Just a few quick thoughts on my way out of Minnesota…
• Is Brandon McCarthy the answer to the Yankees rotation problems? He certainly doesn’t look like a No. 2 to pair with Masahiro Tanaka, but I still think he has a pretty good chance to be a better back-of-the-rotation starter than Vidal Nuno. His 5.01 ERA is ugly, but two of his three wins came in his past two starts — when his numbers have actually been pretty good — plus his walk rate is terrific, his strikeout rate is the highest of his career, and his 2.89 xFIP suggests he’s been better than the ERA indicates. McCarthy is also a fairly reliable groundball pitcher, and while the Yankees infield defense is spotty at best, we’ve also seen how dangerous it can be to allow a bunch of fly balls at Yankee Stadium. Nuno struggled with that very thing, and that’s part of why he’d been so unreliable. Even with the shaky infield and the rangy outfield, I’d still prefer singles on the ground over home runs in the seats.
• Speaking of McCarthy: “I feel like I’m in a good place now,” he told Nick Piecoro at The Arizona Republic, referring to how he’s been throwing not the place he’s been traded. “We’ve kind of changed up the way I’m attacking recently and there are some positives we’re starting to see. I still feel like I’ve thrown the ball well this year, but I feel like now I have a better strategy in line to help set that up. Hopefully that’s something I can carry with me and I can take that with me the second half of the season.”
• Maybe it’s not worth getting all worked up about Dave Robertson not making the All-Star team, but it’s certainly one more sign of just how far he’s flown under the radar while doing a terrific job replacing the greatest closer of all time. In spring training, it seemed Robertson’s move to the ninth inning would be an storyline throughout the season, but the fact he’s handled it with far more dominance than disappointment has made him kind of an afterthought. He’s the closer, and he’s expected to get the job done. I still think he should be an all-star, though. Third-most saves in the American League with the highest strikeout rate in the majors.
• These past few games were fun if only to watch Zelous Wheeler make his big league debut. That guy smiles all the time and seems like a genuinely happy guy. He’s fun to be around. Apparently, when he hit that home run in his first game, the Triple-A team had just finished its own game and the whole group watched Wheeler go deep from their clubhouse. Heard it was quite the eruption of players genuinely happy for their former teammate.
• The Yankees are going to make a move today to put Shane Greene on the active roster. Jim Miller would seem like the obvious choice to go, then Bruce Billings will probably head back to Triple-A once the Yankees feel that their bullpen is rested enough to not need an extra long man. Shuffling the pitching staff a little bit is sort of a short-term thing — unless Greene sticks around and lets Chase Whitley slide into the bullpen — but the more interesting move is going to come when the Yankees go back to 12 pitchers and add a position player. My guess would be that Zoilo Almonte gets the call-up, plays against righties and Ichiro Suzuki gets his at-bats against lefties (his reverse splits work well for that). Have to think Jose Pirela and Scott Sizemore are candidates as well, though (presumably Zelous Wheeler would get time in the outfield if Sizemore were the choice).
• As for Greene himself, just a few weeks ago it seemed that he was pitching his way farther and farther from the big leagues, and now he’s about to be activated so that he can make his first big league start. Says a lot about the Yankees rotation depth at this point. Not that I dislike Greene — he had kind of a weird start to the year, but his stuff is pretty good and he seems to have his head on straight — but there really isn’t a Triple-A starter who’s been pushing for a call-up for weeks. Greene had a couple of good starts, the Yankees needed a starter, and boom, it’s a big league opportunity.
• Now that Alfonso Soriano has been designated for assignment, I wonder who’s job is most at risk on the Yankees roster (back end of the bullpen guys don’t count). Just based on Twitter, email and blog comments, it seems that I’m not nearly as down on Kelly Johnson as several others. I still think he could be a really helpful player, but that’s just me. Might be a matter of who’s available as a replacement. Doesn’t seem like Rob Refsnyder is on the verge of a call-up now, but I wonder if that might change in August. I also wonder how long the Yankees will stick with Ichiro Suzuki as a regular. He’s been very good as a fourth outfielder type — he can play all three outfield spots, he gets enough singles to get on base a decent amount, and he can still run a little bit — but he’s kind of limited as a lineup regular.
• One week to the All-Star break and the Yankees are one game over .500. That’s not good, but it’s remarkably good enough to keep them in the playoff picture. The American League East is a mess, and the Yankees have somehow not been a complete disaster despite losing 60 percent of their rotation and getting less-than-expected production out of Soriano, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. Trade deadline is more than three weeks away. Going to be interesting to see how the Yankees play the rest of this month, and how the front office responds to that.
Associated Press photos