Sunday, April 20, 2014

Yankees Get Anna-mated in Extra

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tex Back In The Lineup

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

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

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

Nova Sidelined With Torn UCL

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yankees: Pain, Rain, and The Stain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 7, 2014

D-Rob to the DL

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jeter Laces 'Em Up For Last Opening Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yankees Throw In The Towel On Nunez

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

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

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

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

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

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