In Spring Training, Joe Girardi said that he’d find enough at bats for Nick Swisher, who lost the right field competition — though it wasn’t really a competition — to Xavier Nady. Swish sat on the bench for the opener and Game 2, but came on strong in Games 3 and 4. To make sure that Swish continues to get at bats, especially while he’s hot, Girardi has slotted him in left field for Johnny Damon tonight.
This is the kind of balance Girardi will have to find all season. Sometimes he’ll have to go with the hot hand, but if everyone’s hitting it’s going to be a tough balance. The early indication, though, is that he knows what he’s going to do. That’s all we can ask for at this point.
Here’s the big question: if Hideki puts up another 0-for today, does he get another day off tomorrow? He has just one hit and no walks in 10 plate appearances, and that he’s hitting in the middle of the order doesn’t help his case. HIs at bats haven’t looked particularly good either, as he’s trying to pull a lot of outside pitches and has been stepping in the bucket with a frequency you’d like not to see in a major leaguer. It’s early, and I have complete faith that Hideki will come around and help the lineup. For the time being, though, it might be better to stick with the guys who are hitting, which includes Nick Swisher.
Brett Gardner gets the start again tonight, which is slightly surprising at first glance. Girardi stressed that Melky Cabrera didn’t lose the center field battle, and with a lefty on the mound it would seem a prime opportunity to get him at bats. Yet Melky is demonstrably worse as a righty hitter — .648 OPS over his career vs .725 as lefty. One has to wonder, then, how Girardi will work him into the lineup…if he does at all.
1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, LF Johnny Damon, LF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B Nick Swisher, 1B
4. Hideki Matsui, DH
5. Jorge Posada, C
6. Robinson Cano, 2B
7. Xavier Nady, RF
8. Cody Ransom, 3B
9. Brett Gardner, CF
And on the mound, No. 52, Carsten Charles Sabathia
Late Update by Mike: Kat O’Brien is reported that Mark Teixeira is out of the lineup with a sore left wrist. Swisher slides in at first and Damon will man left after all. It’s probably just a precaution, he’s been driving the ball pretty well the last few days.
Want some cool baseball gadgets? Check out the best baseball tech of 2009 and see Switched’s picks. You’re going to want to check out all of the bells and whistles, but just for a preview:
No. 1 is redundant if you have a cell phone with Internet access; No. 2 is awesome when you’re drunk with your friends; No. 3 is awesome if you have seats behind home plate; No. 4 I have and it pisses me off; No. 5 is something TSJC talked about the other day; I’m debating whether to pony up $5 per month for No. 6; No. 7 is a neat novelty; No. 8….I WANT I WANT I WANT; No. 9 is meh; No. 10 is pretty damn cool for home or the office; if you don’t have No. 11, perhaps you don’t belong here; if you can afford No. 12, I’d like to set up a meeting with you. · (16) ·
Don’t tell CC Sabathia the housing market is slumping. A few days after making his Yankee debut, Sabathia landed himself a $14.9 million home in Alpine, New Jersey. The mansion is a 12,000-square-foot, six-bedroom behemoth in a celebrity-filled neighborhood, and the Yankee ace paid for it in cash. I hope he’s planning on spending more than three years in it. · (95) ·
As the new Yankee Stadium nears its regular season debut, the Yankees are taking a good deal of flack over a few aspects of the stadium. While bloggers — ranging from Bronx Banter, New Stadium Insider, YFSF and Scott Proctor’s Arm, to name a few — have given less than glowing reviews of the new digs, the mainstream press has been doing some good reporting on the stadium issue as well.
Today, we have two stories. One is about the Mohegan Sun sports bar and the obstructed-view bleacher seats surrounding it; the other is a tale of questionable companies winning competitive contracts for both Citi Field and Yankee Stadium jobs.
Mohegan Sun protests bleacher association
First up is this tale of naming-rights woe from Friday’s Times. Richard Sandomir spoke Yankee officials and representatives from Mohegan Sun about the controversial sports bar in center field. The big restaurant in center field serves as the batter’s eye, but it also creates some very obstructed views of the outfield from the bleachers.
The Yankees, it seems, never told Mohegan Sun that their branded bar would block the bleachers. “Since there are no obstructed seats in the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar, it wouldn’t necessarily have come up,” Alice McGillion, a Yankee spokesperson, said to Sandomir. Right. Good thinking.
Mohegan officials are none too pleased about this development. While the Mohegan tribe-owned company has paid for the naming rights, they didn’t choose anything else about the restaurant. “We don’t want to be held responsible for the impact the facility has on the view of seats there,” Mitchell Etess, president and CEO of Mohegan Sun, said. “We had no say in the construction of the stadium, and I’m certain that this was designed long before we made the deal.”
For the Yankees, Randy Levine was his usual sympathetic self. “The decision was to do obstructed seats — those few seats — and we’re pleased. They’ve sold out,” Levine said, while ignoring the fact that most of these seats were sold long before they were revealed to be obstructed.
Levine also told Sandomir that fans could watch the game from the Terrace on top of the sports bar. However, security guards were removing fans from that area last week, and the disconnect between the Yankees’ statements and their guards’ actions remains.
Firms accused of organized crime built the Stadium
This second story is just amusing. While the City of New York has barred a good number of companies with alleged ties to organized crime from bidding on city contracts, apparently the city’s development agency isn’t as careful. At least three contracts — one concerning the demolition of Shea Stadium and two for the construction of Yankee Stadium — were awarded to some of the banned contractors. Since the city’s Economic Development Company doesn’t have the support staff to review every single subcontractor, some city money certainly landed in the hands of suspected companies. Oops.
You gotta love baseball. Given all their big money signings and returning young starters, who would have guessed that the first Yankee pitcher to fire seven innings of one run ball this year would be the 36-yr old number four starter who wasn’t even on the team as recently as January 25th? Granted, it was against the Royals, but Andy Pettitte was brilliant yesterday afternoon, and he did so by using every trick in the bag. He threw 99 pitches in total, and here’s how they broke down according to Pitch f/x:
36 fastballs (88.1 mph on avg)
24 sliders (80.9)
19 cutters (85.6)
10 changeups (79.3)
10 curveballs (75.3)
That’s quite a bit of variety, especially compared to CC Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, and AJ Burnett, all of whom operated primarily with two pitches. Forgive the clutter, but here’s the pitch trajectories. Remember to click for a larger view.
Via Bryan Hoch, Alex Rodriguez is expected to report to Tampa on Monday, where he will continue his rehab from hip surgery and begin baseball activities. A-Rod has been rehabbing in Colorado under the watch of Dr. Marc Philippon, where he rode a stationary bike and simulated his swing with a broom handle. He’ll start swinging an actual bat in Tampa, where he’ll meet the rest of the team when they come in for a series against the Rays. The Yanks are sticking to their May 15th return date, but I don’t think I’m alone in saying I hope he comes back sooner. · (10) ·
What a difference an off-season makes.
Just over six months ago, Yankee fans were ready to write off Andy Pettitte. While he pitched admirably in the Yankee Stadium finale, he had a second half to forget in 2008. After the All Star break, he went just 4-7 with a 5.35 ERA, and his season ended one start early when he revealed that he had been pitching through some shoulder pain.
During the off-season, Pettitte and the Yanks fought to a stand-still. Pettitte wanted to return — he made that very clear early on — but he didn’t want to take much of a pay cut. Baseball economics, however, didn’t cooperate with him, and he ended up signing an incentive-laden deal with a base salary of $5.5 million.
Yesterday, in his first outing of the season, Pettitte showed why he’ll be a great back-end starter for the Yanks this year. He went 7 strong innings, giving up one run on three hits and a walk. Aided by some tough shadows late in the game, he ended with six strike outs and had by far the best outing of a Yankee starter this season. It took him just 99 pitches to dispatch the Royals, and the Yanks won a crisp game 4-1.
As Pettitte’s game unfolded, he looked sharper today. So I wondered: What changed between last August and this April? The answer lies in Pettitte’s breaking balls. Mike will have more on Pettitte’s pitch f/x data tomorrow, but I want to take a quick look at Pettitte’s pitch selection right now.
If we look at Pettitte’s pitches from August 31 against the Blue Jays and August 26 against the Red Sox, something jumps out. During those two games in which Andy got shelled, he threw mainly fastballs. By the time that final start in August rolled around, Pettitte was dishing fastballs nearly 60 percent of the time.
Yesterday against the Royals, Pettitte’s fastball velocity was in fact the same as it was in August. He was topping out at 90 mph and averaging around 88-89, but he threw just 34 of them. Added to the repertoire — or re-added — was Pettitte’s slider, and with it, he can be a very successful pitcher for the Yankees this year.
Major League hitters won’t be fooled or blown away by 88 mile-per-hour fastballs, and pitchers throwing that slow can’t rely on fastballs. But Pettitte’s 2008 shoulder woes limited the number of breaking pitches he could throw. This year, Pettitte is healthy and dealing. He can mix speeds and angles far more effectively.
Of course, yesterday’s game was just day one. How Pettitte is feeling in August will be telling, but as a first step, that seven-inning victory was just what the doctor ordered.
Moving beyond Pettitte, the Yanks were facing old friend Sidney Ponson. They scored two in the first and two in the fourth but couldn’t plate anyone else. For Ponson, it was a typical effort, similar to those through which we suffered last year. He allowed nine baserunners in six innings and limited the damage to four runs. The Yanks wouldn’t need more.
After Pettitte left, Brian Bruney built the Bridge to Mowhere today. He struck out two and looked dominant. Who will pitch the 8th inning? That guy. Rivera, meanwhile, also struck out two. That guy is a machine.
For the Yanks, it was a smooth, crisp victory. I’ll take, oh, another 98 of those this year.
Rockin’ Robbie: Robinson Cano went 2 for 3 with a run scored and a walk. This base-on-balls was the fourth for the one-time free-swinging second baseman. Cano, average a walk a game, did not draw his fourth walk last year until the Yanks’ 22nd game of the season on April 21. I like this new Robbie. I hope he’s here to stay.
Tonight’s David Price – Matt Wieters matchup was rained out. For shame.
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Lehigh Valley in 11 innings)
Kevin Russo: 3 for 5, 2 2B, 1 SB - I wouldn’t be completely shocked if he was the big league utility infielder in the second half
J-Rod: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K
Todd Linden: 0 for 5
Shelley Duncan & Juan Miranda: both 1 for 5, 1 K – Shelley drove in a run … Miranda doubled & drove in a run
Austin Jackson: 2 for 5, 3 K – 3 hits in his first 2 games … holding his own so far
Eric Duncan: 0 for 2, 1 BB
Angel Berroa: 1 for 4, 1 RBI
Chris Stewart: 0 for 4, 1 K
Ian Kennedy: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 2-5 GB/FB – 68 of 86 pitches were strikes (79.1%) … 11 K ties a career high
David Robertson: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2-5 GB/FB – 27 of 39 pitches were strikes (69.2%) … most dominant pitcher in the system over the last two years is at it again
Brett Tomko: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K3-0 GB/FB – 21 of 35 pitches were strikes (60%) … allowed two hits in the top of the 9th, but he escaped without allowing a run
JB Cox: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB – picked up the save … only 7 of 14 pitches were strikes
We knew that Brian Cashman had a pretty damn good off-season, and that was before today’s Kat O’Brien article. The Yankees played the situation perfectly, but that might have been more out of luck than out of design. For much of the off-season leading up to the December 23rd signing, the Yankees didn’t think they’d land Teixeira. In fact, Cashman went so far as to say that “Teixeira was never really an option.”
Yet the GM realized what a good fit he was for the team. While they did have Nick Swisher in tow, there’s no comparing him and Teixeira as hitters. The lineup, while potentially solid, was rife with question marks in December, and adding another bat, especially one as consistent as Teixeira, would help shore up that concern and give the Yankees another offensive powerhouse to go with their revamped rotation. Says Cashman:
“It was something I kept pushing, but it was not really being accepted by above me . . . I guess persistence paid off. I knocked on that door, I guess, just enough that someone finally answered. Hal really gave me the OK to pursue it over a few-day period. And at that point, I still thought the Red Sox were getting him.”
Then, to Hal:
“I know you’re not interested, but they’re going to get this guy. He’s going to fall in their lap, and he’s so perfect for us.”
While it’s generally a bad idea to make moves in reaction to an opponent, the Yanks did good here because the move went far beyond countering the Red Sox. It created a swing that could easily affect the outcome of the division this year and for many to come. Teixeira would have improved the Sox offense this year and given them another dependable bat. The alternative, as they’re learning now, is to rely on Mike Lowell to remain healthy and productive for the next two years. Even then, he won’t be as productive as Tex.
Locking Tex into the first base spot for eight years would have made top prospect Lars Anderson a bit more expendable. True, there’s always the chance they could remake him as an outfielder and give him time at DH in the majors, but that’s never an ideal scenario — who knows if Anderson could handle the outfield? This, along with some decent pitching talent throughout the minors, could have enabled the Sox to pull off yet another trade to improve their team now and in the future. Imagine if they were able to trot out a rotation this year of Beckett, Lester, Dice-K, and, say, Matt Cain, with Clay Buchholz and later John Smoltz ready to take the fifth spot from Tim Wakefield. That would give them a devastating lineup and a devastating rotation. I don’t think that many of us would argue with them being favorites for this season.
Things worked out in the Yanks favor, thankfully, and they reeled in the first baseman they’ve been searching for ever since Tino Martinez departed after the 2001 season. Tex can not only pick it at first, but he provides a first-rate bat which can easily replace the production of Jason Giambi‘s later years, and then some.
One last interesting quote from Teixeira from O’Brien’s article:
“If the Yankees were a last-place team going nowhere, I wouldn’t be here,” Teixeira said. “So obviously, a talented team helps, and the ability to compete every single year is one of the reasons I signed with the Yankees.”
Booing Orioles fans should think long and hard about that one. They’ve got a core of young talent on board and some pitching in the minors, so they’re not necessarily “going nowhere.” But they’re a last place team in by far the toughest division in baseball. Why would Teixeira sign up for at least two years of agony with only the possibility of a payoff when he could sign for more money with a far better team which has a chance every year? Every Orioles fan would make the same decision.
Farnsworth just retired Damon. Damn. We’re moving the operation here so the other thread doesn’t take a bajillion years to load.