The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Five years ago: The Yankees last A.L. pennant


One week ago, the Yankees hit the two-year anniversary of their last playoff appearance.

Today, it’s the five-year anniversary of their last American League pennant.

It was on October 25, 2009 that the Yankees finished off the Angels and advanced to their first World Series since 2003. I vaguely remember it. I’d been on the job for about three weeks, I was spending my nights on a friend’s couch in Harlem, and Brett Gardner let me off the hook during the clubhouse celebration after soaking me a few days earlier at the end of the division series.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Mariano Rivera said. “We’re back.”

Yes, they were. And 10 days later the Yankees would win the World Series. It all seemed like a job well done. That offseason, the Yankees had retooled their roster by making a key trade for Nick Swisher and investing heavily in CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. The immediate results were as good as could be expected. In that clinching ALCS game, they’d used three pitchers — Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Rivera — each of whom was a success story from within the minor league system. The Yankees starting lineup that day included four home-grown players (another home-grown player came off the bench), two major trade acquisitions, two major free agent signings, and one international superstar who would go on to win the MVP of the championship round. It was a mix of smart player moves and effective player development.

“This is what it’s all about, man,” Pettitte said. “We made a commitment at the beginning of spring training about the team, and putting everybody else’s selfish things aside and just focus on the team, and we knew this would happen.”

Quotes like that always sound good when a team wins, just like multi-year contracts always feel good when they result in a championship.

Five years later, though, Swisher is gone, Burnett has been traded for pennies on the dollar, Teixeira’s numbers have fallen off drastically, and Sabathia’s steady workhorse reputation has given way to an overwhelming amount of uncertainty. It’s now clear that the Yankees player development — while still reaping the benefits of long ago drafts and international signings — was in the midst of a rough patch during that championship season. In particular, a fresh wave of impact position players was not on its way.

Today, there’s not a long-term contract on the Yankees roster — except maybe Brett Gardner’s — that doesn’t look like an eventual bad idea. That’s kind of the way it works, though. Long-term contracts are always risky on the back end, and there’s a hope for significant impact on the front end.

Five years ago, a major offseason investment paid off immediately.

Today, it’s a different story.

Associated Press photo


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Saturday, October 25th, 2014 at 8:58 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Art of baseball: Lineup card as canvas in the World Series

The World Series gets back underway tonight in San Francisco. From my friend Ben Walker — regular first baseman for Team New York in the annual media game — here’s a quirky story about lineup cards. In particular, this is about the detail that goes into crafting the lineup card in the Royals dugout. It’s really cool, in a really weird way.

World Series Giants Royals BaseballKANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Take a look around the Kansas City Royals’ dugout and it’s pretty evident: The handwriting is on the wall in this World Series.

The fancy handwriting, that is.

In the midst of smeared pine-tar rags, spit-out sunflower seeds and plenty of dirt, there hangs a piece of pure art — the lineup cards drawn by bench coach Don Wakamatsu.

Using a calligraphy style he has worked to develop for more than a decade, Wakamatsu takes manager Ned Yost’s lineup and writes out the starters for both teams, the reserves and available relievers.

He takes up to a half-hour to fill all the slots. In three colors, too — red for lefties, blue for righties and black for switch-hitters.

They’re so intricate and so attractive that a souvenir shop on the concourse at Kauffman Stadium sells them.

“I don’t see them as beautiful,” Wakamatsu said, humbly, before the Royals beat San Francisco 7-2 on Wednesday night to tie the Series at 1-all. “I see all the flaws, all the mistakes.”

Chances are, he’s the only one who can spot the slip-ups.

Wakamatsu uses ornate, capitalized first letters, with a blend of American calligraphy and Asian font overtones. There’s also some medieval and Gothic characteristics.

“I don’t think it’s any one style,” he said. “I don’t have my own font.”

Wakamatsu has no formal training, and figures his interest rubbed off from his family.

“My grandfather had tremendous handwriting. He was an artist, the way he wrote,” he said. “I think I got the art gene from him.”

Wakamatsu didn’t try his hand at the craft until 2003, when he admired the lineup cards former Texas manager Jerry Narron filled out with a flair.

“I used to do them with a Sharpie, just like most everyone else,” he said.

As Wakamatsu moved around the majors, he perfected his penmanship. He managed the Seattle Mariners for 2009 and most of 2010, then was the bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2011-12 and made manager John Farrell’s lineups look even better.

Coaches often write the cards while managers attend to other matters, and Wakamatsu has been busy this season as the Royals played deep into October.

World Series Giants Royals BaseballWakamatsu said he enjoys the time and effort it takes to do the cards properly, and how getting the details right makes a difference. Sort of what it takes to be a winning player and winning team, he reckons.

“He definitely takes pride in what he does,” Royals catcher Erik Kratz said. “There are other guys who do nice work, and some who just print them out. It’s neat to see.”

Once in a while, things do get messed up.

“Sometimes you’ll be all done, and then the other team will make a lineup switch at the last minute. That’s a nightmare,” Wakamatsu said. “Or you’ll be on the last name and make a mistake. Sometimes, you have to just cross it out.”

“Not all the paper is the same, either. Some of the cards are too thin and the ink bleeds through,” he said.

Occasionally, the other team’s lineup arrives late and Wakamatsu needs to scramble. Plus, there are in-game changes — it’s not an easy trick to alter such artwork by writing on cards posted on the dugout wall.

The 51-year-old Wakamatsu has spent much of his life in dugouts.

Raised in the Bay Area, he was teammates with Barry Bonds at Arizona State. Wakamatsu made it to the majors as a backup catcher and played 18 games, all for the White Sox in 1991.

He has worked for the Angels, Diamondbacks, Yankees and several other teams in various capacities, and is in his first year with the Royals.

At each stop, he’s tried to do things the write way, so to speak.

“I still have trouble with some letters. The capital Y is tough and so are the Zs,” he said. “I’m working on them.”

On his own.

“I’ve never taken a class in calligraphy, but I would love to,” he said. “Consider this an open invitation to anyone who’d like to teach me.”

Associated Press photo


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 24th, 2014 at 8:00 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Notes and links: Hinske reportedly not interested in Yanks job

Just a few notes and links on another quiet day for the Yankees. The World Series gets started again tonight.

Dellin Betances• George King reports that the Yankees reached out to Eric Hinske — the former big leaguer and current assistant hitting coach for the Cubs — to “gauge his interest” in replacing Kevin Long, but Hinske elected to stay with the Cubs.

• Earlier this week, Royals closer Greg Holland was announced as the winner of the Mariano Rivera Award, named after the great Yankees closer and given to the top relief pitcher in the American League. Holland has become a real beast, and he had the second-most saves in the A.L. along with a 0.91 WHIP and 13 strikeouts per nine innings. Jon Heyman reports that Yankees rookie setup man Dellin Betances finished second in voting for the award. Betances had a lower WHIP and a higher strikeout rate than Holland, but obviously Betances did it without pitching the ninth inning.

Pretty good quote from Holland about winning the Mariano Rivera Award (Braves closer Craig Kimbrel won the Trevor Hoffman Award in the National League): “This is a very humbling experience,” Holland said. “You kinda get iffy any time your name is put on a plaque with these two guys (Rivera and Hoffman).”

• Also from Heyman, the Blue Jays have reportedly opened negotiations with former Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera. Heyman reports that Toronto is willing to offer at least a three-year deal to bring him back. Cabrera would be one of the better hitters on the market this season, but despite the Yankees need for offense — and the obvious value of having someone other than Carlos Beltran penciled into right field — there’s a solid chance that Cabrera would never be on the Yankees radar regardless of a deal with Toronto. If the Yankees feel they have to save the designated hitter spot for Alex Rodriguez, then they have to leave right field available for Beltran.

• MLB Trade Rumors is predicting a two-year, $12-million deal for former Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano. That’s a lot less than the four-year, $52-million prediction for Dave Robertson. Three years ago, Robertson played setup man for Soriano, but age and production have clearly left Robertson as the more desirable of the two this offseason.

• I just thought this was cool: ESPN Stats and Info posted a graphic showing the defensive range of the Royals three late-inning outfielders. Alex Gordon, Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain basically cover a ton of ground, and now there’s a fancy graphic to prove it. Wonder what the Yankees graphic looked like with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and an aging Ichiro Suzuki this season. Have to think those three were well beyond the league average as well, right?

• Seems inevitable that Joe Maddon will get a new managerial job, the only question is when and where. Joel Sherman reports that the Mets and Dodgers seem committed to their current managers, but the Cubs seem to be the industry favorite to make a change and hire Maddon.

• Has nothing to do with the Yankees, but interesting for baseball in general that John Hart has agreed to run baseball operations for the Atlanta Braves. Apparently the team won’t have a typical general manager, but will have Hart and assistant John Coppolella basically calling the shots.

Associated Press photo



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 24th, 2014 at 5:31 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Alleged Biogenesis supplier pleads not guilty

Just a little Biogenesis update from Curt Anderson of The Associated Press:

Anthony BoschMIAMI (AP) — A man described by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a black-market chemist who concocted athletic performance-enhancing drugs in his garage pleaded not guilty Thursday to criminal charges arising from Major League Baseball’s recent drug scandal.

Paulo Berejuk, 50, entered the plea during a federal court hearing on charges of conspiring to distribute testosterone and human growth hormone, both controlled substances.

The DEA says that Berejuk for years was the main supplier for Anthony Bosch, former owner of the now-closed Biogenesis of America clinic on Coral Gables that sold banned substances to MLB players and other athletes, some still in high school. Authorities say Berejuk was paid as much as $20,000 a month for his work.

Berejuk, a permanent legal U.S. resident originally from Brazil, was also ordered jailed without bail until his trial. U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber agreed with prosecutors that Berejuk might flee to Brazil and is a danger to the community because he was dispensing controlled substances without a medical or pharmaceutical license.

And it appears Bosch’s arrest in August may not have stopped Berejuk. DEA Agent Gene Grafenstein said when Berejuk was arrested earlier this week, a powder was found at his home that is used in producing human growth hormone.

“He has still been purchasing items that could possibly be made into substances,” Grafenstein said in court.

The case has resulted in a half-dozen other arrests and suspensions for 14 MLB players, most notably the record season-long suspension for New York Yankees star and three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez. Bosch has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators, including providing key information to the DEA about Berejuk’s involvement.

Berejuk was added to a criminal case that also charges Rodriguez’s cousin, Yuri Sucart, and former University of Miami pitching coach Lazaro “Laser” Collazo. They have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial currently set for Jan. 12.

In attempting to gain his release on bail, Berejuk attorney Robert Barrar noted the high-profile nature of the case and pointed out that Berejuk traveled to Brazil as recently as this summer and returned to the U.S. each time.

“He’s gone out of the country and come back knowing he might be arrested,” Barrar said. “All we’re asking for is some kind of reasonable bond.”

But the judge was unmoved, noting that Berejuk still has family in Brazil where he could seek refuge.

The two drug distribution conspiracy charges against Berejuk carry a combined maximum 15-year prison sentence. No trial date has been set.

Associated Press photo of Bosch


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 24th, 2014 at 4:34 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Turnover in Tampa Bay: Maddon opts out of Rays contract


Because of their business model, the Rays have always been a team of adjustments. They traded James Shields, let B.J. Upton walk as a free agent, burned through any number of closers, and kept trying new players at new positions until they found ways to make it work.

But after six straight winning seasons in the tough American League East, the Rays couldn’t make it work this year, and now they’re experiencing change like never before.

Ace David Price was traded. General manager Andrew Friedman was lured to Los Angeles. And now comes word that manger Joe Maddon has opted out of his contract and will leave the organization immediately. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement that the organization tried “diligently and aggressively” to re-sign Maddon before his decision to opt out.

After spending years as the division doormat, the Rays had become a real thorn in the side of the Yankees and every other team in the American League, but the team is in an overwhelming state of transition now. Hard to imagine how the team might adjust from here.

Associated Press photo


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 24th, 2014 at 1:09 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Teixeira brings Foul Territory to ESPN Radio

Has nothing to do with anything important — certainly doesn’t help determine what to do about the Yankees first base depth — but when Mark Teixeira was on The Mike & Mike Show this week, he did a little bit of his Foul Territory shtick, and it was once again pretty funny. It’s a weird thing, and maybe the least expected development of the year, but Teixiera’s really good at it. Pretty funny. Here’s the clip. Totally unimportant, but it’s a good time. And let’s face it, it’s a Friday with newspaper headlines about Ebola in New York, so let’s go with something a bit goofy for a while.



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 24th, 2014 at 11:49 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

What to do about first base?

Mark Teixeira

For the Yankees, there’s no question what to do about choosing an everyday first baseman. Or, if there is a question, it’s not one with many answers. The team made its choice six years ago when it committed to Mark Teixeira. He has full no-trade protection, and there’s too much invested these next two years to simply cut ties.

Barring something unforeseen, Teixeira will be at first base on Opening Day. And he’ll probably be hitting in the middle of the order. And the Yankees will simply have to trust – or, perhaps simply hope – that the power he showed in this season’s first three months will return and maintain through a full season.

Question is, what to do about his backup.

Last year, the Yankees really had no concrete backup plan at first base. They had the vague idea that Kelly Johnson should be able to play first base occasionally, but Johnson didn’t meet expectations in any way, and so the Yankees were left with Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli getting a combined 16 starts at first base.

Neither had previously played the position, and together they started nearly 10 percent of the time.

Brian McCannSo what to do next year?

1. Let the catchers do it again
Actually, McCann didn’t look too bad at first base last season. Cervelli’s had some scattered infield experience through the years and generally looks surprisingly passable. Both John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine have seen some infield time in the minor leagues. The Yankees could simply go into the season thinking of their catchers as their backup first basemen. Would be a solid way to give either Cervelli or Murphy a few more at-bats, which might be a plus considering the offensive potential they’ve shown.

2. Teach someone to play first
We already know the Yankees have talked to Alex Rodriguez about getting a little bit of time at first base next season, presumably in a backup role. I suppose a case could be made for asking Carlos Beltran to do the same (though a similar plan with Alfonso Soriano was quickly discarded last spring). A guy like Jose Pirela, who will be coming to camp with a little bit of first base experience, could be another relatively inexperienced option. In theory, this “make A-Rod do it” plan seems to make sense, but Johnson showed at times that learning first base on the fly isn’t always smooth or easy. This is the plan that didn’t work too well this year.

3. Carry a second first baseman
This would be a pure first baseman. Might even be a guy like Kyle Roller, this year’s Triple-A first baseman who has a pretty bad glove but has shown a pretty good left-handed swing. Although he’s never generated much prospect attention, Roller hit .283/.378/.497 in Triple-A this season, and he was able to hit both lefties and righties. Any pure backup first baseman would surely have to show enough bat to occasionally start at designated hitter.

4. Make first base a utility-man priority
Problem with carrying another pure first baseman on the bench is that it limits the team’s flexibility. The Yankees have a DH spot and four bench roles, and given the team’s age and injury concerns, flexibility is a real plus. In their search for a Rodriguez alternative at third base, the Yankees could certainly prioritize finding someone who has also played first base (a guy like Casey McGehee has played quite a bit of first; Chase Headley has played a very little bit; Pablo Sandoval used to do it several years ago, Aramis Ramirez has never done it). Another version of this solution would be an outfielder/DH with first base experience. Maybe Michael Cuddyer? Michael Morse? Buy really low on Corey Hart? All of these option come with cost issues. How often would they play, and how much is that worth?

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Tipping the cap: A Royal and universal tradition

World Series Tipping the Hat Baseball

Obviously there’s not much attention on the Yankees these days. Most of the baseball world is focused on the World Series, but I actually thought this Associated Press story had some universal appeal. It’s all about tipping a cap in baseball. Although it’s written with a focus on the Royals, the act itself is pretty common throughout the game, including with the Yankees. I think we all remember Casey Kotchman tipping his cap at first base when Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit. So here’s the story from Dave Skretta as we wrap up this day with no real big league action.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Nobody seems to know when the tradition of doffing a hat began, though most historians date the practice to the days when bowlers and boaters were in vogue.

Nobody seems to know when the Royals picked up the tradition, either.

At some point this season, though, Kansas City players started tipping their caps whenever an outfielder made a spectacular catch, or shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman Omar Infante turned a difficult double play, or third baseman Mike Moustakas snagged a hard line drive.

It was a modest acknowledgment, almost a throwback to another era. But it quickly caught on, becoming one of the iconic images of the Royals’ run to the World Series.

“I think it started about halfway through the year,” said left fielder Alex Gordon, whose jarring catch at the wall in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series not only left him bruised and battered, but also got him a stadium full of hat tips.

While Gordon can’t recall for certain, he thinks that starting pitcher James Shields was the first to do it. It makes sense, too, given how the staff ace has been so instrumental the past two years in turning a losing clubhouse culture into a winning one.

Shields has paid tribute from the mound, and teammates have followed his lead.

“The whole dugout does it now. It’s pretty cool,” Gordon said. “I know it means a lot to the pitchers every time we make a good play, so it’s kind of their way of showing it.”

While the Royals were sweeping their way to the World Series, which begins Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants, the hat tips became one of those memes that pops up everywhere, from hat-tip hashtags on social media to compilations of spectacular catches on YouTube.

The Angels may have their Rally Monkey, the Cardinals may have their Rally Squirrel, but the Royals have gone decidedly genteel when it comes to their October signature.

“Someone just started that in the dugout and we took it and ran,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “This group likes to have fun. It’s just a sign of us enjoying ourselves.”

Like helmet stickers in football, hat tips can be awarded to anyone on the field, even the pitcher. But the majority of the salutes are sent to the outfield, where three-time Gold Glove winner Gordon has teamed with center fielder Lorenzo Cain, right fielder Nori Aoki and speedy super-sub Jarrod Dyson to form a black hole for just about every fly ball.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest they might be the best in baseball.

From the world of advanced statistics comes DRS and UZR, which stand for defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating. Essentially, both stats try to place a value on a defense’s prowess, and the Royals happened to lead the majors in both categories in the regular season.

Gordon, Cain and Dyson each ranked in the top 10 in DRS individually.

Then there’s the evidence fans can see with their own eyes, the kind that doesn’t require a calculator. The Royals have provided plenty of that this postseason.

In Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the Angels, Cain made a pair of spectacular catches, one climbing about 10 feet up the wall and the other to snag a diving liner. A few innings later, Aoki deftly tracked down a drive to the wall as Cain seemed to leap right over him.

“It seems like there’s five of them out there,” said Royals starter Jason Vargas, who was on the mound that night. “Unbelievable is the best way to describe it.”

Cain made another memorable catch in Game 4 of the ALCS against Baltimore, running impossibly far to track down a fly ball early in the game. Dyson made an impressive catch at the wall later, helping the Royals clinch the series.

Of course, the most memorable catch — heck, the most memorable play — of the series wasn’t made by a Royals outfielder. It happened in Game 3, when Moustakas toppled over a railing and into a dugout suite, only to emerge unscathed and with the ball in his glove — the great defense extending to the Royals crowd.

“Hats off to the fans in the dugout suite, pick him up and put him back on the field,” Hosmer gushed afterward.

“We’ve been doing it all year,” Moustakas said. “There’s still some plays that I’m sitting back like, Wow, I don’t know how Cain got there or how Gordo got there. But it’s almost like you expect them to make those plays.”

When they do, they’ve come to expect a hat tip in return.


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 9:59 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Mets hire Kevin Long as new hitting coach

Here’s the announcement from the Mets with a quote from Long:

Kevin Long, Derek JeterFLUSHING, N.Y., October 23, 2014 – The New York Mets today announced the club has named Kevin Long the team’s new hitting coach. The club also tabbed Dustin Clarke, their new Major League Strength and Conditioning Coach.

“Kevin’s experience, success and wealth of knowledge make him the perfect fit as our hitting instructor,” said Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson. “This is a very positive step for the Mets. We welcome Kevin, and his wife, Marcey, to the Mets family.”

“I’m excited to get the opportunity to work with a team that I think is on the rise,” said Long. “I had a great meeting with Sandy and Terry yesterday and I can’t wait to get started and help in any way I can.”

Long, 47, had spent the previous eight seasons (2007-2014) as the Yankees hitting coach. Under his guidance, the Yankees led the majors in runs scored three times and finished second twice. Before he joined the major league team, Long served as the Yankees’ Triple-A hitting coach with Columbus of the International League for three years (2004-2006).

Prior to joining the Yankees, Long was the hitting coach for the Triple-A Omaha Royals from 2002-2003 and the Double-A Wichita Wranglers’ from 2000-2001. Long was named the Northwest League Manager of the Year after leading Spokane to the title in 1998. He began his coaching career with Wilmington in the Carolina League in 1997.

Long was a second-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-10 in 1989 at the University of Arizona. The outfielder was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 31st round of the 1989 First-Year Player Draft and played eight years (1989-1996) in Kansas City’s minor league system reaching, Triple-A.

Associated Press photo



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 6:28 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Notes from winter ball: Bird on a roll in Arizona

JudgeEarlier this week, Jim Callis wrote quite a bit about the Yankees currently playing in the Arizona Fall League. He understandably focused on breakout right field prospect Aaron Judge, noting that Judge is wrapping up the longest stretch of baseball he’s ever experienced.

Pro ball often forces a young player into a longer and more rigorous schedule than he’s used to, but Judge’s adjustment was delayed because of last year’s quadriceps injury.

“After you get drafted, you just want to show people who you are,” Judge told Callis. “It was kind of a blessing in disguise, though. I met a lot of great big leaguers while I was down in Tampa rehabbing. It kind of helped me with the mental side of baseball. Everyone’s going to have ups and downs, and just trying to stay even keel through that whole process is a huge part of it.”

Check out the Callis story. It has some basic scouting details on all of the Yankees players down in the Fall League.

A few other notes from winter leagues:

Bird• The Yankees top first base prospect, Greg Bird, has played in 12 games in the Fall League, and he has a hit in every one of them. Four of those hits have been home runs. It’s an offense-heavy league, but a .333/.382/.627 is awfully good. The guy can hit. It’s not reflected in the numbers here, but Bird doubled in his first at-bat today, so make that a 13-game hitting streak.

• After getting time at right field, first base and third base in the minor leagues, Tyler Austin is getting some time in left field while on assignment in the Arizona Fall League. In fact, he’s playing left field again tonight (while Judge plays right). It will be his fourth turn in left field, which can’t be a bad thing for a guy who could earn some sort of big league role next season, possibly as a corner bench player. Austin’s had two hits and and two RBI in two of his past four games. Hasn’t shown much power so far, but after 36 at-bats his slash line is a not-bad .278/.366/.361.

• Interesting for Yankees fans that the Scottsdale team has often gone with Yankees prospects in the 2, 3 and 4 spots in the lineup — Austin, Judge, then Bird as the cleanup hitter. Judge has been in the No. 3 spot for each of his starts down in Arizona. He’s hitting .276/.313/.448 with eight RBI in seven games.

Bichette• Off to a slow start in Arizona, Dante Bichette Jr. has now reached base seven times in his past four games, which has helped his slash line. He’s still hitting just .226/.306/.226. Only 31 at-bats, though. In his piece, Callis notes that Bichette might eventually end up as a DH. The bat is his ticket to the big leagues. Needs the power that he showed his first season of pro ball.

• As expected, catcher Kyle Higashioka is only getting occasional playing time down in Arizona (he’s part of the roster that’s only occasionally active) but he’s making the most of it so far. Through two games, Higashioka has five hits, a home run and a stolen base. The Yankees have long liked his defensive ability, but he’s never shown much offense at all in the lower minors.

• The group picked by the Yankees for the Fall League is heavy on position players, and the pitchers sent to Arizona remain somewhat underwhelming statistically. Alex Smith has allowed at least one earned run in each of his five outings and currently has an 11.81 ERA with more walks (6) than strikeouts (4). … Caleb Cotham has 10 strikeouts and just two walks through seven innings. He also has a 7.71 ERA. Last time he pitched was Monday when Cotham allowed six hits and three earned runs through two innings. … Kyle Haynes hasn’t pitched since Saturday. Through 5.2 innings, he has yet to be charged with an earned run, but he’s allowed three unearned. Has a solid 1.24 WHIP. Tiny sample size, of course.

Moreno• Looking for more encouraging pitching numbers? Reliever Diego Moreno, who had some solid moments with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, has pitched well as a closer in the Venezuelan Winter League. He’s 4-for-4 in save opportunities, and he’s allowed just two hits through 5.1 innings. He recently re-signed a minor league deal to return to the Yankees system.

• Also down in Venezuela, Cuban outfielder Adonis Garcia continues to be the regular left fielder and usual No. 3 or 4 hitter for Navegantes del Magallanes. He’s hit for a strong average and stolen a couple of bases, but Garcia’s still waiting for the winter power to show up. He’s hitting .283/.313/.304. Last winter he hit .325/.347/.502 in Venezuela.

• After getting just six winter at-bats last year, and 13 at-bats the year before, young outfielder Ramon Flores continues to get fairly regular playing time this winter. Two weeks into the Venezuelan season, Flores has played in seven games and hit .333/.429/.500 through 18 at-bats. If he weren’t left-handed, Flores might be an even stronger candidate for the Yankees bench next season. As it is, some winter playing time couldn’t hurt after missing so much time this season with an ankle injury.

• Notable at least partially because of the Yankees total lack of standout shortstop prospects in the upper levels, utility type Ali Castillo continues to hit in Venezuela. He’s playing shortstop everyday — he was the regular shortstop for Trenton this year — and he’s hitting .395/.429/.447 through 38 at-bats in 10 games. He’s also stolen five bases in seven attempts. He’s been hitting leadoff. The same winter ball team used Castillo all over the infield and hit him ninth last year.


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 3:56 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

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