Doing the DH shuffle

Yanks atone for afternoon loss, ride pitching to 8-0 win
Miranda finally called up, Russo sent down, CHoP to start rehab

Since Nick Johnson hit the disabled list with a sore wrist last weekend in Boston, the Yankees have had the luxury of an open designated hitter spot. Never one to pass up an opportunity to mix-and-match, Joe Girardi has done just that, and the Yankees have used five different DHs in as many days. I’m beginning to think, however, that the team could use some stability at this offensive spot.

As we know, the Yankees are an old team. The left side of the infield features one guy who will turn 36 this year and another 35. Their catcher is a sprightly 38 and often runs as though he’s 83. Getting these guys some days off becomes an important consideration for Joe Girardi, and to that end, since Johnson left Friday’s game, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Marcus Thames, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter have, in that order, held down the DH spot.

On the surface, it’s tough to bemoan these moves, but these lineup changes come at a price. With these guys DHing, we’ve seen both Ramiro Peña and Francisco Cervelli appear in three of the last five Yankee games, and while Cervelli is hitting well in the early going, neither player can caddy offensively for those he is tasked with replacing in the lineup. For what it’s worth, Ramiro Peña is hitting .138/.188/.172 in his 33 plate appearances with a WAR of -0.2 this year after hitting just .255/.315/.320 through parts of five years in the minors.

In the early going, at least, the Yankees had to deal with some nicks and bruises, and to that end, Girardi made good use of Nick Johnson’s absence. Robinson Cano took a fastball off the knee on Friday and played as the DH on Saturday. Jorge Posada sat out for four days nursing a sore calf before DHing on Sunday. But beyond that, Girardi needs to find a better solution.

Over at Baseball Prospectus yesterday afternoon, Christina Kahrl, in a subscriber-only piece, took the Yankees to task for getting sloppy with their roster and, in particular, the DH spot. She questions if “using the absence of a regular DH to feed additional playing time to Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli (and [Marcus] Thames too)” is “really a good idea.”

Is that really such a good idea? It’s a way to keep the benchies fresh, of course, and it gives lineup regulars partial days off. Those are nice things to do if you’re talking about a temporary fix and a temporary absence. That’s probably not the scenario the Yankees are in, however. Losing Johnson until the end of the month—at least, given his horrendous track record—on top of losing Curtis Granderson makes this a situation where courtesy starts for Ramiro Pena in a lineup already stuck with Randy Winn shouldn’t fly. And no, Greg Golson is not an answer, at least not to a question you need to ask.

Instead, sorting out who should be the Yankees’ DH really ought to involve someone like Miranda now, and perhaps Jesus Montero eventually. Montero’s future still seems to be someplace other than behind the plate, but he’s not hitting much in Scranton; it’s understandable to not want to advance his timetable any until his bat starts setting the clock. With Miranda, there is no such consideration: the 27ish-year-old Cuban defector’s already on the 40-man, and the poor serf’s now in his third spin in Scranton—I’m sure it’s a nice enough place, but it’s probably not the paradise you defect from Castroland to achieve. Given his (questionable) age, Miranda has no future outside if not one in the present, and he’s a nice enough patch in that he has lefty power and some patience.

As the Yankees are amidst a stretch of the schedule where they are forced to play 27 innings of baseball within 27 hours, the team has tried to get creative with its roster flexibility. Brian Cashman and Girardi had to face the reality of back-to-back starts by Sergio Mitre and Javier Vazquez a few days after losing Alfredo Aceves, the team’s swing man in the bullpen, and a few days after a rain delay pushed the pen into 4+ innings of service on Saturday.

Yet, with Cano back on the field and Jorge seemingly healthy, the team has kept Kevin Russo around for bench decoration and have let Ivan Nova idle in the pen with a “break glass in case of emergency” sign taped around his neck. Now that this stretch of games has passed, the team should call up Miranda and let him DH against right-handers until Johnson’s back. Unless the club wants to commit to using Cervelli as an everyday catcher and Posada as the DH, Miranda is the guy to use unless he absolutely can’t hit. Ramiro Peña, 23rd man, is a solid defensive backup who just shouldn’t be getting too many ABs with better options in the wings.

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Yanks atone for afternoon loss, ride pitching to 8-0 win
Miranda finally called up, Russo sent down, CHoP to start rehab
  • DSFC

    I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t do this. As you said the mini-crsis of needing warm bodies for a marathon couple of days has passed. For the time being, Winn should be the regular LF and Miranda and Thames should platoon at DH. Plus Miranda also takes Johnson’s spot as the backup first baseman.

    • DCBX

      This. Given the situation, let’s give Miranda one homestand at DH (at least against righties) and see what kind of damage he can do at the Stadium.

      • oscar R.

        i dont agree with that i think you should only play miranda when big tex needs a day off but i still dont think that he can scoop balls out of the dirt like tex.then just put big tex at DH

  • Stryker

    this string of injuries is killing me. the team is doing well with a lot of guys catching the injury bug but the replacements for them make me miss granderson/park/johnson real bad.

  • pat

    Too bad Jorge Vazquez is hurt, he could be in the mix for the DH spot too. He was destroying the ball back in ST.

    • Arman Tamzarian

      I’m always curious as to why they call some of these guys up and don’t play them. Can Russo and Nova really play that much worse than Pena and Mitre? These situations strike me as opportunities that force your hand to see what players can do. Cervelli has gotten an opportunity with Posada injured, and has played well. He’ll regress, but he’s played better then Moeller, Cash or the other triple A players they’ve kept around over the years. You know what you have with Mitre and Pena, why not try to catch lightning in a bottle with your unknowns. It can’t make the team much worse

      • Arman Tamzarian

        Sorry, that wasn’t meant as a reply.

      • Cult of Basebaal

        Like I said below, especially yesterday, when Girardi knew he was going to need 2 games from his backup infielders. Why *not* split the starts and give Russo a chance at 3rd. It’s not like Pena had done anything with the bat to expect anything much beyond the 0 for 6 he delivered …

  • Tampa Yankee

    So if Swisher is held out today, Girardi will probably run out an OF of Thames-Gardner-Winn huh? YUK! I’d rather see Golson in LF for defensive purposes.

    Any update on Granderson’s time table? I’ve been out of the loop for the past week so I haven’t read much. Is the end of the month still w/in reason? I think getting him back is more important than Johnson as once he is healthy that’d allow a Thames/Miranda platoon at DH. That’s still possible but we’d have to run out Winn as the everyday LF which isn’t pleasant at all.

  • Guest

    So very this. They should callup Miranda as soon as the game ends. Pena makes Russo redundant. Winn makes Golson redundant. Going forward, it jsut makes no sense to have all four of those guys on the roster when the main thing we’re missing after the injuries is lefty pop and the main thing Miranda contributes is…lefty pop.

  • A.D.

    Thames/Miranda platoon just makes a ton of sense. There should be no need for multiple back-up middle infielders.

  • CS Yankee

    Miranda, Thames, & Posada should get the DH’ing duties with few exceptions.

    Frankie is in a groove and being that he is a wall and works well with the pitchers should warrant more Posada time at DH. When the Great Gazoo cools off, Posada should get more time behind the dish.

  • http://www.onedayonejob.com/ Willy

    I think that as long as Cervelli is hitting as well as he is, you keep him catching and have Jorge DH. The only problem is that Jorge may not take too kindly to that. Once Frankie cools down, then you put Miranda in the DH spot.

    The one blessing in disguise from all this is that the time off that a bunch of these guys have had due to injuries and shuffling the DH should pay off later in the season. They’ll have a little less wear and tear on them. This is all assuming that none of these injuries become nagging things that take a toll all season.

    • YankeeScribe

      “I think that as long as Cervelli is hitting as well as he is, you keep him catching and have Jorge DH. The only problem is that Jorge may not take too kindly to that.”

      I’d like to think that Jorge is willing to do what’s best for the team but I could be wrong

  • tatedoggfatha

    I couldn’t agree any more with this piece. Why even call up Russo or Miranda if they are just gonna sit there. Pena is a useless hitter. I’d rather they give Russo a couple of his at-bats. Also, there is no excuse for why Thames is getting at-bats against RHP. Bring Miranda in for that. I really wonder what Girardi is doing sometimes.

    • Cult of Basebaal

      Especially yesterday. Pena got 2 starts, went 0 for 6 and quite possibly cost us the 1st game with his failure in his first 2 plate appearances.

      If Coffee Joe knew he was going to DH *both* Rodriguez AND Jeter between the 2 games, why *not* split the starts for the BUI’s and give Russo a start (most likely for Alex at 3rd)?

      It’s not like Pena has done anything this season to expect (or warrant) to start 2 games in 1 day …

      • CS Yankee

        Agreed
        …plus give a veteran the DH time only if he needs rest and has a hot bat. Jeter is not himself (this month) & giving him the DH role while he is not raking is a poor decision.

        I’m okay with rotating a solid position player to DH as an exception, but let’s not make the exception the rule.

      • Arman Tamzarian

        There seems to be a lack of curiosity with some baseball teams. It’s not that you want to be in a situation where your deciding between Russo and Pena, but you are. If your forced to, why not see what you have. It seems like one of those silly sports traditions where you keep playing the known instead of the unknown. The drop off from Pena to Russo isn’t steep enough to justify not giving Russo a start or two

        • Cult of Basebaal

          This. Exactly.

  • Cult of Basebaal

    Anyways, according to Jennings over at LoHud, Juan Miranda has officially arrived … no corresponding roster move announced yet, though (please be NOgan, please be NOgan, please be NOgan …)

    • A.D.

      Gotta figure it’s Russo

      • A.D.

        Though with a rainout today could mean no 2nd Mitre start, and thus Nova going down.

        • LI Kevin

          Checked the radar and it looks to be clearing up in Motown.

          • JohnC

            But a second system is moving in right behind it and will arrive before gametime. No way this game gets played.

            • Thomas

              According to the weather.com, it looks like it will be clear in Detroit by about 8 pm. However, the field may be in bad shape by then and the game could be called early/before its scheduled start time, like game 1 of the series.

              • Thomas

                That should be 4pm, not 8 pm.

    • Guest

      To this I say: finally.

      • Guest

        No we will have two serviceable bats (Thames/Miranda) who will be put in a position to succeed. They only get to hit against the kind of hitters they mash, and there will be no opportunity to exploit their weaknesses.

  • steve s

    Generally speaking there has been a strong sentiment from posters on this site that there was no way (zero chance) that the Yanks would call up Montero before the earliest a Sept call-up. If Montero was tearing up Triple-A at the moment (which obviously he is not) would those who thought there would be zero chance be thinking differently now?

    • A.D.

      I still think they’d give Miranda all chances to fail

    • http://twitter.com/JamalG_BB Jamal G.

      Not from myself. Why retard his development behind the plate when you have an acceptable alternative in a platoon situation with Juan Miranda and Marcus Thames?

      • Guest

        This is reasonable. This is reasonable, but it doesn’t mean that the opposing viewpoint wouldn’t win out in the end.

    • Guest

      This is true. I still don’t think it would be smart. The Yankees need to do everything they can to see if he can stick at catcher, and calling him up to DH would not help them accomplish that goal. But if he was mashing, there would likely be a strong push to call him up.

      Given what happened/is happening with Joba, I’m not so sure how pumped I am about having Montero called up for a role that will hurt his development as a catcher. So, in a way, I’m kinda glad he’s not mashing now.

      Let him get hot after we’ve resolved our DH situation. Then he can stay in AAA and we can learn whether he will be serviceable behind the plate.

      • mike c

        one look at victor martinez in boston should be enough reason to keep montero in AAA catching for as long as possible

  • Rose

    Everybody is getting hurt regardless…might as well have some stability at the DH spot. Much better than having 2 out of the Thames, Winn, Russo, Pena, Golson, etc. in there. Then when you add Sergio Mitre in the rotation WITH these guys…it’s pretty bad

  • Klemy

    I don’t mind Cervelli catching while he’s got a hot bat. I like what he brings behind the plate and I’ve enjoyed watching him play. When his bat cools, take Posada out of DH and put him behind the plate. Consider it extended rest.

    I’m really confused as to why we have Russo and Pena up at once if Pena is going to get all the starts. Pena is painful to watch at bat.

    I agree that I’d rather see Thames and Miranda platooning against the opposition’s starters. Every time Thames starts against RHP, god kills a kitten.

    • mike c

      a thames/miranda platoon with posada taking DH on cervelli starts sounds like the winning idea

    • Cult of Basebaal

      I’m really confused as to why we have Russo and Pena up at once if Pena is going to get all the starts. Pena is painful to watch at bat.

      Problem solved, Jennings is reporting that Russo is no longer listed on the roster. Looks like he’s getting sent down for Miranda.

  • Am I the only Kevin?

    According to LoHud, Miranda starting at first tonight (if not cancelled), and Russo demoted.

    What are the probable starters in the next series? In other words, are we likely to see Miranda for a few starts in a row?

  • Mac

    bout time Miranda gets called up

    on another note….

    i wish we kept ajax

    • whozat

      passing judgement on a trade after a month is incredibly short-sighted.

  • Jim_M

    I believe Joe would have been using a rotating DH during this time period anyway. He has referenced the 17 games in row as being a factor, and the injury to Johnson makes it easier in his mind. In his mind, probably better to have Arod, Jeter, Cano, Tex DH than sit a game and have to replace Johnson and a reliable bat.

    • BG90027

      I agree. I think the consecutive games is a big factor. Also, let’s not downplay that A-Rod and Cano both had some injuries that Giradi would probably rather err on the side of being conservative in dealing with, especially given the loss of Johnson and Granderson. Thus, Russo stayed on the bench longer than maybe was necessary and Pena saw more playing time. I don’t really have a problem with it. If A-Rod had ended up missing more time by them being aggressive with him, we’d all be second guessing it.

  • MikeD

    I’m a Girardi fan, but like many of us, he does leave me scratching my head by some of his moves, like playing Thames in the OF last night against a right-handed pitcher. Let’s hope Thames only appears at DH against left-handers and never puts on a glove unless there’s an emergency.