A source has confirmed Joel Sherman’s report that the Yankees have signed 25-year-old infielder Nick Noonan to a minor league contract. The former Giants first-round pick once drew comparisons to Chase Utley — left-handed-hitting second baseman with a tendency to hit a bunch of line drives — but his bat never developed quite as hoped or expected. Noonan got a little bit of big league time in 2013, but he hit just .237/.282/.303 in Triple-A this season.
Although he’s spent more time at second base, the Yankees see him as a legitimate shortstop. In fact, I’ve been told the Yankees believe he can play the position pretty well, and Noonan’s still young enough that the team plans to give him regular at-bats and a legitimate look in spring training.
Purely my own speculation, but if you’re speculating about next year’s Triple-A roster, Noonan might not be a bad pick as the regular shortstop (depending on the way other things shake out, of course). He also adds some depth at second base and has some experience at third.
This isn’t a signing meant to really generate much buzz, but the Yankees need infield help beyond the big league bench, and Noonan helps fill that void with at least some hope for upside and potential.
Speaking of minor league moves, here are a few familiar names heading elsewhere on minor league deals:
• Outfielder Antoan Richardson has signed a minor league deal with the Rangers. Richardson was a bit of a surprise September call-up last season, but he played pretty well in his part-time role and will be remembered — if he’s remembered at all — as the guy who scored the run on Derek Jeter’s game-winning RBI to cap the Captain’s career at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have such outfield depth at this point that there was really little reason to bring Richardson back next season.
• Another short-term Yankees call-up, Scott Sizemore, is reportedly likely to sign a minor league deal with the Marlins. Unlike Richardson, Sizemore might actually have fit the Yankees as a non-roster invitee to spring training. He can play second and third, and he can hit lefties well enough to play a platoon role if necessary.
• Left-handed starter Nik Turley has signed with the Giants. Turley was on the Yankees 40-man roster at this time last year, but he was hurt in spring training, which prompted the Yankees to release and ultimately re-sign him. He’s always been a solid prospect when he throws strikes, but walks have hurt him, and he had nearly as many walks (43) as strikeouts (44) in Triple-A last season.
This morning, Baseball America released its annual list of minor league free agents. These are the players whose contracts expired at the end of the season either because they were on one-year minor league deals or because their original contracts ran out (essentially, players drafted or signed in 2008 became free agents this year if they weren’t added to the 40-man roster).
Andrew Bailey is listed here because the Yankees declined their 2015 option on the veteran right-hander, but two sources say he’s been re-signed to a new minor league contract, which means he’ll be back in the Yankees system next year.
The Yankees originally signed Bailey back in spring training, and he spent all year rehabbing a shoulder injury. He never actually got into a game this season, but he’s been a very good big league reliever in the past. Very low-risk move bringing him back. Could be helpful if he gets healthy.
Here’s the list of Yankees minor league free agents:
RHP: Andrew Bailey (AAA), Jairo Heredia (AA), David Herndon (AAA)
RHP/LHP: Pat Venditte (AAA)
LHP: Ramon Benjamin (Hi A), Jeremy Bleich (AA), Francisco Rondon (AA), Nik Turley (AAA)
C: Jose Gil (AAA)
1B: Reymond Nunez (Hi A)
2B: Jose Toussen (AA)
3B: Scott Sizemore (AAA)
SS: Carmen Angelini (AAA)
OF: Zoilo Almonte (AAA)
A few things worth pointing out:
• Rondon, Turley and Almonte are all organizational prospects who were previously on the 40-man roster at some point. Almonte got some big league time the past two years, but he was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and became eligible for free agency. He clearly needs a fresh start with a team that might give him a real chance to get big league at-bats. Turley was released and re-signed earlier this year (he’d been hurt in spring training, and the Yankees needed to open a 40-man spot). I tend to think of him as being similar to a Rule 5 candidate: The Yankees either had to put him back on the 40-man or risk losing him. As long as he’s throwing strikes, Turley’s a solid prospect. Wouldn’t be stunned to see the Yankees try to re-sign him. Also wouldn’t be stunned to see him try his luck elsewhere.
• There was a time this season when I thought Venditte might have a real chance for a call-up. The Yankees were basically out of upper-level left-handed relievers — Rondon, Fred Lewis and Cesar Cabral had each stumbled in Triple-A — and Venditte was once again putting up pretty solid numbers. If the Yankees had suddenly needed a lefty, I wonder if Venditte might have gotten a chance (which would have been really cool to see). Instead, Rich Hill and Josh Outman were brought onboard and Venditte never got a look. Often labeled a novelty act because he throws with both hands, Venditte has a career 2.46 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in the minors.
• Bleich was a supplemental-round pick in 2008, but he had some early injury problems that derailed his development for a while. Heredia was also once considered a pretty good prospect, but he too had some health problems. Despite being a starter through most of his career, he’s only once thrown more than 100 innings in a season, and that came way back in 2008 when he threw 102.1 innings in Low-A. Similar story with Angelini, who at one point might have been the top shortstop prospect in the system, but he missed a lot of time and never hit much.
• Many others Yankees minor leaguers were either released midseason or elected free agency previously this offseason. Among those most recognizable names: RHP Jim Miller, RHP Bruce Billings, RHP Chris Leroux, LHP Cesar Cabral, LHP Josh Outman, 1B Russ Canzler, 2B Corban Joseph, OF Antoan Richardson.
Associated Press photos of Almonte and Turley; headshot of Bailey
A few notes and links from this surprisingly busy Wednesday…
• Not that there was any reason to doubt today’s Miami Herald report, but attorney Frank Quintero Jr., who represents one of the other men charged in the federal Biogenesis investigation, confirmed to The Associated Press that the Herald story is true. “I can for your report confirm that the report by the Herald is accurate as to what Rodriguez said,” Quintero said in an email to the AP. “I don’t have a dog in this fight. My client has no involvement with ANY major league players concerning the use of banned substances.” Quintero Jr. represents Lazaro Collazo, the former University of Miami pitching coach.
• According to the team’s transactions page, the Yankees have outrighted Antoan Richardson to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That means he’s cleared waivers and is off the 40-man roster. I assume that also means he’s allowed to elect free agency, which he surely will. Richardson signed as a minor league free agent last winter, having not played in the big leagues since 2011. He was a September call-up who went five-for-five in stolen base attempts (though he also made some early base-running blunders) and hit .313/.353/.313. If Richardson has a spot in Yankees history, it’s surely the fact he scored the winning run in Derek Jeter’s final Yankee Stadium at-bat. Given the Yankees upper-level outfield depth, there’s really no obvious role for Richardson next season.
• Former Yankees left-hander Brad Halsey died in a climbing accident on Friday. His agency, O’Connell Sports, announced Halsey’s death in a tweet: “We are sorry to hear of the passing of longtime client, Brad Halsey. Our thoughts & prayers are with his family during this difficult time.” Halsey was just 33 years old. He was an eighth-round pick in 2002 and made seven starts for the Yankees in 2004. He went on to pitch in Arizona and Oakland. After a stint in independent ball, Halsey returned to the Yankees minor league system in 2011 to pitch for a while with Double-A Trenton.
• From Baseball America’s latest round of minor league transactions, the Yankees have re-signed right-hander Andury Acevedo. A former infielder in the Pirates system, the 24-year-old’s had a bunch of strikeouts and a bunch of walks since joining the Yankees and moving to the mound. He was 23 in short-season ball most of the year, so he’s been old for his level (understandable given the role switch). Probably not a guy worth having on the radar, but you never know. One other recognizable name from the latest minor league transactions: reliever Kevin Whelan — who came over in the 2006 Gary Sheffield trade and made two big league appearances with the Yankees in 2011 — has signed with the Athletics. Whelan got back to the big leagues for one game with the Tigers this season. He pretty consistently strikes out a ton of guys in Triple-A.
Associated Press photo of Richardson
This is Derek Jeter final game at Camden Yards, a place that’s awfully familiar for the retiring shortstop. Jeter has plenty of strong ties to the ballpark and this city, beginning with iconic Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and extending through their current manager Buck Showalter. This afternoon, Jeter held a press conference to discuss his final trip to Baltimore. A few highlights:
On Showalter’s idea that the Orioles give Jeter a framed poster of Jeffrey Maier’s catch
“I’ve already reaped the benefits of it. I don’t need a poster. I’ve had other reminders. It was funny playing with Tony (Tarasco), I forget what year it was he came and played for us. We had a lot of fun with that one.”
On the impact of Showalter as Jeter’s first big league manager
“The thing I appreciate with Buck is the fact that he gave me the opportunity to stay around for the postseason (in 1995). I wasn’t on the roster, and they could have sent me home or sent me back down to Tampa to be one of those just-in-case guys, but Buck kept me around and allowed me to see what the postseason atmosphere was like, which I think helped me the following year going into the playoffs. Even though I didn’t get a chance to play (in the ’95 postseason), I got a chance to see and feel what the atmosphere was like. I owe him for that. … You can’t prepare for nerves. How you’re going to feel, those are things you’re going to have to deal with. For him to give me the opportunity, I think I was more nervous watching the playoffs in ’95 than I was playing in ’96. A lot of that is a credit to him.”
On remembering the disappointment of the 1995 postseason
“Of course. I’ve always been a believer in, you try to remember the good times, but you also remember the times when you struggle and you lose. You remember what that feeling is like. When you remember those feelings, you don’t want to have them again. That’s what drives you, that’s what makes you continue to work. Yeah, I remember. Donnie played his entire career and got to the playoffs one time, his last year. So I never took that for granted. I’m glad I had an opportunity to see it. It may sound kind of funny, I’m not glad that they lost, but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to be around it.”
On the impact of Cal Ripken Jr.
“He’s someone I always looked up to, and I feel as though when I was younger I was allowed to continue playing the position because of guys like Cal. Taller shortstops. The bigger shortstops. A lot of guys today owe that to him. … I just remember when I was younger, not necessarily professionally, just growing up and playing shortstop and being tall, people would say well shortstops aren’t tall. The first line of defense is ‘Cal Ripken,’ and then everybody would shut up, you know what I’m saying? Yeah, he set the standard. There were other guys, but Cal was so big that he set the standard for big players playing in the middle of the field. So no, it’s never been brought up, not one time my entire career has switching positions been brought up.”
On the ’90s rivalry with the Orioles
“I was sort of thrust right into it. Baltimore had some great teams. I remember coming here in 1996 in the ALCS my first full season and playing in the playoffs. Cal was on the other side, and this was the person I always admired growing up and still do today. To have the opportunity to play against him in the playoffs, it was a lot of fun. It was exciting. I was nervous. That’s a long time ago. Sometimes it feels like it’s not so long, but it was a very long time ago. Those are the memories that I’ll share with people about Camden Yards, playing those great teams.”
• Francisco Cervelli has said his headaches have gone away, but the Yankees are still reluctant to put him in a game just yet. “The doctors didn’t say it was related to the concussions,” Girardi said. “But we don’t want these cluster migraines to come back. So he’s having to do a lot of activity to make sure it’s not triggered by that. … (Doctors have) talked about going day by day, seeing how he’s doing. He’s increased activity, caught in the bullpen.”
• Still some progress to report on Carlos Beltran. “He swung yesterday and felt better,” Girardi said. “So I’m going to see if they’re going to allow him to take BP today. He might do it in the cage.” Beltran is still hoping to play again before having offseason elbow surgery.
• This might seem like a good day for Ichiro Suzuki to be in the lineup, but the Yankees like what they’ve seen out of switch-hitter Antoan Richardson. “Yeah, (Ichiro)’s healthy,” Girardi said. “Antoan’s been playing well. And this guy (Orioles starter Chris Tillman) has given Ich some trouble. So, I was going to give him yesterday off just because he’d played a lot, day games after night games. Antoan swung well yesterday, and we’ll probably get Ich back in there tomorrow.”
• Jeter’s actually hit the ball fairly hard lately, but he hasn’t had much to show for it. Girardi said he’s planning to give Jeter one of the next three games off. “I don’t think Derek would ever press,” Girardi said. “Could he be physically tired? Well, it’s September, and you’re going to ask every player that, they’re all going to be a little bit tired this time of year. He’s had his days off – probably give him a day off in Tampa somewhere here. Probably would help him. I mean, we’re in a tough stretch here, and we need to make up ground.”
• Has nothing at all to do with baseball, but 10 years ago today, Arcade Fire’s album Funeral was released. It’s just a great album and a pretty important album for the rise of indie artists toward the mainstream in the past decade. Has no relevance for tonight’s game, just something I was reading about earlier today and had stuck in my head.
Associated Press photos
When that final groundball rolled through the infield, settled into Martin Prado’s glove and was tossed to first base, Dave Robertson turned back toward the plate and pumped his fist. At least in the mind of the Yankees’ closer, this win mattered.
“Every win’s big for us now,” Robertson said. “We’ve dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, but this is September baseball, and I’ve seen amazing things happen. I’ve seen Tampa get in on the last day, and Boston fall out of the playoffs. You can’t give up hope, and you’ve got to try to grind out every single game. One win today. Wish we could have taken one yesterday, but one win’s big. Have to continue.”
We’ll find out later tonight whether this win actually made any sort of difference in the standings, but the key for the Yankees is that they keep this from being an isolated incident. They needed to bounce back from yesterday’s disappointment, and a three-run second inning did that. Now the only thing to do is try to win again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day.
“I told you, we’re going to have to win a lot of games,” Joe Girardi said. “Win one tomorrow. That’s all we can do. We have to go out and win tomorrow.”
It was another game when the offense didn’t do a ton, and it was another win that rested largely on the pitching staff, but a win is a win. For one day, all the Yankees could do was win one, and I guess that’s big enough for the time being.
“Three runs by no means is a lot, especially when we got them all early,” Chris Young said. “But for our guys to lock that lineup down like they did, it was huge for us today. It was a really big win today.”
• Bit of a grind for Shane Greene today, but even with an elevated pitch count he got the Yankees into the sixth inning with just two runs. “He did a really good job,” Girardi said. “He was getting outs when he had to, that’s the bottom line. He was making pitches when he had to. They fouled a lot of pitches off on him today, but he made some big pitches.”
• Here’s Greene: “I felt like early my slider was good, but I couldn’t throw it for a strike. As the game went on, I started throwing it for a strike a little bit more and it helped a lot. … I trust it. I just have to keep going to it until I find it.”
• Greene is 4-0 with a 2.72 ERA in six road starts this season. The Yankees have not lost a game that he started on the road. Overall, the Yankees have won six of Greene’s past eight starts and Greene has left the game with the Yankees leading in nine of his 12 starts.
• Camden Yards might be an early favorite for Greene. He’s struck out nine or more batters three times this season, and two of those have come here in Baltimore.
• Robertson threw 35 pitches yesterday, and he could feel it today. “A little sore warming up,” he said. “Once I got going, I felt a lot better. I didn’t have the greatest command coming into the game, but I knew that I was going to be able to find the zone. Obviously I wasn’t going to allow any walks. Kind of hung a curveball. I was throwing it for strikes, but it kind of hung up a little higher than I would have liked. Started out with a runner on first because of that single.”
• Before the game, Robertson assured Girardi and Larry Rothschild that he’d be able to lock down one inning. Given the current situation, how sore would he have been to tell the coaching staff he couldn’t pitch? “Unable to get the ball to the catcher to not come in there today,” he said.
• Another hit for Chris Young who’s hitting .417/417/.958 since stepping into the Yankees lineup. “He’s been really, really good,” Girardi said. “You look at his last at-bat, he just missed hitting a homer. A couple today. He’s swinging the bat well; that’s why he’s in there.”
• Young technically stole home today. It was on the back end of a double steal. He was basically able to walk home after Antoan Richardson stole second with two outs in the second. “We talk about it at third base before it even happens,” Young said. “You know if he gets a good jump, most likely he’s going to be safe. The situation being that they still may gamble and taking a chance on getting him, you just go for it and say if you see the catcher look like he’s going to throw it, you just take a gamble, take a chance and try to steal a run. It was pretty easy for me just to walk in. The credit really goes to Twon just to get the bag in that situation.”
• Speaking of Richardson, he got his first career RBI today. He’s played alright these past two days in his first career starts.
• Brian McCann hit his 19th home run of the season, and his third home run on the road. All eight of his previous hits against the Orioles this season were singles.
• Robertson has 36 saves this season and 44 saves in his career. That puts him in a tie with Rafael Soriano for the eight-most saves in Yankees history.
• Final word to Girardi: “We’ve been in a lot of these games, yeah. We’ve been in a ton of these games and I’ve said going back to May or June that we were going to have to win these type of games. These are the type of games we need to win.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi made a change at the top of the order today, just not the change so many have been suggesting. Jacoby Ellsbury is back in the leadoff spot, Brett Gardner is batting third for the first time, and Derek Jeter is still right in between them as the No. 2 hitter.
“For the first four months of the year, he was probably one of our most consistent hitters,” Girardi said. “One of the three most consistent hitters in our club. I consider us kind of to be in playoff mode right now, for us, because we obviously need to win games. Throughout his career, he’s been clutch in the playoffs, and we’re leaving him there. He’s a hot topic always just because of who he is, but there’s other issues that we have in our club that we have to get better at as well.”
Is there pressure to keep Jeter in that spot for his final month?
“No, not necessarily,” Girardi said. “… If I had eight other guys hitting .300, it probably wouldn’t be difficult (to move him down). When you look up and down at our numbers, we’ve had a number of guys that have had tough years. Years that we wouldn’t have projected. So (if) I move him, who am I going to put there? That’s my question. Who you going to move there that’s been more consistent during the course of the season. We haven’t hit collectively as a team, and to single him out is not fair. … (Rank) 13 out of 15 in runs scored. That’s not all Derek’s fault. That’s collectively we haven’t hit.”
Of course, it’s hard to know how much of Girardi’s persistence with Jeter is because of external pressure — because of who Jeter is and what his final season means — and how much is because of the disappointing hitters around him. The Yankees really haven’t had many consistent alternatives. Martin Prado is hot right now, but his first few weeks with the team were underwhelming. Gardner is coming off a bad month. Mark Teixeira is coming off a terrible month.
“(Jeter) could hit .600 and if the other guys don’t produce around him and through the lineup, then it’s not going to matter what he hits,” Girardi said. “So, as I said, it’s going to have to be a collection of all these guys that can swing the bat extremely well. And if one guy’s not, the other guy picks him up. That’s the bottom line.”
• Masahiro Tanaka has been examined by Dr. Chris Ahmad, who diagnosed him with nothing more than arm fatigue. “Every manual test that they did came out really well,” Girardi said. “They just said he had some arm fatigue. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen sometime this week and hopefully he’s ready to do it.” Tanaka played catch today and apparently had no issues.
• For those confused by the move: Putting Tanaka on the 60-day doesn’t really mean much. Those moves are always retroactive, and he’s missed close to 60 days already. He could still come back this season.
• David Phelps threw a 25-pitch bullpen this afternoon (fastballs and changeups), and he’s scheduled for a 35-pitch bullpen on Friday (all of his pitches). Phelps said he expects to throw a simulated game on Sunday, and that might be the final step toward getting him off the disabled list and into the bullpen. “I know that we’ve been going kind of conservative with it just to make sure everything comes back,” Phelps said. “All of the steps have been good along the way, so it shouldn’t be too long.”
• Of the Yankees eight September call-ups, five are relievers. Two of those — Whitley and Mitchell — are basically long men. “Obviously pitching is always important this time of year,” Girardi said. “It gives you more options, with a doubleheader coming up eventually here.”
• Why John Ryan Murphy but not Austin Romine? “The organization made the decision to go with (Murphy),” Girardi said. “Obviously I don’t get to see either one of them play a lot. So they went with Murphy.”
• Not much of a surprise that Chris Young got a call-up. I have to imagine that was a condition of any contract he was looking to sign after being released. “(He’s) been pretty productive in his career off left-handers,” Girardi said.
• If there’s a surprise among the call-ups, it’s certainly Antoan Richardson. “Speed off the bench,” Girardi said. Richardson played with Atlanta a little bit in 2011. He was 26-for-27 stealing bases with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he also had a .380 on-base percentage. Kind of a custom-made September call-up, just wasn’t sure the Yankees would actually make the move to get him on the 40-man.
• Zoilo Almonte was designated for assignment after leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in home runs and RBI this season. After Almonte struggled in New York last season, Girardi just never seemed to have much faith in his ability to hit big league right-handers the way he did in Triple-A. His splits are so extreme that, despite being a switch hitter, he’s likely a platoon player at best. Last year might have been his opportunity to show something, but he hit .236/.274/.302 (vRHP .250/.296/.342).
• Why Gardner batting third? “He’s probably been as good against right-handers as anyone in our lineup,” Girardi said. “I left Jake in the one hole. My concern in switching the guys when they both were going well was that they’re both going well, why move them. So I put Jake in the one hole when Gardy got hurt and he did extremely well. I’ll leave him there and just put Gardy third.”
• On Ellsbury’s health: “I saw him run on Sunday, which, I was really encouraged,” Girardi said. “He said he felt better yesterday and felt better today and that’s why I have him in center. In saying that, I told him, look, if you feel that it’s an issue out there you’ve got to let me know. If you feel you need to DH a day, you have to let me know.”
Associated Press photos