Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yuke to the DL, Joseph to the Bench

"First my beard, and now this."

As was anticipated, Kevin Youkilis was placed on the 15-day disabled list before Tuesday night's game. Youkilis was in the lineup on Saturday after a week off, but his back continued to bother him.

The Yankees starting third baseman will be out until at least May 13 because the DL could only be back dated to Sunday since Youkilis played on Saturday. During tonight's telecast, YES' Michael Kay relayed a comment by Joe Girardi regarding Youkilis' status.
"Next time I'll ask him six straight times if he feels okay." 
Brian Cashman added that "everyone screwed up in allowing him (Youkilis) to play."

Taking his place on the roster will be second baseman Corban Joseph. I felt David Adams, despite not being on the 40-man roster, would be more of a fit since he was moved from second to third base, and is a good hitter.  Joseph was already on the 40-man and swung a hot batter over the last 10 games (three home runs, .964 OPS), to earn the call.

Jayson Nix will get the bulk of playing time at third base while Youkilis recovers.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pettitte Set to Face That Other Team if Weather Holds Up

Moses wandered the desert for 40 years. Andy Pettitte wandered the state of Texas for three. That was a helluva rough trip for Moses, but seeing Andy Pettitte in an Astros uniform really sucked.

Pettitte and the Yankees parted ways after the 2003 season, one in which Pettitte matched his career high with 21 wins and struck out a career high 180 hitters. He then went 3-1 in the post-season, which featured a come from behind win in Game 7 of the ALCS with Boston and a six game loss to Florida in the World Series.

Word was that the Yankees were concerned about Pettitte's elbow and that he wanted to pitch closer to his Texas home. The Astros won out, but Pettitte's first year in Houston was a disaster for both teams.  Pettitte made just 15 starts after he suffered a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow. The injury reportedly occurred from batting rather than throwing.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were on the verge of returning to the World Series, when Boston rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win the ALCS and their first World Series in 86 years. In a parallel universe, Pettitte stays in New York and stays healthy and the Yankees beat Boston since there was no way they would blow a 3-0 lead with Pettitte available to pitch in two of the remaining games. In  that bizarro world, Kevin Brown is never a Yankee either.

Pettitte bounced back the next season to win 17 games and he and then buddy Roger Clemens and the Astros advanced to the World Series. However, they had the misfortune of running into a Chicago White Sox juggernaut that swept them in four games.

The lefty's career in the Lone Star state ended after a 14-13 campaign in 2005. Then it was time to come home again. Pettitte returned to the Bronx in 2007 and won 15 games. He followed that up with back to back 14-win seasons and got his fifth World Series ring when the Yankees beat the Phillies in the 2009 Fall Classic.

Pettitte enters Monday's start with 248 career wins and would likely be in the Hall of Fame one day if he had not admitted HGH use to help with a 2002 injury. The hunch here is that he hangs it up for good after the 2013 season, no one year off and back as he did in 2011. Either way, it's good to have him in the home where he belongs.


Kevin Youkilis had an MRI on his ailing back and is awaiting the result. Should he go on the DL, David Adams (.887 OPS in 13 games so far) is likely the leading candidate to replace him on the 25 man roster. He would have to be added to the 40-man roster as well, which is at its limit.

Ben Francisco could be designated for assignment. Another option is outfielder Melky Mesa, but he's struggling at Scranton right now. Another possibility would have been Ronnier Mustelier but he has been rehabbing the knee injury he suffered in Spring Training.

Phil Hughes had his second straight strong start on Sunday and the straight against a 2012 Cy Young Award winner. Hughes faced David Price in his prior start and R. A. Dickey, last year's NL winner, on Sunday. He didn't figure in the decision in either game, but the Yankees won both.

Hideki Back For A Day

When I saw my timeline filled with the "Yankees are signing Hideki Matsui", I thought Brian Cashman had gone 'round the bend. "Where will he play?", I thought.

In fact, Godzilla is going to return for just one day, an inactive one at that. The great Matsui will officially retire as a member of the New York Yankees.

Matsui came to the Yankees in 2003 and spent seven seasons in the pinstripes. He was the the MVP of the 2009 World Series when the Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies for their first championship since 2000.

A prodigious slugger in Japan, Matsui never approached the home run totals he put up in the Far East, but Matsui hit 140 in his seven seasons in the Bronx, topped the 100 RBI mark four times, and had an .852 OPS. He was widely popular with the Asian community throughout the US, with Yankees fans, and with his teammates.

Godzilla spent 2010 with the Los Angeles Angels and put up decent numbers - 21 HR, 84 RBI, an .820 OPS - but his production fell off drastically with Oakland in 2011 and he was released after 34 games with Tampa Bay in 2012.

Among his memorable moments in NY:
  • A grand slam in his first home game in 2003.
  • Delivered the game tying double off Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.
  • Drove in six runs in the World Series clinching Game 6 in 2009, including a 3-run home run off Martinez.
He's a player that will always be beloved in the Big Apple. As John Sterling says, "He's the Hideki, you know."

Brad "The Animal" Lesley Gone Too Soon

Brad Lesley was one of baseball's all-time characters. One of those guys that you didn't like if he was on the opposing team. Lesley's big league career lasted only four years, but his intensity on the mound left an indelible mark. The 6'6" right-handed passed away over the weekend due to kidney failure.

Lesley's ex-wife Chiho Svimonoff told TMZ that Lesley had been living in a nursing home and was given dialysis regularly. He was just 54-years of age.

Here's a short clip of Lesley's reaction when he retired a batter and an imitation by Nolan Ryan  when Houston pitcher struck out one of Lesley's Cincinnati Reds teammates.

After his playing career ended, Lesley went into acting. He appeared in eight films including "Mr Baseball" with Tom Selleck, and "Little Big League".

My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family.

Much Ado About Monday: Jason Collins

It's been a very busy sports Monday from the get-go. While some people may think Tim Tebow's release from Jets is the big story of the day, it's not even close.

NBA veteran center Jason Collins came out of the closet Monday with a simple statement. "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.", is what Collins told Sports Illustrated. Collins, who spent the first 6-1/2 seasons of his career with the New Jersey Nets and spent time with the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards this season, had been orchestrating the announcement for a while.

Collins felt it was time for someone to step up; someone who still had a desire to play to play professional sports. Now comes the real test- being accepted by an owner, front office, coaches, and players. Shortly after the announcement, support started pouring in from a variety of backgrounds, but none more important than active NBA players themselves.

3hProud of . Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others

Of course there was ignorance as expressed (and then retracted) as well by the NFL's Mike Wallace.

All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH.”

1hNever said anything was right or wrong I just said I don't understand!! Deeply sorry for anyone that I offended

I'm sure he would like to have come out sooner - no team could then use the excuse that they don't have room for a 34-year old on their team. Collins finally did come out because he felt it was time to live his life truly, to be who he was. Let's hope he's treated with the dignity he deserves and as an equal., not just on the court, but in life.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Yan-Kees Are Hafner There..Oh Oh, Living on a Prayer

Yeah, it doesn't get much cornier than that. But you can bet the Yankees are praying that Travis Hafner can stay healthy.  Hafner was the hero in Saturday's come from behind 5-4 win against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Hafner was a one man wrecking crew for the Cleveland Indians from 2004-2007. Then he became a man with a wrecked body. Hafner played in more than 100 games just once between 2008 and 2012.  So far, he's been vintage Hafner, or "Pronk" as he is known (half project/half donkey), for the Bronx Bombers.

With Ben Francisco not able to hit his away out of a paper bag right now, the left-handed hitting Hafner got a rare start against Blue Jays' left-hander J.A. Happ. A Jose Bautista home run had helped put Yankees starter CC Sabathia and the pinstripes in a 3-0 hole after the the top of the third inning. Super Hafner to the rescue.

With one swing of the bat Hafner tied things up with his 207th career home run and his sixth as a Yankee.  The ball easily cleared the 385-ft mark in right-center field. Brett Lawrie took Sabathia deep in the 6th inning for a 4-3 lead, but Hafner and his fellow resurrected super hero Vernon Wells came to the rescue.

Robinson Cano  continued to rake with a lead off double in the 7th against reliever Esmile Rogers. Wells has struggled with runners in scoring position, but singled to center to tie the game at four apiece. Kevin Youkilis grounded out, but Wells advanced to second on the play. With lefty Brett Cecil on the mound, Wells then stole third base. The extra bag wouldn't matter as Hafner drilled a ball to center field.

Rajai Davis ran the wrong route to the ball, which caromed off his glove and the wall as he tried to recover. By the time Bautista got the ball back into the infield, Hafner was on third was a stand up triple. Just the 13th three-bagger of his 12 year career.

With Joe Girardi not wanting to use Mariano Rivera three days in a row, it was on Joba Chamberlain to nail down the save in the 9th. It's kind of like watching a horror movie between the fingers you have covering your eyes.

Chamberlain struck out Colby Rasmus to start the frame, but Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio reached on back to back singles. Jayson Nix, playing the hot corner, took a potential double and game tying RBI away from Bonafacio on the play.

Chamberlain retired Davis on shallow fly to Ichiro in right to set up a showdown with former teammate Melky Cabrera. Chamberlain won out when the Melk-man tapped to Nix, who merely stepped on the third base for a game ending force out.


Hafner must think he's dreaming and doesn't want to be woken up. His .309/.433/.727 split (1.160 OPS) is what dreams are made of.

After a slow start Bautista is getting back on track. He now has 18 home runs in 197 at-bats against the Yankees.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Yankees Ordering Bubble Wrap To Protect Players

The Yankees regulars continue to drop flies, with both Francisco Cervelli and Ivan Nova gone from Friday night's game with Toronto by the third inning.

Cervelli took a foul tip off his right hand and the Twitter rumor mill has him suffering a fracture of some type. Michael Kay mentioned that Austin Romine was pulled in the middle of an inning for Scranton this evening, which means he is on his way to New York. Hopefully Chris Stewart stays healthy for the remainder of the evening.

John Flahert tweeted that he will be playing in his first Old Timer's game in June. I responded that he may have to play tonight if Stewart goes down.

Nova meanwhile was in a 1-1 game when he left for an unknown reason. He allowed a base hit and immediately was joined at the mound by Stewart, the home plate ump, Joe Girardi, and trainer Steve Donahue. He was replaced by David Phelps, who would be a candidate to slide into the rotation if Nova misses any time.

UPDATE - 8:35 PM - Cervelli has a fractured hand that will require surgery and will miss a minimum of six weeks. Meanwhile Nova felt elbow pain and is going for an MRI.

Gwen Stefani Has No Doubt And So Does Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter hates injury, talking about injuries, talking to the media at length, not playing baseball, and holding press conferences in which it is clear he would rather be water boarded than answering questions about his state of health and age.

Despite all of that, Jeter sat down prior to Thursday's game to discuss his current status with the Yankees beat writers, national guys, and anyone else who dropped in. The main theme was "I'll be back". There's "No doubt I will be back."

Jeter confirmed that he's frustrated; upset that he had made progress and thought he was on the verge of coming back when a new fracture appeared. He didn't feel he had pushed himself to play on Opening Day, he merely went at the pace the doctors told him to follow. He was also not sure when the new fracture occurred.

He showed some sense of humor when ESPN baseball guy Pedro Gomez asked that if being at an advanced age (for baseball) could affect his rehab. Jeter joked that there were a lot of people in the room at an "andvanced age". Gomez countered with "Yes, but none of us are out there."

Jeter also said if it were up to him he would take a CT scan every day to monitor his progress, though "I don't know how much they cost."

Jeter reminded everyone that when he comes back he will no longer address the injury, because that's not the way he does thing.

Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News asked if Jeter had a date in mind to return. The Captain said, "Yes, but I'm not telling you."

The shortstop said he was happy to be back around his teammates and he had kept in touch with them while he was rehabbing in Tampa. When queried, he said that Mariano Rivera's comeback from last year's knee injury had no impact on his psyche towards his own comeback.

The Captain also had Eduardo Nunez's back and said he'll do a good job while he's out. Though, with a laugh, he mentioned he didn't have the MLB package and hadn't seen many games.

So now we just wait.

Cano, Yankees Leave Their Mark On Buehrle Again

The Yankees wiped the smile off of Mark Buerhle's face again.

Mark Buehrle has had a successful 14 year career in the big leagues. 175 wins, a perfect game, a no-hitter, and a World Series ring are among the items on his resume. He's not a fantasy baseball player since he will only give you a boost in wins, but more importantly, he can't handle the New York Yankees at all. In fact, you couldn't blame him if he never wanted to face them again.

That won't be possible since Buehrle is now smack dab in the AL East after 12 seasons with the Chicago White Sox and one playing for Miami Marlins con man.  Now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Buehrle was a handed a 3-0 lead after Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie homered in the first two innings Thursday night.

But just as they did last week in Toronto, the Yankees topped Buerhle and the Blue Jays 5-3. Vernon Wells replicated his feat from the prior meeting by hitting a second inning home run. One inning later, Robinson Cano hit his third career home run off of Buerhle with two men aboard for a 4-3 Yankees lead.

Buehrle had allowed three home runs through his first four starts, but the Yankees matched the total when Francisco Cervelli went deep in the 4th inning. The two run lead was plenty for Hiroki Kuroda, who pitched beautifully from the third inning on. Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera blanked the Jays over the final three fames with just one Toronto runner reaching base safely. Kuroda improved to 3-1 with the win.

Buehrle career record against the Yankees dropped to 1-9 in 14 career starts with a 6.19 ERA. The Yankees have a .324 average against the veteran left-hander, whose WHIP is 1.61 vs. New York compared to his career mark of 1.28 against all of baseball.

Cano has a ridiculous 1.405 OPS against Buehrle with the three aforementioned home runs and a pair of doubles in 20 at-bats (eight hits total).  Wells isn't far behind with a 1.289 OPS, that includes three home runs, four doubles, and a triple as part of a .480 average. He's also driven in 10 runs in 50 at-bats.


Wednesday night was Eduardo Nunez's time to shine in the field against Tampa Bay. Last night it was Jayson Nix wielding a hot glove at the hot corner in place of Kevin Youkilis. Joe Girardi is hoping Youkilis' back will be in good enough shape to play this weekend.

Ichiro Suzuki had a couple of hits and is 9-29 (.310) over his last five games.

Ben Francisco had one hit in the game, but is just 3-29 on the season. Even though he's a right-handed bat, he has to be the primary candidate to be let go when Curtis Granderson returns.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cano has 7 HR and 17 RBI in his last 15 games. Only Mike Napoli (19) has knocked in more runs in that span.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rays Continue to Churn Out Pitchers: Cobb Chews Up Yankees

The Rays key to pitching success

While the Yankees have been waiting for their pitching prospects to pan out, the LA Dodgers, Oakland A's, and Tampa Bay Rays seem to crank out Major League ready pitchers as if they were put together in a factory.

While the Dodgers youngsters, outside of Clayton Kershaw, haven't produced quite as well as they have in the past, the A's and Rays have dominated the last decade with good, live arms. Due to budget constraints, both teams deal away their pitchers once their on the brink of earning big money, and they always bring back a nice booty of prospects in the process.

Facing the Rays 19 times a year, the Yankees have had the misfortune of going up against Tampa Bay's plethora of pitching talent. After averaging nearly 5.5 runs per game this season, the Yankees were held to five runs total in the three game series with the Rays that concluded Wednesday night. It was no surprise then that the Rays took two of the three games, with the Yankees defeat of ace David Price their lone victory.

The Rays dealt Matt Garza to the Cubs following the 2010 season for a package of players, including prospects Chris Archer (another pitcher, #36 in Baseball America's top 100) and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee (ranked the #56 prospect by mlb.com).

This past off-season it was James Shields' turn to move on. He was dealt with another former pitching prospect, Wade Davis, to the Royals for one of the top ranked hitters in the minor leagues (Wil Myers),one time highly ranked pitching prospect Mike Montgomery,and the #45 prospect in MLB.com's top 100 (Jake Odorizzi).

The Rays tabbed Matt Moore to replace Garza and Alex Cobb to supplant Shields. In his second full season, Moore is 4-0, 1.04 and has averaged better than 10 strikeouts per 9 innings. His performance has come on the heels of an 11-11, 3.81 campaign last year that saw him strikeout 175 hitters in 177.1 innings pitched. The left-hander won't be 24-years old until June and isn't arbitration eligible until 2017.

Cobb showed promise in a nine game call up in 2011 and got 23 starts last season. His 11-9 record with 4.03 ERA and 1.247 WHIP had to bolster Rays GM/Exec VP Andrew Friedman's confidence that he could deal Shields.

So far it has paid off. Cobb beat out Jeff Niemann for the final spot in the rotation and has gone 3-1, 1.82 in his first four starts. He came within two outs of his third career complete game in Wednesday's 3-0 win against the Yankees. It was a game in which Cobb out pitched veteran Andy Pettitte.

The rumor mill has already begun that David Price will be the next Rays pitcher to go. The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner is making more than $10MM this year and is arbitration eligible in 2014. Something tells me the Rays front office isn't concerned though.  They've got an Archer, a Montgomery, an Odorizzi, a Taylor Guerrieri (#44 MLB.com), and an Enny Romero waiting in the wings.


Cobb was masterful in the rubber game of the series; he allowed a pair of hits through 8.1 innings pitched before Brett Gardner's single sent him to the showers. Fernando Rodney, who blew up in Tuesday night's loss, allowed another base hit to Tuesday's hero, Ichiro Suzuki, before he retired Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner to preserve the victory.

The Yankees only managed to get one runner to second base against Cobb, who retired the side in order in five separate innings and faced the minium in another thanks to a double play. 72 of his 106 pitches were for strikes, very similar to the 105/68 Pettitte threw in two and one-third less innings.

The game was scoreless until the 5th inning when Pettitte hit light-hitting catcher Jose Molina on the foot. Kelly Johnson followed with a single to right that went through Brennan Boesch, getting a rare start in the outfield. Molina's lack of foot speed was the only thing that prevented a run from scoring on the play.

With second and third and no one out, Pettitte looked like he might get out of the jam when he struck out Desmond Jennings and Ryan Roberts. But Ben Zobrist slapped a hanging curveball to right for a two-run double.  Sean Rodriguez added insurance an inning later with a solo home run.

Eduardo Nunez looked like a different player in the field last night, with a couple of spectacular plays at shortstop. He stopped a hard shot up the middle, did a 360 degree turn and threw the batter out. Later he made a stop deep in the hole between short and third and made a hard, one bounce throw for the out at first base.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Price Was Right For Small Ball

The master of small ball
There are plenty of people out there, their own fans included, waiting for the Yankees to completely collapse. An 11-8 start and 10 wins in the past 14 games seems to be an aberration. How could a team with so many past their prime players being doing so well and how are they staying healthy?

Outside of Kevin Youkilis, who has had a bad back flare up, it's really too early in the season to be concerned with wear and tear. The Yankees are finding ways to win, and that's what good ball clubs do.  Tuesday night they went up against the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner in David Price.

First and foremost that meant the Yankees starter, Phil Hughes, had to pitch well enough to keep his team in the ball game. He did just that with two runs allowed in seven solid innings of work and as a bonus he did not allow a home run, which has been one of his biggest problems. Next, the Yankees needed to score some runs; that did not come so easily.

Though Price entered the game with a 6.26 ERA, he had thrown a pair of good games and was knocked around in another two, so his ERA was misleading. He also dominated the Yankees last year when they still had a lineup of big bangers.

Down 1-0 in the 4th inning, Eduardo Nunez reached when he struck out on a wild pitch and raced safely to first base. Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells followed with singles to tie the game. One of the most watched reclamation projects, Wells has posted a nifty .975 OPS against left-handers.

The Rays took the lead back on an RBI single by former Yankee Jose Molina, but right fielder Ichiro Suzuki stopped the inning from being bigger when he threw out James Loney trying to reach third base. The Yankees got the run right back on back to back one out singles by Ichiro and Jayson Nix and a ground out to the right side by Brett Gardner.

David Robertson kept the Rays in check to set up the heart of the Yankees order against Price to start the 9th. Cano entered the game just 11-47 (.234) against the 6'6" left-hander, but led off the final frame with his second base hit of the game.

Rays manager Joe Maddon brought in his closer Fernando Rodney to face Vernon Wells. Rodney dominated AL hitters last year en route to 48 saves and struck out Wells, but Cano swiped second base in the process.  Pinch-hitter Travis Hafner was intentionally walked and Lyle Overbay got an unintentional free pass when a 3-2 pitch just missed the strike zone. The Yankees then got extremely lucky.

Joe Girardi let Chris Stewart hit for himself with the bases loaded instead of going to a pinch-hitter such as Brennan Boesch. Stewart fouled out, with the ball only going what seemed like about 10 feet in the air and 10 feet from home plate. It was better than a double play though and gave Ichiro, the master of small ball, a chance to do some damage. With just two multi-hit games thus far, Ichiro added a third when he popped a 99-mph fastball in front of center fielder Desmond Jennings to plate a pair of runs.

Evan Longoria crushed his fifth home run of the season to start the bottom of the 9th inning against Mariano Rivera, but the Yankees' closer picked up his sixth save when he retired the next three hitters.


Remarkably, the Rays are 0-5 in Price's 5 starts.

The Yankees expect a visit from Derek Jeter tonight, with his left foot back in a boot.

Mark Teixeira has eliminated May 1 as a target date for his return after his wrist stiffened up from taking dry swings.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cerving Notice

Francisco Cervelli has his smile back

A year ago Francisco Cervelli was not a happy man. He had nailed down the backup job to starting catcher Russell Martin and was ready to travel north with the team for the 2012 season. At least Cervelli thought he had nailed down the job. Two days before the start of the regular season the Yankees acquired catcher Chris Stewart from the San Francisco Giants for minor league reliever George Kontos.

In a matter of hours Cervelli had gone from riding high to riding throughout the International League...literally. The home field of the Scranton-Wilkes Barres Yankees was being renovated, every game played was, in effect, a road game.

Cervelli was angry, pouted, and got off to a bad start in the minors. He wouldn't return to the Major Leagues until the rosters expanded in September. He hit just .246 and slugged .316 for Scranton. It appeared his days in pinstripes were numbered.

The off-season changed all that. The Yankees decided to meet the league's $189MM salary ceiling to avoid the luxury tax for the 2014 season. Doing that meant letting Martin sign elsewhere as a free agent.  Cervelli came to camp refreshed and renewed, and with his head on straight.  Originally slated to play in the World Baseball Class (WBC), Cervelli changed his mind and opted to compete with Chris Stewart for the starting catching job on the Yankees.

At the conclusion of Spring Training, Joe Girardi wasn't sure how he would split up the time between his two backstops. Cervelli made the decision for him; he entered Saturday's play swinging a hot bat and has worked well with the pitching staff.  Yes, there's the occasional one or two hop throw into centerfield on a stolen bsae attempt, but to this point he has fans not caring that the Yankees didn't make much of an effort to keep Martin. (Who, oddly enough, enters Saturday's play just 8-45 on the season.)

Not known for power, Cervelli is already half way to his career high of four home runs. He hit a 9th inning home run against Arizona Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz Thursday night to send the game into extra innings. More impressive is his 1.012 OPS through 12 games, one of the highlights of which is he's drawn more walks (8) than he has struck out (5).  It's a small sample, but he's 3-4 with runners in scoring position.

Cervelli even played an inning at second base when the Yankees got in a tight jam. No matter where he is on the field, Cervelli has his smile and confidence back, and he knows not to take anything for granted.

Friday, April 19, 2013

After the Break, Jeter Not Back Before the Break........

The Yankees rallied for a second straight night against the Arizona Diamondbacks before they fell short in extra innings, 6-2 Thursday night. Derek Jeter rallied from a broken ankle in last year's ALCS, but his comeback fell short of the 2013 season opener in the Bronx.

A setback scratched that goal and another setback - a new fracture found in his left ankle - will now keep the Yankees captain out until after the All-Star break in July. It makes for a sticky situation for the team and for Jeter.

In the final year of the guaranteed portion of his contract, Jeter holds an $8MM option for 2014. Coming off a fabulous regular season last year, my thought was that Jeter would turn down the option after the 2013 season and then would seek another 2-3 year contract. That all changed last October when his ankle betrayed him.  Ankles are always slow to heal, but ankles that will be 39 years old in July are even slower to recover.

If Jeter returns in July and has a big second half and the Yankees are successful (a word whose meaning is different depending on who you talk to), Jeter may still toss aside the option. If he plays poorly, only partially, or not at all, he most certainly will exercise the option. It would be hard to imagine retirement as another option, unless Jeter felt he could no longer compete at the level he expects himself to or he's no longer the Yankees every day shortstop.

That is the really big elephant in the room. Will Jeter's ankle be able to withstand the stress of playing shortstop? How much range will he have lost? Jeter is a leader, not the guy who sits in the back of the classroom hoping the teacher doesn't call on him. If he's told he will no longer be the every day shortstop next year or the shortstop at all, Jeter could put on a uniform that doesn't have an interocking N and Y on it.

It's hard to imagine and awful to think about. We don't know how close Jeter came to that actually happening when he was a free agent after the 2010 season. We all know he was not happy with the way negotiations went. I don't think he would play elsewhere for one year or more, but others have done it before him and not just in baseball. (Michael Jordan springs to mind.)

First things first though, the Yankees need Jeter to heal and his play to be at a significant level. Until then it's up to Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix (or someone yet to be determined) to hold the fort down.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

CC Uses Smoke and Mirrors to Beat Diamondbacks

"Smoke and Mirrors", that was CC Sabathia's explanation after he earned the victory Wednesday night despite not having his best stuff. With his fastball hovering at 90 mph, Sabathia fought his way through eight innings. It was long enough for the Yankees to mount a comeback from a 3-0 deficit to gain a 4-3 win on Travis Hafner's 8th inning pinch-hit home run. Mariano Rivera closed it out for the Yankees seventh win in eight games.

After the top of the first inning, it appeared the Yankees would go down to defeat and Sabathia wouldn't make it past the 5th inning. But after he gave up a 2-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt and threw 31 pitches to start the game, Sabathia allowed just one more run and averaged 11 pitches per inning over the remainder of the game.

While the smoke and mirrors might have been said tongue in cheek, there's no question that Sabathia has already learned a valuable lesson that it has taken other hard throwers much longer to learn. When the fastball isn't there, change your approach, mix things up, and keep the hitters off balance. People talk about Sabathia's ability to go deep in games and his desire to have the baseball in big spots. What you don't hear enough is the degree of "pitching intelligence" that Sabathia has. It's the key ingredient that separates the game's top pitchers from the average ones.

In recent Yankees history you can point to Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson as two veterans who it took a while to master the change in their game approach. Both had nagging injuries, but both bounced back when they used a different approach to attack hitters.  In his final season (2008) in baseball, Mussina earned his 20th win in a season for the first time. The prior year saw Mussina post career worst numbers in ERA,WHIP and hits per/9 IP, and the lowest innings total of his career.

Johnson was revitalized after he left the Big Apple. A stubborn mule, it took the "Big Unit" a couple of years to learn how to pitch with a balky back and a lot less velocity. The 17 wins he earned in his second season (2006) with the Yankees was completely misleading. A 5.00 ERA and the worst K/9 IP ratio of his career wasn't helped by Johnson's surly attitude.

If Sabathia's left elbow is healthy or not, if he regains some of his lost velocity or just continues with what he's got, the Yankees won't need to worry about Sabathia keeping them in games.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cano Needs No Reminders of 42

Robinson Cano doesn't need to be reminded of the importance of Jackie Robinson to the game of baseball and to the African-American community. The Yankees number 24 was named after the baseball great, whose career numbers don't reflect his stature or his courage.

Cano, who switched to 24 (42 in reverse) to honor the former Brooklyn Dodger, is the most important hitter on the Yankees right now. His bat was a big influence again in last night's 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Yankees sixth victory in their last seven games.

With the Yankees down 2-0 in their first interleague game of the season (I won't get into the ridiculous idea of playing an interleague game in the first month of the season), Cano stepped to the plate with two men aboard in the 4th inning against AZ starter Brandon McCarthy.

Moments later the Yankees had a 3-2 lead when Cano's fourth home run of the season sailed over the right-center field wall. It was all that Ivan Nova and the Yankees bullpen would need, though Eduardo Nunez added a sac fly RBI in the 7th inning for the 4-2 final.

Outside of an 0-3 performance in Sunday's series ending victory over Baltimore, Cano has been a house of fire. His 19 hits in 31 at-bats (.613) have included the aforementioned four home runs, four doubles, and 11 RBI. He also walked three times and scored seven runs. Cano's current OPS is an appropriate 1.042.

One of Cano's favorite days of the baseball season is when he gets to don the Yankees jersey with 42 on the back. In the last five games that Cano has worn the number he has gone 9-19 with four home runs and eight RBI.
“That guy opened the door for us,” Cano said of Robinson. “It’s amazing to get a chance to wear 42 that day. It’s one of those fun days in the big leagues.”  - NY Daily News

Cano's heroics helped out Ivan Nova, who struggled in his first start in 11 days. After he got away with some pitchers left up in the zone early in the game, the Dbacks scored a pair of runs in the 3rd inning when they loaded the bases. Things could have been worse, but Nova hung tough after he allowed a sac fly to Miguel Montero and an RBI single to Cody Ross.

Nova's 72 pitches through the 3rd inning continued a bad trend however,  and it will come as no surprise to anyone (except maybe Nova) if one day David Phelps supplants the former 16-game winner in the rotation. Phelps has become the Yankees newest version of Ramiro Mendoza- good enough to start, but so valuable out of the pen as evidenced by the four shutout innings he threw on Saturday to keep the Yankees in the ball game.

Speaking of the bullpen, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera combined for the last 12 outs of the game and allowed just one hit. Rivera picked up his third save of the season.


The Yankees honored the city of Boston in the third inning by playing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" over the Stadium loudspeakers. The song is a mainstay of Red Sox games and other Boston sporting events.

It's only April 17, but going into tonight's game with Arizona, newcomers Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells are all hitting over .300. For a team that wasn't supposed to hit home runs, the Yankees have the fourth highest total in the Major Leagues with 19.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yankees Can't Count On The Captain

Derek Jeter wanted to be ready for Opening Day, but a setback during the Spring Training rehab of his left ankle ended hopes of that.  The next goal was May 1, but according to manager Joe Girardi that date is no longer possible.
From ESPN.com: "[Early May] was a date that was thrown out there," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The easiest way for me to say it is he will be back when he is back -- when he can physically do it on an everyday basis, and I don't think any of us will know the exact date until we go through some trial and error.

"He is not ready to play in games. I don't think they necessarily have an exact date where they know he is going to play in games. We'll just go day by day and see how he feels."
Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix will continue to hold down the fort for now.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kuroda Gem Gives Yankees First Home Series Win

Hiroki Kuroda punches the air after punching out Chris Davis.
(photo courtesy of AP) 
When the Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda prior to the 2012 season they were hoping to get a pitcher to give them innings, keep them in the ball game, and win more times than not. They not only got all they expected, but much more when Kuroda was their best and most consistent starter for the 2012 season.

Kuroda came into Sunday night's game on the heels of two dubious starts. He took a liner off his finger tip in the second game of the season against Boston, and though he beat Cleveland this past Monday, he still wasn't sharp.

That all changed in front of a national television audience Sunday night against division rival Baltimore. Kuroda dominated the Orioles in a 3-0 shutout that raised the Yankees record to 6-5. The win gave the Yankees two straight series victories and their first one at home.  Kuroda was in control throughout and was pushed to 113 pitches (79 strikes) only because Jayson Nix committed a 9th inning error. With Mariano Rivera loosening in the bullpen, Kuroda struck out Chris Davis for the third time to end the game.

The game itself was reminiscent of last year's wild card series when neither team could hit their way out of a paper bag. Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen was setting down the Yankees with ease until the 5th inning when Brennan Boesch led off with one of his two singles on the night. He moved to second base on Francisco Cervelli's single and then over to third base on a fly out by Lyle Overbay.

Nix made small ball pay off when he lifted a deep fly to right for a ribbie sac fly and a 1-0 lead. Brett Gardner then powered up as much as he can and hit his second home run of the year near the top of the right field foul pole.

That was plenty for Kuroda, whose detractors said would be unable to compete in the AL East. They could not have been more wrong. He limited the O's to five hits, didn't walk a batter, and struck out five. He gave the Yankees innings, kept them in the game, and won. Mission accomplished.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The A-Rod Plot Thickens

Someone's pouting.

Alex Rodriguez is still a long way from returning to the Yankees lineup, but his name has remained at the forefront of conversations.

The latest reason is a story in today's New York Times that accuses/suggests that an associate of A-Rod's tried to buy documents from an anti-aging clinic in Florida that has come under scrutiny for selling performance enhancing drugs.

A-Rod is just one of a number of players (Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, etc.) that allegedly used Biogensis of America as a source for PEDs. A-Rod has denied all of the accusations.

The NY Times' Michael Schmidt also reported that a former clinic employee sold documents to Major League Baseball, which would in turn destroy them.  This information is disturbing on a couple of levels. One, why was the employee in possession of the documents. Was MLB trying to protect their game by getting rid of evidence? And finally, if the employee contacted MLB about buying them was it an extortion attempt?

The steroid era just does not want to go away.

Petttitte's Back Gets Scratched

"Oh, my back just locked"

The oldest starting pitcher in Major League Baseball is apparently feeling it. The Yankees announced that Andy Pettitte will be scratched from Sunday's start due to back spasms.

Phil Hughes is likely to get the start after his start was skipped due to a rainout and Cleveland and the desire to keep CC Sabathia on his regular rest. (With the rainy, cold weather in New York City on Friday, the Yankees should have pushed Sabathia back and day and let Hughes pitch tonight. Then Hiroki Kuroda could have gone on Sunday.)

Pettitte's been outstanding thus far with wins over Boston and Cleveland. He's thrown 15 innings with just three earned runs allowed and less hits than innings pitched.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cano - Cleveland - Kapow

No one was more annoyed at Robinson Cano than the Dominican-born star himself. A 3-23 start helped contribute to a 2-4 Yankees record and the second baseman realized very quickly that he was trying to do too much at the plate.

Cano is a smoother operator than the subject of Sade's 1984 hit song. So when things go wrong, fans, media, etc. say he doesn't care, he's not trying..yada yada yada. (I'll save the stupidity of Colin Cowherd's "Robinson Cano plays harder for the Dominican Republic than for the Yankees" for another time. Kudos though to ESPN's Pedro Gomez for pointing out the silliness of that statement.)

Cano cared very much after those first six contests against the Red Sox and Tigers produces no extra base hits, runs, or RBI. He knows that with the plethora of injuries that have beset the Yankees, he is now the go to guy. Even without the injuries, he's the go to guy. The team's best hitter, the player that will secure the #3 spot in the order, a leader by example if not by words. The added pressure of playing for a new contract certainly couldn't have helped.

So when the Yankees came to Cleveland on Monday, Cano relaxed and stopped chasing pitches out of the zone, and started to crush the baseball.  After hitting into a right side shift earlier in the week, Cano started to drive the ball with authority the other way. The result was back to back Yankees wins in which Cano went 7-10 (.700) with 3 HRs, 7 RBI, and 3 doubles. His OPS went from .330 to 1.028 in two days and the Yankees won 11-6 and 14-3.

A Wednesday night rain out hopefully won't slow Cano and the Yankees, who have won three straight, down. (Thursday night's game is currently in a rain delay at the 7:05 EDT start time.)

What's everyone else up to?

Not to be overlooked the Yankees pitching has stepped up in the streak.

CC Sabathia is still working his way back to full strength, but he blanked the Tigers for seven innings Sunday to salvage the finale of the three game series in Detroit.  Hiroki Kuroda and his bruised finger struggled on Monday's opener in Cleveland, but he gutted his way through 5.1 innings to give the Yankees their first winning streak of the season.

Andy Pettitte, who was solid in an eight inning performance in the lone win of the three game set with Boston to start the year, was strong again Tuesday night with a seven inning victory.

After a woeful start offensively, just about everyone picked it up in the finale in Detroit and the first two games in Cleveland. For a team not supposed to hit home runs,  Cano (3 times), Kevin Youkilis, Brennan Boesch, Lyle Overbay, Ichiro Suzuki, Jayson Nix, and Travis Hafner all went deep during the winning streak.

Hafner got a huge ovation when he was introduced in his return to Cleveland on Monday, which was also the team's 2013 home opener. Like any good Yankees hater though, the fans booed when Hafner came up to bat the first time. He quickly reminded them of one of the reasons they loved him when he slugged a 3-run home run.

Another reason for the Yankees slow start was the inability of Brett Gardner to get on base. The team's table setter was just 5-30 through the team's first seven games, but had four hits and a walk on Tuesday. He also knocked in a pair of runs, scored three times, and had two doubles.

The Yankees need their second table setter at the bottom of the order to get going as well. Ichiro Suzuki has not swung the bat well since the season opener. He did have two hits and in RBI in Monday's win, but was just 1-5, albeit the one hit a line drive home run, on Tuesday. He's just 5-27 for the season with a .530 OPS.

As for the bullpen, things have been up and down. Shawn Kelley and Joba Chamberlain have been dreadful (at least Joba shaved off his equally dreadful mustache.) Adam Warren, who I thought should have been released at the end of Spring Training, has done an outstanding job in the long man/mop up role.

Mariano Rivera has one save and appeared in just two ball games thus far. That's all we've seen from David Robertson as well, both scoreless appearances. Left-hander Boone Logan has been inconsistent and remains the lone lefty in the pen.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Long Time Partnership Rights the Yankees Ship

Appreciating the time left as teammates

Some things go perfectly together. Hamburgers and hot dogs, Laurel and Hardy, spaghetti and meatballs. When it comes to the Yankees though it's Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.

Needing innings from his starter, Joe Girardi let Pettitte go a full eight innings before Rivera came on in the 9th for the first time in his final season. The result was a 4-2 Yankees win over the Red Sox to salvage the finale of the three games series. (It was the 69th all-time win that Rivera preserved for Pettitte.)

Pettitte was extremely efficient and finished with a 94 pitch count. He scattered eight hits, allowd a run, walked one, and struck out three. I thought for sure Girardi would take him out after a bit of a shaky 7th inning and again when Pettitte gave up a lead off single to Jose Iglesias in the 8th. Pettitte made the non move pay off with one of his patented double play grounders, Jacoby Ellsbury the victim of a 3-6-3 DP between Lyle Overbay and Eduardo Nunez.

Rivera got squeezed by home plate ump Mike DiMuro and issued a walk to Dustin Pedroia to start the top of the 9th. One out later Jonny Gomes doubled to bring the tying run to the plate. Youngsters Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr. got schooled though by the all time saves leader.

Middlebrooks grounded out to Overbay to allow a run to score, but it was the second out of the inning. Then it was welcome to the Majors Mr. Bradley, as he watched a called third strike end the game.

The Yankees had their first lead of the season when Overbay singled in a pair of runs off Ryan Dempster in the 2nd inning. It was Dempster's debut with his new team. The right-hander was normally a quick worker in the National League, but Thursday night he channeled slow poke Josh Beckett on the mound. He walked four batters and threw 101 pitches in just five innings of work.

Brett Gardner hit a solo shot off of Dempster in the 3rd inning and Francisco Cervelli added a big insurance run in the 7th when he hit a 400-footer off Clayton Mortensen. (How did the Red Sox find two pitchers named Clayton, Buchholz being the other.)


The supposedly popless Yankees now have four home runs in three games.

Brett Gardner got a gift single off the first base bag, but was gunned down by right fielder Shane Victorino when he tried to stretch it into a double.

Nunez had a nice night in the field and at the plate, with two hits and a run scored. Both he and Gardner were thrown out attempting to steal second base by backup catcher David Ross.

Ichiro Suzuki is off to a slow start - 1-9 (.111)

The Yankees released relievers Clay Rapada and David Aardsma after both had been DFA'ed earlier. I can only think that Rapada's bursitis is much worse than originally diagnosed or there's something more than bursitis. I figured that Vidal Nuno might have a shot at the other lefty spot in the pen, but I spoke to Scranton beat writer Donnie Collins who said Nuno would be a starter in Triple-A and has not looked as effective as a reliever in the past.

The Yankees travel to Detroit now for a weekend series, with day games Friday and Sunday. The highlight of the series will be Sunday when CC Sabathia faces Justin Verlander.