Thoughts following the off-day

Nuno throws weird. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Nuno throws weird. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

There was no update on Ivan Nova yesterday after he had his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament re-evaluated in New York during the off-day. It’s tough not to assume the worst and it has nothing to do with the lack of an update. Partially torn UCLs almost always result in Tommy John surgery at some point, usually right away. Nova hasn’t been great this year but it is still a pretty big blow to the Yankees because he can pitch very well for extended periods of time. Anyway, here are some scattered thoughts.

1. Back before Spring Training I said Nova needed to show the Yankees who he really is this season, meaning is he someone who can be a core piece going forward or just another back-end arm? He won’t get the opportunity to show the team anything now, and, given the timing of the injury, he only has one more full season of pitching (2016) left before qualifying for free agency. We still don’t know what Nova is now, after nearly three full years in the rotation, and chances are half the 2015 season and all of 2016 won’t provide much clarity. In addition to weakening the rotation this year, the injury won’t help the Yankees determine whether Nova is worth a decent financial commitment and a rotation spot long-term. This really throws a wrench into things.

2. With Vidal Nuno in the rotation (at least temporarily) and Bryan Mitchell being shipped back to Double-A Trenton to clear a roster spot for David Robertson, it sure seems like Preston Claiborne will be sticking around for a while. He really struggled down the stretch last year and was terrible in Spring Training, plus his outing on Sunday was pretty shaky despite two scoreless innings. Robertson’s return means Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren will move down a notch into eighth and seventh inning roles, respectively, and both Dellin Betances and David Phelps are more deserving of middle relief work than Claiborne right now. Claiborne feels like the default long reliever by default even though he can only go two (maaaybe three) innings at a time. It’s a weird bullpen situation and not really ideal. I’d prefer to see someone like Shane Greene or Al Aceves up as the true long man.

3. If the Yankees aren’t going to swap Claiborne out for a real long man, then a second left-hander might be better use of the roster spot. They have series coming up against the Red Sox, Mariners, and Rays, three teams loaded with lefty bats. Nova got hurt at a bad time — this is when it would have been really nice to have Nuno available as an extra southpaw in the bullpen. With Cesar Cabral gone, the only upper-level lefty reliever in the organization is Fred Lewis, and he hasn’t been all that good with Triple-A Scranton these first few weeks. He’d need a 40-man roster spot as well. So yeah, while it would be nice to have a second southpaw available these next two weeks or so, the Yankees won’t have one without making a series of roster moves.

4. That series against the Mariners starts one week from today and will be Robinson Cano‘s first time back in the Bronx since leaving as a free agent. I’m interested to see the fan reaction — I assume he’ll get booed, but I hope he gets cheered in at least his first at-bat because he was the team’s best player for four years and he helped them win a World Series. I also think it’s kinda silly to boo him for taking more money when the Yankees have been buying other teams’ best players for decades — but I’m more interested to see how the Yankees pitch to him and set up defensively. They should know Robbie better than anyone. They should know the best places to pitch him and where he tends to hit the ball when he puts it in play. Here is his spray chart:

Source: FanGraphs

Cano slashes line drives to all fields, but when he hits the ball on the ground, he tends to pull it to the right side of the infield. When he hits a fly ball, it usually to go the other way to left and left-center field  (right to Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury). We also know Robbie will bunt to the beat the shift (remember this?), so how do they defend him? I haven’t the slightest idea. I’m very interested to see how the Yankees go after him now that he’s wearing the wrong uniform.

5. So who hits a homer first, Ellsbury or Mark Teixeira? Teixeira seems like the easy call because of their reputations, but I’m not so sure. He is coming back from the wrist injury and has a ton of rust to shake off, plus I can’t ignore how David Ortiz and Jose Bautista saw their power numbers take a hit in the first few months following their tendon sheath injuries. Ellsbury is healthy and he’s swinging the bat very well so far, so there is nothing to overcome other than his own power-hitting limitations. He could golf one out tonight and I wouldn’t be surprised. But Teixeira? I’m not expecting much right away.

Categories : Musings


  1. Yangeddard Solarte says:

    1. I think Nova is a keeper. He can be a solid #2-#3 for future years. We’ve seen pitchers come back from TJS better than ever and Nova is still young. Sinking FB, great curve, that’s what you want pitching in YS.

    2. BGDP can give you 3. If a starter were to go down they’ve have BGDP and Preston to fill the gap. Warren can go 2. It’s a good bullpen with Robertson back. BGDP can now move back to that swing man role and will set up Warren-Kelley-Robertson.

    3. But is there a good one available? I don’t even think Thorton has been that good. The back end relievers can get LHB so this isn’t a concern to me.

    4. We’ll see the same thing with Jacoby tonight. If the guy moves to your side you love him, if he leaves you hate him. I think Robbie will get booed. They should pitch Robbie out of the zone and let him chase. He will hang himself.

    5. Teixera will. He has more pop. He’ll probably hit one out in his first couple games back at YS.

  2. Notsosmart says:

    While I understand that “chicks dig the long ball” and that the Yankees have historically lived and died by the home run, I honestly do nit care if Ellsbury hits one any tme soon. As long as it doesn’t bother him mentally (and affect his hitting and other performance) he can hit ZERO homers for all I care,mas long as he gets on base, steals second and third, and scores runs in bunches.

  3. DERP says:

    Is there a chance the Orioles cut Troy Patton when his suspension is over in about a week? He would be a useful lefty to have.

  4. JLC 776 says:

    Re: Cano – I really hope the fans cheer him. Let Boston and Philly boo all of their old players, I like it when we show that we’re the classier fan base. But given the comments that were fired off by both Cano and the fans, I’m expecting him to be vilified.

  5. Coolerking101 says:

    I’d be shocked if Cano got booed. I think he’ll get one hell of an ovation during his first at bat. It’s not like there’s bad blood. The Yanks are doing well and got plenty of free agent help to offset his departure. Of course after that initial at bat, I expect he’ll receive the typical away player treatment.

  6. Matt DiBari says:

    I’m not sure “any left handed human being” has ever been the best use of any roster spot ever. I’d so, so SO much rather build the bullpen based on talent than handedness so we have someone extra to pitch to Mike Carp. Isn’t that how we got stuck with the one dimensional almost completely useless Cabral to begin with?

  7. I'm One says:

    Something to consider with Nova. Assuming he needs 1+ year of rehab after TJS, plus at least the remainder of 2015 to get back to where he is today. That gives the Yankees 2016 to evaluate what he might be in 2017 and beyond. They could consider extending him through 2017 at the end of the season on a somewhat team friendly deal (3/15-18?). Pay him like a back-end starter. That gives Nova the security of knowing he’s got the team’s commitment to his rehab and provides the Yankees with a backend (minimum) starter in 2016 & 2017.

    Not sure the Yankees would consider this. Just thinking a bit outside the box here.

    • Mike HC says:

      Seems to me this would be a horrible deal for the Yanks. If Nova stayed healthy, maybe that would have beeen an interesting offer. Nova was a question mark even before the injury. Just my take.

      • I'm One says:

        I suspect Nova will be a back end of the rotation arm at worst. (Of course, I could be wrong.) If that’s the case, it would seem to be a fair deal. They’d be paying for his rehab, which they will be anyway through Arbitration, but would also gain his first FA year. Gives them one more year to evaulate him and gives Nova some stability. Seemed to make sense to me.

        • Mike HC says:

          I guess that is where we differ. Because I suspect that Nova will be a back end of the rotation arm at best. (Of course, I could be wrong too, ha)

  8. Mike HC says:

    Claiborne is going to play a major role going forward for Girardi. He is the guy Girardi uses to run up that run differential in blowouts, making it look like Girardi consistently manages his team to more wins than they “should” have.

    Regarding Cano, I really hope he doesn’t get booed. He was great while he was here, got us a ring, and then went to a team that offered him considerably more money than the Yanks.

  9. Darren says:

    There’s a mistake in the post. It says that after “we still don’t know what Nova is now, after nearly three full years in the rotation, and chances are half the 2015 season and all of 2016 won’t provide much clarity.”

    I beg to differ. I think we know exactly who Nova is, an inconsistent pitcher with promise and a history of injuries.

    You are what your record says you are. Nova is Phil Hughes without the long ball or high level bullpen success.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

      “Phil Hughes without the long ball” would be a pitcher worth having around.

      • Pineda Colada says:

        Phil Hughes without Phil Hughes would be a pitcher worth having around

      • The Great Gonzo says:

        I’d take Phil Hughes without the long ball 100 times out of 100.

      • JLC 776 says:

        Phil without the long ball is a low 3.00s ERA pitcher…

        But, to your point, he has shown remarkable inconsistency and that very well might be what he is. I’m willing to dismiss 2014, but he seesawed a lot in 2013. That said, I still want to like the guy and hope he rebounds. I’m dying for Tanaka, Pineda, and Nova to be the future of this team.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        I’d sign up for that guy.

        That guy isn’t Ivan Nova, though.

      • Chip Rodriguez says:

        Yup. But Nova isn’t exactly Phil without the long ball, but IMO more Phil with an actual out pitch. Also worth having.

    • Darren says:

      To clarify, I meant that Nova was just as bad/inconsistent as Hughes was, except that Nova doesn’t have such a glaring and dramatic weakness like Hughes’ propensity for giving up the long ball.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        I’d call “tends to go from unbeatable to batting practice pitcher at the drop of a hat” a pretty glaring and dramatic weakness.

  10. TWTR says:

    If other starters develop, there is very little chance that Nova will receive a big financial commitment. He may not even get a spot in the rotation if things break right with other starters, and if so, that moots the issue. Of course, the opposite could happen and they may be desperate for a starter. It is unknowable right now.

    • Mike HC says:

      Best bet will be to bring him back as a reliever. Like the Braves did with Kris Medlen his first year back from Tommy John and the Diamondbacks are going to do with Daniel Hudson. See how that goes, and work from there.

  11. Eric Young says:

    I couldn’t help but laugh seeing where Robbie’s two bunts on the Fngraph chart ended up.

  12. mitch says:

    I’ll just say it…I think booing is awesome. I love hearing a unified boo fill the air. I don’t hold any ill will toward Cano and I appreciate everything he did as a Yankee, but NYY/SEA games will be a little more exciting if he’s villainized. I hope he’s showered in boos.

  13. Mike HC says:

    Sneakily funny photo and caption, Mike.

  14. Yangeddard Solarte says:

    One reason why Robbie might be cheered is that he is struggling and Solarte is outperforming him left and right. BA, OBP, Avg, you name it Solarte is beating Robbie. And Robbie’s Mariners are headed straight down the tubes right now. If Robbie was successful then it might be a harder pill to swallow for the average fan.

    • Mike HC says:

      You have a good point about Solarte, but I think Seattle might as well be halfway across the world when it comes to the average fan.

  15. I don’t think there is a particular way you can pitch Cano, but the Yankees strategy would be to not pitch to him at all. Has anyone seen the Mariners lineup lately or like in the last 5 years?

  16. Vern Sneaker says:

    Boo him for what, leaving to earn an extra $70 million or so? Cano was great for us. Better believe all our greats — think DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Ford, you name ‘em — would have left under the same circumstances if the market was the way it is now.

    • Eric Young says:

      For that kind of money difference, Saint Jeter would’ve done it, too.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        Here we go again.

        Neither of you have any clue whether that’s so. Can we please quit assuming everyone’s just waiting to be bought and sold for the highest dollar amount?

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

        Jesus himself would have done it.

        • Mike HC says:

          Moses would have led his people back out of the promised land if he was promised an extra 10% of land by some other guy.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          Imagine how different all our religious iconography would look if Jesus was sporting a flannel shirt rather than a long robe.

  17. Kosmo says:

    Frankly as long as NY wins the series I could give a rat´s derrière if Cano is booed or not. I do wish he goes 0-15.

  18. Improbable Island Guy on Another Computer says:

    …chances are half the 2015 season and all of 2016 won’t provide much clarity.

    Actually, that in itself would provide a ton of clarity. If we still don’t know who he is after another full season and a half, then he probably isn’t much, huh?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      If we don’t know who he is at 28 or 29, then the odds are we won’t believe it to be our problem anymore to find out.

      That being said, he’s injured, and I’m not going to hold that against him one bit. I hope he’s a beast next season.

  19. pinch hitter says:

    Don’t boo Cano, just ignore him. But cheer wildly for Abe Almonte. That will show him.

  20. Bill says:

    On point #3. I think Phelps needs to become the long reliever. The team needs him stretched out. I’m not saying use Claiborne ahead of him in meaningful innings, but we also can’t use Phelps as a matchup guy. Betances should jump Phelps on the late inning pecking order. I’d put him ahead of Warren too. With Betances you don’t know if he’ll consistently throw strikes but you do know that he’s very unlikely to give up a big hit. Also Betances was at his best in AAA when he was pitching consistently. If it were me I’d give him the 7th, but have Warren, Phelps, or Kelley in waiting if his control looks bad. If he’s on though I feel pretty good about him going up against just about any batter.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      I think you want to maximize how often you can go to Phelps, not minimize it by having him in long-man duty.

      I understand Betances pitched well on a regular schedule in the minors, but this is no longer the minors. He needs to continue to earn it here.

      “If he’s on” isn’t the kind of phrase you want to be using when talking about a high-leverage innings guy. I understand volatility, but you have to assume that pitcher is going to be “on” much more often than not.

  21. Bronx Boy says:

    Cano gets booed. Anybody who thinks that’s not going to happen has forgotten the stadium is not located in Fairy Meadow, Sunshineville– it’s located in the Bronx.

    • Mike HC says:

      haha … but whose residents are all priced out, and the stadium gets (half) filled mostly by the residents in Fairy Meadow, Sunshinveille suburbs.

      • Havok9120 says:

        Average attendance is still 85% of capacity so far this season.

        It may not look it, but we should really recognize that the data does not support us constantly knocking attendance over the last few years.

  22. The Other Matt says:

    In the case of Cano being booed or not, I believe it simply depends on the kind of fans that are in attendance at the ball game. There will be some, who, despite him leaving, realize that he was a tremendous talent, and was a very good player on some good teams throughout his career here. He had been the best player on the Yankees for a few years, four as Mike mentioned, and was an integral part of a team that won a World Series during a time where, while I wouldn’t say starving for one, the fan base was hungry for one.

    On the other hand, you will have fans that felt he was selfish for leaving the allure of being the next great, home-grown Yankee to be able to play his whole career in pinstripes for the money. Blah. Blah. Blah. And then you will have fans that will boo him just because he left, regardless of the reasons or circumstances. To be honest the deciding factor will lay with the fans who are undecided coming to the park as to whether or not they will boo him, and the others of which don’t really know much too care as to whether too boo or cheer him. Those fans will be the ones who’s decision will be based on those around them and/or the vast majority of the crowd, and will likely chime in with the sentiments of everyone else, as to cheer or boo.

    I hope the fans don’t boo, because Cano was a tremendous player, obviously, and despite people questioning his hustle, or lack thereof, on the basepaths, he played, literally, damn near everyday at a level higher than just about everyone in the game of baseball. So regardless of whether your bitter, pissed, or whatever for him leaving, give him his just due and cheer him in his first at bat, and then from there on boo the hell out of him.

  23. New Guy says:

    I just don’t understand why he wouldn’t be booed? A great player left our team for another team for more money… isn’t that the main reason fans boo ex players? If he was traded or something then obviously you don’t boo. Yankee players have been being booed for years because they signed for the highest dollar with New York during free agency. Doesn’t matter how good they were or how many games they averaged per year. On top of that, us Yankee fans NEVER have to deal with being outbid for our own players. Yankee stadium will be booing with a very small mixture of cheers.

  24. Computer says:

    Cano left for the money he obviously does not care about winning or he would have stayed in NY. He ruined his reputation as possibly one of the few 1 team superstars and could have broken a lot of Yankees records. Our fans can boo all we want but it pales in comparison to see him struggle and loose in the rain drenched couldnt be further away from the great NY spotlight…

    • Jamie says:

      This is exactly right…Cano’s will be the big loser in this, even with more money in his pocket down the road. I would bet he starts regretting his decision a little as soon as he gets to Yankee Stadium.

  25. Bill Style says:

    Going to the Thursday night game, can confirm I will give Cano a standing ovation and cheer before his first at-bat.

    Did the same for Matsui’s return as an Angel a few years ago (completely different scenarios, I know.)

  26. W.B. Mason Williams says:

    The whole booing versus cheering this is just a giant mess.

    On one hand, people will argue that he gave us so many great moments that he deserves to be cheered! By that logic we should be booing Jacoby Ellsbury until his net contribution is in favor of the Yankees.

    All in all, I don’t bear any of these people any real ill will. It’s a game.

    But Cano isn’t on my team, and actually is actively working against it. I might cheer once for the memories, but he got enough money for my gratitude to be none of his business. I’m not much of a boo-bird, only for egregious cases like Braun or Lueke.

  27. Pineda Pineda Banuelos says:

    Hughes was great for the first four out of five pitches every batter. If he develops (and not saying he ever will) a put-away pitch, his career will turn around and Minnie will be feeling like geniuses. Probably never gona happen

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.