The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Archive for August, 2012

Postgame notes: “If I did, do you think I would tell you?”08.31.12

Much of the talk before tonight’s series opener with the Baltimore Orioles centered around the Yankees not panicking despite the fact that their lead in the division had been cut down to three games. Players seemed loose in the clubhouse, and Joe Girardi smiled when asked questions about the Yanks’ shrinking cushion in the AL East.

But after the Orioles cut that lead to two games with Friday’s 6-1 win — a game in which the Yankees never really seemed to be in it — a bit of reality seems to be setting in.

“It’s that time of year where we know what’s going on,” Eric Chavez said.

For the most part, the Yankees still chalked this loss up as one of those games, but there’s no denying that they have not been playing well of late. Tonight’s loss is their seventh in their last 10 games, and there’s no doubt that they need to turn things around if they want to hold onto first place.

“I probably said that about two weeks ago,” Girardi said. “When we got swept in Chicago, I said, ‘We need to play better.’ When we lost two out of three to Toronto, I said, ‘We need to play better.’ As I’ve said, there are going to be low points and high points during the season. You’ve got to find a way to get out of this little rut we’re in.”

Girardi is not your typical rah-rah type of manager, but he was asked after the game if he would feel the need to speak with his team if this skid continues.

“If I did,” he said. “Do you think I would tell you?”

• While the Yankees looked lost at the plate for most of tonight’s game, O’s starter Miguel Gonzalez deserves a lot of credit. He was good against the Yankees the last time that he faced them, and he was even better this time around. Traditionally, the Yanks can be caught off guard when they haven’t seen a pitcher before, but they tend to catch up quickly after that. Gonzalez didn’t allow that, giving Baltimore seven shutout innings while striking out nine and allowing only four hits. “The ball was exploding out of his hand,” Chavez said. “The board said 91, 92, but it felt like 95.”

• Aside from a deceptive fastball, there were two things that Gonzalez did very well: He got ahead in counts, and he mixed in his offspeed pitches well. A couple of Yankee hitters said they thought his split-finger was especially nasty tonight. “You’ve got to stay in attack mode against these really good lineups,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “As soon as they feel some anxiety or that you’re picking around the strike zone, it doesn’t bode well for you.”

• As Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda said after the game, “I think it’s pretty similar to my last outing. One mistake pitch too many.” Kuroda gave up some runs early to the Cleveland Indians in his last start before settling down, and that’s pretty much how it went tonight. He gave up a sac fly to Chris Davis and a two-run homer to Mark Reynolds in the second to give the O’s a 3-0 lead before promptly retiring the next nine batters that he faced. That streak was broken when he gave up a solo homer to J.J. Hardy in the top of the sixth.

• Kuroda ended up giving the Yankees 8 1/3 innings while allowing the four runs, and he was asked after the game if it weighs on him when his offense isn’t backing him up. “In order to win, I have to minimize the damage to less than what we can score,” he said. “It’s really tough to face these situations.”

• The Yankees best opportunity to get to Gonzalez came in the bottom of the sixth. Ichiro led off with a single, which was followed by a Jayson Nix walk. That set the table for the most formidable portion of this version of the Yankees lineup, but Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano went down in order. “I’m not an excuse guy,” Swisher said. “Just a bad game for us. We have to put this game behind us, and I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

• Out of all of the Yankees, Swisher had the most forgettable night. For the first time since 2006, he struck out in all four plate appearances. He has had four strikeout games since 2006, but not in a game in which he only came up four times. As reporters asked Swish about Gonzalez after the game, he responded, “I’m not the right guy to ask. I didn’t do too much against him tonight.”

• Before the game, Girardi had talked about some signs that he would look for to see if his team was pressing. He talked about wanting to see guys smiling and enjoying themselves, but he also spoke about looking at their approaches at the plate — if they’re hacking away at bad pitches or seem too anxious. When asked if he had noticed any of those things in tonight’s game, he didn’t seem to think so. “I think the effort’s there,” he said. “It’s really kind of hard to judge if youre going to be satisfied with a guy’s at-bat, because then you’re asking me to get into people’s minds. But I didn’t see guys trying to do too much.”

• Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 3 with a walk and a run scored for Single-A Tampa tonight in his first action in over a month. He grounded out to short in his first at-bat, walked in his second, and then struck out in his final two plate appearances. For more on that, here is a story from Newsday’s Greg Auman. A-Rod could be back as soon as next week, and Girardi was asked if he’s the type of spark that the team needs right now. “You hope he comes back swinging like he did before he got hurt,” he said. “That’s the idea. This is a guy that’s supposed to be an impact player for us, so you hope he makes a big impact.”

• Swisher mentioned A-Rod as a guy that the team looks to for leadership in these situations, along with Jeter. “We look to them for guidance,” he said.

• I’ll give the final word to Showalter, whose team has shaved eight games off of the Yankees’ lead in six weeks: “I’m proud of our players. There will be another challenge. We’re going to sleep quickly. We’ve almost made it to September, what do we have, a couple of hours? I think we all know, it’s a given, what the Yankees are about and what they can do. We have to continue to stay focused on what we have to do and stay in the moment, which our guys have done such a great job with all year.”

Associated Press photos

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O’s cut Yanks lead to two games08.31.12

The Yankees came into their critical series with the second place Baltimore Orioles brushing off any concerns over their dwindling lead in the AL East. But after the Orioles handed them a deflating 6-1 loss on Friday night that cut the Yankees’ lead in the division to just two games, it might be time to start playing with a bit more urgency.

Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez was stellar against a depleted Yankees lineup, allowing just four hits, one walk and no runs while striking out nine over seven innings. He worked efficiently throughout the night, showing the ability to get ahead in the count and put away Yankee hitters without wasting too many pitches. The right-hander got through seven innings on 97 pitches.

The Yankees felt good about their chances heading into the game because they were sending their most consistent pitcher to the mound, Hiroki Kuroda. The 37-year-old right-hander has been brilliant of late, but the Orioles got to him early.

Adam Jones and Matt Wieters led off the top of the second with back-to-back singles, with Jones coming home on a sac fly from Chris Davis. Mark Reynolds followed with a two-run homer, and just like that, Baltimore had a 3-0 lead.

Kuroda settled down to retire the next nine batters in a row, but J.J. Hardy broke that streak with a solo home run in the top of the sixth to extend the Orioles’ lead to 4-0.

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Game 131: Orioles at Yankees08.31.12

YANKEES (75-55)
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Curtis Granderson CF
Eric Chavez 3B
Raul Ibanez LF
Russell Martin C
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Jayson Nix DH

RHP Hiroki Kuroda (12-9, 2.98)
Kuroda vs. Orioles

ORIOLES (72-58)
Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nate McLouth LF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis DH
Mark Reynolds 1B
Omar Quintanilla 2B
Manny Machado 3B

RHP Miguel Gonzalez (5-3, 3.66)
Gonzalez vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network/MLB Network

WEATHER: It’s hot. That is all for now.

UMPIRES: HP Dan Bellino, 1B Mike Estabrook, 2B Jerry Layne, 3B Bill Miller

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: The Yankees are in the midst of a stretch of 22 straight games vs. AL East opponents (8/27-09/20). If they want to lock up the division, this is the time to do it.

SEPTEMBER’S CALLING: No matter the outcome of tonight’s game, the Yankees will be in first place when the calendar turns to September tomorrow. They have made the postseason each of the last 15 times they have been in first place on Sept. 1.

DON’T YA KNOW?: Robinson Cano is batting .385 (10 for 26) over his last seven games, with seven of those hits going for extra bases (five doubles, two home runs).

(NOTE: I’ll be updating the action here every so often, but I’ll be much more active on Twitter. To join the conversation, follow me @vzmercogliano.)

UPDATE, 7:40 p.m.: Not a great start here for Kuroda. Jones and Wieters led off the second with back-to-back singles, which were followed by a sac fly from Davis and a two-run blast from Reynolds. Just like that, it’s 3-0 Orioles.

UPDATE, 8:06 p.m.: Jeter led off the bottom of the fourth with a single to give the Yankees their first baserunner off of Gonzalez, but he was left stranded there. Kuroda has settled down to retire eight straight since the homer, but the Yankees haven’t been able to get anything going offensively. The O’s still have a 3-0 lead.

UPDATE, 8:25 p.m.: Hardy just padded the O’s lead with a solo shot in the top of the sixth to make it 4-0. Meanwhile, Gonzalez is dealing. The Yanks have only mustered one hit off of him, and he already has seven strikeouts. Not only is he getting some bad swings, but he’s getting ahead and putting the Yankees away. His pitch count is very low through five innings at only 55.

UPDATE, 8:41 p.m.: The Yankees just wasted their best opportunity of the night in the bottom of the sixth. Ichiro singled and Nix walked, setting the table for the 1-2-3 hitters. But Jeter grounded into a fielder’s choice, Swisher struck out (for the third time tonight) and Cano ill-advisedly swung at the first pitch he saw, popping out to third.

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Pregame notes: “It’s business as usual”08.31.12

Is it safe to say that this is the biggest series of the season for the Yankees?

With the Baltimore Orioles coming into town just three games back of the lead in the AL East, they have an opportunity to put a serious dent into the Yankees’ shrinking lead — or even worse (gasp), get out of the Bronx tied for first with a sweep.

But ask Joe Girardi, and he’ll tell you this series is no different from any other.

“I think you can walk in the clubhouse and realize that there’s no sense of panic,” he said. “Everyone has a smile on their face, and everyone came to work today ready to go. Guys are taking early BP. It’s business as usual.”

Girardi is right about the feel in the clubhouse. Players were joking with each other and the media as they have all season, with Joba Chamberlain doing impressions for anyone who would listen. That’s what we’ve come to expect out of this veteran group, and Girardi spoke with supreme confidence about that attitude not wavering.

“There’s this thought that your philosophy changes depending on where you are in the standings or who you’re playing,” he said. “I would be disappointed if every day they didn’t come to work, or I didn’t come to work, with the anticipation that we were going to win that game.”

Girardi did acknowledge that the Yankees have been inconsistent at times this season, and these past three series have been a perfect example. The Yankees went 3-6 during that span, and while the group still seems as loose as ever, that might finally change if this series with the O’s does not go as planned.

“The thing about a season is, you’re going to go through ups and downs,” Girardi said. “It’s how you manage them. This isn’t the first down that we’ve had during the course of the season, and we’ve responded and we’ve bounced back. That’s what I expect.”

• One of the reasons that Girardi sounded so optimistic is because of tonight’s starter. Hiroki Kuroda has been the Yankees’ best pitcher this season, and he’s the guy who they’re hoping will set the tone for the series. “He’s pitched great for us, and you feel good everytime he takes the ball out there,” Girardi said. “You look at his last start, and he gave up three runs in the first inning, but he ended up giving us eight innings total and pitched another great game for us.”

• Girardi was asked if this is the type of game that can be a good indication of how Kuroda will perform in the postseason. “I think we’ve learned a lot about him already,” Girardi said. “I think what we’ve realized is that he’s a really good pitcher, and he can pitch at any point. Are you going to learn anything about him today that I didn’t know? I don’t think so.”

• Girardi also announced that they are changing the rotation plans for the weekend. Freddy Garcia was originally slated to take the ball for the second game tomorrow, but he’s being pushed back until Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays. David Phelps will now start tomorrow, with Phil Hughes being pushed up to Sunday and CC Sabathia taking the ball on Monday. Girardi wouldn’t give a specific reason for the change, other than saying, “It’s not just one little thing; it’s things that we look at, and we decided to go that way.” There’s two things that I take away from the decision: The Yankees clearly are growing more confident in Phelps, and Garcia is likely the first man out whenever either Ivan Nova or Andy Pettitte is ready to to return to the rotation.

• Speaking of Pettitte, he spoke with the media after throwing 20 successful pitches off of the mound today. He noted that he wasn’t pushing off at 100 percent, but said, “I feel like I’m getting real, real close.” This was the most encouraged that Pettitte has sounded throughout his recovery process, and it sounds like he’ll definitely throw off of a mound soon. “It was huge,” he said. “I was getting a little paranoid about how it was going to feel, but today was good.”

• Girardi also said that the next step for Pettitte is a “full-fledged bullpen,” similar to what he would do in between starts. He said he expects Pettitte to throw 35-40 pitches, but did not have a definitive date. “His leg is obviously feeling a lot better for him to do what he did today,” Girardi said. “That’s what we needed to see.”

• Girardi also said that Nova long tossed today. “We’re trying to map out a schedule for him,” he said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but he’s progressing as well.”

• It also sounds like Mark Teixeira is progressing, but Girardi said he doesn’t expect him to play until at least next weekend’s series in Baltimore. I doubt he’d want to put him on the turf for the Tampa series. “He feels better, I can tell you that,” Girardi said. “It’s been about four days, so we’ll just take it day by day. That’s all we can do. We don’t have him doing anything but treatment today.”

• The injury notes just keep on coming. Alex Rodriguez is set to make his first rehab appearance tonight with Single-A Tampa. Right-handed reliever David Aardsma will also be there to begin his rehab assignment. Lefty Pedro Feliciano has been transferred to short-season Single-A Staten Island for tonight’s game, and he’s a guy that could potentially be called up when rosters expand tomorrow.

• Girardi, who is usually a big advocate of mixing in righties and lefties to balance his lineup, has loaded the lineup for tonight’s game with five pure left-handed hitters (plus Nick Swisher, who will be batting from the left side against Orioles’ starter Miguel Gonzalez). He clearly decided to just go with his best hitters against the right-handed starter, with the Yankees 3-4-5-6 hitters all being lefties. That could make it very easy on Buck Showalter’s bullpen, so expect to see Andruw Jones and Steve Pearce off of the bench at some point to offset that. No Yankee has more than three career at-bats against Gonzalez, with both Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez going 2 for 3 with a homer.

• Here is the Orioles’ lineup: 1. Markakis (RF); 2. Hardy (SS); 3. McLouth (LF): 4. Jones (CF); 5. Wieters (C); 6. Davis (DH); 7. Reynolds (1B); 8. Quintanilla (2B); 9. Machado (3B).

Associated Press photos

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Yankees lineup: Calling all lefties08.31.12

Hello all! Vin Mercogliano here from the Yankees clubhouse with tonight’s lineup. I’ll be here all weekend for this surprisingly critical series with the second place Orioles. Andy Pettitte just spoke with reporters after throwing 20 pitches off of the mound. He sounded extremely encouraged, saying it “felt really good.” I’ll have more on that after Joe Girardi’s press conference.
Here is tonight’s lineup:

1. Jeter SS
2. Swish 1B
3. Cano 2B
4. Granderson CF
5. Chavez 3B
6. Ibanez LF
7. Martin C
8. Ichiro RF
9. Nix DH

Kuroda RHP

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Pitching matchups vs. Orioles08.31.12

RHP Hiroki Kuroda (12-9, 2.98)
RHP Miguel Gonzalez (5-3, 3.66)
7:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network

RHP Freddy Garcia (7-5, 4.90)
LHP Wei-Yen Chen (12-7, 3.78)
1:05 p.m., YES Network

RHP David Phelps (3-4, 2.96)
RHP Chris Tillman (7-2, 3.26 ERA)
1:05 p.m., YES Network and TBS

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 568 Comments →

Division showdown begins tonight08.31.12

Here’s what Russell Martin said about this weekend’s three-game series against Baltimore:

“It’s important regardless. Even if we’d swept the Blue Jays, we have to bring it against the Orioles this weekend, for sure.”

Ever think you read a quote like that on the last day of August? Ever think such words would be said with such sincerity?

When the Orioles got off to a hot start this season, it was a nice novelty act, but the novelty is over. It’s not entirely clear how they’re doing this — the Orioles have allowed more runs than they’ve scored — but their bullpen is incredible, Adam Jones is having a very good year and the Orioles keep winning games.

After a win yesterday, the Orioles have cut the division lead to three games. That means Baltimore sweep this weekend makes it even. A Yankees sweep likely helps Tampa Bay pull into second place leading into next week’s series between the Rays and Yankees at Tropicana Field. The Yankees next 10 games are against the two teams chasing them for the division title.

“I’ve been saying it for a while, I think every game is a big game,” Nick Swisher said. “We’re not exactly making it easier on ourselves. Tough series here the past three days. Big series coming up this weekend. I’m expecting us to really step it up and get this thing turned around.”

Associated Press photo

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A group worth watching in Arizona08.30.12

It had been previously reported, but yesterday it becamse official that the Yankees will send three of the organization’s more intriguing prospects to the Arizona Fall League. Four Yankees pitchers will be assigned at some point, but those four are not official just yet.

For now, it’s these three — a catcher, an infielder and an outfielder — and while they’re not necessarily the biggest names in the minor league system, each one is a legitimate prospect with potential to make a real impact in New York. It’s a group worth following, for sure. All three are going to Arizona to get more at-bats after missing time because of injuries.

Austin Romine
23 years old

Right now: Romine has played fewer than 30 games this season because of a lingering back issue that wiped out any slim chance of making the Yankees big league roster out of spring training. Recently he’s started to hit a little bit more, and if he’s not a September call-up, he’ll likely hanlde hte bulk of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s catching through the International League playoffs.
Next year: This was essentially a lost year for Romine. If nothing else, the Yankees were counting on him to provide catching depth, and when he couldn’t do that, they felt the need to trade for Chris Stewart and option Francisco Cervelli to be their minor league insurance. He has fewer than 100 Triple-A at-bats, so a return ot Scranton/Wilkes-Barre wouldn’t be the worst thing, but he could prove he’s ready for a big league role.
Big picture: Gary Sanchez is the Yankees top catching prospect, but he’s at least a year or two away from the big leagues. Romine is the most advanced catcher in the system, his brief call-up last season was enough to show how much the Yankees respect him defensively. His bat could determine whether he’s a big league regular or a younger version of Cervelli.

David Adams
Second baseman / Third baseman
25 years old

Right now: An ankle injury suffered in 2010 took two years to fully heal. Adams played a little bit last season, and he was healthy enough to get some work in spring training, but he didn’t get regular Double-A at-bats until May. Once healthy, Adams’ numbers got better and better throughout the season, and now he’s hitting for average and power while drawing a good number of walks in Trenton.
Next year: Primarily a second baseman when the year started, Adams shifted to third base at the end of July, and he’s played there ever since. That might have been a response to the Rodriguez injury, might have been a response to Corban Joseph’s second-base production in Triple-A, and might have been an attempt to put Adams in a position where he’s best suited. He could be ready for some sort of utility role out of spring training. If not, he could certainly be Triple-A insurance if Rodriguez gets hurt again.
Big picture: Adams has always shown a good bat for a second baseman, but is it enough bat for a third baseman? Is he versatile enough for a utility role? The Yankees basically lost two years of development with Adams, and they’re just now figuring out a little more about him. The numbers are impressive, he just needs to play, and that’s exactly why he’s going to Arizona.

Slade Heathcott
Center fielder
21 years old
Right now: Two shoulder surgeries have slowed the progress of the former first-round pick, and he didn’t get out of extended spring training until late June. But he’s shown his potential this month. Even after a hitless doubleheader on Tuesday, Heathcott was hitting .364/.430/.519 with 10 stolen bases this month. He has a legitimate bat, great speed and a good glove, but the Yankees have given him a lot of DH days this season to keep him healthy.
Next year: Heathcott has never played more than 76 games or gotten more than 300 at-bats in a season. He needs playing time — hence the Fall League — and the first step toward making next year a success is staying on the field. Double-A wouldn’t seem to be out of the question. He’s a legitimate center fielder, so there’s little reason to move him to a corner unless the Yankees see an opening there.
Big picture: Mason Williams has to be considered the Yankees top center field prospect, but as long as he’s healthy, Heathcott deserves a spot in that discussion. He can really run, and he’s shown the ability to drive the ball as well. Despite the injury recovery, this season has been encouraging for Heathcott, who’s showing why he was a first-round pick to begin with. He needs to play some more for the Yankees to figure out just how good he can be.

The Yankees participants will play for the Scottsdale Scorpions along with members of the Angles, Giants, Indians and Pirates organizations. The team will be managed by Carlos Mendoza, who currently manages the Yankees Low-A team in Charleston.

The Fall League season opens on October 9.

• Each major-league organization is required to provide seven players.
• All Triple-A and Double-A players are eligible provided they are on Double-A rosters no later than August 15.
• Each organization is permitted to send two Class A Advanced-level players in addition to the current allowance of two “A-exempt” players (who are under contract as of August 15). Foreign players are allowed as long as the player is not on his native country’s primary protected player list.
• No players with more than one year active or two years total of credited major-league service as of August 31 (including major league disabled list time) are eligible, except a team may select one player picked in the most recently concluded Major League Rule 5 Draft.
• Each Fall League team is allotted 20 pitchers but only 15 are designated “eligible” each game day.

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Roster uncertainty: September call-ups08.30.12

Most seasons, I have a decent sense of what to expect from September call-ups. They’re always relatively minor moves, and some people don’t care about them at all, but it’s usually pretty easy to pick out the guys who can come up and play some kind of role on the big league roster. This season seems like a little more of a mystery, both in terms of who gets called up, and what kind of role they might play.

Impact player
If the Yankees had a can’t-miss reliever in Triple-A, he’d already be here in place of Joba Chamberlain. If they had a standout hitter, they might not have traded for Casey McGehee or Steve Pearce. Instead, the closest thing to an impact call-up might be Eduardo Nunez. The Yankees utility man on Opening Day has been working on his shortstop defense in the minors, and although his minor league numbers are bad, he Yankees know he can hit a little bit at this level. Where he can have the greatest impact, though, is on the bases. He would instantly become the Yankees best pinch runner and a legitimate stolen base threat. Might get some at-bats against lefties, too.

Extra outfielder
Another outfielder could legitimately help the Yankees — it would give them someone other than Ichiro Suzuki to backup in center, and give them a defensive replacement when Nick Swisher plays first base — and they have two extra outfielders already on the 40-man. Zoilo Almonte has strong numbers this season, but he’s a corner guy in Double-A. Melky Mesa has a terrible batting average and a ton of strikeouts in Triple-A, but he’s a good defensive player with speed. In a limited role, he might make sense. Of course, the best available outfielder is Chris Dickerson, who has outstanding Triple-A numbers, experience in the Bronx and enough big league success to suggest he could legitimately help in a regular platoon role against right-handers. But Dickerson is not on the 40-man. Is it worth adding him for such a bit part? Would the Yankees want to add him anyway to keep him under team control this winter? And if not Dickerson, is it worth pulling Mesa out of regular minor league duty right away, or could additional outfield depth wait until after the minor league playoffs?

Third catcher
An extra catcher is a September 1 tradition, and the Yankees have two to choose from. Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine are both on the 40-man roster, both playing in Triple-A and both capable of playing at the big league level. Romine is the one with greater long-term potential; Cervelli is the one with more immediate familiarity. For the first round of call-ups, Cervelli makes the most sense. Yes, there’s value in giving a prospect like Romine a little more time in the big league clubhouse, but Romine’s played fewer than 30 games this season and there’s more value in letting him continue to play every day until Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s playoff run ends. Cervelli knows what he’s doing up here.

Bullpen depth
This is another September standard. If nothing else, the Yankees could use another arm to two to eat innings in a mopup role (think about last night’s game, if the Yankees had come back to tie and force extra innings). Problem is, there are only three healthy minor league pitchers currently on the 40-man roster: Cory Wade, Adam Warren and Justin Thomas. All three have been in the big leagues this season — Thomas with the Red Sox — so there’s reason to think they can do the job. Although Warren is the biggest prospect would be the most exciting of the three, it might also make sense to let him keep making minor league starts until the Triple-A postseason ends. Wade is probably the best bet, and Thomas would make sense as a third lefty who’s also stretched out enough to be a multi-inning mopup man. One other name to consider as an immediate impact possibility: Lefty Juan Cedeno. He’s pitched very well this season, and might be worth a 40-man spot in the offseason anyway.

Just out of curiosity
There’s not a lot of wiggle room on the Yankees 40-man roster right now, so “curiosity” call-ups might not happen. But there are three in particular that are worth mentioned (four if you count Cedeno as a guy who fits this category). In Triple-A, the Yankees have four-corners utility man Ronnier Mustelier putting up pretty good numbers, and as an older prospect, it’s worth exploring whether he could be a big league role player next season. Also in Triple-A, Chase Whitley has a 1.10 WHIP as a multi-inning reliever who’s moved quickly through the system. Down in Double-A Trenton, the greatest curiosity of all might be reliever Mark Montgomery, who has 97 strikeouts in 62.1 innings this season and gets compared to Dave Robertson. It’s probably a year too early for Montgomery to make his big league debut, but he has been overwhelming during his two years of pro ball.

Infielders on the 40-man
We’ve already mentioned the two minor league catcher, two minor league outfielders and three healthy minor league pitchers current on the 40-man, but infielders Ramiro Pena, Corban Joseph and David Adams are on the 40-man as well. Pena is a known commodity (good defense, little bit of speed, you know the drill) but Joseph and Adams are a little more intriguing. It might not make sense to call them up right away — might as well let them keep getting at-bats through the minor league playoffs — but both have put up strong numbers this season, with Joseph in particular hitting for surprising power in his Triple-A debut. They’re both pretty limited to second and third base, and if the Yankees think they could play some sort of role next season, it wouldn’t hurt to get their feet wet with a few at-bats down the stretch.

Returning big leaguers
These are the no brainers. Casey McGehee will be added to the roster as soon as Charleston’s season is over. Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova will come off the disabled list as soon as they’re healthy. The only real question mark in this group is Pedro Feliciano. Is he effective enough in his return from shoulder surgery to be a viable big league reliever? If so, the Yankees might as well bring him up to get something out of that contract.

Associated Press photos

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Bullpen uncertainty: The impact of Joba Chamberlain08.30.12

Joba Chamberlain’s pitch to Yunel Escobar looked like a pretty good one last night. It was a high fastball, 95 mph with a 2-2 count. Chamberlain was clearly trying to get Escobar to chase a pitch up and out of the zone, and Escobar did chase. It wasn’t the kind of pitch that hitters usually do much with if they hit it at all, and Escobar didn’t hit it especially well, but it dropped into right field — going in and out of Andruw Jones’ glove — for a two-run single.

“You make your pitch, stuff happens and you go on,” Chamberlain said. “You can’t let it fester.”

Chamberlain didn’t pitch all that poorly last night, but the result was familiar: Another letdown that let a winable game get out of reach. Obviously Chamberlain has not been a go-to reliever for the Yankees this season, but he brings considerable uncertainty because the team lacks better options.

With Chamberlain limited to low-leverage situations — or forced into high-leverage situations when no one else is available — the Yankees bullpen is essentially down to six pitchers, two of whom are strictly left-on-left and right-on-right specialists, and one of whom is the only true multi-inning guy available. They can only lean on Boone Logan, Dave Robertson and Rafael Soriano so much. Chamberlain was supposed to provide some late-season support, but it hasn’t happened yet, and now the team seems to be avoiding him at all costs.

“I have to continue to get out there to prove to them and prove to my teammates and everyone else that the ability is there to get people out,” he said. “Obviously it hasn’t been great, but this is obviously a start.”

It is a start, and it’s hard to place too much blame on a guy who’s coming back from two surgeries and pitching for the first time in more than a year. Chamberlain works hard, but he needs innings to find consistency, and without consistency, it’s hard to give him innings. It’s hard to know what to expect when he gets in a game. The velocity is there, but the results aren’t.

“It’s just getting in there,” Chamberlain said. “It doesn’t matter the situation. You have to go out there and be better.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 454 Comments →

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