The Injured Outfield

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The Yankees have a bit of an outfield problem at the moment. Brett Gardner has been on the DL for nearly two weeks with a bone bruise and a right elbow strain, and yesterday Nick Swisher joined him in the infirmary with a low-grade left hamstring strain. The early word is that it will keep him on the shelf for “more than a few days” but not long enough to require a DL stint. It’s one of those in-between injuries, one that really throws a wrench into the current roster situation.

At the moment, the starting outfield is Curtis Granderson in center with Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones flanking him in the corners. The fourth outfielder is Eduardo Nunez by default, and he has 18.1 career innings in the outfield. The Yankees are left with a two-man bench for the time being, and one of the two is the backup catcher. Unless they unexpectedly release Freddy Garcia or demote the recently recalled D.J. Mitchell, there’s no obvious candidate on the pitching staff to go to Triple-A in favor of an extra position player.

“We won’t (add an outfielder) before tomorrow,” said Joe Girardi after yesterday’s game. “We’ll see how it goes. Gardy’s eligible to come back on Thursday. We’ll see how that goes. We could try to go through (without a call-up until then). We’ll see what happens and go from there.”

Gardner has swung in the cage in each of the last two days and could take batting practice as soon as today. I don’t know if a minor league rehab stint is necessary after such a short layoff, but basically everything has to go right between now and Thursday for the Yankees to get him back into the outfield after the minimum 15 days. It’s certainly possible, but planning for the best case scenario never seems like a smart thing to do.

If Swisher’s injury truly doesn’t require a DL stint, the best roster solution probably involves placing Garcia on the DL. They’re not going to release him after four starts, and frankly the Yankees should hold onto whatever pitching depth they have at the moment. Girardi did suggest that Freddy could be sent for medical tests following Saturday’s game due to his relative lack of velocity, and that alone would give them a reason to put him on the shelf. The Yankees could keep Garcia in the organization, keep Mitchell’s fresh arm in the bullpen, and keep Swisher off the DL while adding an extra position player to the roster. It’s a win-win (-win-win).

Having both Ibanez and Jones in the outfield at the same time for the next few days will bring back memories of the defensive disaster years when Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon roamed the corner outfield spots in the Bronx. It won’t be pretty, but hopefully it’s only temporary. Even if it is, the Yankees would really be rolling the dice with a two-man bench until Gardner comes off the DL. Brandon Laird makes sense as a temporary reinforcement since he’s already on the 40-man roster, can play both the infield and outfield corners, and can easily be optioned down later in the week. It’s just a matter of being willing to clear a 25-man roster spot.

Fan Confidence Poll: March 30th, 2012

Record Last Week: 3-3 (28 RS, 28 RA)
Season Record: 12-9 (118 RS, 101 RA, 12-9 pythag. record), 1.5 games back in AL East
Opponents This Week: vs. Orioles (three games, Mon. to Weds.), @ Royals (four games, Thurs. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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Yanks take rubber game from Tigers behind CC

The toughest early-season stretch the schedule is officially in the rear-view mirror, as the Yankees took the rubber game of their series with the Tigers by the score of 6-2.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The Ace

The starting rotation has been a mess all season, but once every five days we know CC Sabathia is going to give the Yankees a ton of high-quality innings. On Sunday against the Tigers, he made just two mistakes — hanging sliders to Prince Fielder (solo homer) and Miguel Cabrera (run-scoring double) — in eight excellent innings, striking out eight and walking just two. The only other hits allowed were a first inning double and a sixth inning single, both by Brennan Boesch.

Sabathia dominated Detroit with essentially two pitches, shelving his changeup for most of the afternoon. Ninety-six of his 106 pitches were fastballs or sliders, the other eight were changeups and curveballs. He threw a first pitch strike to 18 of 30 batters and only went to six three-ball counts. Sabathia never threw more than 18 pitches in an inning and only thrice needed more than a dozen pitches in a single frame. The big left-hander was highly effective and highly efficient, continuing the trend he showed in the final innings against the Twins and last week against the Rangers. It was exactly the kind of outing the team needed.

All Of The Base Runners

It was pretty disheartening that the Yankees put 14 runners on base against Max Scherzer in his 4.2 innings — exactly half of the batters he faced — but only scored three runs. One of those runs came on a bases loaded walk by Curtis Granderson and another on an infield single by Alex Rodriguez, so they weren’t exactly tattooing him either. Through six innings they’d left 14 of 18 possible runners on base, including the bases loaded in the second, fifth, and sixth innings. Scherzer walked seven (!) and allowed seven hits, though six were singles and three didn’t even leave the infield. The game was uncomfortably close.

Snow-coned it ... until he dropped it.

Almost Amazing

The third run Scherzer allowed came on a Curtis Granderson solo homer into the Yankees’ bullpen, though it was nearly a great catch by Austin Jackson. He scaled the right-center field wall and had the ball snow-coned in his glove, but he just couldn’t hang on. Had he made the catch, it would have been a legit play of the year candidate. Here’s video. Pretty amazing … almost.

Break It Open

The Yankees did manage to break things open in the later innings, after Scherzer had been replaced by the rookie right-hander Luke Putkonen. A former rotation-mate of Adam Warren at North Carolina, Putkonen was making his big league debut in long relief and he managed to pitch out of two bases loaded situations in his first two innings. The bend but don’t break act last until the seventh inning, when Chris Stewart singled and Derek Jeter walked to open the frame before moving up on Granderson’s fly ball to the warning track.

The first insurance run came on an A-Rod ground out to third, though Stewart deserves credit for sliding under the tag at the plate after going on contact. The throw had him beat, but replays showed that his foot touched the base before Gerald Laird applied the tag. It was a pretty sweet slide. Robinson Cano plated Jeter with a sacrifice fly one batter later, then Andruw Jones snapped an 0-for-19 skid with a long homer to left in the eighth. It almost made the second deck.

Come back soon, Swish. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

Leftovers

Granderson should never bunt, especially not in the first inning. I don’t care if it was called from the bench or he did it on his own, that first inning sacrifice today was not a smart play. Scherzer walked the first batter he faced and is pretty homer prone, which plays right into Grandy’s strengths. Even bunting for a hit is a sketchy play in that spot.

David Robertson threw a scoreless ninth inning once Sabathia had done his thing, and 13 of his 14 pitches were strikes. That’s very un-David Robertson-like, but I approve. CC and Robertson combined to strike out ten and walk just two while their lineup drew nine walks against just five whiffs.

Everyone in the lineup reached base at least once except for Mark Teixeira. That includes Nick Swisher, who drew a walk before being taken out of the game with a low-grade hamstring strain. Jeter (two singles and two walks), Andruw (single, homer, walk), and Eric Chavez (two singles and walk) all reached base at least three times.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some more stats, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees welcome the Orioles to the Bronx for a three-game set starting Monday night. Hiroki Kuroda gets the start against Jason Hammel. Check out RAB Tickets for some ticket deals.

Marshall strong in Trenton loss

Dan Brewer was activated off the DL, but no corresponding move was needed because Double-A Trenton had an open roster spot.

Triple-A Empire State (8-2 win over Lehigh Valley)
LF Kevin Russo: 0-1, 2 R, 3 BB, 1 SB, 1 HBP — 11 BB and 9 K in 18 games
2B Doug Bernier, 3B Jayson Nix & RF Colin Curtis: all 1-4, 1 R — Bernier walked and struck out twice … Nix drove in two and struck out … Curtis doubled, plated two, walked, and struck out twice
CF Dewayne Wise: 1-3, 2 R, 2 BB — has slowed down just a bit of late, but he’s in line for a call-up if the big league outfield situation gets any more dire
DH Jack Cust: 1-4, 1 RBI, 2 K
1B Brandon Laird: 3-5, 1 R, 1 K
C Craig Tatum: 1-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
SS Ramiro Pena: 1-4, 2 K
LHP Mike O’Connor: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 8/1 GB/FB — 48 of 70 pitches were strikes (68.6%) … nice spot start in place of D.J. Mitchell, who was called up this morning
SwP Pat Venditte: 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 26 of 35 pitches were strikes (74.3%)
LHP Juan Cedeno: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 17 pitches, 12 strikes (70.6%)

[Read more…]

Sunday Night Open Thread

Almost awesome. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

After nine games against the Red Sox, Rangers, and Tigers, the Yankees come away with a 5-3 record and one rain out. Not too shabby considering the mostly terrible starting pitching. Thankfully the schedule lightens up over the next few weeks, which will hopefully allow the Yankees to fatten up their win total before the second half.

Here is your open thread for the night. The ESPN Sunday Game is in Texas for the Rangers and Rays (Holland vs. Price), plus there’s also NHL and NBA action on various networks. Use this thread to talk about whatever’s on your mind. Go nuts.

Update: Swisher has low-grade hammy strain

4:43pm: Swisher has a low-grade hamstring strain and will miss “more than a few days” according to Joe Girardi. He might not need a DL stint, however. Three healthy outfielders with Eduardo Nunez as the backup won’t cut it, the Yankees are going to have to abandon the 13-man pitching staff at some point.

3:19pm: The team says it’s a tight left hamstring and Swisher will head for a precautionary MRI. Hopefully it’s not a strain or anything and he won’t miss more than a few days.

2:13pm: Nick Swisher was lifted from this afternoon’s game with an apparent left hamstring injury. Replays showed him flexing his leg and grabbing at it following a swing then again on first base after drawing a walk. Andruw Jones replaced Swisher off the bench. Hopefully it’s just a cramp. We’ll update this post with more as it comes in.