Triple-A and Double-A playoffs begin tonight • 09.08.10
The postseason in minor league baseball is kind of a strange thing. The best teams lose their best players to call-ups, and the rosters that earned spots in the postseason take on a completely different look for the most important games of the year.
To be honest, I liked that about covering Triple-A. Things change, often suddenly, and that’s part of the experience. Everyone understands and accepts what’s going on. I don’t like the phrase “it is what it is,” but it is what it is.
The Yankees top three affiliates all advanced to the postseason this year. High-A Tampa got started with a win last night. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Trenton get started tonight.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre opens the International League playoffs against Columbus. The first two pitchers they’ll face should be familiar: David Huff was hit in the head by an Alex Rodriguez line drive earlier this season, and Zach McAllister was traded by the Yankees to complete the Austin Kearns deal.
Even after September call-ups, the Triple-A Yankees still have some familiar names on the roster. Kevin Russo and Chad Huffman are both there after spending some time in the big leagues this season, George Kontos is there in his first year back from Tommy John surgery and Justin Christian is with Scranton after making his big league debut with the Yankees a few years ago. Of course, the roster also includes top position prospect Jesus Montero and third baseman Brandon Laird, who had a real breakout year down in Double-A.
Tonight: Columbus LHP David Huff (8-2., 4.36) vs. Yankees RHP D.J. Mitchell (2-0, 3.57)
Thursday: Columbus RHP Zach McAllister (9-12, 5.29) vs. Yankees RHP David Phelps (4-2, 3.07)
Friday: Columbus RHP Yohan Pino (10-9, 5.75) vs. Yankees LHP Kei Igawa (3-4, 4.32)
Saturday: Columbus RHP Paolo Espino (3-3, 5.62) vs. Yankees RHP Hector Noesi (1-1, 4.82)
Sunday: Columbus RHP Corey Kluber (1-1, 3.27) vs. Yankees RHP Lance Pendleton (2-1, 4.24)
Down in Trenton, the Double-A Thunder are opening against New Hampshire and facing top Blue Jays pitching prospect Kyle Drabek in Game 1. Of course, all eyes will be on Game 2, when Andy Pettitte makes a rehab start for Trenton.
Trenton has lost some key players to injuries and call-ups this season — most recently, Corban Joseph went on the DL — but the roster still has Austin Romine, Dan Brewer, recently promoted Pat Venditte and an impressive rotation that includes three of the top arms in the organization in Betances, Banuelos and Brackman.
Tonight: Trenton RHP Dellin Betances (0-0, 3.37) vs. New Hampshire RHP Kyle Drabek (14-9, 2.94)
Thursday: Trenton LHP Andy Pettitte (rehab) vs New Hampshire LHP Zach Stewart (8-3, 3.63)
Friday: Trenton LHP Manny Banuelos (0-1, 3.52) vs. New Hampshire RHP Randy Boone (5-10, 3.98)
Saturday: Trenton RHP Andrew Brackman (5-7, 3.01) vs. New Hampshire RHP B.J. LaMura (5-6, 3.73
Sunday: Trenton RHP Cory Arbiso (5-5, 4.38) vs. New Hampshire TBA
Those are headshots of Montero and Romine
Looking ahead to September • 08.26.10
Major league rosters expand in six days. In theory, the Yankees could call-up every player on the 40-man, but that would leave a bunch of guys sitting around with nothing to do. It generally makes more sense to let most of the guys stay sharp in the International League and Eastern League playoffs — Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Trenton are both in line to advance — then make a few more moves when those postseason runs are over.
That’s the way the Yankees have handled it in the past.
In 2007, the Yankees added four players on the 1st and a whopping 10 more later in the month. In 2008, two guys were added on the 1st, and the Yankees gradually added eight more. Last year, six call-ups on the 1st, seven more in the next two and a half weeks.
Considering the number of guys who are fairly close to coming off the disabled list, I’ll be surprised to see more than two or three true minor league call-ups on Wednesday. These are some of the guys to consider, some for an immediate call-up, most for an eventual promotion.
Major league disabled list
Lance Berkman, Alex Rodriguez, Alfredo Aceves, Damaso Marte, Andy Pettitte
Berkman is eligible to come off the DL on August 31st, but it makes more sense to wait a day. Rodriguez shouldn’t be far behind, and Aceves seems healthy enough to pitch as soon as the Yankees believe he’s physically ready to face big league hitters.
Pettitte and Marte will take just a little bit longer. If you’re curious, major leaguers are allowed to rehab during the minor league playoffs. The year Francisco Liriano nearly won the Rookie of the Year award in Minnesota, he came down to pitch three hitless innings the decisive game in the first round of the IL playoffs. I was covering the Phillies Triple-A team at the time. They never had a shot against him.
Chad Moeller, Jesus Montero
It’s standard protocol to add a third catcher on September 1. The Yankees didn’t do it in 2007, but given Jorge Posada’a nagging injuries and Francisco Cervelli’s lagging offense, a third catcher would make sense. Question is, do they go with the veteran Moeller — a guy to catch after Cervelli is lifted for a late-inning pinch hitter — or do they go with the stud prospect Montero.
Two months ago, I would have said Moeller was the obvious choice, but Montero seems to have figured out Triple-A. He’s hitting .361 with nine home runs since the all-star break. I can’t speak to his abilities behind the plate — I’ve only seen him catch in spring training — but the decision might hinge on whether the Yankees trust him back there in a major league game in the middle of a pennant race.
Non-catcher position players
Juan Miranda, Kevin Russo, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson, Chad Huffman, Brandon Laird, Jorge Vazquez
The Yankees have two utility infielders and four legitimate outfielders. They don’t necessarily need one position or another, so additional position players would be all about depth and maybe adding a lefty-or-righty pinch hitter.
Miranda might be able to play an immediate role. On days when Berkman is in the lineup, the Yankees only left-handed pinch hitter is Ramiro Pena. It would be a small role to play, but Miranda doesn’t exactly have a lot to gain from a few more Triple-A at-bats. Curtis could also give them an extra left-handed bat, while adding some outfield depth and a pinch runner. Adding Vazquez or Laird would require a 40-man move, so those don’t seem likely, despite pretty good numbers.
Jonathan Albaladejo, Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi, Romulo Sanchez, Royce Ring
The best bet of this bunch is Albaladejo, who has absolutely earned a call-up. Sanchez doesn’t have the same season numbers, but he’s also been dominant since moving into the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen. Brackman and Noesi are both on the 40-man and both have pitched well, but Brackman is still in Double-A and Noesi was just called up to Triple-A. They might be worth considering after the minor league playoffs, but probably not before.
Jason Hirsh and some younger non-40-man guys — David Phelps especially — have pitched well enough to be in the conversation, but I’m not sure there’s a spot for another long man, especially not with Aceves on his way back and the Yankees already carrying 13 pitchers. The only guy on this list not on the 40-man is Ring, who’s been terrific against left-handers and might make sense if Marte suffers another setback and moves to the 60-day.
Joe Girardi said yesterday that the Yankees have not started talking about who to bring up, so any sort of prediction is wild guesswork.
I’ll say that on September 1, four players will be added: Berkman, Miranda, Albaladejo and a catcher (I’ve gone back and forth in my head a hundred times about which one it will be). Soon after, Rodriguez and Aceves will come off the disabled list, then Marte and Pettitte. After the minor league playoffs, I’ll guess Russo, Curtis and Sanchez get the call.
Based past performance trying to guess September call-ups, I’ve probably guessed too many players for September 1 and not enough by the end of the month.
That’s an Associated Press photo of Miranda at the top. The headshots are Rodriguez, Miranda, Russo and Albaladejo.
Postgame notes: Pick your moment • 06.28.10
The early deficit. The big at-bats by the young guys. The home run off the lefty. The two innings from the closer. There are almost too many moments to choose from in this game.
“I don’t even remember last year having a win like this,” Alex Rodriguez said. “That was quite a miracle.”
It’s hard to be shocked by Robinson Cano these days, but George Sherrill had owned him until that 10th inning home run. Cano was 0-for-11 against him, but he hit the second pitch he saw for a two-run home run.
“You see a ball like that hit to left-center by a left-handed hitter, it looked like a right-handed power hitter hitting,” Rodriguez said. “It was awesome.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame. The quality’s not great, but it’ll have to work.
• Joe Girardi said he doesn’t want to make this a habit, but after the ninth inning, he went to Mariano Rivera and asked for honesty. “He said, ‘If you are ready to go back, don’t lie, be truthful,'” Rivera said. “I said, ‘I’m ready.’” Of course he was.
• Great at-bats by Chad Huffman and Colin Curtis in the ninth. Huffman had the better result — a two-run single — but Curtis might have had the better at-bat, fighting through 10 pitches from one of the better closers in the game.
• Truthfully, the most amazing thing might have been that Huffman got to first base and stood next to James Loney, his old high school teammate from Missouri City, Texas. How often does that happen in the big leagues? “Since we were kids in Pony ball actually,” Huffman said. “High school, winning state championships together. It was fun to see him out there at first base. It’s something I’ve been hoping to do for a long time. He wasn’t too, too happy with me.”
• Girardi said there were no communication break downs in the third inning, Andy Pettitte just didn’t make good throws. Pettitte said he was kicking himself because he was sure he had cost the Yankees the series. “For a guy that’s been throwing strikes all year long, been painting,” Girardi said. “He didn’t hit his spots.”
• Hard to say what the right play would have been on the Curtis ground out. “It happened so fast,” Girardi said. “To me it looked like it was right on top of the bag. I really believe if he makes a good throw – and he’s very, very accurate – he’s out. It was a chance and it didn’t work.” Curtis said he was worried out of the box that Loney would go to second base to try to start a double play. “He stepped on the base and wheeled home and the ball almost took my head off,” Curtis said.
• Rodriguez on his pregame conversation and hug with Joe Torre: “I thought it was important for me to go over there. I thought it was the mature thing to do. I thought it was important not to let things linger and to build on what I’ve started to build on here the past two years here.”
• Just for good measure, Pettitte talking one more time about Rivera: “You can’t compare Mo to anybody else. Mo’s the best. Mo’s the greatest there is. You can’t even say enough about Mariano. Mariano is in a league of his own. No one can compare to him the way that mentally and with the command that he goes out there with almost every single night.”
Associated Press photos of Cano, Posada and Pettitte.
A great feeling • 06.14.10
When Chad Huffman got to his locker after yesterday’s game, the baseball was waiting for him. It was in a clear case on the top shelf, and the inscription was already written in ink. Three hours earlier, Huffman had hit that very same baseball to the right side of the Yankee Stadium infield. It had been thrown to first base where Geoff Blum caught it an instant after Huffman stepped on the bag for his first major league hit.
“I looked up on the jumbotron and saw my family jumping up and down,” Huffman said. “It was a great feeling… I’m going to give (the ball) to my mom so I don’t lose it.”
Two Yankees got their first major league hit last season. Ramiro Pena did it in his first at-bat. Francisco Cervelli did it in his eighth, having gone hitless in five at-bats the year before. This season, three Yankees have picked up their first big league hit.
In his eighth major league at-bat — his first with the Yankees — Golson got a clean single to center field. It was the first hit of a five-run inning in Detroit. Golson went hitless in six at-bats with the Phillies in 2008 and struck out in his only at-bat with Texas in 2009.
In his third major league at-bat — his first major league start — Russo singled in the third inning against the Mets. Four innings later, his second major league hit would be a game-winning two-run double.
In his first major league at-bat — his first day on a major league roster — Huffman beat out an infield single. “I was trying to calm myself down,” he said. “Luckily I battled back with two strikes. I kind of got out in front of it and got lucky a little bit, but that’s part of it.”
Here’s Huffman talking about what must be a surreal moment in the life of a baseball player.
Postgame notes: Making plans • 06.13.10
Phil Hughes was one out away from another dominant start. He settled for a very good one. In this case, the final numbers don’t tell the story. Yes, Hughes allowed five earned runs, but he was better than that. Until the last two batters, he pitched like an all-star again.
“I would hope that he’s making (all-star) plans, he and Andy,” Jorge Posada said.
Through five innings, Hughes struck out five and scattered three singles. But the Yankees sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, and when Hughes went out for the sixth, he gave up another base hit to the first batter he faced. With two outs, he gave up a double. Tommy Manzella fought through a 10-pitch at-bat before singling in two runs, then Kevin Cash hit a two-run homer.
“I felt like I wasn’t as strong coming out just because of that long inning,” Hughes said. “Really, I just needed to execute a pitch right there (to Manzella). I’d gotten him twice before on fastballs so I was a little stubborn and didn’t go away from my fastball. It’s not like he scorched the ball, he just hit in the right spot, but I’ve got to keep my composure and make a good pitch to Cash, and I didn’t do that. The inning kind of got out of control at that point.”
Even so, it was hard to overlook all the good that came before those last 10 or so pitches. Is Hughes thinking all-star game?
“I tried not to let it slip into my mind too much,” he said. “We still have a ways to go. It’s been a good start and I’m winning games and that’s all I’m really focused on right now.”
Joe Girardi will ultimately make that all-star decision, but he didn’t really talk about it during his postgame session. He did, however, touch on Posada, Rodriguez, the Phillies and just about everything else. Here’s his postgame.
• Another day of treatment went well for Alex Rodriguez. “Good today so we’ll evaluate him Tuesday and hopefully I can pencil him in there,” Girardi said.
• Another game went well for Brett Gardner and his left thumb: “It’s probably not 100 percent and it might not be for a while,” Gardner said. “It’s something I’ll have to deal with it. It’s a case of just not making it worse.”
• Speaking of Gardner, he had two hits, two walks and stole a base in his first start since the thumb injury. “Obviously when you miss a few days you worry about your timing,” he said. “You worry about things getting a little funky, but I saw the ball well today.”
• Robinson Cano is the third Yankees second baseman to reach 100 home runs. Tony Lazzeri hit 169 and Joe Gordon hit 153 (minimum 50 percent of games played at second).
• Ramiro Pena drove in the go-ahead runs with his fourth-inning single. It was the first time he drove in a run since May 19, and Girardi said he was happy with both Pena and Francisco Cervelli’s ability to get hits when they matter. “When we put them in there, we expect them to produce,” he said. “We don’t put them out there and say just go out and play defense or just go out and don’t worry about it. We expect them to be complete players.”
• Mark Teixeira committed his first error since October 2, 2009.
• Was that infield single exactly the way Chad Huffman always imagined his first big league hit? “Absolutely not,” he said. “But a hit’s a hit.” And what did he feel when he got to first base safely? “Relief,” he said. “Definitely relief.”
• Nick Johnson is no longer wearing a brace on his wrist and said he can do most day-to-day stuff without any problem. He’s still not cleared to be begin hitting, though.
• Maybe it doesn’t mean a lot in June, but the Yankees moved into a tie for first place today.
Associated Press photos of Hughes and Cano
Marcus Thames has been dealing with some mild hamstring soreness for a while now. It was playable until yesterday’s double into the left-field corner. “When I first took off, that’s when I felt it,” Thames said.
He felt like he had a chance to cut off the ball, but the hamstring forced him to play it off the wall. When he went popped up later in the game, he couldn’t run to first base.
“I felt like I was running in slow motion,” he said. “I know I’m not that slow.”
Thames has been placed on the disabled list and was told he’ll be shutdown for 10 to 12 days. To fill his spot, the team has called up Chad Huffman from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Huffman was claimed off waivers from the Padres earlier this season. He can play both outfield corners and first base, plus he has some power from the right side. He had a .279 average with five home runs in Triple-A.
Huffman is from the Houston area, and most of his family — mother, father, brother, cousins, uncle — flew to New York at the last minute to be here for his debut. The Scranton team flew from Charlotte to Allentown yesterday morning, then drove from Allentown to Scranton.
“Got about two hours of sleep,” Huffman said. “Got to the field and then (manager Dave) Miley called me into his office as soon as I got there and had some good news… I packed up and drove here as fast as I could.”
• I must admit, I showed up today fully expecting Derek Jeter to be the designated hitter. Joe Girardi had a different idea. “Swish has played every game and every inning in this stretch,” Girardi said. “I thought it would be a way to kind of give him a day and a half off.”
• Girardi said there’s no update on Dave Eiland’s status. “When I have word I’ll give it to you,” Girardi said. “There is no word right now.”
• Jorge Posada will be back behind the plate for the first time since mid-May. “As far as the injury, I don’t really have much (concern) there,” Girardi said. “It’s more the fatigue level.”
• The Yankees will have to monitor how many days Posada catches in a row. “Would be play him three days in a row? More than three days in a row? That was a question,” Girardi said. “That can adjust all the time. He’s going to DH some, but he’s going to catch too. He’s not going to DH everyday. He’s going to catch and we want him to catch because of the flexibility that he gives us, and the experience.”
• For this series finale, the Yankees are once again giving the ball to Phil Hughes, who’s going after his ninth win. “He’s been able to limit damage in innings,” Girardi said. “When he’s not had his best command or his best stuff, he’s still be able to go deep into games for us, just finding a way to get it done. To me, that’s a sign of maturity, and to be a big winner during the course of the season you have to be able to do that.”
UPDATE, 12:25 p.m.: Astros lineup.
Michael Bourn CF
Jeff Keppinger 2B
Hunter Pence RF
Carlos Lee DH
Cory Sullivan LF
Pedro Feliz 3B
Geoff Blum 1B
Tommy Manzella SS
Kevin Cash C
Associated Press photo of Thames.
Huffman pulled in Scranton • 06.12.10
Chad Huffman seems to be on his way to New York.
Donnie Collins is reporting that Huffman has been pulled from tonight’s lineup in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and is apparently on his way to New York to take the roster spot of Marcus Thames.
This would be Huffman’s first big league call up. He was claimed off waivers from San Diego earlier this season. He was hitting .279 with five home runs in Triple-A. He has a reputation as a hard worker, and four of his past five games were multi-hit. In his minor league career he has been primarily a left fielder, with a few starts at first base and right field. He’s played center, but not since his first season.
Romine in Trenton’s lineup • 05.20.10
It seemed like an extreme longshot anyway, but it looks like you can rule out Austin Romine as a catcher call-up. Romine is in today’s Trenton lineup against New Hampshire.
Donnie Collins has chimed in with his thoughts on potential call-ups, and he mentioned the possibility of Chad Huffman getting a chance in the Yankees outfield. Huffman is a right-handed corner outfielder with power and a .387 batting average in his past 10 games.
Just checked with some people who are with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in Norfolk.
As of right now , the two Triple-A outfielders currently on the 40-man roster — center fielder Greg Golson and corner outfielder Chad Huffman — are both in the lineup. That’s with batting practice just ending.
If that changes, that would seem to be a good indication of which direction the Yankees are leaning should Curtis Granderson indeed end up on the disabled list.
UPDATE, 6:28 p.m.: Sorry. Just listened to the Girardi audio. Sounds like they could call-up a pitcher for the time being. That seems to be a possibility, anyway. Get a reliever for a few days to help the short-handed bullpen, then maybe call-up an outfielder to fill Granderson’s spot after a few days.
UPDATE, 6:39 p.m.: The top relievers in Scranton have been Jonathan Albaladejo, Royce Ring and Mark Melancon. For whatever it’s worth: Albaladejo and Ring pitched yesterday. Melancon did not.
Today in The Journal News • 04.08.10
Curtis Granderson is definitely part of the rivalry now. His 10th-inning home run sent the Yankees to a 3-1 win last night. Andy Pettitte matched John Lackey pitch for pitch, the Yankees bullpen was tremendous and Granderson came up with the big hit in extra innings.
Speaking Pettitte, Sam wrote that the veteran of the Yankees rotation is just as important as ever. “All that matters,” Sam wrote, “is that, after all this time and all these pitches, the Yankees believe he still has it.”
The Yankees also believe in Chan Ho Park, and he earned their trust with three scoreless innings last night. The notebook also has items on on Derek Jeter getting hit by a pitch and the Yankees claiming a minor league outfielder.
Just for fun, here’s one more Associated Press image from last night.