The Yankees top three pitching prospects survived today’s first wave of cuts, just like they survived this winter’s search for proven big league starters. In a Q&A with Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger, general manager Brian Cashman said he’s confident his young pitching would be enough to trade for a short-term rotation upgrade, but he’s more focused on the long-term impact of keeping his best pitchers in the organization.
“I have enough chips,” Cashman said. “But if people want to demand certain bullets, those certain bullets I’m not going to shoot… There are untouchables here.”
Cashman didn’t name names, but clearly Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman have made strong impressions this spring. Brackman had some control issues today, but he’s clearly opened some eyes. The “Killer Bs” are widely considered the top pitching prospects in a pitching-rich system, and all three were kept in camp through this morning’s round of seven cuts, and the afternoon’s round of three more.
• More good stuff from Carig, who took a look at the remarkably small impact a lineup change is likely to have on the Yankees. The Yankees could make a change this season, but is it worth rocking the boat — and maybe pushing some of the wrong emotional buttons — for what could be such marginal improvement? Maybe, maybe not.
• Ben Shpigel of the Times stayed behind in Tampa yesterday and wrote a nice piece about Derek Jeter’s increasing comfort at the plate. “Early on, he told me, ‘I’ll probably take a lot of pitches during spring training until I get comfortable,’” Kevin Long said. “He’s not taking those pitches anymore.” Jeter swung at the first pitch he saw this afternoon and drove a fly ball to center field for an out.
• Nice stuff from my old friend Donnie Collins about his immediate thoughts after seeing news about the earthquake in Japan. For Donnie and I, who spent a lot of time around Kei Igawa the past few years, it was impossible not to worry about Igawa on what had to be a terrible day for him. It was also great to hear that both Jonathan Albaladejo and Darrell Rasner were safe and largely unaffected.
• Supporting everything we’ve seen and heard in Yankees camp, Buster Olney talked to one evaluator who said Eric Chavez has looked good while “hitting the ball hard” this spring. He really does seem to be an ideal fit on the Yankees bench.
• The Royals put a pitcher on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Robert Fish.
• In former Yankees news: Despite the fact Russell Branyan is making a strong impression in Diamondbacks camp, Juan Miranda remains the favorite to be Arizona’s starting first baseman. With the Padres, Dustin Moseley is keeping himself in the rotation mix and has “all but guaranteed” a spot in the bullpen.
• It’s not a link, but here’s a leftover quote from today that I thought was funny. Russell Martin was asked about calling pitches for Mariano Rivera: “It’s cutter or sinker,” Martin said. “It’s pretty basic. Cutter on one side. If he doesn’t want that, it’s a cutter on the other side. And then it’s a sinker. If he shakes more than twice, I’m putting down the wrong signs.”
• My high school won its first boys basketball state championship this weekend. I saw the team play when I went home for my friend’s wedding a few weeks ago. They went 10 players deep, substituted five at a time, and pressed the entire game until the game was no longer in doubt it was too cruel to keep up that frantic pace. They were fun to watch. Go Bulldogs!
Associated Press photo of Jeter meeting Dave Stevens from Easthaven, Conn., who was born without legs and participates in sports using a wheelchair
We keep hearing — and I keep writing — that this winter’s free agent market offered very little in terms of rotation options. But just how true is that statement?
The Yankees focused on Cliff Lee and hoped that Andy Pettitte would decide to pitch again, and now that Lee is gone and Pettitte is still uncertain, there are few alternatives available. Should the Yankees have been more aggressive early? Have they missed out on legitimate pieces because of their pursuit of Lee?
Using the handy free agent tracker over at MLBTradeRumors — I prefer that one to the MLB.com version — I’ve listed every starting pitcher who has signed this winter. I’d say the idea of a thin market is absolutely accurate. This list offers very few sure things, and although hindsight is never fair, it’s worth looking back to the month and a half before Lee signed — and those frantic days when Lee was making his decision — to try to find missed opportunities. The Dodgers were the most aggressive team in the beginning of the offseason, re-signing Ted Lilly before he hit the open market and locking up two more starters before the end of November.
Off the board quickly
As you might expect, most of the early moves were re-signings.
This period covers the start of spring training through the Winter Meetings.
Dodgers: 1 year, $12 million
Kuroda will be 36 this season and he’s spent his entire three-year career with the Dodgers. He’s been good for them — losing record but a 3.60 ERA and a good strikeout-to-walk ratio — and it’s hard to say whether he would have been willing to leave, especially with the Dodgers making an early push.
Dodgers: 1 year, $5 million (plus vesting option)
In retrospect, this is the kind of durable starting pitcher who might have helped the back of the Yankees rotation. Nothing flashy, but Garland is consistently good for 200 innings (of course, we said the same about Javier Vazquez). His career NL ERA is 3.74. His career AL ERA is 4.47.
Jorge De La Rosa
Rockies: three years, $32 million
The Rockies had a deal to re-sign De La Rosa in place before the first of December. It was the crew at FoxSports that broke the news, and they noted that De La Rosa wanted to stay in Colorado. They also reported: “The Yankees also have checked in, as they do on most prominent free agents, but their priority is Lee.”
Cardinals: two years, $16.5 million (plus mutual option)
The Cardinals traded for Westbrook last season, then they moved quickly to re-sign him this winter. Westbrook is a bit of an injury risk, he came back from Tommy John surgery last season and pitched well, especially after moving to the National League.
Mariners: one year, $1 million
This market has no shortage of Bedard-type starters. He’s made a total of 30 starts in the past three seasons, none of them coming in 2010. The Mariners are still hoping to get something out of him, and they moved quickly to re-sign him to a non-guaranteed deal.
Marlins: one year, $7 million
No chance the Yankees were going to re-sign him. No chance Vazquez was going to try to come back. Best for everyone to move on, and that’s exactly what they did.
Padres: one year, $4 million (plus mutual option)
Harang is from San Diego. In the past three years, pitching in the NL Central, he’s gone 18-38 with a 4.71 ERA and a steadily increasing WHIP. If I’m the Yankees, I’d rather take my chances with Sergio Mitre, but that’s just me.
Within the Cliff Lee window
From the Winter Meetings through Lee’s signing with Philadelphia.
This seems to be when the Lee talks were at their peak.
Pirates: one year, $500,000 with heavy incentives (plus club option)
Olson’s first big league season showed promise, but since then he’s been pretty bad while pitching for the Nationals and Marlins. Now it’s the Pirates who have signed him. From Florida to Washington to Pittsburgh. That says a lot.
Dodgers: 1 year, $2 million
Early in his career, Padilla had some good years with the Phillies, but he’s since become a back-of-the-rotation starter capable of stringing together a few dominant outings. Injuries last season made him even more of a risk than usual, and the Dodgers might use him in the bullpen instead of the rotation.
Padres: one year, $900,000
The Yankees offered Moseley a Major League deal, but he decided to shopping for a better offer and found on in San Diego, where he could land a spot in the Padres rotation. Moseley was a solid spot starter for the Yankees last season.
Pirates: two years, $8 million
News of the agreement broke on December 8. Hard to know what to expect rom Correia. He’s spent all of his career in the NL West, and his ERA has been a roller coaster the past four years, from 3.45 to 6.05 to 3.91 to 5.40.
Astros: one year, $750,000
Last season, the young lefty won one game and had a 6.75 ERA with the Mariners. He was solid the three years before that, but he’s generally been more effective as a reliever than as a starter.
Athletics: one year, $1.5 million (plus incentives)
Harden is coming off another injury plagued season that saw him pitching out of the bullpen in September. He might fall into a bullpen role again this season. When he did pitch last season, he carried a 5.58 ERA in Texas.
After Cliff Lee
Amazing how quiet the market has been since Lee came off the board.
Jeff Francis, Justin Duchscherer, Kevin Millwood and others are still out there.
Nationals: one year, $1 million with heavy incentives
One day after Lee signed with the Phillies, Wang re-signed with the Nationals. You know the Wang story, so I’m not going to rehash it here. There were — and are — several Wang-type starters on the market.
Rangers: one year, $3 million (plus heavy incentives)
Webb has one big league start in the past two seasons. He was once among the best starting pitchers in the game, but reports this fall of a low-80s fastball in instructional league were not encouraging.
Tigers: one year, $3 million
The most recent big league starter to come off the board, Penny is one of those risk-reward starters who have been fairly prevalent in this free agent market. He pitched well but made only nine starts last season.
Other teams are actually doing stuff • 12.13.10
Believe it or not, as we approach the end of Day 4 of the Cliff Lee Watch, other teams are actually making small moves here and there. Don’t they know nothing else is supposed to be happening right now?
• Hideki Matsui is on the verge of a one-year deal with the Athletics. That lineup needs some sort of pop, and Matsui looks like their everyday designated hitter.
• Dustin Moseley has finalized his $900,000 deal with the Padres. Great signing for him, and probably a good one for San Diego. Despite what the linked AP story says, Moseley did not spend, “the previous four seasons in the Los Angeles Angels.” That’s wrong on many levels.
• Apparently my friend Marc Carig didn’t get the memo about Yankees reporters asking nothing but Cliff Lee questions until Lee signs. Marc reports that the Yankees have checked on Jerry Hairston Jr.
• Buried in this story from Ken Rosenthal is a note that the Dodgers might consider Bill Hall for their everyday left field job. I’ve never really bought Hall as a legitimate option for the Yankees, and an everyday opportunity in Los Angeles would make Hall even less likely for the Yankees.
• Baseball America has updated its minor league transactions, including a few familiar names: David Winfree signed with the Diamondbacks, Brian Bruney signed with the White Sox, Omir Santos signed with the Tigers, and Wilkin de la Rosa signed with the Dodgers.
• Speaking of the Bruney signing, who was the winner of last winter’s Bruney trade? I’d say the Dodgers, because they lost Jamie Hoffmann a team that was never going to keep him. The Yankees finished somewhere in the middle, if only because they didn’t have to pay Bruney. Washington lost. Definitely.
Cashman notes from Winter Meetings Day 1 • 12.06.10
When the Yankees beat writers walked into Brian Cashman’s suite early this evening, the Yankees general manager was sitting in a chair in the corner, spinning a football in his hands and occasionally tossing it into the air. He was wearing jeans, flip-flops, a faded Yankees t-shirt and a dark, zip-up hoodie.
Cashman had been meeting with teams and agents all day, and said he never changed out of that outfit. This is going to be a long week in Orlanda, and Cashman plans to be comfortable.
“My whole day has been on a number of different players,” he said. “Some you probably wouldn’t think would be on our radar. We covered a lot of ground today to try to assess expected value and see if it matches up with something we’re trying to do.”
Obviously, Cashman met with Cliff Lee’s representation. “While we’re in the same area, I’m going to try to meet with him as much as I possibly can,” Cashman said.
Cashman wouldn’t go into detail about those Lee conversations — and he wouldn’t say exactly which other teams and agents stopped by his suite today — but it’s clear that Lee is a primary target. When Jayson Werth signed a massive contract yesterday, it might very well have affected Lee’s asking price, but it hasn’t affected the Yankees offer.
“I know what and where we’re willing to go,” Cashman said. “It’s not going to impact us, but it may impact them.”
• The only other free agent camp Cashman acknowledged talking to today was Kerry Wood’s. The Yankees have interest in bringing Wood back for the eighth inning, but Cashman realizes Wood could get a closer opportunity elsewhere. “If he does he won’t pitch here,” Cashman said. “I won’t compete with closer money.”
• Cashman on Jorge Posada: “He’s our DH. That’s what he is, unless he plays himself off of it.”
• With that in mind, Cashman mentioned Francisco Cervelli, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine as internal options at catcher. “I think we have the catching answers from within,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean that you don’t make sure that you explore additional opportunities at the same time.”
• When the Yankees non-tendered Alfredo Aceves, they made sure to let Aceves know that they’d like to have him back on a minor league deal. Cashman called that “less risky” than keeping Aceves on the 40-man.
• Before non-tendering Dustin Moseley, the Yankees offered Moseley a Major League contract that would keep Moseley out of arbitration. “They wanted to pursue something greater,” Cashman said. “I wasn’t going to tender it if I was going to be put in arbitration. I need to control our costs.”
• The three key players who had, or will have, surgery this winter — CC Sabathia, Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner — remain on track for spring training. Mark Teixeira has also progressed to the point he’s back on his normal winter routine.
• Cashman on the Yankees outfield depth: “That’s an area that we could upgrade on. Our backup situations aren’t as strong as our everyday situations.”
• There will probably be more discussion about this in the coming days, but Cashman said he doesn’t believe there are any lingering issues because of the occasionally tense Derek Jeter negotiations.
• Cashman on George Steinbrenner: “He’s a Hall of Famer. They just haven’t made it official yet.”
Associated Press photos of Cashman and Wood
Non-tender deadline looming • 12.02.10
The Yankees have until midnight to decide whether to tender contracts to players under team control for 2011.
With Sergio Mitre re-signed, Dustin Moseley is the most obvious non-tender candidate remaining.
My guess is he’ll be back.
As a general rule, non-tender decisions come down to money and roster space.
Last year, the Yankees non-tendered Chien-Ming Wang. That was clearly a money decision. Wang was heading for arbitration, with no guarantee that he was going to pitch, much less pitch effectively. The Yankees didn’t want to commit to the money, so they couldn’t commit to the player.
In 2008, the Yankees non-tendered Chris Britton and Justin Christian. Both were in line to make the minimum, and Christian definitely had options remaining. Maybe Britton, too. The Yankees 40-man, though, was packed and the team needed to open some space.
There is no roster crunch this year. Even after Rule 5 protection, there are seven open roster spots. That’s enough for Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Cliff Lee, a left-handed reliever and a couple of role players. If the Yankees decided they need another spot, they could easily take a chance on slipping Reegie Corona through waivers.
The only issue is money, and Moseley is in his first year of arbitration eligibility, so he shouldn’t cost much. Given the health problems of Alfredo Aceves, it makes sense to keep Moseley as a low-cost option in spring training. I’d argue that Moseley is just as likely to make next year’s bullpen as Mitre. Clearly the Yankees liked Moseley last winter, and he’s only improved his stock since then.
The Yankees other arbitration-eligible players are Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan. All three are likely to cost significant money, but they’re also expected to play significant roles next season. Hard to imagine any of them being non-tendered.
Associated Press photo
Yankees reportedly re-sign Sergio Mitre • 12.02.10
Roughly 24 hours before the non-tender deadline, the Yankees have re-signed Sergio Mitre to a $900,000 deal according to Jerry Crasnick. He can earn another $200,000 in incentives.
That’s a modest raise over the $850,000 Mitre earned in 2010. There’s no word in Crasnick’s tweet, but my guess is it’s a non-guaranteed deal, kind of like Chad Gaudin’s last winter.
Bringing back Mitre leaves Dustin Moseley as the last non-tender candidate among the Yankees arbitration-eligible players. The Yankees have plenty of space on their roster, and Moseley pitched well enough last season that I expect the Yankees to bring him back. This is Moseley’s first year of arbitration eligibility, so he shouldn’t cost a ton of money, and he would give the Yankees options in spring training.
Tonight was a reminder of everything the Yankees have done, and everything they’re capable of doing again. This stadium was loud, a rowdy Texas crowd celebrating the first ALCS in franchise history. The Rangers were young team that had knocked out CC Sabathia after four innings and had C.J. Wilson dealing against the mighty Yankees. Why shouldn’t this stadium have been rocking?
In all of that bedlam, the visiting dugout was calm. The Yankees knew the situation. They’d been in this hole before, and they knew the way out.
“Coming over here from spring training on and them talking about going to the World Series last year and winning it, one of the things they talked about was just never giving up,” Dustin Moseley said. “Always playing every out, playing the game the right way. We came out and did that today.”
The Yankees reestablished themselves as the team to beat in these playoffs. They did it with Robinson Cano, their MVP candidate, driving in the tying run. They did it with Derek Jeter, their veteran shortstop, putting to bed an early 0-for-3 to double in his last two at-bats. They did it with Marcus Thames, their last man on the roster in spring training, driving in the game winner on a broken-bat single.
And they did it with Moseley, the Triple-A call-up, getting the win on his wife’s birthday.
“I know the attitude in there,” Joe Girardi said. “They stay on each other about grinding out at-bats. That’s what they talk about, and chip away. You know, there’s a talented group in there that plays the game with a lot of passion. So like I said, I’m never really surprised, but I am thrilled sometimes.”
As Thames said, this stadium “got a little quiet” after his go-ahead single. It was the end of seven straight Yankees reaching base, more than had reached base in the first seven innings combined. The game changed and the series changed, but the Yankees never did.
“You don’t concern yourself with one or two at-bats or any given play,” Alex Rodriguez said. “You’re looking for one or two moments to make an impact in the game, and for me, that was bases loaded, no outs. You obviously wanted to keep the line moving. We had three or four good at-bats before me, and we talked about keeping the line moving… They have got to get 27 outs. And until that last out is recorded, we have the utmost belief that we are going to win every game.”
• The play that jump-started that five-run eighth was Brett Gardner’s sprint and dive on an infield single. Gardner’s hand paid the price, and he was OK with it. “I knew when he stepped on my hand that my hand was on the base and his foot got there after the hand,” Gardner said. “So that was a good feeling.”
• Speaking of paying the price, Thames guessed that he broke three bats today, none bigger than the one that cracked on his go-ahead single. “My bat died a hero,” he said. “I’ll take that any day.”
• CC Sabathia was not sharp. He said he felt strong, he just couldn’t throw his fastball where he wanted. “I just had no command,” he said. “You have a game plan that you have a way that you want to attack the team, and you can’t even get to it because you can’t throw the ball over the plate.”
• Ultimately, that play at the plate in the first inning made a huge difference. “When it comes up and he’s got dirt all over, you worry,” Girardi said. “But if there is a collision at home plate, CC is going to win most of them.”
• Sabathia on the Yankees rally: “I think I was more nervous in here watching that eighth inning than anything. The way these guys came back and battled was incredible.”
• Big game from Moseley, who pitched two perfect innings with four strikeouts. “I don’t know the last time I struck out four batters in two innings, if I ever have,” he said. “I had a good fastball working. I had command of all four of my pitches, so it worked well.”
• Of course, the win was kind of the icing on top of the cake for Moseley. “It’s my wife’s birthday today, so what a great gift for her. And I haven’t seen my son in about a month. I got to see him last night, so this has been wonderful.”
• Girardi said pulling Sabathia in the fourth inning was not a decision based on a possible Game 4 start: “Not necessarily, no,” he said. “I think he had 92 or 95 pitches through four. He worked extremely hard, so we thought, I had Joba up (for) if I needed Joba to get him out of the fourth inning, and that’s why I went to Joba in the fifth because he was hot. I wasn’t going to sit him down and not use him. Mo did a good job, Woody did a good job, big pick off move with Kinsler. Our bullpen was great.”
• In 40 previous ALCS matchups, the Game 1 winner has gone on to win the series 24 times. In six of the past 10 ALCS, the losing team in Game 1 has gone on to win the series.
• The Yankees have won 10 straight playoff games against the Rangers, tied for the second longest winning streak of one team against one opponent behind Boston’s streak of 11 straight wins against the Angels, a streak that ended in 2008.
• This was the largest deficit the Yankees had ever overcome in an ALCS game. The last time the Yankees overcame a five-run deficit in the playoffs was Game 1 of the 1997 ALDS against Cleveland.
Associated Press photos. The bottom two are Teixeira and Cano.
The Rays and Rangers are going to play an actual baseball game tonight. Nine innings — more if Brian Cashman gets his way — with real umpires, real game decisions and real consequences.
The Yankees went through a few simulated innings this afternoon, and will do the same tomorrow.
This is the trade off. The Yankees get to rest. They get to lineup their rotation, make sure their regulars are healthy and do nothing but prepare for five days. The Rays and Rangers get to stay sharp. They get to see a few more live pitches, throw a few more live pitches and keep the must-win feeling alive and well.
“It’s a little bit of a concern, but I would rather be able to setup your rotation,” Joe Girardi said.
Dustin Moseley felt like he was throwing at 100 percent effort, “but you’re probably not,” he said. “The lights aren’t on and people aren’t in the stands. I went out there and went after it.”
That’s all the Yankees could do this afternoon. It’s all they can do Wednesday and Thursday. The time off has its good and its bad. There’s no way to change it, and the Yankees certainly wouldn’t trade places. It’s much better to be playing a simulated game today than playing a do-or-die game tonight.
“You get the guys mentally prepared,” Girardi said. “You don’t beat them up in these practices. You go through the situation (as if) you would have a two-game layoff. To me you treat it a little bit the same except you have the simulated games. That’s the biggest thing that we’re doing. Some people would say, do you think all of your hitters should be involved in a simulated game? You’d feel really terrible if you lost one of your starters because he got hit in the hand. That’s what you have to weigh. Our guys have had to deal with this before. They’re experienced. They’ll find ways to deal with it.”
• Dave Eiland said the Yankees have an idea of who will start Game 2 and who will start Game 3, but they’re not ready to announce it officially. The fact the Game 3 starter would also line up for Game 7, he said, does not factor into the decision. “We feel like whoever pitching 2 and whoever pitches 3 can pitch Game 7,” Eiland said. “Our first three guys — CC, Andy and Phil — we would have no problem running any of those three out there in Games 1 through 7, so that does not factor into it.”
• On Francisco Cervelli’s role in the ALCS: “To say a certain guy is going to catch A.J., we can’t say that,” Eiland said. “That decision has not been made yet.”
• It sounds like a three-man rotation was never a serious consideration for the ALCS because it would require too many games started on three-days rest. “Hughesy has never done it,” Girardi said. “Andy is coming off an injury. There’s some concern there. Then if you go Game 7, you’re asking CC to do it twice in one series, and that is a concern for us.”
• Any chance it’s not a four-man rotation? “I don’t see one,” Girardi said. “But I don’t want to lock ourselves into a box. Our preliminary discussions have been a four-man rotation.”
• Any consideration to anyone other than A.J. Burnett as the fourth starter? “I think we all felt that A.J. was the guy for the job,” Girardi said.
• Of all the guys who pitched today, most of the questions — surprise! — centered on Joba Chamberlain, who didn’t pitch at all in the ALDS. “That was the purpose of today to get the guys back out there and sharp,” Girardi said. “Obviously we know that he’s well rested and physically strong. My hope is that by pitching today and facing hitters and using all his pitches that he will be sharp when called upon.”
• As he always does, Ramiro Pena started laughing when I asked him about Kerry Wood breaking his bat during a sim game. “He got me,” Pena said. “He got me with a cutter.”
• Moseley and Cervelli had a fairly intense at-bat in Moseley’s second inning. It ended with a flare to right field. Cervelli claimed it was a hit. Moseley said it was a routine out. “I struck him out the pitch before and they didn’t call it on him,” Moseley said. “I told him I had the boys playing in.”
• A lot of times in spring training, coaches will tell pitchers to imagine certain scenarios (runner at first with one out, runner at third with two outs, etc.) but Moseley said there were no scenarios today. It was all about staying sharp. Just face a hitter, and try to get him out. The hitters were just trying to make good contact and stay sharp. “The competitiveness always comes out,” Moseley said.
• Preference in tonight’s game? “I think they’re pretty similar clubs actually,” Girardi said. “Their starting pitching has been good. Their bullpens have been good. They have speed. They have power. We’ve seen Tampa a lot more than we’ve seen Texas this year. To get to where they are, they’re both very good clubs. Whoever we face it’s going to be a big challenge.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees will begin discussions tonight to determine whether they need to make any roster changes heading into the American League Championship Series. No change is going to be drastic. Alex Rodriguez isn’t going to be bumped from the cleanup spot, and Mariano Rivera isn’t going to be replaced in the ninth inning.
These three minor changes, though, might be worth considering.
With A.J. Burnett back in the rotation, the Yankees will probably have room for only one true long man. Sergio Mitre is good for maybe three innings, but Girardi showed last year that he likes to have a guy stretched out well beyond 50 pitches just in case. Dustin Moseley was basically that guy for the division series, and he did the most during the season to earn the spot.
If the Yankees play Texas, Moseley might be a no-brainer. He has good career numbers against that lineup, and he made that strong spot start in Arlington earlier this season. Against Tampa Bay, though, Moseley hasn’t had quite the same success. It’s not a huge sample size, but the Rays have hit .483/.529/.931 against him as a team. If the Yankees can risk Ivan Nova pitching in relief, he might be a better option. Both of his starts against the Rays went very well for four or five innings before falling apart. As a group, the Rays have hit .231 against him.
If the Yankees weren’t going to carry a second lefty against the left-heavy Twins, why would they carry one against the Rangers or Rays? My guess is that they won’t, but Royce Ring’s numbers are compelling against both teams.
No one on either the Rays or the Rangers has ever gotten a hit off him. Six different Rays are a total of 0-for-5 with a walk and two strikeouts. All of those plate appearances came this year. The two strikeouts were both lefties who have done damage to the Yankees this season: Dan Johnson and Matt Joyce. The Rangers sample size is even larger. Six different Rangers are a combined 0-for-8 with a walk and a strikeout. The walk was to a righty. Josh Hamilton and David Murphy are a combined 0-for-3. Also in Ring’s favor: Neither Chad Gaudin nor Sergio Mitre has particularly good numbers against either team.
There’s been at least one stolen base in each of the first four games of the Rays-Rangers series. Rangers backup catcher Matt Treanor threw out roughly 28 percent of base-runners this season, but every other catcher involved — Bengie Molina, Kelly Shoppach and John Jaso — was at 23 percent or lower. Shoppach threw out 17 percent, which is down near Jorge Posada territory.
As a team, the Twins ranked fourth in the American League at throwing out base runners (more than 31 percent). The Rangers were third from the bottom. The Rays were ninth overall, but would have been much lower if not for Dioner Navarro who didn’t make their first-round playoff roster. Stolen bases could be a real weakness for these teams, but the Yankees left their best pinch-running base-stealer — Eduardo Nunez — off the roster for the division series. Greg Golson and Ramiro Pena can run, but Nunez would be the Yankees best bet if they wanted a new set of legs for Posada or Nick Swisher or Mark Teixeira late in a game.
Curtis Granderson is a career .182 hitter against Francisco Liriano. He’s hit well against nearly every other pitcher on the Twins staff, but Granderson has struggled against tonight’s starter.
Whether to play Granderson, though, was never a debate for Joe Girardi.
“I don’t look at his numbers in the past,” Girardi said. “He’s a different hitter now, we think. You look at what he did the last two months in his at-bats against left-handers. He was a different guy for us. I know there was a lot of talk about him against left-handers in the beginning of the year and coming into the year, (but) his at-bats against left-handers were good.”
Granderson seemed to hit everyone in September. He had nine home runs and 23 RBI. His .278 batting average was the highest for a single month since May, when he had only 15 at-bats because of injury. It had to come as a relief for the Yankees, who traded three players — including a Rookie of the Year candidate — for what they expected to be a long-term solution in center field, not just a platoon player with disappointing numbers.
“We believed he was capable of doing it,” Girardi said. “You look at the past years, he had some OK years against left-handers. Always very good against right-handers. It’s good to see. It’s great to see as a guy matures he continues to get better. He made a minor adjustment that made a big change for him, and that’s always encouraging.”
Girardi said he considered starting Austin Kearns tonight, but the decision was between Kearns and Brett Gardner. Kearns numbers area what they are, and Gardner is a career .333 hitter with a triple and three RBI in nine at-bats against Liriano. Kearns is 2-for-5 with two doubles off Liriano.
“We just thought we’d go with Gardy,” Girardi said. “He played well all year for us. Kearnsy struggled a little bit down the stretch with the injuries.”
Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference. He does two sessions during the postseason, one with the small group of beat writers and one for any reporter who wants to ask a question. This is the bigger session.
• Turns out Mark Teixeira had a shot in his bruised hand. This was around the time he sat out two games in Baltimore. Girardi said he shot came after the Baltimore series when the Yankees got back to New York, but Teixeira never sat out any of those games at Yankee Stadium, and it’s hard to believe — given how cautious Girardi was with injuries in September — that Teixeira would have played immediately after getting a cortisone shot in his hand. Girardi either misremembers when the shot happened, or rolled the dice for a game or two against the Rays.
• Girardi said A.J. Burnett’s only bullpen limitation is that he wouldn’t pitch two days in a row. Girardi would prefer not to ask him to come into a game with runners on base, “but it may come to that,” Girardi said.
• Dustin Moseley would be limited to around 40 pitches tonight.
• Greg Golson seems to be the Yankees top pinch-running option, but Girardi said he would be more likely to use Ramiro Pena if he were pinch running for one of his infielders late in a game. Sounds like Golson would be the guy to run for Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada or Marcus Thames.
• With only one left-handed reliever, Girardi said he’ll use matchups — imagine that! — to decide which of his right-handers would face some of the Twins tough lefties if/when Boone Logan has already been used. “I’m not afraid to use any of those guys against lefties,” he said.
• One more note about only one lefty in the bullpen: Girardi said some of the thinking in not carrying Royce Ring was that, with lefties starting four of five games, he didn’t expect to need a left-handed situational lefty until late in the game, which should make it easier to get through with only Logan.
• Girardi said he would be hesitant but not completely against using Mariano Rivera for more than three outs tonight. Would he be hesitant using him for two full innings? “Right now, maybe,” Girardi said.
• Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on Randy Moss being traded to Minnesota: “I don’t have Moss on my fantasy team, so I wasn’t worried about him. And I couldn’t get Favre, somebody took him before my team drafted, so I don’t really give a flip.”
• Tomorrow, I want Girardi to say he doesn’t give a flip about something.
Associated Press photos of Granderson, and Rodriguez, Jeter and Posada