GCL Yanks make it 11 straight wins

Update: Lots of promotions. OF Mason Williams, OF Tyler Austin, and C Gary Sanchez have all been promoted to High-A Tampa while OF Rob Segedin, C J.R. Murphy, and OF Neil Medchill are going to Double-A Trenton. C Kyle Higashioka is going down to Tampa while IF Jose Toussen, IF Tyson Blaser, and OF Eduardo Sosa are going down to Low-C Charleston. Not fair for Blaser, but that’s minor league life.

Notes…

  • RHP Ricky Orta (elbow) was placed on the DL after leaving yesterday’s game with an elbow problem. RHP Sean Black was promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton to take his roster spot.
  • RHP Zach Nuding (tired shoulder) is close to returning to the High-A Tampa rotation. He’s been on the shelf for just about a month now.
  • LHP Vidal Nuno was named the Double-A Eastern League Pitcher of the Week, so congrats to him.

Triple-A Empire State (5-4 loss to Lehigh Valley in ten innings, walk-off style)
3B Ramiro Pena: 1-4, 1 BB
2B Corban Joseph: 2-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — nine hits in his last 25 at-bats (.360) with six doubles
LF Ronnie Mustelier & DH Jack Cust: both 0-4, 1 BB — Mustelier struck out once, Cust twice
C Frankie Cervelli: 1-5, 1 R, 2 K
1B Brandon Laird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — eight hits in his last 24 at-bats (.333)
RF Cole Garner: 2-4, 1 BB, 1 K
CF Colin Curtis: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
SS Doug Bernier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 1/0 GB/FB — 59 of 89 pitches were strikes (66.3%) … he was sitting 89-91, a far cry from his days with the Angels
RHP Ryota Igarashi: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 3/0 GB/FB — 15 of 27 pitches were strikes (55.6%)
LHP Juan Cedeno: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — half of his eight pitches were strikes … walked in the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth
RHP Jason Bulger: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 0/1 GB/FB — nine of 16 pitches were strikes

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Phillies have begun gauging trade interest in Cole Hamels

Via Jon Heyman, the Phillies have begun calling around to gauge trade interest in free agent-to-be Cole Hamels. Philadelphia went 9-19 in June and is 11 games out in the division, so a full blown sell-off could be coming. That said, Buster Olney reports that the asking price is very high, as in four prospects (including a third baseman and outfielder) with multiple Grade-A guys. The 2010 Cliff Lee and 2008 CC Sabathia trades are obvious comparisons here.

Hamels, 28, is having yet another stellar season — 3.08 ERA and 3.28 FIP — and would be an upgrade to any rotation in baseball, including New York’s. The hole created by Andy Pettitte‘s injury makes the left-hander even more of an obvious fit. As Joe and I mentioned on Friday’s podcast, the Yankees simply may not have the pieces to deal for Hamels, meaning high-end prospects at the upper levels of the minors. I can’t imagine the Phillies wouldn’t take a package headlined by a bunch of Low-A kids for their homegrown ace no matter how good they are.

Game 79: The Trop

Just as charming inside as it is outside. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The Yankees haven’t won a game at Tropicana Field in almost a year now. Their last win there was this combined shutout last July 20th, but they’ve since lost seven straight in their home away from home. Three of those games were the final series of last season, when the Yankees had no interest in winning and were more concerned with getting healthy and lining up the playoff rotation. Enabling the Rays to complete their end of The Collapse was just icing on the cake. The last three games of this seven-game winless streak were the first three games of this season, which featured a walk-off loss in the opener, a one-run loss in the second game, and a blowout loss in the finale. The Rays are reeling right now and it would be nice to get back into that Trop win column. Here’s the lineup…

DH Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
LF Andruw Jones
SS Jayson Nix
C  Chris Stewart

RHP Freddy Garcia

Coincidentally enough, Garcia was the starter the last time the Yankees won a game in this building. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Raul Ibanez Update: Ibanez (face) had to get stitches in his lip after smashing his face into the bench trying to avoid a foul ball yesterday. He passed a concussion test, has been cleared to play, and has rejoined the team in Tampa. Short version: he’s fine, just looks a little beat up.

Joba faced hitters today, will begin rehab stint “within two weeks”

Via Erik Boland and Chad Jennings, rehabbing right-hander Joba Chamberlain said he will appear in his first minor league rehab game “definitely within two weeks.” He threw a 40-pitch live batting practice session today — in front of Joe Girardi, Larry Rothschild, and others — his first time facing hitters as part of his rehab process as far as we know. He’s scheduled to throw a simulated game on Friday.

Joba continues to make pretty remarkable progress as he comes back from Tommy John surgery and a dislocated ankle, but David Aardsma’s recent setback is a nice little reminder that he still has a long way to go. If he’s able to begin his 30-day rehab clock two weeks from today, a mid-August return would be in the cards if everything goes well. That’s a big if, obviously.

Yankees option Cory Wade to Triple-A

The Yankees have optioned right-hander Cory Wade to Triple-A to make room on the roster for the recently acquired Chad Qualls. Qualls will be in uniform tonight and was given the number of another noted Yankees sinker baller, #40.

Wade, 29, has been awful for about six weeks now, pitching to a 9.68 ERA (6.45 FIP) in his last 20 appearances (17.2 innings). He jumped on the bullpen grenade the other night by throwing a career-high 58 pitches in a blowout loss, though he allowed six runs in the process. I thought maybe the Yankees would send Wade to High-A Tampa to keep him away from the traveling Triple-A circus, but at least now he’ll have a chance to right the ship in games that don’t count.

7/2-7/4 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Oh boy. (J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Yankees have Rays have already played three different series this season, with Tampa taking the first three games but New York rebounding to win four of the last six. Believe it or not, the Yankees have not won a game at Tropicana Field since last July, a span of seven games.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays are reeling, having just lost three of four to the Tigers and six of their last seven overall. They’ve also won just nine of their last 26 home games, if you can believe that. Tampa is 41-38 overall with a -1 run differential, both the second worst in the AL East.

Offense

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

A slightly below average offensive team at 4.12 runs per game overall, the Rays have scored two or fewer runs six times in their last dozen games. I suppose that’s what happens when your two best hitters — Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce — are on the disabled list at the same time. The most productive hitter on their active roster right now is Ben Zobrist (129 wRC+), who joins Jeff Keppinger (124 wRC+ in 124 PA) and Elliot Johnson (109 wRC+ in 205 PA) as their only three above average contributors. Carlos Pena (101 wRC+) has been essentially league average.

Tampa hasn’t gotten a ton out of Desmond Jennings (95 wRC+) or B.J. Upton (86 wRC+), both of whom have visited the DL at different times this season. Luke Scott (83 wRC+) just came back from injury to take over DH duties from Hideki Matsui (40 wRC+), who will probably get the Ol’ Yeller treatment soon. Random infielders like Sean Rodriguez (63 wRC+), Will Rhymes (45 wRC+), and Brooks Conrad (39 wRC+) fill out the roster while catching duties fall on the shoulder of two Joses — Lobaton (80 wRC+) and Molina (70 wRC+). Overall, the Rays have hit just .220/.305/.365 at the Trop this year. Kinda hard to believe a team could hit so poorly in its home park.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. LHP Matt Moore
Moore made his first career start against the Yankees last season, striking out 11 in five scoreless innings. He’s been much more human this year, pitching to a 4.19 ERA (4.47 FIP) in 88 innings across 15 starts. The strikeout rate (9.20 K/9 and 23.6 K%) is fantastic, but the walk (4.30 BB/9 and 11.0 BB%), homer (1.33 HR/9), and ground ball (40.2%) numbers aren’t all that impressive. The 23-year-old southpaw throws some of the easiest mid-90s cheese you’ll ever see, and he backs up the fastball with a mid-80s changeup and a low-80s slider. Oddly enough, left-handed batters have tattooed Moore for a .398 wOBA this season with nearly as many walks (11) as strikeouts (12). It’s a small sample (83 batters faced) thing and unlikely to continue going forward, but it’s very weird.

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Tuesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jamie Shields
The Yankees have already seen Shields three times this season, getting to him twice (5 IP, 6 R on Opening Day and 5 IP, 7 R in early-June) with another okay game (6 IP, 3 R in early-May) mixed in. He’s allowed four or more runs in four of his last six starts and in six of his last nine starts, contributed to his 4.04 ERA (3.70 FIP). Shields currently owns career bests in strikeout (8.51 K/9 and 21.5 K%) and ground ball (53.6%) rates but a career worst walk rate (2.75 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%). He’s also giving up a decent amount of homers (1.03 HR/9). Shields will pitch backwards with six pitches, setting up his three fastballs — low-90s two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter — with three offspeed pitches — mid-80s changeup, low-80s curve, and upper-80s slider. You folks all know how good he can be by now, we’ve seen him enough through the years.

Wednesday: RHP David Phelps vs. LHP David Price
Like Shields, the Yankees have seen Price three times this season — 6.1 IP, 2 R in April, 7 IP, 5 R in May, and 5 IP, 1 R in June. His overall season performance is borderline Cy Young caliber, a 2.92 ERA (3.42 FIP) with strong strikeout (8.34 K/9 and 22.8 K%), walk (3.01 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%), and ground ball (54.2%) rates. Price has as added a low-90s cutter this year and uses it to freeze right-handed batters with called strikes outside. It looks like this and is basically unhittable. He’ll still use mid-90s two and four-seamers to go along with his low-80s changeup, upper-80s slider, and upper-70s curveball. Again, you folks know how good Price can be. He’s no stranger.

(J. Meric/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
The Rays welcomed former Yankee Kyle Farnsworth back over the weekend, and he’s now setting up annoyingly good closer Fernando Rodney (1.97 FIP). It’s a big help with Joel Peralta (4.00 FIP) stinking up the joint (and getting suspended for having pine tar in his glove). Lefty setup man Jake McGee (2.15 FIP) pitched yesterday and in four of the last five days, so he might be on the shelf tonight. Ditto middle man Wade Davis (3.63 FIP), who has appeared in two straight. Rodney pitched yesterday as well. The rest of Joe Maddon’s bullpen features ground ball specialist Burke Badenhop (4.29 FIP) and soft-tossing left-hander J.P. Howell (4.92 FIP). Pretty much an Island of Misfit Relievers cast of characters.

Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is in pretty good shape after getting eight innings out of Phil Hughes on Sunday and seven out of Hiroki Kuroda on Saturday. Former Ray Rafael Soriano has pitched in two straight games, so he might be working at a reduced level of effectiveness tonight if he’s even available. Everyone else is good to go though; check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. For everything you need to know on the Rays, the best place to go is DRays Bay.

Update: Yankees sign Luis Torrens, Yancarlos Baez, and Alex Palma

The 2012 international free agent signing period officially opened today, and the Yankees have already made two big splashes. Ben Balder reports that they’ve signed 16-year-old Venezuelan catcher Luis Torrens for $1.3M and 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Yancarlos Baez for $650k. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement limits all teams to $2.9M in total signings (there are harsh penalties for excess spending), so the Yankees only have $950k left to spend.

Torrens, a 6-foot-0 and 170 lb. converted infielder, was ranked as the second best international prospect on the market this summer by Baseball America. The right-handed bat is said to have an advanced approach and the ability to hit the ball to all fields, though he’s more likely to have doubles power than over-the-fence power down the line. Torrens is still raw behind the plate, unsurprising considering his age and the fact that he was an infielder not all that long ago. That’s him in the video above.

Baez is listed at 6-foot-2 and 165 lbs., though he was not among Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects. He’s said to have very good speed and is “an athletic switch-hitter with good bat speed who could have an average hit tool, with gap power now.” Here’s video. The Yankees have been connected to two other top-20 guys — OF Alex Palma (#4) and SS Wendell Rijo (#10) — though it remains to be seen how the new spending limits will impact their ability to sign them.

Update: Balder reports that the Yankees have signed Palma for $800k, so they’re down to $150k in spending room. The 16-year-old Venezuelan outfielder is listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 lbs., and is said to have “a clean swing with good bat speed and [the ability to] barrel up the ball” from the right side. Balder says opinions are mixed out his power potential, but everyone agrees it’s at least average. Palma is expected to play right field long-term with solid defensive skills. Here’s video.