Mailbag: Clemens, Ichiro, Bullpen, Wang, Tanaka


Six questions and six answers this week. The best way to send us anything is with the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Matt York/Getty)

(Matt York/Getty)

Mark asks: After seeing the Giants end their brief mini-divorce with Barry Bonds this spring, do you think the Yankees should break the ice with Roger Clemens and invite him to an Old Timers’ Day? I would ask about inviting him to Spring Training as an instructor as well, but that looks to be impossible as long as he’s employed by the Astros.

I think these two situations are a little different. Bonds and the Giants were never on bad terms; he was at the ballpark all the time these last few years, and they’ve had him throw out the ceremonial first pitch and stuff like that. This spring is the first time he rejoined the team in an official capacity (special hitting instructor), but it’s far from the first time he’s been around the club since he was forced into retirement. Bonds still is and always has been beloved in San Francisco.

The Yankees have kept their distance from Clemens for whatever reason, maybe due to all the performance-enhancing drug stuff that went down after his career (which forced Andy Pettitte to testify). There was never any tension between the two sides, right? Maybe something happened that we don’t know about. I would like to see the team invite Clemens back for Old Timers’ Day — he did win two World Series, four pennants, and a Cy Young in pinstripes, after all — but it seems like he has been intentionally cast aside. I don’t get it. Am I forgetting something obvious? This feels like something that should have happened a while ago.

Dan asks: How aggressive are the Yankees being in moving Ichiro Suzuki? He’s a decent 4th outfielder, but it honestly seems like Zoilo Almonte is better at this point (and maybe you want to see if he can be an everyday player in the next few years). Would they be willing to eat more than half of Ichiro‘s contract to move him? Or in the alternative, move him for a similarly overpriced, underperforming player in a position of need?

The Yankees have been shopping Ichiro for weeks but I don’t know how aggressively they’ve been pushing him. We’ve heard they were open a trade involving a player making a similar salary (J.J. Putz, most notably) and I assume they’d be willing to eat part of his salary to facilitate a trade. Saving a few million bucks that could be put towards a reliever or a midseason pickup would be a net gain.

I think Almonte could step right in and do a comparable job to Ichiro, perhaps providing less on the bases and in the field but a little more at the plate (wouldn’t having a switch-hitter available off the bench be nice?). If Zoilo doesn’t cut it, maybe Russ Canzler or Dean Anna would. The Yankees have some options. Some team is going to lose an outfielder to injury at some point this spring (Cameron Maybin and Andy Dirks are already hurt) and that could result in more interest in Ichiro. At this point, I think they’re stuck starting the season with him on the bench.

Paul asks: The Yankees are hoping Michael Pineda gets the 5th starter spot. Let’s assume he does. Does that make the bullpen David Robertson, Matt Thornton, Shawn Kelley, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, Preston Claiborne? Maybe Nuno stays stretched out in AAA and Dellin Betances makes the team (though that leaves only one lefty in the ‘pen)? Any other potential BP arms I’m missing?



Joe Girardi has already confirmed both Phelps and Warren will make the team in some capacity, so if Pineda wins the fifth starter’s job, those two will be in the bullpen. In that case, I would think Nuno would go to Triple-A to remain stretched out as the sixth starter. Girardi has said they’re open to keeping him (and everyone else) as a reliever though. If Nuno goes to the minors, it would clear the path for Betances, Cesar Cabral, Matt Daley, Manny Banuelos, or whoever else in addition to Claiborne. Betances has performed well in camp so far but we still have more than three weeks to go before the last few spots in the bullpen need to be finalized. A lot can change.

T.J. asks: I know it is early, but with the close of Spring Training, there will be an inevitable roster crunch. Do you see some trades taking place for some relief, or do you think we will just have to risk losing some middle-tier prospects? No pun intended, but that relief, will probably turn out to be spots in the bullpen for non-roster pitchers.

The 40-man roster is really tight right now. Short of a trade that sends Ichiro or one of the catchers (Austin Romine? John Ryan Murphy?) away for a non-40-man piece, the Yankees are going to have cut someone who is potentially useful to clear a roster spot. Right now, the most likely candidates to me are Nik Turley, Ramon Flores, and Anna. That’s really it. There are no 60-day DL candidates right now either. The Yankees might have to clear 40-man spots for Scott Sizemore, Daley, or Canzler if they make the team, but otherwise they have enough 40-man pieces to fill out the roster. Eduardo Nunez could sit on the bench while Betances, Cabral, and/or Claiborne fill out the bullpen.

Spencer asks: Why did the Yankees not express interest in Chien-Ming Wang earlier before he signed with the Reds?

The Yankees had Wang in Triple-A for a few months last season, so they got a first hand look at him. He wasn’t very good (7.67 ERA and 5.42 FIP in 27 innings) with the Blue Jays after being released, and this winter he had to take yet another minor league contract. CMW will be 34 later this month and he has not been an effective pitcher since hurting his foot in Houston back in June 2008. Injuries completely ruined him. The Yankees gave him a shot last year but he proved not to be worth it. Time to move on, that’s all.

Bill asks: I’ve seen a lot of ink saying Masahiro Tanaka should be the third starter. Assuming CC Sabathia is 1 and Hiroki Kuroda is 2, shouldn’t the Yanks put someone between Tanaka and Kuroda because of the similarity of their pitching styles?

I honestly don’t think this is that big of the deal. The rotation will be thrown out of whack by off-days and rain outs and whatnot at some point in April, so it’s only a matter of time before Kuroda and Tanaka get separated. I think the whole “their style is too similar to pitch back-to-back” is a bigger deal within an individual game (replacing a fastball-slider pitcher with another fastball-slider pitcher, for example) and not necessarily day after day. Maybe it would be beneficial to split Kuroda and Tanaka up in the rotation, but I think that will happen organically at some point early in the season anyway. To be honest, I’m more focused on having Tanaka start one of the first three games of the season because I’d like to see him get off to a good start, which he is more likely to do against the terrible Astros than the slightly less terrible Blue Jays.

Categories : Mailbag


  1. TWTR says:

    1-5 for starting pitchers mostly matters in the playoffs and to decide who gets skipped when off days pile up. As of today, the Yankees don’t really have a #1 anyway in terms of dominance.

  2. Pato says:

    Ran into Roger Clemens at his son’s restaurant here in Houston during the Winter and all his Yankees stuff is front and center in the restaurant. Was wearing a Yanks hat at the bar and he gave a nod and later came over and took a pic with me…. i’d say the love it still there – bring him back!

  3. Rob S. says:

    I’m not fond of the debate about whether or not to split up Kuroda and Tanaka in the rotation. I could be wrong but I get the feeling that if they weren’t both Japanese that nobody would even take notice of the similarities in their styles.

    • nyyankfan_7 says:

      Quit playing the race card -

      Does the “S.” stand for Sharpton?

      • Greg c says:

        I think it’s a fair criticism, especially considering people here SERIOUSLY said “they all look the same” about a group of Japanese kids who looked nothing alike at all.

    • Havok9120 says:

      People talk about splitting up lefties and righties in the rotation all the time. I don’t see why splitting up pitchers with the same handedness AND style must inevitably be because they’re Japanese. Especially since at least Kuroda, and I think Tanaka as well, have said it makes sense to split them up.

      • The Straw that Stirs says:

        Yup, this isn’t racial at all. It’s that their styles are so similar.

        You’re not helping Tanaka by tossing him after Kuroda. In his first season, the goal is making things easier.

        I’m a brain scientist in real life. The brain is designed around pattern recognition. These guys make the call to swing or not swing in 400 milliseconds. Major leaguers take advantage of every piece of information to get a better read/pattern.

        No need to make things even easier for batters.

    • pat says:

      Both are FB/Slider/Splitter who will pound the zone and pitch to contact. I’d say that’s pretty similar.

  4. KD says:

    I am having trouble overcoming my extreme negative reaction to his big deal “retirement” from the Yankees and then signing with Houston. I can’t get over that.

  5. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    Probably not a good spring training to be Turley or Flores. I’d wager their path to the bigs will probably get a bit longer.

    Don’t see all three of the ST fifth starter losers in the bullpen, which would leave Nuno the odd man out if Pineda wins the battle. Much smarter to keep him stretched out. You’re going to need a sixth starter sooner rather than later, no matter what your rotation is.

    Claiborne probably has a leg up because he showed some stuff last year. I’d like to see him full-on earn it, though, as he’s looked equal parts shaky.

    • nyyankfan_7 says:

      I can’t remember – do they gain another year of control on Pineda if he is in the minors until June (or whatever that date is)?

      If so you have to figure they will leave him there and maybe limit his innings because I don’t see them letting him throw 180 this year after only throwing 70 the last 2 years.

      But I agree with you, even if he does make the rotation I don’t see all 4 of them making the team. Why would they take a soft throwing lefty like Nuno for the bullpen over Cabrol? We know someone will be needed to come up and spot start so they have to leave at least 1 of them stretched out.

      • ALZ says:

        They got another year of team control I have heard by him spending some time there last year. I think he would have to spend most of the year in the minors. He is 20 days short of super two, And like 73 days short of a year, so I think he would have to stay down until the trade deadline.

  6. FWIW Kuroda said it would be a good idea to split him up with Tanaka.

  7. JimmyFoxx says:

    I would open with Kuroda (a righty), CC (lefty), Tanaka (righty).
    I’m more interested in splitting the righties more than anything.
    Plus, as previously mentioned, the rotation’s order won’t matter much after a few weeks of the season.

  8. The Straw that Stirs says:

    What’s with the idiocy around trading Murphy? It reminds me of when people thought Mike Lowell was trade fodder because they re-signed Brosius.

    Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    • Havok9120 says:

      First, what does this have to do with anything?

      Second, it’s currently our second deepest position of quality behind CF. Since you need three outfielders regardless and only one catcher, of course people are going to start talking about trade options. Especially in a team with such obvious potential holes.

      • Havok9120 says:

        I retract the first part. I see the aside from Mike now in which it is mentioned as a possibility and Murphy is one of two guys floated.

      • jjyank says:

        Also, McCann is better than Brosius. That’s not the same thing.

        • The Straw that Stirs says:

          Now. McCan’t hit lefties.

          • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

            Yep, we’ve seen this act before.

          • jjyank says:

            That’s not a big deal to me as a catcher. He’s gonna be sitting a day or two a week anyway, might as well pick games against lefties.

            Besides, that just really means that he’s that much better than Brosius against righties.

            • The Straw that Stirs says:

              Fair enough. Lowell was still depth. And I’m not at all convinced that Cervelli and Romine are depth, not as starters if McCann gets hurt.

              Sanchez might be, but Murphy is the closest they have to a decent starter now.

      • The Straw that Stirs says:

        Mentioned as a 40-man candidate.

        Not Murphy – he’s a potential above average starter. It would be really dumb to move him.

        Romine, Cervelli – back ups at best, absolutely look to trade them.

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      Were there five 3rd basemen on the 40 man roster back then?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:


    • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

      That’s 20/20 hindsight at its finest. Lowell was worth 5.0 bWAR and Brosius was worth 3.0 bWAR from 1999-2001 since Brosius was a negative player in 2000. But it’s not as if it cost the Yankees anything during those three years, now did it?

      You’re criticizing the trade because it didn’t work out. If Ed Yarnall had ended up being a good pitcher, you wouldn’t open your mouth.

      And, oh, by the way. Let’s see here. Screen name we’ve never seen before, brings up irrelevant topic to bait people and criticize the team……hmm, where have we seen this movie before?

      • The Straw that Stirs says:

        Nope, criticizing the idiocy of trading from “depth”. It’s an illusion especially where prospects are concerned.

        Cervelli/ Romine aren’t starters.

        Sanchez and Murphy might be, but still unproven. Murphy is closer.

        Lowell was dumb because Brosius was not that good, but had a great 1998. Fans at the time knew it was a dumb trade. And it was the first sign Cashman had no clue.

        • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

          So you’re saying you’d still criticize the Lowell trade even if the players they’d received in return ended up being good?

        • ALZ says:

          But you don’t need all your depth in one position. 5 players on the 40-man at catcher. If someone wants to give the team a good young shortstop then they have to make that trade. So you want them to keep depth where they have a top prospect, and 2 solid backups and then not have anything where the team has pretty much no long term plan?

        • Mr. Roth says:

          Not everyone is a brain scientist, dude. It’s not fair to hold Cashman to the same standards of knowledge as an enlightened brain scientist, like yourself.

  9. The Great Gonzo says:

    I agree with Mike. If there will be a trade involving Ichiro, I reckon it will be due to an injured starting Center Fielder over the next three weeks.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      That 4/5 outfielder is going to play once a week, at best. I’m not quite sure if I think Ichiro or Zoilo should be that guy. I’d honestly rather have the older vet sitting in a spot like that, but I agree with you that it’s possible.

  10. Kosmo says:

    I can see NY trading Ichiro and cash for a reliever. He also could be traded for an OOO player such as Chris Parmelee a 1B/RF. Twins might prove to be a little thin in the OF.

  11. Rick says:

    Was at the game yesterday, sat about one section over from home plate and six rows back. Tanaka’s splitter is dirty. There was no radar gun in the stadium but judging between the difference of how hard Kendrick was throwing vs. Tanaka, he had to be sitting in the low to mid 90s on every fastball. For what it’s worth, his 4 seamer is very straight. He’s going to have to make sure he spots it well against power bats… And Freddy Galvis, obviously.

  12. Baked McBride says:

    Please dont tell me this chick was a Hughes fan.

  13. John says:

    I though Roger Clemens signed a 10 year personal services contract with the Astros in 2007. Surely that deal would not allow him to be involved with any other major league club???

  14. Baked McBride says:

    yankee haters getting started early:

  15. Havok9120 says:

    Also, bring in Roger as soon as possible. History is a key part of the Yankee mystique.

    • TWTR says:

      If they bring back Clemens, don’t they have to welcome A-Rod back as well, both as a player and an ex-player? Are they prepared to do that?

      • Havok9120 says:

        I don’t see why the team would need to invent any kind of hard and fast rule about such things. Bringing one back into the fold doesn’t necessitate bringing the other in. They can do whatever they want.

        And ARod’s actions this last year have moved him and the team into a far different place than Clemens ever did.

        • TWTR says:

          Maybe it’s just me, but I have a more positive view of A-Rod than Clemens, maybe because he admitted using PEDs, unlike Clemens.

  16. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    I’m still mourning Wang’s rounding third base.

  17. Dan G says:

    Setting up your rotation order really only matters in the postseason.

    Like Mike said, injuries, off days and rain will shake up the order pretty much immediately.

    One other rumor I heard was that the Yankee are going to try to skip days initially to help Tanaka with the transition from pitching once to week to every 5 days.

  18. Mike HC says:

    If we used our best pitcher to start the season we wouldn’t have the issue of trying to break up Kuroda and Tanaka.

    • Steve (different one) says:

      To paraphrase the great peter Lefleur:

      “We don’t know who our best (pitcher) is yet”

      • King of the Circle Jerk says:

        Ladies and gentlemen, I have been to the Great Wall of China, I have seen the Pyramids of Egypt, I’ve even witnessed a grown man satisfy a camel. But never in all my years have I witnessed something as improbable, as impossible, as what we’ve witnessed here today… a brain scientist! Whoa!

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