Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Yankees Deal Pirela and Murphy, Acquire Hicks

Jose Pirela and John Ryan Murphy are the first Yankees on the move this offseason.

The Yankees swung into action Wednesday eliminating one of the competitors for the 2016 second base job and possibly adding a player that could spell the end of Brett Gardner in Pinstripes.

First, GM Brian Cashman sent second baseman Jose Pirela to the San Diego Padres for pitching prospect Ronald Herrera. Pirela had an excellent 2015 Spring Training and looked poised to head north when the regular season started until a  collision with an outfield wall and the resultant concussion that followed landed him on the disabled list.

Pirela hit .333 in seven games for the Bronx Bombers in 2014, before he appeared in 37 games this past season. He wasn't able to take advantage of his opportunity, with just 17 hits in 74 at-bats and a .558 OPS. His departure could mean the Yankees will go with a platoon of Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder at second base next season

Later Wednesday the Yankees acquired one-time outfield prospect Aaron Hicks from the Minnesota Twins for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy. Hicks was the 14th overall pick in the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft and made his MLB debut in 2013. It's been no picnic at the plate for the 26-year old switch-hitter, although he began to show some promise in the latter part of the 2015 season.

Hicks made a career high 390 plate appearances this past season and produced 11 home runs, 33 RBI and stole 13 bases. He has the opportunity to strengthen the Yankees lineup against left-handers - he produced an .870 OPS against southpaws last season - and will likely replace Chris Young as a fourth outfielder. There have also been rumors that the Yankees might be willing to part with left fielder Brett Gardner for the right price. Gardner has had poor second halves of the season the last two years though new hitting coach Alan Cockrell recently told the media that Gardner played with a wrist injury all season.

The departure of Murphy, who did a solid job (.277/.327/.406) as Brian McCann's backup in 2015, could mean that long-time prospect Gary Sanchez gets a shot at being the #2 catcher next season. Still just 23-years of age, Sanchez has been in the Yankees' farm system since they signed him out of his native Venezuela in 2009. He's had his ups and down at the plate throughout his minor league career, but has been on a tear playing in the Arizona Fall League the past month.

The 20-year old Herrera, himself a native of Venezuela, was originally signed by the Oakland A's before he was acquired by the Padres in 2014. He put up solid numbers for advanced-A ball club Lake Elsinore of the California League - 3.88 ERA, 1.255 WHIP - in 2015 before he struggled in eight starts for Double-A San Antonio. Herrera has a low 90s fastball, a strong curveball and a changeup.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mattingly Out in LA

After three straight NL West division titles and two straight division series losses, the Los Angeles Dodgers and manager Don Mattingly are going their separate ways. That news according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, who describes the ouster as a "mutual parting of the ways".

Although the higher ups, including primary owner Mark Walter, reportedly supported Mattingly, the team fell well short of expectations. Those expectations were high, though the Dodgers didn't necessarily have the team to meet them.

Mattingly was the first Dodgers manager to win three straight NL West titles. The team didn't make the playoffs in his first two seasons at the helm in 2011-2012. The Dodgers reached the NLCS in 2013, but lost in six games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers again in 2014, that time in the first round, before the NL pennant winning New York Mets knocked them out of this year's postseason.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Carlos Gomez Shouldn't Mess With a Brian McCann Team

Houston Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez has a flair, for shall we say, the dramatic. He plays passionately and that was on display Tuesday night in the Bronx when Gomez hit a routine fly out. The problem was Gomez flipped his bat in doing so, as well as yelled at himself. The problem was the Astros were up 9-0 over the New York Yankees and the Yankees did not want to see or hear Gomez' actions.

So much so that the Yankees bench, Joe Girardi included, began shouting at Gomez, who in turn repeatedly yelled shut up. It wouldn't be a surprise if one of those players involved on the bench was catcher Brian McCann. The Yankees regular backstop had the night off, but he is all too familiar with Gomez' antics.

Case in point - Gomez' Brewers vs. McCann's Braves two years ago. McCann's backup John Ryan Murphy had a few choice words for Gomez as well. You just get the feeling that not too many of Gomez' teammates care for his shtick either.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Yankees Fly In Bird For More Lumber

In the midst of a five-game losing streak, in which runs have been harder to come by than a late night meal in Cleveland, the Yankees have recalled minor league slugger Greg Bird to add some punch to the lineup. The Yankees had acquired Garrett Jones back in December (along with Thursday night's starter, Nathan Eovaldi) to back up Mark Teixeira at first base as well as play some right field, but Jones was designated for assignment Wednesday for the second time in two weeks.

In addition, to spelling Teixeira, Bird will also get some at-bats at DH when Alex Rodriguez needs a day off. Just as the Yankees called up Luis Severino a little over a week ago to bolster the starting rotation, Bird's recall is an attempt to wake up the suddenly sleepy Yankees bats. New York has lost five straight games, in which they have scored a total of six runs. Four of those runs came in one game and the team has been shut out twice. Combined with the Toronto Blue Jays 10-game winning streak the Yankees have fallen out of first place in the AL East for the first time since July 1. At that time, they moved back into first the very next day. They're hoping that can happen again.

Bird was a fifth round draft choice out of Grandview High School (Aurora, CO) in 2011 and has steadily climbed the Yankees organization ladder. He first made a name for himself when he slugged 20 home runs and drove in 84 runs for the 2012 Charleston RiverDogs ('A'). In addition to hitting .288, he drew 107 walks and had a .938 OPS. He started this season at Double-A Trenton where he put up a .258/.358/.445 slash line with 6 HR and 29 RBI in 182 At-Bats. He's been even better since his promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre - a .301/.353/.500 line with 6 HR and 23 RBI in 136 AB's. In his 2012 breakout year, Bird also struck out 132 times. So far this season, he has struck out 57 times in 318 at-bats. That means he's been more patient looking for his pitch and not chasing bad pitches or being fooled as often as he was three years ago. He comes to the Majors after going 19-52 (.365) with 3 HR, 9 RBI, and 8 runs scored over his last 12 games. Any help to the offense would be greatly appreciated at this time.

Here's a closer look at how bad the Yankees team slump is.

Jacoby Ellsbury 0-19; benched Wednesday night

Brett Gardner 5-35 (.143) in last 10 games; was thrown out stealing the last two nights and hasn't stolen a base in two months.

Alex Rodriguez 6-37 (.162) in last 10 games. 2-21 during losing streak.

Mark Teixeira 7-40 (.175) in last 10 games. 1-17 in last four games.

Chase Headley 3-21 (.143) in last seven games. Did have go-ahead 2-run single in first game vs. Indians.

Stephen Drew 1-18 (.056) with 1 solo home run in last five games played.

Brendan Ryan 2-16 (.125) in last half-dozen. And dude, that mustache has got to go.

Brian McCann 1-19 (.053) in last six played. Like Drew, with one solo home run. Not everyone has been bad.

Didi Gregorius went 6-19 in the last five games, though he didn't have an RBI or run scored. Carlos Beltran has a modest seven-game hitting streak in which is 8-24 (.333) with five walks, and a pair of home runs and RBI.

Here comes the corny. The Yankees are hoping that Bird will help them rise like the Phoenix and to soar again.  I told you it was corny.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Let the Luis Severino Era Begin

Luis Severino is ready to bring his electric stuff to the Bronx.

There was a time that most fans of the New York Yankees didn't care about the team's farmhands. They didn't even know their names. But all that changed with publications like Baseball Weekly and Baseball America and the advent of social media.

While some fans still will quickly fork over top prospects for a current or former star, more and more fans want to see home grown ball players don their team's uniform for more than Spring Training.

The Yankees farm system was derided for some time after poor scouting, drafting, and trades for veterans left it bereft of ready for prime time players. Now the farm system has become replenished with top grade prospects. Those prospects were in demand during last week's trade deadline, but General Manager Brian Cashman refused to part with any of the cream of the crop. Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Greg Bird and tonight's Yankees' starter Luis Severino remained in the Yankees system, much to the delight of the Yankees fan base.

While there is no such thing as a sure thing, the Yankees front office, manager Joe Girardi, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild expect a lot from Severino, the Yankees top rated minor leaguer.
It's not the first time a pitcher made his highly anticipated debut in the last decade. Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain both turned in some terrific performances in their initial lengthy recall with the team. Neither of them are in the organization any more, and Cashman is hoping (and probably praying) that will not be the case with Severino.

You probably need to go all the way back to 1964 to find a time when a Yankees staff was counting this heavily on a rookie this late in the season. Long before he was the Yankees coach, Mel Stottlemyre made his debut as a 22-year old stud on August 12, 1964. "Stot" went 9-3 with a 2.06 ERA in 12 starts and one relief appearance. He had five complete games in a time when starting pitchers still went the distance. He also made three starts in the '64 World Series, finishing 1-1 against a St. Louis Cardinals team that captured the championship in seven games. It would be the only postseason appearance for Stottlemyre.

Severino made eight starts for Double-A Trenton this season and averaged over 11 strikeouts per 9 innings before a promotion to Triple-A Scranton. He excelled at the challenge of facing hitters in a hitters' league, the International League. Severino compiled a 7-0 mark with  a 1.91 ERA in 11 starts. He allowed less than a base runner per inning, with just 40 hits allowed in 61.1 innings.

And now he'll put on #40 and face the Boston Red Sox in Yankee Stadium.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sanchez Promoted To Triple-A

Gary Sanchez joins recently promoted Thunder teammates Luis Severino and Aaron Judge in Scranton.

Gary Sanchez has been a highly touted prospect since the Yankees signed him as a free agent teenager out of the Dominican  Republic in 2009. In fact, this is the first season since 2011 that Sanchez has not been ranked in top 100 prospects by Baseball America,, and Baseball Prospectus.

Sanchez has appeared to overcome the immaturity that plagued him earlier in his career and recently got on a hot streak at Double-A Trenton. He leaves the Thunder with a slash line of .262/.319/.476 with 12 HR and 36 RBI in 58 games.

The 22-year old's best season came in 2012 when he played for Charleston ('A') and Tampa ('A+'). He produced an .829 OPS with career highs in home runs (18) and RBI (85). There has been speculation that the Yankees may use him as trade bait at the upcoming non-waiver trade deadline.

Friday, July 17, 2015

On The Warning Track - 2nd Half Outlook AL East - Yankees

For years the American League East held the unofficial title of the best division in baseball. That’s not the case any more, though the division is still extremely competitive despite its flawed teams. There’s no question that it may take as little as 90 wins to capture the division title and any of the five teams in the division could be on top when the regular season ends on October 4.
The next two weeks will determine whether or not teams are buyers or sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. With a weakened division and the two wild card spots, a minimum of four teams will be buyers, with the Red Sox the lone possible seller as of this writing.
Here’s a look at what you can expect from each AL East team, starting with the Yankees, for the second half of the season.
New York Yankees (48-40): Most media experts and predictors felt the Yankees would finish in 4th or 5th/last place in the division. When you look at the construct of the team, you can understand why those predictions were made. But the Yankees have gotten performances from unexpected sources and have taken an advantage of the inconsistency of their division rivals.
Surprises – There was nothing more unexpected than the performances of first baseman Mark Teixeira and Designated Hitter Alex Rodriguez. Teixeira was selected to his first All-Star since 2009, his first year in New York. The Georgia Tech product saw his production suffer the last few years due to some bad habits and injuries, including a wrist injury that kept him out of all but 15 games in 2013. He entered the break with an AL leading 62 RBI and has his highest slugging pct. (SLG) in six years.

Read the rest of the story on the always free, On the Warning Track.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Derek Jeter Receives ESPN Icon Award at ESPYs

I'm no fan of the ESPY Awards, but last night they presented Derek Jeter with an icon award. If you only he could ever thank the ladies in his life that aren't his Mom or sister. Or at least think Hannah Davis' horse.

To add some irony and RE2PECT to the moment, ESPN had Red Sox fan Ben Affleck present the award.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pineda Mows Down 16 O's in Yankees' 20th Win

photo courtesy of

Michael Pineda's Major League career has been and up and down journey threw injuries, pine tar suspensions, and high expectations. There was a lot of outrage among Yankees fans in January, 2012 when he was acquired for the Yankees top hitting prospect Jesus Montero. Fans had heard for so long that Montero would be an offensive superstar, the deal came as a shock, even to those of who liked the idea of obtaining Pineda from Seattle. (Keep in mind I was also thrilled when the Yankees acquired Jeff Weaver.)

The outrage got amped up when Pineda missed all of 2012 and 2013, due to shoulder surgery, without ever having thrown a baseball in a Yankees regular season game. Meanwhile in Seattle, Montero hit 15 home runs and drove in 62 runs for the 2012 Mariners in his first full season in the Majors.

Much has changed since then though and on a sunny, Mother's Day in the Bronx on Sunday, Pineda made it clear who the trade has worked out better for in the long run. The 26-year old struck out 16 Baltimore Orioles in a 7-inning stint as the Yankees won their 20th game of the season. (The team's best 32-game start since 2010.)

Due to injuries, Pineda was limited to 76.1 innings in 2014, but posted a 1.89 ERA and struck out seven batters per nine innings. With the 6-2 win over Baltimore, Pineda raised his record to 5-0, lowered his ERA to 2.72 and raised his K's per nine innings to 10.49. Montero, meanwhile, waits for his call at Triple-A Tacoma, a season after he had a dispute with a team scout who sent ice cream during a game to the out-of-shape Montero.

With injuries to Ivan Nova and Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia not pitching like the ace he once was, Pineda has become the de facto ace of the team. The Yankees are 6-1 in Pineda's seven starts, 14-11 when someone else has toed the rubber in the 1st inning. Pineda's most remarkable stat has to be the 18:1 strikeout to walk ratio he has posted in 46.1 innings. He has issued just three free passes this season and only one in his last four starts.

Pineda tied David Cone for the team record for strikeouts by a right-handed pitcher in a single start.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Shout It From The Rooftops: Opening Day Is Here! - Lineups

Regular season test 1 of Tanaka's elbow

April 6, 2015. A lovely Spring day that is perfect for the opening of the baseball season at the big Stadium in the Bronx.

The Yankees open with a tough week - three games each with the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.  The Yankees send Masahiro Tanaka to the hill for the opener. It's the first time since he became a Yankees in 2009 that CC Sabathia isn't the Game 1 starter.

The Yankees lineup, which looks very strange without Derek Jeter in the two hole, is

CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Brett Gardner
RF Carlos Beltran
1B Mark Teixeira
  C Brian McCann
3B Chase Headley
DH Alex Rodriguez
2B Stephen Drew
SS Didi Gregorius

The Blue Jays go with

SS Jose Reyes
  C Russell Martin
RF Jose Bautista
1B Edwin Encarnacion
3B Josh Donaldson
DH Dioner Navarro
CF Dalton Pompey
LF Kevin Pillar
2B Devon Travis

Let the game begin.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Yankees Acquire Petit For Shortstop Shortage

The Yankees were supposed to rely on youngster Didi Gregorius and veteran Brendan Ryan to replace  play shortstop in the wake of Derek Jeter's retirement. But as the team gets ready to head north to start the season on Monday, Gregorius is recovering from a sprained left wrist and Ryan is likely headed to the DL with a Grade-2 calf strain.

To add some depth, the Yankees have acquired 30-year old shortstop Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros for a player to be named and/or cash. Petit played in 37 games for the Astros last season with a .278/.300/.423 slash line at the plate. 10 of his 27 hits were for extra bases, hence the decent slugging percentage. The Venezuelan native can also play second base and third base as wekk, giving the Yankees another utility player option.

Petite played a combined 25 games for Oakland in 2008-2009, but spent the next four seasons in the minor leagues before Houston gave him another shot in the show. The Yankees are his sixth organization.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Not So Odd Couple

Hideki Matsui receives his 2009 WS ring at Yankees 2010 home opener.

Despite a language barrier, it didn't take Hideki Matsui long to fit in with his New York Yankees teammates upon his arrival in 2003. He quickly became one of the favorite teammates of many of the players, including the captain, Derek Jeter.

So it comes as no surprise that the two are now working together to help the victims of Japan's devastating earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. Jeter, who recently held a major fund raising event for his Turn2 Foundation, will help aid the survivors of Japan's Tohoku region by participating in baseball clinics and a home run derby (move the right field fence in).

Jeter compared the victims' plight, especially the children, to those of 9/11.
''The kids will never forget what happened,'' Jeter said. ''But if they can come out and have fun and enjoy themselves through the sport of baseball, that's what we're trying to do here.''
15,000 people were killed when tragedy struck on March 11, 2011. Among other fund raising events will be a baseball game Sunday at the Tokyo Dome. The teams will be made up of players from the Tohoku region. In non-related news, Jeter said he needed "a break from the game", but hopes to return at some point as an owner.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Eovaldi Impressive In Yankees Debut

The Yankees parted with a valuable piece when they dealt Martin Prado to the Miami Marlins for Nathan Eovaldi and others during the offseason. In his first start of Spring Training, Eovaldi already had his fastball fully gassed in the Yankees home opener against the Clearwater Phillies. He consistently threw his number one in the mid-90's, and topped out at 98.

Eovaldi also tossed a 90 mph curve and a changeup between 84 and 89 to keep the hitters off-balance. He allowed a run on two hits, the first of which may have been caught had right fielder Tyler Austin taken a better route to the ball.

The only other batter that reached safely did so on a Stephen Drew error.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Yankees Tie As Judge Makes The Final Decision

Aaron Judge cuts an imposing figure.

The Yankees opened their 2015 Grapefruit League schedule Tuesday, in Clearwater, FL, against the Philadelphia Phillies with a 5-5 tie. The game was called after nine innings, which is not unusual during Spring Training.

Highly touted pitching prospect Luis Severino tossed 1.1 innings and Adam Warren threw two scoreless innings as he battles for a spot in the rotation. But it was Aaron Judge everyone was talking about afterwards.

Judge, a first round draft pick (32nd overall) by the Yankees in 2013, hit a three-run home run in the top of the 9th inning as the Yankees rallied from a four run deficit to tie the game at five apiece.

The 6'7", 230 lb outfielder split 131 games between Single-A Charleston (SAL) and Advanced-A Tampa (FSL) last year. In his first year of professional ball, the right fielder hit 17 home runs and drove in 79 runs. He produced a slash line of .333/.428/.530 for the RiverDogs before his promotion to Tampa. There he put up a slash line of .283/.411/.442. Though Judge struck out 131 times in 467 at-bats, he also walked 89 times and stroked 24 doubles.

It's only one game, but it's the first game and Judge make a quick, positive expression Tuesday.

Severino didn't fare as well. The Yankees top prospect gave up two runs on four hits. The Yankees had 13 hits, led by Slade Heathcott and Greg Bird with two apiece. Future second basemen Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder both committed errors in the game.