The Yankees shut out the Cubs in the first game of today’s doubleheader earlier this afternoon, and now they will try to finish off the quick two-game sweep before hitting the road for a seven-game, eight-day road trip through Tampa and Boston. The Yankees have played seven doubleheaders at the new Yankee Stadium and they’ve swept five, splitting the other two.
Derek Jeter and his sore quad return to the lineup tonight, and Michael Pineda returns to the mound for the first time since his whole pine tar incident. It’s a no-win situation. If he pitches well, it’s because he’s hiding the pine tar somewhere else. If he pitches poorly, it’s because he wasn’t able to use the pine tar. The columns and blog posts practically write themselves. Once again, here is the Cubs lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- DH Carlos Beltran
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 2B Yangervis Solarte
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 3B Scott Sizemore
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- C John Ryan Murphy
RHP Michael Pineda
It was sunny but cold for this afternoon’s game and it’ll be even colder tonight. Clear skies, otherwise. Both the Yankees and Cubs will wear #42 jerseys in honor of Jackie Robinson tonight since yesterday’s game (when everyone else wore #42) was rained out. There will be a little pregame ceremony honoring Robinson and Nelson Mandela as well. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. First My9 game of 2014. It’s officially baseball season. Enjoy the game.
Roster Move: The Yankees have recalled right-hander Shane Greene as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader, the team announced. I didn’t think they were allowed to call anyone up because the doubleheader was not scheduled 48 hours in advance. Whatever. By rule, Greene has to go back to Triple-A following the game.
That was worth the wait. After Tuesday night’s game was rained out, the Yankees won the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Cubs by the score of 3-0 thanks to a dominant pitching performance and some timely hitting. Pretty much a textbook win.
He’s Ours And You Can’t Have Him
The Cubs reportedly pursued Masahiro Tanaka very aggressively this winter, and at times it appeared they were the front-runner to sign him. Instead, Tanaka wound up in New York with the Yankees, and on Wednesday afternoon he faced the team that tried so desperately to sign him.
In his third big league start, Tanaka held the admittedly unimpressive Chicago lineup to two bunt singles in eight scoreless innings. The first had to be reviewed because it was a bang-bang play, the second was a bunt to beat the shift by Anthony Rizzo. Tanaka struck out ten, walked one (his second walk of the season), and at one point he retired 14 batters in a row from the second through seventh innings. This was pretty clearly the best we’ve seen him in his three starts.
Of his 107 pitches, Tanaka threw 76 strikes (71%), including 16 swings and misses. Twenty of 27 batters saw a first pitch strike and only two saw a three-ball count. Just dominant. Here is his PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball, though it appears to be missing eight pitches somewhere. I do want to point out that of the 29 splitters Tanaka threw, the Cubs swing at 17. They missed ten times. That is pretty nuts.
The Yankees limited Tanaka to 97 pitches and 101 pitches in his first two starts, though they sent him back out for the eighth inning with his pitch count at 97 on Wednesday. He only threw ten more pitches in that inning, but even if he had thrown 15-20 more, I don’t think it would have been a big deal at all. Tanaka was pitching on two extra days of rest — he was scheduled to start on one day of rest on Tuesday, but the rainout pushed him back another day — and his next start will be on an extra day as well. He was on cruise control all afternoon. Basically a no stress outing. What a stud.
A Swing And A Slide
Thanks to Monday’s off-day and the rainout, the hot-hitting Carlos Beltran had two straight days off. If there was any concern about him losing his swing during the longer than usual layoff, he put it to bed right in the very first inning, clubbing a hanging changeup from Jason Hammel out to right field for a solo homer. His swing is just so, so sweet. From both sides of the plate too. The quick strike gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
The team nursed that lead until the fourth inning, when they loaded the bases on a single (Brian McCann, over the shift), a walk (Yangervis Solarte), and another single (Kelly Johnson) with one out. The not-so-fearsome duo of Dean Anna and Scott Sizemore were due up, and Anna took care of business with a sacrifice fly to shallow right-center field. McCann chugged home and slide under the tag. I think he would have been awarded the plate anyway because catcher John Baker was pretty clearly blocking it, which is now against the rules. One homer, one extended rally. Something for everyone.
Wait, How Did That Run Score?
I’ve watched an embarrassing amount of baseball in my life, but I have never before seen what happened in the fifth inning of this game. With Brett Gardner on third and one out, Baker was called for catcher’s interference on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s swing. The ball bounced off the plate and into the infield, allowing Gardner to score while Ellsbury was tagged out. However, because of the catcher’s interference, Gardner had to stay at third and Ellsbury was awarded first base. Except that’s not what happened.
Apparently managers are allowed to decline a catcher’s interference call and accept the outcome of the play. Yeah, I didn’t know that either. Here is the applicable rule, Rule 6.08(c):
The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when — The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference.
Since Gardner scored on the play, Joe Girardi declined the catcher’s interference and took the run. Instead of having men on the corners with one out, the bases were empty with two outs and a run in. I’d make that trade too. Give me the sure run in a reasonably close game every time. That’s so weird though. Who knew you could decline penalties in baseball? Here’s the video.
Tanaka’s eight innings spared the bullpen for the second game of the doubleheader. Shawn Kelley was the only reliever used and he allowed a soft single to right in an otherwise uneventful ninth, throwing 22 pitches. No idea if he’ll be available for tonight’s game. Worry about that when the time comes, I guess. Kelley has somehow saved four games already.
The Yankees only had five hits themselves, one each by Gardner (double), Beltran (homer), Ellsbury (double), McCann (single), and Johnson (single). Beltran and Ellsbury drew walks — Ellsbury stole second after his walk in the eighth — while Solarte drew two. Alfonso Soriano and Sizemore were the only guys to not do anything productive at the plate. The bases loaded situation in the fourth inning was the only time they had multiple runners on base at the same time.
The ten strikeouts give Tanaka 28 strikeouts in his first three starts, breaking Al Leiter’s old franchise record of 25 strikeouts. Believe it or not, Tanaka is the only pitcher in history to throw at least seven innings and record at least eight strikeouts in each of his first three starts. Pretty cool.
Let’s play two! The Yankees will look to complete the doubleheader sweep in a few hours. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and will feature Michael Pineda against lefty Travis Wood. Derek Jeter and his sore quad will return to the lineup in that game.
Via Christian Red: Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said he is “pretty content” with the team’s current roster situation, though that doesn’t mean he is unwilling to consider adding players. “You know me, I will consider anything … I will always analyze options,” he said. “Right now, I think I’m pretty content with where we’re sitting. So far so good.”
The Yankees have received excellent production from their outfield (136 wRC+) so far, plus Kelly Johnson (161 wRC+) and Yangervis Solarte (162 wRC+) have been insanely productive. Derek Jeter’s been solid as well (110 wRC+). With Brian McCann starting to coming around and Mark Teixeira due back from the 15-day DL relatively soon, the only obvious area in need of an upgrade right now is second base. I wish they’d just sign Stephen Drew, but aside from second base and maybe another reliever, the Yankees don’t have many needs right now. · (24) ·
The Yankees and Cubs were rained out last night, so they will play both games of their two-game series today. There’s something about these little two-game interleague series getting rained out, it seems. Remember last season when the first game against the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium was rained out and they played a doubleheader the next day? Weird. The Yankees will be visiting Wrigley Field later this summer, if you’re wondering.
Derek Jeter is not in this afternoon’s lineup, but don’t worry. He and his sore quad are fine. Joe Girardi confirmed the Cap’n will play the second game of the doubleheader against left-hander Travis Wood. They weren’t going to play Jeter in both games today, so playing him against the southpaw makes sense. Both Girardi and Jeter said the quad is a non-issue at this point. I guess four straight days off really helped. Here is the Cubs lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- RF Carlos Beltran
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- C Brian McCann
- 2B Yangervis Solarte
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- SS Dean Anna
- 3B Scott Sizemore
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
With Tanaka starting today and Michael Pineda starting tonight, I’m not sure we’re going to see a more exciting pitching day all season. It’s like baseball Christmas morning.
It rained all day yesterday and I even saw some snow flurries last night, but it is sunny out today. Just really cold. There is no threat of rain or anything, so they’ll get both games in without a problem. The first game of the doubleheader is scheduled to start at 1:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
David Robertson Update: Robertson (groin) is scheduled to throw off a mound on Thursday, his first time doing so since getting hurt. He still plans on being activated when eligible next Tuesday. [Sweeny Murti]
Matt Imhof | LHP
Imhof, 20, is a Bay Area kid from Fremont. He was not drafted out of Mission San Jose High School, mostly because he started out as a full-time first baseman and didn’t seriously get into pitching until his sophomore year. Imhof was a swingman as a freshman at Cal Poly (3.04 ERA in 47.1 innings) before moving into the rotation as a sophomore (2.74 ERA in 101.2 innings). This spring he has a 2.07 ERA with 88/22 K/BB in 61 innings across nine starts. He currently leads Division I in strikeouts and is second with 12.98 K/9.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 220 lbs., Imhof usually sits in the low-90s with his fastball but will occasionally touch 95 mph. The pitch has some natural cutting action in on righties even though he delivers the ball almost straight over the top. An upper-70/low-80s slurve — not quite a curve, not quite a slider — is his go-to secondary pitch. Imhof has been working on a changeup since last year but it is still nascent. The coaching staff at Cal Poly has helped him smooth out and develop consistency with his mechanics, and that has allowed him to better command his pitches, especially down in the zone.
Baseball America (no subs. req’d) and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Imhof as the 35th and 43rd best prospect in the draft class in their latest rankings, respectively. This draft is very deep in college pitching and while 6-foot-6 lefties usually don’t get lost in the crowd, Imhof’s lack of a third pitch could cause him to slide a bit in favor of more polished arms. The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) this year and while Imhof is risky, he also offers quite a bit of upside as a high-strikeout southpaw.
Before they played their first official game in their new home, the Yankees opened the current version of Yankee Stadium with a pair of exhibition games against the Cubs. I went to both and I couldn’t tell you anything about either game. Completely forgot. The Lovable Losers are returning to the Bronx for the first time since 2005 for a quick little two-game series to wrap-up the homestand. Since yesterday’s game was rained out, they’re playing a day/night doubleheader today.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Cubs were bad last year (66-96), they were bad the year before that (61-101), they were bad both years before that (146-178), and they’re bad this year. The north siders are 4-8 with a -8 run differential this season after dropping two of three to the Cardinals over the weekend.
With a team 78 wRC+ and an average of 3.91 runs per game, the Cubs are a below-average offensive team. They also have the sixth highest strikeout rate in baseball at 24.1%. Rookie manager Rick Renteria’s lineup is completely healthy. They don’t have any position players on the DL.
Chicago’s early-season offense have been driven by UTIL Emilio Bonifacio (141 wRC+), who is off to a crazy start and has seven of the team’s nine stolen bases. He leads off and splits his time between second base and center field. 1B Anthony Rizzo (138 wRC+) and OF Nate Schierholtz (67 wRC+) are staples in the middle of the order with SS Starlin Castro (107 wRC+) usually slotted in somewhere around them. OF Justin Ruggiano (23 wRC+) will occupy a prime lineup spot against lefties.
3B Mike Olt (109 wRC+) and 3B Luis Valbuena (73 wRC+) are platooning at the hot corner, ditto OF Junior Lake (128 wRC+) and OF Ryan Kalish (32 wRC+) in left field. C Welington Castillo (88 wRC+) is the regular catcher whenever he’s not busy at the yacht club. C John Baker (-77 wRC+), IF Darwin Barney (34 wRC+), and OF Ryan Sweeney (41 wRC+) fill out the rest of the bench. It should go without saying that it is still super early and the stats you see are all subject to small sample size noise.
There’s no word on who will start which game for the Cubs today, but here are the pitchers who lined up to pitch in the series for both teams. They could be flipped between the day and night games.
Day Game: RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Jason Hammel (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
First interleague game of the year and we’re stuck watching a pitcher who’s been pitching against the Yankees for years. Hammel, 31, spent the last two years with the Orioles and was with the (Devil) Rays earlier in his career, but he signed with the Cubs in the offseason. Last summer he had a 4.97 ERA (4.93 FIP) with mediocre strikeout (6.20 K/9 and 15.7 K%), walk (3.10 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%), and ground ball (40.1%) rates in 139.1 innings for Baltimore. Hammel has reinvented himself with the Cubs, throwing his low-90s two-seamer way more than ever before while cutting back on his mid-to-upper-70s curveball. A hard low-to-mid-80s slider is now his top breaking ball. He also throws the occasional mid-80s changeup. It’s early, but Hammel has crushed right-handed batters (.091 wOBA!) while having less success against lefties (.291 wOBA), though his career split is far less pronounced. He has made two very good starts this year (one run in six innings, three runs in seven innings), both against the Pirates.
Night Game: RHP Michael Pineda vs. LHP Travis Wood (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Wood, 27, was Chicago’s token All-Star last summer, when he had a 3.11 ERA (3.89 FIP) in exactly 200 innings. His walk rate was fine (2.97 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%), but the strikeout (6.48 K/9 and 17.5 K%) and ground ball (33.2%) numbers were okay at best. He didn’t have much of a platoon split, however. Wood’s pitch mix is pretty basic: upper-80s fastball, mid-80s cutter, upper-70s slider, and upper-70s changeup. He allowed four runs (three earned) in 6.1 innings to the Phillies in his first start and one run in six innings to the Pirates in his second start.
Like the Yankees, the Cubs were off Monday, so Renteria’s bullpen is rested. Former Yankees RHP Jose Veras (9.68 FIP) has already lost the closer’s job, so they’re now using a committee. RHP Pedro Strop (7.02 FIP) and RHP Hector Rondon (1.85 FIP) have since nailed down saves. LHP James Russell (8.59 FIP) and LHP Wesley Wright (7.50 FIP) are the two lefties, and RHP Justin Grimm (2.28 FIP) and RHP Blake Parker (3.14 FIP) are the extra arms. This bullpen is very beatable.
The Yankees sent Shane Greene to Triple-A Scranton yesterday, so they are back down to a normal seven-man bullpen. Both Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley got a much-needed day off yesterday and David Robertson is eligible to come off the DL one week from today. Whether he will be healthy in time is another matter entirely. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for reliever usage details, then check out Bleacher Nation for more on the Cubs.
According to Donnie Collins, it seems likely RHP Chris Leroux and UTIL Ronnie Mustelier will soon join Triple-A Scranton. Leroux was in Extended Spring Training getting stretched out while Mustelier is returning from a hamstring injury. He’ll presumably fill the spot vacated by the just called up IF Scott Sizemore.
Meanwhile, Triple-A Scranton‘s doubleheader was not rained out today. It was snowed out instead. Seriously. One game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Thursday, the other in early-July. They’re up to ten games played and eight postponements now.
Double-A Trenton‘s game was postponed due to wet grounds. They will make this up as part of a doubleheader tomorrow.
High-A Tampa (8-7 loss to Clearwater)
- CF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
- SS Cito Culver: 1-5, 1 R, 3 K, 1 E (fielding) — already six errors on the season
- 3B Eric Jagielo: 2-4, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 13 hits in his last 40 at-bats (.325) with two doubles and four homers
- DH Dante Bichette Jr.: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — up to .333/.500/.472 in 12 games … yep
- C Peter O’Brien: 1-3, 1 R, 3 RBI
- 2B Angelo Gumbs: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI — 9-for-17 (.529) in his last four games
- LHP Eric Wooten: 4.1 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 8/2 GB/FB
- RHP Phil Wetherell: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 6/0 GB/FB
Low-A Charleston (6-2 win over Greenville)
- SS Abi Avelino: 2-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB, 1 E (missed catch)
- DH Tyler Wade: 4-5, 3 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB – had four hits in his previous 31 at-bats
- RF Aaron Judge: 3-5, 1 R, 2 RBI — 7-for-16 (.438) in his last four games
- 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
- LF Michael O’Neill: 2-4, 1 BB, 1 SB
- C Luis Torrens: 0-1 — left the game in the third inning for an unknown reason, so he either got hurt or traded in all likelihood … UPDATE: Josh Norris says Torrens was just under the weather, no big deal
- 2B Gosuke Katoh: 0-3, 2 BB, 3 K — no contact kinda day
- RHP Luis Severino: 3.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 4/3 GB/FB – 40 of 67 pitches were strikes (60%)
- RHP Jaron Long: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 WP, 6/0 GB/FB — 57 of 80 pitches were strikes (71%) … the hitting coach’s kid can pitch a little, it seems
The Yankees and Cubs were rained out tonight, so they’ll play a day/night doubleheader tomorrow. Doubleheaders are fun as long as they don’t wreck the pitching staff. Anyway, here are two stray links for the weather-related off-night:
- Dan Barbarisi wrote a great, really fun article about Joe Girardi‘s various nicknames for his players. Most get the “-ie” treatment (Jayson Nix became Nixie, for example) but others aren’t so lucky. Best part of the article was finding out Michael Pineda‘s actual nickname is Big Mike. Love it.
- Speaking about Pineda, former Mariners stats guy Tony Blengino wrote about his comeback from shoulder surgery. History is short on pitchers who lost two full seasons after being so good at such a young age, so Pineda’s return is potentially unprecedented. One player who went through a similar situation: Hall of Famer Jim Palmer.
This is your open thread for the night. MLB Network will air a regional game and the Mets will play a little later tonight. They’re out on the West Coast. The Knicks and Nets are playing (each other!) as well. Talk about whatever you like right here.
Derek Fisher | OF
Fisher is from a small town in Pennsylvania, a few miles outside Harrisburg, and he was drafted in the sixth round (204th overall pick) out of high school in the 2011 draft by the Rangers. He reportedly declined a seven-figure bonus offer and instead followed through on his commitment to Virginia. After hitting .290/.386/.495 during his first two years at school, Fisher is hitting .333/.393/.451 through 14 games this spring.
Fisher, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 lbs., is one of the best athletes among this year’s crop of college players. That says more about the draft class than his ability, unfortunately. Fisher is a good but not great runner, and he’s already relegated to left field because of his poor arm and okay at best instincts. He is good enough defensively to stick in the outfield long-term as opposed to moving to first base or even DH, but forget about center or right.
Fisher’s draft stock is built around his left-handed swing, which is quick and compact. He shows lots of power in batting practice but has not yet to fully carry it over into games because of a tendency to drop his hands and let his swing get a little loopy. His approach and ability to recognize breaking balls need work. If Fisher can learn to take his power from batting practice into games, he has all the look of a future middle of the order guy who can swat 30+ homers at his peak.
In their latest rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America (no subs. req’d) ranked Fisher as the 24th and 39th best prospect in the draft. However, Fisher’s draft stock has taken a hit because he broke the hamate bone in his right wrist sliding into a base recently. He is not expected to return until mid-to-late May, right before the draft. Teams won’t have much of an opportunity to scout him this spring.
Fisher came into the spring looking like a top 20 pick but is now likely to slide out of the first round because of the injury. He is a prime target for teams with extra picks or teams hoping to land a top talent in the second round after surrendering their first rounder to sign a free agent. The latter describes the Yankees, whose first pick is in the second round (55th overall) after their offseason spending spree. They seem to have renewed interest in college bats these last two years and there’s a chance Fisher will fall into their laps this spring. It’s a stretch, but not impossible.
4:35pm: Tanaka will start the day game and Pineda will start the night game, the Yankees announced. Since they have an off-day next Monday, they can start Nuno on Sunday and lean on their bullpen heavily if need be.
11:37am: Tonight’s game against the Cubs has been postponed due to rain, the Yankees announced. They’ll play a split doubleheader tomorrow. The first game is scheduled for 1pm ET, the second for 7pm ET. Because the doubleheader was not scheduled 48 hours in advance, neither team will be able to add a 26th player to the roster tomorrow.
There’s no word on the Yankees’ pitching plans just yet. Masahiro Tanaka was scheduled to start tonight with Michael Pineda going tomorrow, and I assume both guys will pitch tomorrow. The team will need a spot starter for Sunday’s game against the Rays in that case. Vidal Nuno is still stretched out to 60+ pitches and could be the guy. Shane Greene was sent to Triple-A yesterday, but he could be recalled as Frankie Cervelli’s injury replacement tomorrow to make a spot start during the doubleheader. He hasn’t pitched in a while though.
On the bright side, Derek Jeter (quad) and Brian Roberts (back) both get another day of rest. Jeter will have four straight days off after sitting out Saturday’s and Sunday’s games while Roberts will have three days off. The Yankees are expected to call up two players before their next game, one replacing Cervelli (hamstring) and the other Greene. John Ryan Murphy and Russ Canzler are the rumored names. · (92) ·