The Yankees 2014 rookie class • 11.10.14
Tonight the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will announce its choices for Rookie of the Year. We already know one Yankees player is going to finish in the top three — Dellin Betances was announced as a finalist — but this really was a pretty solid year for rookies in pinstripes. Here’s look back at a five-man ballot for an all-Yankees Rookie of the Year.
1. Dellin Betances
By the numbers: 90 IP, 0.78 WHIP, 1.40 ERA, 135 K, 24 BB
What he meant: So good he earned Mariano Rivera comparisons
Coming into spring training, Betances didn’t have a big league job, and he had an extra option that meant the Yankees didn’t have to keep him on the roster. But he pitched well in big league camp, made the most of some early season opportunities, and emerged as one of the very best relief pitchers in baseball. The Yankees waited through a lot of minor league ups and downs, and the patience paid off. Betances looks like a bullpen mainstay, and quite possibly a near-future closer.
2. Masahiro Tanaka
By the numbers: 136.1 IP, 1.06 WHIP, 2.77 ERA, 141 K, 21 BB
What he meant: Huge investment paid off in a big way before elbow injury
Angels rookie Matt Shoemaker was announced as a ROY finalists, but compare his numbers to Tanaka’s: Shoemaker had a 1.07 WHIP and 3.04 ERA through 136 innings. He had fewer strikeouts and more walks than Tanaka, but he was healthy in the second half and helped push the Angels to the top of the American League West. Shoemaker won seven of his last eight starts, which might have helped him finish higher in the ROY voting, but in the big picture, Tanaka was just as good if not better.
3. Shane Greene
By the numbers: 78.2 IP, 1.40 WHIP, 3.78 ERA, 81 K, 29 BB
What he meant: Mid-season call-up helped solidify the short-handed rotation
Always kind of an on-the-verge prospect — one who got some attention, but never really emerged as a standout — Greene took a giant step forward last season, and he made he good impression this spring. By the time the Yankees desperately needed rotation help in early July, Greene was the top candidate. And he was terrific. Numbers would have been even better if not for two rough starts in September. In 14 starts, only twice allowed more than four earned runs (allowed three or fewer 11 times).
4. John Ryan Murphy
By the numbers: 81 AB, .284/.318/.370
What he meant: Productive backup catcher while Francisco Cervelli was hurt
Fewer at-bats, but Murphy finished with a slash line pretty similar to that of Yangervis Solarte, who was one of the biggest surprises of the year before his mid-season trade. Murphy’s production was a bit inconsistent, but that might be a product of inconsistent playing time. For the most part, he looked like a productive young catcher who could fully replace Cervelli next season. Still determining whether Murphy is a long-term backup or a future starter. He was good in a limited role.
5. Chase Whitley
By the numbers: 75.2 IP, 1.48 WHIP, 5.23 ERA, 60 K, 18 BB
What he meant: Provided a temporary and unexpected boost for the rotation
After years of productive but not-quite-overwhelming relief work in Triple-A, Whitley went unselected in the Rule 5 draft. Then he broke camp as a full-time starter and saw his stock rise in a big way. Called up for a spot start in mid-May, Whitley’s first seven starts were terrific, then he stumbled, made one more really good start and moved into the bullpen where he was pretty good again late in the year. A year ago he was passed over in the Rule 5. Now he looks like a pretty good long-man, spot-start candidate.
Honorable mention: Yangervis Solarte
By the numbers: 252 AB, .254/.337/.381
What he meant: Surprise regular third baseman became key trade chip
The real point of looking back at the Yankees top rookies is to think about what these guys might do in the future. In that way, Solarte doesn’t exactly fit because he’s now in San Diego. But his rookie year was a pretty good one, and if this were a normal ROY ballot, he’d probably rank fourth ahead of Murphy and behind Greene (maybe even third ahead of Greene). His first two months were incredible. From June 10 through the trade, though, he hit just .078 without an extra-base hit.
Associated Press photo
Looking for a re-do on the Yankees roster • 11.08.14
Last winter, the Yankees added nearly a half-billion dollars in new contracts, but they refused to give a 10-year deal to their best player. The Yankees reluctance with Robinson Cano seemed to be a clear attempt to avoid repeating past mistakes (specifically, an attempt to avoid the pitfalls of one other decade-long contract).
Of all the current regrets on the roster, I think it’s a safe bet that Alex Rodriguez’s contract is the one the Yankees would most like to void if they could. Three more years at basically $20 million a year for a guy who might be a non-factor on the field? That’s pretty bad, and that’s before factoring in all of the off-the-field problems. Total mess.
But if the Yankees could magically get out of one other current obligation, which would it be?
I’m going to assume the Yankees feel good about the Brett Gardner extension, considering he’s coming off a strong season and looks like a relative bargain. They also probably don’t have much regret about two more years and $22 million left on Martin Prado’s deal, if only because it’s a relatively small contract that isn’t going to cripple their payroll. The Brendan Ryan contract also is not the sort of thing that creates many payroll problems.
So, of the other multi-year contracts on the Yankees roster — non-Rodriguez division — which are you second guessing most?
Contract: Five years, $122 million (plus a vesting option)
What’s left: Two years (plus the vesting option)
This is the triple crown of contract concerns: Age, performance and injury. And that vesting option is based on shoulder injury, not a knee or elbow injury, so that option could vest despite the current concerns. Pitchers are always risky investments, and while there was very little doubt the Yankees would extend Sabathia back in 2011. He was good again in 2012, but the contract has been a problem ever since. If Sabathia can become a steady middle-of-the-rotation arm for the remaining years, the Yankees will surely be happy with that production at this point. The rotation now belongs to Tanaka and Michael Pineda.
Contract: Eight years, $180 million
What’s left: Two years
I’ve written before that if you go back to that 2008 offseason, Teixeira was exactly the kind of player worth a long-term investment. He was consistent, he was terrific on both offense and defense, there was little indication he’d ever have to abandon his position, and he was — perhaps most importantly — always healthy. One great years, though, and things started to slide in a big way. To me, Teixeira is the strongest example of why all long-term contracts are giant risks. If he hits for power like he did the first three months of 2014, and carries that through a full season, Teixeira can still be plenty productive for the Yankees. There are a lot of red flags at the moment, though.
Contract: Three years, $45 million
What’s left: Two years
This is a relatively short and relatively inexpensive contract, but because of Beltran’s age and overwhelming unproductive season, I think the Yankees would back out of his deal before they’d back out of some others. Losing Beltran might open right field for a free agent like Melky Cabrera or Nelson Cruz. This isn’t a contract that’s going to cripple the Yankees payroll for an extended period of time, but it’s a contract that looked bad just two months into its first season.
Contract: Five years, $85 million (plus a club option)
What’s left: Four years (plus the club option)
Even after a brutal first season in New York, I’m not sure the Yankees would be desperate to get out of this contract. After another year like this year, it might be a different story, but McCann seemed to show some signs of significant improvement late in the year. He also helped get a strong season out of a patchwork pitching staff, and I think that has to count for something. That said, the fact the Yankees are deep in upper-level catching prospects means they have some young and cheap alternatives behind the plate. I doubt the Yankees are too bothered by the McCann deal at the moment, but that first year certainly didn’t go as planned.
Contract: Seven years, $153 million (plus a club option)
What’s left: Six years (plus the club option)
In his first year after coming from the Red Sox to the Yankees, Ellsbury’s performance was more or less in keeping with his past production. He hit the second-most home runs of his career, put up a slash line pretty close to his career numbers, and more or less provided the same speed and defense that the Yankees had seen from afar. The only immediate regret in the Ellsbury contract is that there are so many years left. Any contract of this length is worth second guessing. Which brings us to…
Contract: Seven years, $155 million
What’s left: Six years (with a player opt out after 2017)
My guess is that the Yankees don’t regret this deal. Yes, Tanaka’s elbow could go out at any moment, but that’s basically true of any pitcher. Bigger risk with Tanaka, obviously, but they also signed a legitimate front-line starter who’s Japanese numbers carried over to the big leagues. That’s a big deal, and a young ace is nearly impossible to find. Even with the injury risk, that’s a guy worth signing for big money. That said, this is a lot of money and a lot of years for a guy who broke down midway through his first season.
Associated Press photos
Election day in the Yankees clubhouse • 11.04.14
It’s election day, so let’s have some fun with that!
I’m not going to say that I hope you all voted today. I’ll say instead that I hope you got yourself educated on the issues, really looked into the candidates and the possibilities, and then voted. That’s the way to take the responsibility seriously.
This blog post is one way to not take it seriously.
Remember being a senior in high school and voting on class personalities? If not, I’m sure you at least understand the reference. It’s not like voting for a senator or voting for an amendment. It’s done with a sense of having a good time, and that’s what this blog post is about. Here are a few suggestions for the leading candidates for various class superlatives on the current Yankees roster.
Most Likely to Succeed – Jacoby Ellsbury
With good reason, we focus a lot on the uncertainty of the Yankees current roster (and we’re going to focus on it again in a few sentences), but it’s interesting to do the opposite. What’s the most reliable piece heading into next season? I’d argue it’s Ellsbury, who more or less lived up to expectation in his first season with the Yankees. Factoring in track record, injury concerns, age, and everything else, I’d say Ellsbury is as reliable as it gets for next season.
Least Certain to Succeed – Masahiro Tanaka
Not least likely to succeed, just least certain. There can be no doubt about Tanaka’s talent – the first half of his rookie year proved his stuff can be plenty effective against major league hitters – but we also know that his elbow ligament was slightly torn last season. We know he can succeed, just can’t be certain he’ll have a successful 2015.
Class President – CC Sabathia
It will probably be several years before we see another Yankees captain, and the current roster really has no one quite like Derek Jeter in terms of clear clubhouse leadership. Recognizing that reality — acknowledging there’s no natural fit for team captain — who carries all those qualities you think of in a Class President? I think Sabathia fits best. He’s most certainly respected, he’s incredibly well liked, and he’s been around almost as long as anyone in the room.
Class Clown – Brendan Ryan
This is not intended as a joke about Ryan’s talent or impact. This is intended literally to point out that he’s a bit of a goofball. In a clubhouse full of veterans, where the word stoic is far more applicable than silly, Ryan is a breath of fresh air. He was in good spirits despite rarely playing last season, and there were days he literally went bounding through the locker room laughing like a little kid. As long as it doesn’t cross the line from amusing to annoying, I tend to think a clubhouse needs a guy like that.
Teacher’s Pet – Martin Prado
Honestly, I’m kind of guessing here, but doesn’t Prado seem like exactly the kind of guy a manager could fall in love with? Willing and able to play anywhere in the field. Willing and able to hit basically anywhere in the lineup. Willing (and sometimes able) to play hurt. Does all of that with a real sense of professionalism. With good reason, I could see Prado becoming a Joe Girardi favorite.
Greatest Overachiever – Brett Gardner
Walk-on in college. Labeled a fourth outfielder throughout the minor leagues. Relegated to platoon playing time when he got to the big leagues. Even Gardner’s believers seemed to always acknowledge that he might not actually become an everyday guy, yet this season he landed a multi-year deal and led the Yankees in WAR (according to Baseball Reference; FanGraphs had him second). That’s defying expectation in a big way.
Greatest Underachiever – Brian McCann
At this point, I’m just piling on against a player who I still believe could be a really nice hitter next season (he was awfully good in September). But, the thing with McCann’s disappointing season is that it can’t be blamed on injury or age. Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano had some excuses in place. McCann never really had one — and to his credit, he never made one — for his disappointing year.
Most Anticipated – Michael Pineda
If we’re looking ahead to next year, then Rob Refsnyder might fit in this spot. If we’re looking beyond next year, then maybe Luis Severino or Aaron Judge. If we’re looking back to last year, then it’s surely Tanaka. But as a combination — last season, next season, and beyond — the anticipation of Pineda is difficult to overlook. The Yankees waited years to finally get him on the field, and they still haven’t seen what he can do in a full season.
Mr. Nice Guy – Adam Warren
Here’s the thing: If Adam reads this and sees a “Mr. Nice Guy” category, he’ll know that he’s going to win it. So will every one of his teammates. It’s not that there are a bunch of jerks in that room — Francisco Cervelli? Incredibly nice guy. Zelous Wheeler? Impossible to dislike. CC Sabathia? Ivan Nova? Brett Gardner? All invited to any dinner I’m attending. — but Warren’s a really, genuinely, nice guy. I don’t know how else to describe him. By the way, Chase Whitley might have been the choice here, but he’s made fun of Missouri football too many times. Total jerk, that guy.
Least Popular – Alex Rodriguez
I know, I know, this one is too easy. But who else fits this description, and what other distinction best fits this player? Rodriguez has gone beyond a lightning rod. At this point, he’s simply a cautionary tale about bad contracts, and performance enhancing drugs, and poor public relations decisions. Rodriguez will probably be booed a lot next year, but if he hits, I bet he’ll be cheered again.
Life of the Party – Dellin Betances
Not in the usual sense. Betances isn’t the life of the party because he’s an over-the-top personality (he’s actually pretty subdued for the most part). He’s the life of the party because he was surely the best thing about last season, and he’s one of the absolute bright spots heading into next season. If you want to look at the roster and find an undeniably good thing, a young success story like Betances — who’s not tied to a bad contract, who’s still in his 20s, who came up through the minor league system, who still has an exciting future — is about as good as it gets for the Yankees right now. The life of the party brings excitement when things get dull, and that’s certainly what Betances is doing.
Associated Press photos
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
On the day he came off the disabled list, Masahiro Tanaka pitched 5.1 innings against Toronto, and that was his shortest outing of the year. Its brevity was easy to dismiss because he was working with a limited pitch count and the results were still awfully impressive for a guy who hadn’t pitched in more than two months.
Today, Tanaka was cleared for more pitches, and there was a definite expectation that he would simply give the Yankees more of the same. One more encouraging start would boost confidence and send the Yankees into the offseason feeling relatively good about the status of Tanaka’s right elbow.
Instead, Tanaka got just five outs. He was charged with a season-high seven runs — five earned — and he was pulled from the game after just 50 pitches. It was bad. Except that Tanaka said afterward that he was simply having a bad day, not a injured day.
“Obviously I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be today,” he said. “But arm and body is fine.”
That is, I suppose, good news, but hearing Tanaka say he’s healthy certainly carries a little more weight when he’s coming off a strong and encouraging start. This start was neither of those things.
“There was no problem,” Joe Girardi said. “He had just thrown a lot of pitches in those first two innings, and I just thought it’s not smart to send him back out or leave him out there, so I just made a change. … He struggled with some command today a little bit and wasn’t real sharp with his fastball for whatever reason. We asked him, ‘Do you feel good?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I feel good.’ He got in some bad counts and they hurt him.”
Worry about it all winter?
“I would think that he would have some peace of mind knowing that he feels good and knowing that spring training, we’ll build him up as normal as we would any other time,” Girardi said. “I hope he has peace of mind. I’d hate for him to go through the winter and not have it. We asked him even when he came in after the game, ‘You sure you felt OK?’ He said, ‘I felt good. I just didn’t have it today.’”
So this will be the Yankees final image of Tanaka as they move through this offseason. Physically, it seems the injection-and-rehab protocol has helped the ligament, and the Yankees are as confident about his health as they could be given the circumstances.
So how does Tanaka evaluate his first year with the Yankees?
“My goal coming in this season was to stay healthy and keep a spot in the rotation,” he said. “So obviously I wasn’t able to do that. I was only able to do half a job, so with that said, I think I’m a little bit disappointed how the season was. … I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of talk, a lot of expectations, but for me, I just try to go out on the mound and try to do the best I can. Try to put up a W. As far as comparing the first half of the season with next season, I feel like I want to do better than I did the first half of the season.”
• Two at-bats in tonight’s game was the plan all along for Jeter. It’s what he told Girardi he wanted. How many at-bats will he get tomorrow? “Whatever he tells me,” Girardi said. “He told me two at-bats today, so that’s what I did.”
• Kind of looked like Jeter might have hurt himself a little bit while beating out that infield single in the third inning. “No, I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I think he had run extremely hard, he had to stretch. He probably felt it a little bit in his hamstring. He didn’t say that he was injured, but we’ll see.”
• This was Jeter’s 152nd career game at Fenway Park, matching Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig for the most games ever played here by a Yankees player. He should break that record tomorrow.
• This was the first time since August 11 that the Yankees allowed 10 runs or more. It was their 21st loss when scoring at least four runs.
• Ichiro Suzuki had another two-hit day and has hit safely in six of his past seven starts with a .360 average in that span. … Chase Headley also had two hits, his third multi-hit game in the past five. … Chris Young had two more hits including another double and another RBI. Turned out to be a nice addition for the final month of the season.
• As for the ESPN.com report about Girardi addressing the team on Thursday: “Let me clear this up,” Girardi said. “I’m going to clear it up right now. I addressed the team and told them what I expect for next year. Yeah, we’re all disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs. I addressed the team because it’s easier to do it at our ballpark. We need to be better. We need to execute better next year. That’s what baseball comes down to; execution. Everyone in that room is disappointed. I’m not the only one that’s disappointed. I just felt it was the place to do it. We have to go back to work.”
• According to the report, Girardi got on some players for being overweight and others for not being “hungry” enough. Girardi said he has no problem with the conditioning of his team, and as he’s said publicly all year, he said he’s been happy with the team’s work ethic and desire. “Our team never stopped playing, so I don’t know what you’re asking for,” Girardi said. “The bottom line is we didn’t execute well enough in certain situations, and we have to do better. Whether it’s getting a run in, getting a runner over, making a pitch when you need to make a pitch. We were in a lot of close games. If you could have won five or six more of them, you might be playing next week. Because we were in so many, there are probably some that you can think about. It’s disappointment.”
• Would the message have made a difference if it had been delivered several weeks ago? “I have had some individual meetings where I pull a guy aside and talk about things, but we were eliminated and I just told them,” Girardi said. “… These guys never gave up on us. They never gave up. They kept playing, kept playing, kept playing. We went through difficult things and they kept fighting and fighting. People wrote us off a bunch of times, but they didn’t. They kept fighting. For that, I’ve told you all along, I was proud of them. I just wanted to let them to know what we expect next year. None of us are happy that we’re not playing next week.”
• Final word we’ll give to Brian Cashman from pregame: “We didn’t hit for the most part all year when we needed to, especially in scoring position. We were deficient on the defensive side for a good portion of the season; that improved significantly with the additions and subtractions. But offensively, we never really could get it going. Pitching was tremendous and somehow we fixed that, which is harder typically to do, but the offense we could not fix.”
Associated Press photos
Game 161: Yankees at Red Sox • 09.27.14
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (13-4, 2.47)
Tanaka vs. Red Sox
RED SOX (70-90)
Mookie Betts 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Daniel Nava RF
Yoenis Cespedes DH
Allen Craig 1B
Garin Cecchini 3B
Rusney Castillo CF
Bryce Brentz LF
Christian Vazquez C
RHP Joe Kelly (3-2, 4.00)
Kelly vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., FOX
WEATHER: Absolutely beautiful day here in Boston. Couldn’t be much nicer.
UMPIRES: HP Vic Carapazza, 1B Larry Vanover, 2B Angel Hernandez, 3B Paul Nauert
UPDATE, 2:01 p.m.: Tanaka out of the game having not lasted through the second inning. He was knocked around quite a bit here today. The Yankees are primarily concerned with his health — results don’t matter much — but this wasn’t nearly as good as his previous outing. Preston Claiborne in from the bullpen with the Red Sox already leading 5-0 on seven hits. Tanaka got just five outs. He threw 50 pitches, 25 strikes. Could have gone up to 80, but he was clearly laboring.
UPDATE, 2:04 p.m.: And now an error on the new guy. Perez lets what should have been the final out bounce off his glove. It’s now 7-0.
UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: Claiborne finally gets out of the second inning, but the damage is most certainly done. It’s a 9-0 Red Sox lead heading into the third.
UPDATE, 2:22 p.m.: Jeter chops a ball up the middle for an infield single. Big ovation here at Fenway.
UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.: Looks like Jeter is finished after two at-bats. Francisco Cervelli on deck to hit for the captain.
Today’s game might be another meaningless one in the standings, but it still carries weight for the Yankees. And all of that weight rests in Masahiro Tanaka’s right elbow.
As long as the elbow holds up through 70 to 80 pitches, the Yankees will shut down their young ace and send him home for a fairly routine offseason.
“It should give me some confidence and just be able to go back home to Japan and work out the way I want to,” Tanaka said. “… I do really want to go out there again and check to see how my arm is. That’s kind of the main thing I’m looking for.”
This will be Tanaka’s second start since going through the injection-and-rehab protocol that the Yankees are hoping has at least temporarily fixed the torn ligament that will likely require Tommy John surgery should anything go wrong this afternoon. It’s a risk the Yankees feel they have to take. They have to test the ligament so that they have a better idea of what they have for next season.
“I still want to go out there and check to see how my arm, how my body is,” Tanaka said. “But obviously, compared to the first time, to last Sunday, no I’m not (concerned). There’s no fear or anything.”
What are the Yankees looking for this afternoon?
“Just a continuation of what we saw the other day,” Girardi said. “The command, the sharpness of his stuff. Obviously I won’t push him too far. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense at this point. But just that same stuff.”
And will one start be enough to leave Tanaka satisfied that he’s fully healthy?
“It’s what it is,” he said. “You can’t ask for another game, so I’m just going to go in there (today), see how it is and work based on that.”
Associated Press photo
Yesterday was the big test for Masahiro Tanaka, but it wasn’t until this afternoon that the Yankees got a final grade on his long-awaited return to the rotation. It was important not only that he pitch well, but that he feel good the day after.
“He was all smiles today, which was good,” Joe Girardi said. “He was doing his normal routine that he would do after any other start, so it’s all good news.”
Yesterday’s game was encouraging. So was today’s catch. Tanaka remains on track to start again on Saturday. These last few steps are all about testing Tanaka’s elbow as much as possible heading into the offseason. There’s no way to be 100 percent certain his ligament will hold up, the more steps he gets through, the better. Today was another small one.
“Just the fact that I was able to throw yesterday and the fact I’m feeling good today (is encouraging),” Tanaka said. “Having the start coming up on Saturday, if I come out from that strong, then obviously that’s a positive. From where I am right now, I should be able to have a good offseason of training that I want to do, and I should be good to go for next season.”
CC Sabathia also played catch today — his first official throwing session since knee surgery — which was another small but encouraging step for a Yankees rotation facing quite a bit of uncertainty heading into this offseason.
“And I think you can add another guy in there; Nova’s rehab has went extremely well,” Girardi said. “He has had zero setbacks and has progressed very, very well. Obviously CC has done well after this new knee surgery and we’re pleased about that. These guys play a very important role. Pitching is a huge part and when you have pitching you can stay in most games and have an opportunity to win them. When you get distance from your starters, your bullpen stays more rested and you can use them a little more different. It would be big for us.”
• Mark Teixeira got a third cortisone injection for his sore right wrist. He got it yesterday and said this injection was in a slightly different spot — “The first two shots were kind of inside the tendon sheath and this is outside the tendon sheath,” he said — and the hope is that he’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow. Why get a third injection at this point? “You never want to end the season hurt,” he said. “You want to finish the season. Every game you can’t play, you make a lot out of it, but realistically, to take a couple days off and get it taken care of, play the last five or six games whatever it might be — it’s worth it.”
• Can Teixeira ever be a 150-game player again? “As many games as hopefully I can,” he said. “I never want to say I am going to play 150 games-plus again because, who knows? You never know what is going to happen. I know my wrist is going to be healthier next year. It’s going to be stronger. That’s all I can say because I’ll have that full offseason of working out and strengthening and not necessarily rehabbing.”
• Sabathia said he wants to build up to throwing a bullpen, then he’ll shut down and have a relatively normal offseason. He did 20 throws at 60 feet today. “We’re trying not to make it that much (different from a normal offseason),” Sabathia said. “I’ll come up here a few times a week, but as far as workouts and stuff, it should be a normal winter.”
• Maybe we already knew this and I just forgot about it, but Sabathia said today that he got a second stem-cell injection last month. “I haven’t (had an knee pain), not since I went back out there for (another) stem cell,” Sabathia said. “I think that was the end of August. It feels great. I haven’t had any problems in the workouts.”
• First time playing catch today? “I’ve kinda been throwing the football a little bit, and throwing at home,” Sabathia said. “So it feels good to come out here and not have to hide and throw.”
• The Yankees claimed OF Eury Perez off waivers and opened a roster spot by designating Josh Outman. “We acquired a young center fielder, left fielder, plays all over, from the Washington Nationals,” Girardi said. “With some of the nicked up position players we had, we felt it was probably in our best interest to (DFA) a pitcher. Outman had done a pretty good job for us. He’s a situational lefty, which are kind of difficult to use this time of year because every time you send a lefty to face a lefty, they put a right hander up because they have so many players. It becomes more difficult to use them.”
• Girardi said Carlos Beltran’s elbow is still bothering him. No update on Jacoby Ellsbury’s hamstring.
Associated Press photos
Pregame notes: “It’s a risk worth taking” • 09.19.14
When I got to the press box this afternoon, Masahiro Tanaka was already in the outfield doing long toss. He threw a bullpen yesterday, came through today’s catch with no problems, and remains on track to start Sunday. There’s a chance he could blow out his elbow in that start, which is oddly the point.
If the injection-and-rehab protocol has done its job, Tanaka’s elbow ligament should be good-to-go by now. And the Yankees need to find out whether that’s the case.
“Are you saying why not wait until next year?” manager Joe Girardi said. “Because we feel that if his arm is going to be OK, it’s going to be OK. And if it’s not, then we want to have (surgery) done so you don’t miss parts of two seasons, in a sense. Or it’d be three, possibly. If it was to (blow out) early next year, you miss part of this season, next and probably part of the following. So this way you know if it doesn’t work, you probably wouldn’t have him for next season. But if he would have had (surgery) in July or August, you probably wouldn’t have had him anyway. So it’s a risk worth taking.”
That was the idea from the beginning. Obviously the Yankees know they might be delaying the inevitable, but three different doctors recommended this approach, and Adam Wainwright is a notable example of a pitcher who put off Tommy John surgery for several years after showing a small ligament tear.
Giradi has explained the Yankees approach several times, but because of the player involved — and because of just how meaningless these last few games have become — the topic remains the source of much debate and plenty of questions. If this plan doesn’t work, the Yankees will have lost the opportunity to potentially have Tanaka past surgery and back in the rotation late next season. If his elbow blows out this weekend, he’ll surely be lost for all of next season.
But if the plan works, the Yankees just might postpone Tommy John surgery indefinitely.
“I think any time somebody talks about that area, there’s a high level of concern,” Girardi said. “There’s always the fear that they’re going to have surgery fairly quickly like Nova did. But so far, everything has been good in his rehab and we’ve been able to avoid it. So you hope that it continues. And I think you’re going to find out a lot more over the next eight days or whatever it is. There’s always concern when you see that.”
Girardi said he expects Tanaka to be available for 70-75 pitches on Sunday. If he comes through that game with no problems, he’ll make one more start this season before shutting down for the winter.
• Shawn Kelley isn’t very happy with the way Jose Bautista reacted to last night’s home run. I haven’t been able to find video of Bautista’s reaction online, but I saw it on MLB Network this morning. A lot of screaming and cursing, and then an emphatic slamming of the bat. “It’s a big situation,” Kelley said. “Emotions are high. If I get him out, I’d probably fist pump or something. That’s part of it. There’s emotions. But going back and watching the replay — because I was trying to watch the pitch, watch the video myself to learn from that — I kind of saw the reaction. Of course, I heard the cursing and stuff throughout running around the bases. I didn’t get it. … I didn’t understand the extent of that emotion, I guess. I guess I maybe took it a little bit personal like it was directed toward me. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but I don’t feel like that necessarily is the right thing to do in that situation.”
• Joe Girardi said he actually didn’t notice Bautista’s reaction to the homer, but Kelley said it left him feeling disrespected. “I was a little bothered by the way it went down last night,” Kelley said. “And I felt like it was OK for me to say something.”
• Here’s Girardi: “People are always going to take exception to when they feel that they’re being shown up. I understand that. Sometimes players do it intentionally, but most of the time they don’t. It’s become accepted in our world that you can do things when you do things well in sports. Years and years ago, it wasn’t accepted. So, the game has changed. But I’d have to see it to really understand it.”
• After losing his unborn son earlier in the week, Carlos Beltran is back in the Yankees lineup tonight. He rejoined the team yesterday. “I’m sure he’s out there with a heavy heart,” Girardi said. “I thought I’d give him yesterday and I would have used him yesterday if I felt there was a spot pinch hitting. But I just felt, you know sometimes, for athletes, for anyone, it’s good to get back out there, to doing what you’re used to doing and living that normal life. But obviously he’s got a a heavy heart, and we’ve got a heavy heart with him. But hopefully it helps getting him back out there.”
• The Yankees have eight walk-off wins this season, and Elias notes that each time, the walk-off at-bat has come from a player in his first year with the Yankees. Chase Headley’s done it three times, Brian McCann twice, and one apiece from Chris Young, Martin Prado and Beltran. “I think some guys have a knack for it, I do,” Girardi said. “Now obviously you have to be put in that situation, but again, I think it’s being able to relax in those moments to be able to do that. And some guys can really have a knack for it.”
• Probably the next-to-last start of the season for Hiroki Kuroda, which likely means the next-to-last start of his Yankees tenure. “He’s been the one constant that we’ve had (the past three years),” Girardi said. “And he’s been very good, and he’s had three good years for us. He’s been consistent and takes the ball on his turn. He’s been a big part of our rotation. It’s interesting. The oldest guy is the one still standing, which is kind of interesting. But he’s a true professional.”
Associated Press photos
Since six games back with 11 to go seems like a rather long shot for the Yankees, this homestand figures to be the last time we will ever see Derek Jeter play at Yankee Stadium outside of on Old-Timers’ Day.
“I just want to try to enjoy it,” Jeter said.
It’s a chance for the fans to say goodbye, with the home finale set for next Thursday night. Joe Girardi doesn’t expect an easy homestand for Jeter despite the love.
“I think it’s going to mean a lot, but I also think it’s going to be difficult, just because of what baseball has meant to his life and what the Yankees have meant to him and what he’s meant to this city,” Girardi said.
“I think it will be difficult for him emotionally. He’s probably not going to show a lot, but it’s hard to take this uniform off.”
It may be even harder on him come February.
“I think he’ll miss it in spring training,” Girardi said. “It becomes a reality that you’re not playing anymore, in a sense. I can’t speak for him and how he’s going to feel, but that was when it really hit me because I was used to doing something around February 15 and all of a sudden I didn’t have anything to do.”
Girardi said Carlos Beltran will be available despite the sad news that came Wednesday that he and wife Jessica had lost their unborn son, reportedly due to a miscarriage.
“My heart goes out to him, and obviously to his family,” Girardi said. “When guys go through this, I think sometimes people think we’re immune to problems because we’re professional athletes. We deal with things on an everyday basis and we go through issues, too. That’s the most difficult part. I just want to get a temperature of where he’s at when he comes in today and then we’ll go from there.”
Masahiro Tanaka threw 32 pitches in the bullpen in preparation for his return Sunday. We’re were told he had no pain.
“So far, so good,” Girardi said.
Photo by The Associated Press.