Tonight the Yankees begin a three-game series against the Oakland A’s, the team that happens to have the best record in the American League. And in those three games, the A’s happen to be starting three guys who each have an ERA below 3.00. Not at all the ideal matchup for a team that’s lost three of four and has an offense that’s sputtering.
Here are few random thoughts and observations on the Yankees offense heading into tonight’s series opener.
• Even Joe Girardi acknowledges that today is a huge test for Mark Teixeira. The Yankees are banking on that cortisone shot to give Teixeira enough relief from his wrist inflammation, and they’re banking on getting him back in the lineup. “If he’s still struggling (today), then I’ll be more concerned,” Girardi said. “We’ve been reassured by his doctor that did the surgery a couple of times that this is going to go away and he’s going to be OK. A couple of weeks ago, he didn’t have any of this. Until we get through (tonight), I’m not sure what to think.”
• By the way, the Yankees face a lefty tonight, a right-hander tomorrow, and then another lefty on Thursday. Might make sense to try to play Teixeira tonight, give him tomorrow off, then play him again on Thursday. That way he goes another three days without having to take any — or at least, not very many — left-handed swings. Those seem to be the biggest problem. “I think we’ll give him an opportunity to come in (today) and see what he thinks and see how he feels, and then you go from there,” Girardi said.
• Best-case scenario, this lineup is a lot better by the end of the week. If Teixeira can come back and Carlos Beltran can join the team in Kansas City. Those are two hitters the Yankees were really counting on this year, and with Brian McCann struggling, and Jacoby Ellsbury out of place as the No. 3 hitter, getting a couple of productive switch hitters could make a difference.
• Speaking of Beltran and Teixeira, the timing here actually works out alright. By the end of this week’s amateur draft, the Yankees should have a better idea about whether they’re going to get those two back in the lineup. And if they aren’t coming back, then they can — potentially — make a move for Kendrys Morales. There no place to play him if Beltran is at DH and Teixeira is at first base, but if either of those spots is open, Morales might make too much sense to pass up.
• I can understand why people have a problem with Derek Jeter hitting second, but heading into last night’s game, Jeter was hitting .304/.360/.380 since May 5 (a span of 101 plate appearances), .316/.350/.368 since May 17 (his past 61 plate appearances) and .360/.385/.480 since May 25 (in six games started by right-handed pitchers). Not saying he should or should not be hitting second every day, but I certainly think the Yankees have offensive problems well beyond Jeter and his place in the batting order.
• Alfonso Soriano’s slash line is down to .230/.256/.399, but he oddly still had a lot of value for the Yankees if only because he swings right handed. Soriano’s actually hit .300/.328/.517 against lefties, and there’s value in that (especially for a lineup as left-leaning as the Yankees), but he’s hitting below .200 against right-handers. If Beltran gets back, would Soriano become basically a platoon right fielder, splitting time with Ichiro Suzuki? And if so, will Ichiro stay productive in a regular role instead of the part-time role in which he thrived early in the season.
• Speaking of Soriano’s at-bats, Zoilo Almonte would seem to be a reasonable alternative to DH against right-handers, but it just seems that Girardi isn’t sold on him. He really has no role on this team.
• Kelly Johnson has actually hit pretty well lately — three multi-hit games in his past four games — and his left-handed power should be helpful in a time like this, but he has really not looked good defensively. The Yankees are clearly not the first team to think Johnson will be able to adapt to new positions. He broke into the big leagues at second base, a position he didn’t play in the minors, and just last season the Rays moved him around quite a bit, but I almost wonder if he’s going through something similar to what Eduardo Nunez went through during his time with the Yankees. No consistent at-bats and no consistent position, that’s leading to inconsistent results. When he was the everyday third baseman at the very beginning of the season, Johnson was alright.
• Jacoby Ellsbury hit .231/.317/.327 in the month of May after hitting .312/.369/.452 in April. Does that have anything to do with moving into the No. 3 spot in the order, or is it simply a coincidence that he stopped hitting around the time he started batting third everyday? It’s worth noting that Ellsbury hit third pretty regularly for a stretch in April when Teixeira was on the disabled list and hit .353/.405/.441.
• Every time I start to think Yangervis Solarte is on his way back to earth, finally exposed as something less than an everyday player, he starts to hit again. These past few days have been yet another spurt of don’t-give-up-on-me production from the Yankees third baseman. If he keeps this up, couldn’t Solarte be the regular second baseman next year (assuming Alex Rodriguez is back to play third, which is a pretty huge assumption for many, many reasons)?
Associated Press photos