During a Fan Fest in Arlington on Sunday, Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg said it’s his belief that Cliff Lee was going to sign with the Yankees until Texas made one last attempt, keeping the door open just long enough for the Phillies to swoop in and land the left-hander.
“Even though Philadelphia was probably not in, they were always in the back of our mind,” Greenberg said. “I think if we wouldn’t have gone to Arkansas that last time, I think he was going to sign with the Yankees. We pried the door open a little bit to give ourselves another opportunity. And ultimately the Phillies were able to take advantage of that opportunity that we created.”
A few more notes and links on this Wednesday night.
• Hank Steinbrenner says the Yankees “have to win.” Actually, he said it a little more colorfully than that.
• David Cone is returning to the YES broadcast booth. He’ll do 25 games, according to Joel Sherman.
• Keith Law says the Yankees have the ninth-best minor league system in baseball, directly ahead of the Mariners, Red Sox and Rangers. The Royals, of course, are at the top.
• I’ve never met him, but I’ve always rooted for Rocco Baldelli to stay healthy enough to keep playing. It just wasn’t in the cards, though, and Baldelli now says he’s finished for good.
• According to a press release, the YES Network finished 2010 as the most watched regional sports network in the country for the eighth straight year.
• Just in case you missed it, Brian Cashman acknowledged yesterday that Joba Chamberlain’s injury in Texas in 2008 has significantly impacted his performance and perceived future.
Considering the postseason bench • 10.04.10
Joe Girardi left little doubt yesterday that he plans to carry Austin Kearns on the playoff roster. Kearns is a career .375 hitter against the members of the Twins pitching staff not named Matt Capps. He’s 0-for-10 against the Twins new closer, but Kearns has been pretty good against the rest of the Twins pitchers. Even if he weren’t, the Yankees don’t exactly a strong offensive alternative. Starting Kearns ahead of Brett Gardner might be a bit much at this point, but as a right-handed bat off the bench, he’s the best non-Thames option the Yankees have.
Beyond Kearns, we can confidently assume these 11 position players will also make the postseason roster: Jorge Posada, Francisco Cervelli, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Lance Berkman and Marcus Thames.
That leaves room for two — three if the Yankees carry only 10 pitchers — to round out the bench. There seem to be three leading candidates, and a handful of secondary options.
Pros: Plus speed and arm… Can play all three outfield spots… Defensive upgrade as a late-inning substitution in right field; offensive upgrade as a pinch runner… Two starts in the final two weeks of the season, with at least one hit in each.
Cons: Career .260 hitter in Triple-A, career .200 hitter in the big leagues… Limited major league experience; has only two career big league RBI… Not considered as much of a base-stealing threat as Eduardo Nunez… Yankees already have five outfield options.
Pros: Considered the Yankees top base-stealing threat off the bench… Comfortable at shortstop and could play second ot third… Hit .280 in limited big league action after an all-star season in Triple-A… Better offensive utility infielder than Ramiro Pena.
Cons: Roughly a month and a half of major league experience… Counting the big leagues, played six games at second and 26 at third this season. Before that, had just 20 career appearances away from shortstop… Eight at-bats since September 4… Not as good defensively as Ramiro Pena.
Pros: Been with the big league club all season… Arguably the Yankees best defensive infielder at three different positions… Despite poor offensive numbers, has shown a knack for big hits in big situations… Enough speed to help on the bases as a pinch runner… Most versatile bench option with some additional experience in the outfield if needed in a pinch.
Con: Two extra-base hits all season, even in the minors he was only a .255 hitter with no power… Eduardo Nunez could play the same utility role with more offensive upside… Yankees are unlikely to rest any of their infielders during the playoffs.
Pros: Does a little bit of everything: Has some power, has some speed, plays quality defense at all three outfield spots… Hit pretty well during his brief window of consistent playing time.
Cons: Doesn’t do one thing especially well. Doesn’t have Greg Golson’s speed or Juan Miranda’s left-handed power… Yankees already have two lefty outfielders.
Pros: Powerful left-handed bat off the bench… Has three home runs in limited major league duty… Most of the Yankees bench options are right-handed.
Cons: Gives almost no defensive flexibility… Limited to a pinch hitter, and the Yankees aren’t likely to pinch hit very often.
Pros: The Yankees did carry three catchers last postseason.
Cons: A.J. Burnett was also lined up to start Games 2 and 5 in each playoff series last year. That meant the potential for two games each series caught by the Yankees backup. That shouldn’t be the case this year.
Pros: Could play every position except pitcher and catcher… Consistent minor league hitter; gave the Yankees a surprising boost in left field earlier this season.
Cons: Limited shortstop experience… One major league at-bat since July 11… Clearly behind Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena in the infield pecking order.
Finding a job for three new guys • 09.01.10
Another reminder: Sam and I are video chatting right here at 1 p.m. Until then…
Three minor leaguers will be added to the Yankees roster before tonight’s game. All three seem likely to play fairly minor roles, but that’s what September call-ups are about, small tweaks that might help once in a while.
Who: The top reliever in the International League, he earned his call-up and then some. His Triple-A stats are seriously stunning: 63.1 IP, 38 H, 18 BB, 82 K, 1.42 ERA and a .170 opponents batting average. Triple-A right-handers are hitting .111 against him.
Why: How could any team pass up those numbers? Albaladejo seems to have reinvented himself since his past two years on the Yankees Opening Day roster. He’s more of a four-seam guy these days, and he’s pitched well in limited big league action this season.
Role: Limited. He’s not going to push Dave Robertson, Joba Chamberalin or Kerry Wood out of the eighth inning, but he’ll probably get a chance to pitch and could certainly beginning making an impression for next season. He’s not really seen as a long man any more, so the Yankees need to see this new one-inning-at-a-time version.
Who: Former first-round pick who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Rangers. He can play defense at all three outfield spots, and he has plus speed despite only 17 stolen bases with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He hit .263 with 10 homers in Triple-A, and he got his first big league hit this season with the Yankees.
Why: In making my September call-up predictions, I somehow forgot the lesson of Freddy Guzman: There’s always room for a guy who can run. Even with Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez providing some speed off the bench, Golson could be this year’s Guzman.
Role: Running. It’s hard to imagine Golson getting regular playing time in the Yankees outfield — even against left-handed starters — but he can come off the bench to steal a bag, or he can play defense in the late innings to give one of the regulars a break. The Yankees found a spot for Guzman, even in the postseason.
Who: Veteran catcher signed at the end of spring training to backup and mentor Jesus Montero in Triple-A, and to serve as insurance in New York. Moeller has played in the big leagues every year since 2000, and he’s already spent some time with the Yankees this season.
Why: Moeller played only 28 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Montero was the team’s starter — and a postseason all-star — but Moeller was the guy with experience. That’s why he’s the guy who go the call-up. There was no need to put Montero on the 40-man sooner than necessary.
Role: Third catcher. Given Jorge Posada’s occasional injury problems and Francisco Cervelli’s slumping offense, a third option behind the plate makes obvious sense. Even when he was the second catcher earlier this season, Moeller hardly played. He’s probably here to play in the late innings if and when Cervelli is lifted for a pinch hitter.
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.
Joe Girardi acknowledged that — with a lefty on deck and a lefty loose in the bullpen — it’s entirely “possible” he would have pulled A.J. Burnett in the third inning had he not induced a double play that let him intentionally walk a batter to face the pitcher. Had that Russell Martin at-bat ended differently, Burnett might have been done after six or seven outs.
Instead he stayed in, and a half inning later — with one out and runners on the corners — Girardi decided to once again stick with Burnett. For me, it was the most perplexing moment of the night. Needing only a sac fly to tie the game, Burnett was not lifted for a pinch hitter. He laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved a runner to second, and Derek Jeter struck out to end the inning.
“We were trying to get more out of (Burnett),” Girardi said. “Depending on what the situation was, we might have pinch-hit. The situation was I could sacrifice a runner over. Jeet had a hit the last time and had pretty good at-bats.”
Getting more out of Burnett meant facing two batters in the bottom of the fourth, each of whom reached base and one of whom scored.
“I had unbelievable stuff today,” Burnett said. “I had velocity. I had movement. I had a good hook. I got some broken bats early, but that third inning, I was overdoing it out there… “I know I’m better than that. We all know I’m better than that. And I will be better than that.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame interview.
• Pinch hitting for Curtis Granderson was strictly because of the match-up. Granderson is not hurt.
• If you missed it during the game, Chad Moeller has cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He’s filling the roster spot opened by Juan Miranda going on the DL.
• Girardi said he has no intention of skipping Burnett’s next start. He doesn’t think it would help him because this is all about execution, not about needing his stuff to get better. “I don’t want to skip A.J.,” Girardi said. “I want A.J. to go out there and pitch, and pitch like he’s capable.”
• Burnett talked a lot about how much the other Yankees have been talking to him through this bad month. Andy Pettitte and Francisco Cervelli both pulled him aside after tonight’s game. “I’m with him,” Cervelli said. “If he loses, I lose too.”
• The Dodgers 10 walks tonight were a season high. Not exactly the stat you want to be giving up.
• The Yankees fell to 30-6 when scoring first. That’s the best in the American League.
• Dave Robertson has allowed one run through 8.1 innings this month. He’s struck out nine and walked three and allowed seven hits. He hasn’t allowed a home run since May 5.
• Birthday boy Derek Jeter went 1-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored, but he also struck out in his last three at-bats.
• Mark Teixeira has an eight-game hitting streak, he’s hit three home runs in the past seven games and he’s raised his average 19 points since June 6.
Associated Press photos of Burnett with Mike Harkey, and Teixeira with Jeter.
Pregame notes: Chad Moeller safe for now • 06.18.10
Until further notice, Chad Moeller’s spot on the Yankees bench is secure.
“Until (Jorge Posada) can get through a game without the issue that he feels,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t know how much of it is fatigue and soreness and the combination of both. I think we have to be careful with that.”
Girardi would not announce his plan for Posada this weekend, but Girardi did say he won’t catch Posada back-to-back games just yet. That seems to set Posada up for a Saturday start behind the plate, Sunday off or at DH, and then two out of three games against Arizona. After an off day Thursday, the could again play two out of three against the Dodgers. In theory, starting at DH tonight has allowed Posada to catch as many games as possible during the National League road trip.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s the not being able to go back-to-back days (that causes concern),” Girardi said. “I think it’s more feeling it in the eighth and ninth inning is more of a concern. Not being able to go back-to-back days, we can deal with that because if he doesn’t start the second game you still have Cervi that can start. The fact you might have to pull him in the middle of a game, that’s a concern.”
Here’s Girardi’s pregame session.
• Obviously Alex Rodriguez came through his pregame drills just fine. This will be his first start at third base since he was pulled from last weekend’s game in Baltimore.
• Getting Rodriguez back to a fulltime infielder and Posada back to regular starts behind the plate could go a long way toward building some consistency for this lineup. “Our lineup has not been consistent because of the injuries,” Girardi said. “Hopefully this is the end of them and we’ll be able to get through this.”
• Speaking of injuries, Curtis Granderson is fine, just getting a day off against a lefty. “Everything is 100 percent,” Granderson said. “(Girardi) came and told me, be ready.”
• One more injury update, I saw Marcus Thames walking into the cages to hit this afternoon. “He feels better every day,” Girardi said. “Obviously, he’s on the 15-day DL and we’ll evaluate him when we get (to the 15th day). But it is good to see him moving around.”
• Girardi wouldn’t tip his hand as to who the Yankees might call up when they’re ready to cut the third catcher. “I believe that our organization has people who could help us,” is all he would say about it.
• There remains no timetable for Dave Eiland’s return. “I think these guys are pretty aware of what they need to do and what gets them on track,” Girardi said. “I think they probably have heard enough of Dave in their ear that they can probably hear his voice sometimes when he’s not even here. But we do miss him. There’s no doubt about it. We do miss him.”
• This will the Yankees second crack at Hisanori Takahashi. He pitched six scoreless against them last month. “Obviously our guys have a better idea of what he’s going to do,” Girardi said. “But it’s not like they have 15 or 20 at-bats off him. I’m sure he’s even a little bit different now that he’s stretched out more. I always think it’s somewhat of an advantage for a pitcher when you haven’t seen him before. Our guys have a better idea what his pitches do.”
Jose Reyes SS
Angel Pagan CF
David Wright 3B
Ike Davis 1B
Jason Bay LF
Chris Carter DH
Rod Barajas C
Jeff Francoeur RF
Ruben Tejada 2B
Associated Press photos of Moeller and Derek Jeter. There’s no real reason for the Jeter picture, I just didn’t have another one to use and thought I’d go with the Captain.
Report: Culver has reached agreement • 06.16.10
According to Kevin Levine-Flandrup, covering the draft for Pinstripes Plus, the Yankees have reached an agreement with first-round pick Cito Culver. Levine-Flandrup sites a source he spoke to this morning who says the deal is done pending a physical and Culver’s graduation.
In minor league news a little closer to New York, after outfielder David Winfree was released last night, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees sent infielder Matt Cusick to Trenton, apparently to open a spot for a minor league free agent.
Can’t help wondering how much longer it will be before Scranton makes another move, sending a player to New York to replace Chad Moeller.
Same old Yankees • 06.14.10
“Old doesn’t mean that they’re out to pasture. Old just means that they have a lot of experience, and they know how to play the game and do a lot of things right.”
Born: Oct. 14, 1964
The Yankees have an older team, and while that might be a long-term concern, it doesn’t seem to be hurting the Yankees in the here and now. These are the eight Yankees who will be at least 35 by the end of the year. It’s not a bad group.
Born: Nov. 29, 1969
The Yankees closer did it again last night. Another hitless inning with two more strikeouts. He’s pitched 22.1 innings this season and he’s allowed nine hits. He’s 15 for 16 in save opportunities. Just watch and enjoy.
Born: Aug. 17, 1971
Injuries have been his biggest problem. Surely some of that is an age issue, but some of it has also been the product of fluke foul balls and errant pitches from Baltimore starting pitchers. When healthy, Posada has been as good as ever. He’s hitting .288/.395/.544. That slugging percentage would be the highest of his career.
Born: June 15, 1972
So far, it’s looking like a career year for Pettitte. He’s 8-1 with a 2.46 ERA, and he’s pitched through the seventh inning in each of his past four starts. At this point he seems on his way to his first all-star game since 2001, and he’s a legitimate candidate to start it.
Chan Ho Park
Born: June 30, 1973
Park has already allowed as many home runs as he surrendered all of last year, plus he’s missed significant time with a hamstring injury, and he struggled in his first few outings back from the DL. But since an ugly outing in Minnesota, Park has allowed one run on four hits in his past seven innings. He’s walked three and struck out 11.
Born: June 26, 1974
He’s not having the same year as last year. To the naked eye, his defense seems to have taken a hit and his offensive numbers are down a bit — especially his on-base percentage — but he’s still a .293 hitter with a .440 slugging percentage that’s only slightly lower than his career mark. He’s on pace for his highest RBI total in 10 years.
Born: Feb. 14, 1975
The last time he allowed a hit was May 17 in Boston, when he was asked to pitch 1.2 innings. The last time he was charged with a run was May 14 against the Twins. His job is to get out left-handers, and his WHIP against lefties is 0.91.
Born: Feb. 18, 1975
His role is remarkably limited and might be on its last legs now that Posada is able to catch again, but Moeller has been what the Yankees needed him to be: An experienced just-in-case option behind the plate. He’s made four starts and has a double in two of them.
Born: July 27, 1975
After a slow month of April, Rodriguez came back with a .330/.408/.534 slash line in May. He was hitting .317 with two home runs and eight RBI in his past 10 games before the hip flexor issue. His power numbers are down, but he’s still on track for another 100-plus RBI season. Could be better, and might get better.
Associated Press photos of Jeter and Pettitte, Rivera and Jeter again.
Who stays and who goes? • 06.02.10
It seems likely Jorge Posada will be activated from the disabled list today. “If he’s healthy without any issues tomorrow, he’s probably a player for us,” Joe Girardi said yesterday.
As the Yankees ease Posada back into the lineup, he’ll probably get his first start at designated hitter. Question is, how many more games will he start at DH? Enough to keep Chad Moeller on the roster for a few more days? If Moeller is designated for assignment and Posada suffers a quick setback, the Yankees would need to add Rene Rivera to fill that veteran backup catcher role, and Rivera doesn’t have nearly Moeller’s experience.
Would you consider optioning either Juan Miranda or Kevin Russo in favor of a third catcher?
Does the status of Mark Teixeira — who hurt his foot during last night’s win — affect that decision?
A different short of change • 05.30.10
All spring A.J. Burnett talked about the development of his changeup, but the development of his two-seam fastball seems to have made a bigger difference this season. Burnett still goes to the changeup occasionally — very occasionally — but he’s started mixing quite a few two-seamers, and that was the pitch Joe Girardi praised after tonight’s dominant start against Cleveland.
“I know they’re an aggressive team and they can hit,” Burnett said. “I was just trying to attack and get early contact. Not trying to blow it by them or get in strikeout counts so I can strike them out. It was pretty much attacking guys and pitching to contact and trusting my stuff.”
Pitching to contact helped Burnett last through the eighth inning. Of his final 10 outs, five were strikeouts, four were ground outs and only one was hit in the air.
“I didn’t really know he threw one before I got here,” catcher Chad Moeller said. “Being on the other side it was always a straight four-seamer. He has great life on it. It’s really helpful for him going in to right-handers and for balls away to left-handers, as far as to try to get a ground ball.”
In or out, the bottom line is to keep the two-seamer in the bottom of the zone. Or lower if necessary.
“Down being the emphasis,” Moeller said. “And let it move.”