The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


The Yankees 2014 rookie class11.10.14

Dellin Betances

Tonight the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will announce its choices for Rookie of the Year. We already know one Yankees player is going to finish in the top three — Dellin Betances was announced as a finalist — but this really was a pretty solid year for rookies in pinstripes. Here’s look back at a five-man ballot for an all-Yankees Rookie of the Year.

Betances1. Dellin Betances
By the numbers: 90 IP, 0.78 WHIP, 1.40 ERA, 135 K, 24 BB
What he meant: So good he earned Mariano Rivera comparisons
Coming into spring training, Betances didn’t have a big league job, and he had an extra option that meant the Yankees didn’t have to keep him on the roster. But he pitched well in big league camp, made the most of some early season opportunities, and emerged as one of the very best relief pitchers in baseball. The Yankees waited through a lot of minor league ups and downs, and the patience paid off. Betances looks like a bullpen mainstay, and quite possibly a near-future closer.

Tanaka2. Masahiro Tanaka
By the numbers: 136.1 IP, 1.06 WHIP, 2.77 ERA, 141 K, 21 BB
What he meant: Huge investment paid off in a big way before elbow injury
Angels rookie Matt Shoemaker was announced as a ROY finalists, but compare his numbers to Tanaka’s: Shoemaker had a 1.07 WHIP and 3.04 ERA through 136 innings. He had fewer strikeouts and more walks than Tanaka, but he was healthy in the second half and helped push the Angels to the top of the American League West. Shoemaker won seven of his last eight starts, which might have helped him finish higher in the ROY voting, but in the big picture, Tanaka was just as good if not better.

Greene3. Shane Greene
By the numbers: 78.2 IP, 1.40 WHIP, 3.78 ERA, 81 K, 29 BB
What he meant: Mid-season call-up helped solidify the short-handed rotation
Always kind of an on-the-verge prospect — one who got some attention, but never really emerged as a standout — Greene took a giant step forward last season, and he made he good impression this spring. By the time the Yankees desperately needed rotation help in early July, Greene was the top candidate. And he was terrific. Numbers would have been even better if not for two rough starts in September. In 14 starts, only twice allowed more than four earned runs (allowed three or fewer 11 times).

Murphy (2)4. John Ryan Murphy
By the numbers: 81 AB, .284/.318/.370
What he meant: Productive backup catcher while Francisco Cervelli was hurt
Fewer at-bats, but Murphy finished with a slash line pretty similar to that of Yangervis Solarte, who was one of the biggest surprises of the year before his mid-season trade. Murphy’s production was a bit inconsistent, but that might be a product of inconsistent playing time. For the most part, he looked like a productive young catcher who could fully replace Cervelli next season. Still determining whether Murphy is a long-term backup or a future starter. He was good in a limited role.

Whitley5. Chase Whitley
By the numbers: 75.2 IP, 1.48 WHIP, 5.23 ERA, 60 K, 18 BB
What he meant: Provided a temporary and unexpected boost for the rotation
After years of productive but not-quite-overwhelming relief work in Triple-A, Whitley went unselected in the Rule 5 draft. Then he broke camp as a full-time starter and saw his stock rise in a big way. Called up for a spot start in mid-May, Whitley’s first seven starts were terrific, then he stumbled, made one more really good start and moved into the bullpen where he was pretty good again late in the year. A year ago he was passed over in the Rule 5. Now he looks like a pretty good long-man, spot-start candidate.

SolarteHonorable mention: Yangervis Solarte
By the numbers: 252 AB, .254/.337/.381
What he meant: Surprise regular third baseman became key trade chip
The real point of looking back at the Yankees top rookies is to think about what these guys might do in the future. In that way, Solarte doesn’t exactly fit because he’s now in San Diego. But his rookie year was a pretty good one, and if this were a normal ROY ballot, he’d probably rank fourth ahead of Murphy and behind Greene (maybe even third ahead of Greene). His first two months were incredible. From June 10 through the trade, though, he hit just .078 without an extra-base hit.

Associated Press photo

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Three things we’re waiting for today11.10.14

David Robertson

The offseason is still too young to expect a ton of player movement this week, but things might start to heat up a little bit with at least a few notable events. We’ll get things started with three things happening today:

1. GM Meetings begin in Phoenix
Not nearly as exciting as next month’s Winter Meetings, the GM Meetings are more about behind the scenes decisions and not so much about wheeling and dealing. That said, the groundwork for trades and signings can begin to take shape at the GM Meetings. All of the game’s general managers and quite a few player agents will be in one place, so there’s always the potential for news.

2. Rookie of the Year announcement
We already know that Dellin Betances is one of three finalists, and we logically know that he’s not going to finish any higher than second. The American League ROY is almost certainly going to White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu. The Rookie of the Year announcement kicks off the BBWAA awards week. Tomorrow is Manager of the Year — that was my vote this year — followed by Cy Young on Wednesday and MVP on Thursday. No Yankees are going to win any of these awards, but they’re still pretty interesting.

3. Deadline to accept or decline qualifying offers
Probably the most significant event of the day. Players who were given qualifying offers have until 5 p.m. to decide whether to accept or reject. For the Yankees, that means a decision from closer Dave Robertson. A one-year, $15.3-million qualifying offer would give Robertson the largest single-season salary ever for a relief pitcher, but it still seems likely he’ll decline in an effort to land a multi-year deal. No one has ever accept a qualifying offer, though that could change this season. Michael Cuddyer, in particular, seems like a strong candidate to accept.

Associated Press photo

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Election day in the Yankees clubhouse11.04.14

Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ichiro Suzuki,

It’s election day, so let’s have some fun with that!

I’m not going to say that I hope you all voted today. I’ll say instead that I hope you got yourself educated on the issues, really looked into the candidates and the possibilities, and then voted. That’s the way to take the responsibility seriously.

This blog post is one way to not take it seriously.

Remember being a senior in high school and voting on class personalities? If not, I’m sure you at least understand the reference. It’s not like voting for a senator or voting for an amendment. It’s done with a sense of having a good time, and that’s what this blog post is about. Here are a few suggestions for the leading candidates for various class superlatives on the current Yankees roster.

Yankees Blue Jays BaseballMost Likely to Succeed – Jacoby Ellsbury
With good reason, we focus a lot on the uncertainty of the Yankees current roster (and we’re going to focus on it again in a few sentences), but it’s interesting to do the opposite. What’s the most reliable piece heading into next season? I’d argue it’s Ellsbury, who more or less lived up to expectation in his first season with the Yankees. Factoring in track record, injury concerns, age, and everything else, I’d say Ellsbury is as reliable as it gets for next season.

Least Certain to Succeed – Masahiro Tanaka
Not least likely to succeed, just least certain. There can be no doubt about Tanaka’s talent – the first half of his rookie year proved his stuff can be plenty effective against major league hitters – but we also know that his elbow ligament was slightly torn last season. We know he can succeed, just can’t be certain he’ll have a successful 2015.

Class President – CC Sabathia
It will probably be several years before we see another Yankees captain, and the current roster really has no one quite like Derek Jeter in terms of clear clubhouse leadership. Recognizing that reality — acknowledging there’s no natural fit for team captain — who carries all those qualities you think of in a Class President? I think Sabathia fits best. He’s most certainly respected, he’s incredibly well liked, and he’s been around almost as long as anyone in the room.

Brendan RyanClass Clown – Brendan Ryan
This is not intended as a joke about Ryan’s talent or impact. This is intended literally to point out that he’s a bit of a goofball. In a clubhouse full of veterans, where the word stoic is far more applicable than silly, Ryan is a breath of fresh air. He was in good spirits despite rarely playing last season, and there were days he literally went bounding through the locker room laughing like a little kid. As long as it doesn’t cross the line from amusing to annoying, I tend to think a clubhouse needs a guy like that.

Teacher’s Pet – Martin Prado
Honestly, I’m kind of guessing here, but doesn’t Prado seem like exactly the kind of guy a manager could fall in love with? Willing and able to play anywhere in the field. Willing and able to hit basically anywhere in the lineup. Willing (and sometimes able) to play hurt. Does all of that with a real sense of professionalism. With good reason, I could see Prado becoming a Joe Girardi favorite.

Greatest Overachiever – Brett Gardner
Walk-on in college. Labeled a fourth outfielder throughout the minor leagues. Relegated to platoon playing time when he got to the big leagues. Even Gardner’s believers seemed to always acknowledge that he might not actually become an everyday guy, yet this season he landed a multi-year deal and led the Yankees in WAR (according to Baseball Reference; FanGraphs had him second). That’s defying expectation in a big way.

Greatest Underachiever – Brian McCann
At this point, I’m just piling on against a player who I still believe could be a really nice hitter next season (he was awfully good in September). But, the thing with McCann’s disappointing season is that it can’t be blamed on injury or age. Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano had some excuses in place. McCann never really had one — and to his credit, he never made one — for his disappointing year.

Michael PinedaMost Anticipated – Michael Pineda
If we’re looking ahead to next year, then Rob Refsnyder might fit in this spot. If we’re looking beyond next year, then maybe Luis Severino or Aaron Judge. If we’re looking back to last year, then it’s surely Tanaka. But as a combination — last season, next season, and beyond — the anticipation of Pineda is difficult to overlook. The Yankees waited years to finally get him on the field, and they still haven’t seen what he can do in a full season.  

Mr. Nice Guy – Adam Warren
Here’s the thing: If Adam reads this and sees a “Mr. Nice Guy” category, he’ll know that he’s going to win it. So will every one of his teammates. It’s not that there are a bunch of jerks in that room — Francisco Cervelli? Incredibly nice guy. Zelous Wheeler? Impossible to dislike. CC Sabathia? Ivan Nova? Brett Gardner? All invited to any dinner I’m attending. — but Warren’s a really, genuinely, nice guy. I don’t know how else to describe him. By the way, Chase Whitley might have been the choice here, but he’s made fun of Missouri football too many times. Total jerk, that guy.

Least Popular – Alex Rodriguez
I know, I know, this one is too easy. But who else fits this description, and what other distinction best fits this player? Rodriguez has gone beyond a lightning rod. At this point, he’s simply a cautionary tale about bad contracts, and performance enhancing drugs, and poor public relations decisions. Rodriguez will probably be booed a lot next year, but if he hits, I bet he’ll be cheered again.

Life of the Party – Dellin Betances
Not in the usual sense. Betances isn’t the life of the party because he’s an over-the-top personality (he’s actually pretty subdued for the most part). He’s the life of the party because he was surely the best thing about last season, and he’s one of the absolute bright spots heading into next season. If you want to look at the roster and find an undeniably good thing, a young success story like Betances — who’s not tied to a bad contract, who’s still in his 20s, who came up through the minor league system, who still has an exciting future — is about as good as it gets for the Yankees right now. The life of the party brings excitement when things get dull, and that’s certainly what Betances is doing.

Associated Press photos

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Betances named finalist for Rookie of the Year11.04.14

Dellin Betances

He probably won’t win it, but Yankees reliever Dellin Betances has been named one of three finalists for American League Rookie of the Year. Here are all of the major BBWAA award finalists as announced today by Major League Baseball.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
American League: Jose Abreu, Dellin Betances, Matt Shoemaker
National League: Jacob DeGrom, Billy Hamilton, Kolten Wong

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
American League: Mike Scioscia, Buck Showalter, Ned Yost
National League: Clint Hurdle, Bruce Bochy, Matt Williams

CY YOUNG
American League: Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber, Chris Sale
National League: Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
American League: Michael Brantley, Victor Martinez, Mike Trout
National League: Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton

Associated Press photo

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Notes and links: Hinske reportedly not interested in Yanks job10.24.14

Just a few notes and links on another quiet day for the Yankees. The World Series gets started again tonight.

Dellin Betances• George King reports that the Yankees reached out to Eric Hinske — the former big leaguer and current assistant hitting coach for the Cubs — to “gauge his interest” in replacing Kevin Long, but Hinske elected to stay with the Cubs.

• Earlier this week, Royals closer Greg Holland was announced as the winner of the Mariano Rivera Award, named after the great Yankees closer and given to the top relief pitcher in the American League. Holland has become a real beast, and he had the second-most saves in the A.L. along with a 0.91 WHIP and 13 strikeouts per nine innings. Jon Heyman reports that Yankees rookie setup man Dellin Betances finished second in voting for the award. Betances had a lower WHIP and a higher strikeout rate than Holland, but obviously Betances did it without pitching the ninth inning.

Pretty good quote from Holland about winning the Mariano Rivera Award (Braves closer Craig Kimbrel won the Trevor Hoffman Award in the National League): “This is a very humbling experience,” Holland said. “You kinda get iffy any time your name is put on a plaque with these two guys (Rivera and Hoffman).”

• Also from Heyman, the Blue Jays have reportedly opened negotiations with former Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera. Heyman reports that Toronto is willing to offer at least a three-year deal to bring him back. Cabrera would be one of the better hitters on the market this season, but despite the Yankees need for offense — and the obvious value of having someone other than Carlos Beltran penciled into right field — there’s a solid chance that Cabrera would never be on the Yankees radar regardless of a deal with Toronto. If the Yankees feel they have to save the designated hitter spot for Alex Rodriguez, then they have to leave right field available for Beltran.

• MLB Trade Rumors is predicting a two-year, $12-million deal for former Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano. That’s a lot less than the four-year, $52-million prediction for Dave Robertson. Three years ago, Robertson played setup man for Soriano, but age and production have clearly left Robertson as the more desirable of the two this offseason.

• I just thought this was cool: ESPN Stats and Info posted a graphic showing the defensive range of the Royals three late-inning outfielders. Alex Gordon, Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain basically cover a ton of ground, and now there’s a fancy graphic to prove it. Wonder what the Yankees graphic looked like with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and an aging Ichiro Suzuki this season. Have to think those three were well beyond the league average as well, right?

• Seems inevitable that Joe Maddon will get a new managerial job, the only question is when and where. Joel Sherman reports that the Mets and Dodgers seem committed to their current managers, but the Cubs seem to be the industry favorite to make a change and hire Maddon.

• Has nothing to do with the Yankees, but interesting for baseball in general that John Hart has agreed to run baseball operations for the Atlanta Braves. Apparently the team won’t have a typical general manager, but will have Hart and assistant John Coppolella basically calling the shots.

Associated Press photo

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Betances a reminder that prospect rankings aren’t perfect10.16.14

Dellin Betances

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

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Robertson and the immediate future of the Yankees bullpen10.08.14

David Robertson

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:

Dellin BetancesProven 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.

Left-handed specialist
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.

David RobertsonWithout 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

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Postgame notes: “Just to be around the same breath as him”09.18.14

Dellin Betances

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.”

Derek Jeter, Brendan Ryan• 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.”

Brandon McCarthy• 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)

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Postgame notes: “Playing well isn’t good enough”09.15.14

David Robertson

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.

Martin Prado• 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• The game-winning hit came from Kelly Johnson, who was the Yankees Opening Day third baseman before being traded twice in the past month and a half.

• 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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Postgame notes: “So consistent day in and day out, pitch after pitch”09.04.14

Hiroki Kuroda

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.”

PradoStanding 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.”

Allen Craig• 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.

David Robertson• 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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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