Sunday, April 20, 2014

Yankees Get Anna-mated in Extra

Dean Anna took a long road to the Major Leagues. After six years of minor league ball, spent in the San Diego Padres organization, Anna signed with the Yankees this past Winter as a free agent.  He came to Spring Training knowing the Yankees already had incumbents Eduardo Nunez and Brendan Ryan as utility infielders and backups to starting shortstop Derek Jeter.

But a funny thing happened on the way to being demoted to Scranton. Anna played too well, as did fellow rookie Yangervis Solarte, to go away. Anna received some unfortunate help when Ryan had to go on the disabled list after he suffered a pair of back injuries. When the powers that be decided they can no longer trust Nunez's defensive play, Anna made his first opening day roster at 27-years of age. Solarte, at 26, joined him.

Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay, Anna had one of the biggest at-bats of his big league career. It came one day after he was called on to pitch an inning the eighth inning of a 16-1 Rays' blowout. With the Yankees and Rays tied at one apiece and two outs in the 14th inning, the left-handed hitting Anna came to the plate with the bases loaded against rookie left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser, who was making his Major League debut.

Anna battled through eight pitches, coming back from being down in the count 1 and 2 to being ahead, 3 and 2. (He fouled off a pair of 2-2 pitches) Riefenhauser went to a slider away that Anna started to chase, but held up. First base umpire Rob Drake agreed and Anna happily trotted to first as Brett Gardner came home with the go ahead run.

The Yankees then broke the game open, on a Carlos Beltran 2-run single and an RBI single by Alfonso Soriano, off Josh Lueke. The Rays put two men aboard in the bottom of the 12th against Preston Claiborne, who was recalled from Scranton earlier in the day, but the right-hander retired Ben Zobrist and Logan Forsythe to preserve the win.

Replay helped the Yankees score the first run of the game in the 4th inning. With Soriano on second base, Gardner hit a deep drive that he thought was a home run, but Wil Myers appeared to make the catch for the third out. Joe Girardi challenged the call and won when video replay showed Myers snaring the ball after it hit the top of the wall.

Tex Back In The Lineup

With Ivan Nova out indefinitely, the Yankees got some good news today with the return of Mark Teixeira. Activated from the disabled list, the first baseman will bat fifth in today's lineup against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The YES Network's Meredith Marakovits reported Sunday that pitchers Preston Claiborne and Bryan Mitchell have been recalled from Scranton and Trenton, respectively. Scott Sizemore and Matt Daley appear to be the two that have taken a hit, though there's been no official announcement as of this writing.

Daley was called up for Saturday's game and got hammered. Sizemore is a bit of a surprise since he's hit well on a limited basis (.308/.308/.462 in 13 ABs with 4 RBI).

Nova Sidelined With Torn UCL

The Yankees were counting on Ivan Nova to be a strength in their 2014 starting rotation, based on his effectiveness in the latter half of last year. But so far, the results have not been good in 2014, and things got a whole lot worse on Saturday.

Nova complained of pain in his right elbow as the Tampa Bay Rays blasted him en route to a 16-1 win. The worst news was yet to come. A short time ago it was announced that Nova has a partially torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL).  Actually that may not be the worst news, that could still be to come.

Nova will be re-evaluated, his MRI, X-Rays and whatever else will be double- and triple-checked. The bottom line is that Nova could be headed towards Tommy John surgery. In fact, he probably should just go ahead and have it done since if they go the rehab/rest route, he'll probably eventually need it anyway.

In the meantime, David PhelpsAdam Warren, and Vidal Nuno are all candidates to replace Nova in the rotation. Nuno is scheduled to start Sunday's finale with Tampa Bay so that Masahiro Tanaka does not have to pitch on three days rest.

The Yankees have Al Aceves working as a starter at Triple-A Scranton, but he's thrown just one game so far. Among the unsigned free agents still out there are former Yankee and Pirate, Jeff Karstens. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder last June, but was feeling good this Spring. He threw for some teams during Spring Training, but did not get a deal.

Barry Zito, who went from Cy Young to Cy Disaster took some time off, but isn't retiring. And is not the answer. Do you hear me Brian Cashman?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yankees: Pain, Rain, and The Stain

Tuesday night's Spring-Winter schizophrenic rain/snow storm wiped out the Yankees first of two with the Chicago Cubs. A day-night doubleheader (really a pair of single games with different start times and an akward reference) is scheduled for today, Wednesday. If you can only make it to one, choose the 1:00 p.m. start. It's plenty cold out, but you will not be warm tonight.

Just like the weather, the Yankees have had some ups and downs the first month of the season. But after they took three of four from Boston, the semi-Bronx Bombers were tied for first place in the AL East with a 7-6 record. However, it hasn't come without a price.  Mark Teixeira got hurt about two seconds into the season and hopes to return from a hamstring injury on May 1.

Francisco Cervelli is well acquainted with the DL. He'll have plenty of time to treat his Grade-2 hamstring strain, after being placed on the 60-day DL for the injury he suffered Sunday night. It remains to be seen if the injury is that bad or if the Yankees just had to find a way of opening spots on the 40-man roster. John Ryan Murphy, formerly known as J.R. Murphy (against his will), was called up to back up Brian McCann. He should get the start in tonight's game.

In addition to Cervelli, Derek Jeter missed the last two games against Boston with a sore quad, Brian Roberts sat out with a sore lower back, and McCann took a Red Sox ricochet off his hand.

Tests came back negative on McCann and he's in the lineup for the first game on Wednesday. Jeter is not, but is expected to play the nightcap. Roberts has not been DL'ed, but is not expected to play at all today. Roberts told the media he could " if needed", but is on pain meds and Joe Girardi wants him to have additional rest. The Yankees brought up Scott Sizemore and he's got the start at third base this afternoon, while Yangervis Solarte will play second base. Dean Anna (shortstop) and Kelly Johnson (first base) fill out the rest of the infield.

David Robertson feels he is on track to return from the DL on April 22. Robertson has been sidelined with a strained groin since April 7. Shawn Kelley and David Phelps have picked up saves in his absence.

All eyes will be on Michael Pineda tonight, after he was accused by the media of using a substance on his pitching hand in his last start. Pineda had, what appeared to be, pine tar on his pitching hand for part of last Thursday's start against Boston. The substance disappeared after it was discussed on the game's broadcast.

The Red Sox made no accusations of cheating, primarily because their own pitcher that night, Clay Buchholz, has been rumored to use several substances during a game. With only circumstantial evidence, MLB decided not to mete out any punishment.

Monday, April 7, 2014

D-Rob to the DL

Sunday afternoon in Toronto, David Robertson pitched for the third time in four days. It was then that he felt something uncomfortable in his groin.

The Yankees' new closer was placed on the 15-Day disabled list Monday afternoon with a grade-1 groin strain. Even if he had been healthy, Robertson would not have been available for the Yankees home opener Monday with Baltimore. Shawn Kelley closed out the Yankees' 4-2 win over the Orioles.

Robertson has been fragile throughout his Yankees career. He's been more effective pitching less than an inning per game and doesn't fare as well when he works too many times in a short period. Two years ago, he had a chance to close when Mariano Rivera tore his ACL, but strained an oblique muscle and landed on the disabled list. Rafael Soriano took advantage of his opportunity and saved 42 games.

Because of Robertson's career to date, the Yankees may eventually look elsewhere this season for a more durable player for the 9th inning. Of course, it would also be a boost to the Yankees set-up portion of the game if Robertson returned to his prior role.

In the meantime, manager Joe Girardi will likely rely on Kelley and Matt Thornton, who had some closer experience with the Chicago White Sox, to finish games out.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jeter Laces 'Em Up For Last Opening Day

Opening Day is a magical time in baseball. Check that, it's a magical time in life. Despite all the crappy weather we've endured in the northeast - not all the snow has melted yet - it feels like it's 80 degrees and sunny when baseball starts. (And if you must, you can crank the heat up to 80 degrees in your living room).

This year though, the opener feels weird, and not just because it's in Houston. I will stop thinking Houston is still in the National League. I will stop thinking Houston is still in the National League. I will stop thinking Houston is still in the National League.

It's the last season opener for Derek Jeter. What? Get out of here. He's like, what..30, 31 tops, right? How did the skinny kid with the fade haircut and the supermodel on his arm get to be the solid, nearly faded-hairline, 40-year old (in June) with the supermodel on his arm?

Though I hate the phrase, "the core four" (not as much as "Quan-Gor-Mo"), Jeter is the last of the quad to be in the lineup and that ends this year.  We lost Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte to retirement last year. Just like that, two of the three remaining "Fantastic Four" joined Jorge Posada in street clothes. (Mo would definitely be Mr. Fantastic in that superhero reboot.)

You hear people, especially Joe Torre, wear out the word "special" in describing Jeter, but his play on the field and how carries himself off of it, have been just that. From his rookie-Opening Day  home run and over the shoulder catch to the flip play to his dive in the stands to his passing Lou Gehrig as the Yankees all-time hits leader to his 3,000th hit and of course his five World Series rings. And of course there is his Turn-2 Foundation.

Could there be a ring number six in the last hurrah? It's going to be tough, though he has a lot better chance than Mariano and Pettitte had last year. The Yankees spent a boatload this winter to re-energize the team, just as they did after the 2008 post-season swing and a miss.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, and Carlos Beltran woke the Yankees' payroll department out of their 2013 slumber. The pitching staff of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Tanaka, and Michael Pineda could be fantastic, if all are healthy, Sabathia learns to pitch with less speed, and Tanaka is the real deal.

The Yankees offense should be good, but again, health is a big issue, particularly when discussing Ellsbury. Beltran's knees are another matter for concern as well and of course, there's Mark Teixeira's wrist.

There's also no Robinson Cano, which is still weird to me. He's already getting obliterated by Yankees fans for leaving, which is as hypocritical as it can get since the Yankees have thrown their money around for years. No Yankees fans complained about that and they shouldn't when the reverse happens.

But back to Jeter. My thoughts are much the same as with Rivera last year. Enjoy every moment, whether good or bad. It's his last time around the diamond.

Be sure to check out Designated for Assignment for Jim Monaghan's discussion with Harold Reynolds on Derek Jeter.

Yankees Throw In The Towel On Nunez

Too many botched plays caused Nunez's demise in NY.

Eduardo Nunez had the tools and he had the talent. He just couldn't make it happen in the Major Leagues as a Yankee. And in a short time, he will no longer be a Yankee.

The Yankees designated Nunez for assignment Monday afternoon, in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Yangervis Solarte. With Derek Jeter sidelined for nearly the entire 2013 season, Nunez had the opportunity to establish himself, but his OPS was under .700 and he continued to stumble in the field. He committed 12 errors at shortstop and made another pair at third base. In 2011, the numbers were similar - 14 errors at shortstop and 6 at third base.

In Spring Training this year, he faced stiff competition from Solarte and Dean Anna for a utility spot on the team. More than anything, your utility infielders must be solid defenders, and Nunez couldn't provide that. The Yankees waited until this past weekend to announce that Solarte had made the team over Nunez. Solarte took advantage of his situation with hot bat in the exhibition games, but today's move was more about Nunez than anything else.

Fans and the media like to talk about how Nunez was one of the reasons the Yankees couldn't swing a deal with Seattle for Cliff Lee in 2010. The Mariners wanted Ivan Nova and/or Nunez, and the Yankees reportedly said no. However, it's ridiculous to assume the Yankees would have won the World Series again had they acquired Lee. There's also no saying Seattle might not have pulled out of the deal and made a trade with Texas anyway.

The Yankees have 10 days to trade Nunez or he'll be released outright. He'll definitely get a shot with some organization, who might convert him into an outfielder. Something the Yankees should have done a long time ago.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yankees Aim To Give The Captain One More Ring (D4A)

The 2013 New York Yankees season was rife with poor performance, injuries, moves made in desperation, steroid allegations, and a roster of maybes, has-beens, and never-weres. Owner Hal Steinbrenner wanted general manager Brian Cashman to get payroll under control so that the team would fit under the 2014 luxury tax threshold of $189MM. With injuries and payroll cuts, sub-par players like catcher Chris Stewart and journeyman infielders like Reid Brignac and Luis Cruz littered the 25-man roster last season.

Manager Joe Girardi did his best to push all the right buttons, but many days he simply ran out of buttons to push. The team managed to rack up 85 wins and finished in third place the AL East, but their record fell well short of a playoff appearance. It was just the second time since 1995 that the Yankees missed the post-season.

With Derek Jeter's announcement that this will be his final season, the moves made by the Yankees this off-season could give him one final chance to add to his championship ring collection (He has five).  More importantly, Jeter needs to remain healthy after ankle and quad injuries limited him to 17 games in 2013.
The Yankees upgraded at catcher when they signed veteran Brian McCann to a five-year deal worth $85MM. The former Atlanta Brave hit 20 or more home runs during the last six seasons and should enjoy swinging at the short porch in right field this year.

Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a member of the Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series championship, was persuaded to put on the pinstripes with a seven- year deal in excess of $152MM. (The deal could earn Ellsbury close to $169 if the Yankees exercise an 8th-year option.) There's no question that the Yankees overpaid for a player who has missed more games than he has played in two of the last four seasons and suffered a calf injury during the current Spring Training season. But, if healthy, he can steal 50 bases and hit 10-15 home runs.

Read the rest of the preview for Free at Designated For Assignment

Friday, March 7, 2014

Yogi Loses His Lifetime Love Carmen

A sad day for the Yankees family, but much more so for the Berra family. Carmen Berra, long time wife of Yankees legend Yogi Berra, passed away at an assisted living facility as the result of complications from the stroke she had suffered earlier this year.

The Berra's son Larry had this to say:
“She died peacefully -- she went the way she would have wanted to. We’re grateful that she and dad were able to spend some good time together (Thursday). I’m not just saying this because she was my mom, but she was one of the great women of all time.” 1
In addition to her beloved Yogi, to whom she was married for 65 years, she is survived by their sons - Larry, Dale, and Tim, and 11 grandchildren.

Hal Steinbrenner, managing general partner of the Yankees, released this statement:
On behalf of the entire New York Yankees organization, we offer our deepest condolences to the Berra family. Having known Yogi and Carmen for so long, it is almost impossible to imagine two people who complemented each other better than they did. We will always remember Carmen’s smile and sense of humor, and her kindness and generosity will be deeply missed by all who knew her.” 1
My condolences to the entire Berra family on their monumental loss.

1 - NY Daily News

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Yankees Get Gardner To Stay Awhile

Brett Gardner could have tested the free agent waters next year, but instead chose to stick around a little longer in New York. The Yankees and Gardner agreed to a four year contract extension worth $52MM on Sunday.

The Yankees went out of their comfort zone - they normally don't extend players that are already under contract - to get Gardner at a reasonable price.  GM Brian Cashman explained why.
"It's a demonstration from our end. We don't typically do this, but it shows the level of confidence, belief and trust in the type of person and player he is, and we're excited to know he's going to be part of this thing going forward."1
While Cashman may be saying all the right things about Gardner, the terms of the contract also make the left fielder a viable trade chip in the future should any of the touted outfield prospects (Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Tyler Austin) pan out.  But Gardner wants to stay right where he is.
"I don't want to be anywhere else," Gardner told reporters. "There's no better place to play baseball than in New York. I've never been anywhere else. I got drafted here almost nine years ago, and I love it here. I love everybody in the organization, the coaching staff and all my teammates, and this is where I want to be."1
While I don't necessarily agree with the length of the deal, it was a smart move by the Yankees, especially considering how much money they have tied up going forward in Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Masahiro Tanaka. By getting Gardner at a mere $12.5MM per year (there's a $12.5MM option in 2019 with a $2MM buyout), the Yankees will have more money to work with when players like Mark Teixeira come off the books.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Roberts Handed Second Base

I wouldn't be surprised if Brian Cashman held a lucky rabbit's foot, wore a four leaf clover around his neck, and said a novena or Hail Mary or two when Brian Roberts put ink to paper and signed his contract with the New York Yankees.

With Kelly Johnson also in camp, manager Joe Girardi announced that Roberts would be his starting second baseman when the team heads north (actually west to play the Houston Astros) to start the regular season. Roberts isn't expected to replace the production that the Yankees will miss from Robinson Cano, but they hope Roberts and others can collectively make up some of that ground.

A once quick-as-a-rabbit youngster, Roberts joins a team of older, injured players. Well, most of them were injured last year anyway. For Roberts it's been a myriad of injuries over the last several years.

Roberts suffered an abdominal strain in 2010 that kept him out  of the lineup from April to July and limited him to 59 games. (He also suffered from a herniated disc in his back during Spring Training in 2010.)

In May of 2011, Roberts hit the back of his head sliding into first base and suffered a serious concussion. He missed the rest of the 2011 season and didn't return to the Majors until June, 2012.  But he wasn't active for long.

Roberts hurt his groin in early July and was placed back on the DL. At the end of the month he opted for season ending hip surgery. During the off-season he also had surgery to repair a sports hernia. He played in 17 games, the lowest number of his career and the same number his new double play partner, Derek Jeter, played in his own injury plagued 2013 season.

In April, 2013 Roberts made another trip to the DL after he ruptured a tendon in a portion of hamstring behind his right knee and underwent surgery. It kept him out of an Orioles uniform until June 30. His 77 games played was the most action he saw over a four year stretch of injuries and surgeries, but his production was far below his norm. (.249/.312/.392 slash line)

The Yankees hope to see a glimpse of the former first round pick (50th overall out of U. of South Carolina in 1999). Roberts was a two-time All-Star who combined some pop with speed (90 stolen bases 2007-2008) and was often a Yankees killer. A typical season for Roberts saw 13 home runs, 64 RBI, 36 steals, 45 doubles, and 99 runs scored. 

In attempt to keep him healthy, Girardi may very well put the reins on Roberts when it comes to stolen base attempts and it will be interesting to see where he bats in the lineup with a pair of lead off men - Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner - already in the lineup.

The Yankees and Roberts don't care where he bats as long as he can stay healthy and productive.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Jeter To Retire After 2014 Season

Yankees fans are still reeling from the retirements after least season of five time World Series champions Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Now comes word that Derek Jeter will join them on the sidelines after this coming season. The Yankees' captain made the announcement on his Facebook page with a a lengthy letter.

I hightly doubt there will be a good-bye tour like Rivera's, but I'm sure Jeter will get big receptions and some gifts when the Yankees play on the road this season. Perhaps there will be a retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium on the final day of the regular season, though I personally think Jeter would hate to do it, unless Rivera's day had a big influence on him.

Appreciate the 2014 season for it truly is the end of an era.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A-Rod Drops Suit Against MLB and MLBPA

Possibly sensing the loss of dollars in the long run, Alex Rodriguez dropped his suit against Major League Baseball and the players' assocation (MLBPA) on Friday.  Rodriguez had sounded tired of fighting and resigned when he spoke with media in Mexico back on January 16.
“I think that the year 2014 could be a big favor that [Major League Baseball has] done for me because I’ve been playing for 20 years without a timeout,” he said. “I think 2014 is a good year to rest mentally and physically and prepare for the future and begin a new chapter in my life.”
In response, his lawyers were quick to say that A-Rod would still be going forward with his appeal, but this afternoon's action flies in the face of that. MLB released the following statement.
"We have been informed that Alex Rodriguez has reached the prudent decision to end all of the litigation related to the Biogenesis matter. We believe that Mr. Rodriguez's actions show his desire to return the focus to the play of our great game on the field and to all of the positive attributes and actions of his fellow Major League Players. We share that desire."
A-Rod's lawyer Joseph Tacopina confirmed the suit was dropped.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ralph Kiner, 91

Growing up in the Metropolitan area in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, two of the most legendary baseball players could  be seen and/or heard on New York Yankees and New York Mets broadcasts. Both had Hall of Fame baseball careers and both could have had their picture next to the word character in the dictionary.

Sadly, Mets' announcer Ralph Kiner joined Yankees player and announcer Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto today in God's ballpark today. He was 91 years of age. Kiner was one of the top sluggers of his era, but most people will remember him for his work on New York Mets games and his post-game show, "Kiner's Korner".

The Alhambra (CA) High School graduate signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1941. After a little more than two years in the minor leagues, Kiner served as a Navy pilot during World War II. He flew reconnaissance missions in the South Pacific looking for enemy submarines and ships and left active duty in December, 1945.

One year later the 23-year old was in the Major Leagues with the Pirates and became their primary left fielder. Though he led the National League in strikeouts (109), the rookie topped the NL with 23 home runs and also drove in 81 runs. Then he went on a tremendous seven year tear that included a six year streak in which he led the National League in home runs (seven years straight overall). He topped the half-century mark twice and eclipsed 40 home runs three times.

From 1947-1949, Kiner averaged 125 RBI and 48 home runs. He finished in the top 10 in the NL MVP voting five straight seasons, and led the league in OPS ('47, '49, '51)  and walks ('49, '51, '52) on three occasions. Unfortunately, the Pirates finished at or near the bottom of the NL in each of Kiner's best seasons.

About a quarter of the way into the 1953 season, he, Joe Garagiola and two others were dealt to the Chicago Cubs for six players and $150,000. Kiner adapted to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field and hit 28 home runs in 117 games the rest of the season as a Cubbie. (In addition to the seven he hit with Pittsburgh.)

Despite an OPS over .800 the next two seasons with the Cubs and Cleveland Indians, the 32-year old Kiner retired from baseball after 10 big league seasons. He never got the chance to play in the post-season, but the 7-time All-Star was selected by the Veterans Committee for induction in the baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.

After one year in the Chicago White Sox broadcast booth, Kiner joined the Mets crew and became a legend. He was a regular member of the Mets broadcast team until 2006, when at the age of 84, he reduced his schedule.  While across town, Rizzuto had his "Holy Cow!", Kiner's trademark was his frequent malaprops.. He would often combine and scramble players name. One Father's Day he wished everyone a Happy Birthday. While fans of opponents criticized him, it made him more beloved among Mets fans

Kiner suffered from Bell's Palsy, a stroke like illness, in 1998 that left him with slurred speech. But the fan favorite carried on and continued to make cameo appearances after the 2006 season. The Mets honored him with a day at Shea Stadium in 2007.

Kiner was married four times and is survived by his five children and 12 grand children. My condolences go out to his family and friends.

1 - NY Daily News