Sunday notes: No lineup until Opening Day • 03.27.11
Joe Girardi said he plans to announce most of his final roster decisions tomorrow. The Yankees might have to wait a day or two to determine Curtis Granderson’s status, and they might not immediately name a replacement for Pedro Feliciano, but Girardi said he expects to announce his backup catcher, utility infielder and reserve corner infielder.
He will not announce an Opening Day lineup.
“I’m still thinking about it,” Girardi said. “I haven’t turned my brain off to it by saying, okay, this is what I’m doing. I’m still thinking about it. We’ll still have one long conversation about it.”
Based on recent lineups, my best guess is that the Yankees are going to use the two-lineup approach: They’ll have Brett Gardner leadoff against right-handers and Derek Jeter leadoff against lefties. It’s a pretty solid plan, actually. Girardi said he probably won’t announce an Opening Day lineup until Opening Day itself.
Otherwise: Eduardo Nunez seems to be the favorite for the utility job, Gustavo Molina seems to be the favorite for the backup catcher position and Eric Chavez is all but official as the reserve corner infielder.
“We just haven’t announced it yet,” Girardi said. “I’ll talk to Cash one more time, but we’ll announce it probably tomorrow. Like he said, we’ve got to make sure people are healthy.”
• Pedro Feliciano had an MRI this morning. It showed some sort of muscle problem — Girardi wasn’t sure of the exact diagnosis — but the bottom line is this: “It’s pretty hard to think that he would start with us,” Girardi said. “I’m hoping it’ll be shorter (term), but you can never predict.”
• As possible replacements for Feliciano, Girardi once again mentioned Luis Ayala and Mark Prior, but neither of those two is on the 40-man roster, and today’s conversation certainly made it seem like the Yankees are leaning toward Steve Garrison. “He’s done a good job for us against left-handers, and he’s a viable option for us,” Girardi said. “We’ll probably see him throw one more time before we leave and then we’ll make a decision.”
• Here’s Girardi’s cryptic comment about why Romulo Sanchez was scratched from this road trip: “That got cancelled for reasons I can’t give to you at this point.” Someone mentioned a trade and Girardi gave a weird look that suggested a trade is in the works (or certainly some kind of move).
• Girardi on how quickly he knew Chavez could make the team: “Right when he got to camp, we saw the bat speed in Chavez. We said, ‘Wow, if he’s healthy, he can help us.’ Because, you’re not going to really forget how to hit, it’s just if you’re physically capable, and he looked great.”
• Pat Venditte faced two hitters today. He pitched right-handed to one and left-handed to the other. Turns out, the decision to bring in Venditte had a lot to do with the new pitching coach. “Larry (Rothschild) wanted to see it,” Girardi said. “The kid has done well in the minor leagues wherever he’s been.”
• Speaking of Venditte, those paying attention in the crowd seemed to enjoy it: “You heard a little ‘Ohhh’ when he switched,” Girardi said.
• A nice early version of HOPE Week today with the little girl who saved the even littler girl’s life. The families were hanging around the Yankees dugout throughout batting practice. It was pretty neat to see.
• The Yankees lost 7-6 today, but they had 13 hits, including three by Austin Krum and two by Mark Teixeira. Krum is, by most accounts, a pretty good fielder but he had a rough time today with two errors and a missed attempt at a diving catch. Austin Romine and Robinson Cano homered today.
• Garrison faced two big-time lefties today. He got Justin Morneau to pop up, but Jim Thome took him deep.
• Buddy Carlyle was knocked around a little bit in his start, but for the most part, the other guys brought up from minor league camp pitched well today. Wilkin Arias had a rough third of an inning — hit a batter and walked a guy — but Francisco Gil, Josh Schmidt, Andy Sisco, Eric Wordekemper and Venditte combined for 4.2 scoreless.
• Today the Yankees faced Carl Pavano. Girardi said there was a time this winter when there really seemed to be a chance that Pavano would return to the Yankees. “It was a possibility that he was going to be with us,” Girardi said. “We talked about it. His name was thrown around. It never came to a fruition, but he’s resurrected his career. He’s pitched well for the Twins and he’s given them innings. When we’ve faced him in the playoffs, he’s pitched well. The guy knows how to pitch. The big thing is for Carl that he’s been healthy.”
Associated Press photos of Krum, Carlyle and Girardi with 12-year-old Julianne Ramirez
Phil Hughes said this start was a lot like his previous start. The home run he allowed was on a flat cutter, his fastball command took another step forward and his changeup was inconsistent but effective. He called the outing a step in the right direction.
“The changeup was not great tonight,” he said. “But I threw a couple of quality ones and I just have to be sure that I continue to use it and not fall into that pattern that I did last year.”
For Hughes, the changeup is old news, but it’s also an ongoing situation. Hughes was happy with the changeup when he left camp last spring, then he neglected to use it through the first half of the regular season. This spring he hasn’t been quite as thrilled with the pitch, but he said he’s more committed to using it. He’s seen enough results to know it can be effective.
“I’m going to (throw it) just because I’m going to force myself to,” Hughes said. “Last year I didn’t do that. It might not have been outstanding today, but I’ll have days when it’s good. I saw some results tonight on it. The few I did throw to neutralize those bats that really got to me last year, Joyce and Johnson stand out, those are two guys that really hurt me because they were sitting on fastballs.”
Oddly enough, Joe Girardi singled out the changeup as one of the things he liked about Hughes outing.
“I know people harp on that changeup a lot,” Girardi said. “But he had it at the end of last year and it’s just a continuation.”
• Joe Torre said his return to Steinbrenner Field was a trip he’d been looking forward to making, and it was made more comfortable by the fact he returned to Yankee Stadium last season. “I don’t think the emotion will ever go out of it because of what these 12 years meant to me that I spent here,” he said. “But it’s not sad by any stretch of the imagination; it was a great run. You cant appreciate the good times unless there were some bumps along the way. I wouldn’t change a thing. The last three years were stressful, but that’s all part of it.”
• Torre has been invited to Old Timers’ Day and he plans to attend, which means he’ll be back in pinstripes this year. “Whatever (uniform) they give me,” he said. “As long as they don’t ask me to play, it’s okay. I never did that in a Yankee uniform.”
• I didn’t see it, but the word around the stadium was that Yogi Berra tripped again today, only this time he was caught by Rays manager Joe Maddon. Berra is fine.
• Alex Rodriguez has a home run in three straight games, and he has a hit in each of his 11 games this spring. He’s batting .406.
• Nick Swisher’s go-ahead home run in the seventh inning was only his second extra-base hit of the spring. He’s had more at-bats than anyone else in Yankees camp. The Yankees got the win, 3-2.
• Hughes said he wasn’t too down on himself for the first-inning run. He jammed Johnny Damon, who fought off a single, then Hughes thought he struck out Evan Longoria on a 2-2 fastball but he didn’t get the call. “That run I can get out of my head a little easier than a cutter that was flat and just a bad pitch 0-2,” he said.
• Appearing in a game for the first time since March 4, left-handed reliever Boone Logan allowed two hits but ultimately pitched a scoreless seventh inning. The Yankees had his velocity up to 92-93 mph, a nice step forward from his earlier spring outings. “Sometimes that little extra rest in this period is good for guys,” Girardi said.
• Speaking of Logan: He faced four lefties, striking out Matt Joyce and John Jaso, getting Dan Johnson to fly out and getting Reid Brignac to hit a ground ball to second that went for an infield single.
• The Yankees had only three hits tonight, but two were home runs. The third was a triple by Curtis Granderson, who was left stranded. Of the Yankees five base runners — Robinson Cano walked twice — three scored.
• Joba Chamberlain came through this morning’s throwing just fine and will likely throw a bullpen this weekend. That’s the plan right now, anyway. “See how he feels tomorrow, but today was good,” Girardi said.
• Everything is still on track for Sergio Mitre to pitch tomorrow. He felt fine after yesterday’s bullpen. “It feels like it’s been a long time,” Mitre said.
• Romulo Sanchez has hard-to-hit stuff, but his command is erratic. Tonight he walked three in two-thirds of an inning, but Steve Garrison bailed him out with the final out of the eighth. Luis Ayala pitched the ninth for the save.
Associated Press photos, the one in the middle is of Berra and Girardi with Don Zimmer, at the top is Swisher signing autographs. That’s Hughes at the bottom. And I have no idea why I labeled them in that order, but I’m sticking with it.
Andrew Brackman said he couldn’t sit still in the Yankees bullpen this afternoon. His professional career already included enough waiting, and this month he had to wait through a minor groin injury before finally making his spring debut. Through today’s first six innings, Brackman couldn’t sit still.
“The blood’s pumping a little bit,” he said. “You go out there and you want to see what you’ve got.”
Brackman wasn’t especially happy with his scoreless inning — he said his stuff wasn’t as good as it’s been in the bullpen — but he’s glad the first one it out of the way. Joe Girardi seemed impressed. He said he saw good fastball command, a good curveball, and he couldn’t tell Brackman was anxious.
“You think about (if) somebody goes down and you need a starter, you want to see how these kids are handling themselves in this atmosphere,” Girardi said before the game. “Are they a guy that gets frustrated easily? Are they a guy that lets innings unravel?”
Brackman’s inning didn’t unravel. It actually got better as it went along. Ultimately, Brackman knows he’s an extreme long shot to break camp in the rotation — although he said, in the back of his mind, he still thinks he could win the job — but Girardi twice today said he wouldn’t rule out the idea of breaking Brackman into the big leagues as a reliever.
“I would be open to anything to get me in a pinstripe uniform,” Brackman said. “I feel the Yankees definitely see me as a starter (long term), and I see myself as a starter, and hopefully it can stay that way.”
• Jorge Posada got only two at-bats today, but Girardi said that was the plan coming into the game. He’s not hurt. “Everyone came out good today,” Girardi said.
• Girardi was asked again about the possibility of putting Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot. “We’re in no rush to (make that decision),” he said. “I don’t have to put up a lineup until March 31.”
• Ronnie Belliard seemed to be something of a long shot when camp opened, but after missing nearly two weeks of games, it’s hard to imagine him winning a spot on the Yankees bench. “He’s competing more against Chavez and Vazquez than Nunez and Pena,” Girardi said. Of course, Chavez and Vazquez have been two of the best hitters in camp so far.
• Utility infield candidates Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena each had two hits today. Nunez also stole three bases, while Pena was caught stealing once. Pena did make a nice play at shortstop, though, going toward third base to get the out on a ball Brandon Laird couldn’t quite reach.
• Another double for Jorge Vazquez.
• Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson each had two hits, with Granderson hitting a two-run triple to center field. Posada also had an RBI base hit.
• Dave Robertson struck out the first three batters he faced, but because the first guy reached on a wild pitch, the inning continued through a walk, another wild pitch and a two-run single. Despite three straight strikeouts to start the inning, Robertson was still saddled with two earned runs.
• Romulo Sanchez got a save despite allowing a run in the ninth. Not that I thought of him as a favorite to make this roster, but I did expect Sanchez to get a little more of a look that he’s gotten so far. He’s out of options, he was a starter through most of last season, and he has a huge fastball. Seemed to me he was a solid backup plan as a long reliever, but he’s pitched just two innings.
Associated Press photos. The top one is of a Brett Gardner at bat. I thought the ball looked cool.
Spring decision: Opening Day roster • 02.13.11
It’s one thing to list the Yankees decisions heading into spring training. It’s another to predict which decisions might present themselves in the next month and a half. Someone could be injured. Someone could become available on the trade market. Someone could emerge as a surprising candidate who forces new decisions and hard choices.
We go into spring training with expectations. And we accept that unexpected situations might change everything.
Ultimately, the Yankees most significant task this spring is to prepare itself for the regular season. That means keeping players healthy, getting everyone in game shape and putting together an Opening Day roster.
One day before camp opens, here’s my guess at the 25 players who will break camp heading for New York.
No surprises among the names listed. The most significant lineup decision is whether to keep Jeter in the leadoff spot, and I’ll guess that The Captain will show enough in spring training to earn the benefit of the doubt and the chance to prove last season was a fluke. Not certain it will stay this way — a leadoff platoon between Jeter and Gardner wouldn’t surprise me — but I think the Yankees will open this way.
Francisco Cervelli C
Andruw Jones OF
Eric Chavez 3B/1B
Ramiro Pena SS/2B
If he shows anything in camp, I think Chavez — because he’s a left-handed hitter and because he’s insurance at third base — will be given a chance to open the season with the team. It could be a Morgan Ensberg situation that doesn’t last, but a healthy and productive Chavez fits very well on this roster.
If Chavez is backing up at third base, the Yankees might as well carry the defensive-minded Pena instead of the prospect Eduardo Nunez to get very occasional starts at shortstop. My guess is that player development will be a determining factor in the backup catcher competition. The Yankees will prefer to have Jesus Montero and Austin Romine playing everyday in the minors rather than coming off the bench in New York.
I really wanted to shake up the system here and predict either Hector Noesi making the rotation or the Yankees pulling off a late-spring trade for a fourth starter.
In the end, I decided to go with conventional thinking. I do think Noesi could make a serious run at a rotation spot, and I don’t think a trade is out of the question, but these five are the most logical choices given the current situation. At best, I’m 20 percent confident that this will actually be the Yankees rotation on March 30.
— Romulo Sanchez —
Assuming they’re all healthy, I can’t think of a logical reason any of the first seven pitchers listed would be left out of the Opening Day bullpen. The top six are natural choices, and Mitre is the best fit as the long man (assuming the rotation that I’ve predicted). But I also think a nagging injury could present itself, and given this bullpen depth, the Yankees could convince themselves to be extra cautious. No sense risking anything when there are this many good arms ready to fill a short-term void. That’s why I think Sanchez might sneak into the Opening Day mix if any of the above is even slightly less than 100 percent.
Associated Press photos
The good, the bad and the unknown • 02.13.11
Yankees pitchers and catchers report to Tampa in less than 24 hours. The offseason is essentially over, teams have finished their winter maneuvering, but if you dig through baseball, you’ll find that no team is perfect. No organization answered every question and patched every hole. The Phillies aren’t perfect. The Red Sox aren’t perfect. The Yankees aren’t perfect.
I thought it was best to wrap up the Pinch Hitters series with something positive on the day before camp opens, and James did that nicely. The season is not over before pitchers and catchers report.
It says a lot that the Yankees — given their potent lineup and deep bullpen — are seen as such a question mark this season. It’s all because of their rotation, because starters are important enough to make the Phillies a favorite and the Yankees an unknown. I don’t disagree, but pitchers and catchers report tomorrow morning, ad the Yankees are much like every other team in baseball: A mix of good, bad and unknown.
Good — CC Sabathia is a legitimate ace, one of the top pitchers in the game in terms of both dominance and durability… Phil Hughes was an all-star in his first full season as a starter, beginning to live up to the considerable potential that’s been touted for a half-decade… After a terrific Triple-A season, Ivan Nova held his own during a big league call-up late last season… When he’s good, A.J. Burnett can be one of the best No. 2 starters in baseball.
Bad — Burnett is coming off the worst season of his career, a season so bad that he was held out of the ALDS rotation, just one year after he was the team’s No. 2 starter… Unable to land Cliff Lee, the Yankees top free agent rotation additions were Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, both at the end of their careers, not at the beginning… Despite the positives, Nova has only seven career starts in the big leagues and last year struggled to work deep into games.
Unknown — Sabathia had offseason surgery on his knee, fixing an injury that impacted him late last season… Several young starters from the minor league system could make a run at a rotation spot this spring, and could be counted on to fill holes during the regular season… Colon has not pitched in the big leagues since 2009 but impressed the Yankees in winter ball… Hughes is still working to refine a changeup that could be key to building consistency… Are the Yankees top minor league starters ready for the next step?
Good — The Yankees are returning almost everyone from a lineup that scored the most runs in baseball last year. They could have scored 100 fewer runs and still been in the top third… Robinson Cano has emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate, one of the best all-around hitters in baseball… Nick Swisher made legitimate strides last season to improve his batting average and increase his production. Brett Gardner also took a significant step forward… At the designated hitter position, the Yankees have replaced Nick Johnson with Jorge Posada.
Bad — Derek Jeter is coming off the worse season of his career, and at 36 years old, there’s reason to wonder if that drop in production is a sign of things to come… Curtis Granderson made strides in the second half, but his overall numbers were not what was expected in his first season with the Yankees… Russell Martin hit .249/.350/.330 the last two seasons.
Unknown — Alex Rodriguez was healthy this winter. That might be enough to put him back among the super elite hitters in baseball… Similar bounce-back questions surround Jeter, Granderson, Posada, Martin and Mark Teixeira. The Yankees will especially count on Teixiera to return to his pre-2010 form… Top prospect Jesus Montero could hit his way into the big league picture sooner rather than later… Is Gardner’s wrist 100 percent healthy?
Good — The Yankees top offseason addition was Rafael Soriano, who led the American League in saves last year and will slide into a setup role… The Yankees also added Pedro Feliciano this winter, giving them a consistent, veteran left-handed specialist… Mariano Rivera remains one of the best closers in baseball… Joba Chamberlain, Dave Robertson and Boone Logan were terrific down the stretch last season.
Bad — The Yankees have plenty of dominant one-inning relievers, but carrying all of them will mean room for only one long reliever. It could be difficult to fill the void if back-to-back starters make early exits… Rivera is 41 years old. Feliciano is 34 and has carried a heavy load the past three seasons… The Yankees top minor league relief depth — the guys who previous bounced back and forth from Triple-A — is gone, most notably Jonathan Albaladejo and Mark Melancon.
Unknown — Chamberlain and Robertson seem on the verge of being reliable setup men, but last year the Yankees felt compelled to trade for Kerry Wood, and this year they felt compelled to sign Soriano. It’s uncertain if/when they’ll be trusted to take the next step… Logan was a revelation last season, but he doesn’t have a Major League track record… The best long relief candidate might be needed in the rotation… Borderline bullpen candidates Romulo Sanchez, Daniel Turpen and Robert Fish are either out of options or Rule 5 picks who can’t be sent to the minor leagues.
Good — Despite concerns about his ability to hit at the Major League level, Francisco Cervelli is a career .274/.343/.340 hitter in New York, more than acceptable for a backup catcher… Fourth outfielder Andruw Jones slugged .486 last season, giving the Yankees a replacement for Marcus Thames, but with a better glove… At the very least, the Yankees know Ramiro Pena is a reliable defensive option in the infield.
Bad — Cervelli’s overall numbers are good, but he’s been prone to extended periods without offensive production… Jones is no longer an elite defensive player, and he hit .212 the past four seasons… Pena hit .227/.258/.247 last season… Aside from Jones, the Yankees have no reliable, proven offensive options for the bench.
Unknown — The Yankees could replace Pena with Eduardo Nunez, but Nunez has just 50 at-bats of Major League experience… Veterans Eric Chavez and Ronnie Belliard were signed to minor league contracts and will try to prove themselves this spring… The Yankees bench could play a significant role if the Yankees feel the need to give Rodriguez and Jeter regular days off… How long will the Yankees wait before giving Jesus Montero or Austin Romine a spot on the roster?
Associated Press photos of Sabathia, Rodriguez, Chamberlain and Cervelli
A few winter league numbers • 01.06.11
Just a few winter league statistics from the Yankees organization. As usual, there aren’t many big names playing down south this offseason, but there are a few names that might at least ring a bell.
.233/.295/.308 in 33 games
Splitting his time pretty evenly between shortstop and third base, the Yankees utility infielder put up a fairly typical offensive slash line (though he did hit one homer). Truth be told, even for Pena this was a pretty slow offensive winter. He’s hit better than this the past two winters.
Dominican Winter League
.348/.333/.391 in seven games
Nunez bunted a ball off his face and was limited to only seven games. Last time I talked to anyone in the Yankees organization about the incident, the team hadn’t heard much but knew enough to be overly concerned. Like Pena, Nunez was getting time at shortstop and third base.
Dominican Winter League
.240/.356/.300 in 14 games
Tiny sample size for Curtis, who got all of his time in the outfield corners this winter (and probably made some pretty solid money doing it). He actually had a hit in six of his last season games, and finished with the same number of walks as strikeouts, but it’s hard to make too much out of 14 games.
Venezuelan Winter League
1-2, 6.89 ERA in 19 games
The hard-throwing right-hander did have 17 strikeouts in 15.2 innings, and he generated a lot of ground balls, but he also allowed a .292 opponents batting average and gave up three homers. Not nearly as good as last year’s winter ball numbers (45 strikeouts and a .218 opponents average in 31 innings).
Venezuelan Winter League
.306/.393/.389 in 25 games
This is the outfielder the Yankees claimed off waivers this winter. He played center field and right field this winter, and he got his hits in bunches. He had seven multi-hit games, including three three-hit games.
.346/.401/.647 in 36 games
If you don’t already know this name, you should probably store it somewhere in the back of your mind. Vazquez is a big, power-hitting corner infielder who more than held his own in Triple-A last season. He’s primarily a first baseman, but he can play third. He hit 10 homers but also struck out 41 times this winter.
Venezuelan Winter League
5-3, 2.79 ERA in 14 games, 13 starts
There is absolutely nothing flashy about Schmidt, but this is the second winter in a row in which he’s pitched very well in Venezuela. He’s been terrific in Trenton as well, but his stuff simply doesn’t compare to the bigger name pitchers in the Yankees system. He’s eligible free agency after this season, and it will be good for him to move on.
.356/.452/.561 in 64 games
I believe Christian is a minor league free agent, but he spent last season in the Yankees organization and has his only big league service time with the Yankees. I mention him primarily because he was absolutely dominant this winter, leading the league in hits, doubles, stolen bases, runs and extra-base hits. He fell off the map with some injury problems the past few years, but those winter league numbers are hard to ignore.
A few more…
C Gustavo Molina: .170/.207/.364 in 31 games in Venezuela
Signed as a minor league free agent this winter.
LHP Andy Sisco: 6-5, 4.04 in 15 games in Mexico
Minor league signing worked as a starter this winter.
INF Walter Ibarra: .303/.356/.387 in 56 games in Mexico
Class-A utility man did pretty well for himself.
SS Jose Pirela: .333/.387/.471 in 29 games in Venezuela
Fringy prospect hit just .180 in the Arizona Fall League.
INF Luis Nunez: .361/.425/.389 in 15 games in Venezuela
Continuing a trend, another organizational infielder with good winter stats.
LHP Wilkin Arias: 3-0, 3.21 in 17 games in the Dominican
30-year-old held lefties to a .192 average. Old for a prospect.
RHP Eric Wordekemper: 0-0, 6.05 in 21 games in Mexico
Four-run outing didn’t help. Good Triple-A numbers last year.
Associated Press photo of Pena
Now that Russell Martin is on the roster, it’s likely both Jesus Montero and Austin Romine will open the season the minor leagues. In theory, each should each be in Triple-A, but that’s a logjam the Yankees don’t want.
“They need to catch, so that’s something we’ll deal with if we get there,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “I wouldn’t want them to split right now.”
Montero and Romine split catching duties in the lower levels, but at this point, both need to get used to catching every day. They also need repetition behind the plate so that they improve defensively.
Obviously the Yankees won’t set anything in stone right now, but the arrival of Martin could force Romine back to Trenton, where last season he hit .268 with a second half that was worse than his first. I’m sure he’d rather move forward, but repeating the level might not be a waste of time.
• So far so good with Brandon Laird’s work in the outfield. Newman said the Yankees are convinced he can play the corners. Left field at Yankee Stadium might be a little spacious for him, but they think he could play right field in the Bronx, and he could play left in most parks. “He’s going to do well enough out there that he’s going to be an option,” Newman said. The Yankees still think Laird is better defensively at first and third, but he could be a legitimate four-corners option as soon as 2011.
• For whatever it’s worth — and it might not be worth much — I was impressed with Laird’s glove when I saw him in spring training. Much better than I was expecting. He made some pretty nice plays at third.
• If the Yankees feel the need to move one of their prospect starting pitchers into the Major League bullpen next season, they can make that adjustment quickly. There’s no need to make that switch out of spring training. “When they get to Triple-A, they don’t need a full year doing that,” Newman said. “They need a month or two of adjustment. They still need innings. You don’t want to limit innings by putting them prematurely in the bullpen.”
• Pretty standard situation for all of the players so far invited to camp on minor league deals. Neal Cotts is a slight exception because of his considerable big league experience and the fact he’s coming back from injury. “It’s a rehab deal with him,” Newman said.
• Romulo Sanchez is out of options. He’ll need to make the big league roster or pass through waivers this spring. I believe — though I forgot to ask — that Sanchez has been designated for assignment once before, meaning even if he clears, he could opt for free agency rather than accept a minor league assignment.
• Last month the International League transactions listed Matt DeSalvo having been assigned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It’s not true. The Yankees have not re-signed him.
• One lower-level note: Catching prospect J.R. Murphy will continue to get the bulk of his time behind the plate, but he’ll also see time at third base and right field next season. He didn’t hit much last season, but the Yankees believe in his bat and believe he’s athletic enough to play different positions. They haven’t decided whether he’ll be in Charleston or Tampa next year.
State of the Yankees bullpen • 12.17.10
With Pedro Feliciano on his way across town from the Mets, and Mariano Rivera officially re-signed as the closer, the Yankees bullpen has most of its pieces in place. It could still use an arm or two to solidify the late innings, and maybe another option for long relief, but most of the work has been done.
Locked in place
Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, Dave Robertson, Pedro Feliciano, Boone Logan, Sergio Mitre
Even though he’s currently their best option as a No. 5 starter, I’ll include Mitre on this list because it’s hard to imagine the Yankees not adding some sort of starter between now and spring training. He’s also their best option for long relief, with most of the alternatives — Alfredo Aceves, Dustin Moseley, Chad Gaudin — no longer on the roster.
Big leagues or bust
Robert Fish, Daniel Turpen, Romulo Sanchez
These three are on the 40-man roster, and they can’t be sent to the minor leagues. Fish and Turpen are the two Rule 5 picks, and they have to be passed through waivers and offered back to their former team before the Yankees can send them down. Fish, the lefty, seems to have a better shot than Turpen, but even he’s considerable long shot. Sanchez is out of options — confirmed by the Yankees — and could be a legitimate dark horse as a hard throwing reliever capable of pitching multiple innings.
On a minor league deal
Mark Prior, Neal Cotts, Brian Anderson, Andy Sisco, Buddy Carlyle
All of these are long shots, obviously, but I get the sense that Cotts intrigues the Yankees a guy who could come up to play a role if Logan or Feliciano is hurt during the year. I’m guessing we’ll see a few more minor league signings in the next two months, especially a Dustin Moseley/Jason Hirsh type who could start in Triple-A and pitch long relief in New York.
Prospects looking to open eyes
Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Hector Noesi, Ryan Pope, Steve Garrison
I only listed the other minor league guys who are on the 40-man roster, but I’m sure others — David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, Manny Banuelos, Adam Warren, etc. — will also be invited to camp. That said, I don’t think the Yankees are eager to move any of their young starters into the bullpen to start the season, and relievers like Pope and Garrison still need Triple-A experience. Probably not legitimate options out of spring training.
Associated Press photo of Feliciano
This afternoon, Jon Lester threw seven shutout innings and got his sixth straight win. Since September 3, the Yankees have had a starting pitcher do that — throw seven innings of any kind and get the win — exactly once. It was CC Sabathia last Saturday.
At some point around the seventh or eighth inning, my friend Marc Carig and I realized we had seen this game before. It was then that Marc pointed out the fact the Yankees have had the lead only once during this four-game losing streak. Sabathia gave up that lead in the sixth inning on Thursday, and the Yankees haven’t been in front since.
“Part of it is we haven’t gotten a whole lot of distance out of our starters,” Joe Girardi said. “One was due to a rain delay and there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. We’ve gotten behind in games, which always changes the complexion of a game.”
As we’ve noted many times, the win statistic isn’t a good way to measure the whole of a pitcher, but the fact the Yankees rotation has won just two games in the past three weeks does begin to tell the story. Tonight, Ivan Nova was no match for Lester. That was the long and short of this one.
“It’s hard to play with an edge when you’re down by five or six runs,” Alex Rodriguez said. “…I think the bottom line is it starts with our starting pitching, and we have to have someone come out and step up and go six or seven innings, and the offense has to do our job.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame.
• A fair point from Girardi about the frequency of ups and downs: “You can’t make too much of four games, because you take the previous five games and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. You go through those ups and downs and you don’t evaluate your club on a short-term period.”
• Rob Thomson on getting Austin Kearns thrown out at home in the sixth: “Sometimes you factor in the fact you’re not scoring a lot of runs or you’re not getting a lot of hits with runners in scoring position, but that wasn’t the case because we scored a bunch last night. I thought he was going to score so I sent him. It was a mistake.”
• Nova had kind of a typical start. He was very good when he was good, but when things started to fall apart, he unraveled. “He nipped Kalish, just nipped his jersey, and then he lost the strike zone,” Girardi said. “It was the first time he was in the stretch and he walked the next guy.”
• In that three-run third, Girardi had Dave Robertson getting loose, but a double play seemed to buy Nova some more time. “It looked like he was in trouble and it’s a situation where if I need Robby to close out the inning,” Girardi said. “He gets up and get loose quicker than a lot of the other guys. That’s why I was going to go to him.”
• The weird Joba Chamberlain pickoff throw: Home plate umpire Chris Guccione called for time, and it caught Chamberlain off guard. Obviously not thinking about the fact the runner was at second, Chamberlain turned to throw to first and sent the ball into the ground when he saw no one there. “I just kind of panicked, I guess,” he said.
• Speaking of balls in the dirt: Andrew Brackman was up and throwing in the bullpen in the ninth but didn’t actually get in the game. “My first pitch was 40 feet into the ground,” he said. “After that, everything was perfect.”
• Brackman said if people were shouting at him, he couldn’t hear them.
• Jonathan Albaladejo and Romulo Sanchez combined for 1.2 scoreless innings. Every other Yankees pitcher was, in some way, responsible for a run.
• Derek Jeter extended his season-high hitting streak to 14 games.
• Rodriguez has three home runs in his past five at-bats. He’s hit 48 career homers against Boston, the most among active players.
• Curtis Granderson has nine home runs in his past 22 games, and 13 home runs in his past 40 games. That’s after hitting 10 homers in his first 90 games this season.
• The Yankees have lost the home series against Boston for the third time in the past five years. They are 3-5 against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium this year.
• Mark Teixeira was not hurt when he came out of the game. Just a double switch that left Lance Berkman in the lineup.
• A minor move that could come into play tomorrow and next weekend: The Red Sox have signed infielder Felix Lopez.
Associated Press photos of Nova, Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli being helped out of the Red Sox dugout by Victor Martinez.
The Yankees have started their internal conversations about how to set their postseason roster and rotation.
“You can daydream into what October looks like and how you want to line it up,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “We’ve had those internal discussions.”
The Yankees, as you might expect, aren’t ready to announce any sort of decisions, but there are some plans beginning to take shape. And the use of Royce Ring last night, and Javier Vazquez on Tuesday, was about more than trying to win baseball games.
“(Using Ring) was based on conversations we had earlier in the day,” Cashman said. “The day before, same thing with Javy Vazquez. We’re trying to get things lined up. See what we have. See what our choices are.”
Cashman did not go into detail, but he said there’s a definite plan for Phil Hughes in this last week and a half. He also said Ring could pitch his way onto the postseason roster.
“I think it would be unfair to make a decision today because there are a lot of things that could change,” Joe Girardi said. “We will continue to evaluate everybody. Obviously you have guys that you expect to be there, but we’ll continue to evaluate everyone in case we have to make changes.”
• Dave Robertson played catch this afternoon and said everything felt good. “Feeling a lot better today,” he said. “I think I’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
• Although Andrew Brackman said he doesn’t expect to pitch during this late call-up, Cashman said he’s specifically told Girardi to use Brackman whenever he wants. “I think you’ll see Brackman before it’s all said and done,” Cashman said.
• Girardi on his use of Chad Gaudin last night: “That was the guy we were going to in that situation. A lot of the other guys that we could have gone to were not experienced.” Joba Chamberlain, Dave Robertson and Boone Logan were not available, and Girardi said he was saving Kerry Wood for the eighth inning.
• Cashman made a point of mentioning Romulo Sanchez’s name. He seemed to indicate that we’ll see Sanchez pitch before we see Brackman.
• There was apparently some talk that Damaso Marte might not be finished for the season afterall. Girardi squashed that rumor. “I don’t think we’re getting him back,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees still have no discussed when they’ll do a locker room celebration: After they clinch the division or clinch a playoff berth.
• Jesus Montero and Dellin Betances joined the Yankees today but will not be added to the active roster. They’re both just here to workout with the team and get a feel for the big leagues. And they are apparently here to make everyone else look small. I’d never seen Betances in person. He’s a tall, tall kid.
Associated Press photo of Hughes, headshot of Robertson