The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Janssen lands in Washington: Should Yankees add another reliever?01.28.15

Rafael Soriano

This morning, Jeff wrote about the importance of the final out. It was pretty good timing considering just a couple of hours after his post went live, a former closer came off the market.

JanssenAccording to Ken Rosenthal, former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen has signed a one-year, $5-million deal with the Nationals. The contract comes with a mutual option with a buyout if the option isn’t picked up. Janssen handled the ninth inning for most of the past three years in Toronto, but his numbers fell sharply in the second half of last season, perhaps because of food poisoning at the All-Star break.

Before the second half of last year, Janssen had been very, very good for three straight seasons, and he’d been pretty good the year before that, so there’s a pretty good track record in place.

For the Yankees, Janssen seemed to represent an opportunity to add a proven closer to an already deep bullpen. One thing the Yankees lack is experience in the ninth inning, and Janssen has that (along with a familiarity with the American League East). The Yankees don’t necessarily need a guy like that — chances are, Andrew Miller or Dellin Betances or even one of the smaller-name relievers can handle the ninth — but late-inning experience is one thing the free agent market can still provide.

Longtime closers Rafael Soriano and Francisco Rodriguez are still out there, as are one-time closers John Axford, Chris Perez, Jose Veras, Kevin Gregg and Brian Wilson. Solid middle reliever Burke Badenhop is still out there (so is Joba Chamberlain if the Yankees wanted to try that again), and there are a few lefties — Phil Coke, Joe Thatcher, Franklin Morales, Joe Beimel, Neal Cotts — if the Yankees wanted to add a more typical left-on-left specialist, leaving Justin Wilson to pitch more like a middle reliever and leaving Chasen Shreve to serve as depth in Triple-A.

The Yankees really don’t seem to need additional bullpen help, but there are a lot of options out there, and there’s one relief job wide open. At the right price for the right piece, another reliever might make sense.

Associated Press photo

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Joba rules for the Tigers08.05.14

Joba Chamberlain

Joba Chamberlain had to go the clean-shaven route in seven years with the Yankees. But he’s a Tiger now and he has let his face go furry. Very furry. Like what a big beard.

“I guess when you’re just told to shave every day for so long, you just say ‘forget it’ after a while,” Chamberlain said.

His new look and his act has gone over well with his new team. Chamberlain has been an effective eighth-inning setup man for Detroit. The 28-year-old righty arrived at Yankee Stadium Monday for his first game back as the owner of an AL-high 22 holds. The Tigers, who signed him on a one-year deal, didn’t use him in the 2-1 loss. So his ERA sits at 3.02, and he has a 1-4 record and two saves in 49 appearances.

“It’s played itself out pretty well,” Chamberlain said of his bridge-to-the-ninth-inning work.

Chamberlain said he didn’t know where the visiting clubhouse was here.

“It’s definitely weird being on the other side,” he said.

Before the game, he came over behind the batting cage to say hi to some of those on the other side, including Derek Jeter, a player he loved being around and respected so much.

“It’s no disrespect to anybody on my own team,” Chamberlain said, “but no one ever beats Derek Jeter.”

There were those initial phenom days of 2007 and a lot of down days and injury-plagued days here as well. There were those famous Joba Rules. But Chamberlain doesn’t seem to have any regrets.

“New York will always be special in my heart,” he said. “… They gave me an opportunity to play this game. They’ve seen me grow up and they’ve seen my son grow up.”

Here’s my story on the latest Yankees happenings with Masahiro Tanaka and David Phelps and on the series-opening victory.

Photo by The Associated Press.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off on Joba rules for the Tigers

Yankees pregame: Phelps feeling better; Hughes/Joba on the trade block?07.10.13

David PhelpsDavid Phelps was a little concerned heading into his MRI. After winning his last start in Minnesota July 4, he went up to trainer Steve Donohue to ask for anti-inflammatory medication because he had been feeling a little stiffness in his right forearm near the elbow. Donohue told him a doctor visit was in order.

“There’s a lot less concern now after the MRI than there was,” Phelps said about the diagnosis of a slight straight. “Any time it’s your arm, there’s some concern. When (the doctor) came and said the ligament looked great, that was obviously reassuring. It’s just something minor. We can take care of that and go from there.”

The arm had been bothering him for a few days, but he said he didn’t feel it throwing.

“It was like weird times, like if I was laying in bed and I’d roll over,” Phelps said. “It would feel stiff.”

After ice and rest, he feels good to go again.

“My arm feels great now,” Phelps said. “It’s back to the way it felt before. I don’t expect it to bother me at all.”

Phelps spent some time with his family the last few days. He won’t be off during the All-Star break. He said he’s probably going to go to Tampa. He plans to throw on Monday. So barring any setbacks, he should be ready when he’s eligible to return from the DL next Saturday.

Alex Rodriguez had a single and an RBI in three at-bats today as a DH in Tampa’s 5-2 loss to Dunedin. So he’s 2 for 15 after six rehab games. There has been no lobbying campaign for a quick return like Derek Jeter has staged.

“I think Alex feels that he’s not to that level, that he’s not ready to go,” Joe Girardi said.

Jeter is scheduled to play tonight in Moosic for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Rochester. The Yankees have left open the possibility he will return for the weekend series here against the Twins. Girardi said he didn’t think it wasn’t an issue to bring back Jeter for that series if he’s ready even though there would be four off days afterward with the All-Star break.

Girardi also said he’d like to see Jeter go seven or eight innings at short in the minors first.

“We have to make sure he’s ready,” Girardi said.

The Yankees scored one run Tuesday night for the third straight game, but the lineup is the same. Any thought to doing some juggling?

“What would you suggest?” Girardi asked.

I’d suggest a trade for more help beyond just Jeter. Actually, there are reports circulating today that the Yankees are shopping free agents-to-be Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in their search for hitting help.  Anyone in favor?

Photo by The Associated Press.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 653 Comments →

Yankees pregame: A-Rod soap opera continues; big start for Hughes; much more06.27.13

Phil HughesAlex Rodriguez, according to the New York Post, told the Yankees yesterday his hip isn’t ready for rehab games. The Daily News had him allegedly planning to start playing rehab games, then claim he physically can’t play and retire before a possible 100-game MLB suspension comes, so he could get his full 4 1/2 seasons of money owed to him.

“A couple of conflicting reports from sources,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s why I always say for me, when a player gets here, he gets here. When he’s ready, he’s ready. But everything that I understand, he’s been making progress and moved better day after day. So it sounds like things are pretty good.”

The erratic Phil Hughes gets the start today in the series finale against the Rangers.

“I’m not saying he’s pitching for a spot,” Girardi said.

But Hughes hasn’t pitched well in three of his last four starts and has gone 1-4 with a 5.86 ERA over his last seven starts. He’s 3-6 with a 5.09 ERA in 14 starts overall.

Girardi did say this start is “important. This is a guy who we need to be consistent for us and get on a roll like he’s capable of doing. It starts with his fastball command and using his other pitches.”

Ivan Nova pitched pretty well in his spot start Sunday and Michael Pineda has been pitching very well in his rehab starts, albeit against Single-A and Double-A hitters. Could that be in the back of Hughes’ mind? Could he be feeling any extra pressure for this start?

“I’m not sure,” Girardi said. “I think guys are aware of what’s going on around them. I’m not so sure when you get out on the mound, you start thinking about that. I think you think about making your pitches. Usually when you get on the field, you’re able to block everything out. It could be in someone’s thought process off the field.”

There’s no plan yet on what to do with Nova, according to Girardi. But by keeping him around, the Yankees are going with a shorter bench for the time being.

“It’s something that we’re going to have to look at and see if there’s someone who we think can help us that we can add,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. Is there someone who we think can help? We had Thomas Neal here. The minimum a guy has to be down is 10 days, and I’m not saying he’d be the guy that we would call up. Right now, a lot of players are on the DL and we’ll just have to see.”

Joba Chamberlain has given up at least one run in five of his last seven outings,, including two in two-thirds of an inning last night.

“I thought he threw pretty well before he got hurt,” Girardi said. “He just really hasn’t gotten on track for us. We’ve got to find a way to do it. Whatever it takes, we’ll try to do it.”

Brett Gardner isn’t starting today. He has a cold.

“But it’s more I’m just giving him a day because he’s played every day,” Girardi said.

So Vernon Wells is in the lineup, but he’s in right. Ichiro Suzuki is in center. Wells appears to have lost the regular left-field job after that 9-for-90 slump. Zoilo Almonte is starting in left for the sixth straight game. The rookie is 7 for 19 with three walks, two doubles, a homer and four RBI in seven games on the homestand.

“We’re running ‘Z’ out there,” Girardi said. “We’ll continue to do that, continue to watch how he’s doing. But he’s done pretty well.

“(Wells) has been ready to play every day. He’s ready to pinch hit. He’s worked very hard. I think he’s dealt with it very professionally.”

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 151 Comments →

Video: Chamberlain throws batting practice to Jeter02.20.13

For the first time this spring, the Yankees big league hitters faced live pitching. The first pitcher on the main field was Joba Chamberlain, throwing to a group of Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner and Eduardo Nunez.

“(Chamberlain) looks like he has the strength,” Joe Girardi said. “I’m not going to get too caught up if the first half of March, even in the third week of March, he’s still throwing 92, 93. As we get closer to the end, I expect to see the power that he has. I think you’ll see it from him, but sometimes arm strength takes some time to develop in spring training for these power guys.”

I didn’t film video of Nunez’s turn, which turned out to be a mistake. The second pitch to Nunez went behind his head and sent Nunez crashing to the dirt.

“I was so scared, I don’t want to hit any more,” Nunez said.

Hitters always say that, during these first BP sessions, fastballs seem impossibly fast. A lot of guys choose not to swing, preferring to simply track pitches this early in spring training. Here’s video of Chamberlain pitching to Jeter, who took exactly that tracking approach.

Taboola Article Player


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Future uncertain for Hughes and Chamberlain02.15.13

As always, good stuff in today’s Times from our friend Tyler Kepner. He took a look at two of the very few Yankees first-round draft picks who have made an impact at the big league level in the past decade and a half. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that they got to the big leagues, but their future in pinstripes is uncertain at best.

(Phil) Hughes and a 2006 first-rounder, Joba Chamberlain, are both eligible for free agency after the season.If the Yankees re-sign (Robinson) Cano, who is represented by Scott Boras, his new salary will take a huge chunk from their payroll. How much would be left for Hughes and Chamberlain?

To use Kepner’s term, the Yankees have generally gone “boom-or-bust” in the first round, and they’ve busted quite a few times. In the six years since taking Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy in 2006, the Yankees first-rounders have been Andrew Brackman (derailed by injuries and lack of command), Gerrit Cole (who refused to sign and is now an elite prospect with the Pirates), Slade Heathcott (compensation for Cole, now one of the top prospects in the system), Cito Culver (shortstop who’s shown no bat in the low minors), Dante Bichette Jr. (supplemental rounder coming off a massively disappointing season), and Ty Hensley (talented high school pitcher a long, long way from the big leagues).

Hughes and Chamberlain come with mixed reviews, largely because of massive expectations that one or both would develop into an ace. Both have had injury problems, Chamberlain’s back-and-forth career is well documented, and Hughes has been an all-star but has also lacked consistency. Still in their 20s, both are young enough to play for another decade, but their futures are unclear.

What’s certain is that, for at least one more year, the Yankees need them.

Joe Girardi on Hughes: “I think it’s just to build off what he did. More consistency. Deeper into games. Can you log a few more innings for your club? Have the changeup continue to develop. At times it was really good last year, but try to get it to where it’s really good every day. Sometimes you’re not going to have your second pitch, and you’d like to have your third pitch when you don’t. But that’s the natural progression.”

Joe Girardi on Chamberlain: “You want depth in your bullpen, and I think it’s important. In what I saw last year, that it seemed that each week that went by, it seemed he got more consistent in his stuff. We’re going to need that. A lot of times, we’ve had three guys who can kinda knock down the seventh, eighth, and ninth. And he’s important. He’s an important role for us. Anytime a guy can knock down a whole inning, it gives you more opportunities to set up earlier in the game if you need it.”

Associated Press photos

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Week in review: Jeter’s ankle, Robertson’s contract, Pettitte’s decision01.27.13

I feel like I’ve written this before, and it remains perfectly true: I rarely notice uniform numbers. I know that Jeter is No. 2, and Mariano is No. 42, but if you go too far beyond the obvious name-number combinations, I really have to think about it to put the two together.

Further proof that there are endless ways to enjoy this game.

This morning, Vincent wrote all about numbers. Not sabermetrics, but the numbers on the players’ backs, including Shelley Duncan wearing No. 17 when he made his big league debut in 2007. I covered Shelley in the minors that season, and I was paying quite a bit of attention when he got to the big leagues, but there’s no chance I could have told you what number he was wearing. None.

Some baseball fans want to see superstars, and some prefer on-the-rise prospects. Some have legitimate opinions on Class-A utility infielders, and some had never heard of Melky Mesa until he failed to step on third base last season. Some watch games on TV, some listen on radio, and some follow along online while they engage in conversations on forums and blogs (we like those folks!). Some study the game’s history, some worry about the future, and some just like the hats.

Baseball makes room for all types of fans. It’s one of the great things about the game.  

Another great thing about the game, at least in my position: Media guides. Thanks to my latest copy, here are some other obscure recent names who wore the numbers Vincent mentioned.

11 — Chris Widger, Morgan Ensberg
17 — Justin Christian, Kevin Cash, Chad Moeller
19 — Chris Basak, Kevin Thompson, Tyler Clippard
22 — Colin Curtis, Chad Huffman, Brian Gordon, Greg Golson
33 — Kelly Stinnett, Brian Bruney

• In an interview with MLB Network, Derek Jeter said he doesn’t expect to start running until spring training, but he still fully expects to be ready for Opening Day. “(The ankle) feels good now,” Jeter said. “Right where I feel it should be.”

• Brian Cashman creating a minor stir when he acknowledged on radio that Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire season if his recovery from hip surgery doesn’t go as expected. Also, the Daily News reported that a Rodriguez associate is being investigated in connection to performance enhancing drugs.

• The Yankees avoided arbitration with Dave Robertson, signing him to a one-year, $3.1-million deal. He was their last arbitration-eligible player without a contract.

• Joe Torre told reporters that there’s still a chance Andy Pettitte will pitch in the World Baseball Classic. According to Torre, Team USA wants Pettitte but the Yankees have expressed some discomfort in letting him play.

• The Yankees agreed to a minor league deal with left-handed first baseman Dan Johnson. He could have a chance to win regular at-bats as a designated hitter. The Yankees also signed right-handed outfielder Thomas Neal to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp.

• Speaking of minor leaguers coming to big league camp, Tyler Austin announced in an interview that he’s been invited to big league camp. The Yankees have yet to announce a full list of non-roster invitees.

• Yogi Berra and Joba Chamberlain were each honored at the annual B.A.T. dinner in New York.

• Several potential fits came off the board: Outfielder Justin Upton was traded to the Braves, catcher George Kottaras was claimed by the Royals, outfielder Jeff Baker signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, catcher Yorvit Torrealba signed a minor league deal with the Rockies, outfielder Scott Hairston signed a two-year deal with the Cubs and outfielder Delmon Young signed a one-year deal with the Phillies. Mark DeRosa, Ryan Raburn and Ben Francisco also signed last week.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 582 Comments →

The good, the bad and the mixed reviews01.21.13

When I choose Pinch Hitter posts, I try to find both sides of an argument. I look for some guest posters with a pessimistic view, and I look for some who are firm optimists. When Daniel first emailed me to suggest today’s pinch hitter topic, his proposal was built around these two sentences:

I truly believe the only way the Yankees will compete this season and next with this austerity budget looming will be via trades for young impact players like Justin Upton. I have not seen Brian Cashman, in my opinion, make a feasible trade since 2008 and the Nick Swisher trade so my confidence is at an all time low.

I was expecting an indictment of Cashman’s trade history, not a conclusion of full confidence, and my guess is that Daniel wasn’t expecting that conclusion either.

It’s tricky business trying to make an absolute, black-and-white evaluation of any team’s trade, draft and free agent history. There are going to be highs and lows, and even those highs and lows — with a few exceptions — are going to come with mixed reviews. The Nick Swisher deal was an absolute win for the Yankees. The Pedro Feliciano signing was a clear loss. But those are in the minority.

The A.J. Burnett signing depends on how much weight you put into his 2009 World Series performance.

The Jesus Montero trade depends on how well Michael Pineda comes back from shoulder surgery.

The Javier Vazquez trade depends on the development of Dante Bichette Jr., and whether you believe the Yankees would have kept Melky Cabrera long enough to see him emerge (and whether you believe his emergence would have stained the clubhouse).

The Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy draft depends on how you feel about the Joba Rules and the Curtis Granderson trade, and the Curtis Granderson trade depends on how you feel about Granderson’s soon-to-be four years with the Yankees and whether the Yankees need a younger center fielder, and whether the Yankees need a younger center fielder might depend on the development of Slade Heathcott, who was only drafted as compensation because the Yankees were unable to sign Gerrit Cole in 2008, which was the same draft that yielded David Phelps, who might not have gotten a big league chance last season had Pineda not been injured and Burnett not been traded.

Point is, it’s hard to put any of this in a vacuum and make a definitive statement. On a case-by-case basis, we can argue and deliberate and form opinions, but the collective moves of a front office rarely fit under a universal heading. There are positives and negatives, fodder for the pessimists and the optimists alike, and that’s why we can spend an entire winter — each and every winter — having the same basic debate over and over again.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 108 Comments →

Yankees pregame: Waiting on Tex and a lineup08.03.12

Brian Heyman here for Chad today. No Yankees lineup yet. Joe Girardi was waiting for an update on the state of Mark Teixeira’s left wrist from a doctor and whether he could take batting practice. And Teixeira is indeed giving batting practice a try right now at a little before 5.

Tonight’s starter is CC Sabathia, and he has owned the Mariners, winning seven straight starts with a 0.88 ERA dating to 2009. But Sabathia wasn’t so great his last time out, allowing six runs and eight hits in six innings against the Red Sox. His weight gain was something that came up after he was allowing a lot of hits the final two months of last season and had a 6.23 ERA vs. Detroit in the ALDS. But his fitness is a non-factor right now, according to Girardi.

“His conditioning is great,” Girardi said. “I’m very pleased with where he’s at there. And I’ve never seen it as a huge issue for me. This is a guy who’s won 60 games in three years. It’s pretty hard to complain. But obviously you worry about long-term health and long-term health of a pitcher’s body. But that has not been an issue.

“This guy works hard. He’s a true professional. He’s prepared every time he goes out there. For me, it’s just like any other pitcher you have. If he locates, he’s going to pitch well.”

Joba Chamberlain struggled in his first Yankees outing of the season, allowing two runs and four hits in 1 2/3 innings Wednesday against the Orioles. He had been away from major-league mounds for 14 months or so.

“I think it could take a little for him to get on track and be what we expect him to be because he’s been out so long,” Girardi said. “Just like any starter or reliever starting a season, or position player, you’re not sure how they’re going to start, if they’re going to have a great start or if they’re going to have a slow start. So I think you’re going to have to have some patience.”

A-Rod is here. “Just working out,” Girardi said, “doing as much as he can basically not using the one hand, conditioning, trying to work his legs. But that’s about it. He’ll throw and do things like that. But as far as using his left hand, he can’t do much there.”

Ichiro Suzuki spoke to some of his former teammates on the field, but he indicated his emotions aren’t as high facing them as they were in Seattle right after the trade went down.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 353 Comments →

Yankees pregame: Ichiro wears pinstripes07.27.12

Hello there, Brian Heyman here at Yankee Stadium for Chad, ready to watch the first-place Yankees and the last-place Red Sox. Takes a little of the fun out of it. But Ichiro must be excited, slipping on the pinstripes for his home debut. He figures to be greeted warmly. But he knows he’s going to have to hit to keep the fans’ good feelings coming his way.

Or as he put it: “Obviously I need to do well … so they’ll be on my side.”

Ichiro admitted he had actually dressed in Yankees clothing prior to Monday’s trade.

“I was in Japan till 2000,” he said. “I was a big fan of MLB. I had a lot of jerseys. I had a Yankee uniform. It’s different. But I feel like I wore it before because I wore it in Japan.”

While he isn’t the hitter he used to be — now batting .261 — there’s a school of thought that he’s going to step up his game again because he’s with a team trying to nail down a division title. Ichiro said he was always motivated in Seattle despite the circumstances. But Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who had seen Ichiro as a  manager in Japan and once wanted the Mets to go after Ichiro when Valentine was managing them, sees more coming from Ichiro now.

“I think he’s a special person and a special baseball player, and now he’s in a special situation,” Valentine said.

Nick Swisher still isn’t back in the lineup, so Ichiro is still playing right. The Yankees will see how Swisher, who has had that strained hip flexor, feels tomorrow.

“We don’t want to have a setback,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t think we’re being overly cautious. He’s not quite ready.”

Joba Chamberlain threw here today and is scheduled make his seventh rehab appearance Sunday, this time at Double-A Trenton.

Girardi said Alex Rodriguez will have his broken left hand x-rayed again next week. Girardi wouldn’t put a timetable on A-Rod’s return, although the going guess has been 6 to 8 weeks.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 306 Comments →

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