Soriano unavailable due to blister, should be good for tomorrow

Rafael Soriano was unavailable tonight due to a blister on his right index finger, but it isn’t anything serious and he should be available tomorrow. The YES cameras showed him standing around in the bullpen in the sixth inning and he told Joe Girardi he could pitch if needed, but they held him back. Soriano had pitched in each of the last two games so the night off was probably a blessing in disguise.

Cust homers in Triple-A win

RHP Dellin Betances made this week’s Ten Pack, though not in a good way. The blurb is before the paywall, so you can read it without a subscription. “He’s never exactly been mechanically sound at any point in his career, and he’s clearly regressed this year,” wrote Kevin Goldstein, “he has a disturbing tendency to cut off his delivery at release, which costs him balance in a delivery already sorely lacking in that department. The 24 year old just doesn’t look like a starter anymore, and unless he finds the mechanics that once made him a top prospect, he might not look like a reliever either.”

In other news, OF Tyler Austin has been placed on the 7-day DL but confirmed (via Twitter) that he’s getting better and will return soon. Austin left last Thursday’s game with a bruised foot after a take-out slide at second base. Russell Branyan was named the Triple-A International League Offensive Player of the Week while Shane Greene took home High-A Florida State League Pitcher of the Week honors.

Triple-A Empire State (3-1 win to Louisville)
RF Kevin Russo: 1-4, 2 K
2B Corban Joseph: 0-4
LF Ronnie Mustelier & C Frankie Cervelli: both 1-3 — Mustelier walked … Cervelli allowed a passed ball
DH Jack Cust: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — fourth homer in his last seven games and number 13 on the year
1B Russell Branyan: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — eight hits in his last 24 at-bats (.333) with one double and five homers
3B Brandon Laird: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — nine hits in his last 28 at-bats (.321)
CF Colin Curtis: 0-3, 1 K,1 SB
SS Doug Bernier: 1-2, 1 BB, 1 CS
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 8/3 GB/FB — 50 of 78 pitches were strikes (64.1%)
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 15 of 19 pitches were strikes
LHP Juan Cedeno: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 11 of 19 pitches were strikes

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Game 60: No DH

(AP)

The Yankees have already played six interleague games this season, but all six have come at home in Yankee Stadium. Now they’re going out on the road to Atlanta, which means no designated hitter. That means pitchers hitting making outs and sacrifice bunting and double switches and all sorts of horrible stuff. I hate it. 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
C Russell Martin
RHP Ivan Nova0-for-4 with four strikeouts and one sac bunt in his career

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and thankfully the forecast has cleared up. Things weren’t looking too hot a few hours ago. The game will be broadcast on YES. Enjoy.

Andy Pettitte & Hiroki Kuroda Updates: Pettitte (hand) and Kuroda (foot) are fine and on track to make their next starts. The former barely has a bruise on his hand after barehanding a one-hopper yesterday and the latter came through yesterday’s bullpen session fine after taking a comebacker to the foot.

Brett Gardner Update: Gardner (elbow) visited Dr. Andrews today and will visit Dr. Kremcheck on Thursday. The Yankees haven’t received the results from Andrews yet, though I wouldn’t expect them to announce anything until he gets the second opinion later this week.

Ivan Nova and pitching backwards

Ivan Nova gets the ball for the Yankees tonight coming off his best start of the season thanks to an adjustment that led to an increase in ground balls. That isn’t the only adjustment the 25-year-old right-hander has made this year, however. In a (free!) piece at Baseball Prospectus, R.J. Anderson looked at how Nova has pitched backwards and used more first pitch breaking balls to keep hitters off balance. He also spoke to someone within the organization who confirmed that the adjustment was a conscious decision and not just small sample size noise.

The Yankees have gotten some pretty stellar starting pitching during this 13-4 stretch — 3.03 ERA with a 3.96 K/BB — and Nova is a big part of that. Only twice in the last 21 games has a started failed to complete six innings, and Ivan’s a guy that can chew up some serious innings with his quick ground balls. The mechanical adjustment as well as the game plan adjustment should help him with that. Make sure you check out the BP article, as I said it’s free for everyone. No subscription needed.

Adjustments help Martin take advantage of the short porch

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Yankees finished off the sweep of the Mets yesterday thanks to not one, but two homers — including the walk-off dinger — by catcher Russell Martin. He’s hit .319/.418/.681 in his last 15 games and .261/.369/.545 in his last 29 games dating back to the start of the Royals series in Kansas City. Sure, his first homer on Sunday was a total Yankee Stadium cheapie that hit off the top of the wall and took a fortunate bounce, but a few weeks ago Russ wasn’t even able to hit the ball to right field.

“I felt like I was getting tied up inside and I felt like I was starting to pull off the ball early with my stride,” said Martin after yesterday’s game. “Now I kind of just evened out my stride, and I feel like I’m ready to drive the ball the other way more with more ease. I was fighting to do it before.”

Hitting coach Kevin Long expanded on the idea of Martin evening out his stride, saying he’s backed off the plate a bit and is now able to turn on the inside pitch. “He was frustrated a little bit, but he kept believing that all his hard work — everything he’d done through the winter and up to this point — was going to pay off,” said Long. “It’s starting to show real good signs, especially this month. He’s been on fire.”

Martin was offensive dead weight for the first six or seven weeks of the season, carrying a .173/.321/.318 batting line into the recent West Coast trip before really turning things around. He was walking enough — 13.5 BB% this year — to keep from being a complete back hole offensively, but he lacked impact when he actually swung the bat. As you can see, he’s gone from constantly beating the ball into the ground to actually getting some loft and hitting it to the outfield…

Green is grounders, blue is fly balls, red is line drives.

This recent hot streak has Martin sitting on a 116 wRC+, the tenth best mark among catchers with at least 150 plate appearances. His .348 OBP ranks eighth. Russ is never again going to be the monster he was earlier in his career with the Dodgers, but the Yankees aren’t exactly asking him to be that guy. It would be nice if he was, but it isn’t imperative. He’s hitting mostly ninth in the lineup and like so many nine-hole hitters before him, he just has to be something more than an automatic out. Martin’s recent adjustment has him driving the ball to right — five of his eight dingers have gone the other way — and have helped him take advantage of the short porch.

Update: Cubs to sign Jorge Soler for nine years, $30M

2:40pm: Jon Heyman says Soler signed a nine-year contract worth right around $30M. Good grief. Heyman also says three or four teams were over $20M, though it’s unclear if the Yankees were one of them.

2:17pm: Via Joel Sherman and Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs won the bidding for free agent outfielder Jorge Soler. The Yankees tried to sign him, but Chicago won out. No word on the contract terms yet, but I’m very curious to see what they are. As I said yesterday, $15-20M for a 20-year-old prospect is a ton of money and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees backed away at a certain point.

For what it’s worth, Kevin Goldstein says the Cubs had a “choke point” on Soler and would one-up every bid until they landed him. Yesterday Goldstein described the Cuban outfielder as “a RF profile guy. BIG power, big arm, ok fielder, holes in swing. He’s not historic and he’s seen as ready for Low-A.”

The RAB Radio Show: June 11th, 2012

We missed last Friday, and we’ll be missing this Friday, so why not do a Monday podcast?

  • We start by reviewing the Rays and Mets series. Obviously this is an upbeat portion, since the Yanks went 5-1 in the last week.

  • Then we turn to a sadder subject, which is Brett Gardner‘s status. He could be out for a while.
  • Last week was the draft, so Mike and I run down some things we learned from the first year with the new rules.
  • There are no rules for signing Jorge Soler, but Mike and I talk about the implications of doing so.
  • To close there’s some stuff about Ivan Nova and the upcoming series against the Braves.

Podcast run time 50:36

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow061112.mp3]

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