Via Andrew Marchand: The Yankees have not ruled out using Michael Pineda as a reliever in the second half if there isn’t any room for him in the rotation. For what it’s worth, Joe Girardi said they consider him a starter. “That’s how I’ve seen him … I don’t see using him any other way right now, but a lot of things that have happened this year,” said the skipper.
Pineda, 24, got knocked around pretty good in his penultimate rehab start on Sunday, allowing four runs in three innings while throwing more balls than strikes for Double-A Trenton. There’s time for just one more rehab start before his 30-day window expires on Monday. Barring a DL-worthy injury or a trade involving two starters, I have to think the team will option Pineda to Triple-A for a few weeks after the rehab stint is over. That will push his free agency back a year. I’m not necessarily opposed to temporarily using him out of the bullpen down the stretch, but I’d prefer to see Pineda work on a set schedule with a routine so soon after shoulder surgery. · (92) ·
With exactly four weeks to go until the non-waiver trade deadline, the Yankees’ needs have become crystal clear thanks to their various injuries and underperforming replacements. The team’s needs go something like this:
- A bat.
- Another bat.
- One more bat.
- Another bat just in case.
That’s the nuts and bolts of it. They don’t need one bat to improve the offense, they need bats. Plural. Middle of the order bats, top of the order bats, bottom of the lineup bats … you name it and the Yankees could use it.
Since “bats” is a rather vague term and could mean a bunch of different things, let’s narrow it down the team’s needs to specific positions and whatnot. Here are the team’s biggest priorities leading up to the trade deadline, at least at this very moment.
1. Right-Handed Hitting Corner Infielder
Good news! Alex Rodriguez started a minor league rehab assignment yesterday and is theoretically 19 days away from rejoining the team. Bad news: the Yankees still need a platoon partner for Lyle Overbay at first base at the very least.
Considering the nature of A-Rod‘s injury, however, it’s reasonable to expect him to spend a lot of time at DH immediately after he returns. Joe Girardi always errs on the side of caution with his veterans, so don’t expect Alex to come back as a seven days a week third baseman. He hasn’t done that in about three years now even when healthy. They always squeeze in a few DH days.
David Adams (43 wRC+) has been a disaster at third and Jayson Nix has tried admirably (65 wRC+), but New York needs to do better. They need someone who could step in and play the hot corner pretty regularly while also spotting Overbay at first. A right-handed hitting Eric Chavez, basically. The Yankees are said to have interest in Michael Young and he fits this role perfectly.
2. Utility (Middle) Infielder
This one may seem kind of weird because the Yankees already have like, three utility infielders on the roster. None of them are particularly good though, with Nix representing the best of the bunch. At some point Derek Jeter will actually return the Yankees to help out the middle infield, but he has yet to begin playing minor league rehab games and is still a ways away from returning. Eduardo Nunez is playing rehab games and should be back just before the All-Star break, but he’s not exactly a difference maker.
Like A-Rod, Jeter is very likely to see a bunch of time at DH right after he comes off the DL. In fact, the team’s original plan back in April was to DH him against lefties as a way to get him off his feet regularly. I can’t imagine that plan has changed following the setback. Finding someone better than the current utility infielders will make it even easier for the Yankees to ease Jeter back into things. I don’t think they’ll actually replace Nix at this point, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be something they explore.
Since Frankie Cervelli went down with his broken hand, the Yankees have gotten a meager .205/.268/.265 batting line out of the catchers. Chris Stewart, the nominal starting backstop, has hit .234/.301/.298 since Cervelli went down. Good defense only goes so far, I think Stewart’s reputation as a very good defender is up for debate after watching him everyday for the last two months.
Like the utility infielder spot I just talked about, I would be surprised if the Yankees went out and sought a catching upgrade. They seem perfectly happy with the Stewart-Austin Romine tandem until Cervelli comes back, at which point
he is sure to be nails given his long track record they’ll hope he’ll continues his early season performance. New York has already passed on backup catcher upgrades like Ramon Hernandez and Kelly Shoppach, so don’t expect them to seek out more help. The position is still a problem though.
4. Corner Outfielder (Preferably Right-Handed)
About a month ago, adding a corner outfield bat appeared to be the team’s biggest need. Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki were performing terribly and Curtis Granderson had just gone back on the DL, meaning he wasn’t going to return anytime soon. Ichiro has picked up the pace a little bit, but more than anything, Zoilo Almonte‘s solid performance (134 wRC+) since being called up has lessened the team’s need for a corner outfield bat.
Now, that doesn’t mean they don’t need one. Granderson has yet to swing a bat and is still several weeks away, plus Wells is still awful and Adams is a friendly reminder that rookies have a tendency to stop hitting for no apparent reason at a moment’s notice. Brennan Boesch apparently is not close to returning from his groin injury either, so he remains a non-option. If the Yankees have a chance to add a corner outfield bat at the deadline, particularly one they could control next year and beyond, they should jump all over it. It’s not longer the “must need” it was a month ago, however.
For just the third time in the last three weeks, the Yankees have won back-to-back games. Gotta love those Twins, they always seem to come through whenever the Bombers need a pick-me-up. Tuesday’s win was by the score of 7-3.
For the second straight start and the third time in the last five starts (fourth time in the last seven starts as well), Phil Hughes completed seven innings of work. He ran into a little rough patch a few weeks ago where getting through five was a chore, but that appears to be in the rear view mirror. Hughes turned in his second consecutive very good and borderline excellent start, holding the Twinkies to one run in those seven innings of work.
The highlight of Phil’s night, clearly, was his escape job in the fourth inning. He walked the leadoff man and then allowed a perfectly placed double to put runners at second and third with no outs, but he got out of the jam without allowing a run thanks to two strikeouts and a routine ground ball to second. Minnesota was up 1-0 at the time and a hit would have made it a 3-0 game, which these days feels kinda insurmountable. Great job getting out of that inning.
The run scored on a Joe Mauer single, which is one of those things that will happen. I mean, it’s Joe Mauer. He’s awesome. Hughes allowed the run on six hits and two walks, striking out just three. Obviously two of them came at the perfect time in that fourth inning. Seventy of his 114 pitches were strikes (61%), though his MLB-best first pitch strike percentage (70.1%) dropped because he started only 17 of 29 batters faced with strike one. Oh well. Very well done, just what the team needed given the rotation’s recent struggles.
Prior to the fifth inning of this game, the last time the Yankees scored a run while Hughes was on the mound was the third inning of the series opener in Seattle, when they pounded Aaron Harang. That was June 6th (!). The Bombers went a span of 27 innings between runs with Phil on the mound, but they did him a solid and pushed three across in the fifth against Samuel Deduno on Tuesday.
The inning started with a little bit of baseball serendipity — yes, I just used serendipity in a post on a Yankees blog — as Lyle Overbay beat out a dinky little infield single. Naturally, the next batter (Chris Stewart) hit a ball right on the screws that went for an out. That’s kinda how it goes. David Adams followed with a solid single to center to put men at first and third with one out, then Alberto Gonzalez sliced a double the other way into the right field corner. Perfect speed and perfectly placed to get both runs in even though there was just one out.
Ichiro Suzuki plated Gonzalez later in the inning with an assist from Samuel Deduno — the Minnesota starter muffed a weakly hit ground ball that hugged the first base line. He tried to pick the ball up and tag Ichiro as he ran by in one quick move, but the ball never actually made it into his glove. It’s about time the Yankees scored a run on a dinky little infield hit like that. They’ve had more than their fair share go against them of late.
Remember the Nick Green Game™ in 2006? When the spare part utility infielder with 1-for-3 with an upper-deck homer, two walks, and a pair of great defensive plays in a spot start for the Yankees against the Mets? This was the Alberto Gonzalez Game™. The spare part utility infielder went 2-for-4 with the two-run double, a one-run check swing single, and a great defense play going back on a ball in shallow center. Pretty great night for the former Attorney General.
The Twins made some noise in the ninth, during Preston Claiborne‘s second inning of work. They got to him for two runs on three hits in that inning before he gave way to Adam Warren, who walked Mauer on five pitches. He was predictably rusty after appearing in just three games (!) over the last month. The whole two long men thing is kinda silly. Mariano Rivera came in for the one-out, two-pitch save.
Robinson Cano broke the game open with a three-run homer in the seventh, his fourth homer in the last three games. There are few things in this game more enjoyable than watching a locked-in Robbie Cano. The homer was his 20th of his season, and he becomes just the fourth second baseman in history with five straight 20+ homer seasons. The others: Jeff Kent, Dan Uggla, and Chase Utley. ‘Tis the era of the offensive-first second sackers.
Before Adams’ single in that fifth inning rally, Yankees third basemen were mired in an 0-for-32 (!) slump. That was the longest active slump by any position for any team in baseball, including pitchers. That is quite ridiculous. Adams tacked on a double (when to third on an error by the right fielder) in the seventh for his first multi-hit game since June 9th. Yeah, it’s been a while.
Brett Gardner, Travis Hafner, and Stewart combined to go 0-for-13 while the rest of the team went 10-for-24. Ichiro, Cano, Adams, and Gonzalez all had two hits apeice. For the second straight game and fourth time in the last five games, the Yankees picked up double-digit hits. Hooray.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while some other stats are available at FanGraphs. ESPN has the updated standings. The Yankees are five back of first place in the loss column and three up on last place in the division. They’re two losses back of a wildcard spot.
Game three of this four-game set is scheduled for Wednesday night, when CC Sabathia gets the ball against right-hander P.J. Walters. The Yankees will be going for their first three-game winning streak in almost exactly a month.
11:32pm: Kuroda has sore left hip flexor, Girardi announced after the game. He first felt a little tenderness warming up on Sunday. The MRI came back clean and Kuroda’s unlikely to go on the DL, but they will skip his next start as a precaution. Nova gets the ball on Friday.
10:37pm: Waldstein says the early indication is that the leg issue isn’t too serious. Joe Girardi will address the situation after the game.
10:17pm: Via David Waldstein: Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is back in New York having tests for a possible leg issue. He might not be able to make Friday’s scheduled start. Ivan Nova has been doing his usual between-starts stuff and is lined up for that game just in case. The team will provide more information after the game, so stay tuned for updates. · (11) ·
In a post about rising and falling farm systems (subs. req’d), Keith Law ranked the Yankees among the six most improved systems. They were in the three-team honorable mention category following the three featured teams. On Twitter, Law said the improvement stems from their three first round picks in last month’s draft.
Triple-A Scranton (6-4 win over Pawtucket)
- LF Corey Patterson: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
- C J.R. Murphy & RF Fernando Martinez: both 0-4, 1 HBP — Murphy struck out once, Martinez twice
- DH Randy Ruiz: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — fourth homer in the last seven games
- 1B Dan Johnson: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
- CF Adonis Garcia: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
- SS Brent Lillibridge: 1-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 HBP
- RHP Chris Bootcheck: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 5/5 GB/FB — 50 of 84 pitches were strikes (60%) … picked not one, but two runners off second base
- RHP Dellin Betances: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K — 14 of 22 pitches were strikes (64%) … nice job to pick up his second career save
In his first minor league rehab game with Low-A Charleston, Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-2 while playing three innings at third base as scheduled. He hit into a 5-4-3 double play and struck out looking. The other team tested Alex with two bunts, one he fielded cleanly while not having a chance on the other according to Bob Nightengale and Dan Martin. They were the only defensive plays he had to make.
A-Rod’s 20-day rehab window expires on Monday, July 22nd, and he told Pete Iacobelli that he believe he’ll need all 20 days before rejoining the team. That’s not surprising, they’re going to ease him back in and he needs basically a full Spring Training. Alex said he will play for the River Dogs again tomorrow night before joining High-A Tampa on Thursday. It’s been raining for days in Florida, which is why he had to start his rehab in Charleston. · (30) ·
The losing streak is over and the Yankees actually scored a whole bunch of runs in last night’s win over the Twins. It felt just like old times. The Bombers aren’t out of the woods yet though, not even close really. They have to jump three teams if they want to win the divisions and two if they want to sneak into the postseason as a wildcard. As I said yesterday, they really need to take advantage of all these games against the Twins and Royals before the All-Star break. One win ain’t enough. Here’s the lineup that will face right-hander Samuel Deduno:
- CF Brett Gardner
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Travis Hafner
- LF Zoilo Almonte
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- C Chris Stewart
- 3B David Adams
- SS Alberto Gonzalez
And on the mound is the 2004 First Team High School All-American, right-hander Phil Hughes.
Clear skies and sunshine in Minneapolis, so they won’t have any trouble getting this game in. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: Jayson Nix (hamstring) is day-to-day. He felt some tightness after running out his double last night. Joe Girardi said it’s not considered a DL injury, but they don’t know when he’ll be able to return to the lineup … Mark Teixeira (wrist) had surgery as scheduled yesterday and everything went “as planned,” the team announced.
Thursday 8/1: Badler says Molina signed for $550.
Tuesday 7/2: The Yankees have signed Rodriguez for $575k, reports Jesse Sanchez. The team still has a touch more than $1.3M left to spend barring a trade for more pool space. Rodriguez is the only player they’ve signed so far, but it’s worth noting Molina can’t sign until he turns 16 on August 1st.
Monday 7/1: Via Ben Badler (subs. req’d): The Yankees are expected to sign Dominican shortstop Yonauris Rodriguez to a mid-six-figure signing bonus when the international signing period opens tomorrow. Between him and Dominican outfielder Leonardo Molina, Badler says the Yankees are likely max out their $1.88M spending pool. They are trying to trade for more pool money, however.
Rodriguez, 16, is said to be a high-energy player who stands out more for his defensive tools — namely quick feet and soft hands — than his hitting ability. The right-handed hitter is listed at 6-foot-0 and 160 lbs. and has good speed. Rodriguez played in the Dominican Prospect League and at various showcase events at the Yankees’ complex. Badler did not rank him among the 30 best international free agents available this summer. Here’s video. · (70) ·
Despite last night’s uplifting win, the Yankees have still lost six of their last eight games and 21 of their last 34 games. That dates back to the game after the 11-inning win/ninth inning comeback against Fernando Rodney and the Rays in Tampa. One win against a mediocre Twins club who was very willing to beat themselves by throwing the ball away on more than one occasion doesn’t mean the Yankees are out of the woods yet.
The offense has been the primary culprit behind this month-long slide. The so-called Bronx Bombers have scored just 112 runs during that 34-game skid, an average of 3.29 runs per game. The AL average this year is 4.36 runs per game, so we’re talking a full run below-average for more than a month by a team that plays in a very hitter friendly home ballpark. The Yankees have hit .228/.289/.335 as a team during that stretch, on par with the washed up Victor Martinez (.233/.290/.339). It’s bad.
The offense is not alone, however. The starting rotation, considered the strength of the team by pretty much everyone coming into the season, has been a let-down over the last month as well. The starters as a whole have a 4.64 ERA and 3.82 FIP during the last 34 games, so better than average peripherals with below-average results. Here are how the individual starters have fared during the slide:
I’ve excluded Vidal Nuno (two runs in six innings) and Ivan Nova (three runs in 6.2 innings) because both made just spot one start during the 34-game stretch and haven’t contributed to the carnage every five days. Outside of Kuroda and maybe Hughes, it’s the regulars who have been let downs.
Sabathia has been crazy homer prone of late — he’s allowed 17 homers at the halfway point, just five fewer than the career-high he set last season — and he hasn’t just fallen victim to Yankee Stadium cheapies either. Hit Tracker classified five of the eight homers he’s allowed during the 34-game slide as “plenty,” meaning they cleared the fence by more than ten vertical feet or landed more than one fence height beyond the wall. Between his overall velocity loss and increased propensity for mistake pitches, the increased homer trend seems more likely to continue than improve going forward.
Since coming off the DL early last month, Pettitte hasn’t given up a ton of homers (just two) but he has given up a lot of hits overall (42 in 36.2 innings). Ten of those 40 non-homer hits have been doubles, so opponents are still hitting for power against him even though the ball isn’t going over the fence. Andy has never been shy about giving up hits, but he hasn’t had his usual stinginess with men on-base recently. Opponents are hitting .328/.377/.422 (.433 BABIP) against him with men on and .333/.367/.462 (.429) with runners in scoring position since coming off the DL. It’s easy to say that will improve as the season goes on, but you never really know with 41-year-old finesse pitchers. Andy Pettitte is guarantees to be awesome just because he’s Andy Pettitte.
Phelps’ poor numbers are the product of two exceptionally bad outings. He allowed five runs in one-third of an inning in late-May and nine runs in 2.1 innings over the weekend. In the four starts between the two duds, he’s allowed just seven runs in 23.2 innings (2.66 ERA and 3.27 FIP). That doesn’t excuse the two disaster starts obviously, but I prefer seeing two disasters and four strong starts than six consistently mediocre ones. At least the former suggests he might have just had two really bad games relatively close together and isn’t fighting through some kind of mechanical problem or injury. Either way, the Yankees do need him to be better than he has been of late.
Last night’s ten-run outburst is hardly an indication New York has gotten over their offensive woes. They have a lot of trouble scoring runs and they need their pitching staff to not just be good, they need them to be damn near great. The rotation has not been very good of late and that’s a big reason why they’ve been unable to string wins together. Nova is waiting in the wings if they need to make a change, but he hardly inspires any confidence. Nuno is out with a groin injury with no return in sight. Michael Pineda‘s rehab window expires Monday but I find it very hard to consider a guy coming off major shoulder surgery to be a potential rotation savior. Besides, it seems more likely that he’ll be optioned to Triple-A next week than added to the big league roster. Long story short, the guys in the rotation simply have to start pitching better to keep this team in any kind of race.
Via George King: The Braves and Giants have interest in Joba Chamberlain as the trade deadline approaches. Both clubs are looking for bullpen help and both had scouts on hand to watch his recent outings — the Braves over the weekend in Baltimore, the Giants last night against the Twins. Both appearances were scoreless.
Chamberlain, 27, has a 5.75 ERA and 5.07 FIP in 20.1 innings this year. He missed about a month with an oblique strain and has been just dreadful since returning, pitching to a 7.36 ERA and 6.14 FIP in 11 innings. Joba’s only redeeming qualities at this point are that he still throws hard (94.8 mph, hardest since 2008) and can miss bats (9.74 K/9, 22.9 K%, and 9.9% swing-and-misses). If the Yankees are lucky, his “name value” with fetch some kind of return. Otherwise half-a-season of an inconsistent, injury prone middle reliever usually nets you close to nothing. · (128) ·