Yankees pregame: Cervelli back, Murphy down • 06.17.14
John Ryan Murphy has been sent down to Triple-A and Francisco Cervelli has been activated from the DL, not just to be the backup catcher, but again to possibly be one of the backups for Mark Teixeira. When Cervelli hurt his hamstring back in mid-April, it was a game in which he started at first base. Two of his five starts in April were at first.
Joe Girardi said a choice between Kelly Johnson and Cervelli would come down to matchups.
“I think I’m comfortable there,” Cervelli said. “But I don’t want to forget about catching. That’s what I like, but I want to help any way I can.”
This has been the second straight season Cervelli has missed a huge chunk of time. He said he stayed positive these last two months.
“It’s frustrating,” Cervelli said. “But this time I took it differently. … I spent time with my dad. I recovered so fast before the 60 days.”
John Ryan Murphy got sent down to Triple-A to make room. He hit .286 with one homer and eight RBI in 24 games.
“He played extremely well,” Girardi said. “Obviously we were pleased with what he did. … We think it’s important for him to go play every day.”
CC Sabathia threw a 25-pitch bullpen yesterday and will have another session out there tomorrow. Joe Girardi compared this to the beginning of spring training for him.
Michael Pineda, who was shut down after his setback, is scheduled to play catch Saturday.
Rotation fill-in Vidal Nuno is 1-3 with a 5.90 ERA. Adam Warren has been mentioned as a possible replacement. But the reliever would have to be stretched out. Girardi said Warren could probably only go up to about 50 pitches now.
“We’ll continue to evaluate our staff and decide what we’re going to do,” Girardi said.
Tonight it appears the ball is in good hands. It’s Masahiro Tanaka time.
“Obviously Tanaka is the best pitcher on the planet,” Sabathia said.
Photo by The Associated Press
Warren sees opportunity for larger role • 05.06.13
Young players always talk about their dream of playing in the big leagues. But let’s be honest, that’s not the dream. No one fantasizes about being a fifth outfielder, backup catcher or mop-up reliever. Small roles get a player to The Show — and that in itself is a dream come true — but it’s not the dream.
“I’m a patient guy,” Adam Warren said. “I’m pretty laid back, but the competitor in you kind of wants to pitch the big innings. You have to ease your way into it a little bit. I think pitching in some games that aren’t very close, if I take the mindset that, in my mind it’s close, then when you start getting into close games, it’s kind of the same feeling. You’re just going out there and pitching. You just have to be patient and see what comes your way.”
Injuries open opportunities. They open the door for guys like Preston Claiborne to get to the big leagues, and they open the door for guys like Jayson Nix, Chris Stewart and Warren to take on larger roles. When Joba Chamberlain went on the disabled list, and Dave Robertson was unavailable with a hamstring injury on Friday, Warren stepped into a two-run game and pitched three scoreless innings. He allowed some base runners, but got some big outs and did his part to give the Yankees a chance in a tight game.
“We lost (so) it can’t be too satisfying,” Warren said. “But it’s a step in the right direction. I just want to keep taking steps in the right direction and not take a step back. … Obviously we’re hoping these guys get back as fast as possible, but while they’re out we’ve just got to try to step up as a bullpen and eat innings as much as possible. I do see it as an opportunity to kind of improve myself a little bit.”
A year ago, David Phelps broke camp in the Warren role. He was a long reliever with no big league track record, and he was used primarily in extreme situations. But he pitched pretty well, opportunities presented themselves, and Phelps became a trusted and versatile part of the pitching staff.
You can bet Warren was paying attention.
“You just have to stay mentally focused,” he said. “Things can change so quick. For me personally, I try to have a good attitude about whatever role I’m in. Opportunities arise. You do have to stay kind of mentally focused even though you may not be pitching in games that are close to start out with, just try to stay sharp for when you do get that opportunity.”
Associated Press photo
Andy Pettitte loved the idea of pitching in the World Baseball Classic. The Yankees did not.
“They weren’t crazy about it, and I understand it,” Pettitte said. “I mean, it’s understandable. I spoke with Cash and I spoke with Joe. (They said), ‘If you decide to do this, we’re going to support you,’ but obviously they were hoping it was something that I wouldn’t do, and like I said, I understand it. And at the time that I was considering it, I was just hoping they would understand, which I knew they probably couldn’t. I’ve done a lot of things in this game, but I’ve never had a chance to play for my country. I don’t know if that sounds corny, but it was a big deal for me.”
Doesn’t sound corny to me, but it also doesn’t sound unreasonable for the Yankees to have some hesitation about a 40-year-old playing in an unnecessary exhibition.
“This needed to be the focus,” Pettitte said. “I guess it just came down to not really wanting to take quite that chance of having something go wrong and then kicking yourself all year long.”
• The spring’s first workout went smoothly, but it’s always a little more boring when it’s just the pitchers and catchers. The position players really bring the place to life. Two interesting pitch counts: Phil Hughes threw 40 pitches and Clay Rapada threw 35. Rapada joked that he’s going to be a long man. Hughes explained that he’d already thrown six bullpens before today.
• Hughes isn’t alone. Quite a few of the pitchers seem more advanced than usual (including Mariano Rivera, who actually threw a bullpen today rather than waiting another week). Some of the younger guys in camp — including guys like David Phelps, Adam Warren and Chase Whitley who could be in the big league mix — have already faced hitters. Phelps, Warren and Whitley threw batting practice at the minor league complex on Monday. Whitley said he expects to face hitters when he throws his first spring bullpen tomorrow.
• Because he’s coming back from an injury, Derek Jeter is allowed to report to spring training immediately (you may remember that David Adams and Justin Maxwell came to camp with the pitchers and catchers last year), but Girardi said he doesn’t expect Jeter to report early. “I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I think he’s doing most of his stuff down at the minor league facility, doing his drills and all his work.”
• Girardi said all of the pitchers and catchers reported to camp on time. No one was late this year. “Not that I know of,” Girardi said.
• Pettitte said he’s well aware that the Yankees might try to protect him, but he wants — even expects — to make 30 starts this season. “I know Joe is going to protect me as best he can as far as keeping my innings limited,” Pettitte said. “But I want to throw 200 innings, make all my starts. Heck, I want to win 20 games, that’s what I want to do.”
• Is this Pettitte’s last year? He said he honestly hasn’t made up his mind. “I can tell you right now, as I sit right here, I hope this is it,” he said. “But having gone through this and done this, I’m not going to shut it down again unless I know for a fact that I’m done with this.”
Associated Press photos
When he looked into the stands, Joe Girardi saw his old friend Dante Bichette holding a video camera. When he looked onto the the field, Girardi saw Dante Bichette Jr. rounding the bases.
Could he imagine the feeling of ever watching his own son hit two home runs in a big league spring training game? Girardi leaned back and smiled.
“Hopefully I’ll get that chance,” he said.
This afternoon, Bichette Jr. came up from minor league camp to get a couple of at-bats against the Astros. First time he went to the plate, he swung at the first pitch and hit a wind-aided home run to right. Second time he went to the plate, he again swung at the first pitch, and hit a legitimate shot to center field.
“I was lucky to make contact with the first two swings, and they went pretty far,” Bichette Jr. said. “I’m happy with that. I was just trying to hit the ball, that’s all. … Family is the world to me, so my Mom and Dad here is everything. It’s a family effort, everything that’s happened so far, so having them here is perfect.”
Bichette Jr. grew up 20 minutes from this ballpark and played here in high school. Hard to imagine he ever had a day quite like this one, though. The wind got harsh as a line of bad weather moved through the area, and that helped the two teams combine for nine home runs. Bichette’s first was a product of that wind. The second one surely got some help, but he hit it pretty hard.
“It was pretty special,” Girardi said. “The second one, he really hit. Seeing his mom and dad, who we’ve been close to for a long time, his little brother; they played on this field a lot. They greew up in the area, so he’s been on this field. It’s pretty neat.”
Did Girardi say anything to Bichette Jr. in the dugout?
“I don’t know, honestly,” Bichette Jr. said. “I don’t remember any of them. It was kind of surreal.”
• If you missed it in the game post, the Yankees final diagnosis of Cesar Cabral is a stress fracture in his olecranon (essentially the tip of his elbow). Girardi said it’s the same injury Warner Madrigal had last spring, and an injury Jonathan Albaladejo had at one point. “It’s frustrating because he had a really good camp for us,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you what was going to happen, but he had a good camp for us.”
• Francisco Cervelli was taken out of the game after being hit by a pitch in the forearm, but he’s fine. Girardi said there are no concerns about it.
• Certainly the conditions didn’t help, but Adam Warren conceded that he “just wasn’t sharp” this afternoon. He allowed six runs on 10 hits through 5.2 innings. He walked none and struck out three, but said his command was bad from the very beginning. He did feel better as the game progressed, he said. Four of those runs came in the second inning.
• Girardi on Warren: “I thought he threw the ball better than the numbers indicated. It’s a windy day, an extremely fast infield — not great conditions to be a pitcher here. I thought he threw the ball better than what it indicated.”
• The game was called in the middle of the ninth inning because of steady rain. Each team agreed there was no sense taking the risk of injury. “We just said, ‘If it starts raining any harder, we don’t want to get anyone hurt,’” Girardi explained. “It kind of stopped a little bit, they put down some Diamond Dry, and then it started raining hard again. So, that’s it.”
• Clay Rapada gave up a home run to a lefty today, but it was hit to right field, where the wind was carrying fly balls over the wall. Hard to think the Yankees make too much of that.
• Raul Ibanez now has three home runs in his past five games. He’s also raised his spring batting average more than 100 points in that time.
• Curtis Granderson went 3-for-3 to raise his spring average to .381. He’s looked really good at the plate from the very beginning of spring. … Bichette, Ibanez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira each had two-hit games. … Jose Gil got a start and had another hit. A 1-for-4 day dropped his spring average to .455. … Doug Bernier also had another hit and is having a nice spring of his own. He’s hitting .344 and has played very good defense all over the infield, particularly at short. … Preston Claiborne got in the game and pitched the final two innings for the Yankees. He allowed two runs, one of them on a homer.
• After the game, the Yankees got back on the bus to go to Tampa. When they get back, the guy who are making the road trip to play the Marlins will join their teammates for a flight to Miami. Tomorrow is a day game followed by a night game on Monday. I’m going to hit the road myself. Long drive ahead of me.
Assocaited Press photos
Adam Warren was supposed to pitch yesterday, and it wasn’t until after the game — after he’d waited and waited for his turn to come — that he found out his turn would wait a little longer for a primetime start against the Red Sox.
“That’s what I think spring training is about for us guys trying to make it is to just make an impression,” Warren said. “For me, I’m just trying to go out there and show I can handle the situation, just trying to go out there and attack the zone. I’m just going to go out there and take care of my own business, not really worry about where I stand.”
Warren took care of business, alright. Facing a lineup full of Boston regulars, the Yankees pitching prospect fired four scoreless innings with three strikeouts, no walks and two hits. One of those hits was a ball that glanced off Warren’s own glove for an infield single.
“Warren was excellent,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought he moved the ball in and out well. His slider was really good tonight. I thought he was excellent.”
Dellin Betances followed Warren with three hitless innings. David Phelps — who was supposed to start this game before his wife went into labor — has pitched 7.2 innings without an earned run this spring. D.J. Mitchell has a 0.89 WHIP and 1.00 ERA. The Yankees upper-level pitching prospects have each made strong impressions this spring, suggesting they’re more than capable of filling a hole should this overflowing rotation need a spot starter or two.
“I’m not going to worry about who’s ahead of me or how people are doing,” Warren said. “I just want to focus on myself and not get caught up in everything else. I feel like, I take care of my business and things will take care of themselves.”
• Tonight’s game ended in a tie because Girardi had run out of pitchers who he actually planned on pitching in this game. The Yankees had extra lower-level pitchers on the trip, but it seems Girardi didn’t want to use them. “I just said, that’s it,” Girardi said.
• Bobby Valentine wasn’t happy with Girardi for calling the game before it could go into the 10th inning. It is odd that Girardi had extra pitchers on the travel roster but chose not to use them. He said that he was worried about tomorrow’s doubleheader. “We’ve got a long day tomorrow too,” he said. “We need pitching.”
• One seemingly available pitcher was D.J. Mitchell, but the Yankees had him throw a side when it seemed there wouldn’t be enough innings for him to pitch. “We have a responsibility to build him up too,” Girardi said.
• Turns out CC Sabathia was hit in the shin by a comebacker this afternoon, but that was in the first inning and Sabathia stayed in to pitch five more innings. Sounds like he’s fine. Girardi’s not concerned.
• Raul Ibanez had another 0-for-3 and his average dropped to .054 this spring. “I’m just worried about us staying healthy down here right now,” Brian Cashman said. “Veterans like him, I’m certainly not going to make any judgments on.”
• Cashman said there are no real concerns about any of the nagging injuries (Jeter, Swisher, etc) in Yankees camp. Girardi said Derek Jeter came through today’s workout just fine and plans to play tomorrow.
• He’s pretty far down the depth chart, but Doug Bernier is really having a nice spring. He had two more hits today, including a two-run single. He also made a nice play up the middle in the fourth inning. He’s hitting .364.
• Rough day for Cory Wade who let the Red Sox back in the game with four hits and three earned runs in the eighth inning. Wade got only two outs in the inning before Juan Cedeno finished it.
• RBI triple for Curtis Granderson, who continues to have a terrific spring. … Brett Gardner, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez each had a hit in this game, but none of those three is hitting better than .194 this spring. … Jose Gil is batting .571 after his 1-for-3 night, and Gustavo Molina is batting .545 after his 1-for-1. Neither has a lot of at-bats.
• Jorge Vazquez was hit by a pitch in the hand and had it heavily wrapped after the game, but there’s no word on how serious the injury might be. He had to be taken out of the game, letting Jose Toussen get some unexpected playing time.
• I wrote this morning about how good Clay Rapada has looked in camp, but Rule 5 Cesar Cabral has also looked pretty sharp with 11 strikeouts and only one walk. The Yankees seem to have room for only one of those two. “(Cabral)’s pitched so well,” Cashman said. “If he was looking terrible, 29 other clubs would pass on him, (but) he ain’t looking terrible. To me, he’s either making this club, getting waiver-claimed or getting traded.”
• Rapada, by the way, has an out in his contract at the end of spring training. Cashman confirmed that this afternoon.
• For those of you who closely follow the minor league system, reports that Rafael DePaula has obtained a visa are true, but in an email, Mark Newman said DePaula still has to pass a physical “before anything progresses.” DePaula signed with the Yankees in 2010 but has been stuck in limbo ever since. He has a chance to be a legitimate talent.
• Phelps’ wife, by the way, had the baby late last night.
Associated Press photos
Waiting for doors to open • 03.03.12
There was nothing David Phelps, Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances could have done this afternoon to make themselves favorites for the Yankees rotation. There are plenty of big league starters on the roster, and as long as everyone stays healthy, the next wave of pitching talent will have to wait.
“I made that clear in my first meeting with all the guys,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘Look, we used 28 pitchers last year, and I guarantee you all 28 weren’t on the 40-man when the year started. But at some point, they were there. If you think we’re not going to call you up because you’re not on the 40-man, think again. Everyone in this room has an opportunity to possibly pitch for us this year or you wouldn’t be here.’ I think it’s important that they know that. We like to use our system, and we want our system to be deep.”
The Yankees have homegrown Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and Dave Robertson on the roster. Joba Chamberlain will be there soon enough, and guys like Betances, George Kontos and Kevin Whelan got some big league time last year. The young guys have seen doors open, and they’re well aware it could happen again.
“We saw it last year,” Phelps said. “The majority of the guys that were in camp last year helped the team at some point or another. It’s more about going out and trying to prove to myself that I can do it… We were down in Triple-A last year seeing a lot of our friends and teammates getting called up. It’s great watching them pitch, and it’s like, ‘I could be next.’ It’s a matter of going out and doing your job and hopefully your turn will come. It’s definitely motivation. It’s knowing that if you go out and do your job to the best of your ability, there’s a good chance that at some point during the season, you’ll be able to help the club.”
If one of those doors is opened much sooner than expected, these early spring outings could be a factor in which young pitcher gets the call. “You try to get a feel for who would handle the situation the best,” Girardi said. Today, Phelps seemed to make the best impression, but Adam Warren looked good yesterday and there’s still a long way to go.
“We get a lot of questions about how it feels to compete against your friends,” Phelps said. “We don’t see it as we’re competing against each other; we know that if we go out and do what we’re capable of doing, it’s not like if I pitch well, that means Warren isn’t going to get called up if Warren goes out and pitches well. If we all go out and do what we’re capable of doing, it’s going to be good for all of us. We feed off each other; when one is doing well, it really helps out the rest. We go over scouting reports, pick each other’s brains about how to set up hitters. If anything coming up with the same group of guys and being comfortable with them has made it easier to succeed as a group.”
Associated Press photo of Betances
Pretty quiet day here at Yankee Stadium. The first person I saw in the clubhouse was Yogi Berra, dressed in a sharp suit for today’s Roger Maris ceremony. The last person I talked to in the Yankees clubhouse was Phil Hughes, having just sat down after a morning bullpen.
“I didn’t even feel it,” he said.
In this case, Hughes was referring to his lower back, which started causing him problems last weekend and cost him a start this week. Hughes threw 35 to 40 pitches and he remains on schedule — assuming no setbacks — to pitch next week in Tampa. There’s no date scheduled for that appearance.
“I think you really have to wait and see how he feels tomorrow and decide what we’re going to do,” Joe Girardi said.
Given the fact he hasn’t pitched since September 12, there’s a very real possibility that the Yankees will decide to simply move him into the bullpen for the division series.
“I think you have to think about that,” Girardi said. “I think that’s one of the things you have to think about just because he hasn’t thrown in a while and we’re not sure how it’s going to play out in the next couple of days after throwing this bullpen. Just a lot of decisions to be made by Friday.”
• Francisco Cervelli ran for about 10 minutes today. He’s still not ready to begin baseball activities, but he’s making progress. “I still would be a little bit surprise if we got him back,” Girardi said. “But, you know, maybe it stays away and maybe he’s able to help us.”
• Without Cervelli, the Yankees have to consider a postseason roster without a traditional backup catcher. “It changes the way that maybe you think about your roster a little bit,” Girardi said. “You know, when you think about your roster, the expectation is that Russell is going to play every day. You really have to think about how you’re going to do things and the combination of guys. There’s a lot of thought that’s going to go into this. The one thing about making a roster is you try to guard against everything, that’s what you try to do, but you really can’t.”
• A.J. Burnett will start the first game tomorrow. Ivan Nova will start the second.
• Girardi was asked today about the impact of Mark Teixeira’s defense at first base: “He saves us errors,” Girardi said. “Saving errors to me is important. It saves runs, No. 1. No. 2, it saves pitches for our starter. An inning ends up being prolonged and a pitcher throws 12 extra pitches, and it takes an inning away from them, and it affects your bullpen. It’s just kind of a trickle effect. So, being able to save pitches by saving errors is extremely important to me, and he does a wonderful job.”
• I actually have not yet seen Manny Banuelos, but I know he’s here. I’ve seen Adam Warren and David Phelps hanging around the past two days. They’re here to observe for the weekend, just to get themselves used to the big league environment.
“This is something that our club has done in the past where we bring young kids up that we think could have an impact either next year or the year after,” Girardi said. “(They) kind of get a feel what it’s like to be in our clubhouse, see all the media, understand our clubhouse — our clubhouse is something you have to learn – so when they do get here, they’re more comfortable. We all know that those first couple days as a big league player, a lot of times, there’s a lot of butterflies, but you try to get rid of some of that. But these are kids that we believe are going to help us, and that’s why they’re here.”
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carl Crawford LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Mike Aviles 3B
Marco Scutaro SS
Josh Reddick RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Associated Press photos
Yankees at the break: The rotation • 07.12.11
This was supposed to be the Yankees weakness. It’s become a strength. Because of better-than-expected performances from Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, the Yankees rotation has been dependable, and it’s grown deep enough that Ivan Nova is tucked away in Triple-A.
This winter, there was one free agent starter who could make the Yankees feel confident about their rotation. He picked Philadelphia, and the Yankees were left scrambling for spare parts. Those spare parts have been outstanding, A.J. Burnett has bounced back from last season’s misery, Nova has been inconsistent but generally pretty good as a rookie, and CC Sabathia is once again an early Cy Young candidate. When Phil Hughes landed on the DL after just three starts, the Yankees rotation was tested, but it rose to the challenge.
The Yankees have obvious rotation depth heading into the second half of the season. Nova was crowded out of the rotation despite success, so he’s ready to step in if the Yankees need someone. Based on results, there’s little reason to doubt Colon and Garcia, but their age and recent injuries raise some obvious red flags. The biggest question, though, is probably Hughes. He’s made just one start since coming off the disabled list, and although his velocity was much better than it was in April, he didn’t exactly plow through the Indians lineup. The Yankees are hoping that the Hughes saw in last year’s first half shows up for this year’s second half.
D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Lance Pendleton each have ERAs of 3.38 or lower in Triple-A. Now they’re joined by Nova to give the Yankees a good, young Triple-A rotation. Their success helps cover the fact that Andrew Brackman has been surprisingly bad, losing his rotation spot and struggling to find consistency as a reliever.
The bigger names are in Double-A, where Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have each pitched well – Betances especially – but their control issues are proof that they’re still young and have some work to do. Both have 40 walks in fewer than 80 innings this season. In the lower levels, Mikey O’Brien, Josh Romanski and Nik Turley have pitched their way into call-ups. A few other standouts whose names might not be familiar: Craig Heyer (Fall League selection with a 3.19 ERA in Double-A), Jairo Heredia (improving prospect with a 3.29 ERA in High-A) and Brett Marshall (outstanding since the end of April in High-A).
What happens if Nova dominates in Triple-A?
In his return to Triple-A, Nova struck out 10 and walked none through 7.2 innings that proved he was a Major League pitcher in a minor league game. If that pace continues and one of the Yankees starters slips – doesn’t get hurt, doesn’t fall apart completely, just starts allowing four runs every time out – how quickly would the Yankees make a change and decide they need to move Nova back into the big league rotation?
It will be interesting to see whether the Yankees push either Betances or Banuelos in the second half. It’s entirely possible that they’ll be big league ready at some point next year, but it might not be at the start of the season unless they get at least a half season at Triple-A. It’ll also be interesting to see if Phelps, Mitchell or Warren gets some big league time kind of like Nova did last year. The bigger question, though, centers on Sabathia, who can opt out of his contract at the end of this season. Even if Sabathia opts out, the Yankees would remain a favorite to bring him back, but it’s an issue that could have a significant impact on the next five or six years (maybe more).
Associated Press photos of Sabathia and Colon, headshots of Mitchell, Banuelos and Nova
Looking for upgrades: The pitching staff • 06.27.11
Two weeks from the all-star break and a little more than a month before the trade deadline, the Yankees are at a point where they can — sort of — figure out what they need to add for a second-half push toward the playoffs. Making this picture a little less clear is the status of their injured players who could provide a significant boost if/when they get healthy.
On the pitching staff, the preseason concern has become a surprising strength, and the preseason strength has become a surprising concern. These are three areas where the Yankees might look to upgrade their pitching staff in the second half.
The Yankees rotation has been better than anyone could have expected, and that’s despite injuries to Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon. The Yankees, though, will surely kick the tires on alternatives, if only to add depth and peace of mind.
Trade market: Hit-and-miss.
A starting pitcher will be traded before the deadline, history tells us that much. The question is whether an addition would be an upgrade over the Yankees in-house options. If Hughes and Colon come back and pitch well – and both Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova continue to pitch well enough – then the need for a starter will be minimal (though the want might still exist). If Hughes or Colon suffers a setback, Garcia or Nova regresses, or A.J. Burnett falls into last year’s habits, then the Yankees will need someone. Carlos Zambrano and Brett Myers seem to be available targets, but are they worth the headache? The Twins have been disappointing and could shed starting pitchers at the deadline, but are they more reliable than what the Yankees already have?
In-house: The kids.
Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos are still in Double-A and both are pitching well (though still working on some control issues). Not so long ago, the Yankees had Hughes and Alan Horne dominating in Double-A as highly regarded prospects, but the Yankees left them there, and there’s not much reason to expect the Yankees to change course and suddenly rush Betances or Banuelos without at least a brief stop in Triple-A. More likely options might be Carlos Silva, Hector Noesi or someone from the David Phelps-Adam Warren-D.J. Mitchell trio in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Warren is probably at the top of that pecking order with Phelps is currently on the DL.
Joba Chamberlain is lost for the year, and Rafael Soriano is almost certainly lost until after the all-star break. Dave Robertson has been terrific in the eighth inning, but the Yankees are mixing-and-matching in the sixth and seventh, still searching for one-inning relievers to complete that bridge to Mariano Rivera.
Trade market: They’re all relievers. Last year, the Yankees took a chance on Kerry Wood, and that move completely changed the bullpen. At the time of the trade, though, Wood was coming off injury and had ugly numbers with Cleveland. He came to the Yankees as a complete wild card and became a dominant setup man. The Yankees could go looking for something similar, but relievers are an unreliable group. Based on what Wood was doing at this time last year, he would not have looked like an especially attractive target. There will be risk in anyone the Yankees go after, though some big names seem to be on the market, including Padres closer Heath Bell.
In-house: Untested. The Yankees have had success plugging minor league starters into bullpen roles, and that’s occasionally worked as a stepping stone to the big league rotation. Right now, they seem to be trying something similar with Noesi.* They also might have found something in Cory Wade, though his innings have been limited. Andrew Brackman has moved to the Triple-A bullpen, but the results have not been encouraging. The Yankees have looked at Kevin Whelan and they’ve run through a series of long-relievers, but so far Noesi has been the call-up standout and Luis Ayala has been better than expected. George Kontos still seems to be pitching himself toward a call-up in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees top two left-handed relievers should be Pedro Feliciano and Damaso Marte, but those two proven veterans have yet to pitch this season because of injuries. In their place, Boone Logan has been erratic, unable to repeat last year’s second-half success.
Trade market: Still relievers. The same problem that applies to the setup trade market applies to the lefty trade market: These guys tend to be unpredictable. The Yankees could take their chances on a veteran, with hopes that he doesn’t fall into either the Logan Trap of ineffectiveness or the Feliciaino/Marte Trap of arm problems. The Phillies just released J.C. Romero, who actually had solid numbers against lefties this season but passed through waivers without a claim. Logan has struggled all season, and the Yankees haven’t traded for a replacement yet, which might say something about the market.
In-house: Minor league veterans. The Yankees have signed some lefties for the Triple-A pitching staff, and those might be legitimate options. Randy Flores has pitched well out of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen, holding lefties to a .233 average with nine strikeouts, seven hits and one walk. Greg Smith has pitched well out of the rotation, but that’s only 14.2 innings and he has almost zero bullpen experience. If he could pitch in relief, Smith could give the Yankees a second lefty who doubles as a long man. It’s also worth noting that Whelan has had tremendous success against left-handers, but he’s currently on the DL and his first stint in New York was so short, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees trusting him with the bizarre role of right-handed lefty specialist.
* In my mind, this is why it makes sense to have Noesi playing a bullpen role while Brian Gordon gets a few spot starts. Noesi’s role could be a long-term thing. The Yankees have a very real need in the late innings, and if Noesi adapts to the role, he could be a significant boost the rest of the way. The current rotation opening is a no-doubt-about-it part-time job. Gordon is going to get one or two more starts before Hughes is ready, and obviously they’re going to skip him when they can. He had great numbers this year, so the Yankees are riding the hot hand for a while. They’re hoping for more than a short-term contribution from Noesi.
Associated Press photos
At the very top of the Yankees minor league system, two Triple-A starters — Andrew Brackman and Adam Warren — are top five in the International League in walks. Down in Low-A, one of the Yankees best young catchers — Gary Sanchez — is hitting just .238 with 37 strikeouts in 32 games.
“It’s like somebody trying to lose weight and looking at the scale every day,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “It’ll drive you nuts.”
Less than two months into the minor league season, the big picture is nowhere near coming into focus, and Newman said this part of the season is still about making initial adjustments to a new level. The Yankees focus more on the second-half results for most of their minor leaguers, curious to see how they adjust and adapt.
Right now, Warren is eight walks away from his total for last season. Brackman is 12 away from his 2010 total. From the outside, the Brackman number is more glaring because, 1. His ERA is three runs higher than Warren’s, and 2. He had similar control issues in 2009.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an issue long term, because he’s showing he can throw strikes,” Newman said. “He’s just got to get back (to last year’s command). His mark right now is well above where we want it to be, but I don’t think it’s going to stay there.”
As for Sanchez, he was hitting .314 with three home runs in his previous 10 games before going on the disabled list a week ago. More importantly, he’s 18 years old.
“He’s swinging it good now,” Newman said. “He’s like a high school senior playing in that league. He’s doing well.”
• Speaking of letting the big picture come into focus… Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy were the Yankees first- and second-round picks in the 2009 draft, and both are off to eye-opening starts in Charleston. Newman called it little more than the natural progression of two talented kids who had very little little experience when they put up pedestrian numbers in Charleston last season. “That was a helluva challenge,” Newman said. “Now they’re getting a little experience, and we’re seeing what kind of players they are. There’s nothing particularly surprising about it.”
• As you might expect, Newman said both Heathcott and Murphy will “probably” jump to Tampa midseason.
• As previously reported, Newman said Sanchez has a “stiff lower back” that he’s trying to work through in extended spring training. Once he’s through that, Sanchez will return to Charleston.
• In the wake of the Buster Posey injury, Newman said the Yankees have not discussed moving any of their catchers from behind the plate just to avoid injury. “Not because of health concerns,” he said. “All of our catchers do work at first base. We have a lot of young catching prospects. Who knows who’s going to catch, who’s going to play first base and who’s going to DH?” Newman once again stressed that the Yankees believe Jesus Montero can catch.
• Other injury updates:
Greg Golson: About a week away from playing in games.
Mark Prior: “Not throwing (off a mound),” Newman said. “He’s really struggling with this kind of hip, abdominal thing. Hard to nail it down.”
Alan Horne: Throwing in extended spring and building arm strength.
Graham Stoneburner, Steve Garrison, Jeremy Bleich: “Still a ways to go,” Newman said.
David Adams: Having some leg problems that the Yankees believe to be related to the ankle injury that forced him to miss most of last season. He was back and playing, but then the leg started bothering him. Not sure how close he is to returning.
• Carlos Silva can opt out in mid-June and pitched well last night. “This is a contingency plan,” Newman said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
• Veteran Brad Halsey, signed to a minor league deal earlier this month, is throwing in Tampa, basically going through his own spring training.
• Outfielder Damon Sublett has been throwing some bullpens in Double-A. He was a closer in college and hasn’t been getting a ton of playing time as a position player, so he asked the Yankees if he could start working out on the mound. “We’re just checking it out, getting his arm in shape,” Newman said.
• Newman said there’s no one in extended spring training who’s “setting any world records or anything,” but the name-to-know that jumped to his mind was starting pitcher Bryan Mitchell. “He’s got electric stuff,” Newman said. “He’s got the stuff to be the next Banuelos, Betances. The high-end guy. That’s Mitchell.”
Brackman photo from my friends at the Scranton Times-Tribune