Fewer missing pieces than you might expect • 12.24.10
On the day Cliff Lee signed with Philadelphia, Brian Cashman said this:
“We have a championship caliber team. There are areas that could be improved upon. There are players in this marketplace currently that could assist there, but will we solve all the problems that we have right now? I don’t want to mislead people and say, ‘Yeah, we’ll take care of that right now this winter.’ It doesn’t have to happen in the winter time. We have up through the summer to get everything we need necessarily fixed.”
Those words didn’t carry much weight because the Yankees seemed to have too many holes to ignore. But then again, consider the 2010 Opening Day roster. Aside from Andy Pettitte, the changes from then to now haven’t been especially significant, and most should be considered addition by subtraction. The roster concerns seem to have more to do with performance than personnel.
Derek Jeter SS
Still with the team. This time he’s coming off the worst season of his career, not a near MVP season.
Nick Johnson DH
Gone. He had 12 hits last year.
Mark Teixeira 1B
Still with the team. A model of consistency the previous six years, last season he slugged below .500 for the first time since he was a rookie.
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Still with the team. Had 125 RBI in a down year.
Robinson Cano 2B
Still with the team. Emerged as one of the game’s elite players.
Jorge Posada C
Still with the team. Nagging injuries took their toll last season. This time he’ll be the primary designated hitter.
Curtis Granderson CF
Still with the team. Made significant improvements down the stretch last season.
Nick Swisher RF
Still with the team. Finally had an all-star season and moved up from the No. 8 hole.
Brett Gardner LF
Still with the team. A complete unknown at this time last year.
Francisco Cervelli C
Still with the team. Likely to return to the exact same role as last season.
Ramiro Pena INF
Still with the team. Could return to the utility role. Could be replaced by Eduardo Nunez or an outside candidate.
Marcus Thames OF
Gone. Wasn’t with the Yankees at this time last year. Didn’t sign until just before spring training.
Randy Winn OF
Gone. Also wasn’t with the team at this time last year. Brian Cashman tried to buy low, but Winn made 16 starts before being designated for assignment.
CC Sabathia LHP
Still with the team. Still at the top of the rotation. Still a Cy Young candidate.
A.J. Burnett RHP
Still with the team. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine he could be any worse than he was last season.
Andy Pettitte LHP
Unknown. While he’s considering retirement, he’s also considered the rotation’s most significant missing piece. Injury limited him to 21 starts last season.
Javier Vazquez RHP
Gone. Last winter’s big rotation addition managed 26 largely forgettable starts.
Phil Hughes RHP
Still with the team. And this time he doesn’t have to fight for a spot in spring training.
Mariano Rivera RHP
Still with the team. Same as always. Age would be a factor if he were anyone but Mo.
Joba Chamberlain RHP
Still with the team. Not fighting for a rotation spot this time.
Dave Robertson RHP
Still with the team. Had a 2.27 ERA and held opponents to a .207 batting average in the second half last season.
Damaso Marte LHP
Injured. Likely to miss all season. Essentially replaced by Pedro Feleciano.
Chan Ho Park RHP
Gone. Wasn’t with the team at this time last year. Allowed one more hit than Rivera, despite pitching fewer than half of the games.
Alfredo Aceves RHP
Gone. Non-tendered after missing almost all year with a back injury. Pitched in 10 games last season.
Sergio Mitre RHP
Still with the team. Actually coming off a pretty solid season, in a much better spot than at this time last year.
Associated Press photos of Jeter, Cervelli, Sabathia and Rivera
Kearns lands back in Cleveland • 12.20.10
His stint in New York was rather forgettable, but Austin Kearns turned an otherwise solid 2010 into a $1.3-million deal with the Indians.
One year ago, Kearns had to settle for a minor league deal. Cleveland invited him to big league camp, he made the team and he hit .272/.354/.419 before a deadline deal to the Yankees, who gave up Zach McAllister for the rental. With the Yankees, he hit for no power and only a .235 average.
The Yankees need a right-handed reserve outfielder, but after his stint last season, it would have been hard to see the Yankees bringing Kearns back.
Speaking of not coming back: Chan Ho Park has agreed to a deal with the Orix Buffaloes. Try to contain your disappointment.
Not such a good fit • 10.31.10
If there’s going to be a list of the year’s best Yankees costumes, there has to be a list of the worst.
as Johnny Damon
The Yankees tried to bring Damon back, but Damon turned them down. Ultimately, the Yankees settled for Johnson, trusting that his uncanny knack for getting on base would fit well ahead of their powerful three and four hitters. It made sense – even in an awful partial season he had a .388 OBP – but Johnson does one other thing uncannily well: He gets hurt. Ultimately, he was absolutely no help.
Chan Ho Park
as Alfredo Aceves
Aceves is a hybrid reliever, the kind who can fit into a crucial late-inning spot when needed, or can give multiple innings of dependable relief, seeting the stage for a potential comeback. The Yankees never had that kind of reliever this season. They thought they found a similar guy in Park, who they picked of the scrap heap at the beginning of spring training. After 27 appearances and 22 earned run, Park was sent packing.
as Javier Vazquez
The Yankees were counting on one thing about Vazquez: Consistency. This time around, they weren’t asking him to lead a rotation, or even to pitch in the top half of the rotation. He was supposed to be a stabilizing force at the back end, something he had proven capable of doing time and time again in his career. Nothing flashy, just reliable starts every fifth day. Vazquez couldn’t do it, and the Yankees were once again left searching for spot starters.
as Dave Robertson
I realize there’s very little evidence that this is true, but I honestly believe Melancon is going to be a good Major League pitcher. I saw too many good things from him in Triple-A to believe he’s always going to struggle this much at this level. But the fact is, he never took that next step – the one Robertson made last year – in New York. I think it will happen in Houston, but it never happened here.
Associated Press photo of Johnson with Derek Jeter
Yankees farm update: Pittsburgh edition • 08.25.10
It’s been more than two years since Ross Ohlendorf was a part of the Yankees organization — which is more time than he actually spent in the Yankees organization — but I still find that I click on stories about him and pay attention when his highlights are on television. He’s an interesting, easy-to-like guy who was part of two significant Yankees trades. When his name pops up, you notice.
It looks like Ohlendorf is going to miss the rest of the year because of a strain behind his right shoulder. It some ways, it puts him out of his misery. He has a perfectly respectable 4.04 ERA, but he’s 1-11 as the Pirates ace.
The other guys sent to Pittsburgh in the Nady/Marte trade:
• Dan McCutchen is tonight’s Pirates starter. He has solid Triple-A numbers, but a 6.65 ERA in the big leagues. He’s pitched 16 times — seven starts — and has allowed 11 home runs.
• Jeff Karstens was supposed to be tonight’s starter, but he’s being skipped because of arm fatigue. He has a 4.98 ERA, but twice as many wins as Ohlendorf.
• Jose Tabata is playing well in his first big league season. He’s hitting .310 with three homers. He also hit three homers in Triple-A giving him six for the year. Most he ever hit in a season with the Yankees was five.
The other guys brought to New York in the Randy Johnson trade:
• Steven Jackson made six big league appearances this year but ultimately lost his spot on the Pirates 40-man roster. He has a 4.01 ERA in Triple-A, getting a lot of ground ball outs but not many strikeouts.
• Alberto Gonzalez is hitting .276 as a utility man with the Nationals. He has 123 at-bats and four RBI. Ramiro Pena has 121 at-bats and 16 RBI.
• Luis Vizcaino hasn’t pitched since last year.
Since we’re on the subject of the Pirates and former Yankees:
• Chan Ho Park has pitched seven times for Pittsburgh: 7.2 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K. He’s allowed two homers.
• Randy Winn is hitting .250 with three home runs and four stolen bases as a part-time player in St. Louis.
• Mark Melancon has made three scoreless appearances since joining Triple-A Round Rock in the Astros minor league system. Jimmy Paredes is hitting .290/.313/.409 in Class A with the Astros. It’s almost identical to his .282/.312/.408 pre-trade line with Charleston.
• Zach McAllister was assigned to Triple-A Columbus in the Indians system. In his debut last night he went 6 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. All five runs came in the second inning.
Pirates claim Chan Ho Park • 08.04.10
Of course an ex-Yankees pitcher is heading to Pittsburgh. Isn’t this what always happens?
The Pirates have claimed Chan Ho Park off waivers and will add him to their limited pitching staff. Pittsburgh will pick up what’s left of Park’s contract.
That was one of two pitching waiver claims for the Pirates, who also picked up Chris Resop from the Braves. To make room for Resop, the Pirates designated another former Yankees reliever, Steven Jackson, for assignment. As always, Jackson was generating a lot of ground balls in Triple-A, but he struggled in limited big league action this season. This is the second time he’s been designated by the Pirates.
Postgame notes: Pitching like an all-star • 07.10.10
Hanging in Phil Hughes locker after tonight’s game were a half dozen or so All-Star Game jerseys. They’re gifts for friends and family. He pulled the smallest one — intended for some young relative — and said, “I’m going to wear this one in the game.”
Yes, the Yankees No. 5 starter is an all-star, and he pitched like it again tonight. This was his 11th win, and his ERA dropped back down to 3.65. Joe Girardi was impressed by his fastball, and Hughes said his curveball was as good as it’s been this season.
Thing is, Hughes’ day started with uncertainty. He woke up believing he would be pitching against Cliff Lee, then he heard the trade rumors and wondered if he might be bumped to the bullpen because of Cliff Lee.
“Obviously we’re not going to go with a six-man rotation in the second half,” Hughes said. “Something’s got to give. You kind of do the math and figure it’s not going to be the top three guys, so where do we fall into this picture? It’s kind of the way this game is. It’s not always about feel-good stories and keeping guys that were good in spring training around.”
Hughes is one of those feel-good stories: A 24-year-old who seems to be coming into his own at the big league level.
“Right now,” Mark Teixeira said. “All the hype is true.”
• Speaking of Teixeira, he hit home runs from both sides of the plate tonight and has looked more and more like himself at the plate lately. “It’s one of those times when I’m seeing the ball from both sides, and I’m not having to fight one or the other,” he said. “That happens on and off all during the season. Sometimes you’re fighting one, sometimes you’re fighting the other.”
• Hughes tied Andy Pettitte for the highest winning percentage (.846) in the American League. He has yet to allow a home run on the road this season.
• This is the first time since 2002 that the Yankees have allowed two runs or less in five straight games. They’ve allowed a total of six runs in the past five games. Most of that is due to great starting pitching this turn through the rotation. “It really helps,” Girardi said. “Because we’ve been in some tight games and we haven’t scored a lot of runs.”
• That’s 30 straight games reaching base for Teixeira. Since June 8 he’s batting .309 with nine doubles, nine home runs, 25 RBI and six walks.
• Chan Ho Park allowed two fairly weak singles, but Girardi was actually impressed with what he saw. “I thought his stuff was about as good as we’ve seen,” Girardi said.
• Dave Robertson had that ugly outing in New York earlier this month. He’s since pitched 3.1 scoreless with two hits and four strikeouts.
• A seven-game winning streak is a season-high. The Yankees have won 12 of their past 15 games on the road.
Associated Press photos of Hughes and Teixeira
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.
Postgame notes: The popup that wasn’t • 06.10.10
When Luke Scott hit that sixth-inning fly ball, he slammed his bat to the ground. Everyone in the ballpark seemed to think it was a routine fly, but Nick Swisher just kept going back. From the grass, to the track, the wall, Swisher jumped but couldn’t make the catch and Scott had an easy triple.
“I thought he popped it up, then I saw his reaction,” A.J. Burnett said. “Next thing I knew he was on third.”
Miguel Tejada followed with an RBI double and the Orioles had their 4-3 lead.
Swisher said he’d like to see a replay. He thought he had it until the ball was rolling away. That triple and the two-run first inning — when Brunett hit three batters including one who struck out on the pitch — seemed like the low points of the game, but Burnett was more upset about the Scott Moore home run in the fifth.
“It was pretty much a middle cut,” he said. “We all know what they do with them when they middle cut. I can deal with hitting guys in the foot, I guess, because the hook was down and in. I got one swing on it, so that’s kind of funny.”
Given the A-Rod injury and such, it’s probably more important to hear Joe Girardi’s postgame interview than Burnett’s. Here’s Girardi.
• Some discussion about whether Alex Rodriguez should have been in the lineup in the first place given the fact his groin was already bothering him. Girardi said it’s not especially unusual for a player to feel tight before first pitch and trust that the game will loosen up the muscles. Rodriguez said he thought about taking himself out of the lineup, but he’d gotten loose the past two nights and believed it would happen again.
• Jorge Posada said he believes he could catch this weekend, but he’s not sure the Yankees are going to let him. “Everything feels good,” he said. So what’s left for him to do behind the plate? “Play in a game,” he said.
• Two passed balls tonight: “The second one was my fault,” Burnett said. “I missed a sign. The first one just got away.”
• Girardi said it was Burnett’s fastball command that hurt him tonight. Burnett said the curveball was his problem in the first inning, but after that the curveball was good for him. “You’ve got to get ahead,” he said. “Getting behind, an aggressive team will get ya.”
• Who bats cleanup if Rodriguez can’t play tomorrow? “We’ll make that decision tomorrow,” Girardi said. He mentioned Cano, Posada and Swisher as candidates. He said Teixeira will stay in the No. 3 hole.
• Two quick tidbits on Rodriguez: This is the first he remembers having soreness on the right side since his surgery, and he said the hip feels fine, it’s only the groin that bothers him.
• Depressing Orioles stat of the night: This was their first multi-run first inning since May 22.
• Mark Teixeira was 1-for-3 with a double, a walk and a strikeout. His batting average is now a season-high .226.
• Curtis Granderson hit his third triple of the season.
• Chan Ho Park has been better lately. Tonight he pitched a hitless inning with two strikeouts.
• Derek Jeter has now reached base in 28 straight games, the longest streak in the major leagues this season. That guy is so washed up!
Associated Press photos of Swisher, Jeter and Teixeira, and Moeller’s play at the plate.
Right and wrong: The bullpen • 05.24.10
What’s gone right and what’s gone wrong in the bullpen has really been a matter of when you’re asking the question. Right now, Mariano Rivera fits the wrong category, but 10 days ago he was as good as any pitcher in baseball. Joba Chamberlain was great two weeks ago, bad last week, then great again on Friday.
What’s gone right?
More than you might think
During the most recent home stand, the Yankees bullpen seemed to be a complete mess, and the problems centered on Chamberlain and Rivera. But heading into the home stand, the relievers seemed to be a strong point for the Yankees, and they remain 23-0 when leading after eight innings.
Despite his recent outings, Rivera remains 8-for-9 in save situations with a 2.03 ERA that’s lower than his career ERA of 2.25. Opponents are hitting .170 against him, which would be the third lowest opponents batting average of his career.
Other bright spots: Chamberlain’s velocity has improved; Dave Robertson in the previous week; Sergio Mitre as a long man; Yankee debuts from Ivan Nova and Romulo Sanchez.
What’s gone wrong?
Frankly, this is true of almost every bullpen in baseball. Relievers as a whole are a hit-or-miss group, and the Yankees have been no different. Even Rivera has proven that he’s human.
The low point of the bullpen might be Chan Ho Park. He has the highest ERA on the team — other than Mark Melancon — and he’s allowed five home runs in six appearances. What seemed to be a good, low-cost pickup in spring training has become an unreliable middle reliever (although six games is hardly enough to pass a final judgment).
Other problem areas: Can’t ignore Rivera’s recent outings; Robertson has been knocked around more than once; Hard to know how often Aceves might go down with that sore back; Melancon and Boone Logan were clearly the top Triple-A relievers when the season started, but neither has done much to prove himself out of the New York bullpen.
Today in The Journal News • 05.18.10
Alex Rodriguez tied it with a two-run home run, Marcus Thames won it with a two-run home run and A.J. Burnett celebrated the Yankees 11-9 win against Boston with the first whipped cream pie of the season. The Yankees squandered a five-run lead, but their four-run ninth made all the difference.
Before the game, the Nick Johnson announced that he will undergo surgery on his right wrist. The notebook also has items on Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher, Javier Vazquez and Chan Ho Park.