Friday, April 29, 2011

FullCountPitch | April Free Agents: Booms and Busts

With the first month of the season ending, it’s time to take the temperature on the best and worst free agent signings of this past off-season.


As I sat there watching the New York Yankees-Chicago White Sox game Tuesday night, one of the top busts so far came into my view. With a 2-1 lead to protect in the 8th inning, Rafael Soriano surrendered a go-ahead 2-run home run to Paul Konerko. Things started out well enough for the 2010 closer-turned-set-up-man as he cruised through the 8th inning in his first two appearances to help Mariano Rivera earn a pair of saves. But since then, Soriano’s appearances haven’t gone so smoothly. There a was blown 4-0 lead and Yankees loss to Minnesota on April 5. A 5-0 lead against Texas turned into a save situation on the 16th, and back-to-back bad nights against the White Sox on Monday (he allowed an insurance run and gave up on a low pop up) and Tuesday.

Click here to read the rest of the (always) free column at

Lance Berkman Bartolo Colon Freddy Garcia Russell Martin Carl Crawford Adam Dunn Manny Ramirez

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Holy Bat Attack, Yankeeman

"Can I get a Hallelujah?"

Something really weird happened at Yankee Stadium tonight. There were singles and doubles and triples and home runs. Oh my. Hitless skids came to an end. Homer-less streaks came to an end. Lineups batted around. And runs were scored, oh yes my friends, they were scored. The Yankees obliterated the Chicago White Sox in what seemed like a never ending 5th inning en route to a 12-3 rout and a split of the four game series.

The Yankees took a 2-0 lead off White Sox starter Edwin Jackson without the aid of a hit. In fact the Yankees didn't have a hit until Brett Gardner led off the 5th with his third home run of the season. Left fielder Brent Lillibridge, the hero of Tuesday's game when he was in right field, then misplayed Eduardo Nunez's drive into a double. Curtis Granderson followed with an RBI triple off the wall in right and Nick Swisher snapped an 0-19 streak with a single to right-center for a 5-0 lead. It almost meant the Yankees hit for the cycle in the inning with just the first four batters. Jackson was done for the evening, but the Yankees offense wasn't.

Robinson Cano greeted reliever Tony Pena with a single and Alex Rodriguez followed with an RBI double. After an intentional walk to Eric Chavez, Russell Martin brought home one run with a single to left and Jorge Posada drew an unintentional walk to force home the sixth run of the evening. Pena got off the hook by having leave the game with an apparent injury.

CC Sabathia was the recipient of all the good fortune and picked up his second win of the season with seven solid innings. He threw shutout ball into his final inning when a Nunez error at short (Derek Jeter got a routine day off) led to three unearned runs. Those runs were immediately taken back in the home half of the 7th, which included Swisher's first home run of the season.


The White Sox have scored three runs or fewer in 13 of their last 14 games.

After getting ejected from Wednesday night's game, Ozzie Guillen took to Twitter..or supposedly did. It's difficult to tell if it's Ozzie or one of his sons or someone else. Guillen complained about the umpiring and said his ouster was a joke. Now, word comes that MLB is looking into the matter to see if any rules were violated. Reportedly there is a rule prohibiting communicating via electronic devices from 30 minutes prior to game time until the game ends.

Hughes And Everything You Wanted To Know About TOS...

The good news is that Phil Hughes may finally have a definitive diagnosis as to why he's got no pop on his fastball. The bad news is that for the moment local specialists believe Hughes is suffering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).

According to the National Institute of Health, TOS "is a rare condition that involves pain in the neck and shoulder, numbness of the fingers, and a weak grip. The thoracic outlet is the area between the rib cage and collar bone."

"Blood vessels and nerves coming from the spine or major blood vessels of the body pass through a narrow space near the shoulder and collarbone on their way to the arms. As they pass by or through the collarbone (clavicle) and upper ribs, they may not have enough space.Pressure (compression) on these blood vessels or nerves can cause symptoms in the arms or hands.

Problems with the nerves cause almost all cases of thoracic outlet syndrome.Compression can be caused by an extra cervical rib (above the first rib) or an abnormal tight band connecting the spinal vertebra to the rib. Patients often have injured the area in the past or overused the shoulder.People with long necks and droopy shoulders may be more likely to develop this condition because of extra pressure on the nerves and blood vessels."

Hughes will be visiting the "go-to-guy", Dr. Robert William Thompson in St. Louis, to have the diagnosis confirmed or ruled out. A time table had not been set as of last night. Hughes had undergone several hours of tests before it was determined that TOS was the likeliest scenario.

Physical therapy is the first order of business in such a case to strengthen the outlying areas and improve range of motion. Meds may be added, such as a blood thinner. If symptoms don't improve than surgery is performed. Here's the "not-so-great" part. Surgery is successful in 50%-80% of patients. Not exactly a "sure thing" and disconcerting for a pitcher. Also some patients experienced weakened muscles. 5% of patients experience a recurrence.

The surgery may involve removing an extra rib and cutting certain muscles; removing part of the first rib; bypass surgery performed to reroute around the compression or remove the area causing the issues.

Texas Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison, Colorado Rockies hurler Aaron Cook, and Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia are among those who have undergone the surgery. (The Texas Rangers in particular seem to have a problem with TOS; Saltalamacchia was with the Rangers at the time. Kenny Rogers, Hank Blalock, and John Rheinecker have all undergone the procedure as well. Blalock was the only non pitcher/catcher).

On the bright side when Rogers had his surgery he returned with an extra 4-5 mph on his fastball. Either way the recovery time can vary. But this is indeed a delicate condition to be dealt with.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Who's Sori Now?

Rafael Soriano is lucky in one regard. More people are talking about the White Sox Brent Lillibridge this morning after the utility player made two spectacular game savings catches in the 9th inning to preserve Chicago's 3-2 win over the Yankees.

Lost in the shuffle was an outstanding 6.1 inning start by Ivan Nova and solo home runs by Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano off of starter Gavin Floyd. Not forgotten by anyone was another poor performance by Soriano. The right-hander who was signed to closer money this past off-season, has averaged nearly two hits and walks per inning and has a bloated 7.94 ERA.

After striking out Alexei Ramirez to start the 8th inning, Soriano hit Carlos Quentin in the shoulder with a breaking pitch. It's possible Lillibridge would have been a defensive replacement for Quentin in the 8th or 9th inning, but it became a certainty when he pinch-ran for the right fielder. Soriano then grooved a pitch down the middle of the plate to Paul Konerko, who launched it into the left field seats for a 3-2 Chicago lead.

As they did the night before, the Yankees got the lead off man on in the 9th, this time on a Derek Jeter infield single. Curtis Granderson successfully bunted the captain into scoring position to set things up for Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Matt Thornton walked Teixeira to put two men aboard and prompted Ozzie Guillen to call on Sergio Santos to face A-Rod. The DH in last night's game, Rodriguez hit a laser to the right field wall. Lillibridge raced back and made an outstretched catch to take away an extra base hit for the second out of the inning.

Before fans could get over the outfield thievery, Cano ripped a line drive that was destined to be a game tying hit, but Lillibridge made a full out dive to stab the ball before hit the ground. Just like that the game was over, but this morning Yankees' fans are still sitting with their mouths agape. And somewhere Jack Buck is yelling, "I can't believe what I just saw."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sometimes You Get The White Sox, Sometimes The White Sox Get You

A.J. Burnett has frustrated fans in Florida, Toronto, and New York in his 13 year career, but last night Burnett was the pitcher everyone has dreamed of. Eight solid innings (the first time since August 15 of last year and just the fourth time since the start of the '09 season) of one run, 3-hit ball should have set him up for his fourth win without a loss. But former New York Mets prospect Phil Humber humbled the Yankees through seven innings and the Chicago White Sox beat the Yankees 2-0.

Humber held the Yankees hitless until one out in his final inning of work when Alex Rodriguez singled back up the middle. It followed a Mark Teixeira walk and was one of the few rallies the Yankees had on the evening. But after a trip to the mound by pitching coach Don Cooper, Humber struck out Robinson Cano (Have you noticed his zone of pitches to swing at has gone back from head to toe? That he's walked just once this year?) and got the slumping Nick Swisher to ground out to end the inning.

Burnett meanwhile pitched in tough luck- Curtis Granderson got a bad read on a Carlos Quentin line drive in the 4th and misplayed it into a double. A pair of ground outs produced an RBI for Adam Dunn and a 1-0 lead. Burnett then breezed through the next four innings to keep his team in the game. But his team looked lifeless.

It didn't help the White Sox got an insurance run in the 9th thanks to a miscommunication in the infield. Alexei Ramirez popped up a Rafael Soriano pitch over the mound, but it wasn't high enough for Derek Jeter to get there in time. Meanwhile, Soriano pointed to the sky, got out of the way, and never looked back at the ball. Had he done so he might have caught the ball and averted the trouble to come. But one out later pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge stole second base and came home on Paul Konerko's single for a 2-0 lead and set off a round of boos for Soriano.

Earlier in the game, Granderson told Burnett he would get the run back that he had misplayed. True to form, he ripped a lead off single in the 9th inning, but Sergio Santos got Teixeira to bounce into a back breaking 3-6-1 double play and the Yankees were finished.


Phil Hughes will go for an MRI today on his numb/dead shoulder. Hughes told YES' Kim Jones it feels like when someone "punches you in the thigh and it goes numb". Why the thigh and not the arm? You'll have to ask Hughes.

The Importance Of Being Melky | Baseball Digest

The Importance Of Being Melky | Baseball Digest

It’s not uncommon these days for baseball fans to “fall in love” with minor league prospects. You can obtain updates on their progress just as easily as you can with Major League players. That was not always the case until recently, specifically this wasn’t the case when Melky Cabrera was a New York Yankees farmhand. I followed his career from the early days and saw the potential he showed as he progressed through the Yankees system.

His initial call up to the Majors was an embarrassment- a little fish in a big pond. He couldn’t hit big league pitching and even worse, he looked like an ant trying to cover Yankee Stadium’s spacious centerfield and the adjacent gaps. He eventually worked his way up to a regular position, but performed miserably in 2008 and was sent to the minors. But Cabrera came into the 2009 season with a different attitude and eventually overtook Brett Gardner as the starting centerfielder. It was then that the Melkman began to deliver.

The Yankees had a number of new players and a new tradition, including pie ala A.J. Burnett in the face of any walk-off winning run producer. It began early in the season, April 22nd against Oakland*- a 14-inning affair was decided when Cabrera hit his second home run of the game for a 9-7 victory. On May 24, the Yankees rallied in the 9th against the Philadelphia Phillies and closer Brad Lidge. Down 4-2 entering the inning, the Yankees tied things up and had the winning run on second base. That’s when Cabrera singled to bring home his best buddy, Robinson Cano, with the winner.

Cabrera wasn’t just a walk-off wizard with the eventual champion Yankees, he excelled at the plate when the innings grew late. There was an 8th inning game-winning home run against Texas in June and an RBI single in the same frame to top the Angels in the first game in May. In late and close games, he hit .304 with 19 RBI and a .754 OPS. Though he wasn’t credited with a walk-off salutation, it was his 13th inning grounder in Game 2 of the ALCS that Maicer Izturis threw away to give the Yankees the win.

But the Yankees were not completely happy with Cabrera, most likely because of his relationship/influence on Cano, as well as his tendency to carry too much weight on his six-foot frame. Cabrera was jettisoned to Atlanta after the season and his offense plummeted. His OPS dropped to .671 and he drove in just 42 runs in 509 plate appearances. But the Melkman still had some late inning deliveries in him. An August 2-run single in the 9th inning toppled the Dodgers at Turner Field. In May, Cabrera’s infield single combined with a David Wright error gave the Braves a last inning 3-2 win over the New York Mets.

Cabrera moved on again for the 2011 season after Atlanta released him in October. This season is on average about 20 games old, but Kansas City has quickly learned the lore of “late inning Melky”. Cabrera provided the game winning, 12th inning hit on April 5th to push the Royals’ record to 4-1. Two weeks later, Cabrera threw out the Indians’ Carlos Santana at the plate in the 8th inning to hold the Royals deficit at two. Then in the 9th, he capped off a three run rally with the game winning single. The Melkman had left his calling card once again.

Though he has had an up and down career with the bat, Cabrera has maintained his late inning heroics. His nine walk-off winners since 2006 are the third highest total in Major League baseball (only Andre Ethier (11), and Ryan Zimmerman (10) have more). He may not have a Hall of Fame career, he may be relegated to the bench at some point, but when the game is on the line, fans know that Melky Cabrera can be counted on to set off a celebration.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hughes Has Nothing

The Yankees were hoping Phil Hughes would be ready for a rehab start shortly, but's Bryan Hoch reported a short time ago that a bullpen session did not go as planned.

Hughes stopped throwing after just 20 pitches and sounded despondent afterwards. “It’s just the same as before,” Hughes said. “It’s dead, nothing coming out. I didn’t bounce back from that long bullpen session like I would have liked. It’s just a lot of deadness.”

Manager Joe Girardi admitted to being concerned. For now Hughes is headed to see the Yankees' team physician.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Colon A Winner..Period

Bartolo Colon stepped out on a Major League mound in the 1st inning tonight for the first time since July 24, 2009 and though he looks like he's more suited for Sumo, the guy still knows how to pitch. He gave the Yankees a solid six innings and the Yankees gave him the run support he needed in a 6-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The win gave the Yankees a split of the two game series and got some revenge against the guy with the ugly glasses.

That would be left-hander Brett Cecil, who last season topped the Yankees four times in five starts. But the sixth time is apparently the charm. The Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the 1st inning on a pair of walks and a Mark Teixeira double. Robinson Cano's RBI ground out put the Bombers up 1-0. An inning later, Curtis Granderson tripled home Russell Martin and came home himself on a Derek Jeter ground out. Granderson would later add an insurance run with a solo home run.

Colon meanwhile got out of a 2-on, 2-out jam in the 1st, but gave up a solo home run to rookie J.P. Arencibia to start the 2nd to cut the Yankees lead to 3-1. The veteran right-hander then faced the minimum amount of batters over the next four innings, allowing just a single which was erased in a double play. He ran out of gas in the 7th though, which led to an RBI single by Jayson Nix off of David Robertson; John McDonald struck out to keep the lead at 5-2.

The Blue Jays threatened again in the 9th, putting two aboard, but Rafael Soriano came on for his first Yankees' save. After walking Nix, Soriano retired McDonald and Yunel Escobar to preserve the win, the first for Colon since May 26, 2009.


Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup tonight after sitting out with a strained oblique. He was 0-2 with an RBI, two walks, and a caught stealing.

Jays Mightier Than The Pen

Blue Jays left fielder Travis Snider stepped to the plate in the 10th inning last night mired in a 4-40 slump and had struck out three times in his prior at-bats. Snider was highly touted by Blue Jays scouts and was selected as the 14th overall pick in 2006, but has yet to "put it all together" at the Major League level. For one at-bat Tuesday night he did; Snider doubled off Ivan Nova in the 10th inning to score Edwin Encarnacion from 1st base with winning run in a 6-5 victory over the Yankees.

The game had gone extra innings after Mariano Rivera had his first blown save in eight chances. Yuniel Escobar led off the 9th with a double and moved to third on a Snider ground out. Rivera then committed a double whammy when he walked Jose Bautista and threw a run scoring wild pitch on ball four. Adam Lind single Bautista to third and John McDonald brought him home with safety squeeze bunt hit. Jose Molina singled to load the bases, but Eric Chavez temporarily saved the day. He stabbed Corey Patterson's grounder, stepped on third and threw to first to complete the double play.

The Yankees had taken a 4-2 lead in the top of the 6th inning when Mark Teixeira belted a Kyle Drabek pitch for a 2-run home run. But A.J. Burnett, who earlier gave up (what seemed like the 700th) home run to Bautista began a full melt down in the home half of the inning. The Blue Jays picked up a run on an Encarnacion double and had the bases loaded with just one out. Joe Girardi sent for David Robertson, who would have been the hero last night had the Yankees lead held up. "D-Rob" struck out Escobar and Snider to end the threat and the inning to preserve the 4-3 lead.

The Yankees final run came courtesy of a Curtis Granderson solo home run in the 7th inning.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Feliciano To Try To Avoid Surgery

After consulting with the "go to guy", Dr. James Andrews, Yankees left-hander Pedro Feliciano will put off surgery for at least a month and a half.

After examining the reliever's shoulder, Andrews recommended a six week shoulder strengthening program. At the point Feliciano will be re-examined to determine if surgery is necessary.

Topsy Turvy Two Weeks | Baseball Digest

Topsy Turvy Two Weeks | Baseball Digest

It’s been a little over two weeks since the start of the Major League baseball season; so far we’ve seen some things that everyone would expect, but there has been plenty to make us go, “huh?”

The Baltimore Orioles started out like gangbusters winning their first four games and six of seven. The media quickly jumped on the bandwagon, “The Orioles have turned things around”; “Buck Showalter is a genius”. Well hold on to your crab cakes, the O’s have lost eight straight. Teams live and die with their pitching- during the losing streak the Orioles’ staff has given up nearly seven runs a game. Let’s all hold off on considering the O’s AL East contenders. Mm, k?

Speaking of fast starts, the AL Central leaders squared off last night. Twins? Tigers? White Sox? Forget it; it was the Indians and Royals. Yes, Cleveland and Kansas City entered Monday night’s play as the only two AL Central teams above .500. The Tribe won in extra innings and are a remarkable 12-4. The Indians rotation has been bolstered by their #3 and #4 starters, Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin, who have gone a combined 6-0, 2.03 in their six starts. The Indians have also gotten big time offensive production from an unexpected source- their middle infield. Second baseman Orlando Cabrera and shortstop Asdrubel Cabrera have combined for 25 RBI. And could it be that Travis Hafner’s shoulder is finally healthy? “Pronk” has a 1.061 OPS through 14 games. The Indians also turned the season’s first triple play- you can check it out here.

The Indians built most of their record without the services of center fielder Grady Sizemore who returned on Sunday with a home run. In two games, Sizemore is 5-9 with a pair of doubles, two RBI, and two runs scored.

Will Troy Tulowitzki break Barry Bonds’ home run record? No, but the star shortstop is healthy (and hopefully he stays that way), which should mean a huge offensive year. The Rockies have won 12 of their first 16 games in no small part because of Tulo’s 1.259 OPS, 7 HR, and 14 RBI. 2010 NL MVP contender Carlos Gonzalez has also picked up where he left off with 12 RBI. The Rockies are getting contributions from everywhere and at this rate I am going to have to eat my words for saying the Rockies wouldn’t make the playoffs. I get some redemption for talking about how overlooked Jhoulys Chacin was as a rookie last season. He’s off to a 3-0, 1.64 start and has picked up the slack for the injured Ubaldo Jimenez.

It looks like someone has finally gotten through to Matt Kemp, the Dodgers’ Mr. Inconsistency. Who better than new manager and hitter extraordinaire Don Mattingly? Kemp has always had the ability, but has been knocked for his inability to produce. Hello .459 batting average. Throw in 3 HR, 13 RBI, and 8 SB, and you have a monster season in the making. No expects Kemp to keep the average going, but a .325-30-100 line sure would be appreciated by the Dodger faithful.

The Twins are the consensus pick to repeat as AL Central champs, but they better wake up soon, especially their bullpen. Off to a 6-10 start and in last place, the Twins bullpen, a supposed strength is crumbling. Joe Nathan, a year removed from Tommy John surgery, returned to his closer role and last year’s closer Matt Capps became the 8th inning guy. Great 1-2 punch, right? Someone forgot to tell the two of them. Perhaps he’s not at 100%, but whatever the reason Nathan is out at closer after two blown saves, a loss, and five earned runs allowed in 5.1 IP. Capps struggled in the set up role, but has saved both games he entered as the new closer (he did blow one save prior to that in extra innings after Nathan had blown the lead in the ninth inning.)

Monday night the Tigers’ Ryan Raburn became the first player to hit a ball off the roof in Seattle’s Safeco Field. The ball was foul the entire time and fell between third baseman Chone Figgins and catcher Miguel Olivo in foul territory.

Ryan Franklin’s days as St. Louis’ closer are close to being over (they should have been already). The guy with the creepy goatee has blown four saves already in just 16 games. With the competitive NL Central, you just can’t be giving games away. At least someone hold him down and shave that thing off.

Some Q & A between me and me.

Should Yankees fans be worried about Derek Jeter and Phil Hughes?

Worry is probably too strong of a word, but if you follow the Pinstripes you should be concerned. Some fans and media (e.g. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan) have already pushed the panic button and feel Jeter should be batting eighth or ninth. While Jeter struggled for most of last season and hasn’t hit too many balls out of the infield this season, this season has only consisted of 14 games. Jeter’s reputation, at the very least, has earned him a full month or more before a move should even be considered.

Hughes is the bigger concern for manager Joe Girardi at the moment and rightly so. In his three starts, last year’s 18-game winner’s velocity has been missing in action. Normally throwing 92-93 mph, Hughes isn’t hitting 90 on the radar gun this season and has been battered around the ballpark. He’s now on the DL with a “dead arm”, which he at first didn’t want to own up to (perhaps he’s not really injured), and will work on long tossing to strengthen his prized right arm.

Are Josh Beckett and John Lackey for real?

Good question. Beckett has had back to back dominate performances, one of them against an impressive Yankees lineup. While I don’t believe he’ll continue throwing 2-hit ball for seven innings, it does give Red Sox Nation some hope. Lackey on the other hand could be a real problem. The 215 innings Lackey threw last year concerned me since he his numbers have steadily declined since he topped 200 innings in 2006-2007. He’s won one of his two starts this season, but has an ERA of 15.88 and has had his turn skipped once. Manager Terry Francona: “A lot of his pitches, it didn’t seem like he finished them, [he] left them in the middle. He had two walks, a hit batsman, and all three scored. Against that (Yankees) lineup, you got to make them earn everything they get, because they’re that good.”

Is Zach Britton the real deal?

Though he got knocked around in his last start, you bet he is. While Britton, the Orioles number one pitching prospect wasn’t expected to contribute until later in the season, he won his first two games and posted a 0.69 ERA. ESPN’s Buster Olney feels that Britton could generate as much buzz this year as the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg did last season.

Will Jose Bautista pop 50 home runs again?

Not a chance, but Bautista should hit 30-35. He’s hit three already and is slugging at a .510 rate, but a lot will depend on how much protection he gets in the order. At the moment that responsibility falls to Adam Lind; after a quick start, Lind is hitting just .230 as he tries to recapture his 2009 season (.305-35-114).

Biggest surprise and disappointment

Teams – If Tampa Bay hadn’t just won 7 of 10 it would have been them, but the Red Sox 2-10 start (now 5-10) is the winner for losing/disappointment. 2-10? Incomprehensible. I have to go back to the Tribe for the surprise. 12-4? Get out of here.

Players – Alex Gordon, KC. The uber-prospect may finally be reaching the heights expected of him. He’s batting .353 so far and is playing like someone with confidence. Finally. (Matt Kemp gets honorable mention) The biggest disappointment, hands down, is Boston’s Carl Crawford. The big free agent signee is already being vilified in Boston for his .133/.175/.167 splits. And when you don’t get on base, you don’t steal. Crawford has just two thefts in three attempts. (Phil Hughes gets honorable mention)

Monday, April 18, 2011

FullCountPitch | Another Reliever Left Behind

When you think of the left-handed relievers that have worn the New York Yankees uniform over the years, you think of the legendary Luis Arroyo, the mustachioed Sparky Lyle, and the tenacious Mike Stanton. But since the days that Stanton helped the Yankees to three of their four titles in the late 1990′s/early 2000′s, the Yankees cupboard has been threadbare when it comes to quality left-handed relief. Pedro Feliciano, an off-season free agent acquisition, is the latest southpaw to try and fail with the Yankees.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Millwood Makes Yankees Take Notice

He may have been facing hitters that were little more than half his age, but veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood showed the Yankees something Sunday afternoon by nearly no-hitting the Double-A Harrisburg Senators.

Pitching for the Trenton Thunder, Millwood came within four outs of a no-hitter in the first game of a 7-inning doubleheader. His fastball was clocked at 87-88 mph, which is not out of the ordinary for the 36-yr old. Millwood did walk four batters and struck out three with Yankees' front office utility man Gene Michael in attendance (per Mike Ashmore). The Thunder won 7-0 en route to a split up the twinbill.

What's next for Millwood remains to be seen, but he told John Nalbone, “I think by then (May 1) I should be where I want to get to in terms of pitch count,’’ Millwood said. “I don’t think it should take much longer than that to see where I’m at.’’

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Garcia Gives Yankees Boost

Freddy Garcia..or "The Rock"?

I had a nightdream yesterday. That's a combo daydream and nightmare; basically a horrible vision at night. I saw a Yankees starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Kevin Millwood, Carlos Silva, and Freddy Garcia. It was understandable after Phil Hughes went on the disabled list and Ivan Nova pitched poorly for the second straight time out on Friday.

But lo and behold, Freddy Garcia threw six scoreless innings and the Yankees toppled the Texas Rangers 5-2 on a soggy Saturday afternoon. It was Garcia's first start of the season and just his second appearance (he threw one inning last Sunday vs. Boston). It was also the first time he had not allowed a run in any appearance since 2006.

Mark Teixeira gave Garcia some room to work with in the 1st inning when he launced a Derek Holland pitch into the right field seats with two aboard for a 3-0 Yankees lead. Garcia then had to face just 21 hitters, retiring 18 of them. He gave up a lead off single to Adrian Beltre and walked the hitter that followed, Nelson Cruz. But Garcia got David Murphy to line out to right, Yorvit Torrealba to ground out, and Mitch Moreland to pop out to escape the jam. The only other base runner Garcia allow would be a Murphy single in the 5th.

Holland settled down after the 1st inning and the Rangers finally got to Rafael Soriano to cut the lead to 3-2 in the 8th. But with a man aboard in the home half of the 8th Robinson Cano clanged a Holland pitch off the right field foul pole for a 5-2 lead. Mariano Rivera then came on in the 9th for his 5th save of the season.

The nightdream delayed, at least for today.


Alex Rodriguez left the game prior to the 7th inning after his back and oblique stiffened up. It's not thought to be serious.

Russell Martin finally got a day off with Gustavo Molina making his first start. He went 0-3.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pie Gets Rid Of The Hughes Blues

Tonight's game between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees started out well enough, but Phil Hughes put the Yankees in a 5-0 hole midway through the game. Hughes is thankful to get a no decision tonight after the Yankees bullpen held the Orioles in check and Nick Swisher capped a dramatic comeback with a 10th sacrifice fly for a 6-5 Yankees victory.

The Yankees chipped away against starter Jake Arrieta and cut the Orioles lead to 5-4 entering the bottom of the 9th. DH Jorge Posada greeted closer Kevin Gregg by drilling his first pitch over the outstretched glove of Adam Jones in right-center field for a game tying home run. Posada has seven hits this season, five of which are home runs.

Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless 10th and would earn the victory when the Yankees got to left-hander Mike Gonzalez in the bottom of the inning. Mark Teixeira drew a lead off walk and red hot Alex Rodriguez followed with a rope double to left to put two runners in scoring position with no one out. Buck Showalter went against the percentages and decided against intentionally walking Robinson Cano to set up a force at any base. The former Yankees skipper got a break when Cano lined out to short, but Swisher's fly to right scored Teixeira easily when Nick Markakis' throw traveled well up the 3rd base line.

Though his fastball was only clocking at 90, Hughes retired six of the first seven batters he faced and threw two scoreless innings. But in the 3rd, with one on and one out, Markakis drilled a home run into the seats right for a 2-0 O's lead. The Orioles manufactured another run an inning later when Luke Scott reached on a lead off double and came around on a ground out by Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds' sac fly.

Hughes would exit early for his third straight start when Markakis' 2-out double plated Cesar Izturis with the Orioles 4th run. Vlad Guerrero added an RBI single off Bartolo Colon to close out Hughes' night with five earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched. But Colon (3 IP), Joba Chamberlain (1.2 IP) and Rivera would blank the O's the rest of the way with a little help from the Yankee Stadium backstop

Chamberlain entered the game with runners on the corners and one out in the 8th and immediately uncorked a pitch in the dirt that went to the backstop, but the ball took a fortuitous bounce back to Russell Martin. The Yankees catcher threw to Chamberlain at home plate to nail the speedy Felix Pie (pee-ay) to keep it a one run game. Then it was time for some pie (p).


Alex Rodriguez has eight hits in his last 13 at-bats to boost his average to .412.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Burnett Gets Homestand Off On Right Foot

The weather wasn't as miserable as it was Tuesday night, but the Yankees and Orioles had to slog through some sloppy surroundings at the Big Ball Park in the Bronx tonight. But A.J. Burnett (3-0) gave the Yankees some night time sunshine with a solid performance and Alex Rodriguez got the Yankees on the board early with an opposite field 3-run blast. Mariano Rivera retired the side in the 9th for his fifth save to seal the deal in the Yankees 7-4 win.

Burnett started out 3-0 last season before the wheels completely fell off his game. He's hoping for a better outcome this year and so far he seems to be battling through his on field problems with more tenacity and grit. It took 53 pitches to get out of jams in the first two innings, but Burnett blanked the Orioles until the 7th when Matt Wieters and Brian Roberts knocked him out of the game with a pair of 2-run home runs. But by then the Yankees had put seven runs on the board and the bullpen combo of David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, and Rivera allowed just one base runner over the final 2.2 innings.

Baltimore starter Chris Tillman had a short night; though a lead off single by Brett Gardner in the 1st was erased by a caught stealing, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira followed with singles of their own. Rodriguez then jumped on a meatball and lined it over the right field fence for a 3-0 lead. The home run was A-Rod's fourth of the season and the 617th of his career.

The Yankees sent Tillman to the showers in the 2nd after Russell Martin laced a one out double, moved to third on a Gardner ground out and scored on Jeter's infield single. Teixeira followed with his second hit of the night and A-Rod walked to load the bases. Robinson Cano then doubled in the gap in left-center for a 6-0 lead and curtains for Tillman.

The Yankees got their final run in the 5th when Jorge Posada hit a solo home run off of Chris Jakubauskas.


Jeter's two hits left him 65 shy of 3,000.

Posada and Teixeira both snapped 0-18 streaks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

No Joshing Around For Beckett

0-6 and 2-7 are no way to start a baseball season, but that's the way the (AL East) heavily favored Boston Red Sox kicked off the 2011 campaign. You bet there was panic in Boston, but things may be a little better now for the hometown team after they took two of three from the Yankees this past weekend.

The Red Sox won the series because Josh Beckett looked like a younger version of himself. Fastballs popped, breaking pitches snapped, and batters swung and missed. Beckett struck out 10 and limited the Yankees to two hits over eight innings in a 4-0 victory.

CC Sabathia allowed just one earned run, but struggled all night, couldn't make it out of the 6th inning, and lost his first game (and first decision) of the year. Both teams had a chance to score early, but couldn't get the clutch hit. David Ortiz grounded out with two on and two out in the 1st for Boston. Carl Crawford lofted an inning ending fly out to Brett Gardner in left a frame later. The Yankees put two aboard with one out in the 3rd, but Dustin Pedroia deftly fielded a Gardner grounder up the middle and turned a double play.

Boston finally broke through in their half of the third, but as is usually the case in a series between these two, it wasn't without some drama and an unusual play. The Red Sox loaded the bases with no one out for Ortiz, but Sabathia got him to hit into a run scoring 4-6-3 DP. But not so fast...2nd base ump Mark Wegner called interference on Kevin Youkilis for going out of his way (which on replay he clearly did) to try to break up the double play. Wegner returned Pedroia to 3rd and Adrian Gonzalez to 2nd (infuriating Terry Francona in the process), and the Yankees had a tremendous break. At least for a moment. Mike Cameron merely dribbled a grounder to the left side that Eric Chavez could not make a play on and Pedroia scored afterall. Chavez was in at 3rd to replace Alex Rodriguez who sat out with flu-like symptoms.

The Red Sox added two more runs off of Joba Chamberlain and another off Freddy Garcia, who was making his season and Yankees' debut. But those runs didn't matter; not with vintage Josh Beckett on the mound. The Yankees only other serious chance to score came in the 4th when Mark Teixeira drew a one out walk and Robinson Cano followed with a single. But Beckett struck out Curtis Granderson and got Nick Swisher to ground out to end the threat.


Derek Jeter's woes continued with an 0-4 night that included three ground outs and a strikeout. His average dropped to .206 and has prompted many Yankees fans and some of the media to call for him to bat in the bottom of the order. While I understand the concern, I can't see making that move after just a handful of games. In case anyone hasn't noticed, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Jorge Posada, and Nick Swisher are all hitting near or below .200. A lineup shake up isn't necessarily the answer.

A.J. Burnett is suddenly the Yankees stopper. He'll look to put the Yankees back on track when the Pinstripes open a series with Baltimore at the Stadium tomorrow.

So much for talk of Mark Teixeira's hot start- he's back to his April woes. After hitting 3 HR with 10 RBI in the team's first three games, Tex has gone 2-21 with 10 strikeouts.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Canadian Clubs Red Sox

A lot of people were disappointed when the Yankees announced they had signed veteran catcher Russell Martin this past off-season. They looked at it as a roadblock for Jesus Montero's progression to the Major Leagues. But not too many people are complaining about Martin right now.

The former Dodger continued his fast start by clubbing a pair of home runs this afternoon as the Yankees outscored the Boston Red Sox 9-4 at Fenway Park. In addition to Martin's pair of blasts, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano went deep to give birthday boy (26) David Robertson his first win of the season.

Ivan Nova started for the Yankees and pitched out of several jams, but couldn't make it out of the 5th inning. A Cano mishandled double play ball could have ended the 5th and continued Nova's day, but instead it led to a Dustin Pedroia 2-run double that cut the Yankees lead to 5-4. The Yankees pen was solid though, especially Robertson and Joba Chamberlain, who got the Yankees through the 7th. (Luis Ayala mopped up the final two frames).

The Yankees got off to a fast start against Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz with a pair of runs in the 2nd inning and Martin helped send him to an early shower in the 4th. After Granderson walked, Eric Chavez stroked one of his three hits, a double off the Monster, and Martin followed with his first home run of the day. Singles by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez (sandwiched around an out) ended Buchholz's day, his shortest non-injury outing since last July 21.

With Nick Swisher aboard, Granderson slugged his second home run of the season, off Felix Doubrant, in the 5th to give the Yankees some much needed breathing room. Cano's solo home run an inning later came off ex-teammate Al Aceves, as did Martin's second shot in the 7th.


Derek Jeter was 1-4 and now needs 67 hits to reach 3,000.

Robinson Cano was 3-5 and is a .367 career hitter at Fenway Park.

Russell Martin is hitting .321 with 3 HR, 9 RBI, and 2 SBs in 8 games.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hughes Fastball Still MIA

If you happen to see a baseball wandering around your neighborhood at about 92-93 mph, please call the local authorities. Do NOT try to apprehend the baseball yourself. We don't know why the known fastball has abandoned its owner-Phil Hughes- but pitching coach Larry Rothschild better find out in a hurry.

After a tremendous first half last season, Hughes struggled in the second half, primarily because of the lack of location. Now, the question of location is where is the velocity on his fastball? Just as in his prior start against Detroit, Hughes' teammates put runs on the board, but he couldn't keep them in the lead as his fastball resembled Javier Vazquez's. He lasted just two innings, and was yanked after he allowed five runs to the Boston Red Sox in the second inning to put his squad behind 6-3.

The Yankees rallied to tie the game before the Red Sox scored three runs off of Bartolo Colon and Boone Logan and fell 9-6. The victory was the first of the season for Boston, which had lost its first six games. Boston starter John Lackey fared no better than his counterpart, allowing six runs in five innings, but earned the victory. In his two starts, Lackey has allowed 15 earned runs in 8.2 innings pitched.

Hughes entered the bottom of the 2nd inning with a 3-1 lead thanks to a 2-run Robinson Cano dobule and an RBI double by Brett Gardner. But Boston loaded the bases on three straight singles with no out to start their half of the 2nd frame. A Marco Scutaro ground out scored one run, but Hughes looked like he might get out of trouble when he got Carl Crawford to bounce out for the second out of the inning. Dustin Pedroia, who homered in the 1st, had other things in mind and lined a 2-run single to center for a 4-3 Boston lead.

Pedroia moved to 2nd base on a Curtis Granderson throwing error and came home on an RBI single by Adrian Gonzalez. After Hughes walked Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz brought home the final run of the inning with a single. Hughes probably would have been pulled then, but Youkilis was caught in between 2nd and 3rd and was eventually tagged out by Alex Rodriguez to end the inning.

The Yankees got single runs in the 2nd through 5th innings, including a solo home run by Rodriguez, but failed to score against the Boston bullpen. Former Yankee Al Aceves made his Red Sox debut and was followed by Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon.