Game 120: Ivan and the Indians

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The ten-game homestand is off to a pretty swell start. The Yankees just swept the Twins, coming from behind in all three games, and they’ve stretched their lead in the AL East back to two full games. (Three in the loss column!) There’s a lot of season left, but gosh, I would have signed up for being two games up on August 20th back in Spring Training in a heartbeat.

Ivan Nova will be on the mound tonight and although the raw results in his last two starts haven’t been great (seven runs in 12.1 innings), I feel like he’s finally starting to settle into a groove following Tommy John surgery. That last start in Toronto was pretty gutsy. That seems to be a common trait among the starters, these dudes really battle when they don’t have their best stuff. Hopefully tonight goes a little more smoothly. Here is the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Ivan Nova

It has been a lovely day in New York. Warm but not hot with a nice little breeze, bright blue sky with a few poofy clouds. The sky looks like a Bob Ross painting. I guess that would make them happy little clouds then, right? Not poofy? Anyway, tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (leg) is doing better but he is still not available off the bench. He hasn’t started any baseball activities yet but should fairly soon … Bryan Mitchell (face) could start some physical activity soon. Nothing major yet, just some cardio work, but that’s a good sign.

8/20 to 8/23 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The ten-game homestand continues with a four-game weekend series against the Indians. The Yankees were just in Cleveland last week, when they lost two of three to the Tribe. That was when the Yankees were really struggling to score runs, however. Hopefully things will go a little better this time around.

What Have The Indians Done Lately?

Cleveland lost two of three in Fenway Park earlier this week. They’re 55-64 with a -26 run differential this season, and that has them in last place in the AL Central and well out of the postseason race. The Indians have been a huge disappointment this season. Uuuuge.

Offense & Defense

At 4.00 runs per games with a team 98 wRC+, the Indians are a below-average offensively club this season. And remember, most of that offense came before they traded away David Murphy, Brandon Moss, Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn. They’ve been disappointing in many ways. Their only injured position player is IF Chris Johnson. He just landed on the DL with a hand issue. That bites. Johnson seemed to kill rally after rally in Cleveland last week.

Lindor. (Presswire)
Lindor. (Presswire)

The biggest difference between the Indians the Yankees saw last week and the Indians the Yankees will see this week is 2B Jason Kipnis (142 wRC+). He was on the DL with shoulder inflammation when these two teams played a week ago but was just activated Tuesday. Kipnis has been the Tribe’s best player this year. OF Michael Brantley (139 wRC+) always seem to kill the Yankees and 1B Carlos Santana (107 wRC+) is still quite productive. SS Francisco Lindor (99 wRC+) has been both slightly below-average overall and on fire of late — he’s got a 130 wRC+ over the last 30 days.

C Yan Gomes (77 wRC+) and IF Jose Ramirez (54 wRC+) are having poor years, though Ramirez did tear up the Yankees last week. They couldn’t get him out. 3B Giovanny Urshela (85 wRC+) plays third everyday and the quartet of UTIL Ryan Raburn (131 wRC+), UTIL Lonnie Chisenhall (85 wRC+), UTIL Jerry Sands (91 wRC+), and former Yankees farmhand OF Abe Almonte (122 wRC+) rotate around Brantley in the outfield. IF Mike Aviles (67 wRC+) is the backup infielder and C Roberto Perez (106 wRC+) is the backup catcher.

As I said last week, the Indians are a below-average defensive club, especially now that Kipnis has returned and will take playing time away from Ramirez. Lindor and Urshela are great on the left side of the infield and Almonte is strong in center, but otherwise every other regular on the roster is a below-average defender. Cleveland is one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball. They were the worst before calling up Lindor and Urshela.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (vs. NYY)
Boy do the Yankees catch a break this series. Four-game set with the Indians and they’re missing reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, who started last night. Missed him in Cleveland last week too. Pretty great. Tomlin, 30, has missed most of the season with shoulder trouble and has made just one start since returning, holding the Twins to two runs in 6.1 innings. He had a 4.76 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 104 innings last season, with a good strikeout rate (21.1%), a great walk rate (3.1%), and well-below-average grounder (37.5%) and homer (1.56 HR/9) numbers. When healthy, Tomlin operates with an upper-80s four-seamer and mid-80s cutter — PitchFX says his velocity in his first start off the DL was in line with last year — which set up his mid-70s curveball. He’s rarely thrown his low-80s changeup since the start of last season.

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
The Yankees will miss Kluber again but they will get stuck facing Carrasco one more time. The 28-year-old has a 3.63 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 24 starts and 151.1 innings this year with phenomenal peripherals: 27.1 K%, 5.2 BB%, 50.8 GB%, and 0.83 HR/9. That’s as good as it gets. Righties (.300 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.264 wOBA) both this year and last year, so the reverse split is probably not a fluke. Carrasco sits in the mid-90s with both his two and four-seam fastball and in the upper-80s with both his changeup and slider. Carrasco also throws a low-80s curveball on occasion. He throws everything hard. The Yankees scored two runs (on solo homers) in eight innings against Carrasco last week. Tough assignment.

Salazar. (Presswire)
Salazar. (Presswire)

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (vs. NYY)
Salazar, 25, is another hard-throwing Indians pitcher. He’s pitched to a 3.15 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 22 starts and 139.2 innings in 2015, and he’s done a better job neutralizing righties (.274 wOBA) than lefties (.291 wOBA). Salazar has a great strikeout rate (27.7%), a below-average homer rate (1.16 HR/9), and average-ish walk (7.3%) and grounder (44.5%) numbers. His four-seamer sits mid-90s and will touch 98-99, and his changeup is a mid-80s offering. Salazar also throws a mid-80s slider but not often, less than 10% of the time this season. The Yankees scored just one run in 7.1 innings against Salazar in the series last week.

Sunday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
I’m pretty sure Bauer is the most enigmatic pitcher in baseball. He’s an extreme great stuff/bad results guy. He has a 4.62 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 24 starts and 142.1 innings this year, and he’s allowed at least five runs in five of his last seven starts. Bauer, 24, has a slightly above-average strikeout rate (22.9%) but below-average walk (9.6%), grounder (38.2%), and homer (1.45 HR/9) rates. Lefties (.337 wOBA) have done more damage against him that righties (.306 wOBA). Bauer throws low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamers, upper-80s cutters, mid-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and upper-70s curveballs. He favors the four-seamer over the two-seamer but has thrown all six pitches at least 9% of the time in 2015. The Yankees punished Bauer for six runs in 3.1 innings last week.

Bullpen Status
Francona’s club is down to a normal seven-man bullpen. Closer RHP Cody Allen (3.94 ERA/2.08 FIP) has been much better the last few weeks after a really rough start to the season. Former Yankees farmhand RHP Zach McAllister (3.09/2.76) has settled in as Allen’s primary setup man, and RHP Bryan Shaw (2.68/4.32) also sees some late-inning work. LHP Kyle Crockett (2.61/4.46 in limited time) is the lone southpaw.

RHP Austin Adams (3.96/3.63), RHP Jeff Manship (1.23/2.79), and RHP Ryan Webb (2.45/3.72) fill out the rest of the bullpen. Aside from Manship, all of these guys throw hard. The Indians love their power arms. Crockett has pitched the last two days and both Shaw and McAllister pitched yesterday, by the way. Our Bullpen Workload page can keep you updated on the tired Yankees’ bullpen. Check out Let’s Go Tribe and The DiaTribe for the latest on the Indians.

Yankeemetrics: Bird goes boom, sweep Twins (Aug. 17-19)

(Elsa/Getty Images)
(Elsa/Getty Images)

Thank you, NunEEEEEE
In what might turn out to be one of the wildest and most bizarre games of this 2015 season, the Yankees walked off with a 8-7 win over the Twins on Monday night.

Brian McCann put the Yankees on the board first with a three-run homer in the opening frame, and then after the Twins rallied with four runs of their own, he put the home team back on top again with a two-run single in the third. McCann finished with five RBIs, becoming the first Yankee catcher to drive in at least five runs in a game against the Twins franchise since Yogi Berra on April 17, 1956 (when they were known as the Washington Senators).

Because of Bryan Mitchell’s scary injury in the second inning, the Yankees were forced to use a parade of relievers to finish the game, with none pitching more than 2 1/3 innings. This is the only time in the last 100 seasons that the Yankees have won a game using at least seven pitchers, who each got no more than seven outs.

The Yankees won the game when Eduardo Nunez muffed a grounder with the bases loaded and threw to first base anyways for the out, thereby allowing Brendan Ryan to trot home from third for the victory. Oh Nuneeeee, the gift that keeps on giving for Yankee fans.

Per the play-by-play data at Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index, this is the first time the Yankees won on a walk-off RBI ground out (that’s how it was scored) since May 16, 1985 against the Rangers. That victory 30 years ago was courtesy of a bases-loaded ground out by Dave Winfield that scored pinch runner Rickey Henderson from third base.

#BAEROD
“Home runs are great, grand slams are awesome.” – Mr. Alexander Enmanuel Rodriguez

Another night, another comeback win for these 2015 Yankees. This time the hero was a slumping A-Rod (3-for-37 in his previous nine games), who drilled a home run with the bases loaded in the seventh inning to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead and an eventual win over the Twins on Tuesday night.

It was his 25th career grand slam, extending his major-league record, and the fourth time A-Rod has hit a grand slam in the seventh inning or later to give the Yankees a lead. In the last 75 seasons, no other Yankees has hit more than two homers like that with the bases loaded.

The four-run homer was also A-Rod’s 25th home run of the season, the 15th time in his career he’s reached that mark. The only other players in major-league history with at least 15 25-homer seasons are Babe Ruth, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.

The win guaranteed a series victory for the Yankees, their first in the Bronx against the Twins since 2011. In that span, the Yankees had won at least one home series against every other AL team.

Bird droppings
The Yankees comeback train kept on chugging along on Wednesday afternoon as the team rallied for yet another win over the Twins, sweeping them at home for the first time since May 2009.

Greg Bird had himself a day, hitting his first two career homers and driving in all four of the Yankee runs. He’s the third Yankee in the last 100 years with a multi-homer game within his first five career games, joining Jesus Montero (2011) and the immortal Shelley Duncan (2007).

In that span, he’s also the third Yankee first baseman with two or more homers in a game at the age of 22 or younger. The others you might have heard of: Joe Pepitone (1962, 1963) and Lou Gehrig (1925).

Since RBI became an official stat in 1920, Bird is just the second major-leaguer to have at least four RBI in a game this early into his career (first five games), and drive in all of his team’s runs. The other was Vada Pinson, who tallied four RBI in his second career game, a 4-1 win for the Reds over the Pirates on April 18, 1958.

Bird’s sixth inning two-run blast was the game-winner, and put him in some more good company, too. The only other Yankee first baseman in the last 40 seasons with a go-ahead homer in the sixth inning or later against the Twins are Tino Martinez (1996) and Don Mattingly (1993, 1985).

Yankees have no shortage of candidates for September call-ups this year

Didi and Slade. (Presswire)
Didi and Slade. (Presswire)

Twelve days from now, the Yankees and every other team in baseball will be able to expand their rosters and carry up to 40 active players. September call-ups are somewhat controversial, lots of people don’t like seeing the final month of the season played with different rules, but I’m a fan of expanded rosters. Players get worn down during the course of the season, so the extra bodies in September are welcome.

For the 2015 Yankees, expanded rosters will be about much more than adding a third catcher or some spare arms for blowouts. They will be in position to add some real weapons to the roster even though most call-ups will be used in limited roles. Still, adding the extra players will be very beneficial. The Yankees have used their depth quite a bit this season and next month they’ll be able to have everyone on the roster at once.

During an interview with YES over the weekend, Brian Cashman said the player development staff has been told to prepare for mass call-ups on September 1st, so the Yankees won’t waste any time. They’re not going to wait for the Triple-A postseason to end or anything like that. The big league team is the priority and the Yankees are going to call guys up as soon as possible. Here’s a breakdown of who we will and could see next month.

Locks To Be Called Up

During that YES interview, Cashman said “any and all” of the relievers who have been shuttled up and down this summer will return in September, and it’s a long list. Caleb Cotham, Nick Goody, Branden Pinder, and Nick Rumbelow are the notables. (Rumbelow is up right now but that could change in a day or two the way things have been going this year.) Those are four extra arms on the 40-man roster who will be able to soak up any miscellaneous innings.

On the position player side, Slade Heathcott and Jose Pirela are safe bets to be called up to serve as the extra outfielder and extra infielder, respectively. Both are still on the 40-man and were up earlier this year — Pirela was sent down due to performance, Heathcott got hurt — and both offer different things. Heathcott adds speed and defense, Pirela offers versatility and another right-handed bat. Heck, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Heathcott snuck onto the potential postseason roster as a pinch-running specialist.

Called Up If Healthy

Lindgren. (Presswire)
Lindgren. (Presswire)

Bryan Mitchell was just placed on the 7-day concussion DL after taking a line drive to the face, though earlier this week Joe Girardi told Chad Jennings there’s a chance Mitchell will be back in the bullpen within a week. That sounds … optimistic. Either way, Mitchell will be on the roster in September if he’s healthy. No reason to expect otherwise. He’s been on the 25-man roster for a big chunk of the year already.

Righty Chris Martin and lefty Jacob Lindgren are both on the Triple-A DL with elbow problems and figure to return in September, if healthy. Lindgren had surgery to remove bone spurs and the Yankees have said they expect him to return this year, so it’s just a question of whether he gets through his rehab in one piece. The nature of Martin’s injury is unknown. We’re just going to have to wait and see whether he’s healthy and able to pitch in September.

The Obligatory Third Catcher

Cashman confirmed the Yankees will call-up a third catcher because duh. Every team brings up a third catcher. The only catcher on the 40-man roster aside from Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy is Gary Sanchez, who has hit a bit of a wall with Triple-A Scranton after crushing the level immediately after his promotion. Austin Romine has had a nice year too, but he’s not on the 40-man roster. My guess is Sanchez gets the call as the third catcher but rarely catches, sorta like Jesus Montero in 2011. (Also, Romine would require clearing a 40-man spot.) That is especially true if the race for a postseason spot goes right down to the wire, as expected. Sanchez might only catch in blowouts or after the team clinches all it can clinch.

Likely To Be Called Up, But Not Locks

There’s really only one player in this category: Rob Refsnyder. He’s had a good year in Triple-A, not a great year, and his brief four-game cameo in pinstripes earlier this year was a bit of a mixed bag. Some good, some not so good. There have been unconfirmed reports floating around that the Yankees were less than enthused with Refsnyder’s attitude during his call-up — not so much that he didn’t work hard, but that he was arrogant and acted entitled — and I suppose the club could keep him down in September as something of a wake-up call. My guess is Refsnyder comes up and takes second base platoon at-bats away from Brendan Ryan. I just wouldn’t put his chances at a call-up at 100%. Maybe it’s more like 95% or so.

Unlikely To Be Called Up

Among the healthy 40-man roster players, the only one who I think has less than a 50/50 chance of getting a September call-up is Tyler Austin. Another righty bat would be neat, but Austin’s had a very rough year and was recently demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton. Players who have struggled like Austin usually don’t get called up unless there’s no other option. There’s a “reward” aspect to being a September call-up, and he didn’t earn this year.

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

The biggest name among non-40-man players is Aaron Judge, the team’s top prospect. The Yankees added both Refsnyder and Greg Bird to the 40-man early and called them up this year, but they were both performing in Triple-A. Judge has been striking out a ton of late and he won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible for another few years, not another few months. I would be surprised if the Yankees tied up another 40-man spot by adding Judge. His time will come eventually. Just probably not this September.

Other non-40-man players I don’t expect to be called up in September: Ben Gamel, Brady Lail, James Pazos, and Johnny Barbato. Lail and Barbato just reached Triple-A and there are too many arms ahead of them on the depth chart to add them to the 40-man roster early. Gamel’s had a breakout season and I wouldn’t necessarily put his call-up chances at 0%. Heathcott will fill the “extra lefty hitting outfielder” role though, and I’m not sure the Yankees should clear a roster spot to add another. Pazos could be a victim of the number’s crunch more than anything. There simply might not be any room for another lefty reliever.

The Non-40-Man Wildcard

The non-40-man player who I think has the best chance of being called up in September is Andrew Bailey. He’s working his way back from shoulder surgery and been able to stay healthy for a few weeks now, plus he’s pitched effectively in all sorts of situations (back-to-back days, multiple innings, etc.) in the minors. The Yankees have put a lot of time and effort into helping him rehab these last two years, remember.

Cashman admitted Bailey was recently held out of a Triple-A game in case he needed to be called up to help the tired bullpen, but that didn’t happen. Bailey wasn’t needed. That they’ve already come thisclose to calling Bailey up this month leads me to believe they will bring him to the show once rosters expand. Bailey hasn’t pitched in MLB since getting hurt in July 2013. It’s been a long and difficult road back. Hopefully he stays healthy these next two weeks and gets the call in September.

The 40-Man Situation

The 40-man roster is full right now. It’s actually extra full. The Yankees have four players on the 60-day DL (Sergio Santos, Diego Moreno, Mason Williams, Chase Whitley) and none of them will be ready to be activated in September following their season-ending surgeries. The Yankees will need to clear a spot to call up, say, Bailey or Romine, and there are a few ways to do that.

First and foremost, the Yankees could call up an injured 40-man roster player and place them on the 60-day DL. Martin (elbow) and Domingo German (Tommy John surgery) are two candidates for that move. The Yankees haven’t done the call-up/60-day DL thing often — they did it with Justin Maxwell and Heathcott a few years ago, that’s pretty much it — but it is an option. Not wanting German to accumulate service time is understandable. Martin though? Who cares. Of course, he’d have to actually be hurt to pull this move. Can’t 60-day DL a healthy player.

Figueroa. (Presswire)
Figueroa. (Presswire)

The Yankees could always outright or designate a player for assignment to clear 40-man space. There just aren’t many obvious candidates. Perhaps they’ll decide to cut Chris Capuano again in September since they’ll have all the extra relievers and won’t necessarily need a long man. Cole Figueroa could also get the axe, especially if Refsnyder does get called up and/or Dustin Ackley gets healthy. Martin? He could lose his 40-man spot if healthy as well.

Capuano, Figueroa, and Martin are the three main 40-man casualty candidates. It would be a surprise if the Yankees dropped someone like Austin, Pirela, or Cotham from the roster. Those guys are probably the next three in line, if anything. Aside from Bailey and maybe Romine, the Yankees don’t figure to need any 40-man spots this September, though they could clear two with the call-up/60-day DL move. We’ll see.

* * *

Once September rolls around, the Yankees will obviously add a bunch of pitchers and a third catcher, plus a few extra position players. The extra arms will be a huge help, the bullpen has worked a ton this year, and Refsnyder could really help if he gets those platoon at-bats instead of Ryan. If not him, then Pirela. Also, Heathcott could be a factor as a defensive replacement/pinch-runner.

No one in their right mind is an expecting major impact from a September call-up — guys who do what Francisco Rodriguez did in 2002 are extremely rare — but they can help in limited roles. Those extra pitchers and platoon bats and pinch-runners are valuable in their own way. Given how tight the AL East race is at the moment, every little upgrade helps. September call-ups this year will be about more than resting regulars in blowouts.

Phillies trade Chase Utley to Dodgers

(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)
(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

The Phillies traded franchise icon Chase Utley to the Dodgers for two prospects on Wednesday night, both teams announced. Utley had ten-and-five no-trade protection and agreed to a deal to his hometown team. Reports indicate his preference was to go to a contender in Southern California, which limited his market to the Dodgers and Angels, basically.

The Yankees reportedly had some interest in Utley — or at least they had been scouting him in recent weeks — which makes sense because they haven’t gotten a whole lot from the second base position this year. Utley is hitting a weak .217/.284/.333 (66 wRC+) on the season, but he’s been much better since coming off the DL, going 15-for-31 (.484) with five doubles and one homer in eight games. He missed about seven weeks with an ankle problem.

For all intents and purposes, Utley was the final second baseman on the trade market. (The Marlins don’t seem too inclined to move Martin Prado, at least not at a reasonable price.) If Utley truly only wanted to go to Southern California, then the Yankees had no shot at him. It seemed like a long shot the whole time anyway. Like it not, Stephen Drew‘s the second baseman going forward.

DotF: Aaron Judge goes deep in Scranton’s win

RHP James Kaprielian has been bumped up from the Rookie GCL Yanks to Short Season Staten Island, the team announced. The Yankees’ top three picks in this year’s draft (Kaprielian, SS Kyle Holder, LHP Jeff Degano) are all with Staten Island now. I guess I’m going to have to jump on the ferry and catch a game at some point these next two weeks.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • DH Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 RBI — got picked off first
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-2, 2 BB — in a 2-for-16 (.125) slump
  • LF Jose Pirela: 1-4, 1 2B
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-4 — in a 3-for-30 (.100) slump after the hot start
  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 19 homers in 106 games this year after hitting 17 homers in 131 games last year
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 1-4
  • 1B Austin Romine: 0-4
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 11/2 GB/FB — 48 of 76 pitches were strikes (63%) … starting to settle in at this level
  • LHP James Pazos: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 20 of 27 pitches were strikes (74%)
  • RHP Andrew Bailey: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — half of his 26 pitches were strikes … 39/11 K/BB in 30 innings

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

Off-night tonight following the day game, so I recommend checking out this Dan Barbarisi article on the Yankees hiring recently retired players as scouts. Matt Daley, Dan Giese, Eric Chavez, Brandon Duckworth, and Drew Henson all work in the team’s scouting department these days. Daley spoke about the transition from playing to scouting — things like setting a schedule and arranging travel are new to him because players have all that stuff done for them — and assistant GM Billy Eppler talked about what draws the Yankees to these guys. Check it out. Great read.

Here is your open thread for the evening. The Mets are playing the Orioles and that game is relevant to the Yankees because the O’s are only a modest 5.5 games back of New York. They’re sitting in a wildcard spot and have played very well of late. Don’t count ’em out yet. The Tigers and Cubs will be on ESPN as well. Talk about those games, Barbarisi’s article, this afternoon’s win, or anything else here.