Heading home after a week and a half on the road. Here are a few random thoughts as I board this plane and make my way east…
• Maybe last night’s home run was a sign that Carlos Beltran is starting to come around with the bat. The Yankees certainly have to hope that’s the case. With Beltran, Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano each struggling to live up to expectations — and Jacoby Ellsbury really hitting out of position as the No. 3 hitter — the Yankees lineup looked awfully thin on Saturday night when Mark Teixeira was scratched. Right now he’s the only meat-of-the-order guy who seems capable of big-time production, and that’s a big-time problem because: 1. Teixeira’s going to have to rest occasionally (that much is crystal clear); and 2. Surely no team can win with only one reliable power threat.
• How long does Yangervis Solarte get the benefit of the doubt? He’s hitless in his past five games, which certainly doesn’t mean he’s finished hitting, but it will be interesting to see how long the Yankees stick with him if this slump continues. It seems like every other time Solarte has slumped, he’s has turned things around and made people believe in him again. But he’s looked pretty bad this past week or so, and Kelly Johnson has been hitting a little bit. I don’t think it’s time to give up on Solarte, but I am curious to see how long of a leash these first two and a half months have bought him.
• During this road trip, Joe Girardi said this about Jacoby Ellsbury: “I think you appreciate him more because you do see him every day and you can see all of the things that he can do as opposed to, sometimes you run into a guy and he’s hot for a series or his cold for a series and you don’t see everything that he has in his bag. But he’s a really, really good player.” I kind of agree. Ellsbury’s contract could be a mess, and he really wasn’t an ideal free agent fit on this team, but on his best days, I think Ellsbury is better than I thought he would be. I guess his day-to-day ceiling is higher than I realized. Hits the ball hard, covers a ton of ground, willing and able to steal a base against anyone. Still not sure the Yankees should have given him that deal, but he can be a legitimate game-changer.
• Shawn Kelley’s come into the fifth inning the past two days, but I can’t imagine that’s the way he’ll be regularly used going forward. Situations just kind of presented themselves, and getting Kelley some innings made some sense. Not sure what Girardi has in mind for Kelley’s role, but if he gets going again, I think I’d put him back in the eighth inning, keep using Dellin Betances for multiple innings and to get out of jams, and I’d use Adam Warren as a kind of floating piece who takes the eighth when Kelley’s not available and does the fireman thing when Betances isn’t available. Really, though, the way Kelley’s been used the past two days kind of points out how good this bullpen could be. Four really good relievers, a lefty, a long man and a kid being tested at this level. Need Matt Thornton to get out lefties and need Jose Ramirez to throw strikes, though.
• If the Yankees had a viable alternative to Vidal Nuno, I’m guessing he’d be on his way to the Bronx right now. But I’m not sure the system has anyone for the job. Chase Whitley is already up, Shane Greene has struggled in Triple-A and Manny Banuelos is still dealing with an innings limit (and some Double-A inconsistencies). Not that this should come as a shock. I’m not sure there are many teams prepared to go seven deep in the rotation without running into some less-than-ideal options, and right now Nuno is certainly a less-than-ideal option.
• Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have each played in 66 games. Ellsbury has 252 at-bats, Gardner has 253. Ellsbury’s season stats: .757 OPS, 71 hits, 4 homers, 30 RBI, 102 total bases, 28 walks, 50 strikeouts, 18 steals. Brett Gardner’s season stats: .739 OPS, 71 hits, 5 homers, 26 RBI, 22 walks, 59 strikeouts, 14 steals. Ellsbury’s been better, but it’s awfully close.
• The Derek Jeter retirement tour is very different from the Mariano Rivera retirement tour. When Rivera came into road games, it was in the ninth inning with the home team losing by a fairly narrow margin. Fans weren’t going to give him a standing ovation in that situation. With Rivera, the farewell was all about the pregame ceremonies and those meetings he had with fans and stadium workers in each city. With Jeter, it’s all about the at-bats. He has to get ready pregame, so Jeter can’t really meet with people an hour before first pitch, and his gifts and video tributes have been secondary to the ovations he’s received each time he’s come to the plate. That’s been amazing to witness city after city. He seriously gets a better ovation on the road than at home.
• A little more than a week ago, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre began using Jose Pirela at first base, and Brian Cashman said it was an effort to add another backup option at the position. Since then, Pirela’s played strictly left field and first base. But I’m not sure that’s great news for him. Playing second base and third base might be an easier path to New York right now, and Pirela hasn’t played third at all this year, and his chances to play second basically vanished with the Rob Refsnyder call-up. Given the way Scott Sizemore and Zelous Wheeler have hit lefties — and the fact they’re still getting time in the infield — I would be they’re ahead of Pirela for a call-up in most situations.
• Two other thoughts on potential call-ups: 1. Kyle Roller is still hitting, but six of his past seven starts have come at designated hitter. If he were the top choice to be a first base replacement, wouldn’t he be playing the field more regularly? 2. Adonis Garcia has hit really well lately. I have no idea what it would take for the Yankees to give up on Alfonso Soriano — his numbers against lefties would have to significantly worse — but Garcia’s doing what he can to be the best right-handed outfield alternative. 3. I don’t think the Yankees have to open a 40-man spot for Francisco Cervelli, but once he’s healthy, wouldn’t Austin Romine have to be a DFA candidate whenever a 40-man spot is needed?
• Chase Whitley was left exposed and went unselected in the Rule 5 draft this winter. Brett Gardner had to walk-on with his college team. Matt Daley was undrafted. Yangervis Solarte was a minor league free agent who I’d literally never heard of before he signed with the Yankees (and when I confirmed the move, I joked with a team official that I first needed to confirm that such a person even existed before asking whether he’d signed with the Yankees). I mention these things mostly because short season leagues got started a few days ago, and it’s hard to know much about those guys right now. Kind of have to let careers play out before we know who can be a big league role player and who cannot.
Associated Press photos