Although 15 of 40 rounds are in the bag, there are still plenty of talented players left on the board for Day Three of the amateur draft. Three of Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects are still available and although their rankings aren’t the be-all end-all, they’re a pretty great reference. The Yankees selected five low-cost college seniors in the top ten rounds by design, leaving plenty of draft pool roof for late round rolls of the dice.
There’s nothing quite like beating the tar out of the first place team in the division, is there? It’s games like this that make me appreciate how fans of other teams feel when they whoop the Yankees. Despite their sometimes sluggish play during the first third of the season, the Yanks are just a half game back of first place and not that far back (either 1 or 1.5 games, depending on the outcome of the Texas-Oakland game) of the best record in the AL. Good times are ahead.
Age don’t mean a thing
Ten days from his 40th birthday, Andy Pettitte threw was what debatably his best start of the season. He used 103 pitches to retire 22 Rays, striking out 10 of them and allowing just two hits. Of those two hits, only one reached the outfield. At no point during the game did Pettitte make us feel uncomfortable. In fact, there were times when I’d glance down to read a paragraph or two, and look up to see he’d retired a batter and was two strikes deep on the next one.
There was certainly an uneasy feeling surrounding Pettitte’s return in May. I was excited as anyone — it’s Andy freaking Pettitte, after all, my absolute favorite Yankee of my lifetime — but there were legitimate questions about his ability to succeed at age 40 after a year away from the game. Add to that the Yankees’ absolute need for starting pitching at the time, and it seemed like a tall task. Yet Pettitte has shown he’s up to it. Even his rough starts haven’t seemed all that bad.
RISP when they need it
With eight hits and four walks, the Yankees inevitably saw plenty of situations with runners in scoring position. While they did manage to raise their season average, they did so only slightly, going 3 for 12. Yet they got the one hit they needed, exactly when they needed it. With one out in the fourth they loaded the bases off James Shields, bringing Russell Martin to the plate. And oh boy did Russell deliver.
He went up there looking for a pitch to hit, taking aggressive swings at the first two pitches and pulling them foul. After going inside with the first two pitches Shields worked away from Martin on the 0-2 pitch, but it got enough of the plate that Martin put the fat part of the bat on it. Away it went, clearing the fence in right for a much-needed grand slam. Believe it or not, despite their horrific overall results with the bases loaded, the Yankees are tied for the league lead in grand slams.
Finally figuring out Shields
For the past two seasons, James Shields has gotten the best of the Yankees. Sure, he’s 4-4, but many of those losses came on the strength of the Yankees pitching staff. In 76.1 innings from 2010 to 2011 Shields pitched to a 2.83 ERA, striking out 71 and walking just 22. This year, though, it seems they have him figured out.
Even with the two unearned runs in the first inning, Shields still yielded five runs in five innings, bringing his total to 14 earned runs in 16 innings this season (7.88 ERA). He has struck out just nine while walking 10 and surrendering four homers. Shields hasn’t been performing well overall this year, but he’s been at his worst when facing the Yankees. Given his previous results, it’s quite satisfying.
Russell Martin raised his average 17 points with his 3 for 4 performance, taking the exit off the interstate and landing at .211.
After terrorizing the Yankees in the season opening series (6 for 12 with two homers and a double), Carlos Pena has gone 2 for 15 with no extra base hits against them.
Raul Ibanez drew two walks, after having not drawn one since May 17th in Toronto, a 51-PA walkless stretch. (Yet he managed seven extra base hits in that span.)
Freddy Garcia lives! He got into his first game since May 21st, when he gave up two runs in 2.1 innings against Kansas City. Last night he allowed two hits but allowed no runs in 1.2 innings of relief. Since his ouster from the rotation he has allowed two earned runs in 9.1 innings, though he has struck out four and walked three. That’s mop-up duty for you.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
You know the drill: MLB.com for basic box score and video highlights, FanGraphs for all the nerdery you can handle, and Mike likes ESPN for the standings and I’m not going to interrupt his usual thing.
Game 2 of this three-game set pits Ivan Nova against Alex Cobb. Maybe the ball stays inside the ballpark this time, hmmmm, Ivan?
Via Meredith Marakovits, second baseman Robinson Cano is sore but hopes to play on Wednesday after getting hit by a pitch in what looked like his left forearm by Cesar Ramos in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game. X-rays were negative. Cano remained in the game for another inning before being lifted in the ninth with a big lead. A day off wouldn’t be the end of the world, no reason not to play it safe.
As expected, the Yankees will be well represented in the Low-A South Atlantic League All-Star Game. OF Tyler Austin, C Gary Sanchez, C Francisco Arcia, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and RHP Pedro Guerra were all selected for the game, which will be played in Charleston. I’m kinda surprised OF Mason Williams didn’t make the cut, but what can you do. The River Dogs coaching staff will be calling the shots for the Southern Division club as well. In case you missed it a few weeks ago, the Homerun Derby will take place on the deck of an aircraft carrier. I have to think Austin will take his hacks and hopefully dent some F-16s.
Here’s your bullet point minor league update for Tuesday night…
- Triple-A Empire State (win): 1B Russell Branyan led the way with two homers and six runs driven in, though CF Kevin Russo (double), LF Ronnie Mustelier, RF Colin Curtis, and SS Ramiro Pena all had two hits apiece. DH Jack Cust (double) and 2B Corban Joseph both had a hit and two walks. RHP D.J. Mitchell got rocked, I’m talking eight runs and 12 hits in 5.2 IP. RHP Chase Whitely and RHP Jason Bulger came out of the bullpen to allow nothing the rest of the way.
- Double-A Trenton (loss): IF Jose Pirela continued his hot hitting with two singles, half the team’s hit total. RHP Brett Marshall got hit around a bit, allowing four runs in six innings. LHP Francisco Rondon allowed one run in two innings of relief in an otherwise uneventful game.
- Low-A Charleston (win): CF Mason Williams hit a solo homer while RF Tyler Austin had two hits (including a double) and 3B Dante Bichette Jr. had three hits (including a double). C Gary Sanchez singled, ditto SS Cito Culver. The latter stole home (!!!) and former drew two more walks. LHP Evan Rutckyj allowed one unearned run in four innings before giving way to a parade of relievers.
High-A Tampa was rained out. They’re going to play a pair tomorrow.
Via Ryan Aber, first round pick Ty Hensley said negotiations with the Yankees will begin immediately and he expects to sign soon. “I’m ready to get this thing started,” said the prep right-hander. “I want to get out and play as soon as possible … My goal is to be there (in the big leagues) by the time I’m 21 years old.”
Slot money for the 30th overall pick is $1.6M and I expect Hensley’s eventual deal to come in relatively close to that amount, plus or minus. As you can see in this ESPN video, the kid looks very excited to have been drafted by New York. Everything you need to know about him is right here. The signing deadline is July 13th this year, moved up thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Yankees will play game number 54 tonight (weather permitting) and are exactly one-third of the way through the 2012 season. A win tonight puts them in a tie for first place in the AL East (in the loss column), which is right where you want to be. Well, you’d like to be ten games up everyone, but that’s not realistic in this division. Not at this time of the year, anyway. The Rays are in town for the biggest series of the year to date, and Andy Pettitte will look to set the tone for the rest of the homestand. Here’s the lineup…
LHP Andy Pettitte
Tonight’s game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
David Robertson Update: Robertson (oblique) threw a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium and said he’s pain-free. It’s just a matter of getting back into the swing of things. He hopes to be back in 8-10 days.
Via Matt Eddy, the Yankees have signed right-hander Ricky Orta to a minor league contract. The 27-year-old was the Mariners’ fourth round pick in 2006 but missed all of 2010 and most of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. He signed a minor league deal with the Rays last season and only managed four appearances (eight innings) before the end of the season.
Orta isn’t a starter long-term but he’s an interesting relief prospect. He runs his fastball up to the mid-90s and has a decent breaking ball, enough for middle relief work. The Yankees could send him to either High-A Tampa or Double-A Trenton and get about 40 innings to evaluate him this summer. If they like what they see, they could retain him going forward and have a potentially useful arm. Orta’s never pitched above Double-A, so he has all three minor league options left. It’s an interesting move, certainly more interesting than the typical minor league signings.