Spring decision: Utility infielder • 02.09.11
Just a few days ago, the Yankees agreed to minor league deals with veteran infielders Eric Chavez and Ronnie Belliard. Those two will come to camp trying to prove they can still hit, and if they can, they’ll give the Yankees the option of experienced backup at third base. But even if those two make a surprise run at a roster spot, the Yankees will still need a true utility infielder to backup Derek Jeter at shortstop. They have a short list of candidates.
In reality, there are two candidates. Doug Bernier is a fine defensive infielder in camp on a minor league deal, and Kevin Russo’s versatility includes a little bit of experience at the shortstop position, but this seems to be a choice between Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena.
The easy choice
The Yankees know Pena. They know the positives and the negatives. They know the glove and the bat. They know exactly what to expect from him, and they know he won’t flinch at the big league level. There’s comfort there, and if either Chavez or Belliard shows something in camp — giving the Yankees a offensive-minded backup at third — they could more easily stomach the all-glove, no-hit option of Pena backing up at shortstop every other week.
The best bet for an impact utility infielder is Nunez. His defense seemed to take a step forward last year, eliminating some of his inconsistency. He’s also a proven base-stealer, and his bat is good for an up-the-middle infielder. If the Yankees expect their utility man to play a lot — if they don’t carry another option at second or third — Nunez seems to be their best bet for production out of that role. Otherwise, the Yankees might consider sending Nunez back to Triple-A to keep playing everyday. He’s the best in-house option to replace Jeter if Jeter continues to slip.
A separate but related issue
Alex Rodriguez had surgery in 2009 and landed on the disabled list in 2010. The Yankees know they’re going to have to give him a few DH starts — and maybe a full day off now a then — but spring training should give them some idea of just how far Rodriguez’s hip has come in the past two years, and just how often they’ll need to rest him during the season.
Associated Press photos of Nunez and Pena
Yankees organizational depth: Second base • 01.10.11
Robinson Cano is signed through 2013, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him stay with the Yankees well beyond his current contract. Second base is not up for grabs today, and it might not be up for grabs until the end of the decade. The Yankees have second base talent coming up through the system, but the bulk of that talent brings defensive versatility and could emerge as some sort of utility option should Cano keep his hold on second.
In the big leagues
If Cano continues his current production, and carries that into his mid-to-late 30s, the Yankees might never have a need for any of the players currently in the system to see significant time at second base. Cano is 28 years old and should be just now entering his prime. He showed last season that he’s already developed into one of the best hitters in the American League, and certainly one of the top second basemen in baseball. The Yankees have an abundance of players who could fill-in at second base to cover any sort of short-term need — nagging injury, unexpected absence — but the organization’s best-case scenario is to simply stick with Cano for the foreseeable future.
On the verge
Here’s the list: Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo, Reegie Corona, David Adams and Corban Joseph. Six young players, all of them ready to play second base at Double-A or higher, and all of them with enough tools to play some sort of role in the big leagues sooner rather than later. Each of them can also play at least one other position, which some defensive flexibility for potential bench roles down the line. Nunez, Pena and Russo have already gotten to New York, Corona has a spot on the 40-man and needs to come back from a late-season shoulder injury, and Adams was hitting in Trenton before an ankle injury cost him most of last season. The name to watch might be Joseph, a former fourth-round pick who’s been building prospect buzz with his bat the past two years.
Deep in the system
The top second base prospect in the lower levels was Jimmy Paredes, who put himself on the prospect map with a strong 2010 season. Paredes, though, was traded to Houston in the Lance Berkman deal, and without him, the top lower-level second base prospect might be Anderson Feliz, a former shortstop out of the Dominican Republic who hit .273 with some power in the Gulf Coast League last year. Of course, the real second base depth might ultimately depend on the development of Cito Culver and Angelo Gumbs, last year’s first- and second-round draft picks. Both are shortstops, but Cano also saw a lot of time at shortstop when he was a kid. As they develop, Culver or Gumbs could — in theory — find themselves shifted to second base.
Organizational depth chart
My own rough guess. It’s far too early for the Yankees to settle on who will be where next season.
New York: Robinson Cano
Scranton/WB: Kevin Russo, Reegie Corona
Trenton: David Adams, Corban Joseph
Tampa: Walter Ibbara, Emerson Landoni, Kevin Mahoney
Charleston: Anderson Feliz, Casey Stevenson
The big league depth chart beyond Cano probably begins with two players not listed here. Nunez and Pena are the front-runners for the big league utility job, and those two probably have a leg up should the Yankees need someone to fill in at second base for a few games (or even a few months). Russo is also in that discussion, and Adams or Joseph could climb into the mix by the end of the summer.
I have more than one player listed at every minor league level because there are a lot of multi-position players who are going to need time at second. Tampa especially could be a bit of a mix-and-match. The natural fit should have been the since-traded Paredes, and without him, a series of utility types — none of them highly touted — could get opportunities in High-A. Stevenson was the Yankees 25th-round pick last year, and he got most of the second base time at Staten Island last season, but Feliz is the bigger name of the lower-level second basemen. Additional upper-level bench depth will come from versatile infielders like Justin Snyder, Luis Nunez and Doug Bernier.
Associated Press photo of Cano, headshots of Cano, Joseph and Feliz
Let’s go heavy on prospects today, shall we? This is Baseball America’s Top 30 Yankees prospects heading into this season, listed with each player’s rank at the beginning of the season and the level where he finished the season.
No. 1 Jesus Montero
After a rocky start to the season, Montero turned things around in the second half and could fight for a big league job in spring training. He remains one of the elite prospects in baseball, with the only significant questions being where he’ll play in the field.
No. 2 Austin Romine
Romine dropped to sixth in this year’s rankings, but I’m not sure his ceiling or expectations have fallen. He had a kind of Derek Jeter-type season, starting strong and finishing strong, with three rough months in the middle. He’s in the Arizona Fall League now, and it’s easy to forget that he hasn’t turned 22 yet. Still very highly regarded, but he was passed on Baseball America’s list by young players and injured players whose stock soared after strong seasons.
No. 3 Arodys Vizcaino
Traded to the Braves
The big prospect in The Boone Logan Trade had a 2.74 ERA between two Class-A levels this season, but he was shutdown with an elbow injury.
No. 4 Slade Heathcott
Low-A center fielder
Got to Charleston at the start of June, and he might have lost a little ground in the prospect standings — he hit .258 with 101 strikeouts — but it’s hard to read too much into a 19-year-old’s first season of pro ball. He still in Baseball America’s Top 10 for the orgnization.
No. 5 Zach McAllister
Traded to Cleveland
This was the cost for two months of Austin Kearns. Had he stuck around, McAllister probably would have fallen out of the Top 10 after a 5.09 ERA in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was certainly overshadowed by several other upper-level pitchers.
No. 6 Manny Banuelos
Double-A left-handed starter
After a healthy second half that took him from High-A to Double-A, Banuelos is living up to expectations. Building up his workload seems to be the next step in his development. He’s in the Arizona Fall League right now and could pitch himself to the cusp of the big leagues next season. At 19 years old, he’s the youngest of the Yankees Killer B pitching prospects.
No. 7 Gary Sanchez
He’s been compared to Montero, except with more defensive tools. That’s why he moved all the way to No. 2 on this year’s Baseball America list. There is a ton of talent, but also a long way to go.
No. 8 J.R. Murphy
In so many ways, Murphy is “the other” catching prospect in the Yankees system. He’s only 19 years old — one year older than Sanchez — and he already held his own in Charleston. The power started to show in the second half.
No. 9 Jeremy Bleich
Injured Double-A left-handed starter
Stock took a hit because of shoulder surgery. He made only eight starts for Trenton. Hard to learn much about him from this season.
No. 10 Andrew Brackman
Double-A right-handed starter
This season might have been the best-case scenario for Brackman, the towering right-hander who had Tommy John surgery before throwing a single professional pitch. Brackman has always been a high-end talent, but he lived up to those expectations with a healthy and much-improved second season.
No. 11 Bryan Mitchell
Short-season right-handed starter
Opened in extended spring training, then pitched in the Gulf Coast League and got up to Staten Island in September. Still young, and Rookie Ball opponents hit .190 against him. Obvious potential. Obviously young.
No. 12 Mike Dunn
Traded to Atlanta
Another part of The Boone Logan Trade, he pitched his way to Atlanta but the Yankees might have gotten the better of the two young lefties in that trade.
No. 13 Corban Joseph
Double-A second baseman
Terrific numbers in Tampa sparked a second-half call-up to Trenton, where Joseph struggled with his first taste of upper-level pitching. Could play second or third base. Nothing especially flashy, but he lived up to expectation and might have exceeded it with his promotion.
No. 14 Eduardo Nunez
Major League shortstop
Nunez had to prove that 2009 was not a fluke, and he did just that with a terrific Triple-A season that ended with a call-up to New York and a late spot on the postseason roster. He hit .289 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but also showed an improved glove. That combination pushed him into the Yankees Top 10.
No. 15 Mark Melancon
Traded to Houston
Sent to the Astros in the Lance Berkman deal, Melancon simply never made that final step with the Yankees. He pitched pretty well in 20 appearances for the Astros.
No. 16 Ivan Nova
Major League right-handed starter
The Yankees always liked Nova’s potential, but he developed slowly until a strong 2009 season that landed him a spot on the 40-man. Now he’s a candidate for a spot in the back of the big league rotation. He’s the most advanced of the Yankees many upper-level pitching prospects.
No. 17 D.J. Mitchell
Triple-A right-handed starter
Moved into the Yankees Top 20 prospects, then got an invitation to big league camp, then pitched his way from Double-A to Triple-A. He generated better than a 2-to-1 ground out to fly out ratio in Double-A, then had a 3.57 ERA in three Triple-A starts. Overshadowed by some teammates, but he had a very nice season.
No. 18 Melky Mesa
High-A center fielder
He obviously did something right because now he’s on the 40-man roster. The MVP of the Florida State League has legitimate power and speed, but he also strikes out a ton and this year’s .260 average was actually his career-high. A complete wild card in this system.
No. 19 Kelvin DeLeon
Short-season right fielder
Stock might have slipped through a .236 average with six home runs and 80 strikeouts. Just turned 20, so there’s plenty of room to grow, but also a long way to go.
No. 20 Jose Ramirez
Low-A right-handed starter
A good arm lurking in the lower-levels of the Yankees minor league system, he had a 3.60 ERA with 105 strikeouts in Charleston this season. For now, he exists in the shadows of the pitchers ahead of him, but he’s certainly not an unknown. He’s a legitimate prospect in his own right.
No. 21 Graham Stoneburner
High-A right-handed starter
Leading into this season, Stoneburner was a favorite among writers and bloggers who closely follow the Yankees minor league system. He proved those believers right with a 2.41 ERA between Charleston and Tampa. He could be one of the fastest-rising stars in the organization, and there is considerable speculation that he could eventually end up in the bullpen, making ascent even faster.
No. 22 David Adams
Injured Double-A second baseman
Off to a .309 start in Trenton, Adams’ season was cut short by an ankle injury that cost him the bulk of the year and might have cost the Yankees a shot at Cliff Lee. I tend to lump Adams and Joseph together as Double-A guys able to play second or third. He seemed to be showing a lot this season, but it’s hard to make much of 39 games.
No. 23 Caleb Cotham
Cotham should have been in Charleston, but a pair of surgeries left him unable to pitch in an actual game this season. He has only eight professional innings to his name.
No. 24. Hector Noesi
Triple-A right-handed starter
Noesi had pitched only nine games above Low A when the Yankees put him on the 40-man roster this season. That said a lot about their expectations, and Noesi lived up them with a season that catapulted him into Baseball America’s Top 10. From High-A to Double-A to Triple-A, he could be next year’s Ivan Nova.
No. 25 David Phelps
Triple-A right-handed starter
There’s a common theme among most of these back-end starting pitchers: Except the injured Cotham, they were all outstanding. This was Phelps’ second full season, and he finished it with a 3.07 ERA in 12 Triple-A outings.
No. 26 Adam Warren
Double-A right-handed starter
Kind of like a one-year-younger version of Phelps, Warren had a 3.15 ERA in 10 Double-A starts after opening the year with a 2.22 in Tampa. The upper-level pitching depth in this system is incredible, as evidenced by the fact neither Phelps nor Warren deserved a spot among the Yankees Top 10 prospects.
No. 27 Kevin Russo
Major League utility
Russo’s value is in his ability to do a lot of things well. He served that role perfectly as a call-up who shifted to left-field when the Yankees were searching for outfield help. Nothing flashy, but when he was getting regular at-bats, he was contributing. He could easily play that same role next season.
No. 28 Dellin Betances
Double-A right-handed starter
This is the biggest leap of the bunch, and his jump into the Top 10 had as much to do with his health as his performance. Betances has always been a premier talent, but this year he got healthy and stayed healthy through a dominant second half. Expectations are sky
high again. He just has to stay off the disabled list this time.
No. 29 Jairo Heredia
High-A right-handed starter
Kind of like Nova in 2008 and Noesi in 2009, the Yankees have to decide whether to protect Heredia from the Rule 5 or take their chances that an unproven but talented young pitcher will sneak through. Heredia just turned 21, but he pitched just six times above Low A this season. Opponents there hit .359 against him.
No. 30 Jamie Hoffmann
Rule 5 pick sent back to Dodgers
The Yankees were clearly never planning to bring back Brian Bruney this offseason, so they traded him away for the right to draft Hoffmann. He hung around spring training for a while, but was ultimately sent back to the Dodgers. He hit .310 with eight home runs, 17 steals and 36 doubles in Triple-A.
Considering the postseason bench • 10.04.10
Joe Girardi left little doubt yesterday that he plans to carry Austin Kearns on the playoff roster. Kearns is a career .375 hitter against the members of the Twins pitching staff not named Matt Capps. He’s 0-for-10 against the Twins new closer, but Kearns has been pretty good against the rest of the Twins pitchers. Even if he weren’t, the Yankees don’t exactly a strong offensive alternative. Starting Kearns ahead of Brett Gardner might be a bit much at this point, but as a right-handed bat off the bench, he’s the best non-Thames option the Yankees have.
Beyond Kearns, we can confidently assume these 11 position players will also make the postseason roster: Jorge Posada, Francisco Cervelli, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Lance Berkman and Marcus Thames.
That leaves room for two — three if the Yankees carry only 10 pitchers — to round out the bench. There seem to be three leading candidates, and a handful of secondary options.
Pros: Plus speed and arm… Can play all three outfield spots… Defensive upgrade as a late-inning substitution in right field; offensive upgrade as a pinch runner… Two starts in the final two weeks of the season, with at least one hit in each.
Cons: Career .260 hitter in Triple-A, career .200 hitter in the big leagues… Limited major league experience; has only two career big league RBI… Not considered as much of a base-stealing threat as Eduardo Nunez… Yankees already have five outfield options.
Pros: Considered the Yankees top base-stealing threat off the bench… Comfortable at shortstop and could play second ot third… Hit .280 in limited big league action after an all-star season in Triple-A… Better offensive utility infielder than Ramiro Pena.
Cons: Roughly a month and a half of major league experience… Counting the big leagues, played six games at second and 26 at third this season. Before that, had just 20 career appearances away from shortstop… Eight at-bats since September 4… Not as good defensively as Ramiro Pena.
Pros: Been with the big league club all season… Arguably the Yankees best defensive infielder at three different positions… Despite poor offensive numbers, has shown a knack for big hits in big situations… Enough speed to help on the bases as a pinch runner… Most versatile bench option with some additional experience in the outfield if needed in a pinch.
Con: Two extra-base hits all season, even in the minors he was only a .255 hitter with no power… Eduardo Nunez could play the same utility role with more offensive upside… Yankees are unlikely to rest any of their infielders during the playoffs.
Pros: Does a little bit of everything: Has some power, has some speed, plays quality defense at all three outfield spots… Hit pretty well during his brief window of consistent playing time.
Cons: Doesn’t do one thing especially well. Doesn’t have Greg Golson’s speed or Juan Miranda’s left-handed power… Yankees already have two lefty outfielders.
Pros: Powerful left-handed bat off the bench… Has three home runs in limited major league duty… Most of the Yankees bench options are right-handed.
Cons: Gives almost no defensive flexibility… Limited to a pinch hitter, and the Yankees aren’t likely to pinch hit very often.
Pros: The Yankees did carry three catchers last postseason.
Cons: A.J. Burnett was also lined up to start Games 2 and 5 in each playoff series last year. That meant the potential for two games each series caught by the Yankees backup. That shouldn’t be the case this year.
Pros: Could play every position except pitcher and catcher… Consistent minor league hitter; gave the Yankees a surprising boost in left field earlier this season.
Cons: Limited shortstop experience… One major league at-bat since July 11… Clearly behind Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena in the infield pecking order.
Triple-A and Double-A playoffs begin tonight • 09.08.10
The postseason in minor league baseball is kind of a strange thing. The best teams lose their best players to call-ups, and the rosters that earned spots in the postseason take on a completely different look for the most important games of the year.
To be honest, I liked that about covering Triple-A. Things change, often suddenly, and that’s part of the experience. Everyone understands and accepts what’s going on. I don’t like the phrase “it is what it is,” but it is what it is.
The Yankees top three affiliates all advanced to the postseason this year. High-A Tampa got started with a win last night. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Trenton get started tonight.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre opens the International League playoffs against Columbus. The first two pitchers they’ll face should be familiar: David Huff was hit in the head by an Alex Rodriguez line drive earlier this season, and Zach McAllister was traded by the Yankees to complete the Austin Kearns deal.
Even after September call-ups, the Triple-A Yankees still have some familiar names on the roster. Kevin Russo and Chad Huffman are both there after spending some time in the big leagues this season, George Kontos is there in his first year back from Tommy John surgery and Justin Christian is with Scranton after making his big league debut with the Yankees a few years ago. Of course, the roster also includes top position prospect Jesus Montero and third baseman Brandon Laird, who had a real breakout year down in Double-A.
Tonight: Columbus LHP David Huff (8-2., 4.36) vs. Yankees RHP D.J. Mitchell (2-0, 3.57)
Thursday: Columbus RHP Zach McAllister (9-12, 5.29) vs. Yankees RHP David Phelps (4-2, 3.07)
Friday: Columbus RHP Yohan Pino (10-9, 5.75) vs. Yankees LHP Kei Igawa (3-4, 4.32)
Saturday: Columbus RHP Paolo Espino (3-3, 5.62) vs. Yankees RHP Hector Noesi (1-1, 4.82)
Sunday: Columbus RHP Corey Kluber (1-1, 3.27) vs. Yankees RHP Lance Pendleton (2-1, 4.24)
Down in Trenton, the Double-A Thunder are opening against New Hampshire and facing top Blue Jays pitching prospect Kyle Drabek in Game 1. Of course, all eyes will be on Game 2, when Andy Pettitte makes a rehab start for Trenton.
Trenton has lost some key players to injuries and call-ups this season — most recently, Corban Joseph went on the DL — but the roster still has Austin Romine, Dan Brewer, recently promoted Pat Venditte and an impressive rotation that includes three of the top arms in the organization in Betances, Banuelos and Brackman.
Tonight: Trenton RHP Dellin Betances (0-0, 3.37) vs. New Hampshire RHP Kyle Drabek (14-9, 2.94)
Thursday: Trenton LHP Andy Pettitte (rehab) vs New Hampshire LHP Zach Stewart (8-3, 3.63)
Friday: Trenton LHP Manny Banuelos (0-1, 3.52) vs. New Hampshire RHP Randy Boone (5-10, 3.98)
Saturday: Trenton RHP Andrew Brackman (5-7, 3.01) vs. New Hampshire RHP B.J. LaMura (5-6, 3.73
Sunday: Trenton RHP Cory Arbiso (5-5, 4.38) vs. New Hampshire TBA
Those are headshots of Montero and Romine
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.
The back-up plan • 08.18.10
The MRI machine didn’t bring much good news for the Yankees on Tuesday.
Although Alex Rodriguez said it could have been worse, his test revealed a mild strain of his left calf. He wasn’t able to play last night, and as Brian reported last night, he’s expected to miss at least a few more games.
Although Andy Pettitte seemed to be working toward a rehab start, his MRI showed a strain of his left groin that will keep him out until September.
So the Yankees will have to continue with their back-up plans for a little longer. These are the alternatives.
Right now it’s Ramiro Pena’s job. He doesn’t hit much, but his glove is outstanding and he’s actually had a knack for producing when given the opportunity. The Yankees have been willing to stick with him all season, and I’m not sure there’s reason to believe they would change course because of an injury that’s only supposed to cost Rodriguez a few days. But there are some options.
Brandon Laird: One of the season’s breakout prospects, Laird jumped to Triple-A at the beginning of August. He was in big league camp this spring, and he needs to be added to the 40-man this winter to be protected him from the Rule 5.
Kevin Russo: Already on the 40-man. Left a good reputation in New York. Hitting .284 this month in Triple-A.
Eduardo Nunez: On the 40-man without good Triple-A numbers all year. He’s primarily a shortstop, but the Yankees have given him starts at third base to increase his versatility.
Jorge Vazquez: Has 13 home runs in 57 Triple-A games. He’s also walked just seven times and hasn’t played third base since July 5.
Greg Dobbs: Or any other major league third baseman who’s been designated for assignment. That includes guys like Craig Counsell, Edwin Encarnacion and Geoff Blum. Brian Cashman said he doesn’t expect to make a move — and in this case I believe him — but there are some options out there.
For now it’s Dustin Moseley’s spot, and he’s pitched pretty well despite that bad inning in Kansas City. He’s 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA as a spot starter. Last time he pitched at Yankee Stadium he beat the Red Sox and got a standing ovation. But the Yankees have plenty of alternatives who could get a shot between now and Pettitte’s return.
Ivan Nova: Having a terrific season as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s ace, Nova is 11-3 with a 2.93 ERA. He went 5-0 in July and has a 2.41 ERA in his past 10 starts. He’s on the exact same schedule as Moseley, and last time out he allowed one hit through seven innings. Pitched well in limited big league duty earlier this season.
Alfredo Aceves: Joe Girardi previously said the Yankees only wanted to get Aceves stretched out to around 40 pitches, but he also said the return of Aceves could be based on need. With a couple more rehab starts, they could get him stretched out as a starter.
Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre: The two long relievers in the Yankees bullpen could be moved into the rotation if necessary. Seems more likely that the Yankees would stick with Moseley, but Gaudin and Mitre have pitched pretty well in their bullpen roles and both were trusted with starts late last season.
David Phelps: With Jason Hirsh on the disabled list, Phelps is probably the second-best Triple-A starter right now, but it’s hard to imagine any minor leaguer getting the call ahead of Nova.
A great feeling • 06.14.10
When Chad Huffman got to his locker after yesterday’s game, the baseball was waiting for him. It was in a clear case on the top shelf, and the inscription was already written in ink. Three hours earlier, Huffman had hit that very same baseball to the right side of the Yankee Stadium infield. It had been thrown to first base where Geoff Blum caught it an instant after Huffman stepped on the bag for his first major league hit.
“I looked up on the jumbotron and saw my family jumping up and down,” Huffman said. “It was a great feeling… I’m going to give (the ball) to my mom so I don’t lose it.”
Two Yankees got their first major league hit last season. Ramiro Pena did it in his first at-bat. Francisco Cervelli did it in his eighth, having gone hitless in five at-bats the year before. This season, three Yankees have picked up their first big league hit.
In his eighth major league at-bat — his first with the Yankees — Golson got a clean single to center field. It was the first hit of a five-run inning in Detroit. Golson went hitless in six at-bats with the Phillies in 2008 and struck out in his only at-bat with Texas in 2009.
In his third major league at-bat — his first major league start — Russo singled in the third inning against the Mets. Four innings later, his second major league hit would be a game-winning two-run double.
In his first major league at-bat — his first day on a major league roster — Huffman beat out an infield single. “I was trying to calm myself down,” he said. “Luckily I battled back with two strikes. I kind of got out in front of it and got lucky a little bit, but that’s part of it.”
Here’s Huffman talking about what must be a surreal moment in the life of a baseball player.
Pregame notes: Posada very close to catching • 06.12.10
That picture is of Joba Chamberlain talking to Giants running back Brandon Jacobs before yesterday’s game. It has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but I also just watched Sergio Mitre hit a batting practice home run to left field, so not a lot is making sense this morning.
The most significant update is about Jorge Posada, who could be a day away from catching in a game.
Posada said this morning that he “could be” behind the plate tomorrow. At the very least, Joe Girardi promised to have news about Posada tomorrow.
“I’ll get a chance to talk to our medical staff and we’ll have something for you tomorrow,” Girardi said.
Posada has hit just .133 with no extra-base hits since coming off the disabled list, but he’s hoping that getting behind the plate will help turn him around with the bat. This whole designated hitter thing has taken some getting used to. Posada has tried stretching, hitting in the cage, riding the bike, stretching and watching video but he said he still isn’t sure what to do with himself between innings.
“It’s not easy,” Posada said. “It’s not dislike or like, it’s just not easy when you play every day. It’s like pinch hitting four times. It’s the toughest thing to do. You just have to get used to it.”
• Girardi isn’t sure yet whether Alex Rodriguez is available as a pinch hitter, but he showed up at the park with no plans of putting him in the lineup. “He’s not ready to go,” Girardi said. “We’ll continue to evaluate him every day and see what availability we have of him every day.”
• Girardi blames the injury on that extra-innings game in Toronto more so than Rodriguez’s surgery or his workload. “He didn’t really have a problem until he played that 14-inning game on the turf,” Girardi said. “Is it workload or was it the 14 innings on the turf? If I was a guessing man, I would guess it’s the latter.”
• Brett Gardner took full batting practice this morning. Girardi said it’s possible Gardner could be in the lineup tomorrow.
• Although Posada is nearly ready to catch, Girardi said he won’t be immediately ready to trim his roster down to two catchers. “I think you have to see him behind the plate and how he reacts the next day,” Girardi said. “Or if we play him two days in a row how he reacts.”
• When the Yankees released Randy Winn, Girardi cited Kevin Russo’s versatility as one of the reasons they chose to keep Russo over Winn. With injuries to Gardner and Rodriguez, that flexibility has come into play. “Whenever you ask someone to make a position change, and you don’t give them a ton of games to do it, you have to be pretty athletic to be able to make that adjustment,” Girardi said.
• What’s made a difference for Javier Vazquez in his past few starts? “It’s been command,” Girardi said. “It’s staying out of the middle of the plate. Staying down in the zone. Not getting into long counts with hitters.”
UPDATE, 12:08 p.m.: Astros lineup.
Michael Bourn CF
Jeff Keppinger 2B
Lance Berkman 1B
Carlos Lee DH
Hunter Pence RF
Geoff Blum 3B
Jason Michaels LF
Humberto Quintero C
Tommy Manzella SS
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
Associated Press photo
Postgame notes: A humble man’s milestone • 06.11.10
The final game ball from Andy Pettitte’s 200th Yankees win was delivered, appropriately enough, by Mariano Rivera.
“Guys were all just coming in here and just hugging me,” Pettitte said. “Mo, with a big ole smile on his face, had the baseball and handed it to me. Gator just called me and congratulated me on it.”
Pettitte said he can’t help but think about these milestones because he gets so many questions about them — it was clear that this win meant a lot to him — but as always, there was a business-as-usual quality to the veteran left-hander.
“Andy is about as humble a guy as I’ve ever met,” Joe Girardi said. “One day, though, I think he’ll sit back and be very fond of what he’s done in his career.”
Here’s Pettitte after win No. 200.
• Brett Gardner was diagnosed with a Grade 1 sprain of the ligament in his left thumb, but he was also cleared to take full batting practice tomorrow. “Hopefully play tomorrow or Sunday,” he said. He took BP in the cage and threw a little bit today. He said both felt fine.
• Pettitte said he felt a little too strong today. The extra-days rest, he said, might have hurt him a little bit. “Mechanically I felt like I was over-throwing, which I haven’t done in a while,” he said. “I was very glad to see that I could get back on track in that third or fourth inning.”
• Also, it seems television cameras caught Pettitte mouthing the word “fastball” to Francisco Cervelli during an at-bat. Was his stuff so good it didn’t matter if the hitter knew what was coming? “Oh gosh no,” he said. “I would never.” Pettitte said that’s something he does when he knows the hitter isn’t looking. He does something quick like that so that the catcher doesn’t have to give a sign and they can just move on to the next pitch.
• Pettitte admitted it was a little awkward facing his former team, but there aren’t many guys over there he played with. He was glad to get Lance Berkman out. He called Berkman one of his best friends.
• Girardi said he didn’t give much thought to keeping Pettitte in after the sac bunt in the eighth. “I just thought it was time to go to Joba,” he said. And Joba did the job.
• Girardi called Kevin Russo’s fifth-inning at-bat — coming back from 0-2 to draw a walk and steal second — one of the key’s to the game. Clearly the biggest hit, though, was Cervelli’s two-out, two-run single in the first inning.
• Pettitte is one strikeout shy of tying Ron Guidry for second place on the Yankees all-time list.
• At two hours and 19 minutes, this was the shortest home game of the season. Those of us who had early trains out of Baltimore this morning greatly appreciate it!
• The Yankees are back to 15 games over .500, matching their season high.
Associated Press photos of Pettitte and Cervelli.