Warren’s versatility adds necessary element to Yankees’ pen

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

After Monday’s win, the Yankees’ top two relievers — Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman — are each on pace to throw 66.5 innings this season.

That total is still pretty high (47 pitchers threw more innings last year without making a start). However, it would hardly be a career-high for either and would mark a fourth straight season with a decrease in innings for Betances.

A big reason why neither pitcher should end up breaking a career-high in total innings is the presence of Adam Warren. The versatile right-hander has the best numbers of any Yankee reliever so far this year despite giving up his first three hits and a run on Monday. In nine innings, he’s allowed just the single run, walked only one batter and struck out nine. And he’s absorbed those nine innings in just five appearances.

This is hardly a revelation for Warren. He’s been giving the Yankees multiple-inning relief appearances since 2013, minus a four-month stint with the Cubs last summer and a little time in the Yankees rotation. Beyond the multi-inning appearances, he also has experience in taking high-leverage innings. At certain points in the last three seasons, he’s fulfilled late-inning roles for the Yankees, even taking the 8th inning of close games at times.

But this season, he’s entered in a complete hodgepodge of situations.

Apr. 2: 4th inning, two outs, two men on, Yankees down five
Apr. 5: 5th inning, two outs, one man on, down three
Apr. 8: 6th inning, no outs, up one
Apr. 15: 8th inning, one out, up two
Apr. 17: 7th inning, no outs, up four

If anyone can find a trend or consistent part in any of that, let me know. To me, the point is that Warren can take on literally anything for Joe Girardi. Yankees need someone to soak up 2-3 innings and keep the game within striking distance? Warren time. The starter only goes five and someone needs to get the ball to the top three relievers? Warren time.

Despite being clearly fourth in the bullpen pecking order behind Chapman, Betances and Tyler Clippard, Warren’s role is highly synergistic with those guys and the rest of the bullpen. He can take on enough innings to keep their innings down for late in the season. After Warren threw 2 1/3 solid innings on Monday, Girardi discussed everything Warren brings to the table.

“He’s a bridge. He’s a fill-in, in a sense, in the 7th, 8th or 9th inning, whatever I need,” Girardi said. “He just gives me a lot of versatility to our bullpen. And I think that piece is really important to have a really good bullpen, a guy that can do that and handle a number of different roles.”

A lot of relievers have trouble not knowing their role. It’s incredibly tough for a pitcher to be ready to go every inning from the 5th through the 9th, especially when they may warm up multiple times in that span. It can be exhausting and it’s the main reason why we don’t see pitchers in the regular season do what Andrew Miller did last postseason. That’s not to say it’s easy to do what Chapman or Betances do — not all innings are created equal and they pitch almost exclusively in high leverage spots — but they do have the added luxury of knowing the basic parameters of their appearances.

Warren doesn’t have that, but has done fine. Looking back to 2014, his last full season in the Yankees’ bullpen, he entered in the 6th inning 12 times, the 7th 25 times, the 8th 23 times and the 9th or later nine times. While that often meant soaking up innings with the Yankees behind, it more closely resembles the way Miller was used by the Indians last postseason than how Betances or Chapman are used right now.

Warren’s background as a starter and having recently thrown 100 innings (131 1/3 in 2015) shows that he can do this without completely breaking down. He did decline a bit towards the end of 2014, but he still had a 3.26 ERA after the break, which is nothing to sneeze at. The 29-year-old pitcher did come into the spring as a starter, yet even he realizes where he provides the most value right now.

“Being in the bullpen, you get a chance to pitch every day,” Warren told Bryan Hoch. “The way our starters are throwing right now, for sure, I feel my value is in the bullpen. I do enjoy being that flexible guy that you can throw around everywhere. For me, that’s where a lot of my value comes from.”

So Girardi’s right. It is really important to have that guy in your pen. You look around the league and a lot of teams don’t have a similar arm who can both go multiple quality innings yet also has high leverage experience. Houston seems to have the prototype for this player in Chris Devenski, but there are few beyond him. A pitcher like Warren or Devenski can really complete a team’s bullpen.

Even though his ERA will be much higher than 1.00 for the full season, a healthy Warren gives Girardi a chance to rest his top three relievers without biting his nails or worry that a lead will implode. Or it gives him a chance to use just 1-2 relievers after only getting five innings out of a starter. Or whatever conceivable need comes up. While coming in with a four-run lead in the 7th inning as he did on Monday isn’t glamorous, it gives us a sneak peek at how Warren can be used optimally in 2017.

Austin Romine is taking advantage of the opportunity created by Gary Sanchez’s injury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Ten days ago the Yankees suffered what could have very easily been a devastating injury. Starting catcher and offensive cornerstone Gary Sanchez hurt his biceps taking a swing and was later diagnosed with a strained brachialis muscle. It’ll sideline him at least four weeks. Sanchez started the season slowly, going 3-for-20 (.150) with a homer before the injury, but still. Losing your catcher and No. 2 hitter is rough.

Rather than collapse without Sanchez, the Yankees have won all eight games since the injury, including six of six with Austin Romine behind the plate. Romine has gone 7-for-21 (.333) with two doubles, a homer, four walks, and three strikeouts in the super early going this season. “The team is playing well, period. I’m not going to take credit. I’m trying to stay out of the way the best I can. We have a lot of people doing things right. I can’t sit here and take credit for anything,” he said to George King over the weekend.

Last season the 28-year-old Romine hit .242/.269/.382 (68 wRC+) with four homers in 176 plate appearances while backing up Brian McCann and later Sanchez, and geez, I don’t even remember the four homers. Did he really hit that many? Romine came into this season with 21 doubles and five home runs in 359 career big league plate appearances. Here is his 2013-16 spray chart, via FanGraphs:


Source: FanGraphs
Like most players — particularly bench players who don’t play a whole lot because they don’t offer much at the plate — the right-handed hitting Romine did most of his damage to the pull side from 2013-16. All five home runs were pulled to left field as were most doubles. That cluster of blue dots along the right field line are bloop doubles that fell in just fair. I distinctly remember a few of those.

This year, either intentionally or accidentally, Romine has taken an extreme opposite field approach and peppered right field. It’s happened so often that I have to think it’s intentional. He’s put 19 total balls in play so far this season and only three — three! — have been pulled to the left side of the field. Almost everything else has gone to right field. Not even back up the middle. To right field. Here is Romine’s spray chart thus far this season, via Baseball Savant:

austin-romine-2017-spray-chart

I wasn’t kidding when I said an extreme opposite field approach. Romine has hit nearly everything to the opposite field, and hey, when you’re a right-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium, it makes sense to go the other way. Romine has already been rewarded with one opposite field home run this year. He never came particularly close to hitting a short porch homer in previous years.

Clearly Romine is hitting the ball to right field more often this year than he has in the past, so now the question becomes: so what? I’m not sure, honestly. This could all be small sample size noise — again, Romine has put only 19 balls in play this year — or it could be an honest-to-goodness adjustment in an effort to help him be more productive at the plate. Trying to pull the ball all the time only worked so much. Now he’s incorporating the opposite field more often. Maybe? Possibly?

Romine said himself last season he knows he needs to hit not only to stick with the Yankees, but stick in the big leagues in general. Even defense-first catchers have to hit a little bit, you know? There was basically nothing Romine could do to stop Sanchez from taking over as the starting catcher, but now Kyle Higashioka, who is coming off a 21-homer season between Double-A and Triple-A, is breathing down his neck for the backup job. His roster spot is far from safe.

I should also note Romine has been behind the plate for this recent run of strong starts from the rotation. So far this year pitchers have a 3.00 ERA (2.92 FIP) in 57 innings with Romine compared to a 4.14 ERA (3.34 FIP) in 37 innings with Sanchez. How much credit does Romine deserve for that? Tough to say. I’ve always been a catcher impact skeptic, dating back to the days of Jose Molina being A.J. Burnett‘s personal catcher. Ultimately it’s up to the pitcher to execute, so the catcher can call the best game in the world and it might not matter. Either way, the pitching staff as performed well of late and the always reflects well on the catcher.

For now, Romine’s new opposite field approach is a #thingtowatch. He’s going to play a lot while Sanchez is on the disabled list — Joe Girardi made it clear Romine will be the starter and Higashioka the backup, so playing time won’t be split evenly — so we’ll get a chance to see whether this is real. For Romine, this is a huge opportunity. It’s his first time playing everyday at the MLB level, so this is his chance to show the Yankees he’s worth keeping around and other teams he’s worth acquiring and giving an expanded role.

Hicks is forcing the Yankees to give him more playing time

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The season is very young. The Yankees have played 13 games and won nine of them, and in those 13 games fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks is hitting .269/.429/.654 (196 wRC+) with three home runs in 35 plate appearances. That includes a two home-run game against the Rays last week. Hicks has also drawn eight walks against only three strikeouts. He’s been pretty great so far. No doubt about it.

As you know, Hicks had a miserable debut season in pinstripes a year ago, though clearly the Yankees never stopped believing in his talent. Switch-hitters with some power and speed are nice players to have. The Yankees gave Hicks a legitimate opportunity to win the right field job in Spring Training, and while he got beat out by Aaron Judge, Hicks played well and gave the Yankees something to think about. It wasn’t an easy decision.

“I saw the disappointment in his face,” said Joe Girardi last week. “It wasn’t easy because I thought he had a pretty good Spring Training too. And I just said, ‘Your opportunities are going to come and you’ve just got to make sure that you’re ready.’ I give him a lot of credit because I thought he turned the page really quickly. That’s not easy to do. He’s played extremely well.”

As poorly as he played last season overall, Hicks did finish fairly well, hitting .271/.333/.424 (105 wRC+) with five home runs in 129 plate appearances after Carlos Beltran was traded away at the deadline. The regular playing time seemed to help Hicks, who prior to last season had never been a bench player. Going from playing everyday to playing once or twice a week can be really tough. Not many players can make that adjustment seamlessly.

“I think he kind of figured it out as he went along last year,” added Girardi when asked about using Hicks as a part-time player last season. “We’ve tried to play him multiple days in a row (this year) so it’s a little more comfortable than playing sparingly … We’ll get in a little bit of a rotation and spell guys and make sure he’s getting his at-bats because I think he can be really productive.”

The Yankees are indeed making sure Hicks is getting his at-bats. He has 35 plate appearances through the first 13 team games this year. Last season Hicks didn’t receive his 35th plate appearance until May 4th, in the club’s 26th game. Some minor injuries have helped — Brett Gardner missed a game after his collision with Rickie Weeks, and Matt Holliday missed two games with a back issue — but Girardi seems to be making sure Hicks plays fairly regularly.

And, given his production to date, Hicks is forcing the Yankees and Girardi to consider giving him even more playing time going forward. No, he’s not going to hit like this all summer, but he showed signs of life late last season and he’s doing it again now. Did I mention he’s also only 27? And is a switch-hitter who draws walks and hits for power and offers some speed on the bases? That’s kind of a big deal. Hicks has natural ability. His talent is obvious.

Late last year the Yankees and Girardi had no problem sitting established veterans for younger players. Brian McCann lost playing time to Gary Sanchez and Mark Teixeira lost playing time to Tyler Austin, most notably. They’ll have to do something similar to get Hicks in the lineup, because right now Judge should not be losing playing time to anyone. A day off here and there, sure, but he’s a future core player and his playing time is a priority.

That leaves Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, both of whom will turn 34 later this year and don’t really fit into the Yankees’ long-term plans. At least not as key contributors. We should also include Holliday here. He is 37 and on a one-year contract. For Hicks to get more playing time going forward, it’ll come at the expense of those three. Perhaps the Yankees will find a trade partner for Gardner (or Ellsbury!) at some point, but until then, there will have to be some sort of outfield rotation.

Point is, the Yankees have a 27-year-old former first round pick — who switch-hits! and draws walks! and hits for power! and runs well! — who may or may not be coming into his own as a player. Hicks finished well last year, played well in Spring Training, and has started strong this year. Given the plan to get younger and more athletic, finding out whether Hicks is really starting to put it together should absolutely should be a priority. Girardi will have to be a little creative to make sure he gets Hicks into the lineup regularly going forward.

Yankees 7, White Sox 4: Holliday and Judge homer as winning streak hits eight

Eight. Eight wins in a row. Ah ah ah. The Yankees kept rolling Monday night with a 7-4 win over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium. The eight-game winning streak is their longest since a ten-gamer in June 2012. This team is fun, is it not? As of this writing, the Yankees lead MLB with a +23 run differential.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Five Runs In Five Minutes
No, I didn’t actually time that third inning, but the rally sure seemed to come together quick. The score went from 0-0 to 5-0 Yankees in a heartbeat. It all started with a Pete Kozma single too. How about that? It was an infield single literally off left-hander Derek Holland. I’m pretty sure it got him on the bottom of the cleat. The trainer didn’t even come out to look at him. The single gave the Yankees a runner on first with one out.

Jacoby Ellsbury followed that with an infield single of his own, though that one was generously scored. He hit a soft tapper to first base and Jose Abreu bobbled it, allowing Ellsbury to beat it out. Abreu had plenty of time to get the out at first had he fielded it cleanly, but alas. Somehow it was ruled a single and not an error. Hooray for hometown scoring. Aaron Hicks followed that by hitting what looked like an inning-ending double play to shortstop Tim Anderson, but the turn was a little slow and Ellsbury slid in hard (and cleanly) to break it up. You don’t see many takeout slides these days.

Ellsbury’s slide kept the inning alive for Matt Holliday, who missed the previous two games with back stiffness and had gone 2-for-15 (.133) in his previous four starts prior to that. He worked a 2-2 count and Holland did execute his put-away pitch — he climbed the ladder and tried to get Holliday to chase a 93.8 mph fastball up and out of the zone (strike zone plot). Holliday just went up and got it. He tomahawked the ball out to left field for a three-run home run:

Distance: 459 feet. Exit velocity: OMG. Launch angle: LOL. That was the second longest home run in baseball so far this season. (Carlos Gomez hit one 462 feet on Opening Day.) Holliday is not not strong. That dude is every bit of his listed 6-foot-4 and 240 lbs., and he’s solid as a rock. It’s easy to see where that 459 feet dinger came from.

But wait! The Yankees did not stop there. They pushed across two more runs in the inning on back-to-back doubles by Starlin Castro and Chase Headley, and an infield single by Aaron Judge. Castro’s double was into the left-center field gap. Headley’s was down the left field line, and Melky Cabrera misplayed the carom off the wall, allowing Headley to get to third base. Judge yanked a hard-hit grounder deep into the shortstop hole and was able to beat Anderson’s throw, allowing Headley to score. Look at the big man showing some wheels. There were ten pitches between the Holliday homer and the Judge infield single. Like I said, it happened fast. Love this team, you guys.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Full Monty
Three runs in six innings does not do Jordan Montgomery nearly enough justice. He took the shutout into the seventh inning before two singles and a three-home run homer uglified his pitching line. That’s a shame. For the first six innings, Montgomery battled and pitched out of some jams, including runners at second and third with one out in the first and runners at first and second with one out in the sixth.

Montgomery escaped that first inning jam by getting a ground ball right at Headley — the runner at third had to hold — and a harmless fly ball to center field. After that, he settled down and retired 15 of the next 19 batters he faced. Two of the four baserunners he did allow during that stretch were immediately erased on ground ball double plays. After throwing 35 pitches in the first two innings, Montgomery needed only 44 to get through the next four innings. Once the Yankees took the lead in the third inning, he really starting pounding the strike zone.

The three-run home run obviously stinks, though with a seven-run lead and his pitch count at 79, I had no trouble with Joe Girardi sending Montgomery out for the seventh. Let the kid learn how to pitch deep into the game and go through the lineup three times. It was a learning experience. All told, three runs on seven hits and two walks in six innings is fine work by the rookie, especially since three of those hits came from the last thee batters he faced.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Leftovers
Judge knocked Holland out of the game with two-run home run into the visitor’s bullpen with two outs in the fifth. It was a rather pedestrian shot by Judge’s standards — it traveled 385 feet off the bat. That’s what happens when Judge doesn’t really get a hold of one. The two-run shot gave the Yankees a 7-0 lead. They did not have another baserunner the rest of the night. The final ten men they sent to the plate made outs.

Ten hits for the offense overall, including two each by Ellsbury and Judge, and three by Castro. Castro went 3-for-4 with two doubles to raise his season batting line to .365/.389/.538 (165 wRC+). He got off to an insanely hot start last year too, but by Game 13, his batting line was down to .280/.333/.480 (118 wRC+). What if Starlin is good now? Headley, meanwhile, went 1-for-4 with a double to drop his batting line down to .395/.509/.605 (219 wRC+). Is that good? That seems good.

Adam Warren‘s hidden perfect game/no-hitter bid is over. He replaced Montgomery in the seventh and recorded two quick outs before walking a batter. Warren had retired the first 22 batters he faced this season prior to that. He then allowed a bloop single to the leadoff hitter in the eighth. He’d thrown 7.2 no-hit innings to start the season prior to that. So close, Adam. So close. Time to start another streak.

A single and a double scored the White Sox’s fourth run of the night and knocked Warren out of the game with one out in the ninth inning. Aroldis Chapman, who has now warmed up or pitched five times in the last six days, threw two pitches and managed to give up a hit and get two outs. Dellin Betances warmed up in the eighth but didn’t pitch. He’s also warmed up or pitched five times in the last six days.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. ESPN also has the standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. That comes in handy from time to time. Here’s the ol’ win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game two of this three-game series against the White Sox. And hopefully a ninth straight win. Luis Severino and one-time Yankees killer Miguel Gonzalez are the scheduled starting pitchers. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or Wednesday’s series finale. The Yankees head out on a six-game road trip through Pittsburgh and Boston after that.

DotF: Torres plays first game at third base in Trenton’s win

Here are the day’s notes:

  • RHP Chance Adams was named the Double-A Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. He started his season with 9.2 scoreless innings and has a 0.79 ERA (3.02 FIP) through two starts. With Johnny Barbato (traded) and Dietrich Enns (injured) both out, there are some openings in the Triple-A Scranton rotation. I’m guessing Adams will be there soon.
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen has been placed on the Double-A Trenton disabled list, the team announced. Supposedly it’s a shoulder problem. That’s never good. Hopefully it’s nothing a little rest won’t knock out.

Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off-day.

Double-A Trenton (1-0 win over New Hampshire)

  • SS Thairo Estrada: 0-3
  • 3B Gleyber Torres: 0-3, 1 K — first career game at third base … the plan is supposedly two games a week at the hot corner
  • DH Miguel Andujar: 0-3, 2 K
  • 1B Mike Ford: 2-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
  • RF Billy McKinney: 0-2, 1 BB — got picked off first … remember his great Spring Training? he’s off to a 5-for-29 (.172) start, though at least four of his five hits have gone for extra bases (two doubles, one triple, one homer)
  • CF Rashad Crawford: 0-3, 1 K
  • RHP Domingo German: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 11/3 GB/FB — 57 of 89 pitches were strikes (64%) … German had the turbosinker working tonight, I see
  • LHP Nestor Cortes: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eight pitches, six strikes

[Read more…]

Game 13: The Quest For Another Sweep

Happy Bird. (Presswire)
Happy Bird. (Presswire)

The Yankees are baseball’s hottest team right now and they’re getting contributions from everyone. They’re hitting well, they’re pitching well, they’re defending well, and they’re even running the bases well. The Yankees have scored at least seven runs in four of those seven games, and only once did they allow more than three runs. Things are going pretty darn well right now.

Tonight the rebuilding White Sox will be in town for the first of three games. The Yankees just swept back-to-back three-game series against the Rays and Cardinals, and while any team can beat any other team on any given night in this game, the schedule favors the Yankees this week. The winning streak is awesome, but just keep winning series. That’s the goal. Here is the White Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. RF Aaron Judge
  7. 1B Chris Carter
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Pete Kozma
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

Another great weather day in New York. There are some clouds in the sky and it’ll be on the cool side tonight, but not freezing cold. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

4/17 to 4/19 Series Preview: Chicago White Sox

(Jason Miller/Getty Images North America)
(Jason Miller/Getty Images North America)

The Yankees are in the midst of what may well be the closest thing to a perfect homestand that anyone could reasonably expect. There have been injuries and ups and downs, to be sure – but most everything is trending in the right direction, and one can’t ask for much more. The similarly rebuilding/reloading White Sox are next up on the docket.

The Last Time They Met

These two teams were significantly different the last time they met last July. The White Sox hosted the Yankees for a three-game set beginning on the Fourth of July, just three weeks prior to the Yankees hoisting the white flag. The Southsiders took two of three, despite trotting out James Shields in one of those wins, and with both Chris Sale and Jose Quintana sitting for the series. A few notes:

  • The Yankees went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the first game of the series, an 8-2 loss. They seemed poised to make a comeback in the 8th, when they were down just 6-2 and Brian McCann and Starlin Castro (who went 4-for-4 with 2 doubles) reached safely to open the inning … and then Didi Gregorius (who also made three errors), Chase Headley, and Aaron Hicks struck out swinging in back-to-back-to-back at-bats.
  • The Yankees won the second game 9-0, cranking out 20 hits in the process. Alex Rodriguez (1-for-6) was the only starter to not reach base at least twice.
  • Michael Pineda started game three and went ‘Full Pineda’ in the second inning – he retired the first two batters, and then posted the following sequence: 1B-BB-1B-2B-2B. And then it was 4-o. They would go on to lose 5-2.

Injury Report

The 24-year-old Carlos Rodon, a popular breakout pick for 2017, is on the disabled list with a left biceps bursitis. White Sox fans are collectively holding their breath until he returns, which should be sometime in May. Starting catcher Geovany Soto was put on the DL just last week, as well, and will not be back for this series.

Melky Cabrera sat out this past weekend’s series against the Twins on paternity leave, to witness and celebrate the birth of his fourth child. He is slated return against the Yankees, though.

Their Story So Far

The White Sox were in what felt like a holding pattern for the better part of a decade. They were too close to contention to rebuild, it seemed, yet they had not made the playoffs since 2008 and few bought them as legitimate contenders. After finishing below .500 for the fourth consecutive season, however, the front office decided to blow it up this past offseason. They shipped ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox and Adam Eaton to the Nationals, and were still shopping Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, and most everyone else over the age of 30 when the season began. Their farm system vaulted from bottom-five to top-five in the process, and it stands to get even better around this year’s trade deadline.

As a result of this, 2017 is a transitional season, and we will probably see top prospects Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez, and others take their lumps at the big league level sooner rather than later. For now the White Sox are a 6-5 team on the strength of the best run prevention (2.71 ERA) in the American League.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager Robin Ventura has utilized fairly similar lineups thus far, with the only real changes coming due to injuries and Cabrera’s paternity leave. Barring something unforeseen, the Yankees will probably see a lineup that looks something like this:

  1. Tyler Saladino, 2B
  2. Tim Anderson, SS
  3. Melky Cabrera, LF
  4. Jose Abreu, 1B
  5. Todd Frazier, 3B
  6. Avisail Garcia, RF
  7. Matt Davidson or Cody Asche, DH
  8. Omar Narvaez or Kevan Smith, C
  9. Leury Garcia or Jacob May, CF

Those last three slots might seem like cop-outs on my part, but the White Sox have been going with the hot hand at those positions, as nobody has stood out as of yet. None of those players have ever stood out in the past, either, which of course means that one will do serious damage against the Yankees this week.

The Pitchers We Will See

Monday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Derek Holland

Three years ago, the Rangers appeared to have unearthed a gem in Holland. The southpaw was coming off a 4.3 fWAR age-26 season, on the strength of 213 IP, 21.1 K%, 7.2 BB%, and a 120 ERA+, seemingly putting together all the flashes of potential he had shown for parts of four seasons. Unfortunately, injuries saw him miss the majority of 2014 and 2015, and he had an ineffectual at best 2016. The Rangers bought him out this off-season, and the White Sox signed him for $6 MM to eat innings at the back of the rotation.

They seem to have caught lightning in a bottle thus far, though, as the now 30-year-old has thrown quality starts in his first two outings. The former sinkerballer now prefers a low-90s four-seamer, and mixes in a low-80s slider, an upper-70s curveball, and mid-80s change-up.

Last Outing (vs. CLE on 4/12) – 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 4 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Miguel Gonzalez

Yankees fans might be more familiar with Gonzalez than any other fan base, as we have seen him take the mound for the opposing team fourteen times, posting a 3.80 ERA in 85.1 IP along the way. The last time we saw him was July 6, 2016, when he pitched to the following line: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K. This is his sixth season in the majors, and he has been a league-average starter (107 ERA+ in 726 IP) from day one. That’s not bad for a guy that the Orioles signed as a minor league free agent back in 2012.

Gonzalez is something of a junkballer, working with two 90ish MPH fastballs, a mid-80s change-up, a mid-80s slider, and a mid-70s curveball. He’ll show all five pitches in most of his starts, so it’s safe to call him a true five-pitch pitcher.

Last Outing (vs. CLE on 4/13) – 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 5 K

Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Dylan Covey

Covey was the 14th overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft, as one of the most highly rated high school talents in the class. During his physical, however, doctors discovered that he had Type 1 Diabetes, which led to Covey foregoing a $1.6 MM signing bonus in order to attend college and learn how to cope with his condition. He entered the 2013 draft, where the A’s took him in the fourth round, and he spent the first four years of his professional career in their organization. He was left unprotected in this year’s Rule 5 draft, on the heels of an injury-riddled 2016, and the White Sox scooped him up. And despite having just 29.1 IP above High-A, he made his big league debut last week.

The 25-year-old works off of a heavy sinker in the low-90s, which he uses to rack up grounders. He also throws a slider, a curve, and a change-up, all of which he commands fairly well. Covey won’t pick up many strikeouts, though.

Last Outing (vs. MIN on 4/14) – 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 K

The Bullpen

The White Sox bullpen has been lights out thus far, pitching to a 1.43 ERA in 37.2 IP. Robertson and set-up man Zach Putnam have combined to toss 12 scoreless innings so far, allowing 3 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 18. Their bullpen was solid-average across the board last season, and most of the key components are back this year.

Yankees Connection

This section was thought up by Mike, and largely because of how many current White Sox have ties to the Yankees. To wit:

  • Melky Cabrera played for the Yankees from 2005 through 2009;
  • David Robertson played here from 2008 through 2014;
  • Anthony Swarzak tossed 31 below replacement-level innings for the Yankees last year;
  • He never made it to the show in pinstripes, but Tommy Kahnle was in the organization from 2010 through 2013;
  • Jose Quintana was in the Yankees organization from 2008 through 2011, and has probably caused many sleepless nights for Brian Cashman (though, who knows what he would have become without Don Cooper?).

Who (Or What) to Watch

Shortstop Tim Anderson was a consensus top-fifty prospect heading into 2016, and he earned his call to the majors in June. He was pretty good the rest of the way, accumulating 2.4 fWAR in 99 games. Anderson managed a solid-for-the-position 95 wRC+ on the strength of a solid power/speed combination, but his meager 3.0 BB% led to doubts that he could sustain even that level of production. The early returns in 2017 are awful, but the talent is too tantalizing to turn away from.