is hitting .347 with eight stolen bases, and Gary Sanchez is hitting .365 with no homers but a team-leading seven doubles, but it’s Tyler Austin who’s stealing the show. Getting most of his time in right field, Austin is hitting .354/.391/.800 — that’s right, an .800 slugging percentage — with five homers, four triples and six doubles. He could quickly establish himself as one of the elite prospects in the organization.
• Although most of the Charleston attention is focused on its prospect-loaded lineup, the team’s pitching staff has been awfully good as well. The rotation is led by Jose Campos, who’s 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA through his first four starts in the Yankees organization. Caleb Cotham — who’s finally healthy — is 2-0 with a 2.00, Bryan Mitchell is 1-1 with a 2.45 and William Oliver is 1-1 with a 1.69. The bullpen has been sharp too.
• The bad news in Charleston: Dante Bichette Jr., Cito Culver and Angelo Gumbs are each off to pretty slow starts, Culver especially. Bichette Jr. has twice as many errors (4) as extra-base hits (2). Culver is batting .185 and is still looking for an extra-base hit.
• On the high end of the minor league system, the traveling Triple-A roster is playing .500 baseball and is sort of matching the big league pitching staff (the bullpen has been good, the rotation has been bad). Kevin Whelan is 5-for-5 in save opportunities, and Chase Whitley has pitched well after an early call-up from Double-A.
• Veterans are leading the Triple-A lineup. Dewayne Wise is building off his strong spring training with a .388 average and team-high three home runs. Steve Pearce and Jack Cust — two former big leaguers signed at the end of spring training — have combined for 24 RBIs. Pearce is hitting .382/.449/.559 as the team’s replacement for Jorge Vazquez at first base. Chris Dickerson was playing well before landing on the disabled list.
• Francisco Cervelli is hitting just .173 after his surprise demotion on the last day of spring training.
• After his strong first impression in big league camp, Zoilo Almonte has hit for a little bit of power but not much else in Double-A. Instead, Trenton’s best hitter has been Cuban utility man Ronnier Mustelier. Playing primarily third base with a little bit of time at second and in the outfield, Mustelier is hitting .356/.407/.534. He and Melky Mesa are tied for the team lead with 12 RBIs. Mesa is doing his usual tools-and-strikeouts thing. He’s hit four homers and stolen three bases, but he’s also struck out 12 times and has a .282 on-base percentage (Zoilo has 18 strikeouts, and Cody Johnson leads the team with 20).
• Ramon Flores seems to have a lot of fans in the organization, but he’s off to a .206/.273/.235 start as Tampa’s everyday left fielder. There’s much more production coming from right field where Rob Segedin is hitting .315/.378/.548. J.R. Murphy, by the way, is hitting just .250/.318/.350 and has yet to play any position in the field except catcher.
• Mark Montgomery made a name for himself with impressive strikeout totals last season, and he already has 12 Ks through 8.1 innings as the Tampa closer this year, but it’s Nik Turley who leads Tampa with 27 strikeouts through 23.1 innings. The former 50th-round pick made some noise last year and has a 1.93 ERA this season.
• Some of the most relevant news coming out of the minor league system can’t be found in a box score. Slade Heathcott has completed his rehab and apparently will be ready to DH within three weeks. When he gets going, I have to assume he’ll jump straight to Tampa.
Associated Press photo of Mitchell; headshots of Austin, Whelan and Segedin
History shows good and bad of labrum surgery • 04.26.12
As you start digging around the Internet for information about torn labrums, there’s one line that’s cited time and time again. It comes from Will Carroll’s 2004 story for Slate, and it puts the worst-case scenario into a rather harsh perspective:
“If pitchers with torn labrums were horses,” Carroll wrote. “They’d be destroyed.”
As you might have guessed, the worst-case scenario for Michael Pineda is pretty bad. It’s not dead-horse bad, but it’s bad. Ever wonder what happened to Jason Schmidt? He had a torn labrum. So did Erik Bedard.
The best-case scenario, though, is pretty good. Chris Carpenter had a torn labrum in 2002 and won a Cy Young award three years later. Curt Schilling had a slight labrum tear in 1995 and came back for the best years of his career.
Some pitchers can come back from this, but not all of them.
“(Pineda) does have youth on his side, I will say that,” Joe Girardi said. “He doesn’t have a ton of mileage in his arm as a younger player, so I think that bodes well for him. None of us are ever really going to know until we get to that point.”
I’m far from an expert on this sort of thing, but there’s plenty of recommended reading out there.
If you’re looking for the nuts and bolts of the labrum and the surgery, read Carroll’s story from Slate. If you want to see the inside of a shoulder, check out Schilling’s blog, where he documented his second labrum surgery in 2008. When Bedard had his surgery two years ago, Larry Stone looked at a few past cases of labrum surgery. A few years before that, Dave van Dyck in Chicago also wrote about past cases of torn labrums. For Pineda, there’s good news and bad news about his long-term potential, and like Girardi said, we won’t know anything until we get to that point.
Michael Pineda is not going to pitch this year, and it’s reasonable to wonder whether he’ll ever be an effective pitcher again. Elbow surgery has become routine. Shoulder surgery is still a giant risk.
Yesterday’s announcement raised plenty of long-term questions that can’t be answered here and now, but it also raised several short-term questions that can be addressed.
It’s hard to believe something like this could happen on one pitch, but Pineda went through two MRIs and multiple resistance tests before Saturday’s rehab start in Tampa. The MRIs came back clean, the resistance tests showed good arm strength, and Cashman said even Pineda’s bullpens had been sharp leading to Saturday’s extended spring training start.
“After the one inning where he walked off after 15 pitches and said he felt something in the end, that physical exam completely changed,” Cashman said.
Cashman acknowledges that “it’s real fair to speculate that there was something there, laying dormant,” but the Yankees are confident that Pineda’s labrum was not torn until Saturday.
Did the Mariners know something?
Brian Cashman: “We got a healthy player to the best of everyone’s knowledge.”
Cashman went out of his way yesterday to say that he does no believe the Mariners were hiding something, and Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has said the same thing.
“We had full access to his medicals, which were clean,” Cashman said. “We had the opportunity to do a full physical exam, which we did, which came out clean. Michael has never had a shoulder issue nor has he complained of one with the Mariners, nor has he ever had any tests on the shoulder with the Mariners. This is just an unfortunate circumstance that can happen.”
There has long been a theory that the Mariners made this trade strictly because they knew something the Yankees didn’t, but that theory can just as easily go the other way, that the Yankees would only trade a bat like Jesus Montero if they knew something the Mariners didn’t know. As Zduriencik told Andrew Marchand: “Before the trade, he was going to be our No. 2 starter.”
Did last year’s second half raise any red flags?
Brian Cashman: “There’s a little bit of a myth here.”
The myth Cashman’s refering to is the idea that Pineda’s second half was significantly worse than his first half last season. His ERA suggests that’s the case, but his strikeouts-per-nine and walks-per-nine stayed almost exactly the same (strikeouts-per-nine actually went up a little bit). As for velocity, that stayed relatively consistent as well except for his last start when he was pitching on 10-days rest and had gone through a kind of odd September as the Mariners tried to limit his workload.
“The bottom line, they were very similar, first half, second half,” Cashman said. “The important statistical categories that kind of measure how someone is pitching were fairly close, and his velocity in the first half and second half were fairly close. It wasn’t a radical change that’s been written about.”
Cashman isn’t the only one who feels this way. FanGraphs wrote the same thing immediately after the trade. There is this notion that the Yankees should have known they were getting damaged goods, but I’m just not sure the evidence is there.
Does this make the Montero trade a total bust?
Brian Cashman: “It’s certainly not a good situation.”
Oddly enough, in some ways, the current situation is exactly the reason the Yankees traded for Pineda in the first place. Pitchers get hurt, and young guys full of potential don’t always have sustained success at the big league level. The Yankees really believe that they can never have too much pitching, and they prefered a good young pitcher instead of a good young hitter. It just so happens that good young pitcher they acquired has a serious injury before throwing a single pitch for the team.
“There’s obviously always risk involving pitchers,” Cashman said. “But obviously this was a big move that I pursued this winter. You always know, you go in with eyes wide open if you pursue this with pitching. But to experience this on the front end, it’s extremely difficult.”
Knowing what they know now about Pineda’s shoulder, there’s no way the Yankees would make the same trade again. To judge it completely at this point would be short-sighted — the deal was always about much more than 2012 — but if the Yankees could take it back, they would. And that’s not a good sign.
“Hopefully the surgery will go as well as can be expected,” Cashman said. “And the rehab will go as well as could be expected, and we’ll get a player back that we hoped we would be getting. At the same time, you can’t deny that there’s a lot of risks associated with his circumstance now and the asset that we’ve acquired because of what has occurred. There’s no way of spinning this as anything other than a very unfortunate circumstance that will certainly affect us here in 2012 and may affect us going forward. But hopefully for the player’s sake as well as our franchise’s sake — certainly I was counting on this player — hopefully everything will go as well as you could possibly hope giving the unfortunate setting that we’re in.”
Associated Press photo