Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cano Shown Some Money

In the '90's popular movie "Jerry Maguire" there was a key scene where pro football player Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) tells his agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise), "Show me the money!" regarding a new contract. It was not only a matter of getting paid, but the amount of money offered would let the player know how much the club respected him. Earlier today Yankees' GM Brian Cashman confirmed reports that the Yankees have offered second baseman Robinson Cano a "significant amount of money".

Cano had one of his best seasons statistically, setting career highs for home runs (33), slugging (.550), and OPS (.929). He also won his second Gold Glove Award and fourth Silver Slugger trophy and is set to become a free agent for the first time after the 2013 season.

The Yankees, in an unprecedented move, are attempting to lock him up ahead of time. The Steinbrenner boys realize that they cannot afford to lose a player like Cano, who is at the top of his game and just turned 30. They also know that if Cano hits the open market as a free agent the number of years and the amount of money for a deal could rise drastically.

The biggest hold up in a deal could be Cano's agent Scott Boras who likes to figuratively hold teams up like a bank robber. Boras should remember though that Cano will not be surrounded by the offensive team the Yankees put on the field last year and pitchers are likely to work around him in the lineup.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Soriano Rumors Soar, Yuke Taking Precautions

Shortly after the New York Yankees included Alfonso Soriano in a trade that brought Alex Rodriguez over from Texas, a female fan told George Steinbrenner how upset she was that her favorite player was traded. Steinbrenner promised the fan that one day he would bring Soriano back.

Steinbrenner was unable to keep his promise and despite rumors all over the internet, it's not likely that Hal Steinbrenner will bring back the free swinging Soriano from the Chicago Cubs either. (Maybe we should give the Steinbrenners partial points for having Rafael Soriano in pinstripes for two years).

There's 36 million reasons why the Yankees won't be picking up Soriano in a deal. The second baseman turned outfielder is due $18MM this season and another $18MM in 2014. With the Yankees expecting Curtis Granderson back in May and the $189MM roster limit set for 2014, I don't see any foreseeable way that Yankees would acquire the 37-year old. (Wasn't he just like 25?)

Soriano was signed by the Yankees after playing in Japan and became the regular second baseman in 2001. He finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting with 18 HR and 73 RBI. He would have been remembered as the hero of the 2001 World Series with what would have been a series winning home run, had Mariano Rivera not had a rare meltdown in Game 7 against Arizona. The Yankees though he would develop into the type of player Robinson Cano is today, but Soriano became more and more of a free swinger and was a defensive liability.

As an infielder he had hands of stone and was moved to the outfield by the Washington Nationals in 2006. A seven time All-Star, Soriano topped 30 home runs last year for the first time in 5 years and the 108 RBI he produced was a career high. He's hit 372 career home runs between the Yankees, Nationals, and Cubs. The one-time speedster topped 40 stolen three times and joined the 40-40 club (home runs and steals) for the Nats in '06. However, he's stolen just 22 bases in the last four seasons combined.

No more aches and pains!

Kevin Youkilis has had his own share of physical problems the last few years so when he felt some discomfort in his side the Yankees shut him right down.

It is believed to be an oblique issue and based on what has occurred personally and with the team so far this year, Youkilis is taking Joe Girardi's advice to not rush back to swinging a bat.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Pettitte Tree

A younger Josh gets greeted by the Captain
Josh Pettitte, the eldest son of Andy and Laura Pettitte, did something this past Friday that has famous father has never done in the Major Leagues - throw a no-hitter. Josh, who unlike his father, throws from the right side for Deer Park (TX) High School.

The offspring pitcher allowed just one base runner on a walk and struck out 10 as he defeated Boerne Champion High, one of the better teams in the state. Afterwards he received Twitter congrats from Yankees CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and Joba Chamberlain.

Josh has committed to play at Baylor University in the fall, but things could change depending on how things go in this June's amateur draft.

Yankees Fall To O's,but Gardner Impresses

The New York Yankees already knew their game plan was going to be a little different this year. The big home run hitting machine is no more. It's time to get back to the basics - moving runners, stealing bases, putting on the hit and run, etc. The ability to play small ball will be even more important with the loss of Curtis Granderson for a minimum of 10 weeks due to the broken right arm he suffered on Sunday.

One of the Yankees that Joe Girardi will be counting on the most is center fielder Brett Gardner. Girardi was hoping to give Granderson a look in left and move Gardner back to center where it is felt he is the superior defensive player of the two. With Granderson's injury Gardner gets center field back by default. Now they need his bat and speed to pick up some of the slack with Granderson's home run power out of the lineup.

Gardner missed all but 16 games of the 2012 regular season after he injured his right elbow in April and had to have it surgically repaired. This afternoon against the Baltimore Orioles, Gardner led off, played center field, and was 3-3 at the plate. Speed played a factor in two of the three hits as Gardner beat out an infield grounder (and dove into first base much to the dismay of everyone on the Yankees side of the field) and later bunted his way on.

 It's that speed that the Yankees will count on to help produce runs. In a healthy 2011 season, Gardner swiped 49 bases in 62 attempts. In 2010 he was even better with 47 steals in just 53 tries. Gardner knows though that he has to be more aggressive when the game is on the line and not be worried about being thrown out. It's something that even the casual observer has noticed during Gardner's career.

The Yankees fell 5-1 to the Orioles Monday afternoon, breaking up the shutout in the 9th on a Walter Ibarra RBI. The Yankees had eight hits with Jayson Nix picking up a pair. Vidal Nuno started for the Yankees, who threw all minor leaguers on Monday. Brian Matusz started for the Orioles and tossed a pair of scoreless innings as he attempts to make it back to the rotation after a successful second half stint in the O's 2012 bullpen.

The Yankees play the Phllies in Clearwater on Tuesday at 1. The game will be televised live on the MLB Network.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Things Are Not Grand in Yankees-land

Yeah, that hurt. (photo courtesy of AP)

Everyone held their breath for about an hour or so until the bad news was delivered Sunday afternoon. Curtis Granderson, hit in the right forearm in his first at-bat of spring training, will miss 10 weeks and hopefully will return in May.

Toronto Blue Jays starter J. A. Happ nailed Granderson, who made it down to first base, but immediately left the game for x-rays.  The injury further saps a team that is missing much of its power from last season. Granderson (84 home runs over the last two years) joins Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list, while free agents Nick Swisher (24 home runs in 2012), Russell Martin (21 HR), and Raul Ibanez (19 HR) all signed elsewhere.

Barring a trade the injury gives both Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera a better chance of making the team rather than just one of them. (Be glad Bubba Crosby is retired) Those of you who are thinking 'what about moving Eduardo Nunez to the outfield", forget it. Joe Girardi was adamant on today's telecast that Nunez would only play shortstop in hopes of improving his defense, while also not messing with his promising bat. (Girardi said it before he knew the extent of the injury, but I don't see it changing anything regarding Nunez.)

Diaz and Rivera are both well past their prime and both are right-handed hitters. One was expected to share right field with Ichiro Suzuki and DH at-bats with Travis Hafner. The only other outfielder that could possibly win a spot out of spring training would be Ronnier Mustelier.

The Cuban-born fireplug (5'10", 210 lbs) tore up pitching at Trenton ('AA') and Scranton ('AAA') last season in 114 games played. 82 of those games were at the Triple-A level where he posted an .815 OPS with 10 HR and 49 RBI in 347 at-bats. Mustelier was even better in the Eastern League where he compiled a 1.010 OPS in 25 games.The 28-year old is also a right-hander hitter.

"We need guys to step up" is already an overused quote down at George M. Steinbrenner III Field, but it has never been truer of any Yankees team in recent memory. Hafner will need to stay healthy and productive; the same can said for third baseman Kevin Youkilis.

The Yankees could find someone productive off the waiver wires prior to the end of spring training or Brian Cashman could pursue a deal (though he will say the Yankees will look for a solution within the organization.)  Among the outfielders that are potential free agents after this season are Texas' David Murphy and the oft-injured Nelson Cruz, Arizona's Jason Kubel, and KC's Jeff Francoeur. Players like Carlos Beltran and Shin-Soo Choo are likely not to be moved before the Major League trade deadline. Basically, I don't see the Yankees obtaining anyone more than an average player.

As for Granderson, he's in the final year of the deal he originally signed with Detroit and is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Missing significant playing time could be a significant dent in his wallet.

Granderson Leaves Game After HBP

Getting hit on the wrist will wipe the smile of off Grandy's face

Curtis Granderson is trying to get used to playing left field in a switch with Brett Gardner. He's also trying to bounce back from a season in which he struck out a team record 195 times.

So Granderson didn't need to get hit on the right wrist today in his first spring training at-bat. That's what happened though on a delivery from Toronto Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ.

Granderson went down to first base, but immediately left the game to get x-rays taken. The Yankees can't afford to lose another big bat for any length of time.

Yankees starter Adam Warren hit Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays to start the top of the second, but it was much less painful. Still, kudos to Warren.

Jeter Touches 'Em All

Derek Jeter took the next step in his rehab Saturday when he joined his teammates in running the bases. It was the first time the Yankees shortstop has been able to do so since breaking his ankle in the 2012 league championship series against the Detroit Tigers.

Jeter has worked hard to get to this point, but though he proclaimed he would be ready for opening day, there is no guarantee. He'll need to play in at least a week's worth of games to be ready. Today he'll watch his teammates take on the Toronto Blue Jays in the home spring training opener in Tampa. The game will be televised on the YES and MLB networks.

Today's Yankees starting lineup courtesy of LoHud's Chad Jennings:

Gardner CF
Ichiro RF
Cano 2B
Teixeira 1B
Granderson LF
Youkilis 3B
Hafner DH
Nunez SS
Stewart C
Warren P

Seeing Travis Hafner's name in a Yankees lineup is quite strange, but still not as strange as seeing Youkilis in there. The clean shaven third baseman is wearing David Cone's old #36.

Adam Warren is the Yankees starting pitcher today. He was highly touted at one point and was recalled to make one start in the Majors last season. It wasn't a pretty sight - 6 runs, 8 hits, and 2 walks in just 2.1 innings pitched.

Though he is expected to start the season in Triple-A, Austin Romine made a triumphant return to the ball park yesterday. Romine missed all but 31 minor league games due to a back injury that flared up in spring training last year. On Saturday he replaced started Francisco Cervelli and drove in two runs in the Yankees 8-3 win over the Braves.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cano Goes Deep In Yankees Grapefruit Opener

Cano goes deep in 1st spring game

There's been much debate this off-season as to whether or not the Yankees should sign Robinson Cano to a long term extension prior to him becoming a free agent after the season. While the Yankees don't normally negotiate extensions prior to the expiration of a contract, it is believed they will make every attempt to get one done with Cano before the 2013 season starts. He's slated to earn $15MM in 2013.

Cano, who will be leaving for the World Baseball Classic on March 3, started his pre-season off with a bang by homering off of Braves pitcher Yohan Flander this afternoon. The Yankees topped Atlanta 8-3 to win their grapefruit league opener.

It's somewhat incredible to think that this will be Cano's 9th season in pinstripes. He unexpectedly made his Major League debut in 2005 to replace a struggling Tony Womack and immediately impressed. (.297/.320/.458, 14 HR, 62 RBI). Last season Cano hit a career high 33 home runs and also established a new personal mark for OPS (.929), but like everyone else, disappeared in the playoffs.

Despite another All-Star appearance in '12, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards,and some gaudy numbers, Cano was inconsistent last season. At times, he fell into some of his old bad habits of chasing pitches outside of the strike zone and had just a .646 OPS against left-handed starters after an .879 mark in 2011.  This season will really be a challenge for Cano with no big bat in the lineup to protect him.

Cano will likely hit third with Mark Teixeira in the clean up spot.  Cano should see less fastballs and good pitches to hit unless Teixeira regains some of his pre-2010 consistency. In an unusual display of honesty from today's athlete, Teixeira recently admitted that his best days are behind him and that it gets harder to put up big numbers every year. Not something you really want to hear from a guy who still has three years left on his deal.

The Yankees also got a home run on Saturday from outfielder Zolio Almonte. Whenever queried as to who impressed him last spring, Joe Girardi consistently mentioned Almonte. The 23-yr old was the primary right fielder for the Trenton Thunder last season and should start this year in Triple-A after he hit .270 with 21 HR and 90 RBI in the Eastern League in 2012.

David Phelps, in a battle for the fifth spot in the rotation with Ivan Nova, started the game and threw two scoreless innings.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yankees Need Hughes to Have Backbone

With the Yankees tightening the purse strings for the coming season, the Bronx Bombers are going to be relying on their aging rotation more than ever. They'll especially be looking to guys like Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova or David Phelps to bolster the young, back end of the staff.

So it was not good news today when the Yankees announced Hughes was shut down with a sore back and sent to a spin specialist. It's certainly not good news for Hughes personally since he has a history of being somewhat fragile and will be a free agent for the first time next year.

After an up and down 2012 campaign that saw Hughes pitch to a 3.70 ERA in the second half, pitching coach Larry Rothschild had Hughes work on his flexibility in the off-season. Hughes felt great when he reported to camp, but experienced upper back stiffness between his shoulder blades during pitchers fielding practice (PFP) on Monday.

Word came in late in the afternoon on Tuesday that Hughes was being sent to a spine specialist. Though it sounds alarming, the Yankees are saying it is only a precautionary measure. Manager Joe Girardi went on to add that he would be more concerned if it were a lower back issue, because they can really tend to "linger".

Hughes knows from injuries; he was in his second big league start in Texas in 2007 when his no-hit bid in the 7th inning got interrupted by a pulled hamstring.  It was the beginning of physical issues over the next several years that prompted fans to think the still young Hughes was a bust. His ailments included a rib injury, an ankle injury (while he rehabbed the hamstring), and a dead arm that had a major impact on the 2010 season.

Last year Hughes started poorly, but came on in the second half and won 16 games. The Yankees are going to need that second half Hughes if they are to compete in the very balanced AL East this year. And the 26-yr old Hughes will need to stay healthy in order to earn a major contract before the 2014 season.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Piazza Damaging His Legacy

Maybe Piazza can get into the Italian Baseball Hall of Fame..if one exists.

On the surface, Mike Piazza looks like a sure shot to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Most home runs by a catcher, 12 All-Star selections, NL Rookie of the Year, 10 straight Silver Slugger Awards, and a lifetime .308 average. That's just a sampling of Piazza's offensive prowess. However, in his first year of eligibility (2013), Piazza only garnered 57.8% of the Hall vote.

There were whispers of performance enhancing drug use even though there have been no accusations or failed tests (Not that passing a test means anything these days.). Jeff Bagwell knows exactly how Piazza feels - condemnation with no proof - but Piazza may have done further damage to his cause with his new book.

In the tome "Long Shot", Piazza states that he tried every type of then legal substance, but never touched steroids. Amphetamines? Yes Andro? Yes Steroids? No. This will undoubtedly put even more doubt in the minds of those members of the Baseball Writers Association of America as well as the fans.

If Piazza took only non-banned substances, why would he not take steroids? They were not banned at the time either. Piazza's claim of innocence don't seem plausible.

Don't mess with those that are beloved: Perhaps it's the unwritten 12th commandment. The beloved in this case being Vin Scully, the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers since their days in Brooklyn. Piazza states that Scully had it in for him and turned the LA fans against him during Piazza attempt to wangle a new high priced contract.. Piazza also felt Scully promoted opponents on the air for the NL MVP Award instead of Piazza.

Scully responded by basically saying, " I don't know what he's talking about."

There have been many over the years who thought Piazza was a total goof and his admission of taking Karate lessons in the wake of being beaned by Roger Clemens does nothing to dissuade the notion. Piazza was going to attack Clemens should they have a rendezvous on the field again. Of course they did, but that's when Clemens threw a broken bat at Piazza during the 2000 World Series and totally through the Karate Kid's plan off track. (Ala Seinfeld, I can see Piazza driving home and making a quick U-ie when he's thought of a great insult. - "The jerk store called, and they're running out of you!")

While Piazza's offensive numbers are as good, if not better, than any other catcher that came before him, it would not be a surprise to see his voting percentage dip in next year's Hall election. That may be the price Piazza pays for an ill-timed, ill-advised book.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

YCN: Nova-Phelps Among the Few Battles in Yankees Camp

My newest column for Yahoo:

I previously wrote that the Yankees off-season was quite different than in years past, but one thing has remained constant, there's not much competition to earn starting or back up jobs.

That's what happens when you have a roster filled with aging and/or established stars at nearly every position. Four-fifths of the starting rotation is set - CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes man the one through four sports - leaving the fifth and final opening as the lone opportunity for any would-be starters.

The two names at the forefront of said competition are Ivan Nova and David Phelps. One would think the Yankees would like Nova to re-establish himself with Phelps ready to step in if an injury occurs. The 26-year old Nova burst on to the scene in 2011 when he went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA. He even added a post-season victory when he finished out Game 1 of the ALDS.

Though he won 60% of his decisions (12-8) in 2012, Nova was not close to the effective pitcher he was the prior year. His ERA ballooned to 5.02, he went from allowing less than a hit per inning to 1.5 per inning, and his WAR dipped from 3.0 to 0.4.1

To make matters worse, Nova had some inflammation in his rotator cuff in August. He had also suffered from a sore arm in his short start in the final game of the 2011 division series with Detroit. You can bet Joe Girardi is more concerned if Nova's confidence will rebound from his off year than if his arm is completely healthy.

Phelps did a nice job as the long man out of the pen, and had some success in his 11 starts. (3.76 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 8.5 K's per 9 innings). He faltered a bit in September and didn't look good in the post-season, but the Yankees have high hopes for the University of Notre Dame product.

The Yankees would better off with Nova reverting to his 2011 form and Phelps working either as a long man or pitching every fifth day for Scranton in Triple-A. The Yankees have a lot of confidence in Phelps' "stuff" and he could step in a starting role next year when it is likely that either Kuroda and/or Pettitte retire. (Phil Hughes could also walk as a free agent). The Yankees also hope that Michael Pineda, who missed all of last year with shoulder surgery, could be a factor in the last quarter of this season.

Just like the rotation, the starting infield is set with Kevin Youkilis, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira manning their positions from left to right. Jeter, of course, is counting on the ankle he broke during the post-season to be completely ship-shape by opening day.

Continue reading the remainder of this free article at Yahoo by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

YCN: Yankees Report to Camp After A-Rodiculous Off-Season

My latest for Yahoo:

The Yankees' pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa, Florida Tuesday morning for the beginning of this year's Spring Training. Nothing seemed to out of the ordinary, but that will change once the position players report to camp by February 20 (excluding those taking part in the World Baseball Classic).

The current team will look a little different from the group that took the field the past few years and there will be players in camp that one would never expect to see in a Yankees uniform. It's the result of an odd winter-hot stove season.

Things actually started to look and feel very different before the 2012 season was over. The Yankees won the AL East, but barely squeaked past the Baltimore Orioles in the division series. Neither team hit, which was a sign of things to come when the Yankees faced the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. The Tigers knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs for the second straight season, taking all four games in an embarrassing sweep in which the Yankees hit .157 as a team.1

Joe Girardi pulled the trigger on the first big shake up in the Bronx when he sent Raul Ibanez up to pinch-hit for the slumping (what an understatement!) Alex Rodriguez in Game 3 of the division series. It paid off when Raul Ibanez hit a game tying home run and later won the game in extra innings with another Bronx Blast. Everyone was happy, A-Rod said all the right things, etc. Then Girardi pinch-hit for A-Rod again in Game 4 and sat him in Game 5. Suddenly things were not so peaceful.

To compound matters, Rodriguez spent some of his time in the dugout flirting with a woman behind the Yankees bench. The networks and local papers blew it out of proportion as though no player had done something like that before. But then again this was A-Rod, who might as well change his name to Lightning-Rod at this point.

Read the rest of this free article at by clicking here.

Mo Throws, Puts Career Announcement on Hold

Mariano Rivera usually doesn't throw for a number of days after his arrival in Tampa for Spring Training. But the all-time saves leader never came to camp post ACL surgery that cost him nearly the entire 2012 season.

Rivera threw 25 pitches on Tuesday and was all smiles as he joked with teammates. He also told reporters on Wednesday that he has made his decision on the future, but will not reveal it publicly until "the time is right".

The greatest closer of all time turned 43 in November and is looking forward to the coming season.

Yankees Add Pen Depth With Kelley

With Rafael Soriano gone, Mariano Rivera coming back from a major injury, and the inconsistent pitching of Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees added some depth to their bullpen by acquiring Shawn Kelley from the Seattle Mariners.   Outfield prospect Abe Almonte, who had recently re-upped with the Yankees on a new minor league deal, was sent to Seattle.

Kelley put up pretty good numbers in the 120 appearances he made with Seattle in his four year career. He was designated for assignment last week when Seattle added free agent catcher Kelly Shoppach to their 40 man roster.

After a season in which he struck out better than a batter an inning, Kelley had avoided arbitration when he and the Mariners agreed on a one year, $935K deal. He'll compete with the likes of former Mariners teammate David Aardsma in the Yankees pen.

The 23-yr old Almonte was a second baseman when he started out as a 17-yr old prospect in the Dominican Summer League before shifting to the outfield. He can play all three outfield positions and is good for 30 stolen bases a year.