Gardner still feels stiffness in elbow, will try to hit on Monday

Following tonight’s game, Joe Girardi announced that Brett Gardner still feels some stiffness in the strained right elbow that has keep him on the DL for most of the season. It doesn’t sound serious though; Girardi said Gardner will travel to Tampa as planned later this week and try to hit off a tee on Monday. It’s a slight setback.

Three games, three losses in the minors

Baseball America put together a quick study on pitchers drafted out of high school that suggests more work in the minors is better, not less. It’s an incomplete study because they’re separating injury from performance and that’s not the case (one affects the other), so don’t take it to heart. I would like to see the Yankees extend their young arms a little further, however.

Double-A Trenton (4-2 loss to Akron)
CF Shane Brown, DH Corban Joseph, 1B Luke Murton, 3B Addison Maruszak & SS Yadil Mujica: all 1-4 — Brown struck out and got hit by a pitch … Maruszak doubled and struck out twice … Mujica and Murton each struck out
2B David Adams & LF Cody Johnson: both 1-4, 1 R — Johnson hit a solo homer and struck out
RF Kevin Mahoney: 2-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing) — first career start in the outfield, and he threw a runner out at the plate
C Jose Gil: 0-4, 1 K
RHP Mikey O’Brien: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 7/5 GB/FB — 59 of 95 pitches were strikes (62.1%)
RHP Ryan Pope: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 21 of 35 pitches were strikes (60%)
RHP Michael Dubee: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/0 GB/FB — ten of 19 pitches were strikes

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Game 44: Getaway Night

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Yankees have been scuffling in a real bad way these last few weeks, but they have a chance to win their second straight tonight and head into tomorrow’s day off feeling positive. No one wants to spend their Thursday thinking about yet another loss. Things turned around last season with a late-May trip to West Coast and that’s where the Yankees are heading next, so let’s wrap up this homestand on a high note. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
DH Andruw Jones
Russell Martin
LF Jayson Nix

LHP Andy Pettitte

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Team Meeting Update: Jack Curry reports that Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi called a team meeting prior to last night’s game. They told the players not to panic and that they believe in their ability to bounce back from this ugly stretch of baseball.

A quick look at Boone Logan’s slider

Boone Logan‘s work this season has been a huge lift to a bullpen that’s suffered two pretty significant injuries, and late last week Lucas Apostoleris of The Hardball Times looked at why the left-hander has been so effective: his slider. Simply put, Boone has been using the pitch much more frequently (48% of all pitches at the time of the writing) and is generating a ton of swings and misses (59% of all swings). Easy enough.

Logan has struck out 27 of the 76 batters he’s faced this season (35.5%) including 17 of 46 lefties (37.0%). I always worry about extreme breaking ball guys (like 50%+ of all pitches, not 25%) because anecdotally, they seem to break down or decline quickly — Brad Lidge, Carlos Marmol, Luke Gregerson being primary examples. Maybe I’m wasting my time worrying about relievers given their short shelf lives, who knows. Anyway, Boone’s been highly effective this season and I hope he continues to pitch this way going forward.

Romine out until July with inflamed disc

Via Dan Martin, catcher Austin Romine is going to be out until at least July with an inflamed disc in his back. He missed time with a similar injury last summer and hasn’t played at all this season, including Spring Training. “He saw [Dr. Watkins] in Los Angeles about four weeks ago and is on his third week of rehab,” said Brian Cashman.

This is essentially a lost season for the 23-year-old Romine, who came into 2012 as the club’s best upper-level catching prospect. He was slated for his first full season at Triple-A and would have had a very real chance to usurp Frankie Cervelli as the backup catcher and cement his place in the club’s long-term catching picture. Instead, the Yankees had to make the George Kontos-for-Chris Stewart trade to replace the depth and Romine’s long-term outlook is a big question mark.

2012 Draft: Stryker Trahan

The 2012 amateur draft is less than two weeks away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.

Stryker Trahan | C

Background
Named after a character in a Burt Reynolds movie, Trahan stars in both baseball and football for Acadiana High School in Lafayette, Louisiana. He is committed to Ole Miss.

Scouting Report
One of those “country strong” types at 6-foot-1 and 220 lbs., Trahan produces a ton of hard contact from the left side and the ball makes a different sound off his bat. He projects to hit for big power down the road but there is some concern about his propensity to swing and miss at the amateur level. His hands and arm work well behind the plate but he needs to work on his overall receiving and footwork. Trahan is athletic for his size and runs way better than the typical catcher, so he’ll be able to shift to right field if the catching thing doesn’t take. There is star potential behind the plate, however.

Miscellany
Trahan is a back-half of the first round talent and recent rankings by Keith Law (24th), Baseball America (27th), and MLB.com (28th) reflect that. They put him right in the mix for New York with their first round pick (#30 overall) and for what it’s worth, Baseball America had the Yankees selecting Trahan in their latest mock draft. The Yankees prioritize catching depth in the minors, specifically catchers who can hit, and Trahan is one of the two or three best offensive catchers this draft class has to offer.

Cody Eppley’s Big Chance

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Billy Butler is one of the most unheralded great hitters in baseball. The 26-year-old is hitting .301/.361/.515 with eight homers in 180 plate appearances this season and with all due respect to Mike Moustakas, he’s clearly the biggest threat in Kansas City’s lineup. That’s why it was surprising when Joe Girardi called on Cody Eppley, an up-and-down right-handed reliever, to face Butler with a man on first and no outs in the eighth inning of a one-run game last night.

Eppley, 26, used three upper-80s sinkers to get Butler to fly out harmlessly to right for the first out of the inning. It was the only batter he would face but was one of the most important plate appearances of the game in terms of Leverage Index (3.38). Of course, Girardi called up Eppley hoping for a double play ball on the ground. The sidearming righty has a 66.7% ground ball rate in limited big league action this season but was at 82% in Triple-A according to First Inning. His career minor league ground ball rate is roughly 61%.

He didn’t get the double play ball but Eppley did get a chance to pitch in a pretty big spot. He’s been hell on right-handed batters throughout his Triple-A career (.211/.291/.265 against with a 28.5 K%), which isn’t a surprise given his arm slot and sinker-slider combination. That’s going to be his role in the big leagues, a righty matchup guy who specializes in ground balls. Think Burke Badenhop or Brad Ziegler or Joe Smith. A useful pieces for the middle innings but not exactly your relief ace.

Eppley is only on the roster for one reason right now: David Robertson‘s injury. Robertson is still feeling some pain in his strained left oblique and has yet to pick up a ball, so he’s probably a week to ten days away from returning to the club in the best case scenario. It depends on how many minor league rehab appearances the team has him make, if any. That gives Eppley another handful of appearances to show that he can contribute to the Yankees on a regular basis, at least moreso than Freddy Garcia. That’s his goal, out-pitch Freddy.

The only problem with carrying Eppley instead of Garcia long-term is that you’re stuck with two specialists in the bullpen between him and Clay Rapada*. Those are two guys who are most effective when kept away from batters of he opposite hand and it really hamstrings the manager and increases the workload on the other relievers. I’d prefer to see David Phelps in a multi-inning setup-type role rather than assuming long man work from a departed Garcia, so Eppley could be squeezed out of the bullpen until the next injury. It will be interesting to see how he’s used until Robertson returns; more opportunities like the one we saw last night would be an indication that the Yankees are giving him a longer look and a chance to earn a spot on the roster even when their top late-inning arm gets healthy.

* Boone Logan has been incredibly effective of late and is pitching like more than a lefty specialist at the moment, so we’ll give him a pass for now.