The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Fewer missing pieces than you might expect12.24.10

On the day Cliff Lee signed with Philadelphia, Brian Cashman said this:

“We have a championship caliber team. There are areas that could be improved upon. There are players in this marketplace currently that could assist there, but will we solve all the problems that we have right now? I don’t want to mislead people and say, ‘Yeah, we’ll take care of that right now this winter.’ It doesn’t have to happen in the winter time. We have up through the summer to get everything we need necessarily fixed.”

Those words didn’t carry much weight because the Yankees seemed to have too many holes to ignore. But then again, consider the 2010 Opening Day roster. Aside from Andy Pettitte, the changes from then to now haven’t been especially significant, and most should be considered addition by subtraction. The roster concerns seem to have more to do with performance than personnel.

ALCS Rangers Yankees BaseballLineup
Derek Jeter SS
Still with the team. This time he’s coming off the worst season of his career, not a near MVP season.

Nick Johnson DH
Gone. He had 12 hits last year.

Mark Teixeira 1B
Still with the team. A model of consistency the previous six years, last season he slugged below .500 for the first time since he was a rookie.

Alex Rodriguez 3B
Still with the team. Had 125 RBI in a down year.

Robinson Cano 2B
Still with the team. Emerged as one of the game’s elite players.

Jorge Posada C
Still with the team. Nagging injuries took their toll last season. This time he’ll be the primary designated hitter.

Curtis Granderson CF
Still with the team. Made significant improvements down the stretch last season.

Nick Swisher RF
Still with the team. Finally had an all-star season and moved up from the No. 8 hole.

Brett Gardner LF
Still with the team. A complete unknown at this time last year.

ALCS Rangers Yankees BaseballBench
Francisco Cervelli C
Still with the team. Likely to return to the exact same role as last season.

Ramiro Pena INF
Still with the team. Could return to the utility role. Could be replaced by Eduardo Nunez or an outside candidate.

Marcus Thames OF
Gone. Wasn’t with the Yankees at this time last year. Didn’t sign until just before spring training.

Randy Winn OF
Gone. Also wasn’t with the team at this time last year. Brian Cashman tried to buy low, but Winn made 16 starts before being designated for assignment.

ALCS Rangers Yankees BaseballRotation
CC Sabathia LHP
Still with the team.
Still at the top of the rotation. Still a Cy Young candidate.

A.J. Burnett RHP
Still with the team. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine he could be any worse than he was last season.

Andy Pettitte LHP
Unknown. While he’s considering retirement, he’s also considered the rotation’s most significant missing piece. Injury limited him to 21 starts last season.

Javier Vazquez RHP
Gone. Last winter’s big rotation addition managed 26 largely forgettable starts.

Phil Hughes RHP
Still with the team. And this time he doesn’t have to fight for a spot in spring training.

ALCS Yankees Rangers Baseball

Mariano Rivera RHP
Still with the team. Same as always. Age would be a factor if he were anyone but Mo.

Joba Chamberlain RHP
Still with the team. Not fighting for a rotation spot this time.

Dave Robertson RHP
Still with the team. Had a 2.27 ERA and held opponents to a .207 batting average in the second half last season.

Damaso Marte LHP
Injured. Likely to miss all season. Essentially replaced by Pedro Feleciano.

Chan Ho Park RHP
Gone. Wasn’t with the team at this time last year. Allowed one more hit than Rivera, despite pitching fewer than half of the games.

Alfredo Aceves RHP
Gone. Non-tendered after missing almost all year with a back injury. Pitched in 10 games last season.

Sergio Mitre RHP
Still with the team.
Actually coming off a pretty solid season, in a much better spot than at this time last year.

Associated Press photos of Jeter, Cervelli, Sabathia and Rivera

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 466 Comments →

Not such a good fit10.31.10

If there’s going to be a list of the year’s best Yankees costumes, there has to be a list of the worst.

White Sox Yankees BaseballNick Johnson
as Johnny Damon
The Yankees tried to bring Damon back, but Damon turned them down. Ultimately, the Yankees settled for Johnson, trusting that his uncanny knack for getting on base would fit well ahead of their powerful three and four hitters. It made sense – even in an awful partial season he had a .388 OBP – but Johnson does one other thing uncannily well: He gets hurt. Ultimately, he was absolutely no help.

Chan Ho Park
as Alfredo Aceves
Aceves is a hybrid reliever, the kind who can fit into a crucial late-inning spot when needed, or can give multiple innings of dependable relief, seeting the stage for a potential comeback. The Yankees never had that kind of reliever this season. They thought they found a similar guy in Park, who they picked of the scrap heap at the beginning of spring training. After 27 appearances and 22 earned run, Park was sent packing.

Javier Vazquez
as Javier Vazquez
The Yankees were counting on one thing about Vazquez: Consistency. This time around, they weren’t asking him to lead a rotation, or even to pitch in the top half of the rotation. He was supposed to be a stabilizing force at the back end, something he had proven capable of doing time and time again in his career. Nothing flashy, just reliable starts every fifth day. Vazquez couldn’t do it, and the Yankees were once again left searching for spot starters.

Mark Melancon
as Dave Robertson
I realize there’s very little evidence that this is true, but I honestly believe Melancon is going to be a good Major League pitcher. I saw too many good things from him in Triple-A to believe he’s always going to struggle this much at this level. But the fact is, he never took that next step – the one Robertson made last year – in New York. I think it will happen in Houston, but it never happened here.

Associated Press photo of Johnson with Derek Jeter

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 483 Comments →

Yankees decline options on Berkman, Wood, Johnson10.27.10

As expected, the Yankees have declined the option to extend the contracts of Kerry Wood, Lance Berkman and Nick Johnson through next season. All three will become free agents.

Two days ago, Brian Cashman said to expect these moves, and given the money involved, there was never any reason to believe the Yankees would pick up any of the three options.

The Yankees did exercise the option in Andrew Brackman’s contract. That’s more of a paper move than anything, even more obvious than turning down the three veterans. When Brackman signed a Major League contract in 2007, it was a four-year deal with club options for 2011, 2012 and 2013. Barring something shocking, all three of those options will be picked up.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 170 Comments →

Yankees unlikely to pick up any player options10.25.10

ph_134268Kerry Wood was terrific during his two and a half months in New York, and the Yankees have the option of bringing him back before he hits the free agent market, but that seems unlikely.

The Yankees have contract options on three players:

• Wood has an $11-million club option.
• Lance Berkman has a $15-million club option.
• Nick Johnson has a $5.75-million mutual option.

It’s unlikely any of the options will be picked up.

“They’re all pretty obvious,” Brian Cashman said. “I have to sit in the office and look at the numbers and stuff like that, but I think, probably, they’re all such large numbers that we wouldn’t be picking up options for anybody off the top of my head. But I have to sit down and go through it and talk to ownership. But my initial thought is they’re all pretty obvious.”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 411 Comments →

Guess the lineup: Yes, no and maybe08.11.10

Did anyone guess last night’s lineup correctly? Thanks to Marc Carig, we had some idea that Mark Teixeira might not be in there, and sitting Curtis Granderson against the lefty made sense. But no one seemed to know about Jorge Posada’s bad shoulder until postgame, and Robinson Cano being sick enough to sit it out came as a surprise.

Ultimately, last night’s lineup included only one of Opening Day’s 2 through 7 hitters.

Although Nick Johnson is the only guy on the disabled list, the Yankees seem to be going through one of their phases of minor injuries/incidents that leave a handful of guys on edge between available and unavailable. Of the nine position players in the Opening Day lineup, six have at least a issue worth keeping an eye on.

Mark Teixeira — Staying in New York with his wife following the birth of their son. Will almost certainly miss tonight’s game, and there’s no absolute return date for the upcoming series in Kansas City.

Robinson Cano — Probably available after pinch hitting last night, but he’s been battling a cold for two days now, and you never know when this sort of thing could become worse than expected.

Alex Rodriguez — Back to regular duty after a few games considered day-to-day because of that fluke batting practice injury.

Jorge Posada — Add a “cranky” shoulder to the long list of relatively minor injuries that have cost Posada time this season. Probably wouldn’t be catching tonight anyway with Javier Vazquez on the mound.

Curtis Granderson — With Austin Kearns providing a right-handed alternative, Granderson’s at-bats against left-handed starters might be diminishing. That said, Joe Girardi hinted that Granderson will be in there tonight. He has good numbers against Cliff Lee.

Nick Johnson — Out indefinitely after wrist surgery.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 210 Comments →

Pregame notes: The Swish is in07.10.10

Yankees Mariners Baseball
When Nick Swisher got the call this morning asking him to join the Home Run Derby, he made five phone calls before saying yes. He called his manager, his hitting coach, his general manager, his father and his brother. All five gave him the thumbs up.

“He said, The Swish is in, here we go,” Long said.

Swisher asked his dad to pitch to him, but Steve Swisher said he hadn’t thrown BP in a while and didn’t want to suddenly do it again on that stage. Instead, Tony Pena will pitch and Swisher will hit left-handed.

“There’s still the same concerns,” Long said. “If he goes deep into the thing, then there’s going to be some issues and things we’ll have to iron out. We’ve already talked about the day after going right back into the cages and working on his swing. He should be alright.”

Joe Girardi said the difference between Swisher and Robinson Cano is that Swisher is 100 percent healthy. Cano has the back issue, Swisher doesn’t. “Swish is healthy as he can be,” Girardi said.

He’s also pretty much as excited as he can be.

“I used to do this in my backyard when I was six years old,” Swisher said. “Now I get to actually do it on the big stage… I gotta hit (at least) one. I can’t come back in this locker room otherwise.”

Here’s Swisher.

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Here’s Long.

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Yankees Mariners Baseball• The Yankees rotation after the break: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Javier Vazquez. “Just the way we’re going with it,” Girardi said. “Not a huge deal, but it’s the way we’re going.”

• Sergio Mitre pitched three innings in the Gulf Coast League today. He allowed one run, two hits and struck out three. The Yankees are still deciding what’s next for him. He will either join the big league team immediately after the all-star break, or he’ll make another rehab start on Thursday.

• Nick Johnson will see the Yankees hand specialist on Sunday. “I have no idea when he’s coming back, and I have no idea if he’ll come back,” Girardi said. “You keep your fingers crossed but it’s just to hard to predict.”

• Regular day off for Derek Jeter. “He’s never happy,” Girardi said. “He never wants to come out of a game. But that’s my job to make those tough decisions.”

• Girardi said he already knows the pitchers he will use to replace those all-stars who start on Sunday, but obviously he’s not ready to announce them. He’s already indicated Jered Weaver will be one of them.

• Cliff Lee is making his Texas debut today, so he won’t be replaced.

• Speaking of replaced, Rafael Furcal has replaced Jose Reyes on the National League team.

• How does Girardi want the Yankees to go after Felix Hernandez tonight? “For a guy that has so much movement down, I think the approach is that you look for a pitch up and hope that he makes some mistakes,” Girardi said.

UPDATE, 9:25 p.m.: Mariners lineup
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Russell Branyan DH
Jose Lopez 3B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Justin Smoak 1B
Michael Saunders LF
Rob Johnson C
Jack Wilson SS

Associated Press photos of Swisher and Jeter.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 106 Comments →

Pregame notes: Posada making progress06.17.10

Astros Yankees BaseballJorge Posada is not sure when he’ll be able to catch back-to-back games, but his foot felt better last night than it did on Sunday, and it feels strong enough today that he could catch if necessary.

“I can’t really get ahead of myself,” Posada said. “Just one day at a time for me now. I could play. I could catch. I’m just not catching.”

Before batting practice, Chad Moeller went through catching drills with Tony Pena. Other than that, he doesn’t seem likely to see much action in the near future, but he’ll stay here until the Yankees are convinced Posada is nearly 100 percent

“My thoughts are, you have to feel that he’s out of the woods,” Joe Girardi said. “That he can catch a game without experiencing what he’s experiencing now.”

The Yankees have four more days before they travel out west to play in National League parks. At that point, Girardi won’t have the option of DHing either Posada or Alex Rodriguez. There is an off day between the Diamondback and Dodgers series, though.

“You’re looking at three days in a row at the most on that road trip after we lose our DH,” Girardi said.

Astros Yankees Baseball• When the Yankees do make a move to drop their third catcher, Girardi said he will add a position player, not a pitcher. “I imagine we would stay with the 12-man pitching staff,” he said.

• Girardi said Alex Rodriguez feels better today, but Girardi’s still not ready to put him in the field. “I know he’s going to take ground balls today,” Girardi said. “We’ll just check with him tomorrow and see how he feels… More of it is him having the confidence that he can make the necessary moves that he needs to make.”

• As for Rodriguez taking it easy running the bases yesterday: “To me I take that as being pretty smart actually,” Girardi said. “If he gets into second, we’re still down three runs. His run doesn’t really mean anything.”

• Nick Johnson is still a long way from swinging a bat. “I have not been given a date when he’s going to pick up a bat, and usually that’s when I know we’re getting close,” Girardi said.

• Alfredo Aceves, though, is getting closer to getting on a mound. Girardi said there’s still no date scheduled for him to throw in the bullpen, but he’s able to play catch without pain. “He’s been playing catch and so far he feels OK,” Girardi said. “They’ll just continue building the distance and the intensity of it.”

• Girardi’s not worried about his bullpen depth tonight and didn’t rule out the idea of using Boone Logan. He said there was no real thought given to bringing up a pitcher

Shane Victorino CF
Chase Utley 2B
Placido Polanco 3B
Ryan Howard 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Raul Ibanez LF
Ben Francisco DH
Carlos Ruiz C
Wilson Valdez SS

Associated Press photos of Posada and Rodriguez, talking to Ramiro Pena.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 55 Comments →

Postgame notes: Making plans06.13.10

Astros Yankees Baseball
Phil Hughes was one out away from another dominant start. He settled for a very good one. In this case, the final numbers don’t tell the story. Yes, Hughes allowed five earned runs, but he was better than that. Until the last two batters, he pitched like an all-star again.

“I would hope that he’s making (all-star) plans, he and Andy,” Jorge Posada said.

Through five innings, Hughes struck out five and scattered three singles. But the Yankees sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, and when Hughes went out for the sixth, he gave up another base hit to the first batter he faced. With two outs, he gave up a double. Tommy Manzella fought through a 10-pitch at-bat before singling in two runs, then Kevin Cash hit a two-run homer.

“I felt like I wasn’t as strong coming out just because of that long inning,” Hughes said. “Really, I just needed to execute a pitch right there (to Manzella). I’d gotten him twice before on fastballs so I was a little stubborn and didn’t go away from my fastball. It’s not like he scorched the ball, he just hit in the right spot, but I’ve got to keep my composure and make a good pitch to Cash, and I didn’t do that. The inning kind of got out of control at that point.”

Even so, it was hard to overlook all the good that came before those last 10 or so pitches. Is Hughes thinking all-star game?

“I tried not to let it slip into my mind too much,” he said. “We still have a ways to go. It’s been a good start and I’m winning games and that’s all I’m really focused on right now.”

Joe Girardi will ultimately make that all-star decision, but he didn’t really talk about it during his postgame session. He did, however, touch on Posada, Rodriguez, the Phillies and just about everything else. Here’s his postgame.

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Astros Yankees Baseball• Another day of treatment went well for Alex Rodriguez. “Good today so we’ll evaluate him Tuesday and hopefully I can pencil him in there,” Girardi said.

• Another game went well for Brett Gardner and his left thumb: “It’s probably not 100 percent and it might not be for a while,” Gardner said. “It’s something I’ll have to deal with it. It’s a case of just not making it worse.”

• Speaking of Gardner, he had two hits, two walks and stole a base in his first start since the thumb injury. “Obviously when you miss a few days you worry about your timing,” he said. “You worry about things getting a little funky, but I saw the ball well today.”

• Robinson Cano is the third Yankees second baseman to reach 100 home runs. Tony Lazzeri hit 169 and Joe Gordon hit 153 (minimum 50 percent of games played at second).

• Ramiro Pena drove in the go-ahead runs with his fourth-inning single. It was the first time he drove in a run since May 19, and Girardi said he was happy with both Pena and Francisco Cervelli’s ability to get hits when they matter. “When we put them in there, we expect them to produce,” he said. “We don’t put them out there and say just go out and play defense or just go out and don’t worry about it. We expect them to be complete players.”

• Mark Teixeira committed his first error since October 2, 2009.

• Was that infield single exactly the way Chad Huffman always imagined his first big league hit? “Absolutely not,” he said. “But a hit’s a hit.” And what did he feel when he got to first base safely? “Relief,” he said. “Definitely relief.”

• Nick Johnson is no longer wearing a brace on his wrist and said he can do most day-to-day stuff without any problem. He’s still not cleared to be begin hitting, though.

• Maybe it doesn’t mean a lot in June, but the Yankees moved into a tie for first place today.

Associated Press photos of Hughes and Cano

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 709 Comments →

Right and wrong: The infield05.24.10

Quick quiz: Who’s second on the Yankees in RBI this season? Alex Rodriguez leads team with 32. Second most belongs to Mark Teixeira who has 30. That tells you a little bit of how worthless RBI is as a statistic, but it also tells you that Teixeira has done some things to help this team win even when he’s off to a horrible start.

Yankees Red Sox BaseballWhat’s gone right?

Robinson Cano
Derek Jeter has shown some signs of life recently, and Rodriguez started showing some power this month, but the Yankees early season MVP is clearly their second baseman. Cano is a very, very good baseball player and he’s shown it with his glove and his bat. He’s hit for power, he’s hit for average and he’s even shown some occasional patience at the plate.

A lot of teams would gladly take a .276 average and four home runs from their shortstop, but this is clearly not the best of Jeter. Seven hits in his past four games, though, might be a sign of things to come. Rodriguez was hitless yesterday, but seven of his past nine games included multiple hits.

Other bright spots: The infield defense has been very good; If we’re counting catcher in this group then Jorge Posada’s hitting has been a definite plus; Jeter’s month of April; Teixeira’s three-home run game; We’ll get more into the greatness of Francisco Cervelli in a post about the bench.

What’s gone wrong?

Mark Teixeira
If we’re counting Posada and Nick Johnson among the infielders — and I guess we are because I’m not planning a post for catchers and DH’s — then those injuries certainly fall into this category, but ultimately Teixeira is the easily the headliner of the What’s Gone Wrong Club.

Earlier this month, Teixeira seemed to have really turned a corner. He was finally crushing the ball again, and doing it against the Red Sox. Then he went cold, just like he’d been the whole month of April. I’m sure everyone expects Teixeira to turn this thing around, but so far Ramiro Pena has a higher batting average.

Other problem areas: Jeter’s recent slump; Rodriguez’s slow start; Johnson’s awful start to the season and seemingly inevitable injury; Posada’s bizarre series of knee, calf and foot injuries.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 651 Comments →

Today in The Journal News05.19.10

One day after he played the role of hero, Marcus Thames dropped a fly ball, leading to a pair of unearned runs and a 7-6 Yankees loss against the rival Red Sox. For the second time in three days, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera combined to blow a late-inning lead.

Jorge Posada sat out the loss because of an odd foot injury, but he hopes to return to the lineup tonight against the Rays. The notebook also has items on Nick Swisher’s sort biceps, Nick Johnson’s wrist surgery, Alfredo Aceves’ bad back and a player move to add a reliever.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Today in the Journal Newswith 567 Comments →

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