A.J. Burnett definitely didn’t have his best stuff tonight. He uncorked three wild pitches and walked more than he struck out. As cliched as it sounds, his breaking balls were just too good, and he couldn’t dump them into the strike zone. As good pitchers are wont to do, though, Burnett found a way to get outs when he had to, and the Yankees managed to beat Joe Mauer and the rest of the Twins 4-3 for their fifth series win in a row.

To start the game, Burnett was sharp. Through two innings, he had thrown 17 of 25 pitches for strikes, but the zone slipped away after that. He uncorked two wild pitches in the third, and the Twins plated a run on one of them. Joe Mauer brought home the second with a bomb off the left field wall. Just 10 of his 19 pitches that inning went for strikes.

Over the next few innings, Burnett would pitch into and out of trouble. He put runners on base in every inning but never caved. He recorded just two strike outs today, his lowest one-game total since his short appearance against Boston, but they came at opportune times. He struck out Michael Cuddyer with the bases loaded and two outs in the 5th and then K’d Denard Span with two on and two out in the 6th. He would finish in the 7th with a fly out, and it would be enough for his 8th win of the year.

Meanwhile, the Yanks were efficient with their runs, and they scored quietly. They plated three in the third on a Nick Swisher ground out and a two-run Brett Gardner single. They added another in the 5th on an Alex Rodriguez single. It was enough.

After Burnett left, the Yanks’ pen took over. First up was Phil the Lefty. On to face, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, we all just had a feeling that he wouldn’t emerge unscathed. After falling behind 3-0 on Mauer, Coke gave up a 3-1 blast to right field. It’s fast becoming impossible to get Mauer out at home. Coke struck out Morneau for the second time this year, and Phil the Righty came in.

Hughes, clearly the Yanks’ new 8th Inning Guy, breezed through his first three outs. He ran into a slight hiccup when Brian Buscher singled with two outs in the 8th. The Twins sent up Jose Morales, a decent average/OBP guy with no power who serves as the team’s third-string catcher, and Joe Girardi countered with Mariano Rivera. Four outs and 11 pitches later, the Yankees would have their sixth win of the season against the Twins.

When Girardi went to Rivera, a few fans objected. Why not let Hughes throw to Morales? The answer though is simple. Even though Hughes has thrown lights out baseball from the pen, even though Morales isn’t that much of a threat, Mariano Rivera is Mariano Rivera. He’s the guy with whom the Yanks will live and die, and as the Red Sox had already won by then and the Rays were nearly there, the Yanks had to win. Rivera hardly had to work for his 22nd save.

Wild Pitch Notes: Jesse Spector at Touching the Bases has a short post up with some interesting if useless trivia about Burnett’s start. According to Spector, pitchers have made six starts with at least three wild pitches this year, and three of those belong to Burnett. He is also the first AL pitcher since September 27, 2004 to throw three wild pitches and win.

Categories : Game Stories
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Remember hearing that the recently signed Gary Sanchez would be reporting to the Rookie GCL Yanks later this summer? Not gonna happen. Ben Balder tells me that farm director Mark Newman confirmed that Sanchez has signed a 2010 contract like every other international signee. He’ll begin his career next year, most likely in Extended Spring Training before going to the GCL.

Shelley Duncan is one of six players who will take part in next week’s Triple-A Homerun Derby.

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Buffalo)
Kevin Russo & Austin Jackson: both 1 for 4 – Russo doubled … Jackson drove in a run & K’ed
Ramiro Pena & Yurendell DeCaster: both 2 for 4, 1 2B - Pena scored a run … DeCaster K’ed
Shelley Duncan, Juan Miranda & Eric Duncan: all 0 for 3 – Shelley drew a walk … Miranda walked & K’ed
Colin Curtis: 0 for 4, 1 K – threw a runner out at home from CF
Chris Stewart: 1 for 1 - left the game after singling in the third … there’s no way he would have been released (to make room for Cervelli) mid-game
Kevin Cash: 0 for 2
Romulo Sanchez: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 6-8 GB/FB – 37 of 66 pitches were strikes (56.1%) … could you ask for any more out of a spot starter?
Paul Bush: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 18 of 32 pitches were strikes (56.3%)

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Tonight the Yankees face ::gulp:: a pitcher they’ve yet to see. Thankfully, they’ve dispelled the myth that they can hit these types. Yeah, it happens from time to time, but for the most part the Yanks have held their own against neophytes, most recently against Blue Jays rookie Brett Cecil. Tonight it’s Minnesota’s Anthony Swarzak — whose name isn’t quite as cool as the Jays’ rookie Mark Rzepczynski.

Glen Perkins was the scheduled starter for Minnesota tonight, but he is out with an illness and will not start in this series. That brings about mixed feelings. On one hand, the Yanks bombed Perkins for six runs in less than an inning on May 18. It appears, however, that he was hurt. The Twins placed him on the DL the next day and he didn’t return for about a month. Since coming back, though, he’s been pretty damn good, allowing just eight runs over 27 innings, walking just two. He’s also lasted seven innings in three of those four starts, going six in the other (his first back).

Taking his place is, as mentioned, Swarzak. He’s pitched well in his 27.2 innings this year, allowing just 12 runs, striking out 18 and walking 10. Baseball America claimed that the righty “has the best combination of stuff, youth, and experience” in the Twins’ system, but that might be a bit of overhype. They say he sits 91-93, but in his last major league start, back on June 13, wherein he pitched seven scoreless innings against the White Sox, his fastball averaged under 90 mph, with a max of 92.2. Obviously, he didn’t get up there often. His changeup averages about 83 mph, so there’s not a ton of differential there. His real off-speed offering is the curveball, which sits in the mid-70s.

A.J. Burnett faired well against the Twins last time out, pitching 6.2 innings and allowing just two runs. Of course, he walked six in that span, which is nothing but frustrating to watch. That’s nothing new for Burnett: he leads the league in walks this year.

Finally, as if everyone didn’t know already, Francisco Cervelli has been optioned for Jose Molina. It was a fun ride, Frankie. He’s certainly one of the most-loved sub-.300 OBP Yankees from recent memory. He’ll be back in September at the latest, and since Jose Molina’s contract expires after this year, he could be back to stay at that point.

Lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Johnny Damon, LF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Hideki Matsui, DH
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Robinson Cano, 2B
8. Nick Swisher, RF
9. Brett Gardner, CF

And on the mound, number thirty-four, A.J. Burnett.

Categories : Game Threads
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  • Montero added to Eastern League All-Star roster
    By

    Despite playing in just 26 of Double-A Trenton’s 83 games this year, catcher Jesus Montero has been added to the Eastern League’s Northern Division All-Star Team as a replacement for the injured Josh Thole. He’ll be the sixth … uh … Thunderer to make the team, joining Zach McAllister, Josh Schmidt, Jorge Vazquez, Reegie Corona, and Eduardo Nunez, not to mention Trenton’s coaching staff. Montero is hitting .299-.364-.505 as a 19-yr old in a traditionally pitcher-friendly league and a very pitcher-friendly park.

    This year’s Eastern League All-Star Game is being played in Trenton’s Waterfront Park, so here’s your chance to catch some of the very best prospects in the game all in one place without too much hassle. I’ll have a preview of the game up in the coming days.
    · (49) ·

It seems like every time Mark Teixeira steps up to the plate someone mentions — whether on Twitter or on the broadcast — that he hasn’t hit a home run in X at bats. That number reached 107 plate appearances last night. While home runs are nice, they’re not the only thing a player can do to help his team. Problem is, the home run drought has masked a 107 plate appearance slump for Teixeira.

Tex’s season numbers still look good: .281/.387/.548. But over his last 104 plate appearances he’s been at .258/.365/.326, recording just six extra base hits, all doubles, over that span. It’s not as bad as his early-season woes, but for a guy with Teixeira’s numbers and ability it certainly represents a slump.

When Teixeira slumped through April and the beginning of May, then subsequently surged though the rest of the month, commentators claimed in hindsight that Teixeira was seeing more fastballs with A-Rod back in the lineup. Of course, that’s just made up. Teixeira did not see more fastballs upon A-Rod’s return. He actually saw a few more fastballs in April, while he was slumping. The media can’t blame A-Rod for Tex’s troubles this time around. The cleanup hitter sports a .270/.453/.556 line since Teixeira’s last home run.

Now that we’re aware of Tex’s slump beyond the home run drought, what happens? Nothing, likely. Joe Girardi isn’t going to switch A-Rod and Teixeira in the order, and he’s made that abundantly clear with his actions. The Yankees are 12-8 since his last homer, which is an excellent pace (about 97 wins if extrapolated). They’ll continue to play through it, hoping that he goes on another .360/.441/.824 run like he did from May 7 through the date of his last home run, June 12. He did, after all, hit .366/.464/.656 in the second half last year.

It is kind of curious, though, that Tex’s slump coincides with his power outage. Even in his 122 plate appearance slump to start the year he managed five homers and four doubles for a .384 SLG — against a .192 BA, leaving him with a .192 Iso-P, while in his latest slump his Iso-P is just .068. One has to wonder if there’s something else going on, but without anything to go on, all we can do is call this what it is — a slump.

Categories : Offense
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Alfredo AcevesNow that he’s been named Thursday’s starter, it’s time for us to show some love to do-it-all man Alfredo Aceves. He’s been called The New Ramiro Mendoza, and his call up on May 4th coincides with the start of the bullpen’s turn around. On the date of Aceves’ call up, the bullpen’s ERA was hovering around 6.50 with a WHIP around 1.50. Since then, those totals have dropped to 4.02 and 1.24, respectively, no doubt thanks in part to Aceves’ stellar relief work.

Aceves has allowed just 30 hits and issued 8 free passes in 40 innings of work. He’s holding opposing hitters to a .208-.256-.354 batting line, which is slightly worse than Jeff Francoeur’s output this season. He’s entered games in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th innings. He came in to face a lone righty batter in one outing before picking up a four inning save four days later. His ERA at home is lower than his ERA on the road despite the New Stadium’s … ahem … fondness for hitters. Only 16 of the 156 batters he’s faced have worked the count full. He’s performed his best with that horrific game caller Jorge Posada behind the plate. Simply put, Aceves has been everything the Yanks could have ever asked for, and then some.

So spill your guts here, folks. Tell us how much you love The Mexican Gangster.

Photo Credit: Ray Stubblebine, Reuters

Categories : Players
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Yesterday’s news concerning the Blue Jays’ willingness to trade Roy Halladay sparked a fire storm of conversation among baseball fans around the nation. With that announcement, Halladay became the most sought-after July name, and early indications are that he would waive his no-trade clause for New York, Philadelphia or Boston. My money is on Halladay’s landing in Philadelphia, but we can’t count out the Yankees.

Yesterday, in writing about the potential for a trade, Joe mostly summed up my take on it:

What about acquiring him? Rosenthal notes that Ricciardi would deal within the division, though we all know there’s a premium there. Any package would probably have to start with Phil Hughes, and then include one of the Yanks’ precious few bats, likely one of the catchers. Would Hughes, Romine, and a third prospect, probably of the top-10 variety, be enough to land Halladay? Would the Yankees be wise to make such a move?

There’s no doubt that acquiring Halladay would leave the Yankees with the best rotation in baseball. In the short term, they’d be as well off as any other team, probably better off. In the long term they’d be giving up prospects, sure, but prospects can bust. It looks like Phil Hughes is finding his way, and it would probably suck to face him four or five times a year. But it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as facing Halladay that many times.

I’d add a caveat: Considering their respective ages, Phil Hughes could be a thorn in opponents’ sides longer than Halladay may be. Furthermore, as many have pointed out over the last 24 hours, if Brian Cashman opted 18 months ago to avoid sending Hughes and others to the Twins for a younger Johan Santana also with one year left on his contract, why would he do the same with Halladay? (Santana, by the way, has a 5.12 ERA over his last 10 starts with some bad peripherals. Meanwhile, Fangraphs posits that J.P. Ricciardi will not only ask for the sky for Halladay but deserves it as well. Roy is just that good.)

While we’ll be hearing a lot about Halladay and other potential trade targets over the next few months, I noticed an interesting thread in the comments from Yankee fans who were discussing potential deals yesterday. In light of a few bad starts and some thoughtless comments to the media, Joba Chamberlain isn’t as untouchable in the eyes of the fans as he once was. That’s an odd and confounding sea change in fan opinion, and I’m willing to discount it as the frustrations of a fan base expecting their 23-year-old stud to be lights out right away.

Anyway, these comments and the general state of trade rumors made me ponder the question of untouchables. As fans, we overvalue our prospects, but who among the Yankee farm hands is truly untouchable? Jesus Montero fronts that list. In two levels this year and at just 19 years of age, he is hitting .336/.391/.556. A young hitter who is, for now, a catcher such as Montero doesn’t come around that often, and the Yanks should hold on to that one.

Beyond Montero, I would also add Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes to that list. While both are clearly works in progress, they have shown the ability at a young age to get hitters out by way of the K. Hughes had shown his potential pitching out of the pen this year, and we know what Joba, when 100 percent healthy and on, can do with his high-90s fastball. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Yankees stopped developing young cost-controlled pitching to complement their free agent signings. With Joba and Phil, they can do just that.

Beyond that, though, anyone is fair game. The Austins — Romine and Jackson — both have a lot of potential, but both feature some red flags as well. Romine’s on-base percentage is just .316 at A+, and Jackson is striking out a lot. Keith Law, in particular, has accused fans of over-projecting A-Jax. For the right package, I would trade either. Other prospects are certainly movable too.

In the end, this boils down the simple reality that the Yankees must know when to trade from a strength. They have catching depth, and they have pitching depth in their farm system right now. Both of those are commodities, and either could land the Yanks a big fish. The next 23 days will be as interesting as they always are, and the Yanks should make some splashes. We’ll suffer through some separation anxiety, but with the right moves, it should be well worth it.

Categories : Musings
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Jul
08

What the umpires said

By in Rants. Tags: · Comments (45) ·

Previously on What the umpire saw: Derek Jeter tries to steal third base with no outs in the first inning. While the throw beat him to the base, his hand touches third before the tag. Umpire Marty Foster calls him out. “I was told I was out because the ball beat me, and he didn’t have to tag me,” Jeter alleges, and crew chief John Hirschbeck, who called Jeter “the classiest person I’ve been around,” promises an investigation….

When last we saw Monday’s umpiring crew, things were looking bleak for Marty Foster. Hirschbeck had refused to make him available to the media, and Derek Jeter was adamant in his critique. I blamed Foster for the bad call at third, and Cliff Corcoran slammed the umps for four bad calls. The men in blue were on the wrong end of a lot of scorn.

On Tuesday, though, this story took a turn for the bizarre. With the same crew working the Mets-Dodgers game, New York reporters had their second crack at Hirschbeck and Foster. Again, Hirschbeck declined to make Foster available to the media. The beleaguered umpire refuses to face the fire. Meanwhile, Hirschbeck has apparently changed his story after speaking with Foster.

According to the 25-year veteran, Foster told him that Jeter was wrong. According to Hirschbeck, Foster said, “The ball beat you, and I had him tagging you.”

To reporters, Hirschbeck defended Foster without reneging on his praise of Jeter. “I don’t see a problem with that,” Hirschbeck said. “Sometimes when tempers flare, you don’t hear everything that’s said.”

Tempers, though, didn’t flare until after Foster allegedly told Jeter that he would be out as long as the ball beat him regardless of the tag. Meanwhile, prior to the game — and prior to Hirschbeck’s discussion with the media — Jim McKean, an MLB umpire supervisor who liaises between MLB and the umpires, spoke with the crew. Do I sense a conspiracy afoot?

Right now, this story is just plan weird. Two members of the Yankees — their widely respected captain and manager — claim the umpire said something outrageous while the crew chief, after having enough time to get his story straight, said the polar opposite. We still haven’t and probably won’t hear from Marty Foster.

The calls for instant replay aside, this is a prime example of a problem with the current system. The umpires have become the story. ESPN has rebroadcast Jeter’s slide hundreds of times by now. The entire nation knows that he was safe. Yet, Marty Foster called him out, and John Hirschbeck seems to be sweeping this story under the rug.

We don’t need a full investigation. We don’t need some Watergate-level special prosecutor to turn up. What we need is for Marty Foster to step forward and tell us the honest-to-God truth. If he really thinks that Scott Rolen placed a tag on Derek Jeter, then so be it. He missed the call, and bad calls are just a part of the game. If he actually said that Jeter was called out regardless of the tag because the throw beat him, he shouldn’t be umping Major League Baseball games.

Either way, this has devolved into a “he said, he said” battle. Right now, I believe Derek. This latest development from Hirschbeck is far too convenient for my tastes.

Added by Joe: Since this is probably the last we’ll hear of this, I figured I’d add this tidbit. Apparently Joe Girardi didn’t get tossed on Monday for arguing the Jeter play at third. Erik Boland says it was because of a call from Sunday. Marty Foster was at home plate on Sunday for the play where Raul Chavez tagged Mark Teixeira with his glove, but the ball was in his other hand. Personally, I find that call more egregious than the one at third.

Categories : Rants
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To put into perspective just how well the Yankees offense was going last night: Robinson Cano got a hit with runners in scoring position. If that’s not enough for you, Frankie Cervelli hit a ball about five feet short of a home run, and then later drove one to the same spot for an RBI double. Yes, the Yankees were hitting from top to bottom, and combined with a gem from CC Sabathia it led to a 10-2 Yankees win.

The Yankees lead the league in home runs, but didn’t need any to plate 10 runs against the Twins. They accomplished it by putting men on base — all nine starters picked up at least one hit — moving them into scoring position, and knocking them in — the team went 7 for 17 with runners in scoring position. This led to runs in four different innings, including a monster five-run sixth. And they scored them in every way imaginable — sac fly, single, double, triple — really, every way but a homer (and, of course, the suicide squeeze).

Just because the Yanks didn’t hit any over the Hefty bag doesn’t mean they didn’t try. Alex Rodriguez made the first attempt in the fourth. HitTracker probably would have pegged the ball at 410 feet. With a 408-foot fence that seems plenty, but Carlos Gomez had time to position himself and timed his jump perfectly, robbing A-Rod of a grand slam. They’d pick up a run there with the sac fly, and then another after Scott Baker walked Swisher to plate a run. Hideki gave one a ride with two on and one out in the sixth, but it came up just short, and Gomez was there. Finally, in the seventh Mark Teixeira flirted with one, but it didn’t have enough height and Gomez was able to snag it on the warning track. Dude had a busy night.

Beyond hitting with runners in scoring position, another key for the Yankees’ offense last night was working the starter. Clearly, Scott Baker wasn’t on top of his game. The Yanks took advantage, forcing him to throw 86 pitches in 3+ innings. He finally came undone completely in the fourth, walking Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon on eight straight pitches. With the bases loaded, none out, and his team down only two runs, Ron Gardenhire had no choice but to replace Baker. As we all know too well, his replacement, Brian Duensing, almost let ‘em all score.

On the other side of the ball, CC was CC. While the offense rolled he kept up his end of the bargain, allowing just three hits in seven innings. Two of those were infield singles. Unfortunately the other was a solo homer. In the end it didn’t matter, though. Cuddyer’s shot was but a blip on the radar of the game. Solo homers will happen. What shouldn’t happen is walking Nick Punto on four pitches. That was infuriating for sure. Again, in the end it mattered nil.

There are few greater feelings as a baseball fan, and particularly as a baseball writer, than having little to say about a win beyond showering praise upon the good guys. CC pitched great. The whole offense hit, with runners in scoring position to boot. Carlos Gomez’s defense might have caused a few moments of anguish, but even those were light. The game was all Yankees.

Tomorrow the red hot A.J. Burnett takes on Glen Perkins, whom the Yanks bombed earlier this year. He hit the DL right afterward, and unfortunately for the Yanks has been good-to-really-good since returning in mid-June. Should be a good one in Minnesota tomorrow.

Categories : Game Stories
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Two years ago today on DotF, Mighty Matt DeSalvo threw 100 pitches in seven one-run innings against Ottawa.

Make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 win over Buffalo in 11 innings)
Kevin Russo, Austin Jackson & Doug Bernier: all 1 for 5 – Russo K’ed once, Bernier twice … Jackson doubled & was caught stealing … Ajax has three homers & two doubles in his last eight games, so the power’s coming
Ramiro Pena: 0 for 4, 1 BB
Shelley Duncan: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 Bb, 1 K – hasn’t hit a homer since June 22nd … what’s up with that?
Juan Miranda: 3 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Yurendell DeCaster: 0 for 2, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 2 HBP
Colin Curtis: 0 for 5, 2 K
Chris Stewart: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI – 11th inning grand slam FTW
Sergio Mitre: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 10-3 GB/FB – 60 of 100 pitches were strikes … another quality outing
Zach Kroenke: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 4-5 GB/FB – 29 of 40 pitches were strikes (72.5%)
Anthony Claggett: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 10 of 13 pitches were strikes (76.9%)

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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