Game 27: Start of something

Win it for Mo. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

It’s early-May, but it would be nice if the Yankees build something off yesterday’s win and go off on a nice little run these next few weeks. They’re due for five or six game winning streak, eight wins in ten games, something like that. Here’s the starting nine…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
LF Raul Ibanez
Russell Martin
RF Dewayne Wise
3B Eduardo Nunez

RHP Hiroki Kuroda

Tonight’s game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Outfield Update: Via Erik Boland and Mark Feinsand, Brett Gardner will hit on the field both today and tomorrow and could play in a minor league rehab game as soon as Monday. Nick Swisher ran the bases before the game and felt fine, so there’s a small chance he’ll play tomorrow. I’m guessing not with the day off on Monday.

Heyman: Yankees will not look to add a reliever via trade

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees will not aggressively look to add a reliever via trade following Mariano Rivera‘s torn ACL. This isn’t terribly surprising, the team seems to have more than enough faith in Rafael Soriano and David Robertson in the late innings. Cory Wade doesn’t fit the profile of a late-game reliever, but he’s done nothing but get outs since joining the organization.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees added another bullpen arm before the trade deadline, but the current regime isn’t one to rush into things. I will be interested to see how the last spot sorts itself out; does Cody Eppley get the job long-term, or will we see guy like Kevin Whelan or Chase Whitley get cracks at it? Given how they’ve treated the bullpen over the last few years, I’m sure the Yankees will keep running through internal options until they find the right mix. They’ve built some dynamite bullpens that way in recent years, and there’s no shortage of arms in the system.

Mailbag: Robertson, Closers, Betances, Wandy

I know the mailbag usually goes up Monday morning, but Mariano Rivera‘s injury dominated the headlines yesterday. Here are five questions a day late, which is better than never. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us mailbag questions or anything else you wanna share.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Steven asks: Before I write this, I want to preface it by saying that a) one month does not define a pitcher at all, and b) I know starters are more valuable than relievers, but with how well David Robertson is doing, if he kept it up (I doubt he could keep up the 0.00 ERA), could he elicit some Cy Young consideration or would his lack of “saves” turn him off to voters?

Well, Robertson is going to get some saves now, but let’s pretend for a moment that he’s still setting up a healthy Rivera. Robertson did get one fifth place vote in the Cy Young voting last year, but you usually don’t see many non-closer relievers get love for the award. I mean, middle relievers don’t get any better than Robertson was last year, and yet he still only got one measly vote despite having the New York hype machine behind him. For a reliever to get serious consideration, I think it would take a Mo circa 1996 effort, an elite two-inning setup guy.

Patrick asks: What is the fundamental differences between a good closer and a starter? Is it simply longevity? Is David Robertson, whose stuff is as good as anybody out there, not a starter because he simply can’t last long enough? As opposed to say, Justin Verlander. And would CC Sabathia be the greatest closer ever? What defines these roles for pitchers apart from the ability to hang in there for 90 pitches?

Most relievers are starters who failed for whatever reason, could be lack of command, stuff, injuries, stamina, a whole bunch of things. Robertson’s problem is his control and general inability to record three outs with fewer than 20 pitches. He’s also on the small side and may not be able to maintain his stuff for 100+ pitches every five days for six or seven months. Most starters would be good relievers, and guys like Verlander and Sabathia would be among the very best relievers. Could you imagine Verlander in one inning bursts? He might throw 110.

As for defining roles, it’s all about performance. Most pitchers who end up in the bullpen are there because they couldn’t cut it in the rotation at some point. Sometimes that becomes clear in the minors, sometimes it takes a few years in the majors. A few clubs have shown a tendency to put some of their best arms in the bullpen right away, which I don’t agree with at all.

Evan asks: Are the Yankees the team poised to make the biggest jump in organizational prospect rankings? They have a lot of prospects in the low minors who are beginning to show some results to go with their potential. Could they jump into the top 5 or even top 3 clubs during the next offseason?

(Brian Bissell/Future Star Photos)

I don’t know if the Yankees are poised to make the biggest jump — the upcoming draft will have a lot to say about next year’s organizational rankings — but I do think they can make a big jump. First and foremost, they’re very unlikely to graduate any of their top prospects to the big leagues. Manny Banuelos, Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, et al will still be on prospect lists next year, so that’s a nice head start.

Secondly, guys like Williams, Tyler Austin, and Jose Campos are off to huge starts in their first crack at a full season league. They might not keep up their current pace all season, but a full 140 games worth of production will definitely make them more prospect shiny. Sanchez is repeating Low-A Charleston but should get promoted to High-A Tampa relatively soon. Dante Bichette Jr. is off to a bit of a slow start but has plenty of time to turn things around. Rafael DePaula also got a visa finally, which is a rather significant addition. Obviously not everyone is going to work out, but I do think the Yankees have the pieces in place to threaten a top-five spot in next year’s farm system rankings.

Mike asks: Dellin Betances has been in the Yankee organization for a long time now. I’m not sure if he is running out of option years. Will he have to remain on the 25 man roster in 2013?

It has been a while, they drafted him way back in 2006. The Yankees added Betances to the 40-man roster after the 2010 season, so they’ve used up two options years (2011 and 2012) already. They have one more option year to burn in 2013, but after that he’ll have to stick on the 25-man roster or clear waivers before going to the minors. Dellin’s days as a starter are numbered, though a transition to the bullpen should make him a legit big league option in relatively short order. You don’t need pristine command to succeed in relief, just ask Robertson.

Mike asks: Is Wandy Rodriguez starting to look a viable option at this point? He pitched another good game [on Wednesday], brought his ERA down to 1.64. Just wondering what the pros and cons are.

I don’t consider Wandy a viable option personally, but it’s not the craziest idea. Joe listed the pros and cons prior to the trade deadline last summer, and all of that stuff still holds true. My biggest issue with Rodriguez is his contract, which will pay him $10M this season and $13M next season with a $13M club option for 2014. That club option becomes a player option if traded, so you’re talking about a three-year, $36M commitment by trading for the guy. That’s a bit pricey even without considering the 2014 payroll plan.

If the Yankees do venture into the trade market for a starting pitcher, they’re more likely to pursue short-term stopgaps like Brandon McCarthy or Bartolo Colon. They haven’t traded for a starting pitching with multiple guaranteed years left on their contract since Kevin Brown, and I doubt they’ll start with Wandy.

CC & Jeter give Yanks much-needed win in KC


Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees scored six runs on Friday night, the same number of runs they scored in their previous four games combined. It seems like their plan is to win every game by 4+ runs so they don’t have to worry about finding a replacement closer for Mariano Rivera, which is something I can get behind. Let’s recap…

  • Two Outs: Bruce Chen had a man on first with two outs in the seventh and the bottom of the order due up, but he never got the final out. Eduardo Nunez tripled into the right field corner to plate Robinson Cano, then Chris Stewart pixie-dusted an RBI single to left to score Nunez. With Chen on the ropes, Derek Jeter launched a two-run homer to left that effectively put the game away. Two-out rallies are my fave.
  • Beast Mode: CC Sabathia has now gone exactly eight innings in each of this last three starts. He only struck out five Royals on Friday, though he held them to two runs and at one point retired a dozen in a row. The only thing that annoyed me is that he gave up three extra-base hits to left-handed batters, which isn’t something he should be doing. Sabathia only threw 108 pitches and other than a little trouble in the first and eighth, it was a stress-free start.
  • Future Closer: It wasn’t a save situation, but David Robertson struck out the side in order in the ninth inning. He’s now struck out the last eight batters he’s faced and ten of the last eleven. That’s pretty cool. Rafael Soriano was warming with men on base in the eighth before Sabathia escaped the jam. Does that tell us anything about who gets what role? I dunno.
  • Leftovers: Mark Teixeira hit a two-run homer in the first, his seventh career dinger off Chen … Cano had a legit line drive single to right (not another ground ball with eyes) and a fly out to the warning track, which I hope is a sign he’s getting himself together … everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit except for Jayson Nix, plus Jeter and Tex had two knocks apiece … the recently recalled Dewayne Wise pinch-hit for Nix late and doubled to left, plus it was neat to have a defensively competent outfielder on the field in the late innings … it’s nitpicking now, but how awful was that hit-and-run sending the runners in the fourth? The lead-runner (Tex) is arguably the slowest guy on the team and the hitter (Cano) swings at everything and wasn’t going to take ball four if his life depended on it. Ran themselves right out of an inning.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. Hopefully the bats are starting to come alive and the Yankees can build off this win. They’re due for a six or seven game winning streak. Game three of this four-game set is a dreaded Saturday night game. Those should be outlawed. Hiroki Kuroda gets the ball against Felipe Paulino, who is coming off the DL to make his first start of the season.

Williams returns to lineup in Charleston win

Got a bunch of injury updates and roster moves, so…

Triple-A Empire State (3-0 loss to Rochester)
2B Kevin Russo: 2-3, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — has reached base 21 times in his last ten games
SS Doug Bernier & RF Colin Curtis: both 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K — Curtis stole a base and threw a runner out at first
1B Steve Pearce, DH Jack Cust, 3B Brandon Laird & C Frankie Cervelli: all 0-4, 1 K — Pearce and Cust drew walks
LF Cole Garner: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
CF Ray Kruml: 2-4, 2 K, 1 SB
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 7/2 GB/FB — 60 of 92 pitches were strikes (65.3%)
RHP Chase Whitley: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 21 of 34 pitches were strikes (61.8%)
RHP Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 13 pitches, seven strikes … I wonder if we’ll see him at some point this summer following Mariano Rivera‘s injury, he’s pitching well enough for a call-up

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Game 26: Win it for Mo

(Chuck Solomon/SI)

Mariano Rivera is down but not out. The Yankees will be without their all-world closer for the remainder of the season but can look forward to having him back in 2013. That’s better than nothing. Now it’s up to the rest of the team to rally around their fallen closer and start a long stretch of dominance. Here’s the starting nine…

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

LHP CC Sabathia

Tonight’s game starts a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Brett Gardner Update: Gardner took some hacks the batting cage today and will hit on the field tomorrow. Hopefully that goes well and he can head out on a rehab assignment and get back in the lineup early next week.

Update: Yankees recall Wise and Eppley, option Mitchell

Via Pete Caldera, the Yankees are going to recall outfielder Dewayne Wise from Triple-A. He’s on his way to Kansas City and may even already be there. I assume Mariano Rivera was placed on the 15-day DL to clear a roster spot for Wise while either Michael Pineda or Cesar Cabral was transferred to the 60-day DL to open a 40-man roster.

Wise, 34, posted a .459 wOBA in 19 Triple-A games but hitting his not his forte. He’s a defensive stud capable of manning all three outfield spots with aplomb. Nick Swisher took batting practice on the field today according to Erik Boland, but perhaps the Wise move indicates that Swisher’s hamstring is still giving him a problem. He got hurt last Sunday and the Yankees have been playing with a short bench ever since.

Update (4:39pm): Via Boland, right-hander Cody Eppley has been recalled as well. That makes me think Swisher might be headed to the DL.

Update (5:41pm): The Yankees announced that right-hander D.J. Mitchell was optioned back to Triple-A, so Swisher avoids the DL. Pineda was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot for Wise. Just to quickly recap: Wise and Eppley up, Mitchell down, and Mo to the DL.