Stretched out or not, time for the Yankees to bring back Pineda

Trolley Frogs! (Scranton Times-Tribune)
Trolley Frogs! (Scranton Times-Tribune)

At some point in the next day or two, the Yankees will officially announce whether Esmil Rogers or Michael Pineda will start Wednesday’s series finale against the Orioles. Rogers pitched very well in a spot start on Friday, giving the team five innings of one-run ball on a limited pitch count, but it’s obvious he’s just keeping the spot warm for Pineda, who made his second minor league rehab start that same night. He threw 72 pitches in that rehab game.

“We haven’t made a decision. A lot depends on what happens the next few days,” said Joe Girardi to Dan Martin when asked about Pineda possibly rejoining the rotation this week. “Ideally you’d like to get him to 90 pitches … We’ll talk to the people who saw him and decide what’s next. You have to make sure the player is ready.”

Naturally, Pineda feels ready to come off the disabled list because just about every player thinks they’re healthy and ready to return to the team after a rehab outing or two. “Everything is there. The velocity is there. I’m feeling good. I’m happy with that,” he said to Brian Heyman the other day. Pineda has allowed one run on nine hits and one walk in 7.2 rehab innings, striking out eleven, so statistically the rehab assignment has gone well.

Girardi indicated the decision to bring Pineda back could depend as much on the shape of the bullpen as it does how he feels. The Yankees aren’t getting much length out of their starters in general and Rogers could be used in long relief as soon as Tuesday, according to the skipper. “The bullpen has been used a lot. Sometimes plans change,” said Girardi to Martin. If Rogers is needed to bail out Shane Greene tomorrow, Pineda would start Wednesday by default.

At this point though, I think it’s time for the Yankees to bring Pineda back regardless of his pitch count in his most recent rehab start. If the team doesn’t feel he is where he needs to be with his pitches, that his fastball command isn’t all the way back or he doesn’t have feel for his slider yet, that’s different. Pineda can’t be effective without fastball command or feel of his slider. If he needs another rehab start to get that stuff back, so be it. Then he’ll have to make another start with Triple-A Scranton.

But, if we’re talking only about a matter of pitch count, being stretched out to throw 85 pitches vs. 100 pitches, then I don’t think there’s much to consider here. In that case the Yankees should absolutely bring Pineda back this week, upgrade their rotation, and simply keep an eye on his pitch count until he is fully stretched out. Rogers did very well in his spot start but nothing in his track record suggests we should expect more of the same going forward. Pineda limited to 85 pitches or whatever is still better than maybe any other pitcher on the staff at this point. It’s not like he threw 45 pitches last time out. He’s stretched out enough to give the team the same five innings as Rogers.

The Yankees head into this series with the Orioles six games back in the AL East, though they are only 2.5 games back of the second wildcard spot. The division isn’t completely off the table at this point but it sure does seem like a long shot. The wildcard is still very much up for grabs though, there’s just a ton of competition. The Blue Jays, Royals, and Mariners are all right there with the Yankees, so every little upgrade is huge. Brian Cashman‘s been talking about incremental upgrades these last few weeks, and, well, Pineda is an upgrade over Rogers, even if he’s only out there for 85 pitches on Wednesday.

8/11-8/13 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

For all intents and purposes, this three-game series against the Orioles in Camden Yards will determine whether the Yankees have a realistic chance of winning the AL East this season, or if they’ll have to focus solely on the wildcard. The O’s have won two of three in each of the first three series these two teams have played this year.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Orioles outscored the Cardinals 25-13 this weekend but “only” won two of three. They’ve won six of their last eight games and are 15-8 since the All-Star break. Baltimore is 67-50 with a +48 run differential, giving them the biggest division lead in baseball at five games. The Yankees are six games back.

At 4.29 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, the Orioles are only a slightly above-average offense despite leading baseball with 147 homeruns. They don’t get enough guys on base in front of the power hitters. Baltimore is without C Matt Wieters (131 wRC+), who is done for the year following Tommy John surgery. SS J.J. Hardy (94 wRC+) is currently day-to-day with a thumb sprain and may or may not be available this series.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Jones. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Manager Buck Showalter’s lineup is built around the 30-homer power of OF Adam Jones (117 wRC+) and OF Nelson Cruz (129 wRC+). Cruz already has 30 homers and Jones will get there before season’s end. (He’s at 22.) 1B Chris Davis (90 wRC+) is having a relatively awful year, but OF Steve Pearce (139 wRC+) has picked up some of the slack. Steve Pearce, huh? Both OF Nick Markakis (114 wRC+) and 3B Manny Machado (107 wRC+) have been productive on both sides of the ball.

C Caleb Joseph (95 wRC+) recently went deep in five consecutive games. Corban’s brother splits catching duties with C Nick Hundley (68 wRC+) in the wake of Wieters’ injury. DH Delmon Young (129 wRC+ in limited time), OF David Lough (71 wRC+ in limited time), IF Jonathan Schoop (59 wRC+), and UTIL Ryan Flaherty (62 wRC+) fill out the rest of the bench. Flaherty has been filling in at short while Hardy’s been banged up.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Bud Norris (vs. NYY)
The 29-year-old Norris has arguably been his team’s most consistent starting pitcher, with a 3.68 ERA (4.36 FIP) in 19 starts and 115 innings. His peripherals don’t jump out at you — 6.73 K/9 (17.9 K%), 2.90 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), 1.02 HR/9 (10.4 HR/FB%), and 42.3% grounders — but he has essentially zero platoon split and simply keeps runs off the board. After years of underperforming his peripherals, he’s now doing the opposite. Maybe it’s dumb luck. Norris is basically a two-pitch pitcher with two other pitches. He relies heavily on his low-90s four-seamer and mid-80s slider, throwing them roughly 80% of the time combined, but he’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups and low-90s two-seamers per start. He held the Yankees to one run in five innings back in June.

Tuesday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (vs. NYY)
Chen, 29, has a 3.90 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 22 starts and 129.1 innings this year, his third straight year pitching at almost exactly the same level. The only thing he does exceedingly well is limit walks (1.60 BB/9 and 4.2 BB%). His strikeout (6.68 K/9 and 17.7 K%), homer (1.32 HR/9 and 12.8 HR/FB%), and grounder (40.9%) numbers aren’t special at all. Like Norris, he also has what amounts to no platoon split whatsoever. Chen has the standard issue four-pitch mix, so a low-90s fastball, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and low-70s curveball. The changeup is his go-to offspeed pitch. The Yankees scored four runs in five innings when they faced the Taiwanese southpaw back in April.

It’s worth noting the Orioles will be the first team to see Greene a second time as a starting pitcher, which is always a big test. That mid-90s sinker and hard upper-80s slider won’t sneak up on them this time.

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Esmil Rogers (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
Tillman started Opening Day for the Orioles but he’s been unable to build on last year’s success, instead posting to a solid 3.73 ERA (4.22 FIP) in 149.2 innings across 25 starts. His strikeout rate (6.13 K/9 and 15.9 K%) is his lowest since breaking into the league full time three years ago while his walk rate (3.19 BB/9 and 8.3 BB%) is its highest. Tillman has done a much better job of keeping the ball in the park this season (0.90 HR/9 and 8.2 HR/FB%) even though his ground ball rate (41.1%) continues to be no better than okay. Again, like Norris and Chen, he has zero platoon split, but he has pitched quite a bit better at home (.281 wOBA) than on the road (.332 wOBA) in 2014. Low-90s four-seamers and cutters set up Tillman’s mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and big-breaking mid-70s curveball. He’s lost about one mile an hour off his fastball for the second straight year. The Yankees have seen Tillman twice this year: seven shutout innings in June and three runs in 6.2 innings in July.

Rogers is still listed as the starter for the series finale though there are rumblings Michael Pineda may rejoin the rotation that day. He got up 72 pitches in his second rehab start this weekend, meaning he should be good for 85-90 pitches next time out. “That’s something we’ll have to talk about,” said Joe Girardi to Brian Heyman over the weekend. “Ideally you’d like to get someone to 90 pitches … We’ll sit down, Brian (Cashman) and the people who saw it, and decide what’s next for him.”

Bullpen Status
The Cardinals did the Yankees a favor by both forcing Kevin Gausman out of yesterday’s game early and keeping the score close enough that Showalter used his key relievers. Both closer RHP Zach Britton (3.15 FIP) and setup man/deadline pickup LHP Andrew Miller (1.73 FIP) not only pitched, but they also allowed runs and threw longer than usual innings. LHP T.J. McFarland (3.58 FIP) threw 51 pitches across two innings of work as well.

The rest of Showalter’s bullpen includes RHP Brad Brach (3.59 FIP), RHP Tommy Hunter (3.44 FIP), LHP Brian Matusz (4.30 FIP), and RHP Darren O’Day (2.88 FIP). Matusz is a pure lefty specialist while McFarland is a multi-inning lefty and Miller is a one-inning high-leverage guy who will face both lefties and righties. The eight-man Yankees bullpen is in relatively good shape. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details and then check out Camden Chat for the latest on the Orioles.

Fan Confidence Poll: August 11th, 2014

Record Last Week: 4-3 (22 RS, 19 RA)
Season Record: 61-56 (468 RS, 493 RA, 55-62 pythag. record) 6.0 GB in ALE, 2.5 GB of WC
Opponents This Week: @ Orioles (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Rays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

DotF: Torrens homers in Staten Island’s win

Some notes:

  • C John Ryan Murphy was placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL, according to Donnie Collins. Collins notes Murphy left last night’s game an inning after taking a foul pitch to the face mask, though it’s unclear if that’s why he was put on the DL. With Murphy out and Brian McCann landing on the 7-day concussion disabled list, the Yankees are suddenly a bit thin behind the plate.
  • RHP Luis Severino was placed on the Double-A Trenton DL with an oblique strain, the team announced. He’s been out for roughly two weeks now and they needed a roster spot. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman called it a “very slight” strain but I wouldn’t be surprised if Severino is done for the year. Trenton’s season ends in three weeks and Newman always downplays injuries.
  • LHP Caleb Smith has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, according to Nicholas Flammia. I assume he’s replacing Severino. Smith started for Tampa yesterday, faced one batter, gave up a hit, and was pulled. That was weird, but I guess the promotion kinda explains hit.
  • The Yankees have re-signed IF Scott Sizemore to a minor league contract, says Bryan Hoch. They released him last month. He’s been out with some kind of injury for a few weeks now and has been placed on Scranton’s DL.
  • C Luis Torrens, 1B Connor Spencer, IF Ty McFarland, and DH Isaias Tejeda have all been selected for the Short Season NY-Penn League All-Star Game. The game is in Brooklyn next Tuesday (Aug. 19th), if you’re interested in attending.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 win over Columbus)

  • SS Jose Pirela: 0-3, 1 BB
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-4
  • DH Kyle Roller: 2-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 23rd homer of the year leads the system now that Peter O’Brien has been traded away
  • LHP Nik Turley: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 9/1 GB/FB — 51 of 85 pitches were strikes (60%) … 35/31 K/BB in 45 innings after missing the start of the year with an unknown arm injury
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/3 GB/FB — only 12 of 26 pitches were strikes (46%) … 68/16 K/BB in 47.1 innings
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — ten pitches, six strikes … 86/19 K/BB in 60.1 innings

[Read more…]

Sunday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the rest of the night. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is the Braves and Nationals (Wood vs. Gonzalez), so talk about that game, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else on your mind right here.

Yanks almost shut out again, fall 4-1 to Indians

Source: FanGraphs

Well that was one giant letdown of a weekend. The Yankees started their seven-game homestand with four wins in five games before falling flat these last two days and finishing it at 4-3. Blah. Sunday afternoon’s loss to the Indians came by the score of 4-1. Let’s recap:

  • August Wall: Hiroki Kuroda appears to be hitting his annual August wall a week or two early. He ran out of gas after 80-ish pitches for the second straight start, but he was left in to throw 97 pitches and that was long enough to load the bases and walk in a run in the fifth inning. The Indians scored their first run on two bloops and a ground ball single, and their second on a double and a sac fly (with a bunt mixed in), but Kuroda wasn’t fooling anyone all afternoon. Two runs on five hits and four walks in 4.2 innings is pretty gross. Joe Girardi has to start treating him as an 80-pitch pitcher going forward. If that means only four or five innings, so be it. Might as well put that eight-man bullpen to use.
  • LMAOffense: Three singles, no walks, a double that was nothing more than a single that took a weird carom off the sidewall and away from the outfielder, and a garbage time (two outs in the ninth!) solo homer. That was the Yankees’ offense for the afternoon. They had two runners reach second base (none reach third base) before Jacoby Ellsbury‘s homer, and at one point they made 15 straight outs. The Yankees went 19 innings without a run before the homer. The at-bats were barely competitive on Sunday. Take a pitch or two, roll over and ground out or pop-up weakly. The offense really small-timed it this weekend.
  • Leftovers: Congrats to Bryan Mitchell for making his MLB debut. He struck out two in two scoreless innings to wrap up the afternoon … David Huff and Shawn Kelley combined to allow Cleveland’s fourth run on an infield single, a bunt, and a two-strike, two-out single … Ellsbury (single, stolen base, homer), Mark Teixeira (single), Stephen Drew (single), and Ichiro Suzuki (double) were the only offense … the Yankees were one out away from being shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since May of 1999 against the Chuck Finley-led Angels. has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some nerdier stats, and ESPN the updated standings. At this very moment, the Yankees are 6.5 games back in the AL East and two games back of the second wildcard spot, pending the results of the day’s other games. Bud Norris and Chris Capuano will be the pitching matchup in Monday night’s series opener against the Orioles. Needless to say, that’s a huge series.

Game 117: End of the Homestand

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

This afternoon’s series finale against the Indians is the difference between a 5-2 homestand and a 4-3 homestand. The former sure looks a whole lot better than the latter, doesn’t it? After getting Klubered yesterday, hopefully the Yankees will come out and wrap this homestand up with a win before going to Baltimore for an incredibly important three-game series. Here is the Indians lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Carlos Beltran
  6. 2B Stephen Drew
  7. 3B Martin Prado
  8. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  9. C Frankie Cervelli
    RHP Hiroki Kuroda

It’s another gorgeous day for baseball in New York. Nice and sunny, no clouds, no rain in the forecast, just a perfect afternoon to be at the ballpark. This afternoon’s game will begin a bit after 1pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.