Looking ahead to September • 08.26.10
Major league rosters expand in six days. In theory, the Yankees could call-up every player on the 40-man, but that would leave a bunch of guys sitting around with nothing to do. It generally makes more sense to let most of the guys stay sharp in the International League and Eastern League playoffs — Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Trenton are both in line to advance — then make a few more moves when those postseason runs are over.
That’s the way the Yankees have handled it in the past.
In 2007, the Yankees added four players on the 1st and a whopping 10 more later in the month. In 2008, two guys were added on the 1st, and the Yankees gradually added eight more. Last year, six call-ups on the 1st, seven more in the next two and a half weeks.
Considering the number of guys who are fairly close to coming off the disabled list, I’ll be surprised to see more than two or three true minor league call-ups on Wednesday. These are some of the guys to consider, some for an immediate call-up, most for an eventual promotion.
Major league disabled list
Lance Berkman, Alex Rodriguez, Alfredo Aceves, Damaso Marte, Andy Pettitte
Berkman is eligible to come off the DL on August 31st, but it makes more sense to wait a day. Rodriguez shouldn’t be far behind, and Aceves seems healthy enough to pitch as soon as the Yankees believe he’s physically ready to face big league hitters.
Pettitte and Marte will take just a little bit longer. If you’re curious, major leaguers are allowed to rehab during the minor league playoffs. The year Francisco Liriano nearly won the Rookie of the Year award in Minnesota, he came down to pitch three hitless innings the decisive game in the first round of the IL playoffs. I was covering the Phillies Triple-A team at the time. They never had a shot against him.
Chad Moeller, Jesus Montero
It’s standard protocol to add a third catcher on September 1. The Yankees didn’t do it in 2007, but given Jorge Posada’a nagging injuries and Francisco Cervelli’s lagging offense, a third catcher would make sense. Question is, do they go with the veteran Moeller — a guy to catch after Cervelli is lifted for a late-inning pinch hitter — or do they go with the stud prospect Montero.
Two months ago, I would have said Moeller was the obvious choice, but Montero seems to have figured out Triple-A. He’s hitting .361 with nine home runs since the all-star break. I can’t speak to his abilities behind the plate — I’ve only seen him catch in spring training — but the decision might hinge on whether the Yankees trust him back there in a major league game in the middle of a pennant race.
Non-catcher position players
Juan Miranda, Kevin Russo, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson, Chad Huffman, Brandon Laird, Jorge Vazquez
The Yankees have two utility infielders and four legitimate outfielders. They don’t necessarily need one position or another, so additional position players would be all about depth and maybe adding a lefty-or-righty pinch hitter.
Miranda might be able to play an immediate role. On days when Berkman is in the lineup, the Yankees only left-handed pinch hitter is Ramiro Pena. It would be a small role to play, but Miranda doesn’t exactly have a lot to gain from a few more Triple-A at-bats. Curtis could also give them an extra left-handed bat, while adding some outfield depth and a pinch runner. Adding Vazquez or Laird would require a 40-man move, so those don’t seem likely, despite pretty good numbers.
Jonathan Albaladejo, Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi, Romulo Sanchez, Royce Ring
The best bet of this bunch is Albaladejo, who has absolutely earned a call-up. Sanchez doesn’t have the same season numbers, but he’s also been dominant since moving into the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen. Brackman and Noesi are both on the 40-man and both have pitched well, but Brackman is still in Double-A and Noesi was just called up to Triple-A. They might be worth considering after the minor league playoffs, but probably not before.
Jason Hirsh and some younger non-40-man guys — David Phelps especially — have pitched well enough to be in the conversation, but I’m not sure there’s a spot for another long man, especially not with Aceves on his way back and the Yankees already carrying 13 pitchers. The only guy on this list not on the 40-man is Ring, who’s been terrific against left-handers and might make sense if Marte suffers another setback and moves to the 60-day.
Joe Girardi said yesterday that the Yankees have not started talking about who to bring up, so any sort of prediction is wild guesswork.
I’ll say that on September 1, four players will be added: Berkman, Miranda, Albaladejo and a catcher (I’ve gone back and forth in my head a hundred times about which one it will be). Soon after, Rodriguez and Aceves will come off the disabled list, then Marte and Pettitte. After the minor league playoffs, I’ll guess Russo, Curtis and Sanchez get the call.
Based past performance trying to guess September call-ups, I’ve probably guessed too many players for September 1 and not enough by the end of the month.
That’s an Associated Press photo of Miranda at the top. The headshots are Rodriguez, Miranda, Russo and Albaladejo.
Damon returns to face his old teammates • 03.21.10
Johnny Damon is in the Tigers lineup for this afternoon’s game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. He’s playing left field and batting second. Damon didn’t make Detroit’s previous trip to Tampa.
Of course, the weather will have to cooperate for Damon to actually play against his old teammates.
Right now, the tarp is on the field and the forecast says there’s a 60 percent chance of rain at first pitch. There’s an 80 percent chance of rain by 3 p.m.
• Austin Jackson is not in the Tigers lineup, but he is on the travel roster, so we could see him in the later innings. Phil Coke is also scheduled to pitch for Detroit.
• Jason Hirsh and Dustin Moseley have been reassigned to the minor league complex. My guess is that the entire Triple-A rotation is now across the street: Hirsh, Moseley, Zach McAllister, Ivan Nova and Romulo Sanchez.
• Sergio Mitre is tied for fifth in the Grapefruit League in innings pitched (14) ad tied for sixth in strikeouts (also 14). Alfredo Aceves is tied for second in the league with 14.1 innings.
• According to the game notes, Andy Pettitte’s minor league start on Monday will be an intrasquad game: Lower-level minor leaguers vs. upper-level minor leaguers.
• Scheduled to pitch for the Yankees: A.J. Burnett, Mariano Rivera and Phil Hughes.
• Also available to pitch for the Yankees: Zack Segovia, Amaury Sanit and Josh Schmidt (up from the minor league complex).
• Scheduled to play off the bench: C Francisco Cervelli, 1B Juan Miranda, 2B Ramiro Pena, SS Reegie Corona, 3B Brandon Laird, LF Jon Weber, CF Greg Golson, RF David Winfree, DH Austin Romine.
• Cervelli will start the game at DH, then move to catcher.
• Detroit’s scheduled pitchers: RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Joel Zumaya, RHP Jose Valverde, LHP Phil Dumatrait, LHP Phil Coke and RHP Josh Rainwater.
• Detroit’s lineup:
Brandon Inge 3B
Johnny Damon LF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Carlos Guillen DH
Don Kelly CF
Gerald Laird C
Scott Sizemore 2B
Adam Everett SS
RHP Justin Verlander
Thanks to the AP for the picture.
Notes from Saturday • 03.06.10
Francisco Cervelli will be checked out again on Sunday, and he’ll see a neurologist on Monday. Depending on how those two appointments go, Cervelli could be back in the lineup by the middle of next week.
“Maybe Tuesday or Wednesday, but I’m not going to rush it,” Joe Girardi said.
This is Cervelli’s second concussion in the past four months. He also had one in November when he was hit in the head by a bat during winter ball. He was catching and the batter got him on the left side of his head, right where today’s pitch from Zech Zinicola landed.
Here’s Cervelli talking about his noggin.
That’s Jesus Montero in the picture, but Girardi said this afternoon that his No. 3 catcher is Mike Rivera. If this Cervelli situation proves worse than expected, it’s Rivera who would likely open the season on the Yankees bench.
“He has big league experience,” Girardi said. “He knows what the job entails. That’s why we went out and got him.”
Rivera has been in the big leagues each of the past four years, and he was in the big leagues for parts of three seasons before that. He has a higher career batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage than Jose Molina.
Here’s the Girardi audio.
• Jorge Posada on A.J. Burnett’s changeup: “He’s starting it down, that’s the big thing. He’s finishing it well. There was one of them that was up, hit off the end of the bat, but I thought he did a great job.”
• Change of plans for tomorrow’s travel squad. Cervelli (obviously) will not go. Instead, Rivera will go to catch Gaudin and Mitre. Amaury Sanit will also not travel after getting in today’s game.
• Another nice outing from Boone Logan, who pitched two hitless innings and retired three lefties: Lyle Overbay, Jeremy Reed and Travis Snider. After his four-up, four-down debut — also retiring three lefties — he’s making a strong case (but a very early case) for a spot in New York.
• Mark Melancon also looked awfully good again today, so did Jason Hirsh. Both finished off strikeouts with good curveballs. Oh, and don’t sleep on Kevin Russo, who had another hit and made a nice diving play at second.
• Dave Eiland confirmed that Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte and Chan Ho Park will each throw a batting practice session on Monday. They are the only pitchers in camp who have not faced live hitters.
• Andy Pettitte has a two-inning simulated game tomorrow morning and will move forward as if he pitched in a real game. “It will count as his first start,” Eiland said.
• If you missed it in the game post, Nick Johnson took batting practice this morning and felt good after. “I took a few swings in the cage,” he said. “Felt loose.”
• I don’t want to make a big deal of it, but Kei Igawa did pitch well yesterday and this afternoon Girardi said he couldn’t rule out the idea of Igawa creating a place for himself as a left-handed reliever. Just throwing it out there.
Notes from Wednesday • 03.03.10
The wind was a beast this afternoon. It almost blew a ball over Jamie Hoffmann’s head in right, and it nearly blew a ball out of Brett Gardner’s reach in left. Both made pretty good plays to make the catch.
“You can be out there for two hours in BP and you don’t get nearly as much work as that one ball I just got,” Gardner said.
That’s a good thing for the Yankees, who are still trying to sort out their outfield alignment and need to see both Gardner and Curtis Granderson tested in left. Gardner seemed to pass the first test, as did all three of the rotation/long relief candidates who pitched today. Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves combined for six scoreless innings with no walks, a strikeout apiece and only an infield single off Gaudin.
Here’s Joe Girardi, talking about his pitchers, his outfielders and the No. 2 spot in his lineup.
And here’s Granderson talking about his first game in pinstripes and his need to see more left-handed pitchers before making further adjustments.
• Position players who will not be traveling to Clearwater tomorrow: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Marcus Thames, Jon Weber, Francisco Cervelli, P.J. Pilittere and Mike Rivera.
• Unless he has a setback in the next two days, it looks like Joba Chamberlain is good to go on Friday. He threw a bullpen today “If he feels OK on Friday, we’ll pitch him,” Girardi said. Javier Vazquez also threw his scheduled batting practice session today, becoming the last starter to do so.
• George Steinbrenner was here briefly. He was driven through the concourse beneath the stadium, then driven out.
• CC Sabathia is scheduled for 35 pitches or two innings tomorrow.
• Girardi hoped to get Hoffmann and Thames at least one at-bat against the left Paul Maholm, but he left after one inning. “That plan didn’t go quite as we envisioned,” Girardi said.
• Kevin Russo woke up feeling sick this morning. He wasn’t scheduled to play anyway. “You just hope that it doesn’t go all the way around this clubhouse,” Girardi said.
• Jason Hirsh: Two batters faced, two strikeouts.
• After his home run, Ramiro Pena walked into the clubhouse and was greeted by Gardner, who demanded a hug.
• If you can’t tell, that’s former Yankees right-hander Ross Ohlendorf in the picture. He looked good in his one inning. Can’t really say the same for Steven Jackson.
Five questions with Jason Hirsh • 03.02.10
You might see Jason Hirsh pitch in tomorrow’s spring opener. He was once ranked among the top pitching prospects in baseball and had a 2.10 ERA in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League in 2006. He was traded to Colorado that winter, but his big league career was almost immediately knocked off course by a series of injuries. The Yankees acquired him late last year and the 28-year-old had a 1.35 ERA in six starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
How does everything feel compared to how it felt the past two or three years?
Hirsh: I’m healthy and I kind of feel like my old self. When I came over to this organization last year, in July, I started to feel like my old self again. I started pitching like my old self again. This offseason, I did a little bit different training routine. I only took two weeks off of throwing and then I played catch three days a week just to keep on throwing because my arm felt so good at the end of the season, I didn’t want to lose that feeling. Then I did a less traditional workout, more of a functionality workout. We didn’t lift as many heavy weights. We did a lot of body weight stuff, did a month of yoga. Back in California I did long toss, and my arm feels right now better than it’s ever been. Mentally and physically I feel like I’m back to where I should be.
You say back to your old self, what do you do when you’re pitching like your old self?
Hirsh: When I’m healthy, I throw strikes. I eat up innings. I compete. I’m going to go out there and give you my best. When I’m at my best, I’m a sinker-slider kind of guy. Changeup, since I’ve been hurt my changeup has developed quite well, and then when I got traded over here, they wanted me to start throwing my curveball again and that’s starting to come around. Right now I feel like I have three real quality pitches and one that’s borderline, almost right there. I just haven’t been throwing (the curveball) that much. Some days it’s an A+ pitch and some days it’s a D pitch. I’m still trying to get the feel for that.
After your Double-A season and your Triple-A season, you were right there, ready for the big leagues. Then all of the injuries happened. How frustrating was that?
Hirsh: Up until that point, I had never rolled an ankle, broke a bone or had an arm injury my entire life, from childhood right up until then. And I managed to roll an ankle, break a leg and strain my rotator cuff all in a two-year period. It’s just something unusual for me. I don’t know what contributed to it, whether it was bad luck, bad karma, whatever it was. Now that I’m past that, I feel good. I’m taking care of myself, taking the necessary steps to avoid that again.
Did all of the injuries happen in Houston or Colorado?
Hirsh: Colorado. I got traded in the winter of ’06 to the Rockies and in ’07 is when the injuries started piling up. I rolled my ankle in July, and then I missed a month. I made one start in Florida and then my next start was in Colorado against Milwaukee and I broke my leg. Pitched six innings with a broken leg, and then I missed the rest of the year. J.J. Hardy hit a nice little line drive right off his bat and right off my leg.
You came to this organization with bad numbers in Colorado Springs, but pitched well for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. What changed?
Hirsh: (The numbers) were terrible. I think for me, mentally, it was more of a clean slate. The Yankees had no idea who I was or what I did. They had no preconceived notions of anything, and I was the same way with them. It was almost like I get to impress again. At the time that I was traded, I was just starting to feel healthy again. When I got to Scranton, my slider came back around. My changeup was alright. I was able to locate my fastball in and out. Everything just fell into place, and that’s why I didn’t want to take that much time off in the offseason. I didn’t want to stop with that good feeling.
Notes from Day 1 • 02.17.10
There wasn’t much breaking news coming out of Steinbrenner Field this morning. The Yankees pitchers and catchers showed up, then some of them talked, then all of them left. For a first day of spring training, it was pretty much exactly what you would expect.
As for some smaller notes from the day, here’s one that is quite literally smaller.
Who’s in shape and who’s not always seems to be an early spring training question, and the only player I saw who was a noticeably different size was Jonathan Albaladejo, who said he lost 30 pounds this winter. “A lot of running,” he said.
For the first time since he turned pro, Albaladejo did not play winter ball in Puerto Rico. He instead focused on getting into shape. “I definitely feel more fresh,” he said. “My arm feels more life.”
• For now, Phil Hughes is only throwing fastballs and changeups in his bullpen sessions, and he expects to throw one more bullpen before he mixes in curveballs and cutters. He compared the development of his changeup to last year’s development of the cutter. “I’ll concentrate on it all spring,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll get it to a point where it’s a solid pitch for me. It just comes with repetition.”
• Along the left wall, the first group of lockers goes in this order: CC Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain, Javier Vazquez, Chad Gaudin, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. That’s a clearly defined section if I’ve ever seen one.
• One random locker assignment comes on the right side of the back wall: Nick Swisher, Marcus Thames, Randy Winn, Curtis Granderson, Reid Gorecki and Mark Teixeira. Poor Gorecki is going to be surrounded by writers every day without being asked a single question. Unless it’s a question about one of the guys sitting near him.
• Congratulations to Mark Melancon, who got married this winter. Also congratulations to Jason Hirsh, who had hardly said hello before he flipped open his phone to show me a picture of his newborn.
• Speaking of Hirsh, I still consider him one of the sleepers of big league camp, and he came up with a great line to explain his offseason conditioning. “Functional training instead of meathead lifting,” he said. Nice.
• Jorge Posada said he watched that World Series highlight DVD this winter. I’m sure a lot of Yankees watched it, but Posada was the first I’ve heard talking about it. “I watched it and you can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
• I doubt I’ll have any reason to write more than five words about D.J. Mitchell this winter, but I did get to meet him this morning. Really nice guy. He said he found out on Monday that the Yankees made him a late addition to big league camp. He drove from North Carolina to Tampa on Tuesday, and was in camp this morning. He’s a sinker baller who climbed from Low-A to High-A last season. The Yankees haven’t told him where they expect him to open this season.