Jews for Jesus (Montero)

That gem of a sign comes from reader Dave Soberman, who was raising hell with his buddies at Saturday’s Double-A Trenton game. Here’s the email he sent us, which tells the story. Here’s a few more pics: Dave with the sign, the sign at field level, the sign with Bolt, Montero signing said sign, and Dave heckling poor Jorge Jimenez. How awesome is that?

Meanwhile, Baseball America’s John Manuel called Montero an untouchable prospect.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out, and Chad Jennings says they’re not going to even going to bother to make it up.

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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For the Yankees, life is good. They’ve gotten contributions from all ends in the six games since the break, and have taken all six contests. The latest came earlier this afternoon in the series finale against the Orioles. The Yankees sent out A.J. Burnett, hoping he’d replicate the success he’d had leading up to the break. They were not disappointed.

Burnett scattered six hits and three walks over seven innings of work, tossing 104 pitches and getting 68 over for strikes. That’s a bit more than we’re used to seeing from Burnett. He ran into trouble a couple of times, both on out of the ordinary plays. In the third Nick Swisher dropped a fly ball led to a first and third, none out situation, and then a second and third, one out situation. Swisher got his redemption, though, running down a line drive by Ty Wiggington to end the frame.

The jam in the seventh didn’t end so painlessly. Robert Andino, the Orioles No. 9 hitter, bounced one sky high in front of the plate. By the time it came down neither Posada nor Burnett had a chance to make a play. Adam Jones later doubled, and Nick Markakis knocked in the Os first run with a sac fly. The Yanks were out of the inning when Aubrey Huff hacked at strike three in the dirt, but it bounced away from Posada and Jones scored. That’s quite a painful way to surrender two runs.

The action picked up again in the ninth. Phil Hughes had pitched the eighth, but the Yankees tacked on a run in the bottom, so Brian Bruney came in to close things out. It was his first appearance since July 10, and we’re all familiar with his struggles of late. Things looked good, as he struck out Andino, on three pitches, and Roberts, on a two-two count.

Then Adam Jones homered on the first pitch he saw. Okay. Forgivable. Adam Jones is good, and that was probably a poorly placed pitch. But when Nick Markakis followed two pitches later, that was enough. Girardi made the slow walk to the mound, summoning Rivera for the one-out save. Rivera completed striking out the side, and the Yanks picked up another victory.

We often hear about the Yankees struggling against rookie pitchers they’ve yet to see — in fact, I think it’s brought up in some capacity every time, win or lose. Today they not only got to Jason Berken, but they got to him early. It helped that Brian Roberts bobbled a Robinson Cano bouncer with the bases loaded, but when the frame was over the Yanks had jumped out to a 4-0 lead. That would be enough for Burnett to cruise through the rest of the game.

It’s tough coming up with new things to say after all these wins. The Yankees played well. They hit with runners in scoring position: 7 for 15. They got some timely pitching and made some good defensive plays (even if they were making up for previous blunders). It was an all-around great effort, as it has been since the break (and before). Teams that play like this will win ball games. That’s what they tell me.

It’s back to work tomorrow. A’s are in town for a four-game set. CC Sabathia gets to open things up. Until then, treat this as your open thread. But treat it gently.

Categories : Game Stories
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  • Kennedy, on the mend, eyes winter ball
    By

    When Ian Kennedy went down with an aneurysm in late April, he had put together a very fine string of four AAA starts. Over 22.2 innings, he had a 1.59 ERA and had allowed just 18 hits and seven walks while striking out 25. Considering the state of the Yanks’ fifth starter, odds are good Kennedy would have gotten another shot at the Bronx. Today, Ken Davidoff checks in on Kennedy, and the right-hander is progressing nicely. He is already throwing on flat ground and seems to be ahead of schedule. While Brian Cashman does not expect Kennedy to be ready to pitch in New York this year, he told Davidoff: “It’s possible he’ll see minor league action though, and he’s a definite winter-ball candidate.” · (50) ·

To while away the afternoon now that the Yanks and Orioles have wrapped up their series, let’s check in on some ex-Yankees in the news these days. We start with the disgruntleds:

Brett Tomko
To make room for Sergio Mitre yesterday, the Yankees designated Brett Tomko for assignment. They have ten days to trade him or they can release him or ship him down to the minors. Tomko is not a happy camper about his tenure on the Yankees. “I don’t think I got a fair shot,” he said to reporters as he packed up his locker. “I pitched great in spring training and didn’t make the team. I pitched great in the minors, got called up and didn’t get much of a chance. I understand other guys are pitching great. But it could have been different. I can’t see the point in coming back.”

This is a clear example of the Yankees’ expectations not lining up with Tomko’s. At 36, Brett Tomko is a journeyman with a career ERA+ of 92. He isn’t the future of anything, and he’s not getting better. During his time on the Yanks, he allowed runs in seven of his 15 appearances and just wasn’t a trustworthy or impressive reliever.

“It’s hard when you throw once every 10 days. Your stuff can’t be the same,” he added later. “I never felt like I got a chance to show them anything. I wasn’t pitching much. As much as I want to be here and be with a winning team, I want to pitch. It would be great if they traded me in the next 10 days to help me out. But if not, I’m sure something will come up. Plenty of teams need pitching.”

Tomko won’t accept a Minor League assignment once the ten days are up, and the Yanks probably won’t find a team that needs a mediocre, ineffective and touchy pitcher. So much for him.

Carl Pavano
Try as we might, we just can’t ignore Carl Pavano. Today’s Pavano story though is something of an oddity. In what can only be described as an attempt by a reporter to create the news, Ken Rosenthal asked a Yankee official if the team would be interested in reacquiring Carl Pavano from the Indians.

The reply? A resounding no. “We’ve seen that movie,” Rosenthal’s source said. “Our players would go crazy if we did that.”

Pavano, for what it’s worth, isn’t having a terrible season. He’s 8-7 with a 5.13 ERA, but he’s managed to make 18 starts — one more than his single-season high with the Yanks. He also hasn’t been walking many batters. Yet, the Yankees hate him. The players hate him. The Front Office hates him. The fans hate him. He won’t — and shouldn’t — be back.

Aaron Small
Aaron Small was an odd addition to the Old Timer’s Day roster this year. While he went 10-0 for the Yanks in 2005, he was out of baseball a few months later after going 0-3 with an 8.46 ERA in 2006. Now, we learn that Small made his way to Yankee Stadium just six weeks after a bad bout of encephalitis. Small was in a medically-induced coma for eight days as doctors combated the virus that led to a life-threatening swelling of the former pitcher’s brain.

Small recovered from this ordeal and is slowly rebuilding his strength. This scary story makes his appearance at the stadium this past weekend all the more meaningful.

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I can has Bruney?

Categories : Game Threads
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The Yankees go for their second straight sweep following the All-Star Break today as they face off against the Orioles. The first two games of this series have been enjoyable, with the Yankees walking off with a 2-1 victory on a Hideki Matsui home run on Monday, and taking a sizable lead on Tuesday en route to a 6-4 win.

Hopefully today’s game is one of those stress-free blowouts. Not only because it’d be nice to go into the evening with a win to guarantee remaining in first place, but because there are a few guys in the pen who haven’t had much work lately. That’s partly a product of the starting pitching, but also a product of Joe Girardi‘s lack of faith in them in high-leverage spots. It’d be nice to get Mark Melancon, David Robertson, and Brian Bruney some mop-up innings when the Yanks are up big.

A.J. Burnett takes the bump for the Yanks this afternoon. After a shaky start Burnett has rolled lately, though he had some trouble in his first start after the break, pitching on eight days’ rest. Even without his A game, he held the Tigers to three runs over six innings. The five walks didn’t help, but A.J. didn’t let them hurt too much. We’re looking for more of the June 14 through July 8 A.J., the one with the sub 2.00 ERA and gaudy strikeout numbers.

On the other side is Jason Berken, the second rookie the Yankees will face in three days. He’s had a rough go in his first 10 starts, picking up a win his debut but failing to do so in his next nine. He hasn’t reached six innings or 100 pitches since June 18 against the Mets, and even then he allowed four runs.

A sixth round pick in 2006 out of Clemson, Berken got through the O’s system a level a year, though this year was his AAA year (he also started the year in AA but was moved up quickly). He impressed there, allowing just three runs in 25.2 innings over five starts. He’s not really a strikeout guy, but manages to keep his walks and homers low.

He’s a fastball-change-slider-curve guy, who mixes his pitches. He throws his fastball 60 percent of the time and gives just about equal time to the other three. The fastball averages around 92, so it’s not bad, and the change takes off about 9 mph. It doesn’t look like any of them is an out pitch, but he mixes things up enough to keep guys off balance.

Yanks get a small break after this, as the next game is 7 p.m. tomorrow. It was supposed to be an off-day, but instead they’ll make up an April rain-out against the A’s, and then play them in a regular three-game set.

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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Save for the limited action he saw in the 2007 season, Justin Duchscherer has posted a good if not excellent ERA in each season he’s pitched with the Oakland A’s from 2003 through 2008. Yet fans outside the Bay Area aren’t necessarily aware of Duchscherer. He’s an under-the-radar type guy who quietly goes about his business, and goes about it well. Given his and the A’s current circumstances, he’s a prime candidate for a trade. There’s just one complication.

Duchscherer is a cut fastball (high 80s, low 90s), overhand curve, slider type pitcher. He strikes out a decent number of guys, around 8 per nine as a reliever and was at 6 per nine as a starter in 2008. He also doesn’t walk many people, 1.5 per nine as a reliever in 2006 and 2.2 per nine as a starter in 08. Even better, he keeps the ball in the park, allowing less than a homer per nine over most of his career. This profiles him as a solid option at both starter and reliever.

Why would Billy Beane want to trade this seemingly good pitcher? Easy answers: The A’s are out of contention, and Duchscherer is a free agent after this season. He also makes $3.9 million this year, so Beane could save over a million by shipping him elsewhere. He might as well. What’s worth more to the A’s right now, a million bucks and change, or having Justin Duchscherer on the team? Plus, a team might be willing to give up some kind of talent, probably in the form of a player to be named later.

Wait — why would the A’s only get a player to be named later? Duchscherer is currently hurt, and hasn’t pitched all season because of elbow troubles. In fact, he hasn’t pitched since mid-August last year. He just began a rehab program, and should get into a minor league game over the next few days. Yet, the trade deadline is fast approaching. If the Yanks wanted Duke, they’d have to trade for him as an injured player. That might not be bad — I’m sure the Yanks would like him rehabbing at their own facilities. It does mean an added level of risk.

If the Yankees want to explore this option, they need to get it done before the deadline. Why? Because once the calendar flips to August, players need to clear waivers in order to be traded — or they need to be claimed by a team willing to trade for them. The Yankees, hopefully still atop the AL East in August, probably wouldn’t get a chance to put in a claim. Another team that could use some pitching, the Boston Red Sox, would likely put in a claim, blocking the Yankees and opening themselves up for a trade.

There are other teams too, of course, and for that reason Beane might hold on until August. There’s risk in that, too, in that he could face a team just looking to block a potential trade. Beane could then foist Duke and his remaining salary on said team, but then he’d get nothing in return — in other words, he would have been better off having accepted a PTBNL at the deadline.

The injury makes it a complicated situation, as does the hip injury which kept Duchscherer out of action for most of the 2007 season. Still, it’s a decent gamble. No, Duke is nowhere near Roy Halladay (even though Buster Olney tries to pump up Duke by making the comp in numbers), but he’s a solid option for both the pen and the rotation. In fact, he might be better suited as a starter. Just check out this tidbit:

Duchscherer’s call to the rotation is actually a very interesting story. The A’s had kept Justin in the ‘pen, thinking that his arthritic hip wouldn’t be able to stay healthy over a 150- 200-inning season. But Justin, who apparently has a slightly nervous/anxious personality, found that the uncertainty of a late-inning role aggravated his IBS–Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is an extremely common disease of the gastro-intestinal system; it causes bloating, cramping, gas, and diarrhoea. It’s a twentieth-century problem, brought on by stress. And you can imagine that pitching the eighth inning for an MLB team would be kinda stressful. During the middle innings, Justin, sensing that he would have to take the mound, protect a lead, and not embarrass himself in front of a national audience, would have to leave the bench and run to the washroom.

So the A’s made him a starter, thinking that the certainty of knowing exactly when and where he was going to pitch would calm him down and ease his GI problems.

So the dude has a lot of problems — elbow, hips, IBS — but when he’s on he’s a quietly solid pitcher. Any team could use one of those players. The Yanks should certainly explore this option.

Categories : Pitching
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Jul
22

Whither Melky, again

By in Offense. Tags: · Comments (119) ·

While the Yankees downed the Orioles last night to move into sole possession of first place, Melky Cabrera did not have a night to remember. He went 0 for 4 and saw his triple slash numbers decline to .274/.333/.418. For the first time all season, Melky’s OPS+ has dipped below 100. He is now a below-average hitter for the Yanks.

Earlier in the year, things were looking up for the Melk Man. He was hitting .327/.400/.571 through the end of April and followed that up with a .321/.348/.429. The power drop was precipitous, and the decline in his IsoD, the difference between his batting average and on-base percentage, was notable. Yet, through the end of May, he was still hitting .323/.368/.481, and we all would have taken it.

Last night’s 0-fer caps what has been a miserable two months for Melky. Since the start of June, he is just 29 for 130, good for a .223 batting average, and has a .297 on-base percentage. He is slugging just .353 in that stretch, and his OPS has declined to .751, a drop of over .200 points since the end of April.

We can’t really be surprised by Melky’s post-spring slump. In 2008, he had a stellar April, hitting .299/.370/.494 and then put up a triple slash line of .235/.281/.300 through the end of the season. It’s little consolation that his 2009 swoon is a slight improvement over his 2008 nose dive. He’s still producing at a level that should get him benched.

At this point, I don’t know what to do with Melky Cabrera. We’ve long been accused of being Melky haters, and to a certain extent, we are. But we don’t hate Melky due to any sort of personal grudge. We hate him because Joe Girardi insists on playing him in spite of the numbers.

Melky Cabrera has over 1900 plate appearances at the Big League level and has never managed to be an above-average hitter for more than two months at a time. While his fielding is good, it can’t overcome his inability to get on base or hit for average. He is basically a fourth outfielder in sheep’s clothing.

The Yankees probably won’t look to improve upon center field at the trade deadline. They would end up spending far too many prospects on a player who just won’t be that good. But at the same time, they can’t keep sending Melky Cabrera out there day in and day out. It’s time for Brett Gardner to be the de facto center fielder. When or if he shows he can’t handle it, the Yanks can begin to think about ways to fill that hole, but the reign of Melky and his .297 on-base percentage since June 1 needs to end.

Categories : Offense
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Sergio Mitre‘s final line tonight was not too flattering: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Yet through the first five innings he was able to scatter the hits and limit the damage. In fact, after Brian Roberts led off the game with a double, Mitre allowed no extra base hits. He did allow three hits in the sixth, though, which plated two Baltimore runs and ultimately chased him from the game. The Yanks had already scored six by that point, and the bullpen held the Orioles in check as the Yanks took their fifth straight contest, 6-4.

The early scoring matched that of Monday’s contest. In the first Nick Markakis singled in Roberts, who had advanced to third on an Adam Jones ground out. The Yankees went down quietly in the first, but manufactured a run in the second on a walk, stolen base, and a pair of sac flies. Unlike Monday, that score didn’t remain until the bottom of the ninth. In fact, the Orioles picked up a run in the second. They would not hold it for long.

Through two Rich Hill didn’t look that bad. He didn’t have any strikeouts, but he also had only that one walk to Alex Rodriguez. The third would be his undoing, and it all started with a walk to Cody Ransom. That led to a bases loaded, two outs situation for Alex Rodriguez, who came through big time with a single to left. That plated two, giving the Yankees the lead back. They would not squander it.

Robinson Cano tacked on two with a homer in the fourth inning, putting the Yankees ahead 5-2. Johnny Damon would make it 6-2 later that inning. Mitre owes them a beer. If not for their tack-on runs, the sixth inning could have been a bit uglier. But the big lead allowed the Yanks to stave off the rallying Orioles, holding them to just two runs. It would be enough for the bullpen.

Other than Markakis’s single off Phil Coke to lead off the eighth, the bullpen was perfect. Even with the single they doubled Markakis off, so the bullpen faced the minimum number of hitters. Mo capped it off with his 27th save of the season, and the Yankees, with the help of the Texas Rangers, pulled into sole possession of first place.

They’ll have to defend their spot soon enough. It’s a day game, A.J. Burnett vs. rookie Jason Berken. Then Oakland comes to town. On a parting note, the Yanks are lined up well right now. They have four against Oakland, followed by three in Tampa and then three in Chicago. Mitre misses the beast of Tampa, as does Pettitte. Nothing better than throwing your best at the team creeping up behind you.

Categories : Game Stories
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Got a handful of promotions today, via Chad Jennings and Robert Pimpsner:

  • RHP Kevin Whelan to Triple-A Scranton
  • RHP Humberto Sanchez to Double-A Trenton
  • LHP Trenton Lare to Low-A Charleston
  • RHP Matt Richardson to Short Season Staten Island

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Columbus)
Kevin Russo & The Duncans: all 0 for 3 – was hit by a pitch & stole a bag … Shelley walked & threw Matt LaPorta out at home from RF … Eric drove in a run & K’ed
Ramiro Pena, Austin Jackson, Yurendell DeCaster, Colin Curtis & Frankie Cervelli: all 1 for 4 – Pena swiped a bag & K’ed … Jackson doubled & K’ed twice … DeCaster hit a solo jack & K’ed twice … Curtis doubled, scored a run & K’ed … Cervelli K’ed twice, but has a hit in every game he’s played with SWB
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 7-10 GB/FB – 62 of 90 pitches were strikes (68.9%) … he became the franchise’s career wins record holder
Damaso Marte: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 11 of 20 pitches were strikes (55%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 9 of 14 pitches were strikes (64.3%)

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