The Hughes Rehab Tour dazzles in Trenton

Update: The second Low-A Charleston game is over and has been added to the post.

Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Corban Joseph, and Austin Romine are heading to the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game. Ben Gamel and Conor Mullee have been placed on the disabled list with Henry Pena and Ben Paullus taking their spots on Short Season Staten Island’s roster. Mark Montgomery has been promoted from Staten Island to Low-A Charleston. Melky Mesa’s rehab with High-A Tampa is over, and he is back with Double-A Trenton. Addison Maruszak was bumped to Triple-A Scranton to fit him on the roster.

Double-A Trenton (3-2 win over New Hampshire) there was some serious heat in the house today: Brian Cashman, Gene Michael, Billy Eppler, and Mark Newman were all at the game to watch…
Phil Hughes, RHP: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1-6 GB/FB – he threw 61 of 88 pitches (scheduled for 85) for strikes (69.3%), and 48 of those pitchers were between 91-94 mph … he hit 93 a total of 18 times in the first six innings, which is 18 more times than he did in April … one scout said his command was “much better” than his last rehab start, when he didn’t make it out of the fourth … Mike Ashmore has video of the game and press conference … from watching the online feed, he got a ton of swings and misses on the fastball (wish I’d counted), which has as much to do with Double-A competition as it does the quality of his stuff … it also looked like he tired in that last inning, his command went a little south … I would be in favor of Hughes making at least one more rehab start, it would be good to have him empty the tank and see how he comes back in five days before activating him off the disabled list
Ray Kruml, RF: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 3B – forget Phil, this is FOUR straight games with a triple! … he’s got 19 hits in his last 47 at-bats (.404)
Corban Joseph, 2B & DeAngelo Mack, LF: both 0 for 3 – CoJo walked, Mack whiffed
Austin Romine, C: 2 for 4 – also threw out a runner trying to steal second … 12 for his last 39 (.308)
Cody Johnson, DH: 1 for 4, 1 RBI
Bradley Suttle, 3B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Melky Mesa, CF: 0 for 4
Rob Lyerly, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI – was a legit bomb off the top of the signage in right-center
Jose Pirela, SS: 1 for 3
Cory Arbiso, RHP: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – allowed Hughes’s inherited runner to score
Shaeffer Hall, LHP: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2-0 GB/FB

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IFA News: Andujar, Marcos, DePaula, Paniagua

Teams can begin signing newly-eligible international free agents this Saturday, and Ben Badler of Baseball America brings us up to speed with who might be going where (subs. req’d). One of the Yankees’ top targets is Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar, who is said to have “good bat speed, an advanced righthanded swing and has shown the ability to hit both fastballs and offspeed pitches.” They’ve also been connected to Dominican center fielder Manny Marcos, who you can read about here.

Badler also provides an update on Rafael DePaula, who signed with the Yankees for six-figures over the winter. DePaula had an interview with the U.S. Consolate last month and is awaiting a visa after being suspended for age and identity fraud. Juan Carlos Paniagua, who signed for $1.1M, is also awaiting a visa. Neither player’s contract will become official until they actually get the okay to come to the United States.

Game 78: Trying for four in a row

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Jay?? via Creative Commons license)

Does anyone even read these things anyway? I’m guessing no. Here’s the lineup…

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

A.J. Burnett, RHP

YES will have the game at 7:05pm ET. Enjoy.

Injury News: Eric Chavez is running at full speedRafael Soriano is almost ready to throw off a mound … if he’s ready by Saturday, Derek Jeter will playing in a rehab game(s) with Double-A Trenton … Phil Hughes may not need another rehab start, he looked pretty sharp today.

Saturday’s Starter: TBA

Via Marc Carig, the starter for Saturday’s game at the Mets is currently listed as TBA. Brian Gordon lines up for that game, but so does Bartolo Colon. Carig says Bartolo will participate in some drills before he can officially be announced as the starter, but presumably he feels fine after Monday’s 60-pitch simulated game. If everything checks out and he’s not at risk of reaggravating the hamstring, I say start him. No sense in wasting those bullets in a simulated game, even if he can only give them 80 pitches Saturday.

Yanks sign hard-throwing Logan Kensing to minor league deal

The Yankees made a bullpen acquisition earlier today, though it’s not one that has an immediate impact on the major league team. Via his agency, right-hander Logan Kensing has signed a minor league deal with the Yanks. Kensing last pitched the the majors in 2009 with the Marlins and the Nationals, combining for an ugly 8.92 ERA in 35.1 innings. That goes a long way in explaining his absence from the majors in 2010.

Kensing came into the league as a 21-year-old with the Marlins in 2004, though he didn’t become a regular until 2006. From 2006 through 2008 he threw 106.1 innings to a 3.98 ERA and 4.53 FIP, striking out more than a batter per inning while walking nearly five. He underwent Tommy John surgery, which limited him to just 13.1 innings in 2007 and cost him the end of the 2006 season. That he pitched as a regular in 2006, of course, means that Joe Girardi is familiar with him. Apparently Girardi liked him very much in 2006.

After he was designated for assignment in 2009 the Marlins traded him to the Nats for a low-tier pitching prospect. On May 15th the Nats designated him for assignment, but brought him back in July. While he wasn’t as bad from July through the end of the season, he still had a 6.65 ERA, due in large part to a pair of horrible performances. There’s no real way to pretty it up: he’s been terrible.

Kensing does throw hard, usually around 92-93. He goes to a slider often. The chances of him cracking the major league roster are pretty low, but he’s kind of an interesting pick-up, considering he even got to the bigs as a 21-year-old. But that was a long time ago, and he clearly hasn’t adapted well. Maybe a year away from the game — he didn’t even pitch in the minors in 2010, though he could have pitched independent ball — have helped. Chances are, he’s just an intriguing arm in Scranton.

Mark Teixeira’s Quiet Milestone

(Photo Credit: Flickr user dbfoto™ via Creative Commons license)

We’ve become numb to homerun records over the last decade or so, likely because of smaller ballparks, expansion, better advance scouting, PEDs … all of that and more likely contributed to the offensive explosion. Alex Rodriguez has chased 400, 500 and 600 career homers in recent years, plus Derek Jeter‘s recent pursuit of 3,000 hits has given us our fill of historic milestones. So when Mark Teixeira hit his 299th career homerun last night, it was barely a blip on the radar. It shouldn’t be though, his (inevitable) 300th homer will be an impressive feat, especially when put into context.

Just 129 hitters in baseball history have hit 300 career long balls, a group that does not include plays like Roger Maris, Joe Morgan, Brooks Robinson, Will Clark, and Bernie Williams. Furthermore, just seven switch-hitters have hit three hundred homers: Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), Chipper Jones (443 and counting), Chili Davis (350), Lance Berkman (345 and counting), Reggie Smith (314), and Ruben Sierra (316). Only four players (Albert Pujols, Ralph Kiner, Eddie Matthews, and Adam Dunn) have hit more homeruns in their first nine seasons than Tex, and he still has half a season to go. That’s pretty nuts.

I think part of the numbness to Teixeira’s pursuit of 300 homers has to do with his age. We’re not talking about a guy in his mid-30’s limping to the milestone at the end of his career; there’s no feel-good story here. He’s only 31, so we expect expect him to hit many more homeruns over the final five and a half years of his contract. Four hundred homers seem like a lock barring injury, and Tex has a legit chance to get to 500 as well. He’d have to hit another 15 this year and average just over 37 homers per year over the rest of his contact. That’s a lot of homers for a guy approaching his mid-30’s, but he could certainly give himself a nice head start this year and next.

Teixeira has certainly benefited from the short porch at Yankee Stadium, hitting 15 of his league lead-tying 24 homers at home. At least ten of those 15 have come as a left-handed batter, so the Yankees first baseman is clearly playing to his ballpark. That’s fine and that’s what he should do, especially since he’s strong enough to be successful with that kind of approach in road ballparks as well. His upcoming 300th homerun might just be a ho-hum moment, but he’s in a rather exclusive group of switch-hitting power bats when it comes to career accomplishments.

Scouting The Trade Market: Wandy Rodriguez

This is actually from the Yanks/Stros series in '08. (From Flickr user William Holtkamp via Creative Commons license.)

When the Yankees sought a pitcher to fill the spot reserved for Cliff Lee, Wandy Rodriguez’s name came up frequently. He’s a quality pitcher on a not-so-quality team, and he was just one year from free agency. While that might sound like a match on the surface, it misses a bigger point. With an already thin starting staff, Houston wasn’t about to give up its best pitcher before the season even started. Come trade deadline, though, he could become available.

Houston threw a wrench in the plan by signing Rodriguez to a three-year, $34 million contract with a $13 million fourth-year option. That doesn’t preclude them from trading him, since it’s a market value contract (and maybe a bit below market). But it does change the proposition, from acquiring a rental to acquiring an arm for the next few years. He’s someone who can help in that time, though. So far this year he has a 3.21 ERA and 3.94 FIP (3.48 xFIP) through 13 starts and 84 innings.

The Pros

  • From 2008 through 2010 he was the Astros best pitcher, posting an 8.4 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, and 0.85 HR/9, good for a 3.36 ERA and 3.55 FIP. That amounted to 10.2 WAR, best on the team by a full win.
  • His fielding-independent performance has remained pretty consistent through his peak years, peaking at 3.62 and bottoming out at 3.50. He has also kept his ERA reasonably in line with the number, so it does appear that he is as good as his peripherals indicate.
  • Since 2008 he ranks 16th in IP, 13th in ERA, 15th in FIP, 11th in xFIP, and 17th in WAR among NL pitchers with more than 350 IP. In other words, he’s a solid No. 2 – No. 3 pitcher.
  • He eats lefties for breakfast, striking them out more, walking them less, and keeping the ball in the park more often. That’ll play well at the Stadium.

The Cons

  • He has a clause in his contract that turns the $13 million option into a player one if he’s traded. Put in a different context, that means the Yankees would be trading for a rental and then signing him to a three-year, $36 million contract — while giving up the players that reflect that they’re getting him for all those years.
  • He’s a late bloomer and is actually 32 this season. That means the Yankees would have him for his age-33 through his age-35 seasons. It’s not the worst proposition, but it’s always dicey dealing with pitchers at that age.
  • He’s been remarkably poor during interleague play during his career, with a lower strikeout rate and higher walk rate than his career numbers. This carries over to his good years, as he’s been horrible during the last three years of interleague play.
  • He pitches quite a bit better at home than on the road, though that seems a bit odd, considering how hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park is, especially for righties. I’m not sure if that’s a big consideration in acquiring him, but it does stand out.

Left-handed pitching is clearly a priority for the Yankees, and Rodriguez fits that need well. He’s not just someone who throws with his left hand, but rather a high-strikeout, low-walk guy who can keep fellow lefties in check while handling righties just fine. In that way he appears to be a good target for the Yankees. But the cons list takes away a lot of his value. The Yankees would be making a significant commitment to him, and unless they’ve scouted him extensively, as they would a potential free agent signing, they might be disinclined to make a deal. The contract itself isn’t bad, and it would give the Yankees another lefty in the rotation for a few years. But it’s still a hefty commitment for a deadline deal.

If Rodriguez had not signed the extension, I would have thought a trade possible, or even likely. But the contract, especially the player option clause, complicates matters. There’s still an outside chance, but the more complexities you add to a trade the less likely it becomes. We might hear the Yankees inquiring on Rodriguez, but I’d have to put the chances of an actual trade at less than one percent.