The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Sorting through Yankees arbitration and non-tender candidates10.21.14

Michael Pineda

Yesterday, MLB Trade Rumors announced it’s typically reliable salary predictions for the seven Yankees who are arbitration eligible this winter. The MLBTR predictions aren’t fool-proof, and they aren’t necessarily exact, but over time we’ve learned that they tend to provide a pretty solid expectation for what an individual player stands to earn through offseason negotiations.

So with these figures in mind, which arbitration-eligible Yankees are most likely to be non-tendered this winter?

IVAN NOVA
This year: $3.3 million
Next year prediction: $3.3 million

No logical chance of a non-tender. Last year’s elbow injury cost the Yankees a full season from one of their top young starting pitchers, but it also made him significantly less expensive in his second year of arbitration. Despite the injury, the Yankees will gladly sign up for $3.3 million on a pitcher who could be at least a strong No. 3-4 starter with the potential to go on a run of near-ace-like production for several weeks at a time. The injury might keep them from considering a multi-year deal at this point, but one year at this price is surely a no-brainer.

Shawn KelleySHAWN KELLEY
This year: $1.765 million
Next year prediction: $2.5 million

A $3.5-million commitment was enough for the Yankees to cut ties with Matt Thornton back in August, so the possibility of a $2.5-million deal with Kelley shouldn’t be completely dismissed. It’s not pocket change. That said, Kelley’s been a nice find for the Yankees bullpen. A back injury slowed him down for a while this year, but his key numbers — strikeout rate, walk rate, WHIP, etc. — were actually better in 2014 than in 2013. He’s a pretty reliable strikeout pitcher, and a one-year commitment to a reliever like this seems just about perfect at this point. The Yankees have some solid arms on the way, and one more year of Kelley might perfectly bridge the gap. No compelling reason to non-tender him.

MICHAEL PINEDA
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $2.1 million

Pretty big salary jump for a guy who’s made 13 big league starts since 2011. But that’s the nature of the business with a player who’s coming back from a long-term injury and a bunch of time on the 60-day disabled list. Ultimately, a little more than $2 million should be a bargain as long as Pineda stays healthy. And if he doesn’t, it probably means another chance for a similar low-risk, one-year contract next winter. Again, this one is a no-brainer. Pineda will certainly be back, and even with the injury concern and time missed, there’s no reason to balk at $2.1 million for a pitcher with Pineda’s proven talent.

ESMIL ROGERS
This year: $1.85 million
Next year prediction: $1.9 million

Probably the strongest non-tender candidate of the bunch. Obviously the Yankees like Rogers’ arm — and at times they got terrific production out of him during his brief Yankees tenure last season — but he’s ultimately a 29-year-old with a 1.56 career WHIP, 5.54 career ERA, and a large enough sample size to suggest those numbers are a reasonable expectation for next year. Even if $1.9 million isn’t a ton of money, a one-year deal with Rogers probably isn’t the best way to spend it. Not with better options — or at least similar options — already in the system. The 40-man is going to be tight, money could be tight, and it’s probably not be worth using either a roster spot or a couple million bucks to retain Rogers. If the Yankees had less pitching depth, the situation might be different.

David PhelpsDAVID PHELPS
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $1.3 million

It seems Phelps just made it past the cutoff for early arbitration eligibility. I’m sure the Yankees would like one more year at the minimum, but I’m sure they also realize that Phelps is a really nice fit for them in the immediate future. He’s proven capable of filling any role, and this Yankees pitching staff should have a need for a long man who can either slide into the rotation or move into a late-inning role if necessary. That’s Phelps. As he more thoroughly defines himself one way or the other — and as his arbitration price goes up with each passing offseason — the Yankees will have a choice to make about how much he’s worth, but at slightly more than a million dollars, Phelps is still a good fit at a cheap price.

FRANCISCO CERVELLI
This year: $700,000
Next year prediction: $1.1 million

You know, Cervelli has really developed into a nice catcher. He’s played like a high-end backup or a low-end (with upside) starter. And $1.1 million isn’t too much to pay for a guy like that. Even as the Yankees surely need to make a decision behind the plate — makes sense to make a move with either Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine — it would be a waste to simply non-tender Cervelli. Surely there’s trade value there, and even if the Yankees decide to cut him in spring training, arbitration-eligible players are never given guaranteed contracts, so the Yankees could move on a fraction of the price. Certainly worth signing a new contract, even if it’s also worth immediately trying to trade him.

DAVID HUFF
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $700,000

Could be a non-tender candidate despite having a pretty nice year. Huff walks quite a few batters, and he doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, but he had a 1.31 WHIP and a 1.85 ERA during his stint with the Yankees (granted, with a much higher FIP and xFIP). Ultimately, he was fine. Nothing about his season suggests he’s not worth a modest raise to $700,000. That said, the Yankees always treated him like a last-man in the bullpen, and his career splits don’t suggest a reliable lefty specialist. Solid year, fairly cheap price, but could be non-tendered just to open a roster spot for someone else.

Associated Press photo

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Salary predictions for arbitration-eligible Yankees10.20.14

Ivan Nova, Joe Girardi

These numbers are far from official, but the crew at MLB Trade Rumors — Matt Swartz in particular — has a strong record when it comes to predicting salaries for arbitration eligible players. Here’s what they’re predicting for this year’s arb-eligible Yankees:

IVAN NOVA
This year: $3.3 million
Next year prediction: $3.3 million

SHAWN KELLEY
This year: $1.765 million
Next year prediction: $2.5 million

MICHAEL PINEDA
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $2.1 million

ESMIL ROGERS
This year: $1.85 million
Next year prediction: $1.9 million

DAVID PHELPS
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $1.3 million

FRANCISCO CERVELLI
This year: $700,000
Next year prediction: $1.1 million

DAVID HUFF
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $700,000

Associated Press photo

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Robertson and the immediate future of the Yankees bullpen10.08.14

David Robertson

Yesterday the Associated Press reported that this year’s qualifying offer will be set at $15.3 million, a raise of nearly $1 million from last season. For the Yankees, that number is most interesting for free agent closer Dave Robertson, who’s ready to test the market for the first time and might have to seriously consider becoming the first player to ever accept such an offer.

First things first, the Yankees have not definitively said they’re going to extend a qualifying offer to Robertson, it just seems to be a strong possibility if only because it would be a chance to retain their closer on a short-term deal, keep their immediate bullpen depth intact, and buy some time for other young arms to develop while waiting for Dellin Betances to eventually take over the ninth inning. A qualifying offer would nearly triple Robertson’s 2014 salary and would make him a very, very well-paid relief pitcher, which is why he would have to consider accepting it. Then again, MLB Trade Rumors on Tuesday guessed that Robertson could earn something in the neighborhood of four years, $52 million on the open market, which is why he would have to consider rejecting.

Bottom line: Robertson is going to get paid this winter. The only questions are by which team and for how long? For our purposes, the questions get even more specific: Should the Yankees bring him back and on what kind of contract?

Here’s a quick look at what the Yankees already have in place for next year’s bullpen:

Dellin BetancesProven late-inning arms
Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley
Betances is still two years from arbitration, Warren is one year from arbitration, and Kelley has a year of arbitration left. That puts three pretty good relievers under team control for next season. That late-inning depth was one of the bullpen’s great strengths this season, giving the Yankees plenty of alternatives when Robertson and Kelley dealt with injuries, when Warren went cold for a few weeks, and when go-to relievers were inevitably shut down because of workload concerns. Might be a stretch to call either one of them “proven,” but the Yankees also have Esmil Rogers and Preston Claiborne under team control. Rogers seems like a prime non-tender candidate, but Claiborne is in place as additional bullpen depth.

Long relief options
David Phelps, Chase Whitley, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell
Before he was hurt late in the year, Phelps really seemed to be emerging as a solid back-of-the-rotation option for next season. His overall numbers weren’t great, but at his best, Phelps was a perfectly good starting pitcher and seems to be an obvious swingman candidate to work as either a starter or reliever next season. Same could be said for Whitley, who had fairly drastic ups and downs, possibly attributable to his increased workload in his first season as a starting pitcher. Again, when he was good, Whitley threw strikes and got outs with a good changeup/slider combination. Depending on rotation depth, the Yankees could also consider putting either Greene or Mitchell into the bullpen if necessary. Such a move worked well with Warren this season, but the Yankees may be better served with Greene in the big league rotation and Mitchell in the Triple-A rotation to open the season.

Left-handed specialist
David Huff, Jacob Lindgren, Tyler Webb, James Pazos
One thing to keep in mind about that list of four left-handed relief options is that there’s a solid chance none of them will be on the 40-man roster in spring training. Huff is a non-tender candidate while Lindren, Webb and Pazos have such little professional experience that none needs to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason. Left-handed relief is kind of an odd spot for the Yankees right now because they don’t have a reliable option in place — they traded away Matt Thornton — but their minor league system could be ready and able to fill the hole immediately. They could also jump into the market for a guy like Andrew Miller.

Minor league depth
Jose Ramirez, Dan Burawa, Mark Montgomery, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow
Ramirez might be a more reliable option by now, but he was hurt again — it was a lat issue this time — and the latest injury held him to just 22.1 innings this season. That said, he’s expected to be healthy for spring training, which makes him an obvious bit of bullpen depth. Burawa, Montgomery and Pinder are each strong 40-man candidates this offseason, and Rumbelow pitched his way to Triple-A in just his first full season of pro ball. “Has toughness and poise,” Mark Newman said. The Yankees have some bullpen depth in place, but it would be hard to count on this group for a can’t-miss reliever this season. Someone might emerge, there’s just some uncertainty here. Ramirez has the injury history, Burawa and Montgomery have been inconsistent, Pinder has just 13 games of Triple-A experience, and Rumbelow was in college two years ago.

David RobertsonWithout signing a free agent or making a trade, the Yankees could pretty easily roll out an Opening Day bullpen of Betances, Kelley, Warren, Lindgren, Phelps, Whitley and Huff (just to pick a group that might make some sense), and that might not be the worst bunch of relievers in the world. The Yankees would have a big-time arm for the ninth inning, two pretty good setup men, an experienced long reliever in Phelps and a high-potential young lefty in Lindgren.

Adding another arm like Robertson, though, would greatly increase the bullpen depth, and that’s largely what the Robertson decision is about.

Based on what he showed this year, Betances is a capable closer in waiting. But adding a one-inning guy like Robertson would free Betances to put out fires in the seventh inning before building a bridge through the eighth. It would free Kelley and Warren to hover as late-inning alternatives and high-end options as early as the sixth inning. It might even free Warren to become a rotation option again (same with Phelps), and it might minimize the need to immediately put a guy like Lindgren into high leverage situations in his first big league season.

It’s often seen as foolish to give too much money to a reliever because relievers are unpredictable, but that unpredictability is the same reason it’s worthwhile to stockpile a bunch of bullpen arms. With so many young, cheap options already in place, the Yankees could pay Robertson for a few years and still keep their overall bullpen payroll relatively low. That said, this is a team looking to get younger and cheaper, and the emergence of Betances and Warren might give the Yankees a chance to immediately do both of those things in the bullpen.

If it were up to me, I’d bring Robertson back, keep him in the ninth inning, and build a young bullpen around him. But it’s not my roster, not my money, and it’s certainly not my decision. Both the Yankees and Robertson could be facing a tough choice come time for qualifying offers to go on the table.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: “It’s a risk worth taking”09.19.14

Yankees Rays Baseball

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• 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

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Postgame notes: “Slipping away for a few weeks”09.16.14

Brett Gardner

As he sat in front of his locker postgame, I really doubt Brett Gardner expected to stand up and give essentially an end-of-the-season address, but that’s exactly what happened. A crowd of reporters gathered around, asked just a handful of questions, and Gardner put words to all that’s left the Yankees six games out of the second wild card with 13 to play.

“I feel like things have been slipping away for a few weeks,” Gardner said. “To be honest, I haven’t looked at the standings the last couple of days because at this point they don’t really matter. We’ve got to win every day. Until we’re five, six, seven games out with five, six, seven games to go and eliminated, I’m still going to hold out hope, and I still believe in the group of guys we have here. I still come to work every day and play hard, but like I said, we’re not in a good spot right now, and it’s a shame because our pitchers have really stepped up the last couple of months and done a good job. As an offense, we haven’t.”

It’s true. Even speaking to Shawn Kelley, who had a rough ninth inning and allowed the walk-off single, it was basically impossible to hang this loss on his shoulders. The bullpen’s had a bit of a rough time lately, but who could blame them? They’ve been trying to preserve tiny leads for nearly six months now.

“As well as we’ve pitched, we didn’t need to be great (offensively),” Gardner said. “We just needed to be good. And we haven’t been.”

The Yankees were shutout for the 10th time this season. But it’s more telling that they were shutout for the fourth time in the past 11 games and for the fifth time in the past 16 games.

“You feel like you’re due at some point,” Gardner said. “I don’t feel like it’s been a couple of games. I feel like it’s been pretty much all season. We’ve had flashes of being pretty good, but for the most part, we’ve just struggled to get guys across the plate. It’s frustrating because, with all the injuries we had to our rotation, the guys that have come up and come in from other places have really stepped up and done a great job, pitched really well and kept us in the ballgame. Just like tonight, all we needed to get was just one or two runs and we couldn’t even get that. It’s just really frustrating. Guys are working really hard. Guys are trying. Guys are putting in the effort. For one reason or another, we’re just not getting it done.”

Last year, the team’s offensive problems were easy to dismiss as a product of overwhelming injury problems. Not this year. There have been injuries, sure, but the truly devastating blows haven’t hurt the lineup.

“The bulk of our injuries have been to our rotation,” Gardner said. “And down the stretch here, our pitching and our rotation has been our strength. As a position player, as a hitter, it makes it a lot tougher to feel like you … you feel like you’re not picking them up. You’re not getting the job done.”

Marty Foster, Chase Headley• As if anyone needed official confirmation: The Yankees were eliminated from the American League East tonight.

• Most explosive thing any Yankees hitter did today was Chase Headley getting ejected one pitch into his seventh-inning at-bat. Headley had a problem with a low strike called by home-place umpire Marty Foster, and his disagreement turned into a rather lengthy back-and-forth between player and umpire. At one point Foster took off his mask to snap back at Headley, and as Headley was getting back in the box to continue his at-bat, Foster threw him out of the game. “There was a conversation before it happened which I thought was fairly mild tempered,” Headley said. “I thought that he was an aggressor towards me. I told him to calm down and he kept yelling at me. I said I didn’t appreciate that.”

• More Headley: “I didn’t think what I said to him warranted the response that I got, and it just kept going. I think more than the balls and strikes was just the reaction that I got from him was not in any way comparable to how I was speaking to him. So that’s basically what happened. I’m not going to get into too much more specific about that. Yeah there was disagreements about the pitches but that’s not where it ended up.”

• It seems Headley’s problems with Foster started from his very first at-bat. “The borderline ones you can live with,” Headley said. “But the first pitch of the game, I come in, got hit with 97 in the mouth (last week), and the first pitch I see is 95 at my ribs. Then he calls a changeup a foot off the plate and it’s like, c’mon. It kind of started me off on the wrong foot. The borderline ones you live with but when there’s a pitch that should not be missed, ever, I think that’s when as a player you get a little bit more upset.”

• Girardi on the Headley ejection: “It’s one thing if you’re arguing, you’re going back and forth and showing him up, but these games mean something. It’s a shame. He questioned some strikes. Hitters should be allowed to do that. We should be allowed to do that. At some point, it would be nice if umpires said, ‘If you say another thing, you’re gone.’ You can do that. If he barks and you bark back; it wasn’t like a whole lot of people knew what was going on. It’s frustrating to me.”

• The Yankees have lost four of their past five games. Of those four losses, one was credited to Dave Robertson, one to Adam Warren, and tonight’s to Shawn Kelley. That’s a rough stretch for a bullpen that’s been terrific nearly all year. “Every time we pitch the game’s on the line,” Kelley said. “But I’ve got to go out there and put up a zero whether it’s nothing-nothing or it’s 10-nothing. … You pitch a lot of games out of the bullpen, and that’s just part of the game. We’re all in great shape, we’ve all prepared for this, and I don’t think it’s fatigue. ”

Chris Capuano• Girardi is usually pretty strict with his rules about managing reliever workload, but playing so many low-scoring games this season has essentially forced him to use his go-to guys a lot. “There’s not a lot of wiggle room,” Girardi said. “You look at the games we’ve lost 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 or whatever, there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room. They’re not going to be perfect. They’ve been really, really good, but they’re not going to be perfect.”

• I honestly felt bad, but not a single reporter interviewed Chris Capuano postgame. He just wasn’t the story. Really nice bounce-back start for him — coming off that one-out performance last week, he went six scoreless tonight — but a strong pitching performance just isn’t anything new and doesn’t carry much weight at this point. The Yankees are all about their failing offense. Great start for Capuano, just didn’t feel the need to hear what he had to say about it.

• Last Yankees starter to throw at least six scoreless innings on two hits or less and not earn a win was Freddy Garcia back in 2011. Capuano has only five decisions in his past 18 career starts dating back to last season.

• Didn’t mean much in the end, but Gardner said he and Jacoby Ellsbury called for that dropped fly ball at the exact same time. “We just kind of ran into one another a little bit, and I wasn’t able to hold onto it,” Gardner said. “But Cap made a couple of good pitches after that and was able to pick me up. Didn’t end up hurting us today, we just, same story. Been pitching really well, but it’s just been hard for us to score runs.”

• This was the fifth time a Yankees player was ejected this season. Gardner, Kelley, Michael Pineda and Cesar Cabral were previously thrown out of games.

• Final word to Girardi: “We’re just not hitting. For whatever reason, we’re not hitting. I think we’ve scored six runs on this road trip, lost three games in the last inning, in the bottom of the inning. It’s frustrating. Eventually I think it’s got to turn, but it better turn pretty quickly here.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “As bad as I’ve felt walking off a mound”08.28.14

Shawn Kelley

When a team is winning, a $20 horsehead mask bought on Amazon feels like good luck.

When a team has lost two of three in a tight wild card race, a one-run loss feels like rock bottom.

“That’s about as bad as I’ve felt walking off a mound in my career,” Shawn Kelley said.

Surely a misplaced slider on August 28 isn’t the low point of Kelley’s career, but I have no doubt it’s going to feel that way on the flight to Toronto. Three days ago, the Yankees had won five straight and Kelley’s goofy horsehead had become an unlikely team mascot. Now the team has lost two of three and fallen to three games behind both the Tigers and Mariners for the second wild card.

“We need to win every single game,” Derek Jeter said. “I don’t know how else to say it. That’s the approach we need to have. We’re in this position because of how we’ve played up to this point. So we are where we are, and now we need to win.”

As you might expect, there was a definite sense of lost opportunity in the Yankees clubhouse postgame. There were line drive outs. Brian McCann’s near home run was blown just foul. Kelley was one out away from escaping the ninth-inning jam.

When things are going well — when masks are good luck charms, and the team is winning, and 90s hip-hop is blasting in the clubhouse — there’s a real sense that games like this will eventually turn in the Yankees favor. But today, there was no laughing and no music blasting. And that horse mask was nowhere to be found.

“I didn’t watch (the game-winning hit),” Kelley said. “I just put my head down and walked off the field. It would’ve been a nice surprise if he would’ve (caught it), but I assumed it was a homer.”

Brian McCann• To be clear, off the bat I felt certain Alex Avila’s game-winner was a home run. I never thought Ichiro Suzuki had a shot at it until he closed the gap and came fairly close to a full-sprint catch at the wall. Ichiro was close, but I have a hard time suggesting he misplayed it. I’m mostly stunned he got that close. “It’s a do-or-die play,” Ichiro said. “I just went to where I thought the ball was going to be.”

• Girardi on whether Ichiro had a shot to make the catch: “It’s really hard for me to see once it gets out there. I heard him hit the wall, and I think I heard the ball hit the wall. I can’t tell you what exactly happened, but the bottom line is that it ended up being a base hit.”

• Kelley struck out both Nick Castellanos and Torii Hunter on fastballs, and he gave up both the Victor Martinez and Avila base hits on sliders. Surprised he went slider in that two-out situation against Avila? “No, that’s his bread-and-butter pitch,” Girardi said. “He also made some pretty good pitches with some sliders during some of the at-bats too.”

• Kelley on the first-pitch slider to Avila: “I got the outs I wanted to get, and then just overthrew a slider and left it up. Avila can hit that pitch. Most guys can.”

• Everyone involved seem to think McCann had a two-out, three-run home run in the top of the ninth. It seemed fair initially, but it eventually wound its way just foul. “I did (think it would stay fair),” McCann said. “It just kept going. I don’t know if the wind took it or what. It would have been nice if it stayed fair, but it didn’t.”

• Girardi said it “wasn’t a consideration” to use Dellin Betances for two innings tonight, and he indicated that it had nothing to do with using Betances last night. “You feel good about (Kelley) on the mound, especially the way he’s been throwing the baseball,” Girardi said. Kelley’s past five games leading into this one: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.

Hiroki Kuroda• Another pretty good start by Hiroki Kuroda, who has a 3.28 ERA in his past nine games. “I think I was pretty consistent with my splits,” Kuroda said. “I was able to be effective against the right-handers with my split.”

• We’re not into September yet, but Kuroda seems fairly confident that he can finish this season stronger than he did last year. “Yes, I had a bad second half last year and I am conscious of that,” he said. “I try to be different this year.” Kuroda has done things like limit the pitches he throws between starts in an effort to stay strong down the stretch.

• What made rookie Kyle Lobstein so effective? Girardi actually said the Yankees hit the ball better today than they did against David Price. “From the game that I saw, we swung the bats better than we did yesterday,” he said. “We just hit balls at people. That’s unfortunate. One inning we lined out three times. That’s part of the game, and we’re able to put a number of hits together and that’s why we didn’t score, but I actually thought we swung the bats well.”

• Jacoby Ellsbury had one hit, an RBI single. he’s hitting .462 in his past 10 games. Carlos Beltran is also fairly hot lately. He had two hits including a double and is batting .375 on the current road trip. This was his 27th multi-hit game of the season.

• This was the 42nd time the Yankees were limited to two runs or less this season. Little surprise they’re 7-35 in those games.

• Final word to Brett Gardner: “If we make up one game per week we’ll be in good shape at the end. I feel like we’re playing better baseball. Our pitching has been pretty consistent and they give us a chance to win ballgames. We’re headed in the right direction. It’s disappointing today, but we have another game tomorrow so we can’t get too down. We’ll keep grinding away.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “I was able to physically get refreshed”08.17.14

Yankees Rays Baseball

The schedule won’t let the Yankees give Hiroki Kuroda six days off before every start down the stretch, but they were able to give him that many this time, and it seemed to make a difference. Coming off a rough outing against Cleveland, Kuroda looked like a dependable piece of the rotation again this afternoon.

At times, he looked like more than that.

“When he’s got his stuff darting like that to both sides of the plate, he’s tough to beat,” Brian McCann said. “… He was splitting both sides of the plate, kept them off balance all day. They came out really aggressive, he slowed them down a little bit with some offspeed early in the count. He pitched awesome.”

Last time out, Kuroda couldn’t make it through the fifth inning, and the Yankees would like to believe that was simply a bump in the road, not a sign that he’s about to begin the down-the-stretch collapse that became familiar the past two seasons. Before that disappointment last Sunday night, Kuroda had pitched to 3.49 ERA in his previous nine starts.

“The two extra days, I was able to physically get refreshed, as well as mentally,” Kuroda said.

Kuroda is the only part of the Opening Day rotation that’s lasted the whole season. He had a pretty rough month of April, but he’s been pretty consistent ever since. There have been some short, ineffective starts mixed in there, but he hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs since the beginning of May.

“He had everything in his arsenal today,” Joe Girardi said. “I think it was important because people would start asking questions, ‘Is he tired?’ Maybe the extra days helped him. … We will do it when we can. Unfortunately, we lose one off-day going to Kansas City where he could have been afforded it, but I think he’ll only go one start this time through with five days. It should help, yeah.”

Mark Teixeira, Rob Thomson• The Yankees moved ahead of Toronto for second place in the American League East. It’s only the third day in the past 57 that the Yankees have had sole possession of second place.

• Mark Teixeira’s home run was No. 361 in his career, passing Gary Gaetti and tying Joe DiMaggio for 80th place on baseball’s all-time list. He was the first Yankees hitter to reach 20 home runs this season, the latest they’ve gone into a season without a 20-homer guy since 1995 when Paul O’Neill reached that number on September 12.

• Brett Gardner’s two-run signle in the fifth inning gave him 52 RBI for the season, matching his single-season career high. For a little while, Gardner was tied with Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury for the team lead in RBI, but both Teixeira and Ellsbury drove in runs later in the game.

• That two-run single up the middle was a huge hit for the Yankees, who had been hitless in the game until the batter before, Martin Prado, came through with a double. For a team desperate for offense, that Gardner at-bat felt like a must-have opportunity. “I’m thinking about trying to get a run across, you know?” Gardner said. “I’m just thinking about trying to find a way to get a pitch to handle. I’m definitely not thinking negative thoughts.”

• Including Gardner and Prado, five straight Yankees reached base with two outs in that fifth inning. “You get an excellent at-bat from Stephen Drew, a long at-bat (for a walk),” Girardi said. “A long at-bat from Prado, then Gardy gets the big hit there. Then Ells; a big hit as well as Jeter. To be able to put those together when it looks like you have nothing going and he’s rolling along with a no-hitter, it’s big.”

• It was Ellsbury’s first hit of the road trip. He was 0-for-17 on the trip before that two-out RBI single.

• Derek Jeter has a hit in 12 of 14 games this month. He went 4-for-13 this weekend. Of his 11 hits against the Rays this season, seven have come with two strikes. How’s that for relatively obscure stats coming from the Rays media relations department?

• After allowing those back-to-back singles in the first inning, Kuroda retired his next 17 in a row. “I think my slider, especially against righties, was a pretty decent staple,” Kuroda said. “For me, the thing was I wanted to pound the zone today and be aggressive; a lesson from the last time.”

Yankees Rays Baseball• Kuroda threw 72 pitches in the first six innings, but he threw 25 pitches in the seventh before being removed with two outs. Shawn Kelley got a huge strikeout to get Kuroda out of the jam. Really, that might have been the at-bat of the night. Runners were left stranded at the corners, and it was only a one-run game at the time. “That’s a huge out, obviously,” Girardi said. “If he doesn’t, they’re going to tie the score and have a chance to take the lead. It’s a really big out.”

• Dave Robertson has now converted 21 straight save opportunities. Oddly, though, he hasn’t had a strikeout in three straight appearances. He’s stuck at 499 career strikeouts. This is only the fifth time in his career that he’s gone three consecutive outings without a strikeout. He also did it back in April.

• McCann on returning to the lineup after more than a week off: “Good after the first couple innings. I felt it get in game speed. The first couple innings were a little fast on me, but then (things) settled down and it was just like another game.” McCann said the speed of the game struck him more behind the plate than at the plate.

• Yet again, excellent infield defense for the Yankees. Chase Headley made a diving play at third, and Martin Prado made at least three really nice plays at second. “It was really good,” Girardi said. “They made some excellent plays. Prado made some excellent plays today and some tough plays. You can look at the play in the eighth inning where he doesn’t try to do too much; he understands to just get an out. It was outstanding.”

• Final word goes to Gardner: “Well, we’ve won our last two games. Obviously we’ve got another off-day tomorrow and hopefully we’ll go home and have a good week at home. We didn’t do what we wanted to do in Baltimore and obviously losing Friday night here, but the last two days have gone pretty good. We continued to pitch great and hopefully this week our offense can pick up the slack and give our pitchers a little breathing room.”

Associated Press photos

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Kelley: “We’re looking more at the second wild-card spot”08.13.14

Michael Pineda

Yankees could have used a rain out tonight. Here’s David Ginsburg from The Associated Press to wrap up the latest Yankees disappointment. By the way, I have to agree with Girardi on the call at first base. Not sure Stephen Drew should have been called out on that one.

BALTIMORE (AP) — Maybe Yankees manager Joe Girardi got lucky with his 26th career ejection: He didn’t have to watch from the dugout as New York blew a late lead in a painful defeat.

Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones homered in a four-run eighth inning that carried the AL East-leading Orioles to a 5-3 win Wednesday night.

It was the fourth straight loss for the Yankees, who fell eight games out in the division with 43 to play. At this juncture, winning the AL East just might be too formidable a task.

“I think we’re looking more at the second wild-card spot. That’s a little bit better number, it’s a little more achievable at this point,” said reliever Shawn Kelley, who gave up Jones’ game-winning shot.

Dellin Betances, Francisco Cervelli, Tony PenaGirardi missed the finish after being ejected in the seventh inning by home plate umpire Gerry Davis. Girardi was furious after Davis called New York’s Stephen Drew out for running in the baseline on his way to first base.

“Yeah, well, Gerry was wrong,” Girardi said.

Girardi’s second ejection of the year came with New York ahead 2-1 on the strength of Francisco Cervelli’s second home run of the year, a two-run drive in the third inning off Chris Tillman.

The lead didn’t stand up, and now the Yankees are scrambling to stay in the playoff hunt.

“We’ve got to start winning series again,” Girardi said. “We have not won the last two series and we put ourselves in a little bit of a hole.”

Cervelli said, “We can do it. This is not done yet.”

After Schoop tied it with a drive off Dellin Betances, Kelley (2-4) gave up a single and a walk before Jones hit a shot into the bullpen area beyond the center-field wall.

“We had a lead late, and that’s one thing we’ve done well as a whole as a bullpen,” Kelley said. “A lot of that’s on me tonight.”

Darren O’Day (4-1) worked the eighth and Zach Britton gave up a run in the ninth en route to his 25th save.

Jacoby EllsburyIt was the eighth straight series win for Orioles, who are 8-3 against New York this season.

“It’s tough right now because they are hitting very good,” Cervelli said. “They’ve got a couple of hitters who are really hot right now.”

Making his first appearance in the big leagues since April 23, New York starter Michael Pineda retired the first 12 batters he faced before Nelson Cruz doubled to open the fifth.

Pineda allowed one run and two hits over five innings. After being suspended for 10 games for using a foreign substance on the mound in April, the right-hander went on the disabled list with a shoulder muscle injury. He left after throwing 67 pitches.

“We thought he started getting the ball up a little bit,” Girardi said.

Baltimore played without its two starters on the left side of the infield. Third baseman Manny Machado was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right knee ligament and shortstop J.J. Hardy missed a third straight game with a sprained left thumb.

Tillman gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings.

Associated Press photos

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Yankees bullpen throws zeroes05.15.13

Austin Romine, Mariano RiveraThe Yankees’ bullpen has been a big reason why they are where they are right now, at 25-14 and in first place after winning seven of their last eight.

After Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Mariners (my story on their 11th comeback win and surviving a King Felix start), the relievers hadn’t given up a run over their last nine games, covering 23 2/3 innings. Their combined ERA for May is 0.77 (three earned runs in 35 innings). The group has 36 strikeouts and seven walks to show for this stretch.

“It’s unbelievable,” CC Sabathia said. “We knew coming into the season that would be one of the strong points on the team. They haven’t disappointed.”

Shawn Kelley came in for Sabathia Tuesday night with runners at the corners and one gone in the seventh. Strikeout. Line out. Inning over. The righty has fanned seven of the last nine batters he has faced. He owns 25 Ks in 15 1/3 innings this season.

Mariano Rivera came on for the ninth. Fly ball. Fly ball. K. Game over. The 43-year-old greatest-of-all-time closer is off to a 16-for-16 start on saves after 39 games. It’s the fewest number of team games he has needed to reach 16 saves. The latest save made him 35 for his last 35 at home and 17 for 17 at home against Seattle in his career.

Overall, the Yankees are now 8-2 in one-run games.

“I think winning those games are extremely important,” Joe Girardi said. “Those games can have a real effect when you start losing them.

“Our bullpen has done a great job for us this year. We’ve had a lot of close games. Mo has 16 saves already. That’s quite a pace that he’s on. We haven’t had to use him in games where we’re not winning because he’s got so many opportunities. The ones that you’re ahead, you need to win. If you want to play in the month of October, you have to win those games.”

Also, here’s a link to my story today on Curtis Granderson’s comeback journey and my Yankees notebook with items on Travis Hafner’s shoulder problem, Vidal Nuno’s departure and David Adams.

Photo by The Associated Press.

 

 

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 556 Comments →

Thursday morning notes: Phelps faces hitters02.14.13

Around 9 a.m., David Phelps went to the mound on the main field here in Tampa. He wasn’t tucked away in the back, wasn’t shuffled to the minor league complex. He was in front of the empty seats, facing live hitters, throwing live batting practice on just the second day of workouts at Steinbrenner Field.

“I pushed myself a little more in the offseason so my arm is ready a little quicker during spring training because I’m trying to make an impression,” Phelps said. “It helped me out last year, my arm felt fresh throughout the entire year. I did the same routine I did last year coming into camp.”

Last year Phelps made an impression and got an unexpected opportunity. What he did with that opportunity has made him a favorite to win at least a spot in the Yankees bullpen, and it’s given him at least a chance of being out Ivan Nova for the last spot in the rotation.

This morning Phelps threw 30 pitches while facing Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson.

“I’m willing to do whatever they want me to do,” Phelps said. “If being sent down to the minors and keeping starting is what’s in the best interest of the team and helping them win, that’s obviously what I’ll do. Obviously I want to be in the big leagues, whatever role that might be. I’m just going to go out and try to do my job on the field and let that take care of itself.”

• CC Sabathia originally thought he would throw a bullpen today. He will throw on Saturday instead.

• So far, no sign of new reliever Shawn Kelley. Not sure when he’s supposed to arrive.

• With so many pitchers already facing hitters — and so few position players currently in big league camp — the Yankees are actually sending a van over to the minor league complex later this morning. A dozen pitchers will go to the complex to throw live batting practice to the hitters across the street.

• Four pitchers threw live batting practice here at Steinbrenner Field this morning. Phelps, Adam Warren, Cody Eppley and Brett Marshall. Throwing programs assigned to minor leaguers started a little earlier than usual this winter, which helps explain why so many guys are ready to face hitters already.

• Phelps threw to J.R. Murphy and Marshall threw to Gary Sanchez. Those two faced Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson. Eppley threw to Kyle Higashioka and Warren threw to Francisco Arcia. Those two faced Chris Stewart and Austin Romine.

• Early sides: Joba Chamberlain (to Stewart) and Ivan Nova (to Cervelli).

• Going to the complex to throw live batting practice: Corey Black, Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, Nick Goody, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell, Mark Montgomery, Mike O’Brien, Kelvin Perez, Branden Pinder, Nik Turley and Chase Whitley.

• Bullpens at Steinbrenner Field (with the catcher they’ll throw to):

Dellin Betances (Romine)
Jose Ramirez (Arcia)
Dave Robertson (Wilson)
Francisco Rondon (Higashioka)
Josh Spence (Sanchez)

Cell phone photo of Phelps throwing BP, Associated Press photo of Sabathia

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 121 Comments →

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