Josh Norris chats with Rick Down

Josh Norris recently spoke to former Yankees hitting coach Rick Down, who now serves as the club’s minor league hitting coordinator. In part one of their chat, Downs talks more about his role within the organization — coaching the hitting coaches, not necessarily the players — and hitting philosophy in general. “Most often when you talk to people who don’t know much about hitting, the first place they want to go is to the swing, but that’s the last thing that happens,” said Down. “The barrel’s the last thing to the ball in this whole hitting process.”

Part two of their talk is focused more on individual players, specifically Double-A guys Cody Johnson, Melky Mesa, and Ronnie Mustelier. Both parts are fascinating and well worth your time. Hitting seems like such a harder thing to perfect than pitching, which I think is why so many of best hitters in baseball today are guys who exceeded expectations.

No comeback this time: Yankees unable to rally following Freddy’s latest dud

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees are lucky the season is only 20 games old because they have some very serious starting pitching problems and will need plenty of time to sort this mess out. Here’s a recap of the latest starting pitching embarrassment/game…

  • Unacceptable: Freddy Garcia can’t make another start for the Yankees, at least not anytime soon. It’s that simple. They didn’t take advantage of Thursday’s off day by skipping him and were rewarded with a six-run, five-out start. You don’t get to keep your job with a 12.51 ERA after four starts, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing this or how gritty of a veteran you are. Thanks for last year Freddy, but you’re of no use to the team now.
  • The Answer: The obvious candidate to take Garcia’s place is David Phelps, who faced the minimum in three scoreless innings of work and only threw 31 pitches in this game. I would have liked to see him throw a few more innings to build up that pitch count, though he did just throw 53 pitches on Wednesday. Probably have to save him for the inevitable Phil Hughes disaster on Tuesday.
  • Smyly Frowny Face: While Freddy was busy getting his brains beat in, lefty Drew Smyly was busy shutting the Yankees’ offense down. He gave up a solo homer to Nick Swisher in the first, then retired 18 of the next 20 he faced before Alex Rodriguez ended his afternoon with a leadoff single in the seventh. Smyly struck out seven, walked two, and allowed just the two hits. He got his first career win in Yankee Stadium, which is pretty cool.
  • Late Rally: The Yankees would not be denied though. They tagged the Detroit bullpen for four runs in three innings, including three off Jose Valverde. Despite being down six runs at one point, they managed to bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Eric Chavez juuust missed a game-tying homer, at least in terms of his swing. The ball landed in Don Kelly’s glove about ten feet shy of the wall. I always appreciate a late-inning rally, even if they lose. It’s good to show some fight and make the other club sweat, especially since the game looked over after two innings.
  • Leftovers: I can only assume Cody Eppley will be sent to Triple-A in favor of a fresh arm after throwing three effective innings — the one run allowed was a solo homer to Miguel Cabrera, which is completely forgivable — and 37 pitches on Saturday afternoon, I just don’t know who would come up, there’s no obvious candidate … Swisher hit solo homers from each side of the plate, the 11th time he’s done that in his career. Only Mark Teixeira (13) has homered from both side of the plate on more occasions in baseball history … Curtis Granderson hit a solo homer off Phil Coke, his first against a lefty this year. And yes, Coke pointed at it like it a playable fly ball. has the box score and video lowlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. CC Sabathia will start the rubber game of this series against Max Scherzer on Sunday afternoon, and the Yankees really need him to come through with a strong outing. Lots of quality innings, please. RAB Tickets can get you into the park on the cheap if you feel like heading up to the Bronx.

Campos rocked, Austin homers twice in win

Manny Banuelos (back) is scheduled to come off the DL and start for Triple-A Empire State on Wednesday, so hooray for that. Meanwhile, Graham Stoneburner (groin) will come off the DL and start for Double-A Trenton on Tuesday.

Triple-A Empire State (8-4 win over Lehigh Valley)
LF-3B Kevin Russo: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — eight for his last 13 (.615) with four doubles
C Frankie Cervelli: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — ten for his last 25 (.400)
DH-LF Dewayne Wise: 1-4
1B Steve Pearce: 0-1, 1 R, 1 BB — left the game after fouling a ball off his foot in the second inning
CF Ray Kruml: 0-2, 1 K — replace Pearce off the bench
2B Jayson Nix: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
RF-1B Brandon Laird: 1-2, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
CF-RF Colin Curtis: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
SS Doug Bernier: 0-2, 1 R, 1 BB
3B Ramiro Pena: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K — was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the eighth inning
RHP Nelson Figueroa: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 8/3 GB/FB — 43 of 65 pitches were strikes (66.2%) … dude is still sitting in the low-90s at 38 years old too
RHP Adam Miller: 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 4/2 GB/FB — 22 of 36 pitches were strikes (61.1%)
RHP Chase Whitley: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2/0 GB/FB — eight of 13 pitches were strikes
RHP Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K — 18 pitches, 12 strikes … 17 K and 5 BB in 11 IP

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Brett Gardner Update

(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

If you’re like me and you’ve had your fill of Raul Ibanez in the outfield, I have good news for you. Brett Gardner swung a bat today for the first time since being placed on the DL with a bone bruise and a strain in his right elbow ten days ago. He took ten dry swings and another 15 off a tee, reporting no pain afterwards. Gardner could be ready to take batting practice as soon as Monday. He’s eligible to come off the DL on Friday, and hopefully we don’t have to wait a minute longer.

Here is your open thread for the night. The Rangers (win) and Knicks (loss) already played, but the Mets are in action tonight and MLB Network will air a game as well. Most of the country will see Bryce Harper’s debut (9pm ET). That’s neat. You folks know what to do with these threads by now, so have it.

Game 20: Reverse Lock

(REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)

The starting pitching has been dreadful so far this season, with Freddy Garcia and his 9.75 ERA across three starts being one of main reasons why. He’ll make his fourth start of the season this afternoon against rookie southpaw Drew Smyly, and we all know the Yankees seem to struggle against young left-handers they’ve never seen before, at least anecdotally. Hopefully when you have two locks like this — Garcia getting pounded and Smyly shutting the offense down — they cancel each other out and we get a favorable outcome. It’s science. Here’s the lineup…

DH Derek Jeter
RF Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
CF Curtis Granderson
LF Andruw Jones
Russell Martin
SS Eduardo Nunez

RHP Freddy Garcia

Today’s game starts a little after 4pm ET and can be seen on YES, not FOX. Enjoy.

Thinking about Bobby Abreu

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Angels came into the season with a very crowded outfield/DH picture, but they cleared things up a bit last night by releasing Bobby Abreu following their fifth straight loss. Top prospect Mike Trout was recalled to hopefully inject some life into their season. Anaheim is still on the hook for the $9M left on Abreu’s contract, less the pro-rated portion of the league minimum should he sign elsewhere.

The Yankees, as you may recall, actually agreed to trade for Bobby this past offseason before A.J. Burnett invoked his no-trade clause because he didn’t want to go to the West Coast. It stands to reason that they’ll at least explore the idea of signing Abreu as a free agent now even though they brought in a different left-handed hitting DH type after the trade fell through. It doesn’t hurt to look.

The timing works out well given Brett Gardner‘s injury. The Yankees are carrying a 13-man pitching staff at the moment, so they could easily option Cody Eppley to Triple-A and create 40-man roster space for Abreu by shifting either Cesar Cabral or Joba Chamberlain to the 60-day DL. That would give them a very short window to see what he still has to offer as the left-handed half of a DH platoon without having to jettison Raul Ibanez. It’s worth noting that Gardner performed bunting drills yesterday and was scheduled to visit the doctor, though no update was given. He is eligible to come off the DL next Friday.

Joe wrote about Abreu at length at the end of Spring Training, noting that he’s unlikely to be much an upgrade over Ibanez, if he is one at all. Since both guys are relatively cheap and terrible on defense, the decision would essentially come down to Ibanez’s power vs. Abreu’s on-base skills and base running. The Yankees value makeup and clubhouse presence, though they obviously have first hand knowledge of what Bobby is like in that department. Signing Abreu for what amounts to a week-long audition seems like a decent idea given the lack of risk, though I don’t think it’s the most imperative of moves. There are valid reasons both for it and against it.

Triple-A SWB Yankees sale finally final

(Photo via The Scranton Times-Tribune)

The sale of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees franchise is finally complete, reports David Singleton of The Scranton Times-Tribune. Lackawanna County approved the sale on Thursday following more than two years of political wrangling. The team was sold for $14.6M to SWB Yankees LLC, a joint venture between the Yankees and Mandalay Bay. They had passed on an option to buy to the team for $13M in 2007, when the Yankees moved their Triple-A operations out of Columbus and into Northeast Pennsylvania.

Extensive renovations at PNC Field can finally begin now that the sale is complete, with major demolition starting yesterday. The $43.3M project is forcing the team to play all of its home games on the road this season. Last month we heard that construction had to begin no later than April 1st to ensure the facility is ready for the start of next season, but the park is expected to be ready in time following the sale approval. The Times-Tribune has some new renderings like the one you see above.

The sale locks SWB Yankees LLC into a 30-year stadium lease that could run as long as 50 years, so don’t expect the team’s Triple-A affiliate to move anytime soon. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is about as close to the Bronx as the Yankees could get their top minor league club, a two-hour drive if you run into some traffic. The season-long road trip is terrible for the players and prospects currently in Triple-A, but hopefully the sale and new facility sets things up well for the organization moving forward.