In trying to break down the state of the Yankees organization, it’s hard to look at pitchers the same way we look at position players. The development is different. The roles are different. The number of jobs available is different. It’s just … different. In trying to look at the state of the Yankees rotation, it seems best to start by looking directly at the current 40-man roster (before free agency) where no less than 12 rotation possibilities are already in place. Given the Yankees injury concerns, they’re going to need some rotation depth heading into next season. They just might be able to find that depth while staying in house.
THE OBVIOUS INJURY CONCERNS
Masahiro Tanaka – His elbow might be a ticking time bomb, but he’s also an ace-caliber pitcher. The Yankees know Tanaka might need Tommy John surgery at any moment, but they’ve done what they can to postpone that procedure, and a couple of healthy starts at the end of the year were enough to build some cautious optimism. Tanaka should be the Yankees No. 1 starter. But that depends largely on a tiny ligament in his elbow.
Michael Pineda – The Yankees finally got to see the guy they acquired years ago, and they liked what they saw. Sure, the pine tar situation was embarrassing, and there was yet another shoulder setback, but when Pineda was on the mound, he was terrific. He’s far removed from surgery, but that doesn’t mean health concerns don’t linger. Would be a strong No. 2, but again, that’s only if he stays healthy.
CC Sabathia – This could be the year his run of Opening Day starts come to an end. That said, if he gets to spring training healthy and reasonably effective, he might still get the nod in the opener if only because he’s still very clearly the leader of the staff (and this is a clubhouse that could be searching to leadership next season). Whether Sabathia will be anything more than a symbolic choice, though, remains to be seen. If he can at least be a reliable back-of-the-rotation arm, that would be helpful. There’s clearly a new ace in town.
Ivan Nova – Almost certainly will not be ready to break camp with the Yankees, but initial word about Nova’s recovery from Tommy John surgery has been nothing but positive. Still a long way to go, but Nova made it through the initial rehab steps with no problem. Tommy John has become a relatively routine procedure these days, but some pitchers say it takes close to two years to truly feel 100 percent. Timing suggests Nova could be back in the New York around early May. But how effective will he be?
THE REPLACEMENT STARTERS
David Phelps – When the Yankees rotation went through a series of injuries last season, Vidal Nuno was technically the first replacement starter, but Phelps wasn’t far behind. He was solid, then he got knocked around one game, then he looked really good for about a month and a half before his upper elbow became a problem. Phelps should be arbitration eligible this season, and he might once again come to camp as a rotation candidate who could easily slip into a bullpen role.
Shane Greene – Phelps’ chances of winning a spot in the rotation surely took a hit when Greene showed up. Having made a strong impression in spring training, and having struggled in his brief big league debut, Greene wound up pitching like a rotation mainstay through the second half of the season. He had a 3.24 ERA before a six-run mess in his final start. Given the Nova injury, Greene could legitimately come to camp as a rotation favorite.
Chase Whitley – A career minor league reliever until the very end of 2013, Whitley moved to the Triple-A rotation, improved his breaking ball and got his first big league call-up as a replacement starter. He was a bit streaky — very good at first, pretty good at the end, plenty of rough outings in the middle — but Whitley joins the mix as a swing man who could start or work in long relief. Could also go to Triple-A as rotation insurance.
THE MINOR LEAGUERS
Manny Banuelos – Once considered to be among the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, Banuelos needed Tommy John surgery, which slowed his ascent considerably. He missed all of 2013 and put up inconsistent results this year in Double-A and Triple-A. Banuelos has an awfully good arm, though, and being further removed from surgery surely helps his cause heading into his age-24 season.
Bryan Mitchell – For the longest time, Mitchell’s reputation was far better than his results. The Yankees regularly touted his potential, and that was enough to put him on the 40-man roster last winter despite a 5.12 ERA in High-A the year before. More so-so results followed in Double-A this season, but the Yankees challenged Mitchell with a Triple-A promotion and things seemed to take off. He got 11 innings in the big leagues and looked solid. Probably no more than rotation depth to open the season, but he’s among the most advanced young starters in the system.
Matt Tracy/Nik Turley – These guys aren’t on the current 40-man roster, but they stand out as Rule 5 eligible lefties had at least 60 Triple-A innings with mid-4.00 ERAs this season. Neither one was great next season, and there’s a chance both will be left exposed to the Rule 5 this winter — guys like Zach Nuding, Jairo Heredia and Caleb Cotham are in vaguely similar situations — but they’re potential rotation depth options who could be on the 40-man eventually (or could be added next year if necessary). Turley’s been on the 40-man before, and he in particular was putting up better numbers at the end of the year.
THE SOON-TO-BE FREE AGENTS
Hiroki Kuroda – Of all the Yankees soon-to-be free agents, none has a future quite as uncertain as Kuroda. He turns 40 in February, and despite yet again providing some much-needed stability for the Yankees rotation, there seems to be a solid chance Kuroda will retire this winter. He could also come back, pitch elsewhere, or decide to pitch one last season in Japan. Kuroda left all options open at the end of the year.
Brandon McCarthy — Aside from Dave Robertson, there might not be an outgoing free agent who’s more interesting for the Yankees. McCarthy throws strikes and gets ground balls, he thrived during his three-month stint with the Yankees, and he seems like a strong fit in this unusual market. At the right price, McCarthy could be a strong choice for additional rotation depth (though he comes with injury concerns of his own).
Chris Capuano – Would be easy to dismiss Capuano as a non-factor going forward, and maybe that’s exactly what he’ll be. Two things to consider, though: 1. Capuano really was a pretty good No. 5 starter during his time with the Yankees, and he has experience as a bullpen lefty, which the Yankees don’t really have at the moment. Probably least like to return of anyone on this list, but he did his job during his time with the team.
Associated Press photos
Looking ahead to September • 08.18.14
This post contains way too many words about possible September call-ups.
Why is this way too many? Because aside from the possibility of a left-handed reliever, there really don’t seem to be any impact September call-ups on the horizon. A few guys will come up to provide pitching and bench depth, but that’s about it. There isn’t a ton of playing time up for grabs, and there aren’t many obvious auditions that could take place. A left-handed reliever might get into some key situations, but that’s about it. If the Yankees fall completely out of contention, I suppose they could give a guy like Bryan Mitchell a start or maybe give Zoilo Almonte a chance to make a fresh impression with some right field starts. Ultimately, though, I wouldn’t expect a ton out of the September additions.
But, I like minor league baseball and I think September call-ups are interesting, so here are a few thoughts and possibilities broken into four pretty typical September call-up categories.
Pretty standard September addition. The Yankees have been playing with an eight-man pitching staff for quite a while now, but even so, they’re still likely to add a few guys just to give them depth down the stretch.
Best bet: RHP Bryan Mitchell
He’s been up and down a few times, and he’s been pitching well out of the Triple-A rotation. He’s pretty much custom-made for providing innings, and there’s a real benefit to giving him some more big league experience. Seems like a strong candidate to be a rotation candidate at some point next season, even if he opens the year in Triple-A.
Keep in mind: RHP David Phelps
Worth remembering that Phelps is currently on the disabled list but due to be reevaluated today. Phelps was pitching pretty well before that mess of a start in Boston, and he could certainly move right back into the rotation once he’s healthy again. That could essentially push Chris Capuano into a bullpen role as another long man.
Uncertainty: RHP Preston Claiborne and RHP Matt Daley
Both are on the 40-man roster, but both are also on the Triple-A disabled list. If they’re healthy, it would be easy to call up both Claiborne and Daley to be extra middle-inning or extra-inning arms. Claiborne seems pretty close to coming off the disabled list. Another injured Triple-A reliever, Jose Ramirez, won’t be healthy in time to come up next month.
Worth mentioning: RHP Brandon Pinder, RHP Diego Moreno, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Danny Burawa
Montgomery and Burawa have been demoted to Double-A, which probably isn’t a good sign for them getting a call-up to the big leagues. Worth mentioning, though, because all four have been pretty good at times this season, and all four should be Rule 5 eligible this winter. If any of these pitchers are going to be protected in the offseason, might make sense to go ahead and add them to the roster now. My guess would be that Pinder is at the top of this particular pecking order right now. Veteran RHP Jim Miller could also be part of this discussion if the Yankees want a short-term roster addition just to provide some innings.
Probably not: RHP Nick Rumbelow
He’s moved quickly through the system and has been alright since getting to Triple-A, but he’s not Rule 5 eligible yet and there’s probably no reason to have him filling a 40-man spot all winter just so he can get a mopup inning or two in September.
The Yankees might very well bring up a new lefty before September 1, but given the fact they’re not carrying a true left-on-left specialist, it seems like a solid bet that they’ll eventually give some young lefty a call-up. Might even try more than one.
Best bet: LHP Manny Banuelos
Can’t say for certain that Banuelos is the “best bet” to come up as a left-on-left reliever, but he’s the only option who’s currently on the 40-man roster. He’s also pitched pretty well lately, which is surely easing some of the concerns about his early season inconsistency. Whether a career starter — and a young one at that — would be a viable situational lefty, I have no idea. But having a spot on the 40-man makes him an easy call-up if the Yankees want to either get his feet wet or see what he can do in a fairly important role.
Keep in mind: LHP Jacob Lindgren
The Yankees first-round draft pick back in June was a college reliever who throws pretty hard from the left side, and the Yankees have already pushed him all the way to Double-A. Pitching in Trenton isn’t exactly knocking on the door, but Lindgren has a big arm and a bunch of strikeouts and it’s not unheard of for a team to push a college reliever all the way to the big leagues in his first pro season.
Uncertainty: LHP Chris Capuano
He won’t be a September call-up, but Capuano factors into this discussion because of David Phelps. If Phelps is ready to return to the rotation fairly quickly, he could takeover for Capuano, who could move into a left-on-left role out of the bullpen. A possibility if the Yankees aren’t sure any of the young guys can handle the job.
Worth mentioning: LHP Tyler Webb, LHP James Pazos, LHP Francisco Rondon, SHP Pat Venditte
My guess is that all of these except Webb should be considered real long shots. I mention Pazos because he has good numbers in Double-A and the Yankees seem to like his arm; Rondon because he was once on the 40-man and has had the Yankees attention at various points; and Venditte because he’s been a pretty solid reliever for years now and has generally been pretty good with that side-arm delivery against lefties. Webb, though, is the left-handed relief prospect who’s most on the radar. Doesn’t have to be protected from the Rule 5 draft yet, but the Yankees have been pretty aggressive with him and he’s probably their most advanced left-handed relief prospect.
Probably not: LHP Nik Turley
There are actually a ton of lefties on the Triple-A pitching staff right now, including Turley, Matt Tracy and Jeremy Bleich, all of whom would be capable of giving multiple innings and — in theory — matching up against a left-handed hitter. My thinking, though, is: If the Yankees are going to try a long-time starter in this role in September, why not just try Banuelos? That’s easier than putting some of the other non-traditional relievers onto the roster. Know who else is a probably not? Cesar Cabral. The guy was actually in the big leagues at one point this year, but he’s fallen completely off the radar. Double-A lefties are knocking him around.
Happens basically every September that teams give themselves an extra catcher for the final month of the season. The question with the Yankees isn’t whether they’ll call up a third catcher, it’s whether they’ll call up a fourth catcher.
Best bet: C John Ryan Murphy
Even thought it was Austin Romine who came up when Brian McCann went on the disabled list, I’m still going to bet that Murphy is the best bet for a September call-up. I’m basing that almost entirely on the fact that Murphy played well during his extended big league call-up earlier this season, and based on the fact that Mark Newman has said Murphy is likely to come off the Triple-A disabled list pretty soon.
Keep in mind: C Austin Romine
These days, Murphy generates much more prospect buzz than Romine. But, down in Triple-A, it’s actually Romine who has better offensive numbers this season. He’s also played a decent amount of first base and could, in theory, fill in for Mark Teixeira in some late innings. Romine hasn’t played much in August, but he hit .342/.385/.466 in July, and it’s not like the big league staff is unfamiliar with him.
Uncertainty: Why not both?
Does it make sense to go ahead and bring both Murphy and Romine to the big leagues in September? Maybe leave one of them behind to play that last Triple-A game, and then just carry four catchers in the final month? In blowouts, one could get behind the plate and the other could rest Teixeira by playing first base.
Worth mentioning: C Francisco Cervelli
There’s only one other catcher call-up candidate worth mentioning, and we’ll get to him in a second. For now, it’s worth mentioning that the Yankees are facing an offseason decision about whether to bring back Cervelli — who’s been awfully good — or to give the backup catcher job fulltime to either Murphy or Romine. If the Yankees are out of it in September, one of these September call-up catchers could step into some serious playing time just to see what they’ve got.
Probably not: C Gary Sanchez
He’s on the 40-man roster, and he’s one of the biggest names in the Yankees minor league system, but it’s hard to predict a Sanchez call-up this year. He’s been alright this season, but he’s also been benched for disciplinary reasons, and it’s hard to imagine much playing time being available for him. Just doesn’t seem that he’s on the verge of getting his feet wet, but I guess you never know. If he’s sorted out his disciplinary issues, maybe he’s rewarded. My guess is that he won’t be.
VERSATILITY ON THE BENCH
There’s no one currently in the system who seems on the verge of a September call-up to play a significant role in the everyday lineup. Position players who come up are most likely going to be complimentary pieces given very occasional playing time.
Best bet: OF Zoilo Almonte
Joe Girardi hasn’t seemed sold on Almonte ever since his so-so performance last season, but he’s still a powerful left-handed hitter — technically switch hitter, but he’s significantly better from the left side — and he’s on the 40-man roster with some big league time already this season. Not sure he’ll actually get at-bats, but he seems like an obvious choice to bring up at least serve as an option for some pop as a pinch hitter or occasional platoon starter.
Keep in mind: UT Zelous Wheeler
In a lot of ways, Wheeler is an ideal September call-up. He’s already on the 40-man, he’s held his own in the big leagues already this season, and he can play almost any position on the field, which means he provides terrific versatility down the stretch. As long as Wheeler stays on the 40-man roster, there’s little reason not to give him a call-up.
Uncertainty: UT Jose Pirela
The one reason not to call up Wheeler would be to call up a somewhat similar but younger player in Pirela. Wheeler is probably the better defensive player, but they’re both versatile right-handed hitters who are putting up good numbers in Triple-A. If the Yankees aren’t planning to keep Wheeler through the offseason — but are interested in keeping Pirela — they could basically swap the two, putting Pirela on the roster in Wheeler’s place and giving Pirela the September call-up. Pirela can play second base and left field, and he could play third base, first base, right field and presumably shortstop in a pinch.
Worth mentioning: OF Ramon Flores, 1B Kyle Roller, OF Adonis Garcia, OF Taylor Dugas
Of these four, only Flores is on the 40-man, and he’s a nice fit for September. He can run, he can play all three outfield spots, he has some first base experience, and he was playing pretty well in Triple-A before an injury. Indications are that Flores could be off the DL and active by the time September rolls around, but would the Yankees call up a guy who’s hardly played since the start of June. The other three listed are not on the 40-man, and I’m not sure they’d play roles significant enough to find a way to get them on the roster. Dugas in particular has been terrific this year, but he’s not yet Rule 5 eligible, so there’s probably little sense having him take up a 40-man spot all winter. I would suggest OF Antoan Richardson as an interesting possibility as well — speed off the bench, ability to play all three outfield spots — but he’s currently on the temporarily inactive list, and I’m not sure what that’s about or how long he’ll be there. Could temporarily add him without worrying about a DFA this winter.
Probably not: 2B Rob Refsnyder
Arguably the most buzzworthy September call-up possibility. Probably is, Refsnyder is just like a handful of guys on this list in that he’s playing in Triple-A already but won’t be Rule 5 eligible this winter. If he’s only going to come up to sit the bench and maybe get his feet wet, is that really worth taking up an otherwise valuable 40-man spot all winter? If he were coming up to play every day, that would be one thing. But bringing him up to backup Stephen Drew probably isn’t worthwhile.
Associated Press photos
Haven’t done this in a while, so here’s a quick update on a few guys in the minor league system. Now that we’re approaching the end of August, there’s a heavy emphasis on the upper-levels in this post. Just seems more relevant with September call-ups around the corner. Minor league seasons will end in just a few weeks, and at that point it will be a little easier to take a big-picture look at what everyone — including the low-level guys — did and did not do this season. For now, it seems more worthwhile to focus on the Triple-A and Double-A guys who could be on the big league radar either next month or early next year.
• Strictly my own speculation, but don’t rule out Manny Banuelos as either a September call-up candidate or perhaps a left-handed relief possibility. Once the Yankees top pitching prospect — and one of the better left-handed pitching prospects in baseball — Banuelos is beginning to look like a standout again. On Tuesday he returned to Triple-A for the first time since his 2012 Tommy John surgery, and he allowed one run on two hits through five innings. He had an up-and-down year in Double-A, but in his last five Trenton starts before the promotion Banuelos had a 3.00 ERA with a .151 opponents’ batting average through 21 innings. Probably still some work to be done, but at least showing signs of life again.
• Other left-handed pitchers to have in mind now that the Yankees don’t have a true lefty specialist: In 10 games since moving up to Triple-A, Tyler Webb has 18 strikeouts through 13.1 innings. Lefties, though, are hitting .357 with two home runs against him. Nik Turley is still working as a Triple-A starter, with kind of up-and-down results, but lefties are hitting just .179 against him (with a bunch of walks). Not sure the Yankees would go that direction, but I suppose it’s a possibility. Down in Double-A, first-round pick Jacob Lindgren has faced just two lefties in three games, but he was dominant against them in similarly limited chances with High-A Tampa. Another Double-A reliever, James Pazos, is having a really nice year and has a .143/.205/.143 slash line against lefties (though surely if he were close to a big league call-up, he would have been pushed to Triple-A at this point). There’s also Pat Venditte, who’s overall Triple-A numbers are solid, with lefties hitting .246/.313/.298 against him.
• Rob Refsnyder just keeps hitting in Triple-A. He’s hit .300/.345/.440 in the month of August and he’s hitting .300/.391/.480 overall since getting to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. True to Brian Cashman’s word, Refsnyder has not played right field since the trade deadline. He’s strictly a second baseman with a few DH turns that let Jose Pirela get occasional time at second.
• If the Yankees can get Carlos Beltran into the outfield, I wonder if they would consider giving DH at-bats to Kyle Roller. Clearly Joe Girardi isn’t sold on Zoilo Almonte, who would also seem to be a prime candidate to bring some left-handed power to the lineup. But Roller might be an interesting alternative. Strictly a first baseman when he’s in the field, Roller is hitting .284/.374/.510 against Triple-A right-handers — and lefties don’t exactly give him trouble, he has an .858 OPS against them. Plus, Roller’s hit .316/.420/.600 in his past 95 overall at-bats, and he’s homered in three of his past six games. This guy has been forced to perform in order to keep himself (or get himself) on the map. Not a big name, but plenty of people speak pretty highly of his bat and work ethic.
• Been a strange year for pitching throughout the upper levels of the Yankees organization. Obviously the big league issues are well documented, but all of the injuries and turnover in New York have left Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shorthanded several times this season. Last night, Venditte had to make a spot start, and that game went 13 innings — Venditte and four other relievers pitched at least two innings — ending with outfielder Taylor Dugas making his second pitching appearance of the season. Everything can run smoothly, and Triple-A pitching staffs are still left short-handed from time to time. It’s the nature of the beast, but it’s occasionally gotten awfully tough for the Railriders this season. They’re feeling the impact of all of those big league pitching problems.
• By the way, when he’s not filling in on the mound, Taylor Dugas is having an awfully good season. When the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury and extended Brett Gardner, it seemed a little odd at least partially because the Yankees farm system was already overloaded with left-handed center field types. At this point, though, Ramon Flores has been hurt most of the year, Slade Heathcott once again had season-ending surgery, Mason Williams has underperformed, and Ben Gamel hasn’t hit a ton. Dugas is kind of the last man standing, having emerged from that group with a .299/.393/.398 slash line between Double-A and Triple-A. Doesn’t get nearly the recognition of those other guys, but he’s the only one consistently performing and staying on the field. We’ll see if that means anything this winter. Could make a case for himself as a fifth outfielder type.
• Speaking of left-handed outfielders, another emerging possibility is Jake Cave. He’s always generated some prospect attention, but because of injuries he’d never reached high enough into the upper levels to join the conversation with Williams and Heathcott. That’s surely changed at this point. Still just 21 years old, Cave moved up to Double-A in mid July and has hit .287/.368/.455 since getting there. He’s played all three outfield positions, occasionally forcing Williams into the corners. Cave already has five triples in 25 Double-A games.
• When the Yankees picked Cave in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, it came one round after they selected first baseman Greg Bird. Both were high schoolers at the time, and both have already reached Double-A. Bird jumped up to Trenton at the beginning of August, so he has just a 10-game sample size. So far, though, he’s hitting .273/.400/.636 with three home runs, all of which came in a pair of back-to-back games. Bird basically came up to Double-A as soon as Pete O’Brien was traded away. Bird got the available first-base playing time (and I have to believe Bird’s steady bat is part of the reason the Yankees felt comfortable trading O’Brien). Different kind of hitters, for sure, but each seemed more likely to settle in at first base than at any other position. Bird, by the way, was also drafted as a catcher, just like O’Brien.
• In case you’re curious about Pete O’Brien, he was assigned to Double-A and landed on the disabled list just four games after the trade. Interestingly, he didn’t play first base in any of those four games after the trade. He caught three times and played right field once after moving into the Diamondbacks organization.
• One more note about that 2011 draft class: It’s top pick, Dante Bichette, is also up to Double-A at this point. Having rejuvenated his prospect stock down in Tampa, Bichette was moved up to Trenton a week ago. He has five hits in six games. He was hitting .271/.352/.410 in Tampa.
• And one last note about that 2011 draft class: Big relief pitcher Branden Pinder has pitched 3.2 scoreless innings in four appearances since coming off the Triple-A disabled list. I wouldn’t necessarily consider him a favorite for a September call-up, but he is Rule 5 eligible this winter, and he’s been a pretty good reliever, and the Yankees currently have both Jose Ramirez and Preston Claiborne on the disabled list, meaning they might not be healthy enough to come up in September. If the Yankees are planning to protect Pinder this offseason, might make sense to give him a 40-man spot next month and bring him on up. Maybe. They could just bring up Banuelos, Matt Daley and Bryan Mitchell — guys already on the 40-man — and have a pretty massive pitching staff for the final month (especially if Masahiro Tanaka and David Phelps are off the disabled list at that point).
• Top pitching prospect Luis Severino has been placed on the Double-A disabled list with that oblique injury that was previously described as “very slight.” Could be that it really is a very slight injury, and the Yankees are just being extra cautious with their best young arm. Not like it would be unusual for them. Another top prospect, Ian Clarkin, has also been added to the disabled list. I emailed Mark Newman today to ask about the severity of the injury — could be little more than innings management with Clarkin — but I haven’t heard back just yet.
• A few very quick hits from the lower levels: Tampa right fielder Aaron Judge continues to be pretty awesome, in my mind solidifying himself as the team’s top hitting prospect ahead of Gary Sanchez. He’s homered three times in his past eight games, and he’s still taking a ton of walks. … Tampa shortstop Cito Culver‘s bat has actually regressed in the second half of the season. … Also in Tampa, third baseman Eric Jagielo is back from the disabled list and continues to hit for more power than average. He’s hit .233/.346/.433 in 90 at-bats since coming off the DL. He’s homered in his past two games. … In Charleston, second baseman Gosuke Katoh has hit .280/.378/.382 through 49 games in the second half. That’s after hitting .190/.302/.315 in the first half.
Associated Press photos of Banuelos and Roller; headshots of Dugas, Bird and Pinder
Wednesday notes: Mitchell steals the show • 03.14.12
Manny Banuelos is considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and there have been days — both this spring and last spring — when he’s shown every bit of that potential. Today was not one of those days, and it was instead often-overshadowed D.J. Mitchell who stole the show.
“(Banuelos) couldn’t throw his secondary pitches for strikes and he was behind,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s just a tough combination. Look at what D.J. Mitchell did. He was able to throw his curveball and his changeup when he was behind in the count to get back in the count and throw some fastballs for strikes. Manny just really struggled with his command.”
Banuelos labored through a four-run fifth inning when he allowed three hits, walked two batters and coughed up Edwin Encarnacion’s second home run of the day. If previous starts have been a reminder of what he can become, today was a reminder that he’s still very young with inconsistent command. It’s nothing that can’t be sorted out, but there’s still some development to be done.
“He’s a young guy and he’s got four pitches to be in the big leagues,” Francisco Cervelli said. “But with the experience, he’s going to learn how you can make adjustments during the game and have more patience. It’s just a bad day. Next time he’s going to come back and of what he always does because it’s great. I think he’s top three over here, best rookie guys.”
As for the top rookie in camp? Mitchell is making his case. He closed today’s game with three hitless innings, striking out four and walking none. Often labeled as a sinkerballer, Mitchell was drawing praise just last week from a Yankees official who said he doesn’t get enough credit for his secondary pitches. Mitchell does generate a lot of ground balls, but they don’t have to come from his two-seamer. He can get them with his changeup, curveball and slider. He did hit two batter today, but through seven innings in big league camp, Mitchell has allowed just three hits.
He was awfully good this afternoon, and Girardi noticed.
• Obvoiusly the Yankees got good news on Freddy Garcia’s injured right hand, but there will be considerably curiosity tomorrow to find out whether the injury will cause him to miss significant time. “That’s why we try to have depth every year in case you do run into something freaky like this injury,” Girardi said before hearing the x-ray results. “I hope it’s not going to keep him down, but we’ll find out.”
• Garcia was pitching well at the time of the injury. He’d allowed one run through three innings and had just stranded two runners in the bottom of third. Edwin Encarnacion’s comebacker came in the first at-bat of the fourth. “Freddy’s Freddy,” Girardi said. “He commands all his offspeed. He commands his fastball. He changes speeds. And that’s exactly what he did today. His split was effective. Just got his hand in the way. That’s the only thing I didn’t like.”
• Cervelli on how Garcia was pitching for the injury: “It was great. It was really, really good. The split was good A lot of fastballs today. I think he was throwing 90, a lot of movement in the fastball. Really good. His plan was really good today.”
• It’s a positive sign that Dave Robertson was able to jog without pain, but Girardi said he’ll need to throw a few times on the side before he starts getting into games again. “He’s been out long enough that I think he’s got to do some bullpens,” Girardi said.
• Girardi seems to be used to getting velocity questions. This was the first thing he said about Robertson’s half hour on a treadmill: “I don’t have the speed, but there was no pain.”
• In between Garcia’s three innings and Mitchell’s three innings, both Banuelos and Cory Wade pitched an inning. Wade gave up a two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia, letting Garcia’s final base runner come around to score. Wade also had two strikeouts in his inning.
• In spring training, the media is usually in the clubhouse by the fifth or sixth inning, so I didn’t see any of the Yankees seventh-inning rally. They scored four runs in the seventh, all of them generated by non-starters. Doug Bernier had a bases-loaded, two-run double and Dewayne Wise followed with his own two-run double. Wise also had a stolen base in the inning.
• The one Yankees run I did see came on Curtis Granderson’s RBI double in the third inning. It was one of two doubles for Granderson who’s hitting .316 this spring. Granderson and Wise each had two hits.
• Other Yankees with hits: Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Mark Teixeira, Cole Garner, Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Cervelli. Cervelli and Garner each doubled. The Yankees lost 7-5.
Associated Press photos
This was more like it. After a somewhat erratic spring debut, Manny Banuelos looked more like an elite pitching prospect on the verge of the big leagues this afternoon. His fastball was in the mid-90s and he mixed offspeed pitches without walking anyone. He struck out three in two scoreless innings.
“I think he battled some nerves his first time out,” catcher Russell Martin said. “He looked like he was a little erratic. This time out, he was just pitching. Powering his fastball, downward plane, and he looked like he just had more control of all his pitches. So I think as we progress here, he’s just going to sharpen up.”
The Yankees have seen improvement in each of their top pitching prospects. Banuelos showed it today. Dellin Betances showed it yesterday. David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell and Adam Warren have been pretty sharp all spring, drawing consistent praise from Joe Girardi.
“I thought (Banuelos) attacked the zone better and was able to get his secondary pitches over,” Girardi said. “I thought Betances made a big jump too, yesterday. Betances was aggressive yesterday, threw some strikes and was throwing 95. You’re trying to get them more comfortable to attack the zone with their good stuff. I think we saw it from both of them.”
Expectation is that both Banuelos and Betances have next to zero chance of making the big league roster. They’re ticketed for Triple-A, and might not even be the first pitchers called up if the Yankees need a spot starter. But the Yankees have seen progress, and all eyes are on each of their outings.
Today it was Banuelos’ turn to shine.
“He’s got great stuff, no question,” Martin said. “But he still has to work on his changeup, and he still has to work on his breaking ball command for him to be who he wants to be. But it’s still early in the spring, and from this outing compared to the last, it’s already a nice leap forward. He definitely has the stuff. He’s got a lot of life on his fastball. It’s easy. He struck a couple guys out just elevating his fastball. But the main thing for him, he’s the type of guy who will get himself in trouble. He’s not going to get banged around because his stuff’s so good. But you don’t want the guy to walk guys and create his own troubles. And that’s what we’re trying to keep him from doing. Just make sure that he’s throwing the ball over the plate and using all his pitches.”
• Not much to say about Freddy Garcia’s outing. He went three scoreless innings with two strikeouts and one hit, keeping his pitch count low and working quickly. “Vintage Freddy,” is what Girardi called it. Before the game, Garcia told Martin that he wanted to work on his changeup a little bit, and Garcia said his changeup was arguably his best pitch of the day.
• Martin on Garcia: “His pitch count was relatively low because he got contact. He was throwing strikes. That’s what you want from him, just to be able to throw all his pitches over the plate, and induce contact. That’s what he did.”
• It was just yesterday that Joba Chamberlain told me he would begin throwing breaking balls on Sunday. Turns out, he’s ahead of even his own schedule. Chamberlain wound up throwing breaking balls this morning, throwing five sliders for the first time since Tommy John surgery. “Once I threw the first two, the last three were a lot better,” he said. Chamberlain went through his usual routine of 10 pitches off flat ground, 20 off a mound, a short rest, then 10 more off the mound. When that was finished, he threw all five sliders with his catcher standing up so that he wouldn’t feel the need to overthrow and keep the ball down.
• Most of the pitching attention today was on Garcia and Banuelos, but I thought Mitchell look pretty sharp. He’s known for that sinker, but he really has to use his changeup and breaking ball to stay effective, and today he got a swinging strike three with a good changeup that had good movement. He pitched two scoreless, allowing one hit and one walk.
• Juan Cedeno is probably the longest of long shots to make this team as a left-handed releiver, but today he came in to face one batter — big league lefty Freddie Freeman — and Cedeno got a strikeout. Kevin Whelan closed out the win with the final two outs.
• The 3-0 win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Yankees.
• Great play by Martin to get Michael Bourne out on a bunt in the third inning. It was a pretty good bunt up the third-base line, and Martin made a kind of twirling throw to get one of the fastest players in baseball. “That’s as good as it gets from a catcher,” Girardi said. “There aren’t too many people who can make that play, just because of his athleticism.”
• Even though the CT scan came back negative, the Yankees are taking things slow with Eduardo Nunez’s sore right hand. “We said, ‘Don’t take (batting practice) today and let’s see where you are tomorrow,’” Girardi said. As of right now, Nunez is not scheduled to make tomorrow’s trip to play the Braves.
• No one had more than one hit today, but four Yankees — Martin, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez and Doug Bernier — did have doubles in the win. It was Swisher’s second double of the spring. Robinson Cano picked up his second RBI. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Melky Mesa and Gustavo Molina also had hits.
• For Sunday’s split-squad games, the plan is for the big league outfielders to travel to Fort Myers with Phil Hughes. The big league infielders will stay in Tampa to play behind CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Girardi is going to the road game. I’m still making up my mind.
Associated Press photos
Waiting for doors to open • 03.03.12
There was nothing David Phelps, Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances could have done this afternoon to make themselves favorites for the Yankees rotation. There are plenty of big league starters on the roster, and as long as everyone stays healthy, the next wave of pitching talent will have to wait.
“I made that clear in my first meeting with all the guys,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘Look, we used 28 pitchers last year, and I guarantee you all 28 weren’t on the 40-man when the year started. But at some point, they were there. If you think we’re not going to call you up because you’re not on the 40-man, think again. Everyone in this room has an opportunity to possibly pitch for us this year or you wouldn’t be here.’ I think it’s important that they know that. We like to use our system, and we want our system to be deep.”
The Yankees have homegrown Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and Dave Robertson on the roster. Joba Chamberlain will be there soon enough, and guys like Betances, George Kontos and Kevin Whelan got some big league time last year. The young guys have seen doors open, and they’re well aware it could happen again.
“We saw it last year,” Phelps said. “The majority of the guys that were in camp last year helped the team at some point or another. It’s more about going out and trying to prove to myself that I can do it… We were down in Triple-A last year seeing a lot of our friends and teammates getting called up. It’s great watching them pitch, and it’s like, ‘I could be next.’ It’s a matter of going out and doing your job and hopefully your turn will come. It’s definitely motivation. It’s knowing that if you go out and do your job to the best of your ability, there’s a good chance that at some point during the season, you’ll be able to help the club.”
If one of those doors is opened much sooner than expected, these early spring outings could be a factor in which young pitcher gets the call. “You try to get a feel for who would handle the situation the best,” Girardi said. Today, Phelps seemed to make the best impression, but Adam Warren looked good yesterday and there’s still a long way to go.
“We get a lot of questions about how it feels to compete against your friends,” Phelps said. “We don’t see it as we’re competing against each other; we know that if we go out and do what we’re capable of doing, it’s not like if I pitch well, that means Warren isn’t going to get called up if Warren goes out and pitches well. If we all go out and do what we’re capable of doing, it’s going to be good for all of us. We feed off each other; when one is doing well, it really helps out the rest. We go over scouting reports, pick each other’s brains about how to set up hitters. If anything coming up with the same group of guys and being comfortable with them has made it easier to succeed as a group.”
Associated Press photo of Betances
Pretty quiet day here at Yankee Stadium. The first person I saw in the clubhouse was Yogi Berra, dressed in a sharp suit for today’s Roger Maris ceremony. The last person I talked to in the Yankees clubhouse was Phil Hughes, having just sat down after a morning bullpen.
“I didn’t even feel it,” he said.
In this case, Hughes was referring to his lower back, which started causing him problems last weekend and cost him a start this week. Hughes threw 35 to 40 pitches and he remains on schedule — assuming no setbacks — to pitch next week in Tampa. There’s no date scheduled for that appearance.
“I think you really have to wait and see how he feels tomorrow and decide what we’re going to do,” Joe Girardi said.
Given the fact he hasn’t pitched since September 12, there’s a very real possibility that the Yankees will decide to simply move him into the bullpen for the division series.
“I think you have to think about that,” Girardi said. “I think that’s one of the things you have to think about just because he hasn’t thrown in a while and we’re not sure how it’s going to play out in the next couple of days after throwing this bullpen. Just a lot of decisions to be made by Friday.”
• Francisco Cervelli ran for about 10 minutes today. He’s still not ready to begin baseball activities, but he’s making progress. “I still would be a little bit surprise if we got him back,” Girardi said. “But, you know, maybe it stays away and maybe he’s able to help us.”
• Without Cervelli, the Yankees have to consider a postseason roster without a traditional backup catcher. “It changes the way that maybe you think about your roster a little bit,” Girardi said. “You know, when you think about your roster, the expectation is that Russell is going to play every day. You really have to think about how you’re going to do things and the combination of guys. There’s a lot of thought that’s going to go into this. The one thing about making a roster is you try to guard against everything, that’s what you try to do, but you really can’t.”
• A.J. Burnett will start the first game tomorrow. Ivan Nova will start the second.
• Girardi was asked today about the impact of Mark Teixeira’s defense at first base: “He saves us errors,” Girardi said. “Saving errors to me is important. It saves runs, No. 1. No. 2, it saves pitches for our starter. An inning ends up being prolonged and a pitcher throws 12 extra pitches, and it takes an inning away from them, and it affects your bullpen. It’s just kind of a trickle effect. So, being able to save pitches by saving errors is extremely important to me, and he does a wonderful job.”
• I actually have not yet seen Manny Banuelos, but I know he’s here. I’ve seen Adam Warren and David Phelps hanging around the past two days. They’re here to observe for the weekend, just to get themselves used to the big league environment.
“This is something that our club has done in the past where we bring young kids up that we think could have an impact either next year or the year after,” Girardi said. “(They) kind of get a feel what it’s like to be in our clubhouse, see all the media, understand our clubhouse — our clubhouse is something you have to learn – so when they do get here, they’re more comfortable. We all know that those first couple days as a big league player, a lot of times, there’s a lot of butterflies, but you try to get rid of some of that. But these are kids that we believe are going to help us, and that’s why they’re here.”
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carl Crawford LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Mike Aviles 3B
Marco Scutaro SS
Josh Reddick RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Associated Press photos
Cashman: Waiver deals unlikely for Yankees • 08.13.11
The waiver-deal deadline is Aug. 31. But Brian Cashman, who stood pat at the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, isn’t counting on outside help coming now for the Yankees, either.
“I think … what you see is what you’re going to get,” Cashman said. “It doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be some changes. I highly doubt it. It’s not likely you’re going to see anything between now and Aug. 31 because of the waivers, guys not clearing.”
Maybe they will look in-house and see if Manuel Banuelos can help out of the bullpen before the season is out since they already have too many starters right now. Or maybe they can give him a taste of things here. The 20-year-old lefty is 0-1 with a 3.24 ERA in three starts since being promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He took the loss at Syracuse Friday, allowing three runs, six hits and four walks and striking out three over 5 2/3. He left trailing 3-1 and the final was 7-4.
And what about Jesus Montero? The 21-year-old righty-hitting catcher is batting .283 with 13 homers and 55 RBI in 96 games. He went 2 for 5 with a solo homer Friday. He’s at .289 with three homers and five RBI over his last 10 games.
Today’s pregame topic of discussion was pretty much the same as yesterday’s: What happens to Phil Hughes after tonight’s start? What happens if he pitches well? What happens if he struggles? Where would he go if he lost his spot in the rotation?
Joe Girardi’s answer to all of the above was basically the same: Wait and see.
“There’s a lot of things we gotta talk about,” Girardi said. “The best thing that could happen is that he pitches really well, and then we have a tough decision to make in what we’re going to do. There are some different scenarios. (Ivan) Nova really hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen as much, and we’re going to need a starter August 27 when we go to Baltimore, so you want someone built up. There are some things after today and tomorrow we’re going to have to talk about.”
Hughes has been hit-and-miss since he came off the disabled list. He’s had one really good start, one really bad start, and two so-so starts full of ups and downs. Nova was very good in his return from Triple-A, and he’ll get another start on Thursday to further plead his case.
When the Yankees cut their rotation down to five starters, the most obvious changes would involved Hughes to the bullpen or Nova back to Triple-A. Girardi hasn’t said those are his top options, but he does talk a lot about Hughes’ bullpen experience and the Yankees desire to have someone stretched out for that Baltimore double header.
“What I am saying is that you gotta have someone built up,” Girardi said. “Maybe it’s not even someone here to make that start on the 27th. We’re going to do what’s best for everyone involved, what we think is best for people’s futures, what’s best for this team now, and what’s best for this team in the future. I’m not saying one of them would necessarily go down.”
Basically, anything is possible. Both Hughes and Nova seem to know and accept that.
“I thought (Hughes) made some progress his last start,” Girardi said. “But I think his stuff can even get better. He can give us more distance. His curveball wasn’t as sharp in his last start. CC’s slider wasn’t as sharp (last night) as it’s been, but when it’s Phil, we gotta get this guy on a roll, too. He’s had his struggles this year, so more red flags go up. His curveball wasn’t as sharp and we gotta get that going… It’s something that we have to talk about. You watch how he throws tonight, and you just have to talk about it and decide what’s best for everyone involved.”
• Derek Jeter gave his usual, as-expected responses when asked about his finger. He said it’s fine. He didn’t test it before getting to the ball park today. He feels ready to go. You can pretty much fill in the rest.
• The forecast is no good. No good at all. Word is that the Yankees and White Sox would play a regular double header tomorrow if today’s game is rained out (not a split double header). So far, there’s no rain, but the sky is starting to get a little bit dark.
• Has this rotation situation gotten in Hughes’ head? “I haven’t really noticed it,” Girardi said. “But we pay attention to it if a guy’s trying to do something out there. I haven’t really noticed it.”
• Has it been tough to get Rafael Soriano innings since he came back? “It hasn’t been tough,” Girardi said. “We him in on Saturday. It would be a good thing if we needed him tonight. It hasn’t really been tough… We still want to continue to develop the arm strength, he’s had five appearances (counting rehab), but I think more would be beneficial for him.”
• Alex Rodriguez is still on schedule to begin rehab work on Thursday.
• It seems clear that Brett Gardner has lost platoon status and is now playing pretty much every day regardless of lefty/righty. “It is hard to take him out,” Girardi said. “Even on those days (when he used to sit), I didn’t necessarly want, to but I wanted to get Andruw going and I thought that was the best way to do it.
• Manny Banuelos makes his Triple-A debut tonight, and obviously the Yankees will be paying attention. “We’re looking at anyone and everyone who we feel can help us down this last 50 games or whatever we have left,” Girardi said.
Juan Pierre LF
Omar Vizquel 3B
Carlos Quentin DH
Adam Dunn 1B
Alexi Ramirez SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Alex Rios CF
Alejandro De Aza RF
Gordon Beckham 2B
Associated Press photos
Yankees at the break: The rotation • 07.12.11
This was supposed to be the Yankees weakness. It’s become a strength. Because of better-than-expected performances from Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, the Yankees rotation has been dependable, and it’s grown deep enough that Ivan Nova is tucked away in Triple-A.
This winter, there was one free agent starter who could make the Yankees feel confident about their rotation. He picked Philadelphia, and the Yankees were left scrambling for spare parts. Those spare parts have been outstanding, A.J. Burnett has bounced back from last season’s misery, Nova has been inconsistent but generally pretty good as a rookie, and CC Sabathia is once again an early Cy Young candidate. When Phil Hughes landed on the DL after just three starts, the Yankees rotation was tested, but it rose to the challenge.
The Yankees have obvious rotation depth heading into the second half of the season. Nova was crowded out of the rotation despite success, so he’s ready to step in if the Yankees need someone. Based on results, there’s little reason to doubt Colon and Garcia, but their age and recent injuries raise some obvious red flags. The biggest question, though, is probably Hughes. He’s made just one start since coming off the disabled list, and although his velocity was much better than it was in April, he didn’t exactly plow through the Indians lineup. The Yankees are hoping that the Hughes saw in last year’s first half shows up for this year’s second half.
D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Lance Pendleton each have ERAs of 3.38 or lower in Triple-A. Now they’re joined by Nova to give the Yankees a good, young Triple-A rotation. Their success helps cover the fact that Andrew Brackman has been surprisingly bad, losing his rotation spot and struggling to find consistency as a reliever.
The bigger names are in Double-A, where Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have each pitched well – Betances especially – but their control issues are proof that they’re still young and have some work to do. Both have 40 walks in fewer than 80 innings this season. In the lower levels, Mikey O’Brien, Josh Romanski and Nik Turley have pitched their way into call-ups. A few other standouts whose names might not be familiar: Craig Heyer (Fall League selection with a 3.19 ERA in Double-A), Jairo Heredia (improving prospect with a 3.29 ERA in High-A) and Brett Marshall (outstanding since the end of April in High-A).
What happens if Nova dominates in Triple-A?
In his return to Triple-A, Nova struck out 10 and walked none through 7.2 innings that proved he was a Major League pitcher in a minor league game. If that pace continues and one of the Yankees starters slips – doesn’t get hurt, doesn’t fall apart completely, just starts allowing four runs every time out – how quickly would the Yankees make a change and decide they need to move Nova back into the big league rotation?
It will be interesting to see whether the Yankees push either Betances or Banuelos in the second half. It’s entirely possible that they’ll be big league ready at some point next year, but it might not be at the start of the season unless they get at least a half season at Triple-A. It’ll also be interesting to see if Phelps, Mitchell or Warren gets some big league time kind of like Nova did last year. The bigger question, though, centers on Sabathia, who can opt out of his contract at the end of this season. Even if Sabathia opts out, the Yankees would remain a favorite to bring him back, but it’s an issue that could have a significant impact on the next five or six years (maybe more).
Associated Press photos of Sabathia and Colon, headshots of Mitchell, Banuelos and Nova