X-rays negative after Cano gets hit by pitch

Via Meredith Marakovits, second baseman Robinson Cano is sore but hopes to play on Wednesday after getting hit by a pitch in what looked like his left forearm by Cesar Ramos in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game. X-rays were negative. Cano remained in the game for another inning before being lifted in the ninth with a big lead. A day off wouldn’t be the end of the world, no reason not to play it safe.

Branyan homers twice in Triple-A win

As expected, the Yankees will be well represented in the Low-A South Atlantic League All-Star Game. OF Tyler Austin, C Gary Sanchez, C Francisco Arcia, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and RHP Pedro Guerra were all selected for the game, which will be played in Charleston. I’m kinda surprised OF Mason Williams didn’t make the cut, but what can you do. The River Dogs coaching staff will be calling the shots for the Southern Division club as well. In case you missed it a few weeks ago, the Homerun Derby will take place on the deck of an aircraft carrier. I have to think Austin will take his hacks and hopefully dent some F-16s.

Here’s your bullet point minor league update for Tuesday night…

  • Triple-A Empire State (win): 1B Russell Branyan led the way with two homers and six runs driven in, though CF Kevin Russo (double), LF Ronnie Mustelier, RF Colin Curtis, and SS Ramiro Pena all had two hits apiece. DH Jack Cust (double) and 2B Corban Joseph both had a hit and two walks. RHP D.J. Mitchell got rocked, I’m talking eight runs and 12 hits in 5.2 IP. RHP Chase Whitely and RHP Jason Bulger came out of the bullpen to allow nothing the rest of the way.
  • Double-A Trenton (loss): IF Jose Pirela continued his hot hitting with two singles, half the team’s hit total. RHP Brett Marshall got hit around a bit, allowing four runs in six innings. LHP Francisco Rondon allowed one run in two innings of relief in an otherwise uneventful game.
  • Low-A Charleston (win): CF Mason Williams hit a solo homer while RF Tyler Austin had two hits (including a double) and 3B Dante Bichette Jr. had three hits (including a double). C Gary Sanchez singled, ditto SS Cito Culver. The latter stole home (!!!) and former drew two more walks. LHP Evan Rutckyj allowed one unearned run in four innings before giving way to a parade of relievers.

High-A Tampa was rained out. They’re going to play a pair tomorrow.

2012 Draft: Hensley expects to sign quickly

Via Ryan Aber, first round pick Ty Hensley said negotiations with the Yankees will begin immediately and he expects to sign soon. “I’m ready to get this thing started,” said the prep right-hander. “I want to get out and play as soon as possible … My goal is to be there (in the big leagues) by the time I’m 21 years old.”

Slot money for the 30th overall pick is $1.6M and I expect Hensley’s eventual deal to come in relatively close to that amount, plus or minus. As you can see in this ESPN video, the kid looks very excited to have been drafted by New York. Everything you need to know about him is right here. The signing deadline is July 13th this year, moved up thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Game 54: One-Third

(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The Yankees will play game number 54 tonight (weather permitting) and are exactly one-third of the way through the 2012 season. A win tonight puts them in a tie for first place in the AL East (in the loss column), which is right where you want to be. Well, you’d like to be ten games up everyone, but that’s not realistic in this division. Not at this time of the year, anyway. The Rays are in town  for the biggest series of the year to date, and Andy Pettitte will look to set the tone for the rest of the homestand. Here’s the lineup…

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

LHP Andy Pettitte

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

David Robertson Update: Robertson (oblique) threw a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium and said he’s pain-free. It’s just a matter of getting back into the swing of things. He hopes to be back in 8-10 days.

Yankees sign Ricky Orta to minor league deal

Via Matt Eddy, the Yankees have signed right-hander Ricky Orta to a minor league contract. The 27-year-old was the Mariners’ fourth round pick in 2006 but missed all of 2010 and most of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. He signed a minor league deal with the Rays last season and only managed four appearances (eight innings) before the end of the season.

Orta isn’t a starter long-term but he’s an interesting relief prospect. He runs his fastball up to the mid-90s and has a decent breaking ball, enough for middle relief work. The Yankees could send him to either High-A Tampa or Double-A Trenton and get about 40 innings to evaluate him this summer. If they like what they see, they could retain him going forward and have a potentially useful arm. Orta’s never pitched above Double-A, so he has all three minor league options left. It’s an interesting move, certainly more interesting than the typical minor league signings.

The fascinating and depressing state of the Yankees with RISP

The Yankees have officially hit rock bottom. With a .219 batting average with runners in scoring position, the Yankees rank dead last in the AL.* There’s really not much left to say about this. It seems unfathomable that the Yankees can hit .281 without runners in scoring position and .219 with prime opportunities to score.

*The A’s did manage to raise their BA with RISP by 11 points last night, so there’s hope, I suppose.

The oddities don’t end there, though. For instance, while the scoring position situation is bad enough by itself, the Yankees have a real issue when hitting with a runner on third base. When they don’t have a runner on third they’re hitting .276. Any time a runner is standing on third, though, the bats simply die. They’re hitting just .173, 29 for 168, in those situations.

Having multiple men on base is usually a boon for the offense. Pitchers find themselves in a spot, because they’re running out of places to put hitters. But the Yankees let opponents off the hook in these situations, hitting just .196, 50 for 255. When there is just one man on base the Yankees are hitting .275.

Man on first? No problem. The Yankees frequently move that man over, hitting a whopping .291. Unfortunately, they then have multiple men on base, which we’ve seen causes trouble. Once they get that hit with a man on first, putting runners on first and second or first and third, they’re hitting just .205. Their power is their saving grace here, as seven of their 33 hits in these situations have cleared the fence.

We’ve all seen the Yankees’ disastrous results with the bases loaded. To their advantage, the top four hitters in the order have seen the most PA with the bases loaded. To their detriment, they’re a combined 5 for 35. Three players — Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez — are hitless in a combined 18 PA with the bases loaded, though all three have at least one RBI. Andruw Jones doesn’t have a batting average with the bases loaded, having walked and hit a sac fly in his two PA. Nick Swisher, 2 for 4 with a homer and a double; Chris Stewart, 1 for 2; and Mark Teixeira, 1 for 3 with two walks and a double, have been the most effective Yankees with the bases loaded.

If one thing is made clear, it’s that these numbers are absolutely absurd. They just don’t add up, given how well the Yankees hit overall. That gives me some faith that in time they’ll turn around. Until then, though, we must suffer this seeming parody. Then again, they do continue winning. They took two of three in Detroit while going 5 for 31 with runners in scoring position, and went 6-3 on the road trip despite hitting .202 (17 for 84) with RISP. As Ben said to me yesterday, if the Yankees actually figured out how to hit with runners in scoring position they’d never lose a game.

6/5-6/7 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Separated by one game in the loss column in the AL East, the Yankees and Rays will meet for the third time this season over the next few days. Tampa swept the season opening series at Tropicana Field before New York took two of three in Yankee Stadium early last month. First place is on the line … but it’s only June so it’s not like this is a huge series. It is the biggest of the season to date, however.

What Have They Done Lately?

Despite sitting atop the AL East with a 31-23 record and a +18 run differential, the Rays have actually lost five of their last eight games. They did take two of three from the fading Orioles over the weekend, contributing to their league best 19-11 home record. Tampa’s 12-12 road record is another matter.

Offense

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Sitting just below the league average a 4.26 runs per game, the Rays own a perfectly average 100 wRC+ as a team and really miss the injured Evan Longoria (167 wRC+). The offense has instead been carried by Matt Joyce (162 wRC+), who has held his own against left-handers (133 wRC+) in the early going. Desmond Jennings (114 wRC+) is likely to return from the DL to reinforce the top of the order at some point this series if not tonight. He’s been out with a knee issue.

Staples like B.J. Upton (117 wRC+), Carlos Pena (108 wRC+), and Ben Zobrist (103 wRC+) have been no worse than average but have a tendency to perform better than that against the Yankees. Luke Scott (98 wRC+) has been in a prolonged slump (87 wRC+ in May) and is losing playing time to former Yankee Hideki Matsui (100 wRC+). Godzilla has three hits in his 16 plate appearances, including two homers. Miscellaneous annoying infielders like Drew Sutton (53 wRC+), Sean Rodriguez (80 wRC+), Will Rhymes (81 wRC+), and Elliot Johnson (104 wRC+) have been anywhere from bad to average while both catchers — Jose Lobaton (56 wRC+) and Jose Molina (57 wRC+) — have been awful. Rich Thompson (-27 wRC+) is basically a pinch-runner/defensive replacement in the outfield.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Jamie Shields
This will already be the third time the Yankees are facing Shields this season. The first go ’round (six runs in five innings) went much better than the second (three runs in six innings), but I think we all know how good he can be. Shields has pitched to a 3.95 ERA with a 3.59 FIP, with career bests in strikeout (9.12 K/9 and 23.8 K%) and ground ball (59.0%) rate. His walk rate (2.71 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%) is a career worst though, and his 1.11 HR/9 is up there. Shields is the master at pitching backwards, using his various offspeed pitches — low-80s curveball, upper-80s slider, and world-class mid-80s changeup — to setup his three upper-80s/low-90s fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter). He’s a tough assignment, no doubt about it.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Alex Cobb
Cobb has made three solid starts (3.71 ERA and 3.20 FIP) since replacing Jeff Niemann in the rotation; he had a comebacker fracture his leg. He’s primarily a ground ball guy (57.1%), not a strikeout (6.35 K/9 and 15.4 K%) or low-walk (3.71 BB/9 and 9.0 BB%) type. Cobb uses four pitches, including a pair of upper-80s fastballs in the four and two-seamer. He also throws a mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. The Yankees faced Cobb once last year, though he held them to two runs (one earned) in six innings. At least they’re not going in blind.

Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP David Price
My Cy Young pick has cooled off a bit after a roaring start, pitching to a 2.44 ERA and a 3.24 FIP in his eleven starts. His strikeout rate (7.57 K/9 and 20.7 K%) is his worst in three years and his walk rate (2.81 BB% and 7.7 BB%) jumped a bit after a career-low last season, but his ground ball rate (52.6%) is his best ever. Price is another three fastball — mid-90s two-seamer, mid-90s four-seamer, low-90s cutter — guy with three offspeed pitches — upper-80s slider, upper-70s curveball, low-80s changeup. The Yankees have seen him two already this season with good results (five runs in seven innings) and bad results (two runs in 6.1 innings). You know how good he is.

(J. Meric/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Rays had Monday off so their bullpen is rested. New York has the added advantage of getting a complete game from Phil Hughes on Sunday, so the bullpen has really had two full days off. Good stuff.

Anyway, Tampa’s bullpen is anchored by the reborn Fernando Rodney, who’s pitched to a 2.19 FIP thanks to his newfound ability to throw strikes (1.37 BB/9 and 4.0 BB%). Homer prone setup man Joel Peralta (4.10 FIP) has pitched better after a few rough weeks to start the season, and situational ground ball (55.0%) righty Burke Badenhop (4.25 FIP) lends a hand from time to time. Long man Wade Davis (3.48 FIP) is the only other right-hander in the bullpen.

The Rays have three left-handers to deploy in various situations. Jake McGee (1.35 FIP) is the hard-throwing guy that will pitch to both lefties and righties but J.P. Howell (4.77 FIP) is the soft-tossing specialist. Cesar Ramos (4.40 FIP) is a low-leverage mop-up type who is far from a roster lock. He could be sent down and replaced with another disposable arm at any time. Overall, the Tampa relief corps is in the middle of the pack with a 3.72 FIP. For the latest and greatest on the division rivals from Florida, check out DRays Bay.