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

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Cashman on Yankees’ bullpen: “It’s just kind of a revolving door”08.27.15

John Ryan Murphy, Nick Rumbelow

As I’ve said many times, one benefit of working for Gannett is access to USA Today’s national baseball writers, and that’s especially true since Joe Lemire began writing for the newspaper. On Tuesday, USA Today ran a piece by Lemire all about the Yankees’ revolving door in the bullpen. This was even before yesterday’s moves in which Chris Capuano was designated for assignment (again) and Nick Rumbelow was optioned (again). It’s a good read, and a good way to wrap up this off day.

NEW YORK — Just inside the main entrance of the Yankees’ home clubhouse and to the right are a pair of lockers reserved for players occupying transient roster spots.

Residing there on a recent Monday were relievers Nick Rumbelow (on his third big league stint) and Branden Pinder (following his sixth promotion to the majors in this season alone). No fewer than a half-dozen players have occupied those stalls in rapid succession, enough that fellow reliever and next-locker neighbor Justin Wilson couldn’t begin to guess exactly how many.

“I don’t know,” Wilson said, shaking his head with a bemused grin. “A ton.”

There’s no team email blast about team transactions, so players find out upon arriving at the ballpark. “You just walk in and usually if you see a (new) guy’s here, then well, I guess we made a move today,” reliever Adam Warren said.

Branden PinderAt any given time, seemingly one or two members of the Yankees’ 40-man roster and, in particular its bullpen, can be found on Interstate 80, making the two-hour drive between New York and Class AAA Scranton (Pa.).

The Yankees lead the American League with 106 options, recalls, contract selections and designations for assignment — the 29 other major league clubs average 67– and has used 51 players this season, including an AL-leading 22 relievers (23, if you count position player Garrett Jones) and 15 players who made their major league debuts.

The shuffling has paid off: New York entered Tuesday night’s play tied with the Toronto Blue Jays atop the American League East, and has spent 83 days atop the division.

All this in a season where it’s been a challenge identifying some of the players.

The franchise has retired 20 uniform numbers (with Derek Jeter’s No. 2 to make 21), so several digits have been recycled this season: Six players have worn No. 40; five have worn No. 64; four have worn two numbers.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman reckoned that his rotation — full with injury risks (Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda), aging (CC Sabathia), switching to the AL (Nathan Eovaldi) and with innings limits (Adam Warren and Luis Severino) — might not go deep into games and be what he called “five and six and fly.” That precipitated the offseason signing of closer Andrew Miller and trades for Wilson, Chasen Shreve and David Carpenter, plus the promise of a farm system’s upper levels filled with competent and fresh arms.

Demoted players need to spend 10 days in the minors before returning, unless there’s an injury, and many have changed places just that often, usually after an outing lasts multiple innings and thus requires at least one or two days of rest.

“(We had) from Double A on up a lot of really interesting power arms from the left and right side that were under control, with options,” Cashman said. “We talked all winter about where we could be in a situation where we’re really taking a guy every 10 days. Call a guy up, max him out, send him back out and get a new guy up. It’s just kind of a revolving door.”

Chris CapuanoOne veteran without options has been caught up in the fluctuating roster, too.

Veteran lefty Chris Capuano has been designated for assignment three times in less than a month (now four times) and returned to the big leagues all three times. He and his agent, Casey Close, now treat such transactions as part of the daily routine.

“We just send these short perfunctory texts now,” Capuano said, offering such examples as “DFA today,” ”Going to Scranton,” ”Stay ready” and “Coming back to NY today” without tipping his hand to possible emoji use.

When scanning a list of pitchers used this season, Miller confessed that he had forgotten one name who had shared the bullpen with him. He said it’s tough to watch young teammates shuttle back and forth, especially when they’ve been pitching well, but that the roster manipulation has helped the big league club.

“I think having that flexibility in the seventh spot has essentially given us an eight- or nine-man bullpen, which has been really huge,” said Miller, who called it an “underrated” part of the club’s first-place season.

For most of the season, Miller, Warren, Wilson, Shreve and Dellin Betances have held down steady bullpen roles for a unit that has thrown the majors’ sixth-most innings (400 1/3) with the eighth-best ERA (3.23). Miller, Betances and Shreve all have ERAs under 2.00; the other two have ERAs just north of 3.00.

The rotating cast filling in the other bullpen seats has largely proven interchangeable and durable in logging 167 2/3 relief innings. Of the 11 rookie pitchers to relieve this season, only two — Jacob Lindgren (No. 10) and Bryan Mitchell (No. 17) — rank among the organization’s top-30 prospects, per

Of the four veterans in the mix, Capuano keeps shuttling back and forth, and only one of the other three has shown post-Yankees success: Esmil Rogers has since thrown two complete games for his new team — in Korea.

Chris MartinAll three of Capuano’s return trips to the Yankees have occurred the evening before he was to make a Class AAA start, complicating what is already a difficult chore of getting regular work. (Once, he had checked into his Scranton-area hotel for less than an hour before Cashman called to summon him back to the majors.) To keep his command sharp and his arm strength up, Capuano has taken to throwing a lot of live bullpens with reserve hitters standing in the box.

“It’s a little bit of a different formula they’ve applied this year, just making sure they always have fresh arms, but it’s part of it,” he said. “All I want to do is win a World Series and be part of it in some way.”

Sometimes that means being a bullpen martyr.

After Shreve threw 3 1/3 innings in April 10′s 19-inning game, he was sent down for 10 days. Similarly, on May 23, Pinder logged three innings in a blowout loss to keep the high-leverage-throwing core fresh; he was optioned to Scranton after that game.

“We all knew — and I’m pretty sure (Pinder) knew too — that he was going to be sent down,” Shreve said.

Pinder returned a few weeks later in place of right-hander Chris Martin, who threw 80 pitches in three appearances over a span of six days. Demotions around here aren’t farewells.

“Whenever somebody goes down,” Shreve said, “it’s ‘Hey, we’ll see you soon.’”

Associated Press photos

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Off day notes and links: Gary Sanchez placed on Triple-A disabled list08.27.15

The Blue Jays lost to Texas this afternoon, which means the Yankees picked up a half game in the standings today. Here are a few links and notes on this much-needed off day for the Yankees:

• Up above is a video from Yankees On Demand talking to Brian McCann about his work with the Yankees’ pitching staff. It’s pretty good stuff. He goes into some detail about different guys on the mound. On Luis Severino: “He’s the No. 1 prospect in this organization for a reason,” McCann said. “When you get to see guys come up that you hear about and they exceed your expectation, I mean, this guy, he’s the real deal.”

Sanchez• The Yankees officially placed catcher Gary Sanchez on the Triple-A disabled list. That’s a seven-day DL, which seems to rule out the possibility of a September 1 call-up, though the issue might not necessarily take a full two weeks. Sanchez hurt his hamstring last night and Brian Cashman said earlier today that the Yankees weren’t sure how significant the injury might be. If it’s going to cost significant time, I have to think Austin Romine will be called up.

• Also in Triple-A, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has a doubleheader tonight, and Dustin Ackley is batting third as the Game 1 designated hitter. Ackley has missed nearly a month with a back injury suffered right after he was traded from Seattle. Seems likely he’ll get some at-bats for a few days — maybe beyond the weekend — and rejoin the Yankees sometime in September. For the time being, the Yankees have said they think of Ackley primarily as an outfielder.

• A lot of talk today about possible September call-ups. Donnie Collins broke down some of the guys who aren’t currently on the 40-man roster but might be worth a look in September. I tend to agree with Donnie that, while Ben Gamel is having a monster year, he might not make much sense in September because he’s basically another version of Slade Heathcott (who’s basically a less proven version of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury). “It may actually make more sense for the Yankees to go off the board and add the type of player they really don’t have in the bigs right now,” Donnie wrote, pointing toward pinch running candidate Rico Noel.

• Tough break for former Yankees starter Shane Greene. Already having a rough first year in the Tigers organization, Greene is having season-ending surgery to deal with numbness in his pitching hand. According to the Tigers’ trainer, the surgery is going to repair the circumflex artery.

• Remember Derek Jeter? He’s in his first year of retirement, and based on today’s mailbag Q&A posted on The Players’ Tribune, Jeter’s enjoying it. “As far as what I’ve learned from retirement,” Jeter wrote, “a lot of it so far is how many little things I missed out on while playing. Anything summer-related, I probably missed it. A barbecue. A trip to the beach. Or even just a lazy Saturday afternoon. It sounds simple, but rediscovering experiences like that has been fun.” Be sure to check the link to his new Twitter account at the bottom of the Q&A.

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Yankees not planning to call-up Aaron Judge (plus other September notes)08.27.15

Aaron Judge

The Yankees have no plans to bring Aaron Judge to the big leagues when rosters expand in September. Judge remains the Yankees’ top offensive prospect, but he’s hitting just .232 in Triple-A, he will not be Rule 5 eligible this winter, and there’s currently no clear role for him to play in New York.

“Just like last year with (Rob) Refsnyder, we’re not going to bring somebody just to bring them,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “Greg Bird came up because there was a need, and obviously he was performing well. In Judge’s case, there’s currently not a need.”

The Yankees are not down on Judge based on his Triple-A struggles, but they see little sense in having him unnecessarily clog a 40-man roster spot all winter just to come up and get a taste of the big leagues. With Carlos Beltran hitting as well as anyone on the team, there’s no need for a right fielder, and Judge has not performed at a level that suggests he could significantly upgrade over Alex Rodriguez at DH or Chris Young as a platoon outfielder.

Judge opened the season in Double-A and made his Triple-A debut on June 22. In 185 at-bats since then, he’s hit .232/.319/.405 with 61 strikeouts and eight homers. His power has jumped in the month of August, but that power surge has come with only a .200 batting average for the month.

“It’s good that he’s going through it,” Cashman said. “You’d rather have that stuff happen in the minor leagues as they make adjustments and figure out what they have to do on a daily basis to stay positive.”

A few other notes about September call-ups:

Gary Sanchez, Antoan RichardsonGary Sanchez is hurt; status unknown
The Yankees top upper-level catcher, Gary Sanchez, left last night’s Triple-A game with a hamstring injury. Sanchez is on the 40-man roster, he’s played well this season, and teams almost always add third catchers in September. For those reasons, I think of Sanchez as a near lock for a call-up as long as he’s healthy. The Yankees, though, are not sure whether last night’s injury has put September at risk.

“I have no idea,” Cashman said.

If Sanchez is too injured to play, I imagine the Yankees would find a way to get Austin Romine back on the roster to serve as catching depth. He’s played well in Triple-A this season.

Jacob Lindgren probably won’t be ready
Arguably the top bullpen prospect in the organization, last year’s top draft pick Jacob Lindgren has been called up already this season, but an elbow injury might keep him from returning in September. Lindgren had surgery to remove a bone spur, and while he’s started a throwing program, he’s not even throwing bullpens yet, much less pitching in games.

Cashman said that right now he’s not expecting to bring Lindgren back to the big leagues in September. He said the team hasn’t discussed yet whether they should put him on the 60-day disabled list to open a spot for someone else.

Rico Noel is a legitimate possibility
One of the more unusual September call-up candidates is outfielder Rico Noel, a career minor leaguer who was released by the Padres earlier this season. The 26-year-old has big-time speed, and the Yankees see him as a potential pinch runner who could also play some outfield defense.

“That’s what we’re talking about,” Cashman said. “Is he a possibility? Yes.”

In the month of August, Noel has played in 10 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In eight of those games, he entered as a pinch runner, and in those games he’s 5-for-8 stolen base attempts. He stole a base yesterday but was also thrown out on another attempt. In his minor league career Noel has 280 stolen bases and he’s been caught 61 times. The Yankees have the minors’ stolen base leader for this season, but Jorge Mateo is not close to Rule 5 eligibility and it’s basically impossible to imagine the Yankees would actually add him to the roster just to pinch run. Noel, on the other hand, could play that role for a month and then give his roster spot to someone else this winter.

Chris CapuanoChances are, Chris Capuano will be back
For the fourth time this season, the Yankees have designated Chris Capuano for assignment. If he clears waivers, chances are, he’ll be back in New York at some point.

“The only difference there is he’s been back and forth so much, we’ve got to get him back on a routine,” Cashman said.

Cashman pointed out that Capuano has to clear waivers before the Yankees can really put a plan in place, and he would not commit to absolutely bringing him back, but it seems clear that the Yankees want Capuano to play his familiar role of eating innings whenever necessary. The Triple-A rotation has been thinned out, so I assume Capuano could end up back with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make a few starts into the playoffs just to get him back into the swing of things before he returns.

The Yankees won’t hold back on September 1
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is a first-place team with a schedule that runs through September 7 plus the playoffs beyond that. It’s also a team that’s about to take a major hit.

“I hate to say it,” Cashman said. “But I’m not going to care about Scranton. I’m going to care about New York. If there’s somebody down there we think can help, they’re coming.”

Earlier today, Cashman told Bryan Hoch that Rob Refsnyder will be among those call-ups (which seems pretty obvious, but confirmation is a good thing). He also told Hoch that it’s “all hands on deck” for guys on the 40-man roster, which suggests guys like Slade Heathcott, Jose Pirela, Chris Martin, Caleb Cotham and — once eligible to return — Nick Rumbelow and Nick Goody will also be brought up. I suppose the Yankees could make some 40-man changes to add other guys as well. Noel, Andrew Bailey, James Pazos and Ben Gamel stand out as non-40-man guys who could be candidates, though aside from Noel, Cashman didn’t comment on the possibility of any of those being added.

It’s worth noting that the Yankees have several intriguing prospects who need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason — Gamel, Pazos, Johnny Barbato, Jake Cave, etc. — but Cashman said no one will be called up strictly because he needs Rule 5 protection. If the Yankees want to protect a guy, but don’t necessarily think he can help in the big leagues right away, they’ll wait until the offseason to put him on the roster. I would think that rules out some of the Double-A guys like Cave and Tony Renda.

“I’m not bringing anybody unless they can help New York, period,” Cashman said.

Associated Press photos

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From the other dugout: Houston manager A.J. Hinch sizes up the Yankees08.27.15

Hinch 2

Heading toward the final month of the season, the Yankees remain a team in search of consistency. Their pitching can be terrific on any given night, but the staff still feels vulnerable. Their lineup has been productive overall, but the lineup has largely disappeared for significant stretches. Even this late into the season, it’s difficult to have a great feel for what to expect going forward.

But that’s perspective from having watched closely day after day.

What’s the outside opinion? What does a team in contention make of the Yankees?

Before yesterday’s game, I sat in the visiting dugout at Yankee Stadium and asked Astros manager A.J. Hinch for his take. After taking two of three at Yankee Stadium, the Astros finished their season series having won four and lost three against the Yankees. The teams split four games in Houston in late June, and the Astros’ pitching staff largely shut down the Yankees offense these past three days.

Here’s audio of my conversation with Hinch. For those not interested in listening, there’s also a transcript.

Evan Gattis, Luis Valbuena, Cplby Rasmus, A.J. HinchWhat do you make of this Yankees team?

“You know, in watching them for, now, two different series, they obviously have a ton of experience. They have a ton of balance. They’re very threatening as a lineup. And more than anything, their switch hitters, the power that they have, the experience that they have – they’re just a very calm team to play against. You know they’re always sort of explosive, explosively dangerous. And I’ll tell you, probably the most difficult thing to think about when it comes to the Yankees is if they have the lead and they turn it over to that bullpen, they can create some very, very difficult matchups for you.”

You didn’t run into Severino, but what do you make of the rotation here? Obviously Tanaka and Pineda, on their best days, they’re really good. Do you see this as a dangerous rotation? Do you see it as a vulnerable rotation?

“The stuff they have in their rotation is something that our guys talk about. When you look at Eovaldi, you look at Pineda, you look at Tanaka, when these guys are on – like most Major League pitchers – when these guys are on, they’re very difficult to center up. Their pitches move. They have velocity. It seems like the split over here is a popular pitch. This rotation, there’s not a glaring hole. Severino I’ve seen in the past as a young kid, a lot like our guys McCullers and Velasquez, high upside with velocity, with fastball/slider. They’re not easy to matchup against because they all have out pitches (and) they all have experience with the exception of Severino. And it looks like the way they work with McCann and Murphy to control the running game, they just don’t give you extra opportunities.”

The offense, we’ve seen it disappear at times.

“You should come to Houston. Our’s disappears sometimes too.”

But with you guys, I think a lot of it disappears because you do have so many straight power hitters and you know there’s a give-and-take with that. This team has a lot of power, but they have guys who should be hitting for average as well. Why do you think a team like this offensively can disappear at times?

“Well, first off, I don’t think that you ever feel like they’re disappearing. You can look at the numbers all you want. When guys are walking up to the batter’s box with the type of resumes that they have, it still feels like a very threatening situation. Sometimes I think, in general, teams get into this rut of at-bat quality vs. run production. Trying to strike that balance between, patient enough to draw your walks and create your own opportunities, with being opportunistic and hunting fastballs. At least in the series that we’ve had, it’s been interesting to watch them have a little bit of both. Maybe that’s something that has impacted them. Maybe it’s just a six-game sample size for us. They are a team that you know can conduct at-bats, you know they’ve got experience, that the moment is never going to be too big for them. You’ve got to pitch well to get them out.”

Brett Gardner, Carlos CorreaThey have Ellsbury and Gardner at the top who obviously have high-end speed, but they haven’t run a lot. Do you game plan the Yankees as a team that runs?

“You know, they don’t run a ton just on the sheer numbers. I think you always have to be careful with guys with speed regardless of what the bigger number (suggests). They’ll be opportunistic. If you fall asleep and you’re at the top of the order, guys are going to steal bases. So, while on paper they don’t run a lot, they have guys that can run and they have a manager who’s always searching for the opportunity to beat the opponent at what they’re giving you. We game plan against their strengths and against their capabilities, despite maybe the numbers being a little bit lower.”

What do you make of the middle of the infield? It’s kind of an unusual one. Didi is the young guy who you probably saw quite a bit when you were in San Diego, and Drew having this kind of bizarre year in which he’s hitting for power but not much else.

“First off, to look out at the middle infield and not see Jeter, for everybody – obviously (for) me the least of people in New York that are both saddened by it, but also it’s noteworthy – I think it’s changed. I think the athleticism that they have up the middle has been good. I think they’re all learning on the fly a little bit more, but what makes it more unique here is you’re so used to seeing Jeter and Cano, the more established guys that have been Yankees for a long time. It looks a little bit different out there, but they’re very capable and very explosive as they get more comfortable playing in New York.”

Have you seen enough of Didi to see any different between what you saw all those years that he was in Arizona and what he is now?

“He’s under control a little bit more now. His arm. His defense. Things are starting to smooth out for him. His athleticism is very good. I haven’t seen him a ton to see swing mechanics and any adjustments he’s made at the plate, but he looks more experienced and more calm in the field than maybe he was as a young player, which is not uncommon.”

Drew AstrosDrew, with the low average and the high power, has been a big topic here. You have a lot of guys in your lineup who are low-average, high-power guys. What is the thinking or the experience when you have guys like that in the lineup? Why is it OK to give one to get the other?

“Well, some of our guys, that’s their strength. It’s nothing that you seek (thinking), hey, I’m going to make a lot of outs but I’m going to hit a lot of homers. That’s not something that you talk about. But it fits a lot of the strengths of the players that we have. What’s interesting about Stephen is that I had Stephen in Arizona, and he was a little bit more of a complete hitter with not as much power, but this ballpark will probably do that to you down the right-field line. He’s got a professional approach, he’s more than equipped to handle whatever at-bats that Joe gives him, but as guys get into their seasons and their seasons start to get shaped, I’m not sure why he’s become more of a power threat than maybe an on-base threat because the on-base skills are in there.”

Managing against Girardi, he has a reputation as a very by-the-book manager. Looks at numbers. Plays matchups a lot. What do you expect from him when you’re managing against him?

“I expect him to always look for our weakness or look for their competitive advantage to try to either matchup or exploit something that we don’t do well. I know he’s going to play his opponent, and I try to pattern myself after that as well. You play the game, but the game within the game is trying to attack your opponent’s weakness, and I know Joe well enough to know he’s going to try to do that every day.”

If you matchup in the playoffs, how do you beat them?

“We have to play sound baseball. This team doesn’t beat itself. It doesn’t give you more opportunities. They don’t cave in at-bats. They’re a difficult team because they’re very consistent when it comes to how they approach the game. To beat them, they’re difficult because you’re going to have to maximize all your opportunities.”

Associated Press and Getty photos

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Lohud Yankees chat begins at noon08.27.15

If you cannot view the chat above, find it here.

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Some random thoughts following a disappointing home stand08.27.15

Rangers Yankees Baseball

If you’re looking to kill some time around lunch, I’ll be chatting here on the blog beginning at noon today. Stop by if you can and we’ll talk all about CC Sabathia’s future, the Yankees’ fluctuating offense, the possibility of September call-ups, and whatever other topics might come up. For now, a few random thoughts after a disappointing home stand.

Alex Rodriguez• Alex Rodriguez has already exceeded expectations this season — by his admission, he’s even exceeded his own expectation — but he’s still a 40-year-old with two surgically repaired hips who hasn’t played a full season in a long, long time. Lots of Yankees are struggling lately, but I think A-Rod’s month of August has to be the most concerning. Is there a player who seems more vulnerable to being simply not durable enough for the long haul? It’s speculation, of course, but if a guy like Brett Gardner is a little worn out right now, imagine how Rodriguez must feel. With the off day today and the three games in Atlanta this weekend, Rodriguez should get basically four days off before stepping back into the lineup on Monday. He could probably use that rest as much as anyone.

• Players optioned to the minor leagues have to stay there for 10 days before being recalled, and that rule doesn’t change just because rosters expand in September (thought players can return as soon as their team’s minor league season comes to an end). Yesterday, the Yankees optioned to Triple-A two different relievers — Nick Goody and Nick Rumbelow — who seemed locks for the September roster. Now those two can’t come back until the first weekend of September. Not a huge deal, but I was a little surprised the Yankees were OK with doing that to two of their better up-and-down relievers. Makes me think there are plenty of other relievers they’re planning to bring up immediately. Andrew Bailey, maybe? James Pazos? Maybe Bryan Mitchell as early as this weekend?

• Why are people still writing and emailing and tweeting that the Yankees need to replace Carlos Beltran? He was brutal in April, but is that still leading people to believe he’s been a bad hitter this season? Sure, his defense is rough, but the guy’s hitting .302/.365/.529 since the first of May. That’s basically Mark Teixeira but with a higher batting average. Lately, Beltran has been easily the Yankees’ best and most consistent hitter. The Yankees don’t need to cut him. If anything, they need to move him up to the No. 3 spot to give him more at-bats.

• Here’s the old theory being applied to a new situation: The Yankees refuse to give young players a chance, and that’s why Rob Refsnyder isn’t playing second base every day. Thing is, I think the Yankees are actively trying to give young players a chance this season. They didn’t trade for anyone when Jacoby Ellsbury got hurt in May. They tried to stick with Jacob Lindgren earlier in the season (until he was simply too unreliable and ultimately hurt). They promoted Luis Severino rather than trade for a veteran starter. They’ve given Greg Bird regular at-bats since he came up. They’ve called up too many young relievers to name. If you’d like, be frustrated that the Yankees prefer Stephen Drew at second, but I don’t think it’s out of blind devotion to experienced players. The Yankees clearly just aren’t sold on Refsnyder. If they were, every indication is that they’d want to give him a chance.

Yankees Angels Baseball• In the short term, moving CC Sabathia to the bullpen in September should be an easy decision (as long as no one else gets hurt in the rotation, where the Yankees have actually become a bit thin). Sabathia in the pen might even be an effective and helpful role change for both the player and the team. What could be more interesting is whether the Yankees plan to stick with that change heading into next spring. They could do it. Figure a projected 2016 rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova, with Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell also stretched out competing for spots, plus Chase Whitley coming back from Tommy John surgery. Throw in, perhaps, a random free agent signing and the Yankees could have enough rotation depth to tell Sabathia to simply prepare for the bullpen where he might be able to breathe fresh life into his career.

• Dustin Ackley was an unpopular acquisition, it seems, because fans wanted some sort of obvious impact player. And Ackley certainly isn’t that. But he only cost two players who really had no future with the team, and I really do think he could fit pretty well next season as a left-handed utility type who might get some sort of boost from Yankee Stadium’s short porch. If having Ackley on board makes the Yankees a little more comfortable giving a Refsnyder a longer look next spring — worst case scenario, Ackley could always fill in or platoon at second — then I think he’ll be a worthwhile player who will be more helpful than either Ramon Flores or Jose Ramirez. Ackley is beginning a rehab assignment tonight, and I don’t think that’s completely inconsequential.

• For most of this season, Chris Young has been a perfect role player for the Yankees because he’s brought exactly the right-handed balance their outfield needed. But in the past month, Young’s slumped as much as anyone. Even against lefties Young has hit .111/.158/.111 in the month of August. That’s bad. Really bad. Replace him, though? I just can’t see it. For the other four months of the season, Young hasn’t simply hit lefties, he’s hit at an MVP level against them. From April through July, Young hit .370/.429/.710 against left-handers. That level of production can’t be dismissed after one bad month. The Yankees know Young’s capable of big-time numbers in a platoon role. They don’t have to project or speculate; they’ve seen it. It think they have to keep running him out there to find that production again. This is his job, he’s done it well most of the year, and the Yankees need him to do it well again down the stretch.

Chris Capuano• Yesterday was the fourth time Chris Capuano had been designated for assignment this season. While I understand why the Yankees have brought him him back every other time, I do wonder if there might be an alternative who could do the exact same job and perhaps at a higher level. Kyle Davies has delivered a nice season in the Triple-A rotation, and he’s pitched particularly well lately. He’s stretched out and shouldn’t be nearly as rusty as Capuano has been. Couldn’t he play the same role, eating innings whenever necessary? Wonder if the Yankees would consider it. Makes little sense to put a young guy like Brady Lail in that role, but it’s still a role worth filling.

• Obviously we know most of the names who will be — if they get there — on the Yankees’ playoff roster. We know there will be some combination of the current five starters, we know at least five of the bullpen arms, we know the lineup regulars and at least two of the bench players. September, though, could determine the last few spots. Can Mitchell lock up a job? Can Refsnyder earn platoon at-bats at second? Can Bird get enough at-bats to play a worthwhile role? If there’s a fifth bench player, could someone with speed make a strong case for it? What about the possibility of Sabathia vs. some of the young relievers?

• Whenever I’ve written about September call-ups, I’ve mentioned the somewhat odd possibility of career minor leaguer Rico Noel. He’s not the typical prospect prospect, and the Yankees only added him mid-season, but the guy can run. And in September, there’s room for a pinch runner. This week, Brian Cashman told Joel Sherman that the Yankees specifically want to see Noel steal some bases while considering the possibility. He would be a highly specific call-up, but one that could provide a spark in key late-inning situations.

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “Nobody expects more out of us than ourselves”08.26.15

Mark Teixeira

Not that you need more numbers to prove what you already know, but here are a few just to drive the point home:

The Yankees hit .165 during this three-game series. They had one double, one home run and scored four runs.

When Didi Gregorius homered this afternoon, it ended a 144-at-bat drought without a Yankees homer. This from the team with the third-most homers in the big leagues.

With runners in scoring position, the Yankees were 0-for-14 this series. Since August 5, they’ve hit .184 in RISP at-bats.

“You can say we ran into good pitchers,” Brian McCann said. “But I think the at-bats overall probably could get better.”

The Astros do have the lowest team ERA in the American League, but the Yankees have scored the second-most runs in baseball. Essentially, they’re supposed to be as well-equipped as anyone to handle a staff like Houston’s. But when the Yankees’ offense goes cold, it really goes cold.

From July 25 to August 4, the Yankees scored 90 runs in 10 games (an easy-to-calculate nine runs per game). Immediately after that, they scored nine runs in their next seven games. After that, 33 runs in their next six games (5.5 runs per game). After that, they fell into their current slide of 22 runs in seven games (slightly more than 3.1 runs per game).

“The last couple days I didn’t think (the energy) was real good,” Gardner said. “But we lost 15-1, and today obviously just kind of flat. So, unfortunately, everything starts up at the top of the lineup, and I didn’t do anything up at the top of the lineup didn’t get on base. That’s our job up there, and I didn’t do a good job of that today, haven’t been doing a good job of that recently.”

Does winning provide energy, or does energy lead to winning? Probably goes a little both ways. What’s unquestionable, though, is Gardner’s assertion that he hasn’t been doing much at the top of the order. I posted the stats for the past week earlier today, but how about these stats for the month of August:

Ellsbury: .258/.293/.398
Gardner: .193/.302/.241
Rodriguez: .138/.250/.250
Teixeira: .175/.242/.333

Ellsbury’s improved lately, but those are the top four spots in the lineup, and they haven’t been very good since the end of July. That’s an obvious problem.

For whatever it’s worth, Mark Teixeira said he thought the team’s energy was fine, it was only the results that were lacking. McCann said basically the same thing. Girardi said he still sees a team grinding out at-bats, but clearly falling well short of expectation.

“Nobody expects more out of us than ourselves,” Gardner said. “So we’re working hard trying to do our best to get out of it and right the ship. … I think that when things are going well, it kind of gets contagious and you score a bunch of runs in bunches. And when things are going bad, it seems to kind of snowball. When things are going bad, nobody in the lineup outside of maybe Carlos (Beltran) stands out to me swinging the bat really really well the last several weeks. Other than that, we just haven’t been able to get a whole lot going. It’s definitely frustrating, but five weeks of baseball left, 35-40 games, and hopefully we can start playing a little better.”

Michael Pineda• First start back from a forearm strain, Michael Pineda looked pretty good early, but his outing completely fell apart in the fifth inning. “The pitches are working good,” Pineda said. “I don’t have a really good location in this inning.”

• No health concerns for Pineda, just wasn’t very sharp in the fifth. “I don’t feel good right now because I want to win,” he said. “The only thing is, keep my head up and continue working to be ready for my next start. The good thing is, I’m feeling good and I’ll be back for pitching every five days. Just keep going.”

• Girardi on Pineda: “You know, I thought he did pretty good. That inning got away from him (after) the confusion at first base, two people at first base. The inning kind of got away from him and it cost us some runs, so I thought he threw the ball pretty well.”

• Before the fifth inning, Pineda had allowed three base runners in the first four innings. The fifth started with four straight batters reaching base. He’d thrown only 71 pitches when Girardi pulled him (and he was cleared for closer to 85). “I just thought it was time for a change,” Girardi said.

• Nick Goody was called up today, pitched a scoreless ninth inning, and was immediately optioned back to Triple-A when the game was over. Barring an injury, neither Goody nor Nick Rumbelow will be eligible to rejoin the team on September 1 because they won’t have been in the minors for a full 10 days.

• Why let Mark Teixeira hit in the ninth? “I wanted to get him an at-bat left-handed,” Girardi said. “We’re hoping that we’ll have him Friday. I really just gotta wait and see.”

Carlos Beltran• Teixeira on how he’s feeling: “Obviously it still bothers me to run, but a day off tomorrow is really going to help and hopefully it feels a lot better on Friday. … Tomorrow we’re going to rest it. We’ve been throwing everything we have at it, pushing it a lot and trying to strengthen it and trying to do everything we can. Tomorrow we’re going to let it rest, and hopefully that will make a big difference.”

• We know Teixeira is hurt, we know Ellsbury is hurt, and we’ve seen Girardi try to rest A-Rod. But is there something wrong with Gardner? “I think it’s the time of year he’s kind of beat up like a lot of people in the game,” Girardi said. “And right now he’s scuffling, too. We’ve got a lot of guys scuffling at the same time, and it’s hard to score runs when you’re like that. But, he’s just a little beat up.” Naturally, Gardner said he’s fine.

• Any chance Rodriguez plays the field this weekend in Atlanta? “Right now, I don’t see it,” Girardi said. “I’ll take a day off, sleep on it and see what I think, but he hasn’t been in the field in a long time.”

• Didi Gregorius had two hits including a two-run home run. Those were his first RBI since August 2 in Chicago. The home run was his first since July 27 in Texas.

• Carlos Beltran extended his hitting streak to 10 games. This is his second 10-game hitting streak of the month. He reached base three times for the first time since August 15 in Toronto.

• A quick reminder that I’ll be doing a chat tomorrow at noon. Come hang out for a little while and we’ll talk about a disappointing lineup. It’ll be fun!

• Final word goes to Gardner: “Disappointing the way (the home stand) finished for sure. The Astros obviously have a really good team, (but) you win game one against them in a three game series, you’ve got to find a way to win game two or game three to win the series, and obviously we didn’t do that. And we haven’t been swinging the bats well collectively as a group, but hopefully that changes this weekend.”

Associated Press photos

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Here’s what the Yankees’ lineup has done in the past week08.26.15

Eric Cooper, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Castro

In the past week, the Yankee have lost five of seven at home. They’ve averaged slightly more than three runs per game. This is another situation when nearly the entire lineup has gone stone cold. Here are the Yankees slash lines for the past seven games:

(By the way, we’re going to do a chat tomorrow at noon, so swing by if you have some time)

Jacoby Ellsbury: .304/.333/.348
Brett Gardner: .136/.296/.273
Alex Rodriguez: .158/.200/.316
Brian McCann: .217/.250/.348
Carlos Beltran: .318/.346/.455
Greg Bird: .130/.200/.130
Chase Headley: .192/.222/.231
Didi Gregorius: .217/.250/.435
Stephen Drew: .278/.409/.278

Chris Young: .100/.182/.100 (10 at-bats)
John Ryan Murphy: .250/.222/.250 (eight at-bats)
Brendan Ryan: .000/.000/.000 (six at-bats)
Mark Teixeira: .000/.000/.000 (three at-bats)

Associated Press photo

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With their offense still missing, Yankees lose another one08.26.15

Michael Pineda

You know that thing where the Yankees stop scoring runs for an extended period of time? Well, they’re doing that again. Didi Gregorius went deep this afternoon, but that was extent of the Yankees’ scoring in a 6-2 loss to the Astros. The Yankees were outscored 21-4 this series. They managed to sneak a win on Friday only because Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Miller combined for a shutout on the same night the Astros allowed a run without allowing a hit in the ninth inning. The Yankees have averaged barely more than three runs per game in their past seven, and Alex Rodriguez is now 11-for-80 in the month of August.

In his first game back from a forearm strain, Yankees’ starter Michael Pineda allowed a second-inning home run then ran into real trouble in the fifth. The first four Astros reached base, setting up a four-run inning for a 5-0 Astros lead. Pineda failed to get out of the inning, matching his second-shortest start of the year at 4.1 innings. Pineda was charged with the first five Astros runs. The sixth came against Adam Warren in the eighth when Evan Gattis hit his second home run of the game.

The Yankees scored their only runs in the seventh when Gregorius hit a two-run home run, his sixth of the season. With that one swing, the Yankees scored as many runs as they’d scored in their previous 26 innings combined. The home run snapped a season-high three-game home run drought for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira pinch hit in the ninth and made the game’s final out.

Associated Press photo

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Game 126: Yankees vs. Astros08.26.15

Michael PinedaYANKEES (69-56)
Brett Gardner CF
Carlos Beltran RF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann C
Greg Bird 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Didi Gregorius SS
Chris Young LF
Stephen Drew 2B

RHP Michael Pineda (9-7, 3.97)
Pineda vs. Astros

ASTROS (70-57)
Jose Altuve 2B
Marwin Gonzalez SS
Jed Lowrie 3B
Colby Rasmus RF
Evan Gattis DH
Carlos Gomez CF
Luis Valbuena 1B
Jake Marisnick LF
Jason Castro C

RHP Collin McHugh (13-7, 3.96)
McHugh vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network

WEATHER: Clear skies. Temperatures in the high 70s. Nice way to finish off the home stand.

UMPIRES: HP Sam Holbrook, 1B Tripp Gibson, 2B Gabe Morales, 3B Eric Cooper

NOT A GOOD FIRST EXPERIENCE: None of the active Yankees has more than three career at-bats against Collin McHugh, but those three at-bats apiece have not gone well. The current Yankees roster — including Dustin Ackley — has a career slash line of .053/.143/.053 against the Houston starter. The only Yankees who have a hit against him are Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez.

HOT AS ‘ELL: Not a good time for Jacoby Ellsbury to miss time with an injury. He has recorded multiple hits in eight of his last 13 games (12 starts) since August 13. In that time, he’s batting .364 with seven runs, two doubles, a home run a triple, two walks and three stolen bases. His 20 hits in that span are tied for the third-most in the Majors.

ALSO ON A HOT STREAK: Carlos Beltran extended his hitting streak to nine games with a fourth-inning double on Tuesday. He?has three of the Yankees’ 10 hitting streaks of at least nine games this season, including a team season-high 15-game hitting streak in May and a 10-game streak earlier this month.

UPDATE, 1:22 p.m.: Single and stolen base for Jose Altuve, but Pineda gets through the first inning without allowing a run.

UPDATE, 1:34 p.m.: First pitch of the second inning is a home run by Evan Gattis. It’s a 1-0 Astros lead.

UPDATE, 1:56 p.m.: Pineda’s allowed one run and two hits through three innings. Yankees have three hits but no runs through two.

UPDATE, 2:27 p.m.: One run has scored and the Astros’ lead is up to 2-0 with the bases loaded in the fifth. Chasen Shreve is getting loose.

UPDATE, 2:34 p.m.: Two runs have now scored and Shreve is in the game. Pineda looked good for a while, but the game got away from him in the fifth.

UPDATE, 2:40 p.m.: Not good for the Yankees. Shreve has allowed a single and walk, letting one run score while loading the bases for Rasmus. Now Pinder is getting loose.

UPDATE, 2:58 p.m.: Here’s Pinder to start the sixth. Yankees have four hits and no runs. At a real risk of scoring just one run this series. Amazing how completely this offense can disappear at times.

UPDATE, 3:20 p.m.: Leadoff walk, but the Yankees can’t take advantage. Still down 5-0 heading into the seventh.

UPDATE, 3:37 p.m.: Two-run homer by Gregorius has the Yankees on the board in the seventh inning. It’s 5-2. The Yankees just scored as many runs on one swing as they’d scored in the previous two games combined.

UPDATE, 3:52 p.m.: Second homer of the day for Evan Gattis. It’s now 6-2 Houston.

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