JoVa & Maxwell homer in SWB win

First of all, make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread. Secondly, Dellin Betances was in the team photo of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. In case you missed it, we had a bunch of miscellaneous minor league notes earlier today.

Triple-A Scranton (6-2 win over Louisville)
Austin Krum, LF, Ramiro Pena, DH & Luis Nunez, SS: all 0 for 4 – Krum walked and struck out twice … Pena was really the DH, and he drew a walk and got caught stealing … Nunez struck out once
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 2 K
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K – that’s hit 18th homer in 43 games … he had 18 homers in 86 games all of last year
Justin Maxwell, CF: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB – that’s homer number 14 for him
Brandon Laird, 3B: 1 for 4
Kevin Russo, 2B: 2 for 3, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB – eight for his last 19
Dan Brewer, RF: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 2 K
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 7-6 GB/FB – 57 of 97 pitches were strikes (58.8%)
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1-0 GB/FB – 28 of 39 pitches were strikes (71.8%)
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB – a dozen of his 18 pitches were strikes … 24-6 K/BB in 23 IP

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Game 49: The Great Northwest

Yep. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Boo the west coast. Well, I shouldn’t say that. I have no problem with the Pacific Time Zone, I just hate it when the Yankees are out there and don’t start playing until late at night. I’m getting old and don’t late staying up exorbitantly late, so sue me. Anyway, here’s the lineup that will face rookie right-hander Michael Pineda

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Russell Martin, C
Jorge Posada, DH
Nick Swisher, RF
Brett Gardner, LF

A.J. Burnett, SP

Tonight’s game starts a little after 10pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy, if you’re awake.

Phil Hughes throws off mound

Via Sweeny Murti, Phil Hughes threw 20 fastballs off a mound today, his first time throwing off something other than flat ground since being shut down and going for a battery of tests earlier this month. Hughes felt fine and said he’ll probably throw off a mound again in two or three days, but there’s nothing is set in stone beyond that. Good news all around, though this is going to be a long process.

Open Thread: Building Narratives

I’m sure most of you a) read xkcd, and/or b) have already seen that today, but I figured I’d post it here for those of you that haven’t. There’s really nothing to add, it’s the history of sports analysis in a one pane comic.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Yankees and Mariners start their game a little after 10pm ET, at which point we’ll have a regular game thread. This is to just hold you over. The Mets are playing the Phillies (Capuano vs. Oswalt), and MLB Network will also carry a game. The teams depend on where you live though. The Lightning and Bruins will play Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals as well (8pm ET on Versus), winner moves on to face the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals. Nothing better than a Game Seven, I say. Talk about anything here as you wait for the game.

Minors Notes: Anderson, Sanchez, Injuries, More

Got a bunch of minor league notes today, so let’s round them all up in one post. Everything comes from Mike Ashmore or Chad Jennings

  • Right-hander Brian Anderson has been released. He had been on the Double-A Trenton disabled list with a biceps issue, though his performance when he did pitch was pretty good: nine strikeouts and just one walk in 7.1 IP.
  • Mark Newman again said that Gary Sanchez is out with a “stiff lower back,” though he’s playing in Extended Spring Training. He is on the Low-A Charleston disabled list at the moment, and he’ll return there when healthy.
  • Both Slade Heathcott (.376 wOBA) and J.R. Murphy (.385) will “probably” move up to High-A Tampa this summer. That’s a yes, though I was wondering if Heathcott’s brawl would slow down his schedule somewhat.
  • Mark Prior is not throwing off a mound and is dealing with some kind of oblique/hip issue. Alan Horne (remember him?) is throwing in ExST, as is Brad Halsey. Graham Stoneburner, Jeremy Bleich, and Steve Garrison aren’t close to returning yet.
  • David Adams is still having leg issues. It might be related to last year’s broken ankle, but the leg started bothering him after his one game played this year.
  • When asked about who’s impressed in ExST, Newman responded with personal fave Bryan Mitchell. “He’s got electric stuff,” said Newman. “He’s got the stuff to be the next Banuelos, Betances. The high-end guy. That’s Mitchell.”
  • Carlos Silva can opt out of his minor league deal in mid-June, so he could probably make another two or three or maybe even four starts for Triple-A Scranton before the Yankees have to make a decision about whether or not to call him up.

2011 Draft: Blake Swihart

The draft is just ten days away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some players individually rather than lump a few together in one post.

(Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn, ESPN)

Blake Swihart | C

Background
After helping Rio Rancho High School to the New Mexico state championship as a sophomore, Swihart transferred to the nearby and brand-new Cleveland High School, where he supposedly has a 4.0 GPA. His showcase performances with Team USA, the Area Code Games, and the AFLAC All-American Game are the stuff of legend, as he’s routinely wowed onlookers over the last few summers. He is committed to Texas.

Scouting Report
Swihart is a rare breed. He’s a true switch-hitter with the potential to have power and be above-average from both sides of the plate. He spent the spring focusing on his development by alternating sides of the plate from at-bat to at-bat regardless of the pitcher’s handedness. The 6-foot-0, 170 lb. Swihart is a very good athlete that spent most of his high school career bouncing around the infield before moving behind the plate in earnest just last year. His arm is strong and his footwork is good, but he’s raw defensively and just needs more experience. If catching doesn’t work out for whatever reason, third base and right field are legitimate fallback options. Here’s some video.

Miscellany
In yesterday’s chat, Keith Law said that Swihart “keeps telling teams he has no interest in signing this year,” which is probably just a way of manufacturing leverage as one of the draft’s best high school prospects. KLaw and Baseball America rated him as the 17th and 19th best draft prospect in their latest rankings, respectively. Swihart has significant upside but still has a lot of work to do, and some team will surely offer him life changing money to see that he does that work under professional instruction and not some college coaching staff. The Yankees would have to hope that those bonus demands scare some teams into looking elsewhere if they hope to land Swihart with the 51st overall pick.

Mailbag: Swisher, Posey, Pitching, Veras

I figured I’d grab the reins from Mike this week and answer a few reader questions.

Mark asks: Given Swisher’s morbid .170 avg and .578 OPS against righties through yesterday, how much longer before we start talking about a platoon of Swisher and Dickerson in RF? Swish’s .302 avg & .714 OPS against lefties combined with Dickerson’s .273 avg & .697 OPS against righties sure looks better than Swish’s combined stats!

Given Swisher’s performances during his first two years as a Yankee (.270/.365/.505), I have to believe that they’ll give him more time, perhaps until the All-Star Break, to turn things around. If this is just a prolonged slump, then the Yanks will reap the benefits when he comes out of it — much more so than they would from a Dickerson/Swisher platoon.

If Swisher continues to struggle, we could certainly see more of Dickerson. In 461 career PA he is .273/.362/.419 against right-handed pitching. That’s more ideal for center field platoon, but it’s better than what Swisher is currently producing. Again, I think he’ll break out of this and have a fine second half. But if he’s not hitting when the second half starts, I’m sure we’ll see more Dickerson with perhaps an eye on a trade.

Nick asks: Hey I was wondering what your thoughts on this Buster Posey injury are? I mean them calling for a rule change and whining about it is a joke. It was a clean play. I liken it to Jeter getting hurt in 2003, it was a clean heads up play. What do you want runners to stop before home plate if the catcher has the ball? What a farce.

Your definition of clean play is different than others’. It was clean, in that no umpire would do anything about it. It’s an accepted play and has been for decades upon decades. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right, though. Baseball is decidedly not a contact sport, and Cousins went into Posey in the same way a safety would go into a wide receiver (except, of course, the wide receiver would be standing).

That said, no, I don’t think there should be a rule change. Do I think that runners should try to find a clear path to the plate, rather than just gunning for the catcher, wherever he may be in relation to the plate? Yes. Do I think that catchers should get the hell out of the way until they get the ball ? Yes. Do I think that catchers shouldn’t go to their knees when receiving a throw? Again, yes. That sounds more like a training issue than a rules issue to me.

To the last question, “do you want runners to stop before home plate,” obviously that’s a red herring. If there were to be a no collisions rule, catchers would be barred from blocking the plate.

In essence, I think that properly training players will go further than a rules change. If it’s a runner barreling down the line at a guy covered in the equipment, and holding the ball, I can see why a collision works. But the Posey play had more to do with him being on the ground without the ball. Of course, training only goes so far when you’re in the heat of the moment.

Jeff asks: With the way that Russell Martin is playing and now that Buster Posey is out for the season do the Yankees match up with the Giants for a Jesus Montero trade for one of Sanchez/Bumgarner/Cain? Would you be open to trading Montero for one of their young pitchers? The Giant’s can catch Montero this year and then shift him to first base next year.

The Giants certainly aren’t shifting him to first base next year, since 1) they have Aubrey Huff under contract for another year, and 2) their top prospect, Brandon Belt, is a first baseman. Without a DH spot, and with their top two young players covering first and catcher, the Giants have no real use for Montero. It’s a nice idea to consider, especially since the Yanks need pitching and the Giants have plenty of it. But this is an unfortunate instance where the Yanks just don’t have much to give in return.

Joe asks: Jose Veras is in Japan? How is he doing??

Jose Veras actually caught on with the Pirates, and he’s pitching fairly well. He has thrown 20.2 innings in 22 appearances, striking out 30 to just nine walks (one intentional). His 2.61 ERA is all nice and sparkly. Of course, we’ve seen this from Veras before. In 2008 he had some stellar stretches. From June 5 through July 9, a span of 17.1 innings, he allowed just one run, striking out 18 while walking eight. Then he allowed just four runs in 16.1 innings from July 12 through August 24. That is to say, we know he’s capable of this. I’m just keeping my mouth shut so that Pirates fans can appreciate him while he lasts.