Friday, May 31, 2013

Nuno and Nova Hop on the Scranton Shuttle

Much to my surprise it was two pitchers that were removed from the 25-man roster to make room for the return of Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira this evening.

I figured that Vidal Nuno would be sent down upon the return of Andy Pettitte, but with Nuno unavailable after a six inning outing on Thursday night, he became the logical choice for one of the demotions. Nova threw five-plus innings of relief on Wednesday, so he too would be unavailable and the move allows Brian Cashman more time to project a long term plan.

Both players can throw on a regular day at Scranton rather than shorten the Yankees bench by remaining in the Major Leagues.

Decision Day 2 For Chien-Ming Wang

"What to do..what to do."

The Yankees saw the best of Chien-Ming Wang when he won 19 games in back-to-back seasons for them from 2006-2007. He was on his way to another fine season (8-2, 4.07) when he ruptured the Lisfranc ligament in his foot running the bases during a 2008 interleague game against the Houston Astros. Shoulder problems and surgery followed and Wang missed the entire 2010 season.

After two years with the Washington Nationals organization, Wang returned to the Bronx Bombers, but with a clause in his contract that allows the 33-year old to become a free agent today at five different points in the season. May 31 is the second of those selected dates (He chose not to opt out at his first chance.). It might not be a tough decision this time around since the Yankees haven't called up their former Cy Young Award candidate despite injuries to starters Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova. Brian Cashman recently told the NY Daily News his reasons for not giving Wang a call up.
“He’s pitching some good games but he’s not a candidate for this. He’s not the power sinker he used to be, but we believe he needs to mix in more of his breaking balls to have the type of success necessary to pitch up here consistently,” Cashman said in reference to possible roster replacements when Joba Chamberlain was DL'ed due to a strained oblique.
“He’s becoming a different type of pitcher now because he can’t come up here and just sink that sinker every pitch. He needs to incorporate some of his pitches in there and mix and match because he’s that reduced in velocity,” 
Wang is 3-4, 2.65 in eight starts for the Triple-A Scranton RailRiders. He's put together a 1.176 WHIP in 51 innings with 23 strikeouts and 9 walks. He's allowed just two home runs and is coming off his best start of the season in which he tossed seven shutout innings and allowed only two hits. His ground out to air out ratio of 2.12 is not much different than his seasons in the Major Leagues.

According to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo there are six teams interested in the Wanger's services. The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly reported that the Orioles are one of the teams.

If Wang stays on, he can still opt out at the end of June, August 10, and August 31.

Are Ichiro's Hours in the Bronx Numbered?

With Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis set to return to the Yankees lineup tonight two players will need to be removed from the 25-man roster. One is likely to be rookie David Adams, who has started at third base in 13 of the 14 games he's appeared in since his recall from the minor leagues on May 15. But who will be the second player?

There has been speculation that there is no room for Lyle Overbay since he is strictly a first baseman. But how do you jettison someone who has been so clutch through the first 53 games of the season. Overbay's numbers were even comparable to the Teixeira's at the same point last year.

One candidate to be let go/traded/designated for assignment is Ichiro Suzuki. I was against bringing back the one time great hitter, because he only had 1 1/2 good months last season. So many Yankees fans ascribe to the "What have you done lately?" theorem that they overlook what Ichiro did in the first four and one-half months of last season.

Prior to the trade deadline deal, Ichiro had a career low .642 OPS. He's only at .626 so far this season. Ichiro went on a tear the last 45 days of the 2012 season, especially those days that fell in September when he hit .385 with a .916 OPS.

While the 39-year old can still play right field as if he invented the position and can steal a base here or there, his bat has gone back to looking like he's trying to hit a baseball with a whiffle ball bat.  He's produced just nine extra-base hits in 168 at-bats, which has led to the aforementioned horrendous OPS. He's also walked just nine times.

Granted, or more precisely, Grandy, Ichiro would not have played as much this season had Curtis Granderson not been injured or Ben Francisco had been productive. Even though it would leave the Yankees temporarily short-handed in the outfield, it may be time to cut ties with Ichiro.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sending Out An SOS: Yankees Need the Cavalry

Teams lose to other teams. Some of those other teams might not be as good as the losing team. It happens - well Suzyn, you can't predict baseball, etc.  The Yankees lost four straight to the Mets after Thursday night's 3-1 debacle (at least the game was quick) and have dropped five straight overall as they head into a much more important series with the Boston Red Sox this weekend.

Vidal Nuno pitched beautifully for six innings, but allowed a 2-run home run to Marlon Byrd in the early going. That's about one or two runs more than the Yankees can handle these days. The bats are coming back to Earth, which means the Friday arrival of Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis is coming just in the nick of time.

The Mets starter for Thursday night was Dillon Gee. The 27-year old Texan had made 10 starts this season prior to the finale with the Yankees. In those 10 games, Gee allowed less than three earned runs just three times and recorded an out in the 7th inning just once. So tonight Gee and his 6.34 ERA threw 7.1 innings and struck out 12 Yankees. His season high had been six strikeouts, which he accomplished twice. The only blemish on his stat line was a solo home run served up to Robinson Cano.

The Yankees hitting a brick wall was not unexpected; it's about the only thing they can hit right now. There were signs of this earlier in the season, but the lineup bounced back. Not so in the series with their crosstown rivals. So Brian Cashman has some decisions to finalize tonight. With two everyday players returning, room needs to be made on the 25-man roster, and for Teixeira, on the 40-man roster as well.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Cashman was quite frank when he spoke Tuesday to ESPN radio's Don LaGreca concerning the future of first baseman Lyle Overbay. Though the 36-year old has done a marvelous job (The YES Network showed a graphic prior to tonight's game that showed Overbay's numbers after 50 games were very similar to Teixeira's first 50 games in 2012.), his position limitation does not make him an ideal candidate for the everyday roster. Things are even more complicated when you consider Travis Hafner cannot play a position at all.

Letting Overbay go with no return would be a terrible mistake (he certainly would not pass through waivers without being claimed), but he's the logical choice to be removed from the roster.

The second player is likely to be David Adams who has been seeing most of the playing time at third base since he was recalled from Triple-A on May 15. Despite the organization's love of his bat, Adams should be sent back to Scranton to play every day.  Another less likely option would be to get rid of recently acquired Reid Brignac, but the Yankees don't have another infielder besides Jayson Nix that can handle shortstop.

The Yankees also announced that Andy Pettitte would be returning to start Monday's game against Cleveland. Thursday's starter Vidal Nuno would be the logical choice to go back to Scranton.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mariano Exchanges Gifts With Mets

Prior to last night's Yankees - Mets game at Citi Field, the Mets gave Yankees closer Mariano Rivera part of an FDNY firehose for being the "ultimate fireman". He also had the honor of throwing out the game's first pitch to former Mets closer John Franco. Hours later, Rivera returned the gift by blowing his first save opportunity of the season in a 2-1 Mets win. I believe he was contaminated by the Mets.

The fact that Mo blew a save and the Yankees lost was no amazing feat. It's happened before and will happen again. What was truly amazing was the fact that it was the first time in his Major League career that the game's greatest closer blew a save or lost a game without having retired a single batter. THAT is remarkable.

The game was excellent pitcher's duel between Yankees veteran Hiroki Kuroda and Mets phenom Matt Harvey. Lyle Overbay's RBI single was the game's lone run through eight innings and happened in part because Marlon Byrd played Brett Gardner's single like Pele, allowing Gardner to advance into scoring position.

The Yankees couldn't get an insurance run though - Ichiro Suzuki got picked off first base in the 9th and was thrown out as he tried to advanced to second - and it came down to Rivera against the Mets trio of Daniel Murphy, David Wright, and Lucas Duda.  Wright had the game winning home run in Monday's opener of the four game set.

Murphy, who was robbed by Gardner of a home run on Monday and an extra base hit in Tuesday's contest, reached out on and poked a Rivera cutter to left for a ground rule double. Wright followed with a single to center that plated Murphy ahead of Gardner's throw. To compound matters, Rivera got caught watching the play and forgot to back up home plate. Sure enough the ball skittered through catcher Chris Stewart to allow Wright to grab the extra base.

Duda's single to right followed and the Mets had done the unthinkable, beaten the game's greatest closer without having recorded an out.


Though in my opinion it was blown out of proportion by the media, Jeff Wilpon's words during the pre-game presentation to Rivera, annoyed a lot of Mets fans and baffled the media. Basically Wilpon said that it would be the last time Rivera would face the Mets at Citi Field. Mo responded, "You never know." But instead of being let off the hook, Wilpon added something to the effect of "It would take some big turnaround."  I guess Mariano felt bad for him last night.

The series moves to Yankee Stadium Wednesday and Thursday for a pair of games.

Brian Cashman was brutally honest Tuesday when ESPN radio's Don LaGreca asked him if there was room on the team  for Overbay with Mark Teixeira about set to return. Cashman said he wasn't really sure, given the fact that Overbay can only play one position. (All of Overbay's play in the field - 1,270 games - has been at first base.)

Tex and Youk Begin Rehab Assignment in Thunder Win

Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis began their way back to the big club by suiting up for the Trenton Thunder Wednesday morning.

Teixeira was at his customary first base while Youkilis stood across the diamond from him at third base. Though both were 0-2 with a walk in Trenton's 3-1 win over the Erie SeaWolves (Youkilis scored a run), the fact that they played was more important than anything. With some of the Yankees bats coming back to Earth, it's not a bad thing that some of the cavalry could be re-joining then soon.

Both are expected to play again tomorrow, health willing.  You can see video of their at-bats at Mike Ashmore's Thunder Thoughts.

UPDATE 4:00 PM EDT: GM Brian Cashman has stated that, barring a setback, Teixeira and Youkilis will join the Yankees this Friday for the start of their home series with the Boston Red Sox.

Minor Notes

It was a pretty good day for some Yankees prospects as well. Outfielders Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott both homered and starter Zach Nuding improved to 2-6 with six solid innings.

Lefty Jeremy Bleich continued in his quest to make the Major Leagues with one scoreless inning of relief. Bleich was the Yankees second pick of the first round in 2008's MLB amateur draft, but underwent surgery on the labrum in his left shoulder and missed all of the 2011 season. He's in his third stint at Trenton.

The opening round in 2008 was not kind to the Yankees who took Gerrit Cole with their first pick and 28th overall. Cole opted to attend UCLA instead and is now one of the top pitching prospects in baseball as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Joba Activated, New Pick Up Gone in a Huff

Joba Chamberlain was activated prior to Tuesday's rain delayed Yankees-Mets game at Citi Field after a strained oblique kept him out for a month.

To make room on the roster, David Huff, picked up on waivers over the weekend, was designated for assignment. The Yankees would like the left-hander to pass through waivers, but I can see a team taking a shot at him, especially being his is left-handed.

Don't Let the Wright Guy Beat You

"Look..up in the's a's a's a Phil Hughes fastball."

If you scratched your head every time you were baffled by Phil Hughes, you would have a number of scabs on your scalp and your fingernails would be worn down to the nub. Such is life when you are watching Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hughes take his regular turn in the rotation.

Monday's night game with the Mets at Citi Field was a prime example of both sides of Hughes show up in a ball game. Hughes was throwing a beautiful game, but the Yankees had scored just a single run due to failed opportunities against Mets starter Jon  Niese. David Wright then strode to the plate in the bottom of the 7th with no one on base. Moments later expletives were heard through living rooms, dens, bars, and in areas of Citi Field that Yankees  fans were seated.

Wright is the only great hitter the Mets have. There is absolutely no reason to face him in a big spot in the game. A big spot such as protecting a one run lead in the 7th inning. Feel free to challenge Wright in the early innings, but with Lucas Duda on deck or whichever possible pinch-hitter is sitting on the bench, you do not give Wright anything to hit.

Of course, it was not Hughes' intention - the target was away - to give up a game tying gopher ball, but that's just what he did.  Wright got a pitch in his wheelhouse and tied the game. As the NY Post's Joel Sherman pointed out, Hughes actually gave up back-to-back home runs, but Brett Gardner robbed Daniel Murphy of a home run to end the 6th inning.

The Yankees ended up with a 2-1 loss when an ineffective David Robertson gave up a two-out RBI single to Murphy an inning later. But they would not have been in that position had Hughes not served up his regular, every fifth day meatball. Hughes has allowed at least one home run in seven of his 10 starts this season and last year, when he served up 35 long balls, opponents homered in 25 of Hughes' 32 starts.

So while Hughes can come through with a number of good starts, more often that not that "one mistake" or "two mistakes" end up costing him and the team. Hughes has even more trouble in his own ballpark, which is not suited for a flyball/strikeout pitcher (in fact Hughes has one of the lowest ground ball outs per game in MLB).

Yankees GM Brian Cashman was on ESPN radio Monday afternoon and told hosts Don LaGreca and Ryan Ruocco that he is still very high on Hughes and still believes he can be a very successful pitcher. Something tells me that between now and when Hughes declares his free agency after this season, Cashman's opinion will change.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Francisco Out in a Huff: Gets DFA'ed for Bullpen Help

According to WFAN's Sweeny Murti, Ben Francisco's days as a Yankee are no longer numbered. The outfielder has been designated for assignment to make room on the 40 and 25 man rosters for pitcher David Huff. The Yankees claimed Huff off waivers from the Cleveland Indians on Saturday.

Francisco was a nice pick up as a reserve outfielder, but lack of playing time and lack of production (which came first, the chicken or the egg?) made him dispensable. The right-handed hitter had just five hits in 44 at-bats (.114) with a home run also his only RBI.

Huff was a part of the Indians rotation in 2009 and 2010 without much success. His 11 wins his rookie year was despite an ERA over 5.00 and a WHIP of 1.558. He bounced between the minor and Major leagues the last few years and has been used more in relief of late.

After he allowed five earned runs in three innings over three appearances, the Indians decided to free up some space on their 40-man roster. He gives the Yankees another left-handed option out of the pen.

Yankees Treat Rodney With No Respect

"I blame that guy in the upper deck."
Fernando Rodney had a season for the ages as the Tampa Bay Rays closer last year. Given the opportunity when the incumbent, Kyle Farnsworth was felled by an injury, Rodney made the most of his chances.

The right-hander saved a career high 48 games in 50 chances, allowed just five earned runs in 74.2 innings pitched (0.60 ERA), and had a 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Where did this guy come from? Any fan of the Detroit Tigers or Los Angeles Angels had to ask that question. Where was the guy inconsistent guy who couldn't hold on to his closer job? The guy that was an inconsistent set up man; the guy with 37 career blown saves.

Guess what? He's ba-aaaack. Rodney blew his fifth save opportunity in 14 attempts Saturday when the Yankees rallied from two down in the 9th inning to tie the game at three apiece. Lyle Overbay won it for the Yankees, who have taken the first two games of the three game series, with a home run off Josh Lueke.

But the Yankees would not have gotten there if not for Rodney's contribution. Down 3-1, despite another solid effort by starter Vidal Nuno (6 IP 5 H 2 ER 1 BB 2 K), the Yankees were down to their final out when Rodney walked Overbay.  After Overbay took second base on fielder's indifference, Brennan Boesch, recalled due to the injury to Curtis Granderson, laced a ball into left field that plated Overbay.

Brett Gardner got ahead in the count 3-1 before he drove a ball back to shallow center for an RBI single that tied the game. The rally went no further when Gardner was thrown out as he tried to steal second. A poor choice by Gardner with Robinson Cano at the plate.

The game nearly came to an end in the bottom of the 10th when Ivan Nova made his first relief appearance since he was activated from the disabled list. The Rays loaded the bases with one out, but Nova struck out James Loney and retired Matt Joyce on a ground out. Then it was Overbay time, or should I say Overtampabay time.

Overbay hit nine home runs in 440 plate appearances in 2011; his game winner on Saturday was his eighth home run in 172 PAs. Overbay has continued to  come through in the clutch after it appeared his career might be over after the 2012 season. The Diamondbacks released him last August and Atlanta picked him up for the last month of the 2012 season. Overbay signed with the Boston Red Sox in January, but was released in late March and was quickly picked up the Yankees. The Red Sox loss was the Yankees gain as Overbay has been one of the early season surprises.


The Yankees had lost 13 of 16 at the Trop before winning back-to-back games. The Yankees were fortunate that Matt Moore surpassed the 100 pitch mark early and left after six innings. He remains unbeaten this season at 8-0.

Nuno had allowed just one run when he left, but Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan combined to allowed an inherited runner to score in the Rays two-run 7th inning.

Mariano Rivera recorded his 18th straight save chance.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Granderson Hit By Pitch, Broken Bone, DL...Deja Vu All Over Again

photo courtesy of

Curtis Granderson seemed to finally be getting his stroke back after missing a month and a half with a broken forearm. A three-hit game this past Wednesday night in Baltimore included a double and a home run, and was one of the few bright spots in a divisional loss. Now the Yankees will need other players to pick up the slack again as Granderson is headed to the DL for the second time this season with a broken bone.

This time around it was a pitch by Tampa Bay's Cesar Ramos that broke the knuckle on Granderson' left pinky finger. (Ramos also hit Robinson Cano with the bases loaded to force in a run.)

 Here we go again.

Granderson missed 38 games due to the broken arm he received in the very first Spring Training game after Toronto's J.A. Happ hit him. The 32-year old is set to be a free agent after the season, but you have to wonder where his value will be at after he misses at least one quarter of the season.

Nova Activated, Betances Back to Scranton this my agent..they're putting me in the bullpen!

Ivan Nova was activated from the 15-Day disabled list Friday night, and for the time being was placed in the bullpen. With Friday night's starter David Phelps outpitching Nova this season, and the Yankees wanting to take another look at Vidal Nuno, the bullpen move made sense.

Nova went on the DL on April 27 with an inflammed right triceps. He worked with pitching coach Larry Rotschild on Thursday to simulate situations a reliever would be in. Nova has appeared in just four games as a reliever in 70 regular season Major League appearances.

Joe Girardi plans to bring Nova in at the start of an inning, but of course sometimes game plans go out the window. After a 16-4 rookie season, Nova has struggled the last two years. He was 1-1, 6.48 with a 1.860 WHIP in four starts this season.

Dellin Betances was sent down to Scranton to make room on the 25-man roster.

Mark Teixeira and his Right Wrist are Trenton Bound

Mark Teixeira is ready to play some baseball and he's going to do it in central New Jersey. Teixeira will begin a rehab assignment with the Trenton Thunder this coming Wednesday and Thursday. No word as of yet on where Tex will be after that.

Those of you following the Yankees version of General Hospital know that the Yankees first baseman hurt the tendon in his right wrist while getting ready to represent the US in the World Baseball Classic.

Montero - Pineda: A Year Later

You can count me as one of the people that was ecstatic when the Yankees acquired Michael Pineda from the Seattle Mariners for the organization's top prospect, Jesus Montero. Sure, I was sorry to see Montero go...after hearing of all the promise and seeing some of the potential when he was called up in September, 2011, I was anxious to see what he could do with 400-500 at-bats. (Click here to read my take on the night of the deal.)

However, Pineda's success in 2010 tempered my feelings about losing Montero. The hard throwing right-hander was only 23-years old when the 2012 season began. He went 9-10, 3.74 in his rookie season with the Mariners, wtih 173 strikeouts in 171 innings pitched. His 2.9 walks per nine innings wasn't bad for a rookie either.

Pineda built up most of his success in the first half of the season in the Seattle, when he held opposing hitters to a .198 average. His ERA over his first 18 starts was 3.03, but soared to over five in his last 10 starts when he appeared to have worn down. The Mariners limited Pineda to just seven starts over the season's final two months and tried to keep his pitch count under 100 to keep him healthy.

Pineda's previous high of 139.1 innings pitched occurred in the minor leagues the prior season. Perhaps the extended innings, though less than a 25% increase, played into what unfolded during Pineda's first Spring Training with the Yankees in 2012. More on that in a moment.

Meanwhile, Montero got the chance to get his 500+ at-bats in the Major Leagues and an opportunity to catch on a semi-regular basis. While the Mariners limited Montero to 56 games behind the plate, the 22-year old showed potential in the batter's box. He belted 15 home runs and drove in 62 runs in 515 at-bats and struck out 99 times, not a bad total for a rookie. It was accompanied by a .260 batting average and though his OPS of .698 was less than stellar, it still showed promise. It also enraged those Yankees fans who hated the additions Brian Cashman made to the team and the subtraction of Montero from the roster.

That rage got an early start when Pineda showed up to camp overweight and then had to walk off the mound in his last Spring Training start due to tightness in his right shoulder. What was first diagnosed as tendinitis turned out to be a torn labrum that required season ending surgery and put Pineda's future in doubt.

With one-quarter of the 2013 season gone by, quite a bit has changed since the end of the 2012 season. Things have not gone well for Montero. Seattle manager Eric Wedge prefers to use veteran Kelly Shoppach behind the plate and Montero has done poorly with the bat. So poorly, in fact, that the Mariners sent Montero down to Triple-A on Thursday.

Montero has just 3 HR and 9 RBI in 101 at-bats and and just two other extra-base hits. That adds up to a .590 OPS, a number that used to be his slugging pct. alone in the minor leagues. The Mariners hope Montero can recover his stroke and his confidence playing for Triple-A Tacoma.

95-mph...that's what the radar gun read recently for a Pineda fastball at extended Spring Training in Tampa. He's been consistently hitting 93 on the gun and lo and behold, he may start a rehab assignment soon. Potentially, Pineda could be the starter the Yankees might have looked elsewhere for at this year's trade deadline.

A trade that was clearly in Seattle's favor last season, but has now evened out and could swing in the Yankees favor before the year is over.

The Other Guys

Nope, not referring to the Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg movie, but the other players that were involved in the Montero-Pineda deal. Jose Campos, a 6'4" right-hander came over with Pineda and had the infamous word "potential" tagged to him as well. Just 19-years old at the time, Campos was 3-0, 4.01 in five starts for the Charleston RiverDogs (Single-A) when he was placed on the 7-day disabled list on May 3 due to discomfort in his right elbow.

Campos ended up missing the entire season, but was able to avoid Tommy John surgery through physical therapy and rest. He's back at Charleston this season, where has made seven starts and a pair of relief appearances. He's struck out 29 batters in 29.2 innings pitched and has a 3.94 ERA and 1.213 WHIP.

Hector Noesi did solid job in the two starts and 28 relief appearances he made for the Yankees in 2011 and the Mariners were counting on him to continue his rise in status on the left coast. Noesi struggled with his control though - 3.3 walks per nine innings - and pitched to a 5.82 ERA in 18 starts and a couple of relief appearances. His strikeouts per nine innings (5.7) also dropped by one and a one-half from the previous season.

Noesi didn't make the Mariners out of Spring Training, but was recalled in mid-April and made four relief apperances before he was sent back down to Tacoma. He was recalled for an emergency spot start against his former club when scheduled starter Aaron Harang was scratched on May 16. Noesi didn't figure in the decision, but came through for the M's when he allowed one unearned in 4.1 innings in an eventual 3-2 Seattle win. He was sent back to Triple-A after the game.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rain Out Theater - Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was just one of the many A & B movies or TV episodes that WPIX (Channel 11) would show back in the 1970s when the Yankees got rained out on a Sunday afternoon.

The YES Network generally shows Centerstage or a Yankees classic.  Childhood is gone.

The Yankees finished the homestand 3-2 and take the road for a big trip through the AL East against the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays. Then it's back home for the Mets and Boston Red Sox.

CC Sabathia, Sunday's scheduled pitcher, will start the series out in Baltimore against a yet to be named starter. Sabathia is 17-4, 3.00 in 26 career starts against the Orioles.

Phelps Shows He Belongs

The Toronto Blue Jays haven't exactly been tearing the cover off of the baseball in a season in which many picked them to win or place in the AL East horse race. David Phelps' performance against them on Saturday should not be diminished by the fact that the Blue Jays record fell to 17-26 and they are the current owners of the AL East basement.

Phelps shook off some early inning control issues and threw a career high seven innings to improve to 2-2 on the season. Phelps will never be talked about in the same sentence with Stephen Strasburg or Justin Verlander, and that's all right. Phelps may get compared to a Mike Mussina; a guy that can dominate without firing upper 90s fastballs (He was around 90-91 mph all day Saturday) to the catcher's mitt.

While Robinson Cano (two) and Travis Hafner provided 2-run home runs in the 7-2 win, Phelps was steady and followed his plan just about to the letter. He's a guy that knows what he's doing on the mound, clearly a pitcher and not a thrower.

The University of Notre Dame product started out by facing five hitters in the first inning without one putting the ball in play. He struck out lead off hitter Melky Cabrera on a curveball that broke so hard in on the former Yankee, that it hit Cabrera in the ankle as he couldn't check his swing. His curveball and slider broke too much for right-handed hitters Jose Bautista and Edward Encarnacion, both of whom he walked.

Phelps came back and struck out catcher J.P. Arencibia, then spun around to pick Bautista off a second base with Adam Lind in the batter's box. Phelps scattered six hits the rest of the way, walked just one more hitter and finished with eight strikeouts.

The Yankees didn't take Phelps until the 14th round of the 2008 MLB amateur draft, and while some of the top tier prospects in the organization have been slow to rise up through the ranks, Phelps has quietly gone about his business and succeeded.

Yesterday was his fourth straight start since Ivan Nova was put on the disabled list. The two competed in Spring Training for the fifth spot in the rotation and though Phelps performed better, Nova won the job based on his track record and Phelps' ability to fill the Ramiro Mendoza swing man role.  Nova has been fragile and inconsistent the last two years though and Phelps is doing his best to stake a claim in the rotation. With Andy Pettitte out, Nova should join Phelps in the once he returns from the DL. What happens when Pettitte returns will be determined at that time.

In the meantime Phelps will just keep trying to get better as he has done with each of his four starts. He allowed four runs in 5.2 innings against a weak hitting Houston Astros team, but didn't figure in the decision as the Yankees won. He didn't come out with a win his next time out either in the Yankees 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies, but he limited the opposition to two runs and three hits in six innings.

Phelps was a hard luck loser when the Cleveland Indians won the opener of this past Monday's twinbill, 2-1. The five walks Phelps issued were unusual, but he struck out seven and allowed one run in 6.2 innings. The Yankees will certainly take three wins out of every four of Phelps' starts. (His other win came in a four inning relief apperance, also against the Blue Jays.) Now they just need to let him take the ball every fifth day.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Yankees Acquire Reid Brignac from Rockies

The revolving door continues in the Bronx..Jon Heyman reports that.utility infielder Reid Brignac has been acquired by the Yankees for cash considerations.  Alberto Gonzalez, reacquired on May 9, was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

Brignac was once considered a solid prospect as he climbed the ladder of the Tampa Bay Rays organization, but his bat never caught up to his glove. He played parts of five seasons with the Rays with the 2010 campaign his Major League best. He hit 8 HR and drove in 45 in 326 plate appearances, but his .692 OPS was less than stellar.

Brignac stock fell drastically after that when he was beset with injuries and put up a .448 OPS in 2011. The Rays shipped him to Colorado prior to this season for cash or a player to be named later. His slash line of .250/.294/.375 made him expendable.

The highlight of Gonzalez's brief second stint in New York was the chance to take the mound. He retired the one batter he faced when the Seattle Mariners drubbed the Yankees on Wednesday.

Score First, Ask Questions Later

Scoring first in the 6th game of the 2009 World Series was muy bueno.

Interesting stat from the Elias Sports Bureau. With the Yankees and Hiroki Kuroda's 5-0 blanking of the Toronto Blue Jays last night, the Yankees became the first team to go 17-0 at the start of a season when they take the first lead of the game.

It's the longest streak since the 1992 Mets started 18-0 in "score first" games under manager Jeff Torborg. Unfortunately for the Mets, they only won 54 other games that year. The Yankees hope to avoid a similar fate.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pettitte DL Bound

The speculation is over, Andy Pettitte is going on the 15-Day DL and Vidal Nuno is doing an about face and coming back to the Bronx.

Pettitte felt discomfort in his trapezius (upper back) muscle during Thursday night's start with Seattle and left before the end of the 5th inning.  Nuno will take Pettitte's turn in the rotation, at least until Ivan Nova returns. (Nova could take the place of Nuno or David Phelps.)

Chris Stewart will be on the bench tonight and can play in a pinch. Alberto Gonzalez is the emergency third string catcher (which means he's praying not to have to catch.)  No word if Brian Cashman is looking around for a suitable back up if Stewart doesn't feel better soon.

Everybody Hurts...All the Time

"Can someone untie my shoes?"

If REM had been singing about the Yankees the lyric would not have been "Everybody hurts sometimes." The Yankees not only lost a game to Seattle last night 3-2, which caused mental anguish from losing two of three to the Mariners, but Andy Pettitte and Chris Stewart both had to leave the game early.

Pettitte felt spasms in his upper back that wouldn't go away no matter how much he stretched between batters and pitches. He left the game after 4.2 innings pitched and saw his record fall to 4-3. He's already missed one start due to a balky back so there is a definite reason for concern.

His battery mate, Stewart, left the game after he felt pain in his groin running the bases. He went for an MRI and could land on the DL, which presents a problem. There are only three catchers on the 40-man roster - Stewart, Francisco Cervelli already on the DL, and Austine Romine, who has served as Stewart's back up.

Scranton has two catchers- veteran Bobby Wilson (decent glove/no bat, 191 games with the Angels) and Jeff Farnham, a 25-year old that has played just seven games at the Triple-A level. If Wilson were added, someone on the 40-man roster would have to be designated for assignment. It likely would be the end of the line for Ben Francisco, who has just five hits in 40 at-bats.

Pettitte is the bigger concern right now. The Yankees need a healthy, consistent Pettitte taking the mound every five days if they are to compete. The Texan has become much more of an injury risk the last few years. He missed chunks of time with a groin injury in 2010 and a broken ankle last season. It would be no surprise if, at the very least, Pettitte missed his next start.  It's possible Ivan Nova will be ready to rejoin the team by then.

The Mariners also had to deal with an injury last night when Pettitte's opponent, Aaron Harang, was scratched from his start due to a stiff back. Former Yankee Hector Noesi, a piece of the puzzle in the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda deal, stepped in and stepped up. Though he didn't figure in the decision, Noesi limited the Yankees to one unearned run and three hits in 4.1 innings pitched.

Oliver Perez, the former Met, picked up the win after he struck out three batters in 1.1 innings pitched. Mike Morse hit his 10th home run if the season (off of Shawn Kelley) and scored twice. Yankees rookie David Adams picked up his Major League RBI when he doubled home Curtis Granderson in the 2nd inning to tie the game at one apiece.

Robinson Cano singled in a run in the 7th, but couldn't come through in the clutch in the 9th inning against closer Tom Wilhelmsen. Brett Gardner reached first on a single and stole second and third. But with one out and the tying run 90 ft away from home plate, Wilhelmsen struck out Jayson Nix and retired Cano on a game ending ground out.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Betances Joins Bullpen Shuffle

Yankees fans have heard about Dellin Betances' potential ever since the 6'8" hard throwing right-hander was selected in the 8th round of the 2006 MLB amateur draft. Unfortunately, he has struggled to meet the expectations and was recently converted from a starting pitcher to a full-time reliever. Despite pitching just twice in the pen this season, Betances has been recalled by the Yankees to join their bullpen.

The Yankees needed another reliever after Brett Marshall threw 108 pitches and Preston Claiborne pitched 2.1 innings in mopping up the mess Phil Hughes created against Seattle on Wednesday night. The Yankees were hopeful that Joba Chamberlain would be ready to come off the DL, but his oblique injury is apparently still an issue.

The decision to move Betances to the bullpen for good came after the 25-year old allowed 16 earned runs and walked 16 batters in 24 innings (six starts) at Triple-A Scranton. In his two relief appearances since then Betances has allowed one run in 4.1 innings pitched, walked just one batter and struck out four.

Despite his control issues, Betances worked his way up the minor league chain. I was at his Double-A debut for Trenton in 2010 and saw the good and the bad of his game. I recall him missing the catcher's target, his ability to blow his fastball by batters, an awkardness that led to two throwing errors on pickoff attempts, and an intimidating presence on the mound. But his ability and the sound of his pitches popping in catcher Austin Romine's glove sent an electricity through the crowd, quite a few of whom were friends and family of the Big Apple native.

Betances got a late September call up in 2011 and made a less than an impresssive debut against Tampa Bay. He allowed a pair of runs and walked four in just two-thirds of an inning. Six days later he faced the Rays again and pitched two scoreless innings with a walk and a hit allowed and struck out two.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Adams Coming to the Rasta, Mon

No, David Adams isn't Jamaican, but I am tired.  Per a tweet Trenton Thunder beat writer Josh Norris (@jnorris427), Mr. Adams is headed to the Bronx today, the first day he was eligible to be recalled from the minor leaguers.

The Yankees front office has always like the second baseman's bat and they moved him over to third base to  have a better chance of helping the big ball club.

Adams was designated for assignment this spring to make room for Vernon Wells on the 40-man roster and then he was re-signed to a minor league deal. MLB stipulations state that in such cases the player may not be recalled until May 15.

Today is May 15 so Adams is on his way. Now a 40-man roster space needs to be opened up for him. It's likely that either Chris Nelson or newly reacquired Alberto Gonzalez will be designated for assignment. Nelson is more likely to get the boot since Gonzalez is the only player other than Jayson Nix right now that can play shortstop and a Nelson plays the same positions as Adams.

Adams was quickly making his way through the farm system until he badly broke his ankle in 2010. Through 27 games at Triple-A Scranton this year, Adams has an .897 OPS with 3 HR and 12 RBI.

To learn more on Adams, click here to read the interview I did with him in 2009.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Grandy Ready to Clean Up, Nuno Demoted

Curtis Granderson is back in familiar surroundings, though not as familiar as they once were. Penciled into the lineup as the clean up hitter in his return against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday, Granderson is in left field instead of his accustomed center field spot.

It's not surprising that Joe Girardi decided to keep Brett Gardner in the middle of the outfield since he's the better defender. It's just the 23rd game of a nine year career for Granderson in left field. Offensively, he's 5-20 with two extra base hits when positioned on the left side.

To make room on the 25-man roster Vidal Nuno was sent down to Scranton in an expected move. Since he was not going to be available for five days it made sense.

There may be another roster spot opening up soon; it was bound to happen at some point, just like it did with Kevin Youkilis. The injury bug has taken a bit out of Travis Hafner. The Yankees DH has struggled of late and it may be in part due to soreness in his right shoulder. He's headed for an MRI and further examination.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Grandy is New York Bound

Curtis Granderson let the Yankees fans on Twitter and Facebook know tonight that he's headed to the big ball yard in the Bronx.

Just finished 5 games with now in the car on the way back to NY

Here comes some more offense.

The Kids Are Hot Tonight: Nuno, Warren Earn Split

When you've got Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and Kevin Youkilis missing from your everyday lineup, people need to step up their game. It's not just the seasoned veterans, but the youngsters as well. Pitchers Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren did just that Monday afternoon to lead the Yankees to a 7-0 win and a split of a "true" doubleheader with Cleveland Indians.

Another youngster, David Phelps, was outstanding in Game 1,but lost 1-0 to Justin Masteron. A Jason Kipnis first inning home run was the only damage done to the Yankees pitching. Nuno and Warren topped that performance by combining on a shutout that gave Nuno his first Major League win and Warren his first Major League save.

Nuno was outstanding in Spring Training and there was talk that he could make the team as a lefty reliever out of the bullpen. Having not pitched above Double-A, the Yankees felt it was better to have Nuno start every fifth day at Triple-A Scranton. Last month I spoke with Scranton RailRiders beat writer Donnie Collins who had this to say about Nuno: "He started tonight. I think he's a starter. Doesn't have great reliever splits."

Nuno threw 14.2 innings in the exhibition season and allowed just one earned run, 12 hits and four walks, while he struck out 13. He had made four starts for Scranton this season and was equally good. 23.1 innings pitched,  four earned runs, 13 hits, two walks, and 26 strikeouts. That translated to a 1.54 ERA, a league batting average of .157 against him, and a 0.64 WHIP.

The California native threw five innings in frigid Cleveland today and left with a 1-0 lead. He allowed three hits, three walks, and struck out three. Warren came on in the 6th and continued his impressive first month-plus in the big leagues. In a post last week I talked about how he has turned a lot of heads, including my own, after being so solid in the wake of a horrible Spring Training and a poor showing when he got called up for a cup of coffee last year.

Warren's allowed three runs in 18.2 innings, 14 hits, six walks, and has struck out 15. Today's outing lowered his ERA to 1.45 and his WHIP to 1.07. It was his third appearance of three innings or more innings as he continues to give the bullpen a break.

Nuno and Warren had to be spot on due to the Yankees lack of offense. After being shut out in the opener the Yankees managed to score just a single run (on Vernon Wells' RBI ground out) through the first six innings. Then the kiddie corps got it going again in the 7th inning. Corban Joseph, called up only because teams can add a 26th player for a doubleheader, reached on a lead off double. It was Joseph's first Major League hit. Austin Romine followed with a double of his own off start Trevor Bauer to pick up his first Major League RBI. You catching the theme here?

Jayson Nix, Wells, and Lyle Overbay each contributed RBI hits against to break things open against the Indians pen.

It was an especially big win after the Yankees had their four game winning streak snapped in the first game and with the prospect of having to face Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.


Wells is 10-26 (.385) over his last seven games with 3 HR and 9 RBI.

Curtis Granderson is within reach of playing his first Major League game of the season. The Grandyman has been out since the first game of Spring Training after a pitch from J.A. Happ broke Granderson's right forearm.

Granderson took swings in extended Spring Training before he reported to Triple-A Scranton to get in game shape. As of Monday morning, Granderson was 7-17 (.412) in the four games he played for the Railriders with a home run and three RBI.  It's possible Granderson could join the team at the start of the six game homestand that begins with Seattle on Tuesday. Brennan Boesch was sent to the minor leagues before the second game of Monday's doubleheader with the Cleveland Indians so the Yankees will need another
outfielder soon.

Oddly (to me) Yankees fans seem to be split over whether they want Granderson back or not. I can't understand how you would not want him back. There's no question that outside of the respectable .811 OPS he put up and the career high 43 home run he hit in 2012, Granderson had a bad season at the plate. He hit hit a career low .232 and struck out a career high 195 times. Before coming to New York, Granderson had a reputation for not being able to hit left-handers. Last year he struggled against righties and lefties.

Granderson is a guy that's easy to root for - he's a stand up guy with the press, a great ambassador for the game and for the team, a great role model for kids, his teammates like him, and oh yeah, he's a talented ball player. Fans point to his lack of production in the post-season - he's had only eight hits in his last 50 post-season at-bats and was a horrid 3-30 last year when the Yankees as a team did not hit - but Granderson is one of the guys (like Teixeira, like Nick Swisher) that gets you to the post-season.

Some people have forgotten about the MVP-type season Granderson had in the 2011 after hard work and adjustments made with hitting coach Kevin Long sent him to the second All-Star game of his then eight year career. Granderson's power was just as good as in 2012 when he hit 41 home runs, but the Illinois native also had 26 doubles, 10 triples, 25 stolen bases, 85 walks, a .916 OPS and led the AL with 136 runs scored and 119 driven in.

Granderson, like Teixeira, appears to have become pull happy in new Yankee Stadium. (Partial blame has to fall on Long in my opinion.) Granderson was unable to counteract the adjustments (different pitching approach, right side shifts) made by the opposition last year. His swing had too much of an uppercut and it appeared he attempted to hit one over the short porch in right field every time up.

With the new salary limits put in place by the front office, it's likely the Yankees will let Granderson walk after this season. The 32-year old is in the final year of the six year, $43.25 contract he originally signed while a member of the Detroit Tigers (The Yankees picked up his $15MM option for 2013.). Brett Gardner has taken over in centerfield and it appears he'll stay there when Granderson returns from the DL.

The Yankees also expect youngsters Mason Williams, Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte, and Slade Heathcott to make an impact in the Major Leagues soon .

Some fans though want Granderson gone before the end of the year and that's something I don't understand at all.

It's amazing how having a winning record and (surprisingly) being in sole possession of first place (entering Monday's play) in mid-May can change your attitude/mind on things. Fans who complained about the acquisition of Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, etc., suddenly don't want to mess with the mix. Based on their track record, can you trust that Wells and Hafner will continue to produce and continue to be healthy? Kevin Youkilis is already out indefinitely with a back issue. Ichiro Suzuki has struggled at the plate so far. Would you rather have Boesch and/or Ben Francisco on your team than Curtis Granderson?

Most importantly, the team is winning because of the pitching and clutch hitting. If the hitters go into a slump, the team can still win with pitching. The present Yankees lineup is not one that can overcome poor pitching. So even though he has struggled in the post-season, do you really want to diminish an offense that is not an 'A' list lineup?

I don't think so.

Yankees Juggling Roster Like a Street Performer

Brett Marshall now in "The Show"

Monday's doubleheader  with the Cleveland Indians created some roster changes for the Yankees. Second baseman Corban Joseph was recalled with the "26 man" rule - you can add a 26th player to your roster if there's a doubleheader, but the player must get sent back to the minors afterwards.

Since it's an additional player and Joseph was already on the 40-man roster, no corresponding move needed to be made. Joseph played first base to give Lyle Overbay a rest and did a nice job defensively. He started at second base in the second game with Robinson Cano getting a partial game off as DH.

To help the bullpen out, Brett Marshall was called up to be a potential long man for Game 2. The Yankees sent outfielder Brennan Boesch down to Scranton. Of his 96 career minor league appearances Marshall has pitched in relief just twice. The 23-year old was 2-2, 4.60 in six starts this season, his first, at Triple-A Scranton.

Boesch was picked up in Spring Training after he was released by the Detroit Tigers. A good power hitter, Boesch will wildly inconsistent while he played in the Motor City. Boesch had just 41 plate appearances in 19 games and produced just two home runs, five RBI, one double, and one triple. He started just 10 games this season, including the first game of the doubleheader, and produced a .680 OPS.

It's possible that Curtis Granderson, who has swung the bat well in Scranton, could be recalled from his rehab stint (from the broken arm he suffered in Spring Training) to take Boesch's place.

David Phelps pitched his heart out in Monday's opener, a Jason Kipnis home run the only run he allowed in 6.2 innings pitched. The Yankees couldn't muster anything against Indians starter Justin Masterson and were shutout for the third time in May, 1-0. The prior two losses were both 2-0 scores to Oakland and Colorado.

Vidal Nuno made his first Major League start in the Game 2 against Trevor Bauer.