Update: Yanks to sign Cuban left-hander Omar Luis Rodriguez for $4M

8:03pm: Via Ben Badler, it’s a $4M bonus and Rodriguez needs to secure a visa before the deal can become official. Make sure you click the link, Badler provides plenty of background and scouting info.

2:31pm: Via Jesse Sanchez, the Yankees will sign 18-year-old Cuban left-hander Omar Luis Rodriguez for a bonus in the $4-5M range. It is a minor league contract. He became a free agent earlier this month and would have been subject to the spending restrictions implemented by the Collective Bargaining Agreement had he not signed by July 2nd.

Rodriguez first garnered serious attention at the World Junior Championships back in 2010, when he threw a complete game shutout against Team USA in the title game. He did get hit around while pitching in one of Cuba’s professional leagues as a 16-year-old a few years ago, but that’s not terribly surprising. Rodriguez is a projection guy with an 88-92 mph fastball to go with a curveball and changeup that still need development, and he’s drawn raves for his poise in the past. Pretty much exactly what the Yankees look for.

Wednesday Night Open Thread

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but Bill Murray is the co-owner of the Charleston River Dogs, the Yankees’ Low Class-A affiliate. He was inducted into the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame earlier this week and SB Nation was there to document the event. Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Bryan Mitchell each make a guest appearance in the video, which you should watch because Bill Murray is the man. Still kinda hard to believe he’s already 61.

Once you’re done watching that, use this as your open thread for the night. The Mets are playing the Orioles (Gee vs. Matusz) and the Cardinals and Tigers will be on ESPN (Westbrook vs. Porcello). Talk about those games or anything else you like here. Have at it.

Yankees among teams scouting Wandy Rodriguez

Via Jon Morosi, the Yankees were among the teams that had people in attendance for Wandy Rodriguez’s start against the Royals last night (box score). The Astros are open to dealing the left-hander, who is owed approximately $18M through the end of next season. Wandy also has a $13M club option for 2014 that becomes a player option if traded.

As Joe wrote when the Ryan Dempster rumor popped up last week, the Yankees are going to be connected to pretty much every available starting pitcher between now and the trade deadline. Rodriguez, 33, is having a solid season (4.16 FIP) for Houston but his strikeout rate has declined for the fourth straight season and he’s not a guy that will blow hitters away. Wandy is a solid pitcher but I think there are valid concerns about his ability to translate that success to the AL East. Add in the unfavorable contract and it’s tough to see a fit for the Yankees.

Draft Updates: Refsnyder, Reed, Farmer

Got a trio of updates on some unsigned draft picks…

  • This Howie Kussoy article makes it sound like 2B/OF Rob Refsnyder (5th round) will be signing as soon as Arizona finishes their College World Series run. He’s playing the corner outfield for the Wildcats but the Yankees are going to try him out at second base, where he played earlier in amateur career. Slot money for the 187th overall pick is just shy of $206k.
  • Daniel Gallen passed along a report indicating that LHP Jimmy Reed (21) will be a summer follow. The Maryland closer will pitch in the Cape Cod League this summer and the Yankees will evaluate his progress before deciding whether or not to sign him. David Robertson is the most famous summer follow you’ll find. Reed is a little southpaw — listed at 6-foot-0 and 163 lbs. — with a strong breaking ball that should allow him to carve out a career as a lefty specialist, if nothing else.
  • This is quite old, but SS Kyle Farmer (35) confirmed to RedandBlack.com that he will return to school for his senior season. “I’m coming back, it’s just a gut decision I made on my own,” he said while also mentioning that clubs started calling him about pre-draft deals as early as the seventh round. Farmer’s carrying tool is his defense at a premium position.

Game 68: A New Streak

(REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

The ten-game winning streak came to an end last night but the quick turn around means the Yankees have a chance to start a new streak this afternoon. Phil Hughes has to battle both the Braves and the scorching Bronx heat in the rubber game of this three-game set, which is no easy assignment. Here’s the starting nine…

DH Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Eric Chavez
Russell Martin
SS Jayson Nix

RHP Phil Hughes

Today’s game starts at 1:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Mark Teixeira Update: Teixeira is a little sore after taking that Jason Heyward line drive to his heel yesterday, but he’s expected to be good to go on Friday.

The Rotation Turnaround

(REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

When Hiroki Kuroda struck out Andrelton Simmons to record his 18th out last night, it marked the 19th consecutive start in which the Yankees received at least six innings from their starter. It’s their longest such streak since way back in 1981, when Ron Guidry was in his prime and Dave Righetti was still trying to cut his teeth in the show. Even though the offense has averaged 5.16 runs per game during this 20-5 stretch, it’s been the pitching that has stolen the show.

Bulk innings are nice, but these are quality innings the Yankees have gotten from their starters. The rotation has pitched to a 2.82 ERA with a 3.23 FIP and a 3.85 K/BB during these 25 games and you can take it back even further than that. Prior to Andy Pettitte‘s return on May 13, the rotation owned a 4.78 ERA (4.33 FIP) with an average of 5.77 innings per start in 33 games. In the 34 games since Andy rejoined the rotation, they’ve pitched to a 3.41 ERA (3.74 FIP) while boosting their innings per start average up to 6.76. That’s a night-and-day difference, it’s massive.

Pettitte’s arrival makes for a neat and fan-friendly narrative — ol’ reliable Andy came back to help right the ship — but it goes well beyond him. Getting Freddy Garcia and David Phelps — the last starter to complete fewer than five innings, 34 games ago — out of the rotation was a major step in the right direction. Ivan Nova got back to getting his fastball down in the zone and stopped giving up extra-base hits like he was pitching in the late-1990s. Phil Hughes did a complete 180° with his performance and Hiroki Kuroda made whatever adjustment he needed to make. This was a staff-wide turnaround.

Maybe having Pettitte in the clubhouse did make a tangible difference. Maybe he was so much of a positive influence that Nova and Hughes turned their seasons around and that Kuroda no longer felt the need to be perfect, who knows. I’m inclined to say it was just a matter of some really good pitchers shaking off a poor stretch and getting back to being themselves*. I highly doubt the staff will maintain a sub-3.00 ERA going forward, but the rotation has become a strength and that’s exactly what we expected when Spring Training opened.

* For Nova and Kuroda, definitely. For Hughes … not so much. I had absolutely zero faith in him a few weeks ago.

The streak is over: Braves top Yankees

All good things must come to an end. After ten consecutive wins, the Yankees lost Tuesday night’s affair to the Braves by the score of 4-3. It was their first one-run loss in nearly three weeks, since the middle game of the three-game set in Detroit.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Gunned Down

The Yankees had not one, but two runners thrown out at home plate in this game. Nick Swisher singled to right with men on first and second with two outs in the fifth, but Jason Heyward scooped the ball and made a quick throw home to nab Mark Teixeira by a good three or four steps. I didn’t particularly care for the send — it was hit to shallow right and the bases would have been loaded with Tim Hudson’s pitch count at 109 — but I can understand it. Heyward made a very good throw and that was that. The run would have broken a three-all tie.

Curtis Granderson was cut down at the plate with one out in the seventh on the contact play. He was at third and Alex Rodriguez was at second, but Teixeira grounded sharply to third and Chipper Jones had plenty of time to make the throw home. I’m not a fan of the contact play in general but whatever, understandable again. Having one runner thrown out at home is annoying enough, two is just awful.

Not Good Enough

(REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

Hiroki Kuroda‘s night boils down to two bad innings. He allowed a pair of two-out runs in the fourth and it would have been three had Heyward not been thrown out at third before Chipper touched the plate. Walking Freddie Freeman and his .296 OBP to bring Jones to the plate with a chance to tie the game with two outs was the real back breaker, that’s the out Kuroda had to get. Hiroki allowed another two-out run in the sixth when Heyward lined a single off Teixeira’s foot with men on the corners, a run that proved to be the game winning. It was a rocket, far from a routine play even for a stellar gloveman like Tex.

Overall, Kuroda allowed four runs in seven innings of work, not great but not terrible. It was the team’s 19th consecutive start of at least six innings, their longest streak since the days of Dave Righetti the starting pitcher in 1981. He struck out six and got nine ground ball outs, cruising outside of the fourth and sixth innings. It was only the second time Hiroki allowed more than three runs in his last eleven starts.

But 5-for-11! (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

Where’s Andruw?

Jonny Venters has really struggled this year, and the Yankees had him on the ropes in that seventh inning. After Granderson was thrown out on the contact play, Joe Girardi left Raul Ibanez in to face the left-handed sinker baller. Why? Because he was 5-for-11 in his career against Venters. Nevermind that he came into the game a .200/.231/.320 hitter against lefties this year and has struggled against them for years, those 11 at-bats spread across three seasons were enough of a reason to leave him in. Ibanez predictably struck out to end the threat while Andruw Jones — who is on the roster for these exact situations — watched from the dugout. That right there was the biggest mistake of the game, not sending Teixeira in the fourth or sending Granderson on the contact play. There’s no way Ibanez should be allowed to hit against a tough lefty in that spot.

To make matters worse, Andruw eventually did pinch-hit … for Eric Chavez with one out and no one on-base against southpaw Eric O’Flaherty in the eighth. He took a slider to the foot and reached base before being replaced by a pinch-runner. Annoying.

Leftovers

(REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

The top four hitters in the lineup went a combined 1-for-16 with six strikeouts. Granderson singled to open that seventh inning for the only hit, though A-Rod had one walk while Derek Jeter had a pair. Swisher returned from a brief quad contusion-induced hiatus to continue his hot hitting, driving in a pair of runs with a loud double in the second before singling on the play that resulted in Teixeira getting thrown out at home. The Yankees drew more walks (six) than they had hits (five).

Boone Logan threw a perfect eighth inning while David Robertson allowed a single in an otherwise uneventful ninth. It was his second appearance since coming off the DL four days ago. The bullpen is in really good shape given all the innings the starter shave been eating lately.

When Kuroda allowed a run in the top of the third, it was the first time all season he allowed a run in an inning immediately after the Yankees scored. In other words, it was his first non-shutdown inning of the year. Considering that this was his 14th start, that’s pretty impressive.

The loss was New York’s first in eleven games and just their fifth in the last 25 games. They still have a three game lead (in the loss column) over the Orioles and Rays in the AL East. Too bad there are 95 games left and not like, five eh?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Phil Hughes will square off against Tommy Hanson in the rubber game of this three-game set on Wednesday afternoon. Check out RAB Tickets if you make a last-minute decision to head up to the Bronx for that one.