Welcoming back CC Sabathia

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Other than Robinson Cano, left-hander CC Sabathia is pretty much the last guy on the roster you would expect to visit the disabled list. A left groin strain sent him to the sidelines for the first time in six years, but the Yankees will welcome their ace back this evening after a brief little two-week hiatus. He’s thrown a handful of bullpen sessions and one simulated game during the time off, and everything has checked out a-okay. No need for a minor league rehab start or anything like that.

“Hopefully I just don’t come back and mess it up,” joked Sabathia yesterday. “I’m going to throw until they tell me to stop. I feel good. My arm feels good. I haven’t felt (the groin strain) since the first week of the injury … I think the rest was good for my arm, even more so than my legs. I don’t think I’ll have any limitations on pitches. I’ll be ready to go.”

Joe Girardi indicated that he won’t run Sabathia out there for a typical Sabathia-length outing tonight even though he supposedly has no restrictions, so expect something like 100 pitches instead of 120. No reason not to play it safe at this point, especially with a big nine-game lead in the division. Command is the primary concern after a layoff like this and frankly CC has been battling his command all season anyway. Maybe the rest will do him some good in that department, that would be nice.

Sabathia only missed two starts thanks to the All-Star break and the Yankees split the two games — the Adam Warren disaster and a win behind David Phelps in Tampa — which is pretty much all you could realistically ask. In fact the Yankees went 12-6 while Sabathia was out and they stretched the division lead from three games to nine games because the rest of the team really clicked. Almost all of those games were played against division rivals too. Hooray for that.

There’s no good time to lose a pitcher like CC, but losing him for two starts sandwiched around the All-Star break with a big division lead is about as good as it gets. Brett Gardner and Andy Pettitte aren’t coming back anytime soon, but at least Sabathia will return tonight and that makes this team even more dangerous. Hopefully there’s no rust and if there is, he can shake it off in short order. The Yankees have the best record in baseball, and they’re about to get one of the best pitchers in the game back into their rotation.

The Implication of Gardner’s Latest Setback

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Brett Gardner has played in just nine of 89 games this season, though he took a step closer to returning when he came to the plate four times in a simulated game on Sunday. Unfortunately, Brett woke up yesterday with the same familiar soreness in his right (non-throwing) elbow and has again been shutdown. What was originally diagnosed as a bone bruise and an elbow strain in April has now resulted in three (three!) setbacks. He will head for yet another MRI today.

The Yankees have the best record in baseball and have more than survived the loss of Gardner, but that doesn’t mean this setback is insignificant. Raul Ibanez has played far more left field than expected and the Yankees are concerned about the 40-year-old wearing down as the season progresses, particularly in the scorching hot months of July and August. The team also lacks speed on offense and the outfield defense went from a strength to a weakness in one fell swoop. Gardner’s glovework is that good.

There’s a chance today’s MRI will bring good news and Brett will just need another day or two of rest, but at this point the Yankees can’t count on that. Whatever this thing is, it’s just not healing for some reason. Ibanez has filled in capably and Dewayne Wise has had his moments, but the club is going to have to go out and find an outfield upgrade at some point before the deadline. They haven’t gotten a shred of good news about Gardner’s elbow since we found out it wasn’t broken back in April and there’s little reason to expect any in the near future.

The tricky thing is that just any old outfielder won’t work. Since Wise will presumably get the axe to clear the eventual roster spot, they need to make sure any player they acquire can play center field. You don’t want Nick Swisher or Andruw Jones out there in anything other than an emergency. That’s not just a preference when looking for a replacement outfielder, it’s a requirement. Center field skills are a must. Speed and ability to work the count would be preferred, but they aren’t necessary. Essentially the Yankees should be looking for someone similar to Gardner but better than Wise, who admittedly has played well in his limited action.

So who is that player? Beats me. I haven’t really looked but I’m sure we could dig up a name or two after a while. Some of them may even belong to players who are actually available. The Yankees do have Chris Dickerson stashed in Triple-A and I’ve been beating that drum for a few weeks now, but it’s clear they prefer Wise at this point. Either way, the outfield situation became both murkier and clearer with news of Gardner’s latest setback. We don’t really know which way the team will go now but at least they do know that something has to be done about their outfield situation. Waiting around for Brett was reasonable for the first half of the season, but doing the same down the stretch isn’t advisable.

Ibanez slams Blue Jays in win

My goodness are the Blue Jays annoying and pesky and all that. This game was a lot closer than the final score indicates, but a win is a win is a win.

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Down Goes Frasor

He may be 40 years old, but you’re going to have to locate well if you want to sneak a fastball by Raul Ibanez when he’s ahead in the count. Jason Frasor tried to give Raul the gas face in a 3-1 count with the bases loaded and two outs in a tie game in the bottom of the eighth, but Ibanez jumped all over it for a grand slam that landed safely in the second deck out in right. Whenever he connects, they really do go a long way.

The inning was all setup by Alex Rodriguez, who singled with one out to get the rally started. Kelly Johnson was unable to unable to reel in a Robinson Cano ground ball to put men on the corners, and Mark Teixeira took a breaking ball to the foot to load the bases. That pitch bounced to the backstop, so A-Rod would have trotted home easily had it not hit Tex in the foot. Usually you need a guy to sell getting hit by a pitch, Teixeira had to sell not getting hit there. Weird.

Anyway, the bases were loaded with one out before Nick Swisher struck out looking — his second backwards K with the bases juiced on the night — for the second out. It was either a great pitch or a hanger depending on who you ask, but it was a pretty great at-bat with a terrible result. Frasor got ahead 0-2 but Swisher battled back to run the count full and fouled off a few extra offerings before taking the strike three. Oh well. Ibanez bailed him out with his latest big hit in a season that has been full of ’em.

(REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

A Phine Job By Phil

The first start out of the All-Star break for Phil Hughes was a pretty good one, with two runs across seven innings on just four hits and three walks. It was only the second time this year he walked more than two batters in a start, joining the complete game in Detroit when he also walked three. One of the two runs came on a cheap Adam Lind homer to right, the other on a booming Edwin Encarnacion double to left. That dude was on everything all night, everything he hit was hard.

All four hits Phil allowed went for extra bases — two doubles by Encarnacion, the homer by Lind, a double by Rajai Davis — so the Blue Jays weren’t missing when he made a mistake. They came into the game with the third most runs in baseball, so Hughes did a pretty good job of keeping guys off base and limiting the damage when they did get guys on. I thought it was questionable to send him back out for the seventh, but Joe Girardi managed to squeeze that extra inning out of his starter to spare a bullpen with a shaky middle relief situation. Good job by Phil to reward his manager’s faith and to more than keep his team in the game.

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Leftovers

The Yankees have now scored 3+ runs in 40 straight games, the second longest single-season streak during the expansion era. They scored their first run on a Russell Martin solo homer that will rank among the cheapest Yankee Stadium homers you’ll ever see, and their second when Jose Bautista missed a Cano line drive on a dive to score A-Rod. Bautista left the game after injuring his wrist on a swing and it did not look good. Although I’ll never wish injury on a player, I hope Toronto realizes how important he is to their franchise and plays it safe by resting him the next two days. It’s only smart.

David Robertson threw a shutout frame while the score was tied in the eighth before Cody Eppley and Rafael Soriano made things unnecessarily interesting in the ninth. It wasn’t really their fault; Eppley did walk a guy but the Jays pushed a run across on an infield single and dinky little bloop. Annoying, like I said. Soriano froze Colby Rasmus on a called strike three to end the game, his 23rd save in 24 tries.

A-Rod singled and doubled, only the second time all season he’s had an extra-base hit in three consecutive games. Cano also singled and doubled to extend his hit streak to 19 games. Curtis Granderson and Swisher singled while Martin and Ibanez added their dingers. It was rather facepalmy that Henderson Alvarez set a season-high in strikeouts (six) after coming into the game with 3.0 K/9. That dude was asking for trouble.

Dear Yankee Stadium faithful: if you are chanting U! S! A! in support of the Yankees during a game against the Blue Jays you are a moron. That is all.

Correction!

I goofed in Sunday night’s recap. The longest hit streak of Cano’s career prior to this one was 18, not 21. His longest on-base streak was 21 games back in August 2010, but he broke that record in this game as well. So right now he’s on a 19-game hit streak and a 22-game on-base streak. I don’t think Robbie’s had a cheap hit in any of ’em.

Box Score, WPA Graphs & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Orioles are getting got shellacked by the Twins and the Rays lost to the Indians, so the Yankees will have a full nine-game lead in the division in a matter of minutes. The Rays and Red Sox are both ten back, the Jays eleven back.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

CC Sabathia will come off the DL to rejoin the rotation in the middle game of this three-game set on Tuesday night. Fellow southpaw Brett Cecil gets the ball for the Blue Jays. Make sure you check out RAB Tickets for the latest deals if you want to catch the game at the Stadium.

Dickerson, Pena & Cust led the way in AAA win

Notes? Notes!…

  • First round pick RHP Ty Hensley confirmed (on Twitter) that he will make his professional debut with the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees one week from today. Obviously whatever “abnormality” they found in his shoulder during the pre-signing physical isn’t serious enough to keep him off the mound.
  • Apparently scouts are raving about RHP Jose Ramirez and OF Ramon Flores, at least according to Danny Knobler. “He’s 10 times better than Mason Williams,” said the scout of Flores, which is rather ridiculous. We heard Ramirez was throwing gas during his last start.
  • Three Yankees — C Gary Sanchez (#29), OF Mason Williams (#32), and OF Tyler Austin (#45) — cracked Marc Hulet’s midseason top 50 prospects list over at FanGraphs. Those rankings are consistent with Baseball America’s and Keith Law’s midseason lists.
  • OF Ronnie Mustelier has been placed on the DL after leaving yesterday’s game following a ground ball. The recently signed OF Kosuke Fukudome took his roster spot. RHP Ryan Flannery has been placed on the DL while RHP Mikey O’Brien was activated. [Donnie Collins & Mike Ashmore]
  • And finally, RHP Jose Ramirez and OF Ramon Flores were named the High-A Florida State League Pitcher and Offensive Player of the Week, respectively. 1B Matt Snyder took home Short Season NY-Penn League Offensive Player honors.

Triple-A Empire State (14-2 win over Charlotte)
CF Chris Dickerson: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 BB, 1 K — pretty awesome
3B Kevin Russo: 2-4, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 SB
2B Corban Joseph: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — had been in a little 4-for-21 slump (.190)
DH Jack Cust: 3-5, 4 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 K — that’s his 20th homer
1B Brandon Laird: 1-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — maybe he’s finally catching up to Triple-A pitching after 800+ plate appearances at the level
RF Kosuke Fukudome: 3-5, 1 RBI, 2 K — debut after signing a minor league contract last Friday
LF Cole Garner: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
C Gus Molina: 0-5, 1 K — I wonder where Frankie Cervelli has been, it’s been a few days
SS Ramiro Pena: 4-5, 1 R — boost that trade value Ramiro
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 5/5 GB/FB — 52 of 79 pitches were strikes (66%)
RHP Preston Claiborne: 1 IP, zeroes, 2/1 GB/FB — eleven pitches, eight strikes
LHP Mike O’Connor: 1 IP, zeroes, 1/1 GB/FB — ten pitches, eight strikes
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 14 of 22 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]

Reggie Jackson invited to rejoin Yankees later this week

As it turns out, Reggie Jackson’s indefinite ban from the team will last less than two weeks. George King reports that Mr. October has been invited to rejoin the club when they head out to Oakland later this week. Jackson was banned after making disparaging comments about Alex Rodriguez, Gary Carter, Kirby Puckett, and others during a recent Sports Illustrated interview, and he is not expected to be part of the Hall of Fame ceremony later this month.

White Sox “zeroing in” on Dellin Betances

Via Josh Norris, the White Sox are “zeroing in” on right-hander Dellin Betances after scouting his last three Double-A starts. No word on if the two sides are actually talking trade or anything like that, however. Betances does fit their style though, they grab big power arms and hope pitching coach Don Cooper can help them out. That part makes sense.

I’m not quite sure what the ChiSox realistically have to offer that can help the Yankees. Chicago’s contending so it’s not like they’re going to send over Matt Thornton or something, that would be ideal. Gordon Beckham would be a sweet change of scenery candidate, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Game 89: Ten Up

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Games against division rivals are always meaningful, though just not as much when you have an eight-game lead. The Yankees have a ten-game lead on their opponent tonight, the Blue Jays. They’re always pesky as you know, and it doesn’t get much better than Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the middle of the lineup. The big division lead is comfortable but don’t be fooled, there’s a long way to go. Here’s the starting nine…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Alex Rodriguezdealing with a stiff neck, otherwise he would have played third
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
LF Raul Ibanez
3B Eric Chavez
C Russell Martin

RHP Phil Hughes

Tonight’s game starts at 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.