Alex Rodriguez’s minor league rehab assignment moves up to Triple-A tonight. He’s scheduled to play four games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and the Yankees are hoping those will be his final steps toward rejoining the big league lineup on Monday. Also, as mentioned in the previous post, Ronnier Mustelier has been activated on the Triple-A roster, helping make up for both Fernando Martinez and Addison Maruszak going on the disabled list yesterday.
A few other player notes from the minor league system.
• Michael Pineda will make his third Scranton/Wilkes-Barre start tonight. It’s the Triple-A team’s first game after their own All-Star break. Pineda allowed six earned runs through 4.2 innings in his previous start.
• Outfielder Adonis Garcia was activated to the Triple-A roster at the beginning of this month — you may remember, he hurt his hand in spring training — and he’s hit .308/.379/.538 in his limited time with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He’s a kind of wild card prospect in this system, a right-handed hitter out of Cuba who hit pretty well in limited Double-A time last year.
• Reliever Chase Whitley got off to a kind of rocky start when he came off the Triple-A disabled list in mid May, but his past five outings have been terrific. Since the beginning of July, Whitley has pitched 11.1 scoreless innings with just four hits and 11 strikeouts. He’s walked five and hit two batters, but he seems to be getting closer to the guy who pitched well in Triple-A last season.
• He doesn’t fit the Yankees need for a right-handed hitter, but veteran first baseman Dan Johnson has turned things around after that dismal start to the season. His on-base percentage is up to .374, and his slugging percentage has improved month-by-month including a .549 so far in July.
• Would Brent Lillibridge be a better big league option than Alberto Gonzalez? The veteran has been terrific since joining Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting .325/.398/.662 with six homers in 22 games. He did have a 13-homer season with the White Sox two years ago, and he has at least 10 big league starts at every position except pitcher and catcher.
• Hasn’t been a particularly good season for Tyler Austin, and now he’s out with a wrist injury. Josh Norris reports that it’s a spring and Austin will keep the wrist immobilized until being reevaluated next week. Austin had been particularly bad recently, hitting just .188 in nine July games.
• Better injury news came from first baseman Kyle Roller who was activated from the disabled list just two weeks after suffering what was said to be a serious ankle injury. He’s having a nice year, leading Trenton in doubles, home runs and RBI.
• Outfield prospect Slade Heathcott has a brutal month of April, a solid month of May, a pretty bad month of June, and he’s finally having an excellent month in July. In his past 14 games Heathcott is hitting .351/.393/.439 with five doubles in Trenton. He’s been caught stealing quite a bit this year — nine stolen bases, caught eight times — and his overall production has been an underwhelming .257/.321/.370.
• Double-A reliever Tommy Kahnle has allowed six earned runs in his past seven outings, but his overall body of work remains pretty impressive: 40.1 innings, 23 hits, 25 walks, 45 strikeouts and a 2.68 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP. The walks aren’t great, but opponents are hitting just .167 against him.
• Pegged as the Yankees top prospect this offseason, Tampa center fielder Mason Williams is beginning to play that way. He went 1-for-3 today, which snapped a streak of four straight multi-hit games. Williams has hit .400/.443/.554 in his past 16 games. He’s stuck out just four times in that span.
• With Williams having a slow first half, Tampa catcher Gary Sanchez seems to have emerged as the consensus top position prospect in the system. He’s slumped a little bit lately but is hitting .270/.331/.457 for the year. Recently he’s given a little bit of the catching duties to Peter O’Brien, who’s hit .299/.312/.552 since coming up from Charleston. Most of O’Brien’s time in the field, though, has come at third base, a new position for him. All five of his High-A home runs have come in games when he was either a third baseman or DH.
• After pitching well out of the bullpen in Charleston, Dietrich Enns — the Yankees 19th-round pick last year — has been terrific since moving up and into the Tampa rotation. He had one brutal start of six runs through three innings, but overall he has a 3.04 ERA and 0.93 WHIP through 23.2 High-A innings. That’s a name that wasn’t remotely on my radar until this season.
• Dante Bichette Jr. continues to really struggle down in Low-A Charleston, but Cito Culver might be showing some signs of life. A former switch hitter now batting right-handed, Culver has hit .271/.352/.500 in his past 13 games and .267/.330/.411 in his past 22 games. For the year he’s hitting .229, with the same batting average against lefties as against righties.
• The offensive standout in Charleston has been first baseman Greg Bird, a converted catcher who’s hitting .273/.398/.476 with a whopping 62 walks through 85 games. Granted, he’s also struck out 89 times. He’s slugged better than .500 in every month since April.
• Jose Campos has yet to pitch more than four innings in a start this season as the Yankees try to monitor his workload in Charleston. He has a 3.66 ERA for the year but has been especially good recently with a 1.35 ERA in his past five starts.
• Mentioned yesterday that Mustelier and Mark Montgomery had begun playing some rehab games in rookie ball. Worth also mentioning that Pat Venditte (coming back from a right shoulder injury) has gotten into five Gulf Coast games this month, and David Herndon (coming back from Tommy John) has played five games with High-A Tampa.
• Second-round draft pick Gosuke Katoh had two more hits in the Gulf Coast League today and is hitting .328/.455/.656 through 19 games. He’s a second baseman, and not a very big guy, but he has five doubles, three triples and three homers already. He also has more walks than strikeouts.