Some notes and updates from the Arizona Fall League and various winter ball performances:
• Briefly mentioned this yesterday, but I’ll still start with it today: Bryan Mitchell is currently pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League. As a guy who got his first extended look in the big leagues this season, Mitchell isn’t a typical winter ball player, but he makes sense as a guy who could use a few more innings after spending time in the big league bullpen and missing time with a couple of short-term injuries (the concussion in the minors; the line drive to the face in the majors). Mitchell made his first Puerto Rican start on Friday and went 3.2 innings with three strikeouts, one walk and two earned runs on four hits. Numbers don’t there probably won’t mean much. He’s definitely a guy who benefits just from getting on the mound a little bit.
• After playing nothing but first base in his first seven Arizona Fall League games, Tyler Austin has played the outfield corners his past three games. He’s also moved up to the cleanup spot for the past two games. He’s hitless in his past three games, including 0-for-3 with a walk this afternoon.
• Still leading the Arizona Fall League in home runs and RBI, Gary Sanchez came into today’s action hitting .365/.382/.808 with six homers and 17 RBI in 12 games. He’s had multiple hits in more than half of his games, and he’s homered in nearly half of them. He took a turn at designated hitter today and went 0-for-4.
• Speaking of corner outfielders, Jose Pirela continues to get all of his time in left field this winter. Taking his familiar spot in the Zulia lineup down in Venezuela, Pirela is hitting an absurd .475/.563/.700 through his first 40 at-bats. He’s the team’s regular No. 3 hitter. It’s not unusual to see Pirela put up big numbers in Venezuela, but it’s unusual to see him confined to the outfield. He usually moves around a lot. Interestingly, the guy getting most of the third base playing time for Zulia is former Yankees infielder David Adams, who’s hitting .307/.402/.533 (perhaps that’s one way to keep these numbers in perspective).
• On Sunday night, Ben Gamel hit his third winter ball home run. Through 56 at-bats in Venezuela, Gamel is hitting .268/.348/.500 while playing all three outfield positions and stealing a couple of bases. The Yankees have a little less than two weeks before they have to decide whether to protect Gamel from the Rule 5 draft.
• Two more hitless innings in the Arizona Fall League for young hard-throwing Domingo Acevedo on Monday. He’s gotten in four games in Arizona. Three of them were scoreless outings, five innings total. The other was a three-run appearance across an inning and a third. All told, he’s struck out five and walked one. He’s incredibly inexperienced compared to the hitters around him.
• Through three Fall League starts, Ian Clarkin‘s pitching lines are starting to look familiar. He’s gone four innings each time (well, 4.1 once), and he’s walked three in every start. He’s allowed three runs in two of his three starts (one run in other), he’s struck out two in two of his three starts (had four strikeouts last time out), and he’s allowed four hits in two of his three starts (seven hits in the other). His 5.11 ERA and 1.95 WHIP aren’t good, but this is a really young kid just getting some work in after a lost season.
• Picking up his third straight win last week, Jaron Long continues to thrive in his first taste of winter ball. He’s made four starts, and allowed four runs in one of them. In his other three: 16.2 innings, 15 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts. All told he has a 1.90 ERA with a 1.01 WHIP.
• Upper-level left-handed reliever Tyler Webb is trying to stay relevant with a bunch of other upper-level lefties in the Yankees’ system. He’s pitched well in the Fall League with four strikeouts, no walks and a 0.83 WHIP. Lefties are just 1-for-10 with two strikeouts against him. The only runs he’s allowed in Arizona came on a three-run homer in a two-inning appearance.
• Also in the Arizona Fall League: Still playing primarily second base, with two games at shortstop, Tyler Wade is hitting .194/.235/.258 through 31 at-bats. He’s struck out once in his past seven games, but he hasn’t hit much against a bunch of pitchers who are older than him. … Speaking of young guys in Arizona, Dustin Fowler is hitting .227/.261/.227 through 22 at-bats as a travel squad player. He’s split his time between left field and center field. He’s 4-for-4 stealing bases and has a couple of two-hit games. … Pitcher Chaz Hebert was just named to the Fall Stars Game. He has a 1.29 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP through seven innings, all of them in long relief. He’s basically been a piggyback starter behind Clarkin.
• Other position players: In Puerto Rico, Cito Culver has gotten a little bit of playing time, playing strictly third base so far. He has just six at-bats. … He was taken off the roster earlier this winter, but Rico Noel is up to his old tricks in Mexico. He’s hitting just .138, but he’s 5-for-6 stealing bases. He’s walked four times. … Not sure why, but Ali Castillo hasn’t played a game in Venezuela since October 15. He was a lineup regular last winter.
• Other pitchers: After a decent year in Double-A, Cesar Vargas has pitched to a 1.08 ERA with 12 strikeouts and no walks through 8.1 innings in Mexico. He’s allowed 11 hits, one of which was a homer. … Getting a few save opportunities in Venezuela, former high-end relief prospect Mark Montgomery has a 1.65 WHIP with five walks through 6.2 innings. He’s 4-for-4 in save opportunities, but he’s allowed quite a few base runners. Just hasn’t been the same in recent years. Had a shoulder issue which might explain it. … Off-the-radar young pitcher Luis Niebla continues to pitch well as a starter in Mexico. Through four starts he’s 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.
Associated Press photo
What to do with Bryan Mitchell? • 10.20.15
Been writing quite a bit about the Yankees’ rotation today, so as we continue looking through some of the players with uncertain roles heading into next year, let’s next take a look at the guy who served as Triple-A rotation depth much of this season and could do the exact same in 2016. He might be their most viable bit of immediate minor league rotation depth, but he might also be more valuable as an immediate big league reliever.
This year: Opened the season with Chase Whitley in the Triple-A rotation, with those two forming the most readily available spot starters for whenever the Yankees wanted to insert someone into the rotation. It was Whitley who got those first opportunities, and so Mitchell didn’t make his big league season debut until mid-June, and that was as a reliever. He made a couple of spot starts and wasn’t quite the same after a line drive hit him in the face during a start against the Twins.
A few possibilities for next season:
1. The Yankees had the right idea in April; back to Triple-A
Barring a long list of injuries and/or trades, the Yankees currently have more than enough rotation depth. Most of it comes with a ton of question marks, but Mitchell wouldn’t solve that problem. In fact, because of that problem, the Yankees are best off sending Mitchell back to Triple-A to once again provide some depth that they’re almost certainly going to need. Can’t bank on all of their experienced starters staying healthy, and can’t bank on a starter-turn-reliever being able to make a start at a moment’s notice. The Yankees need someone waiting in Triple-A, and Mitchell can be that guy. At just 24 years old, he’s basically the same age as Nick Goody, Nick Rumbelow and James Pazos. Mitchell is not necessarily a finished product, so the minor leagues aren’t necessarily a waste of time.
2. The Yankees had the right idea in July; back to the bullpen
Fact is, if the Yankees need an extra starter out of spring training or need an injury replacement during the season, it’s probably Adam Warren who’s going to fill that hole. They night need a long man to come up and provide just-in-case innings, but the Yankees have enough rotation depth even without Mitchell waiting in the wings. Mitchell’s arm is big enough — and he’s finally built up some experience — that he could be a more immediate help as a long reliever coming out of spring training. The Yankees thought he was going to fill that role late this season, but the line drive seemed to derail things. None of the other young relievers the Yankees called up this season seemed to stick, and that left the bullpen thin late in the year. If Mitchell is one of the best bullpen arms out of spring training, that’s exactly how he should be used.
3. The Yankees had the right idea with Manny Banuelos; ship him elsewhere
At this time last year, it seemed Banuelos would probably be the Yankees’ top rotation prospect in Triple-A. But the Yankees had already seen Banuelos stumble a bit on his way back from Tommy John, and they decided to use what was left of his prospect stock to trade for a couple of big league ready relievers. Banuelos wound up with a 5.13 ERA in seven big league appearances while Chasen Shreve was one of the Yankees’ best relievers for five months. Not that the Yankees want to trade Mitchell, but if they find he still has trade value — still young, still cheap, still has options — perhaps they don’t have to balk at moving him. If the Yankees aren’t sold on him at the big league level by now, maybe they can use him to get someone they do trust.
Associated Press photo
CC Sabathia’s season might be over.
The Yankees today put Sabathia on the 15-day disabled list, and manager Joe Girardi acknowledged he’s not sure Sabathia will pitch again this year. An MRI revealed no new damage in his surgically repaired right knee, but the existing damage has obviously become a bigger problem this late in the season.
“It’s been maintenance all year long for us,” Girardi said. “We knew that going in, and we knew it could rear its ugly head. There were times where he had some shots before and was able to pitch and it didn’t seem to be an issue. But we knew it would take a lot to get him through the season, and yesterday was the first day that we had to pull him out.
“I didn’t necessarily think that we’d get to 24 starts before we had to pull him out of a game. I wasn’t sure of that going into spring training. I felt like we were pretty lucky up until yesterday.”
Sabathia said yesterday that he only recently started pitching with full force on the mound. He knew he was risking a setback, but the results when holding back simply had not be good enough. He let it go for a few starts and wound up on the disabled list.
Girardi said he was aware Sabathia had been trying to balance a need to protect his knee with a need to pitch well.
“I think it was extremely gutsy what he tried to do every fifth or sixth day,” Girardi said. “He knew if he gave everything he had, there was a better chance the knee would rear its ugly head. And if he gave a governor, he knew his stuff wasn’t quite as good as if he gave everything he had physically. So it was a balance for him that I think was difficult.”
For now, the plan is to give Sabathia rest and treatment. He won’t make the upcoming road trip to Atlanta and Boston.
“When we get back, we’ll see where he’s at,” Girardi said. “Is it possible that he doesn’t pitch the rest of the year? It’s a possibility.”
• With Sabathia on the disabled list, the Yankees will scrap their plan to have a six-man rotation going forward. Essentially, Michael Pineda will take Sabathia’s spot and the Yankees will have a five-man rotation — plus occasional spot starts — in the month of September. “If you have to be creative to give the guys an extra day, you can because you’ll have more guys in the bullpen,” Girardi said.
• Specifically, Bryan Mitchell will move into the bullpen once he’s healthy and cleared to come off the concussion disabled list. “Basically in long relief,” Girardi said. “We’ll still use him as a guy that could pitch out of the bullpen and give us a little distance.”
• Mark Teixeira took batting practice and fielded some ground balls this afternoon. He said swinging the bat felt much better today than it felt yesterday, and the ground balls were fine, but running is still a probably. Girardi said he would check with Teixeira to determine whether pinch hitting would be a possibility. Teixeira said he feels for the first time like he could pinch hit, but he obviously wouldn’t be able to do much running the bases.
• Sounds like today’s drills were encouraging for Teixeira — “Hitting was a lot better; fielding ground balls was a lot better,” he said — but that’s not the concern at this point. It’s running that continues to be a problem. “Once I can run close to normal, then I should be able to play,” he said. “… If I’m running at 50 percent, I’m no good at first base and no good at the plate, running around the bases.”
• Teixeira said doctors originally told him he’d likely need a week, and he’s now missed a week. Girardi said he fully expects Teixeira to be available by Friday when the Yankees will want a full bench for a National League series. If he’s not able to play by Friday, the Yankees will have to really consider putting him on the disabled list. “If I’m not (ready by Friday, I’m very disappointed,” Teixeira said. “I want to play tonight. I want to play every night, but it’s just not quite there yet running.”
• Chris Capuano was scheduled to start for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight. Instead, he was brought back to New York to yet again serve as basically an emergency long man. What a weird year that guy’s had.
Associated Press photos
With dark bruises under his eyes and thin white bandages across the top of his nose, Bryan Mitchell reached into his locker and pulled out the cap he was wearing last night. The right side of the bill was bent as if it had been squeezed in a vise. That’s where last night’s line drive made first contact.
“Off the hat, then the nose, then center field,” Mitchell said. “… Obviously I never saw it. As soon as it hit me, I knew that I had just gotten hit, but my eyes were OK, my jaw was OK. I knew that I was basically alive.”
Eduardo Nunez said it was such a good pitch — a cutter/slider down and away — that he’s not sure how he hit it, much less hit it right up the middle. Nunez was asking about Mitchell pregame, making sure he’s OK, and Mitchell seems to be doing pretty well, all things considered.
He’s on the seven-day disabled list, but despite a small fracture in his nose, there’s a chance he could be back in the bullpen in a week. Mitchell said he doesn’t feel like he actually has a concussion, but after last month’s incident when he bumped his head while working out in Triple-A — which actually did cause a concussion, we’ve since learned — the Yankees are basically assuming he’s concussed this time (or at least proceeding with that level of caution).
“Concussions, you’re never sure what’s going to happen,” Joe Girardi said. “I know for two days he is not allowed to do anything and then I would think they would begin some physical activity to see how he responds. … You can play with (a broken nose). I caught with one three days later, broke on both sides.”
Mitchell said it’s crossed his mind that he might be a little gun shy when he gets on the mound, but he doesn’t seem to think that will be an issue. He said he’s been hit plenty of times, just had never been hit above the waist until yesterday. He’s seen video of the comebacker, but only video from behind home plate. He has yet to see footage from behind home plate, which would surely show a more graphic version of the impact.
But really, why would he even want to see that angle?
“Why would I?” Mitchell said, before smiling. “Good question.”
• Although last night’s X-rays were negative, Mark Teixeira was sent for further tests that revealed a deep bone bruise. He fouled a ball off his right leg just below the knee last night. He’d hoped to play today, but he’s too sore to be in the lineup. Could take a few days. “It’s concerning,” Girardi said. “I was concerned when he did it right away because of where it hit. Forget the padding that you put on, but there’s no padding when you hit it off your shin. That’s straight bone. I was concerned last night.”
• If Teixeira has to miss more than a day or two, it seems Greg Bird is already in place as the regular first baseman until he returns. “At least he’s gotten his feet wet, which is helpful,” Girardi said. “It’s not like we had him called up today and said you’re in the lineup. He’s done a good job over there. He may be called into duty for a few days.”
• Still no plan in place for Michael Pineda’s next outing. “We are still talking about that,” Girardi said. “He will have a side, I believe, tomorrow and then we’ll go from there. … I said it earlier in the week, that some of it could be based on need depending on where we are. He could make another rehab start but let’s just see where we are after the next couple of days, our bullpen and everything and what we need.”
• Speaking of the bullpen, it seemed weird that Adam Warren was allowed to throw only nine pitches last night, but Warren had not only thrown 28 pitches the night before, but he’d also gotten hot in the bullpen the night before that. Warren said he’s throwing hard off a mound eight of the past 10 games (pitched six times, got loose two others) which might explain such a brief outing last night.
• Why no Chase Headley tonight? “I just felt Head could use a day,” Girardi said. “I gave him that day (in Cleveland) to try to give him two days because his legs were beat up, and I think he played eight innings that day. I just feel that he can use a day.”
• Dustin Ackley has begun baseball activities. He started playing catch yesterday.
• CC Sabathia is back on the mound tonight. He’s pitched pretty well his past two starts. “I think it’s been his location,” Girardi said. “I think his sinker has been pretty good, and I think his breaking ball has been pretty good too. This is a team that swings the bats. As we saw last night, they can hit the ball a long ways, and they can put up some runs.”
Associated Press photos
Every time there’s a game as long as last night’s, a roster seems to have at least one tough-luck casualty. Often it’s a long reliever who pitched too many innings to be useful for a few days. This time, for the Yankees, it was a little-used bench player who simply didn’t have a role important enough to keep around.
For the second time in two weeks, Garrett Jones has been designated for assignment. He had been previously DFA on July 31 and almost immediately re-signed, but he had not played a single inning or gotten a single at-bat since returning to the team.
“If we’re not in a game like yesterday, it probably doesn’t happen,” Joe Girardi said. “If we’re not in a game like yesterday, or we’re in a 16-inning game and you have plenty of pitching today, maybe he even plays today. But we felt that we needed to get some more pitching here and make sure that we’re covered for the next few days, and it was really difficult.”
Essentially, the Yankees have decided Bryan Mitchell is too valuable to yo-yo back and forth from Triple-A. Girardi acknowledged that Mitchell could make a spot start in a few days, so the Yankees didn’t want to lose him for the next week and a half (and optioning Mitchell would have required that the Yankees still make an additional 40-man move to add Chris Capuano).
So, it was Jones who as ultimately cut. Out of spring training, it seemed he could play a fairly vital role as a backup to Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, but those three have been mostly healthy and generally productive. They each rank top four among lineup regulars in OPS.
Jones became a marginalized player, which ultimately made him expendable (again).
“I wasn’t able to get the at-bats I thought I was going to be able to get,” Jones said. “I was very happy to be a part of this team and organization, but career-wise and baseball-wise, from my standpoint, the at-bats weren’t there and playing time wasn’t there. But it’s understandable, of course.”
Last time he was designated for assignment, Jones jumped at the chance to rejoin the Yankees a few days later. This time, he sounded less convinced that the Yankees are still his best fit. He’s wildly popular in the clubhouse and clearly likes playing here, but it’s also clear that the Yankees don’t have many at-bats to give him.
“Two times in a row, it’s a little different feeling than last time,” Jones said. “I just have to weigh the options and see. There could still be an opportunity here to help the team win. I enjoy being here, I like the guys and I enjoy the clubhouse and the coaching staff and everybody. That aspect of it is tough to leave, but in the scheme of things, I have to think of my career and the chance to play and what’s best for that.”
• Really thought Girardi would frame the decision to bench Jacoby Ellsbury tonight as a reaction to him playing center field for 16 innings yesterday, but Girardi made it clear that this is a reaction to Ellsbury’s offensive struggles. “He’s OK,” Girardi said. “He’s just been struggling and I thought I would just give him a day and let him do some work to see if we can get him back on track. He’s had a rough go of us lately, and we really need to get him going, so I thought maybe just give him a day, let him do some work and see if they can iron things out.”
• Convinced Ellsbury is healthy? “Oh, he’s healthy,” Girardi said. “Are guys a bit banged up this time of year? Yeah. But physically, he’s OK. He tells us he’s OK, and there’s not a lot of treatment.”
• Larry Rothschild went through the clubhouse today and told Justin Wilson, Adam Warren and Mitchell that they’re down for tonight’s game. Girardi said he think he could get an inning out of Chasen Shreve. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are each available.
• Girardi said he doesn’t expect to have Mitchell available again until Saturday.
• Here’s Girardi on the importance of Mitchell: “We’ve talked about that he could possibly be the guy if we have to inject (a sixth starter), but Mitchell is a guy that gives you some distance out of the bullpen. … And I think Mitchell is important because he can do what he did last night, and if he hadn’t pitched a few days earlier and given three innings, he could have went more. I just feel with what our starters give, we really need some guys to give multiple innings (out of the bullpen), and he’s one of those guys.”
• Dustin Ackley is apparently feeling better, but he’s not a candidate to immediately fill the role vacated by Jones. “He’s just back at home rehabbing,” Girardi said. “I don’t think he’s doing any baseball activity yet. … It’s hard to predict (when he’ll be back) until he really starts doing baseball activity to see how he feels.”
• Michael Pineda remains on schedule to throw a full bullpen tomorrow.
• Girardi said that, right now, he considers Brendan Ryan to be his backup first baseman. Brian McCann has also played some first base late in games. At some point, Girardi said, the team is going to give someone else a start at first base. “I can’t play Tex 16 days in a row, I can tell you that,” Girardi said. “So, at some point, we’re going to have to figure that out.”
• CC Sabathia had perhaps his best start of the year last time out, now he’s pitching in Cleveland where he had some of the best years of his career. “I thought all his pitches were sharp (last time),” Girardi said. “I thought he mixed his pitches extremely well. I thought his fastball had more life to it. I thought his changeup was better. I thought his location was better. Obviously that was the key to his success.”
Associated Press photos
A lot going on in the past few hours. Let’s just go topic-by-topic:
After throwing a routine bullpen on Tuesday, Pineda felt some discomfort in his right forearm. He pointed to the front side of his arm, up high, near the elbow. He told the Yankees about it that night, and yesterday he was sent for an MRI. The Yankees obviously feared an elbow issue, but found only a strain in his flexor muscle.
The Yankees plan to have Pineda go 7-10 days without throwing. After that, they’ll try to move toward getting him back this season. Joe Girardi said he’s confident Pineda will pitch again this season. There’s relief that the elbow ligament showed no damage.
“It shouldn’t take too many (rehab) starts because he is stretched out and it’s the middle of the season and his arm’s in shape,” Giradri said. “Just have to make sure he’s healthy before he goes back out.”
There are obviously unique properties to each injury, but it’s worth noting that both Masahiro Tanaka (about six weeks) and Andrew Miller (roughly a month) missed time with forearm injuries this season. Neither one was back quickly.
“I’m not worried,” Pineda said. “I feel a little sad today, because I want to pitch, I want to stay in the game. But I’m not worried about that. I’ll continue working and come back as soon as I can.”
Apparently there was a radio report earlier today that Ivan Nova is also hurt and might miss his next start, but it seems the only thing going on with Nova is that arm fatigue issue that he dealt with on Monday. He threw his bullpen today and remains on track to start on Sunday. The upcoming Yankees’ rotation looks like this:
Friday: Nathan Eovaldi
Sunday: Ivan Nova
Byran Mitchell is a candidate to start Saturday, but Girardi said he will consider Mitchell to be an available long man tonight and tomorrow. If Mitchell’s not needed in either of those games, he could get that Saturday start. If not Mitchell, Girardi did not rule out the idea of using Adam Warren.
Girardi did rule out Diego Moreno for Saturday. After throwing 5.1 innings on Tuesday, Moreno would be on three days rest for Saturday’s game, and Girardi said he would not consider Moreno to be a viable starting option that day.
So it looks like Mitchell and Warren are the top options to fill the open rotation spot in the short term, but the Yankees need a starter beyond Saturday. Is Luis Severino an option?
“Yeah, I mean, he’s obviously in the mix,” Girardi said. “He’s one of the starters down there (in Triple-A), and you’re going to have to talk about it.”
Finding a role for Dustin Ackley
Trading away some redundant prospects made a lot of sense for the Yankees. But trading them for a left-handed utility type who’s hit for a low average with a little bit of power, like a slightly more versatile but probably not as good defensively version of Stephen Drew? It’s kind of hard to figure out how exactly Ackley fits this roster.
“Just his versatility (is appealing) especially as we move forward here and you’re trying to spell guys,” Girardi said. “His versatility should help out in that situation. You get a guy that you can put at five different spots, that’s pretty good.”
More of a second baseman or an outfielder?
“In the last few years, he’s played mostly outfield,” Girardi said. “He’s played left, center and right, so it’s a position where we can move him around all over there. He has not played much second — I think he’s played one game this year — so obviously he would have to work there before we would feel comfortable putting him there.”
If he can’t immediately step in at second base, then it would seem he’s not here to replace Drew. If he’s primarily a left-handed outfielder, there’s really no spot for him except to play some right field when Carlos Beltran or Alex Rodriguez needs a day off (with Beltran at DH). Girardi more than once mentioned that Ackley can play five positions, which suggests the Yankees also consider him a first baseman. Could he replace Garrett Jones in that role?
One thing about Ackley being primarily an outfielder who can play first base: If that’s is primary role, couldn’t Flores have done that? I suppose that’s a question for another day. For now, Flores is gone, as is Ramirez. Those are two guys who have been in the big leagues this season, but also two guys are remarkably redundant in a system overloaded with left-handed outfielder and right-handed relievers.
“I think the development in our system has given us more depth and feels like we can do something, in a sense,” Girardi said.
While Flores was kind of always overshadowed, it actually seemed for a while that Ramirez might be emerging as a top young reliever in the system. He got a fairly long look last season and a couple of opportunities this year, but he never did much with those chances. At this point, he seems to have been surpassed by Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder and even Diego Moreno in terms of bullpen depth.
“You know, he had a few chances here,” Girardi said. “He never had consistent work. We’ve had a lot of guys that that stepped up and pitched pretty well up here that have been probably equal to him, and that’s probably made him movable, in a sense. You get another kid that comes up (Tuesday) and does a good job. Throws strikes, competes, so it made him movable.”
In that way, the Ackley trade was exactly the kind of deal Brian Cashman has pulled off quite a bit recently. Just hard to immediately figure out how and where Ackley fits.
• Girardi said there was no hesitation in giving today’s start to CC Sabathia. “You just kind of put everyone on their normal day,” he said. “And then as far as Saturday, we’ll figure it out when we get there. It kind of depends again on what we use and then we’ll go from there.”
• Adam Warren actually lived with Ackley for a year in college. I’ve had a lot of Ackley conversations with Warren over the years. On the record and off the record, Warren raves about the way Ackley works. “I think he’s extremely talented,” Warren said. “He’s a good guy, works hard. It’s just one of those things where you hope he can fit in with the club and I think he will. He’s super quiet. I think he plays hard and just going off what I know at Carolina playing with him, he’s super-talented and a gamer. I’m hoping to see him do that over here.”
• Nova said his agent actually called him today to ask if he was hurt because the agent had heard that somewhere. Nova said he was surprised by the phone call. Said he feels fine, just felt some to-be-expected fatigue on Monday. “I’m not hurt,” he said. “I don’t know where that came from. I’m going to throw everything normal, keep my routine. I’m going to throw my bullpen and get ready for my game.”
• Reaction to the Tigers making another huge trade, this time for David Price: “It’s part of the game,” Girardi said. “Sometimes teams can make a lot of moves and doesn’t always work the way they want, sometimes it does. As I said, I worry about the guys in that room, those are my guys to worry about and that’s what I do. I feel good about the way these guys have played and I still believe in them. And I believe we have the stuff in that room to get it done.”
• Vernon Wells lives down here in Arlington and was in the clubhouse pregame. He’s still a very popular former player. I know he’s not particularly popular within the fan base, but the players seem to like seeing him. Good guy.
Associated Press photos
In almost any other setting, the question might have been too cliché to generate much of an answer. But on his 40th birthday, in the year after his season-long suspension, in the middle of a remarkable career resurgence, Alex Rodriguez seemed genuinely taken aback by the very notion.
What advice would 40-year-old A-Rod give to himself at 20 years old? At 30 years old? Rodriguez paused, then smiled.
“I’m in no position to give anyone advice, including myself,” he said, with a laugh. “But I think there was a point in time for me when hitting home runs, being a great baseball player, was all that mattered. I figured that if I hit more home runs, it would justify for whatever behavior I had off the field.
“I realize today that it’s not that way at all. Hitting home runs doesn’t make you a good father, it doesn’t make you a good friend, and it certainly doesn’t make you a good teammate. To me they’re both important.”
Rodriguez turned 40 today, and there he is, back in the No. 3 spot in the Yankees lineup. He’ healthy, playing his usual designated hitter role, and he’s leading the team in OPS. Only four players in the entire American League have a higher OPS. Only six have more home runs.
“Forty is forty,” manager Joe Giradri said. “But it’s still just a number. You can still be extremely productive at that age and he’s showing it. … It’s rare, but guys can still do it.”
For Rodriguez, though, the birthday is a different sort of milestone. It’s notable not only because of how good he was a 20 years old, or for all he’d accomplished at 30, but because of where he was on the day he turned 39 while serving a season-long suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
“I think someone asked me about 40 and evaluating where I am, and I think I did a lot of that last year,” Rodriguez said. “I had a lot of time to think and evaluate. It was a dark time, that’s for sure. To be able to come back this year and look back, hopefully I’m going to be a player, but more importantly, a better person, for the next 40 years.”
Rodriguez noted that not many baseball players talk about turning 40 because so few last beyond their mid-30s. Did it feel more significant turning 40 or turning 30?
“Forty feels bigger just because of all the things that have transpired and where I am today,” Rodriguez said.
Where he is today is among the most productive and consistent hitters in baseball. He’s stayed healthy so far, and Girardi has tried to keep it that way by rarely playing him in the field. Perhaps most surprisingly, he’s been cheered at home and seemingly accepted by opponents and some fans on the road.
“I’m going to continue to work hard,” he said. “I thought April would be my most challenging month and as I started getting more repetition, hopefully I would get better. I think that’s happened, and I hope that continues. I’m going to continue to work out and go through my regimen, but it’s also a nice reminder that if you play clean and you play hard, that good things can happen.”
• Still no announced starter for tomorrow. Girardi said it depends on who the Yankees have to use tonight. They prefer to have either Chris Capuano or Adam Warren start tomorrow’s game — with the other basically piggybacking — but that plan will only work if those two aren’t needed tonight. “We’ll try to get three or four innings out of (one of them), use another guy and go from there,” Girardi said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
• The original plan was to use Bryan Mitchell to start tomorrow’s game, but Mitchell’s schedule was thrown off last week when he was doing band work. The band was attached to a door (pretty common), and the door opened. Mitchell fell, hit his head, and had to sit out a few days. That threw him off turn for tomorrow’s game. “He’s off track now,” Girardi said. “We’ll keep building him up. He’s a guy we’ll definitely look at the next time.”
• Worth noting that Diego Moreno is tomorrow’s scheduled Triple-A starter, so if the Yankees need someone who can give several innings, they could recall Moreno as either a fresh long man or as an emergency starter.
• Jacoby Ellsbury banged his shoulder into the wall making a catcher yesterday, so Girardi decided to keep Ellsbury out of the lineup tonight. The plan was to sit either Ellsbury or Carlos Beltran tonight, and Girardi decided to give Ellsbury the rest. “I think that’s pretty much the plan for everybody to get one (day off) at some point on this road series,” Ellsbury said. “So they decided to give it to me today.”
• Ellsbury said he feels like he could play tonight, and he’ll be ready to run or play defense late in the game. He fully expects to be in the lineup tomorrow. He got some ice on the shoulder last night, but he said he didn’t do anything particularly out of the ordinary today. He can play if the Yankees need him.
• Girardi on Ellsbury: “If I have to use him, I would use him. He ran into the wall pretty hard. I was going to give him or Carlos one of the next two days off. I decided to do Jake today. We’ll go look at tomorrow. You’d like to be able to win the game without using him but if we need him, we’ll use him.”
• It’s really, really hot down here. “Stevie (Donohue) talks (to the players) about the importance of hydration,” Girardi said. “And we continue to do that. It’s hot, but it’s hot for both teams and you’ve got to deal with it.”
Associated Press photos
A few quick notes heading into this afternoon’s series finale in Minnesota:
• Biggest news of the early afternoon has been Ken Rosenthal’s report that the Royals are trading for Johnny Cueto. News of the swap began to leak apparently before the Reds had even told Cueto that a deal was in place. The Yankees trading for Cueto never seemed particularly likely given their reluctance to trade one of their high-end, on-the-verge prospects.
• As for the Yankees, they have Alex Rodriguez on the bench for a day game after a night game. Of course, that night game happened to be a three-homer event for A-Rod. Rodriguez said he feels fine, just getting a day to rest. Days off for a DH seem to bother plenty of folks in the fan base — as does the unwillingness to use Rodriguez in the field from time to time — but at the end of July, Rodriguez has been consistently productive and incredibly healthy. If that’s because of the way Joe Girardi has used him, then it’s hard to argue with the approach.
• Right fielder Aaron Judge has returned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lineup after missing basically a week with what seems to have been a minor injury. Could be nothing more than the Yankees being their usual, overly cautious selves. Even without providing details, Brian Cashman insisted several times that there was no serious issue.
• Speaking of Triple-A, Andrew Marchand reports that Bryan Mitchell was supposed to be lined up to start Tuesday’s game in Texas, but a mild injury altered his turn in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation. Mitchell was sent down rather suddenly to start last Saturday, which would have put him perfectly on turn to be on schedule and eligible to return on Tuesday, but he wound up not making his next start until yesterday (when he pitched pretty well). Now it seems either Adam Warren or Chris Capuano will probably make that spot start on Tuesday.
• Scranton/Wilkes-Barre activated Austin Romine from the disabled list today. Going to be interesting to see how they use Romine now that Gary Sanchez is on the roster. It’s not like they have a ton of DH at-bats to give away. Those have been going mostly to Kyle Roller now that Greg Bird is on the roster, and the outfield is also suddenly overcrowded with Judge, Ben Gamel, Ramon Flores and Tyler Austin. There don’t seem to be enough at-bats for everyone who needs regular playing time to actually get regular playing time.
Associated Press photo
Joe Girardi has not officially named Rob Refsnyder his everyday second baseman — in fact, he’s said over and over again that it’s a day-to-day situation — but this morning, Girardi basically declared Stephen Drew to strictly a utility man who’s playing time will come on a pick-and-choose basis.
“He’s been as good as anyone I’ve ever been around in handling all of this this season,” Girardi said. “We talked about what he needed to do, the different spots that he played, and he talked about just trying to help this team win. He’s been great.”
Girardi said he’s told Drew to take ground balls all over the infield. While he might play some second, it certainly seems that Drew is first and foremost a bench player, not really a platoon player or a guy who could get anything close to everyday at-bats going forward.
“We want him to be able to play all three positions, second, short and third,” Girardi said. “We’ve asked our middle infielders to be able to do that if you want to give Headley a day off, if you want to give Didi a day off, obviously he’s going to play some second as well. Those sort of things. He’s prepared to go in anywhere.”
What about taking advantage of Yankee Stadium with Drew’s left-handed power?
“The days that I probably try to use him, I’ll try to take advantage of this ballpark, absolutely,” Girardi said.
• Bryan Mitchell has been optioned back to Triple-A so that he can get stretched out as a starter. Giradri said Mitchell could actually start tonight’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre game in Louisville. “I thought he did a good job (in the big leagues),” Girardi said. “And as I told him last night, it’s not that you did anything wrong; you actually did a lot of good things for us, but we need to stretch you out.”
• Without Mitchell, the Yankees Triple-A rotation was Luis Severino, Esmil Rogers, Kyle Davies and a pair of relievers trying to start for the first time (Diego Moreno and Danny Buraway). After a couple of starts in Triple-A, I have to think Mitchell would immediately be the top choice for a call-up for either long relief or a spot start.
• Branden Pinder is here to fill the open bullpen role.
• If they Yankees needed a spot starter right now, could either Adam Warren or Chris Capuano do the job, or have they been in the bullpen too long? “They could do it,” Girardi said. “But it comes down to a point where you probably couldn’t get a ton of distance out of them, and then you’re not going to have them for three or four days in your bullpen. … Would I feel comfortable throwing Adam 50 pitches? Probably. Capuano 50 pitches, maybe a little bit more? Probably, but not much more than that at this point. I think they’re able to build back up quicker now because they’re in shape.”
• After playing three rehab games with High-A Tampa, Carlos Beltran will fly back to New York today. “There’s a good chance he’ll be activated tomorrow,” Girardi said. No roster move announced, obviously, but the way Girardi talked about Drew pregame made me think Drew’s job is safe. That leaves either Brendan Ryan, Garrett Jones or a reliever as the most obvious choices to open a roster spot. I can’t imagine Ryan’s feeling very comfortable at this point.
• Can Girardi remember a player like Chris Young, who’s numbers are so drastically different against lefties than against righties? “There’s not one that’s really coming to mind,” Girardi said. “You look at his numbers against left handers this year, they’re off the chart. And his at-bats off of right handers have been pretty good. He just missed hitting a home run last night, but I understand there is a pretty big gap between them.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees have used 17 rookies this season. They’ve called up an additional pair of rookies who never got in a game. They’ve had 11 players make their big league debut, which is the second-most in the Majors.
There has been a movement of youth in the Bronx, but there hasn’t necessarily been a youth movement.
Of those 17 rookies, only one could be considered a significant impact player this season, so choosing the Yankees first-half Rookie of the Year is easy. It’s Chasen Shreve and it’s not even close. Two and a half months from now, that might not be the case. If Rob Refsnyder is going to stick around and play regularly, he could ultimately have a bigger impact in a half season than a middle reliever has in a full season.
For now, the Yankees’ rookie class seems to fit into these categories.
No longer trying to be perfect with every pitch, Shreve began throwing at max effort last season and got himself to the big leagues. This year, he’s had staying power with a 0.98 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning. Shreve seemed to the third piece of an offseason trade that involved David Carpenter and Manny Banuelos, but it’s Shreve who’s had the biggest impact this season. He’s been excellent as both a long man and a go-to, late-inning reliever.
TO BE DETERMINED
Rob Refsnyder, Bryan Mitchell, Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder
Clearly Refsnyder’s ultimate impact is still a mystery. He looked good over the weekend, and word is he’s going to stick around beyond the break, but prospect status doesn’t make him a definite impact player. Like Refsnyder, Mitchell is also on the active roster for the time being. He’s finally getting a look in the bullpen, but he’s not getting many opportunities to prove himself one way or the other. I’ve included Rumbelow and Pinder in this group because each one pitched pretty well and lasted more than a game or two, but neither was trusted with a key role. They’re each back in Triple-A at the moment.
Take away an at-bats requirement, and the Yankees OPS leaderboard looks like this: Refsnyder, Heathcott, Rodriguez, Williams. That’s one through four, the only guys on the team with an OPS higher than all-star Mark Teixeira. Of course, the problem is that three of the four lasted fewer than 10 games. Heathcott was the first to get a call-up after the Jacoby Ellsbury injury, but he went down with a knee issue after six hits in six games. He’s now on the 60-day disabled list. Williams eventually filled that same replacement role, had four extra-base hits in eight games, and also landed on the 60-day.
Chris Martin, Jose Pirela, Jacob Lindgren, Ramon Flores, Jose Ramirez
To some extent, each of these guys had a real chance to stick and play a role. Martin broke camp with the team and initially pitched his way into some high leverage situations, but his performance dropped and he was replaced. Pirela seemed to be the favored right-handed platoon infielder, but he never hit in a part-time role and now seems to be on the outside looking in. The Yankees clearly wanted to give Lindgren a real look as a potential impact reliever, but he was too inconsistent and wound up optioned (and then hurt). Flores made a strong first impression, but he ultimately had a sub-.500 OPS and wasn’t even used when Carlos Beltren went on the disabled list. Ramirez is a harder one to figure out. He spent about a month on the roster last year, but the Yankees haven’t been especially keen on using him this season, and he hasn’t pitched well when given a chance.
SHORT-TERM FILL INS
Cole Figueroa, Jose De Paula, Diego Moreno, Danny Burawa, Matt Tracy
Upon arrival, no one on this list had the look of a long-term solution. Each one was called up to fill a specific need — Figueroa to play third base against a few right-handed pitchers; everyone else to provide fresh arms when the bullpen was depleted — and each was fairly quickly sent back to Triple-A. None of these five got into more than two games. They didn’t necessarily do a bad job, they just weren’t brought up with the intention of keeping them around. I suppose you could put reliever Joel De La Cruz and outfielder Taylor Dugas into this category as well. They were each called up but never actually played. Each one has since been taken off the 40-man roster.
Associated Press photo