Ranking prospects league-by-league is an annual thing over at Baseball America, and it’s always interesting and worthwhile to look back. Here’s a link to a blog post about last year’s rankings, and here are a few observations.
1. It’s entirely possible to overlook even the most advanced prospects
Last year, the Yankees didn’t have a single prospect make the International League’s Top 20 list. That wasn’t remotely surprising at the time, and it’s easy to understand even in retrospect. But there is one glaring omission: Dellin Betances would have qualified for last year’s IL prospects list, but a half season of true dominance out of the bullpen wasn’t enough to erase all the concerns about past struggles. Again, can’t blame Baseball America for keeping him off the list, but if they’d known that a year later Betances would be one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, I’m betting they would have found a spot for him.
2. Extremely young players can rise and fall quickly
At this time last year, Luis Severino came in 17th on the Gulf Coast League rankings. Not only were 16 GCL players ahead of him, four Yankees GCL players were ahead of him! Baseball American had nothing but praise for his raw stuff — “reached 98 (mph),” “easy delivery,” “plenty of strikes,” “a lot of ground balls” but he’d made just six appearances in rookie ball, four more in Low-A, and there was a sense of still needing to prove himself. Safe to say Severino did exactly that this season, which pushed him all the way to No. 4 on this year’s South Atlantic League rankings. One of the Yankees ahead of him in 2013, catcher Luis Torrens, sits at No. 4 on this year’s New York-Penn League rankings. The three other Yankees who ranked ahead of Severino last season — Miguel Andujar, Abiatal Avelino and Gosuke Katoh — did not make any of this year’s Top 20 league rankings. Some of that’s the unpredictable nature of those extremely low-level prospects.
3. Some of this is pretty fickle
Last year’s Eastern League list had John Ryan Murphy at No. 18. Granted, that’s just barely on the list, but it’s certainly enough to put him well in the conversation for a spot on this year’s International League list. And, of course, he’s not there. How much could his prospect stock have fallen in a year when he at least held his own as a big league backup and hit for pretty good power — especially in the second half — down in Triple-A? Fact is, not a lot has changed about him. He’s just not on a list this year, and he was on one last year. These lists are more interesting than definitive. Looking for a similar but far more meaningful change? Mason Williams was No. 19 on last year’s Florida State League list, but he didn’t make the cut — and I can’t imagine he came particularly close — for this year’s Eastern League rankings.
4. It’s inevitable that players are going to come and go
The Yankees have only three players who appeared in last year’s league-by-league rankings and showed up again this season: C Gary Sanchez (7th in the Florida State League, now 11th in the Eastern League), RHP Severino (17th in the GCL, now 4th in the South Atlantic) and C Torrens (10th in the GCL, now 4th in the New York-Penn).
Four Yankees showed up this year after no appearing last year: 2B Rob Refsnyder made both the International League and Eastern League rankings after proving he could still hit and play a passable second base in the upper levels; RF Aaron Judge made both the Florida State League and South Atlantic League lists after putting up big numbers in his first pro season; LHP Ian Clarkin jumped onto the South Atlantic League list after getting healthy; international shortstops Jorge Mateo and Angel Aguilar made the GCL list after strong U.S. debuts.
Five Yankees fell off the league rankings altogether: C Murphy didn’t make the International League cut, CF Williams didn’t perform nearly well enough in the Eastern League, RHP Rafael DePaula couldn’t repeat last year South Atlantic League results (especially not after being traded, when his numbers really dipped), 3B Eric Jagielo was sixth in the New York-Penn League last year but seems to have just missed the cut in his first full-season, and for various reasons young guys Andujar, Avelino, Katoh and Thairo Estrada went from making last year’s GCL cut to missing this year’s rankings. Each of those extremely young guys could very well play his way into the league rankings again next season (same for Jagielo if he stays healthy and keeps hitting for power).
Associated Press photo
Yesterday the Associated Press reported that this year’s qualifying offer will be set at $15.3 million, a raise of nearly $1 million from last season. For the Yankees, that number is most interesting for free agent closer Dave Robertson, who’s ready to test the market for the first time and might have to seriously consider becoming the first player to ever accept such an offer.
First things first, the Yankees have not definitively said they’re going to extend a qualifying offer to Robertson, it just seems to be a strong possibility if only because it would be a chance to retain their closer on a short-term deal, keep their immediate bullpen depth intact, and buy some time for other young arms to develop while waiting for Dellin Betances to eventually take over the ninth inning. A qualifying offer would nearly triple Robertson’s 2014 salary and would make him a very, very well-paid relief pitcher, which is why he would have to consider accepting it. Then again, MLB Trade Rumors on Tuesday guessed that Robertson could earn something in the neighborhood of four years, $52 million on the open market, which is why he would have to consider rejecting.
Bottom line: Robertson is going to get paid this winter. The only questions are by which team and for how long? For our purposes, the questions get even more specific: Should the Yankees bring him back and on what kind of contract?
Here’s a quick look at what the Yankees already have in place for next year’s bullpen:
Proven late-inning arms
Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley
Betances is still two years from arbitration, Warren is one year from arbitration, and Kelley has a year of arbitration left. That puts three pretty good relievers under team control for next season. That late-inning depth was one of the bullpen’s great strengths this season, giving the Yankees plenty of alternatives when Robertson and Kelley dealt with injuries, when Warren went cold for a few weeks, and when go-to relievers were inevitably shut down because of workload concerns. Might be a stretch to call either one of them “proven,” but the Yankees also have Esmil Rogers and Preston Claiborne under team control. Rogers seems like a prime non-tender candidate, but Claiborne is in place as additional bullpen depth.
Long relief options
David Phelps, Chase Whitley, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell
Before he was hurt late in the year, Phelps really seemed to be emerging as a solid back-of-the-rotation option for next season. His overall numbers weren’t great, but at his best, Phelps was a perfectly good starting pitcher and seems to be an obvious swingman candidate to work as either a starter or reliever next season. Same could be said for Whitley, who had fairly drastic ups and downs, possibly attributable to his increased workload in his first season as a starting pitcher. Again, when he was good, Whitley threw strikes and got outs with a good changeup/slider combination. Depending on rotation depth, the Yankees could also consider putting either Greene or Mitchell into the bullpen if necessary. Such a move worked well with Warren this season, but the Yankees may be better served with Greene in the big league rotation and Mitchell in the Triple-A rotation to open the season.
David Huff, Jacob Lindgren, Tyler Webb, James Pazos
One thing to keep in mind about that list of four left-handed relief options is that there’s a solid chance none of them will be on the 40-man roster in spring training. Huff is a non-tender candidate while Lindren, Webb and Pazos have such little professional experience that none needs to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason. Left-handed relief is kind of an odd spot for the Yankees right now because they don’t have a reliable option in place — they traded away Matt Thornton — but their minor league system could be ready and able to fill the hole immediately. They could also jump into the market for a guy like Andrew Miller.
Minor league depth
Jose Ramirez, Dan Burawa, Mark Montgomery, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow
Ramirez might be a more reliable option by now, but he was hurt again — it was a lat issue this time — and the latest injury held him to just 22.1 innings this season. That said, he’s expected to be healthy for spring training, which makes him an obvious bit of bullpen depth. Burawa, Montgomery and Pinder are each strong 40-man candidates this offseason, and Rumbelow pitched his way to Triple-A in just his first full season of pro ball. “Has toughness and poise,” Mark Newman said. The Yankees have some bullpen depth in place, but it would be hard to count on this group for a can’t-miss reliever this season. Someone might emerge, there’s just some uncertainty here. Ramirez has the injury history, Burawa and Montgomery have been inconsistent, Pinder has just 13 games of Triple-A experience, and Rumbelow was in college two years ago.
Without signing a free agent or making a trade, the Yankees could pretty easily roll out an Opening Day bullpen of Betances, Kelley, Warren, Lindgren, Phelps, Whitley and Huff (just to pick a group that might make some sense), and that might not be the worst bunch of relievers in the world. The Yankees would have a big-time arm for the ninth inning, two pretty good setup men, an experienced long reliever in Phelps and a high-potential young lefty in Lindgren.
Adding another arm like Robertson, though, would greatly increase the bullpen depth, and that’s largely what the Robertson decision is about.
Based on what he showed this year, Betances is a capable closer in waiting. But adding a one-inning guy like Robertson would free Betances to put out fires in the seventh inning before building a bridge through the eighth. It would free Kelley and Warren to hover as late-inning alternatives and high-end options as early as the sixth inning. It might even free Warren to become a rotation option again (same with Phelps), and it might minimize the need to immediately put a guy like Lindgren into high leverage situations in his first big league season.
It’s often seen as foolish to give too much money to a reliever because relievers are unpredictable, but that unpredictability is the same reason it’s worthwhile to stockpile a bunch of bullpen arms. With so many young, cheap options already in place, the Yankees could pay Robertson for a few years and still keep their overall bullpen payroll relatively low. That said, this is a team looking to get younger and cheaper, and the emergence of Betances and Warren might give the Yankees a chance to immediately do both of those things in the bullpen.
If it were up to me, I’d bring Robertson back, keep him in the ninth inning, and build a young bullpen around him. But it’s not my roster, not my money, and it’s certainly not my decision. Both the Yankees and Robertson could be facing a tough choice come time for qualifying offers to go on the table.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees actually won a game tonight, but in this season of disappointment, it was a hollow victory. The teams ahead of them also won, so the Yankees didn’t actually gain any ground in their vague pursuit of a playoff spot. They just won a game, and it probably didn’t mean much.
But in the eighth inning, Dellin Betances got Kevin Kiermaier to swing through a breaking ball. It was strike three, Brian McCann asked for the ball, and he flipped it into the Yankees dugout. Betances had just passed Mariano Rivera for the Yankees single-season strikeout record for a reliever. And Betances did it in fewer innings than it took the greatest closer ever.
“Just to be mentioned around his name, you’re talking about the best closer, the best reliever in the game,” Betances said. “Just to be around the same breath as him, I take thrill in that. As far as innings, like I said before, he did it with one pitch, so I think that’s more amazing.”
In this season of disappointment, the long-awaited arrival and complete dominance of Betances just might be the most positive thing that’s happened for the Yankees. Brandon McCarthy has been a terrific half-season rental, and Yangervis Solarte was a fun story for a while, and there’s been the ongoing Derek Jeter farewell. But Betances has emerged from a rocky minor leaguer career to become one of the very best relief pitchers in baseball.
“You think about the people that he passed these past few weeks: Goose Gossage and Mariano Rivera,” Joe Girardi said. “One Hall of Famer and one just has to wait his turn, basically. It’s pretty impressive what he’s done. What he went through, and some of the struggles that he went through. Those struggles helped. When you struggle and you’re able to get back up and fight through it, it helps you down the road because it’s not always going to be easy in this game. What a year he’s had.”
Amazing to think back to Betances simply trying to make the team in spring training.
“I knew that if I believe in myself and I had the confidence going into spring that I was going to get that job,” Betances said. “I can’t tell you that the numbers would be the way that they are because you’re facing great hitters on a daily basis. I just try to keep it the same routine and just try to get advice from some of these guys that have been here and have been doing it for a while. I think from McCann to Jeet to the rest of the bullpen guys, they’ve been a great help to me.”
• Speaking of Jeter, his sixth-inning single up the middle snapped an 0-for-28 stretch that was the second-longest of his career. “I’m 1-for-my-last-2, guys,” Jeter said. “I’m hot. It felt good, man. I’m well aware of what’s going on. At the same time, you try to forget about anything that’s happened up to that point. It feels good. Those stretches aren’t fun.”
• Jeter tried to bunt for a hit in his first at-bat. Desperation? Not exactly, Jeter said. “(Alex) Cobb’s tough,” Jeter said. “I don’t care how you’ve been swinging the bat, when you face him, it’s difficult. I thought I had an opportunity. Longoria was back, but unfortunately it was too close to (the mound). Even if I was hot, I probably would have done the same thing.”
• The Yankees understood what was happening with Jeter, so they were happy to see him finally get one. “Really nice,” Girardi said. “He hit the ball hard a couple of times tonight. Just missed one foul, and it was good to see.”
• It seems like Chase Headley keeps finding new ways to impress the Yankees. Lately it’s been with his toughness in the wake of last week’s pitch to the chin. “This guy is a gamer,” Girardi said. “You can probably see the blood in his neck, but (the bruising) goes down (through his chest). For him to be back the next day after all he went through, he showed his teammates a lot. Obviously he showed us a lot. Diving all over the place, a huge hit tonight. He’s something else.”
• Also something else is McCarthy who got to 10 wins in a season for the first time. McCarthy is into the newer stats, but pitchers always like getting wins. “I didn’t really that (was the 10th),” he said. “A lot of it is that I just haven’t been able to get deep enough into a season and stay healthy and consistent enough to get there. But yeah, to get there, it’s a little point of pride. It’s not something that I’m focused on, but it’s nice, especially the way the season started and I was on pace to be the league leader in losses, and nothing good, at least there’s a nice ending there.”
• One other feather for his cap, McCarthy struck out the side on nine pitches in the seventh. “At least it’s something else you can add to your resume when you’re done,” McCarthy said. “And a story you can tell someone that they won’t care about later on, but at least in the meantime it’s something cool.”
• Ivan Nova had a nine-pitch, three-strikeout inning last year. According to Katie Sharp of ESPN Stats and Info, the only other Yankees to ever have such an inning are A.J. Burnett (in 2009), Ron Guidry (in 1984) and Al Downing (in 1967).
• Think about leaving McCarthy in the game after such a dominant seventh? “No,” Girardi said. “He’d done his job, and Dellin was well rested and had a couple of days off. I turned it over to him.”
• Brendan Ryan had a go-ahead ground-rule double in the fifth inning. It was his first extra-base hit since August 5 and his first RBI since July 29. I suppose that’s partially because of his lack of offense, but mostly because he simply never plays (which is because of his lack of offense).
• Jeter played 126 games at Tropicana Field during his career. He’s the all-time leaders in hits (145) and runs (80) by a visiting player at this ballpark.
• We’ll give the final word to McCarthy on his approach following last night’s HBP fireworks: “I don’t like when those things keep carrying over day after day. Most of it, it’s the checks and balances of baseball. It’s, protect your teammates, and once that’s done, then everybody knows the score and you move on from there and it’s back to baseball. If you let this stir up, and I do something, then I’m the jerk, and we’re the bad guys. So at that point, it’s go out and play again, try to beat them on the field, and let it get back to normal.”
Associated Press photos (including an old one of Betances because I didn’t have one from tonight)
This game didn’t have to be a farewell. The Orioles are certainly heading toward the playoffs, and if the Yankees were heading the same way, there would still be some chance of Derek Jeter returning to Baltimore for one last postseason showdown. But the Yankees are going the other way, and it seems Jeter’s career has two weeks until its expiration date.
“I’ve always talked about, you want to be in a position where you control what happens,” Jeter said. “Unfortunately now we’re not in control of what happens. We’re in control of our games, but now you need help from other people. We need to continue to come out and play well, and more importantly to win games. We’re at the point now where playing well isn’t good enough. We need to win games, and then we need some help from some other teams. It’s not an ideal situation, but we are what we are.”
Five games out of the second wild card with 14 games to play. That’s what the Yankees are. Tonight was an opportunity to gain ground on every other team in the race for that final postseason spot, but the Yankees took yet another one-run loss. They’ve been good in close games most of the year, but five of their past six loses by been by two runs or less. Four have been by one run.
“It’s very difficult because of what we’re trying to do,” Joe Girardi said. “Each game that you lose like this, it just makes it harder and harder to get to where we want to get.”
It now seems that those two emotional wins at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday were little more than the last gasp of a team that hasn’t been able to maintain much of a winning streak all year. They had a real chance to win all four games here in Baltimore — two were one-run losses, another was a shutout — but the Yankees scored a total of six runs in the series and managed just one win.
“We’re in a spot where we’ve got to win,” Brian McCann said.
And at this point, even that might not be enough.
• Dave Robertson threw 35 pitches on Friday, but he threw just 11 pitches last night and told Girardi pregame that he actually felt pretty good. Girardi decided he would use Robertson in a save situation. “I felt great,” Robertson said. “He came up and talked to me in the outfield, asked me how I felt, and I told him I feel good, I was ready to go if we got a save situation. I wasn’t able to do it today, I just stunk. It wasn’t how I felt, it was how I pitched.”
• Girardi on the decision to go to Robertson for a third day in a row: “I mean, he’s my closer. That’s the thing. It’s the time of year (to use him aggressively). That’s why I try to take care of him all year long. You get to September and sometimes you’ve got to do that. Like I said, he’s been great for us all year and it just didn’t work out.”
• Any thought of simply using Dellin Betances for two innings? “No, no. Absolutely not,” Girardi said. “Dellin has been used a lot too, so, no.”
• With his strikeout of Adam Jones in the eighth inning, Betances tied Mariano Rivera’s 1996 record for the most strikeouts in a season by a Yankees reliever with 130. Betances reached that number in far fewer innings. “Yeah, but he did it with one pitch though,” Betances said. “Big difference. … It’s a great accomplishment, especially after everything I’ve gone through to get up here. I’m honored to be a part of this team, and for me to just be in the same area, or just by Mariano, that’s a huge accomplishment for me.”
• Betances said he didn’t realize he’d reached the record. “I had no idea,” he said. “I’m just trying to go out there and do my job, I’m not really worrying too much about that. As soon as Joe asked for the ball I had a feeling something happened, but I didn’t know if I had tied or gone ahead, I don’t know.”
• The problem for Robertson was hanging breaking balls. He left balls up in the zone, which seems to be an indication of fatigue, but Robertson said he really didn’t think that was the case. “I pitched like crap,” Robertson said. “I left three balls up to three of the best hitters in the game, and they all hit doubles. It was a terrible job by me out there. … I felt good in the pen, felt great warming up earlier today, and I thought I had good enough stuff to get people out, but I just kept leaving pitches up, and those guys are too good to leave pitches in the zone.”
• Hiroki Kuroda was awful last time out, but he was awfully good tonight. He went seven innings with one run. In the third inning, he reached 3,000 innings for his career (1,700.1 of them came for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp). It actually seems Kuroda might be effective through the end of the season this year, but it also seems unlikely to matter.
• Girardi said he found out after batting practice that Carlos Beltran felt good enough to pinch hit. He had a four-pitch at-bat in the seventh inning and swung only once. He swung and missed to finish off the strikeout and end the inning. He hadn’t played since Tuesday.
• Jeter is hitless in his past 24 at-bats and in the midst of a six-game hitless streak. It’s the second-longest hitless stretch of his career behind a seven-game streak in 2004. He has only got hitless in five or more games three times in his career (once in 2004, once in 2008 and now in 2014).
• Martin Prado is doing the opposite. He’s hit safely in 10 of his past 13 games including seven multi-hit games. In that span he’s had three home runs and batted .391. He’s now hit seven homers in 36 games with the Yankees. He hit five home runs in 106 games with the Diamondbacks.
• Chris Young’s six-game hitting streak ended.
• Final word goes to Jeter: “That (McCann home run) was huge, because it was a pitchers’ duel up to that point. I don’t know how many hits we had up to that point, but Mac hit that big home run and obviously we were all excited. But then, those guys aren’t going to give up over there, so we still needed three outs, and they came up with some big hits. Robertson’s been good for us all year long.”
Associated Press photos
Before CC Sabathia hurt his knee, before Michael Pineda went down with a shoulder injury, and long before Masahiro Tanaka tore his elbow ligament, Hiroki Kuroda finished the month of April with a 5.28 ERA. He was 39 years old, he’d been brutal down the stretch last year, and it was worth wondering whether Kuroda had finally run out of steam. For a moment, he was actually one of the Yankees more significant rotation concerns.
Since his second May start, thought, Kuroda’s had a 3.43 ERA. At a time when the Yankees rotation has desperately needed some sort of stability, Kuroda’s been basically the exact same source of consistency that he was the past two years.
“Some of the other years he’s been here, his April has been a little bit inconsistent,” manager Joe Girardi said. “So I felt like maybe he’s going through the (typical) April. He didn’t have his arm strength, didn’t have a slider. There was a little bit of a concern about that, but you saw it come around in May which put that all to rest.”
This rotation has been a stunning source of strength for the Yankees, and much of the credit has gone to the replacement starters. The Yankees have been kept afloat by the arrival of Shane Greene, the trade for Brandon McCarthy, the return of Pineda, the scrap-heap addition of Chris Capuano, the short-term boost of Chase Whitley, and the injury-shortened improvement of David Phelps.
In all of that, Kuroda has been overshadowed, but he led the way in tonight’s win to snap this three-game losing streak. He’s won his last three decisions, and he’s gone at least six innings with no more than two runs in each of his past four starts. Kuroda faded down the stretch the past two seasons, but this year he seems to be at his best near the end.
Kuroda said he’s been throwing fewer pitches between starts all year, and he skipped a bullpen heading into this start. He’s just trying to stay strong and avoid that familiar slide.
“Especially last year, I didn’t have a good month of September,” he said. “So I just wanted to change that, and I just wanted to contribute to my team. … I don’t know exactly what’s working, to be honest with you, but because I have to do my everyday workout to get my work in, and because I cannot skip a rotation turn or start, I just want to make sure I stay active.”
Kuroda has pitched into the sixth inning in 13 of his past 14 starts, and the last time he allowed more than four runs — earned or unearned — was way back on April 25.
“He just had another start that he’s had all year long,” Brian McCann said. “I feel like he’s been so consistent day in and day out, pitch after pitch. He just keeps making them.”
Standing at his locker postgame, Martin Prado sounded frustrated but at least a little bit optimistic. He considered the MRI largely precautionary, and he said a day of nothing but treatment seems to have done at least some good for his strained left hamstring.
“I think we made a little progress today,” he said. “We’ll see how I respond tomorrow. We did everything we could today to make some progress. … Tomorrow we’re going to, I heard, we’re going to do some activities. Hit and do everything normal to see how I react.”
Seems unlikely that Prado will play tomorrow, but he seems to think this should be — or at least could be — a fairly short-term issue.
“I know that I’ll probably miss just one or two days and not the rest of the season, so I was trying to be smart about it,” he said. “I don’t feel it walking. I feel, actually, normal. But when you’re playing, it’s not like I’m going to say I’m going to play 50 percent. I have to go 100 percent or I can’t play. We’ll see tomorrow. I’ll try to do everything I can to get back in the game.”
• We’ll get into all the good things the offense did in a bit, but first: the first-inning rundown debacle. “Gardy did not get a good jump and he has to stop,” Girardi said. “Jeet had third base easy. Gardy has to stop there, and running into two outs — I wasn’t real happy about it, but we made up for it and that mistake didn’t cost us dearly, fortunately.”
• If you missed the play, it was a double steal, and the Red Sox threw to second instead of third. Because of his bad jump, Gardner stop short of the bag, tried to get into a rundown to let Jeter score, but Jeter never broke for home, ventured too far off third base, and the Red Sox ultimately threw over to get him out. They then fired to second, and Gardner was out as well. Just brutal.
• Before the game, Kevin Long actually talked about the fact the Yankees have run themselves into too many outs this season. “How many times have you seen it happen this year where we’ve run ourselves out of an inning or we do something like that?” Long said. “It’s happened 8-to-10 times. That’s a lot.” When it happened again, Girardi addressed the Yankees base running issues. “Sometimes it’s overaggressiveness,” Girardi said. “You look at the one we did last night, it’s not picking up the runner in front of you. It’s not like these guys aren’t experienced, and they know what they need to do. Sometimes it’s just a matter of playing too hard and trying too hard (that causes the team) to make mistakes.”
• On the offensive bright side: Brian McCann. He has homered in a career-high three straight home games. He matched his career-high with four hits, something he’s now done 11 times (last time was July 6 of last year). “I was covering both sides of the plate, working counts and swinging at strikes,” he said.
• McCann’s now hit 17 home runs this season, and 15 of them have come at Yankee Stadium. Two other players in franchise history have hit 15 of their first 17 Yankees home runs in home games: Joe Sewell in 1931-32 and Oscar Gamble in 1976. That’s according to Elias. Oddly enough, I did not know that off the top of my head.
• Jacoby Ellsbury had a triple and a sacrifice fly and is now hitting .415 with two doubles, two triples and four home runs in his past 14 games.
• Dellin Betances struck out two batters in a scoreless eighth inning. He now has 122 strikeouts in 81 innings this season and has a good chance to be the Yankees season leader in strikeouts while pitching the entire season out of the bullpen. He’s tied Goose Gossage for the second-most reliever strikeouts in a season (Gossage did it in 134.1 innings in 1978). The record is 130 set by Mariano Rivera in 107.2 innings 1996.
• Also a bunch of strikeouts tonight for Kuroda, who tied a season-high with eight strikeouts. He also did that in May against the Angels. This was his fourth career start of at least seven innings with at least eight strikeouts and no walks. He did that once in 2008, once in 2009, and twice this year.
• Both Kuroda and Girardi had kind words for McCann’s ability to work with Kuroda through these strong outings. “He has a great idea what the pitchers stuff is and how it equates to getting each hitter out,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you can say, ‘Well, (the batter) is not a good changeup hitter.’ Well if you don’t have a changeup, that becomes an issue, so you have too find another way to get hitters out and I think Brian is very good at knowing what he needs to do with Hiro and the type of stuff he has and figuring out how to get outs.”
• Because Detroit lost, the Yankees gained a game and now trail by four games for the second wild card. “It’s impossible not to watch (the scoreboard),” Girardi said. “It’s human nature. You watch it all year long. We’re baseball people, that’s what we do. There’s always that curiosity, but obviously you know what’s going on.”
• Final word goes to McCann: “It’s big. At this point, our mindset here is to just win as many games as we can. We’ve got one month to turn it on and we plan on doing that.”
Associated Press photos
Yankees postgame: Girardi frustrated • 07.27.14
Joe Girardi wasn’t thrilled over these last two games. The Yankees had beaten Toronto 17 straight times at Yankee Stadium, but they lost 6-4 Saturday and then 5-4 Sunday.
“It’s a team we’re fighting with obviously and it’s a frustrating loss,” Joe Girardi said after they fell a game back of the Blue Jays for the second wild card. “We fought back a number of times and we were never able to get a lead.
“Our miscues is what cost us in this series, really, when you look at. We’ve got to be better at that.”
David Robertson had a mental lapse in the ninth, leading to the go-ahead run. Jose Bautista was on first with two outs and stole second without a throw, leading to Dioner Navarro’s tiebreaking single.
“He can’t let a guy get a walking lead,” Girardi said.
“I just let him slip,” Robertson said. “I didn’t think he’d be going.”
Bautista said: “I know there was two outs and I figured it’s going to have to be a pretty long extra-base hit for me to score from first because I’m not the fastest guy on the team.”
This was the first game in which Robertson and Dellin Betances each surrendered at least one run. Betances had a big mess-up, too.
He walked Colby Rasmus on four pitches to open the eighth in a 3-3 game. Before Betances knew it, Rasmus was on third with no outs because of the wild pickoff throw to first.
“My cleat got stuck,” Betances said. “As soon as that happened, I had a feeling I was going to throw it away.”
Shane Greene departed after giving up an RBI double to Rasmus with one out in the sixth, making it 3-2 Jays.
“I’ve got to have a short memory, but that one hurt,” Greene said.
The Yankees have now failed to score more than four runs in 12 of the last 14 games.
There was a hitter in the ballpark who could help. Colorado All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who’s the subject of trade speculation, is on the DL with a hip flexor problem. He was back East to see a doctor in Philadelphia. Tulowitzki is a big Derek Jeter fan. He told The Denver Post he wanted to see Jeter play once last time.
Jeter said he wasn’t aware of it. The Post story said a Tulowitzki trade to the Yankees wasn’t imminent.
Jeter also said he had reached out Saturday to Joe Torre, who went into the Hall of Fame Sunday.
“I don’t think I’d be where I am now if it wasn’t for him,” Jeter said.
Here’s what I wrote for Lohud.com and The Journal News on the happenings at the Stadium Sunday and the big picture.
Photo by The Associated Press.
The big-ticket catcher is getting a rest tonight against the Rays, at least at the start. He’s batting just .221 through the first half, with a .281 on-base percentage. He has hit nine homers and drive in 36.
“I think everything involved — you talk about coming to a new town, a new contract, learning all these new pitchers — it can be difficult,” Girardi said. “His RBI total isn’t too bad. His home runs aren’t too bad. I think he’s done a really good job with our pitching staff.
“But when he looks at his average, I’m sure he’s frustrated and knows that he can do better. So I don’t want to just focus on one aspect of the game because he has driven in some big runs for us and he has done a great job with our staff.
“And he needs to remind himself of that, too.”
Without question, Dellin Betances belongs at the All-Star Game. And Girardi made a good case for him.
“If you want a big strikeout and you want a guy to come in in the middle of an inning and get people out, he’s pretty good at it,” Girardi said. “He’s done a tremendous job. He’s a reliever that can obviously give you multiple innings. Sometimes you get in an extra-inning game, that can be pretty important, too.”
Betances, who may get a game or two off after pitching in three of the last four, is 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 35 appearances. He’d love to be at Target Field July 15.
“You’re talking about guys that you grew up watching, unbelievable players,” Betances said. “I haven’t really thought too much about it, but I’d be honored.”
After the 12-inning game last night, the Yankees needed a fresh arm in the bullpen. Righty Jim Miller has the arm that was summoned from Triple-A. Jose Ramirez got sent down. And CC Sabathia got moved to the 60-day DL.
Speaking of Sabathia, he will pitch a rehab game on three days’ rest. His next start will come tomorrow for Trenton. Sabathia threw just 37 pitches in his first rehab start, Saturday with Tampa.
“After that, it’ll be every five days,” Girardi said.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Adam Warren was supposed to pitch yesterday, and it wasn’t until after the game — after he’d waited and waited for his turn to come — that he found out his turn would wait a little longer for a primetime start against the Red Sox.
“That’s what I think spring training is about for us guys trying to make it is to just make an impression,” Warren said. “For me, I’m just trying to go out there and show I can handle the situation, just trying to go out there and attack the zone. I’m just going to go out there and take care of my own business, not really worry about where I stand.”
Warren took care of business, alright. Facing a lineup full of Boston regulars, the Yankees pitching prospect fired four scoreless innings with three strikeouts, no walks and two hits. One of those hits was a ball that glanced off Warren’s own glove for an infield single.
“Warren was excellent,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought he moved the ball in and out well. His slider was really good tonight. I thought he was excellent.”
Dellin Betances followed Warren with three hitless innings. David Phelps — who was supposed to start this game before his wife went into labor — has pitched 7.2 innings without an earned run this spring. D.J. Mitchell has a 0.89 WHIP and 1.00 ERA. The Yankees upper-level pitching prospects have each made strong impressions this spring, suggesting they’re more than capable of filling a hole should this overflowing rotation need a spot starter or two.
“I’m not going to worry about who’s ahead of me or how people are doing,” Warren said. “I just want to focus on myself and not get caught up in everything else. I feel like, I take care of my business and things will take care of themselves.”
• Tonight’s game ended in a tie because Girardi had run out of pitchers who he actually planned on pitching in this game. The Yankees had extra lower-level pitchers on the trip, but it seems Girardi didn’t want to use them. “I just said, that’s it,” Girardi said.
• Bobby Valentine wasn’t happy with Girardi for calling the game before it could go into the 10th inning. It is odd that Girardi had extra pitchers on the travel roster but chose not to use them. He said that he was worried about tomorrow’s doubleheader. “We’ve got a long day tomorrow too,” he said. “We need pitching.”
• One seemingly available pitcher was D.J. Mitchell, but the Yankees had him throw a side when it seemed there wouldn’t be enough innings for him to pitch. “We have a responsibility to build him up too,” Girardi said.
• Turns out CC Sabathia was hit in the shin by a comebacker this afternoon, but that was in the first inning and Sabathia stayed in to pitch five more innings. Sounds like he’s fine. Girardi’s not concerned.
• Raul Ibanez had another 0-for-3 and his average dropped to .054 this spring. “I’m just worried about us staying healthy down here right now,” Brian Cashman said. “Veterans like him, I’m certainly not going to make any judgments on.”
• Cashman said there are no real concerns about any of the nagging injuries (Jeter, Swisher, etc) in Yankees camp. Girardi said Derek Jeter came through today’s workout just fine and plans to play tomorrow.
• He’s pretty far down the depth chart, but Doug Bernier is really having a nice spring. He had two more hits today, including a two-run single. He also made a nice play up the middle in the fourth inning. He’s hitting .364.
• Rough day for Cory Wade who let the Red Sox back in the game with four hits and three earned runs in the eighth inning. Wade got only two outs in the inning before Juan Cedeno finished it.
• RBI triple for Curtis Granderson, who continues to have a terrific spring. … Brett Gardner, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez each had a hit in this game, but none of those three is hitting better than .194 this spring. … Jose Gil is batting .571 after his 1-for-3 night, and Gustavo Molina is batting .545 after his 1-for-1. Neither has a lot of at-bats.
• Jorge Vazquez was hit by a pitch in the hand and had it heavily wrapped after the game, but there’s no word on how serious the injury might be. He had to be taken out of the game, letting Jose Toussen get some unexpected playing time.
• I wrote this morning about how good Clay Rapada has looked in camp, but Rule 5 Cesar Cabral has also looked pretty sharp with 11 strikeouts and only one walk. The Yankees seem to have room for only one of those two. “(Cabral)’s pitched so well,” Cashman said. “If he was looking terrible, 29 other clubs would pass on him, (but) he ain’t looking terrible. To me, he’s either making this club, getting waiver-claimed or getting traded.”
• Rapada, by the way, has an out in his contract at the end of spring training. Cashman confirmed that this afternoon.
• For those of you who closely follow the minor league system, reports that Rafael DePaula has obtained a visa are true, but in an email, Mark Newman said DePaula still has to pass a physical “before anything progresses.” DePaula signed with the Yankees in 2010 but has been stuck in limbo ever since. He has a chance to be a legitimate talent.
• Phelps’ wife, by the way, had the baby late last night.
Associated Press photos
Betances standing tall • 03.13.12
You don’t always get a reaction like this from Joe Girardi. He’s supportive of his players, but he reacts a little differently when he’s really, truly impressed.
So, did Dellin Betances look better last night?
“Ohhhh yeah,” Girardi said, stretching out that first word for emphasis. “From the first time he pitched to this time, much much better. Tonight he had good stuff.”
Girardi dismissed some early mechanical and command issues for Betances — “It’s spring training,” Girardi said — and the past two times out, the Yankees top right-handed pitching prospect has shown why his upside is so significant. When he’s able to stay consistent, he can be an outstanding pitcher. During two scoreless innings last night, he looked pretty outstanding, much like what Girardi had seen in a side session a few days earlier.
“What I saw in the side is what I saw tonight,” Girardi said. “Good curveball. Good changeup. Good fastball. Throwing a lot of strikes. I’ve seen a lot of growth between his first outing and this one, which, you expect to see from our guys. It’s what you go through in spring training.”
Associated Press photo
Hiroki Kuroda said he usually gets off to slow starts in spring training. He leans on an assortment of pitches, and it makes sense that it might take him a while to get comfortable with all of them. Despite pitching three scoreless innings tonight, the new Yankees starter wasn’t happy.
“I don’t think I had all my stuff today,” he said. “Nothing was really consistent. Two-seamer wasn’t there. Cutter wasn’t cutting.”
Joe Girardi said the problem was consistency in the strike zone. Kuroda wasn’t throwing as many quality strikes, and so he had a few more runners on base. He didn’t throw many splitfingers tonight — arguably his best pitch — but he used to to strikeout No. 3 hitter Brian Bogusevic with the bases loaded in the third inning.
“I think probably most of the nights he’s going to have the split and he’s going to have his cutter and he’s going to have his sinker and four-seamer and his slider,” Girardi said. “But early in spring training, it’s hard to get them all going because you’re not out there long enough.”
• Typical for a night game in spring training, the clubhouse was pretty empty after the game. Pretty much everyone expect the guys who were still playing had already gone home, so notes are pretty night tonight.
• One guy who stood out was Dellin Betances. The big right-hander threw two scoreless innings with two strikeouts and one harmless single. “Good curveball. Good changeup. Good fastball,” Girardi said. “Throwing a lot of strikes.”
• No significant injury updates tonight. Girardi said, as far as he knows, everyone came through tonight’s game with no problems and he’s encouraged by the fact Dave Robertson was able to play catch. “He definitely feels better, so that’s a good sign,” Girardi said.
• Girardi was disappointed because the Yankees didn’t turn a double play — leading to two runs in the ninth — and they failed to catch a popup in foul territory which led to a run in the fourth. Ultimately, the Yankees lost 4-3 and had just five hits. They gave up 12 hits.
• Nick Swisher had an RBI triple in the sixth and J.R. Murphy had an RBI single in the ninth. The other Yankees run scored on a ground out. Robinson Cano, Dewayne Wise and Jose Gil — who’s have a nice spring — had the other Yankees hits.
• Girardi said he though Rafael Soriano threw the ball “alright” and should have pitched a scoreless inning had the Yankees caught that popup. It looked like Francisco Cervelli’s ball, but he seemed to not see it until it was too late.
• Nice work by my friend Jon Paul Morosi who took a look back at the day Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were optioned to Triple-A on the same day. It’s a nice read on the pair of iconic teammates.
• Also, head over to Yankees Fans Unite to read a Q&A with shortstop prospect Cito Culver.
Associated Press photo