O’Brien dominates in Tampa win

Got some notes…

  • According to Slade Heathcott, he will play his first game of the season with High-A Tampa on June 5th. Hooray for that.
  • Dellin Betances got the sixth spot on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet following his eight-inning gem the other day. Hopefully he strings a few strong performances together.
  • A number of players — including Betances and Andy Pettitte — have had trouble with the mound in Rochester, so it will be rebuilt. Triple-A Empire State will play 38 of their 72 “home” games in Rochester this season, not to mention their regularly scheduled road games there as well.
  • Mentioned yesterday that Rob Lyerly is out for the season with a shoulder problem, and apparently he had surgery to repair his labrum. That bites. Meanwhile, Jose Pirela is close to returning from the dreaded mystery injury.
  • And finally, check out Yankees Fans Unite‘s interview with Tyler Austin.

Triple-A Scranton (8-7 loss to Durham in ten innings) they faced former Yankees great Lance Pendleton
2B Kevin Russo: 0-6, 1 K
CF Ray Kruml: 0-5, 1 K, 1 E (missed catch) — Brandon Laird pinch-hit for him in the tenth and struck out
1B Steve Pearce: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — yawn
DH Jack Cust: 1-2, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 K — six walks in his last ten trips to the plate
3B Ronnie Mustelier: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HBP — nine hits in 27 at-bats since the promotion (.333)
RF Colin Curtis: 0-4, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K — threw a runner out at second
C Frankie Cervelli: 2-5, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
LF Cole Garner: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — first multi-hit game of the season
SS Yadil Mujica: 3-5, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 E (fielding)
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 7/1 GB/FB — 62 of 93 pitches were strikes (66.7%)
LHP Mike O’Connor: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 3/4 GB/FB — 52 of 83 pitches were strikes (62.7%)

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Game 32: The Return of Jesus

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

I was hoping to see a lot more of Jesus Montero at Yankee Stadium this year, but alas, six games is all we’ll get. Funny enough, Montero’s temporary return to New York has overshadowed the fact that Felix freakin’ Hernandez is on the bump for the Seattle and the Yankees figure to have a devil of a time figuring him out. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
LF Raul Ibanez
DH Eric Chavez
Russell Martin

RHP Hiroki Kuroda

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Yanks activate Eric Chavez, send Eduardo Nunez to Triple-A

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees have activated Eric Chavez off the 7-day DL and sent Eduardo Nunez to Triple-A in a corresponding move. They want him to play shortstop and second base on an everyday basis in an effort to improve his defense. Jayson Nix will remain with the team as the utility infielder.

Joe and I talked about the possibility to sending Nunez down at length in today’s podcast. I didn’t think it would happen mostly because it seemed like one of those ideas that wouldn’t even have been entertained had he not made those two errors last night. Something had to give with the kid’s defense though, hopefully he can find some consistency down there. Nix has a ton of experience at second and third bases but just a handful of games at short in each of the last few years. He could fake it once a week but not if Derek Jeter were to miss some time.

Chavez, meanwhile, returns to the team after missing a week with whiplash and possible concussion. He was eligible to come off the DL yesterday but had to wait for MLB clearance to be activated. He’s in tonight’s lineup at DH.

Missing Montero

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

For the first time since January’s trade, the Yankees will get a look at Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariner tonight. The deal already looks like a disaster on New York’s end with Michael Pineda out of the season (torn labrum) and Jose Campos out indefinitely (elbow inflammation), but luckily for the Yankees, you can’t pass final judgment on a trade of this magnitude after four months. The early returns are horrible, however.

Montero has settled in as a middle of the order bat for Seattle. That has more to do with the state of the team than his actual production though, because a .268/.282/.420 batting line (.298 wOBA and 91 wRC+) is hardly deserving of a primo lineup spot. I am surprised Montero is off to such a relatively slow start but not entirely. I mean, he is only 22. We all knew a slow start was possible just because rookies tend to suck. Add in a pitcher-friendly home park and offensively incompetent teammates, and you have a recipe for a slow start. It happens and I’m sure he’ll be more than fine in the long run.

On a personal level, I’ve already accepted the trade and said my goodbyes to Montero. That sounds incredibly lame and cheesy, but it’s hard not to get attached to these guys as you follow their progress through the minors. Heck, here’s the DotF from his pro debut in 2007. We know when these kids sign, when they hit, when they struggle, when they do anything in the minors before reaching the big leagues these days. If you read RAB regularly, they become as much a part of the Yankees experience as Derek Jeter and CC Sabathia and Yankee Stadium. You get attached to them and when they get traded, it bums you out. It’s only natural.

Regardless of what they said publicly, the Yankees didn’t believe Montero was a big league catcher defensively. Actions speak louder than words and when Frankie Cervelli went down with a concussion last September, it was Austin Romine who took over behind the plate. That’s why he was traded. If he was a corner outfielder or something, chances are he’d still be in pinstripes. And that’s fine, when the pieces don’t fit you adjust. I thought Montero could be serviceable enough behind the plate in my completely amateur opinion, enough to catch 50-80 games a year for the next few seasons. He didn’t have to catch forever, but a few years back there seemed doable. The Yankees didn’t agree so they made the move.

Like everyone else, I have favorite players around baseball and Montero is one of them. I disliked the trade at the time and am pretty annoyed at how it’s played out so far, but at the end of the day I root for the laundry. I hope Montero does well this weekend (and going forward) but I hope the Yankees do even better. I miss Jesus and really wish he was the regular DH/backup catcher this year, but he’s not and that’s just the way it is. I enjoyed his short time in pinstripes but as usual, the players change. The Yankees are the constant and that’s where my allegiance lies.

The RAB Radio Show: May 11th, 2012

It’s been something of an eventful week in Yankeeland. We got to see the new endgame tandem of David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. We also saw some breakout signs from Robinson Cano, which should jumpstart the offense. All in all it was a pretty decent week — save for the Gardner injury news, of course. Mike and I are covering it all.

Podcast run time 37:49

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow051112.mp3]

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

5/11-5/13 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

(Abelimages/Getty Images)

The Yankees have won 11 of 19 games against the Mariners over the last two seasons, though I don’t think any club has caused New York as much off-the-field grief as Seattle. A series of trades and non-trades have left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and it’s not anything that will be easily forgotten. A sweep of this three-game weekend series would be a nice first step, however.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Mariners wrapped up a seven-game losing streak about a week ago and have since gone on to win four of their last five games, including two of three against the Tigers earlier this week. They’re 15-18 with a -4 run differential this year and the massively underachieving Angels are the only thing keeping Seattle out of the AL West cellar.

Offense

MLB Rules: Leave the Yankees, grow terrible facial hair. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Unsurprisingly, the Mariners are bad offensively. They average just 3.79 runs per game and are a bottom five club in batting average (.234), OBP (.289), and SLG (.368). They don’t hit many homers (27) or steal many bases (16), so they need a sustained rally and a total team effort to score runs. Their 85 wRC+ is ahead of only the Athletics among the 14 AL clubs.

Seattle has just three hitters with 100+ plate appearances who qualify as better than league average. Third baseman Kyle Seager (137 wRC+) hits for power (.212 ISO) but doesn’t reach base (2.8 BB%), so there’s a good chance his performance will come back to Earth as the season progresses. Like Derek Jeter, Ichiro (115 wRC+) is enjoying a bounceback season after being declared done a year ago, and now he’s hitting third rather than leadoff. Michael Saunders (116 wRC+) has changed his approach and is hitting for power now (.214), so the improvement may be real. He can still swing and miss with the best of them though (30.0 K%).

Dustin Ackley (81 wRC+) has been pretty awful to start the season, ditto Justin Smoak (39 wRC+), Brendan Ryan (48 wRC+), and Chone Figgins (61 wRC+). Figgins is going to get released at some point this summer, it’s inevitable. Part-timers John Jason (139 wRC+ in 44 PA), Munenori Kawasaki (38 wRC+ in 32 PA), Alex Liddi (108 wRC+ in 55 PA), and Casper Wells (84 wRC+ in 31 PA) have produced mix results as part-time players tend to do. Mike Carp (40 wRC+ in 25 PA) spent some time on the DL with a shoulder problem and was just re-added to the roster.

And then there’s Jesus Montero. The former Yankees wunderkind is hitting .268/.282/.420 (91 wRC+) in 117 plate appearances, which really isn’t what I expected when I predicted he’d win the Rookie of the Year award. Lots of season left though. Montero has been batting cleanup lately and he’s hit four homers so far, tied with Seager and Saunders for the team lead. He’s only drawn three walks (2.6 BB%) but isn’t striking out a ton either (20.5 K%). Miguel Olivo’s injury has Montero catching almost everyday at the moment, though he spent most of his time at DH earlier this season. I hope he hits about five homers this series and the Yankees win all three games. Can that be arranged?

Starting Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Felix Hernandez
The Yankees just can’t escape Felix. They managed to hit him pretty hard last September, but otherwise he’s completely shut them down over the years. There’s actually been some concern in Seattle because his fastball velocity is down noticeably, but it hasn’t mattered. Hernandez is still amazing. He strikes people out (8.77 K/9 and 25.0 K%), doesn’t walk anyone (2.41 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%), and gets ground balls (47.7%) with a diminished fastball or otherwise. Felix now sits in the low-90s with his heat, but his array of offspeed pitches is unmatched: high-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, low-80s curveball. He carves hitters up when ahead in the count, and unfortunately his 66.2% first pitch strike rate is one of the best marks in baseball. With all due respect to Justin Verlander, I don’t think there’s a tougher assignment in the AL than King Felix.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Hector Noesi
The other guy in the Montero-Michael Pineda trade, Noesi’s career a full-time starting pitcher in the big leagues is off to a rocky start. His ERA (6.30) and FIP (5.65) are both unsightly and they’d be worse if it wasn’t for a pair of gems against the lowly Athletics (8 IP, 0 R) and Twins (7 IP, 1 R). Noesi hasn’t missed bats (5.40 K/9 and 14.0 K%), hasn’t limited walks (3.90 BB/9 and 10.1 BB%), and hasn’t gotten ground balls (33.0% and 1.90 HR/9). Just as he did in New York, Hector uses five pitches — low-90s two and four-seamers, mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, upper-70s curve — but will rely most heavily on the two-seamer and changeup.

Sunday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Blake Beavan
This has trap game written all over it. Everything about Beavan says the Yankees should pound him. He doesn’t miss bats (3.78 K/9 and 9.8 K%) and doesn’t get ground balls (33.3%), two traits that are very problematic despite a fantastic walk rate (1.08 BB/9 and 2.8 BB%). Beavan’s two and four-seamers sit right at 90, and he backs them up with a mid-70s curveball. His upper-70s slider and low-80s changeup are rarely used third and fourth pitches, so think of him as an approximation of 2011 Hughes. If someone is going to allow the Yankees to put the ball in the air that often, they shouldn’t make it out of the third inning. But like I said, trap game.

Part of the Cliff Lee trade, Beavan is actually a little questionable for this start after getting hit by a Miguel Cabrera line drive in his pitching elbow last time out. If he’s unable to pitch, the start will likely go to Japanese import Hisashi Iwakuma (6.75 ERA and 4.70 FIP). This one promises to be a blast with Andy returning.

(Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
The Mariners were off on Thursday for travel, so their bullpen is fresh. Michael Kay will surely drool over closer Brandon League’s power sinker-splitter combination, and he’s performed quite well this season (3.14 FIP). Setup man Tom Wilhelmsen (3.63 FIP) is one of the best keep secrets in baseball, a great back story will dominant power stuff. Lefty specialist and Rule 5 Draft pick Lucas Luetge has pitched well overall (2.73 FIP) and has manhandled lefties, holding them to two singles in 25 plate appearances. The six walks (one intentional) kinda stinks though.

The hard-throwing right-hander Shawn Kelley (9.85 FIP in 3 IP) is just getting back in the swing of things after having what amounts to his second Tommy John surgery in 2010. He originally had it back in 2003, but the latest procedure technically “re-secured the Tommy John graft to the bone,” whatever that means. Righty Steve Delabar (4.64 FIP) has some serious strikeout (11.25 K/9 and 31.8 K%) and walk (1.13 BB/9 and 3.2 BB%) rates, but he’s surrendered four homers in 16 IP. Iwakuma and the left-handed Charlie Furbush (4.05 FIP) both serve as multi-inning/long man types.

The Yankees did not have the luxury of an off day yesterday, but CC Sabathia gave them eight innings. Rafael Soriano will definitely be unavailable tonight after appearing in each of the last three games, but check out our Bullpen Workload page to see how the rest of the relief corps is holding up. There are quite a few good Mariners blogs out there, but make sure you check out USS Mariner and Lookout Landing.