The bullpen for the start of the 2014 season is set. Joe Girardi announced that Dellin Betances and Vidal Nuno have won the last two spots and will join David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, David Phelps, and Adam Warren in the bullpen. Robertson, of course, is replacing Mariano Rivera as closer. The bench has not yet been finalized.
Betances, 26, moved into the bullpen full-time last May and his career took off after years of command issues. He pitched to a 2.08 ERA with 93 strikeouts and 28 walks in 65 total relief innings between Triple-A and MLB last season, and this spring he’s allowed only one run with eleven strikeouts and four walks in 12.1 innings. Betances, who lives and dies with his mid-90s fastball and hard curveball, figures to cut his teeth in middle relief before possibly assuming greater responsibility.
The 26-year-old Nuno had a 2.25 ERA in 20 big league innings last summer before suffering a season-ending groin injury. He allowed three runs in eight innings this spring, walking one and striking out eight. Girardi could use Nuno as a matchup left-hander or a multi-inning guy, so the bullpen has some added flexibility. I think the best case scenario for Nuno is a lefty version of 2009 Al Aceves, a rubber-armed reliever who can face one batter or throw four innings if need be.
The Yankees start the season with 13 games in 13 days, so having three stretched out relievers in Phelps, Warren, and Nuno allows them to take it easy on Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda out of the gate. Tanaka is transitioning from a seven-day schedule to a five-day schedule while Pineda is returning from shoulder surgery. Girardi, who is very good at getting the most out of his relievers, has insisted they would take the 12 best arms for the bullpen and that’s pretty much exactly what they’ve done.
Friday: MLB and MLBPA have announced the new agreement, effective immediately. First and second time offenders will be suspended 80 and 162 games, respectively. The third offense gets a lifetime ban. There is a shorter suspension for inadvertent use, which much be proved through arbitration. Players who are suspended are also ineligible for the postseason. I don’t like that last part, the player’s punishment should not vary by the quality of his team. The testing programs have been ramped up as well.
Wednesday: Via the AP: MLB and the players’ union are working on a new drug agreement that would increase penalties for performance-enhancing drugs. They hope to have the deal in place by Sunday, before the season starts. “It will be a significant deterrent because players will know they’re not going to just easily walk back into a lineup,” said Travis Tygart, CEO if the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “It probably is the best policy in professional sports.”
Under the new plan, first and second time offenses would result in 100 and 162-game suspensions, respectively. Ken Rosenthal says the first ban would be 80 games, so there’s some conflicting information right now. There would also be a new 25-game suspension for inadvertent use. I’m interested to see exactly how that will work. The MLBPA has always been pro-PED testing and this wouldn’t be the first time they open up the Collective Bargaining Agreement and Joint Drug Agreement mid-term to make changes. I’m glad they’re working on a way to stiffen penalties while somewhat protecting the players who were not using intentionally. Mistakes do happen. · (30) ·
The Yankees will play their final two Spring Training games tonight and tomorrow afternoon before opening their regular season in Houston against the Astros on Tuesday. They made it through a full six weeks of camp relatively healthy — assuming Jacoby Ellsbury‘s tight calf is as minor as the team is letting on — so in that sense, this spring has been a big success. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda look very good, which is icing on the cake.
One of the biggest concerns coming into the spring was Mark Teixeira, particularly the status of his surgically repaired right wrist. He missed essentially all of last year and was on a prolonged rehab program that had him swinging a bat in December and facing live pitching in early-March. A few weeks ago Teixeira acknowledged there was still some stiffness in the wrist, which isn’t uncommon after surgery. On Thursday though, he told Kevin Kernan he still does not trust that the wrist is healthy:
“I’m not trusting that the wrist is healthy,’’ Teixeira told The Post Thursday at Steinbrenner Field.
“I’m just trying to protect it,’’ he said. “Taking your ‘A’ swing, taking that swing that is 100 percent and I need to trust that I can do that and not feel pain. I need to finish my swing instead of protecting my wrist. Last year, to protect my wrist, I didn’t finish my swing.’’
Teixeira, who will turn 34 in exactly two weeks, did say “the wrist is feeling good” overall, so he’s not in pain or discomfort or anything. He’s just hasn’t fully cut it loose yet, like a pitcher who is tentative to throw the ball will full effort after Tommy John surgery.
One scout said Teixeira “still has some rust to knock off that swing,” which is obvious given his Grapefruit League performance: two singles and one double in 33 at-bats (.091 AVG, .121 SLG) against mostly MLB caliber competition according to Baseball Reference’s opponent quality stat. He’s seeing the ball fine (nine walks and nine strikeouts), it’s just that his swing isn’t all the way there. When will it be back?
“Hopefully, really soon,’’ said Teixeira, who averaged 34 home runs and 106 RBIs his first four seasons as a Yankee but was limited to three home runs and 12 RBIs last year, when he got only 53 at-bats.
“Obviously, we’re kind of running out of time in spring training, but I know that my wrist is going to get stronger as the year goes on and I think I’m going to progressively get better,’’ he said.
Given the nature of the injury and the fact he missed just about all of last season, it’s not exactly a surprise Teixeira’s swing isn’t all the way back. Swings, really, he is a switch-hitter. Forty-something Grapefruit League plate appearances and countless hacks in batting practice isn’t necessarily enough to get back in a groove.
Teixeira has traditionally been a slow starter and with the acknowledgement that he still doesn’t trust his wrist this close to the start of the season, the Yankees can’t start the year with him in the middle of the lineup. There are too many other quality hitters on the team for Tex to bat third or fourth without fully trusting the wrist. He is an important player, but the Yankees can’t expect him to be an impact player in an important lineup spot if he’s admitting he’s not where he needs to be. Common sense.
In a perfect world, maybe Teixeira would start the season on the DL so he can stay behind in Extended Spring Training and get eight or ten at-bats a day. But because the Yankees don’t have a true backup first baseman who can man the position everyday for a week or two, they’re stuck taking him north and letting him gain trust in that wrist on the fly. It’s not ideal, but it’s the only option the team has right now.
Eight questions this week, so I kept the answers relatively short. If you want to send us anything, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Kevin asks: If Michael Pineda comes back and has a strong year, pitching ~150 innings, wouldn’t it make at least some sense to consider trading him for a young cost-controlled hitter instead of betting on his shoulder long-term?
Oh sure, absolutely. Given the team’s needs on the infield, it definitely makes sense to deal a pitcher with a major arm injury in his not-too-distant past for a young position player. Obviously there would be many more variables here. How does Pineda look in 2014? Do any prospects take a step forward and change the team’s long-term outlook? Stuff like that. Pitchers who have shoulder surgeries tend to continue having shoulder problems, so flipping Pineda for a young infielder next winter definitely makes sense. We just have to see how these next few months play out before we can know how realistic that is.
Dan asks: Let’s say that between being healthy and playing in Yankee Stadium, Jacoby Ellsbury‘s power numbers rebound to where he approaches his career highs, or at least becomes a legit 20 HR guy. Would Joe Girardi move him down in the lineup?
I think so, especially since they have Brett Gardner ready to step right into the leadoff spot. I don’t know if it would make sense to bat Ellsbury any lower than third, but I could see the lineup being Gardner, Derek Jeter, Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, so on and so forth at some point. I guess it depends how the rest of the offense is performing. There’s no harm in having a 20+ homer, 40+ steal leadoff man. That’s quite the table-setter.
Howie asks: I haven’t heard a word about Zelous Wheeler from anybody this spring. He was a good enough prospect for the Brewers to protect on their 40-man roster for a while, and it seems he’s been able to get on base throughout his career. He got a lot of ABs for the Yankees in spring training. Any word on him? Any chance the Yankees give him a call up at some point to see if he can play a major league 3B?
Wheeler, 27, has not even played a full season at Triple-A yet, believe it or not. Only 121 total games at the level across three seasons. Baseball America never once ranked him as one of Milwaukee’s top 30 prospects in their Prospect Handbook and that’s really saying something. The Brewers have had some awful farm systems in recent years. Wheeler has put up nice numbers at Double-A (.276/.377/.428 in 321 games) and decent numbers at Triple-A (.264/.342/.410 in 121 games), plus he’s had a monster spring (.287/.381/.486), so he’s on the map. I don’t think he’ll get much of a chance to help the big league team this year though, at least not without a ton of injuries. He’s at the very bottom of the depth chart it seems.
Nic asks: Ryan Roberts worth to pick-up this late in the spring?
I don’t think so. Roberts had a big year with the Diamondbacks in 2011, hitting .249/.341/.427 (109 wRC+) with 19 homers and 18 steals, but he’s only hit .238/.296/.364 (81 wRC+) in the two years since. That includes a .256/.304/.412 (95 wRC+) line against left-handers, so he e isn’t much of a platoon option. Roberts can play second and third, and the various defensive stats say he’s a good but not great gloveman. He’s very similar to Scott Sizemore and I don’t see much of a point of carrying two Scott Sizemores. One in Triple-A is enough. The Yankees went through all that trouble to acquire Dean Anna and they removed other players from the 40-man roster this winter in favor of him. I say let him play while Brendan Ryan‘s hurt. That’s what he’s there for.
Dylan asks: I’m pretty sure I’m the only guy that ever asks this or even cares, but can we get our yearly Pat Venditte update? I saw he was available multiple times but did he pitch this spring? Does he have a shot at getting called up this year? Ever?
Venditte had surgery on his right shoulder two years ago, and he returned last season to throw 28.2 innings at three different levels (3.45 ERA). He has been brought up to big league camp as an extra arm a few times this spring but hasn’t gotten into a game. Venditte is fully healthy now and throwing with both arms, and I think he’ll start the year with either Double-A Trenton or Triple-A Scranton. It might be Double-A because there are a ton of arms ticketed for Triple-A as it is. Venditte will turn 29 this summer, so he’s not some young prospect anymore. I don’t think he’ll get called up this year, but hey, he’ll be a minor league free agent next winter, so maybe another team will give him a shot. Since he’s gone unselected in the Rule 5 Draft several times, probably not.
Frank asks: I know it’s “only Spring Training” but something has to be said about the number of runs the Yankees have allowed this Spring. As of today, they’re only behind the Rays for fewest runs allowed. Yankee pitchers haven’t really got lit up this Spring. Encouraged?
It doesn’t mean anything. I know that’s the cliche but it’s true. A total of 33 pitchers have thrown a combined 266 innings for the Yankees this year, and, assuming Dellin Betances and Vidal Nuno get the last two bullpen spots, 124.2 of them have them have been thrown by guys who will not be on the big league roster. Almost half (46.9%, to be exact). Bruce Billings has thrown the same number of innings (8.1) as Hiroki Kuroda, just to drive the point home. (Kuroda’s thrown in minor league games a few times, hence the low innings total.) Remember, many of those innings were against hitters who won’t sniff MLB this year. It’s neat that the Yankees have pitched well this spring — they have the second most strikeouts (234) and second fewest walks (59) among all 30 teams — but ultimately it means nothing. Spring Training stats for one individual player mean little and they mean even less for a group of players.
Dustin asks: John Ryan Murphy for Marcus Semien. Would you do it? Would the White Sox do it?
Pretty sure I’d do it. Semien, 23, hit .284/.401/.479 with 19 homers, 24 steals, and more walks (98) than strikeouts (90) in 137 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year before getting a cup of coffee in September. He actually made his big league debut in Yankee Stadium. Here’s the box score. Baseball America (no subs. req’d) ranked him as the 91st best prospect in the game last month, and in their subscriber-only scouting report they said he has pushed “beyond his original utility profile” because he’s hit so much. Semien is said to fit best at second or third base, and given the Yankees’ need for both short and long-term infield help, he’d make a lot of sense. It is a bit of a concern that he was considered a future utility man as recently as 12 months ago, but not enough to deter me completely. The White Sox desperately need a catcher and Murphy would fit well for them. I don’t know if they’d pull the trigger though.
Jonathan asks: Since Jeter came into the league, what would be the best 25 man roster that could be put together by the collection of Yankees that have come and gone or are currently on the roster? (Lineup, Bench, Rotation, Bullpen)
The Play Index was made for stuff like this. Here is the highest bWAR at each position (min. 50% of games played) during Jeter’s career, starting in 1996, his first full season. Some of these are obvious (click the link on each position for the full results):
- Catcher: Jorge Posada (42.6 bWAR)
- First Base: Jason Giambi (22.0)
- Second Base: Robinson Cano (45.1)
- Third Base: Alex Rodriguez (52.5)
- Left Field: Hideki Matsui (20.4)
- Center Field: Bernie Williams (35.1)
- Right Field: Paul O’Neill (16.6)
- Designated Hitter: David Justice (3.6 WAR)
- Bench: Frankie Cervelli (2.9), Brendan Ryan (0.5), Miguel Cairo (2.0), Tim Raines (3.3)
- Rotation: Andy Pettitte (48.7), Mike Mussina (35.2), CC Sabathia (22.1), Roger Clemens (21.3), Orlando Hernandez (19.1)
- Bullpen: Mariano Rivera (56.4), Ramiro Mendoza (11.5), David Robertson (9.6), Mike Stanton (8.7), Joba Chamberlain (7.1), Tom Gordon (7.0), Jeff Nelson (6.5)
If you’d rather use the second best player at one of the other positions than Justice at DH, it would be Brett Gardner (19.3). I’d put him in left and Matsui at DH for obvious reasons. If you want a second lefty in the bullpen, Boone Logan (3.2) would replace Nelson. I picked actual bench/part-time players for the bench and yes, during the Jeter era, Ryan has the second highest bWAR among Yankees shortstops. Crazy.
That’s a pretty excellent team otherwise, no? Not like we should have expected anything different. Nice mix of dynasty guys and more recent players, though not so much on the pitching staff. Only three guys on that staff joined the team after 2006. Of course, the more recent guys haven’t had as much time to accumulate bWAR. Anyway, there’s a the rest of the team around Jeter.
The Yankees announced that 2014 HOPE Week will take place from June 16-20th this year. There will be a special ceremony honoring Quantum Leap Farm, a Florida-based organization that serves individuals with mental and physical disabilities by providing therapeutic equestrian programs, prior to tomorrow’s night Grapefruit League game in Tampa. Full details for this summer’s HOPE Week are not yet available, but here is everything you need to know about tomorrow’s ceremony. · (0) ·
The Yankees played their final road game of the spring this afternoon, beating the Pirates 4-2. CC Sabathia threw 44 pitches across four innings in his final tune-up, allowing three hits with no walks and no strikeouts. He finishes the spring having allowed three runs on 13 hits with a 16/3 K/BB in 21 innings. His next start will be Opening Day, Tuesday in Houston. David Phelps had a rough two-thirds of an inning and was charged with the two runs, but Dellin Betances, Vidal Nuno, and Adam Warren all threw scoreless innings.
At the plate, Ichiro Suzuki and Eduardo Nunez both went 3-for-4, all singles. Zoilo Almonte went 3-for-3 with a double. Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann both went 0-for-3, though Teixeira drew a walk. Bench candidates Yangervis Solarte and Dean Anna were both hitless in four trips to the plate. You could definitely tell the end of Spring Training is close because there was a ton of first pitch swinging. Guys are ready to get out of Florida. Can’t blame ‘em. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest from Tampa.
- The Yankees announced a big round of roster cuts this morning: Preston Claiborne and Zoilo Almonte were optioned to Triple-A Scranton while Russ Canzler, David Herndon, Jim Miller, Scott Sizemore, Yoshinori Tateyama, Danny Burawa, Chris Leroux, and Fred Lewis were reassigned to minor league camp. Herndon is expected to opt-out of his contract by Sunday. There are now 34 players left in big league camp by my unofficial count.
- Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) worked out today and will play in games Friday and Saturday. It’s unclear if they will be regular Grapefruit League games or minor league games. If he plays in a regular spring game, they won’t be able to backdate a DL stint if he suffers a setback. [Dan Barbarisi, Jorge Castillo]
- Phelps, Warren, Nuno, Betances, and Cesar Cabral are all scheduled to pitch again on Saturday, their final tune-ups before the season. The roster is expected to be announced tomorrow and at least one of those guys won’t make the bullpen. [Chad Jennings]
This is your open thread for the evening. Both YES (7pm ET) and MLB Network (right now) will replay this afternoon’s game, plus MLB Network will show the Giants and Athletics later tonight. They’re playing in AT&T Park, so teams are starting to return to their cities. The Islanders and Devils are playing as well. Talk about anything and everything right here.
Forbes released their annual franchise valuations yesterday, and for the 17th straight year, the Yankees are the most valuable franchise in the game. At $2.5 billion, they are more valuable than any other franchise in American sports (Dallas Cowboys are second at $2.3 billion) and $500M more valuable than the Dodgers, who rank second among MLB clubs. The Red Sox are third at $1.5 billion while the Rays bring up the rear at $485M.
“Including the annual average of the $400 million upfront payment the team got for agreeing to sell its controlling stake in the YES Network, to News Corp (now 21st Century Fox), the team raked in over $100 million in cable money last season, by far the most in baseball,” said the write-up. “Even after kicking in $95 million towards the league’s 34% local revenue sharing pool and their $64 million PILOT bond payments for Yankee Stadium last season, the Bronx Bombers led the league in revenue ($461 million).”
The Yankees lost nearly $60M in ticket sales last year and their revenue dropped by $10M overall, so the franchise’s value did not increase as much as it could have with a strong season. Forbes estimated the team’s value at $2.3 billion in 2013, $1.85 billion in 2012, $1.7 billion in 2011, and $1.6 billion in 2010. Bloomberg estimated the franchise’s value at $3.3 billion back in October, for what it’s worth. · (24) ·
There are only three Spring Training games left, so everyone is pretty much ready to go. The pitchers, like today’s starter CC Sabathia, will throw light tune-up sessions more than full “working on something” starts. In fact, Sabathia is only scheduled for 45-50 pitches today. These last few days are about staying sharp and not getting hurt, not building pitch count or anything like that. The real work is already done. These are the last low-stress games the team will play for months.
The Yankees are making the hour-long trip south to Bradenton to play the Pirates this afternoon. Pittsburgh is playing most of their regulars, including Starling Marte, Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, former Yankee Russell Martin, and former Yankees farmhand Jose Tabata. Righty Stolmy Pimentel, who I wrote about as a possible trade target not too long ago, is on the mound. Here’s the starting lineup as the competition for the final bench spot winds down:
- CF Ichiro Suzuki
- 3B Eduardo Nunez
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- LF Zoilo Almonte
- 2B Yangervis Solarte
- SS Dean Anna
- DH Zelous Wheeler
- RF Adonis Garcia
LHP CC Sabathia
Available Position Players: C Jose Gil, 1B Corban Joseph, SS Carmen Angelini, LF Ben Gamel, and CF Antoan Richardson will all come off the bench. C Roybell Herrera, C Radley Haddad, UTIL Addison Maruszak, UTIL Jose Pirela, and OF Mason Williams are also available.
Available Pitchers: RHP David Phelps, RHP Adam Warren, and LHP Vidal Nuno are all scheduled to pitch after Sabathia. LHP Cesar Cabral, RHP Dellin Betances, LHP Fred Lewis, RHP Graham, Stoneburner, RHP Manny Barreda, RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Branden Pinder, RHP Shane Greene, LHP Aaron Dott, and SwP Pat Venditte are the extra arms.
It has been raining for most of the morning in Bradenton but it is expected to stop very soon if it hasn’t already. There might be a short delay, if anything, but it looks like they’ll have no trouble getting in a full nine innings. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 1pm ET and you can watch live on both YES and MLB.tv. Yeah, this is one of the rare YES road games. Enjoy.
At the outset of Spring Training, only three spots in the bullpen were truly set. David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Thornton were not just locks to make the team, but locks to be Joe Girardi‘s primary late-inning trio at the start of the regular season. Penciling David Phelps or Adam Warren into a spot was a safe bet, but far from a sure thing. We had no idea what Michael Pineda would look like in camp and a trade to address the infield was always possible.
Fast forward a few weeks to today and the bullpen picture is much clearer. Pineda looks healthy and he pitched well during Grapefruit League play, earning the fifth starter spot. That pushed both Phelps and Warren into the bullpen after Girardi confirmed they were all but guaranteed to make the team in some capacity. They will not necessarily be pigeonholed into a long relief role either. Both guys could serve as one-inning setup relievers if their performance warrants the responsibility.
Dellin Betances really seemed to find himself after being moved to the bullpen with Triple-A Scranton last year and he’s carried his success over into Spring Training. Based on how willing he’s been to use his curveball in any count, he also seems to have more faith in his breaking ball than ever before. Betances has all but locked up a bullpen job. Preston Claiborne, on the other hand, has pitched himself out of Opening Day roster consideration. He wasn’t particularly good in the second half last year and he’s been dreadful this spring.
So, just like that, six of the seven bullpen spots are full. Well, it’s not official yet, but c’mon. Vidal Nuno and five veteran non-roster players — Chris Leroux, Matt Daley, Jim Miller, David Herndon, Yoshinori Tateyama — have pitched very well in camp, though my hunch is Tateyama (a trick pitch righty specialist) has no chance of making the club. Fred Lewis generated some buzz but seven of the 18 lefties he’s faced in camp have reached base. That’s probably not going to win him a spot. I think he’s this year’s Claiborne in the sense that he put himself in position for a midseason callup. That’s all. For what it’s worth, a second lefty is a priority but not a necessity.
“I mean, we always want to have two lefties,” said Brian Cashman to Brendan Kuty. “No question about that. So our manager, especially, likes to do the match ups. So I think the way he runs the late-inning situations, two lefties are in theory a mandatory interest for us. It might not work out that way, but it’s something we will definitely shoot to have.”
We’ve reached the point of the spring where the regular relievers are pitching on back-to-back days in preparation for the season, and so far Daley is the only one of the non-roster veterans to do that. This late in camp, that is kinda telling. Herndon can reportedly opt out of his contract on Sunday and while that could influence the bullpen decision, I doubt it would be the deciding factor. Leroux has been impressive and he is reportedly working with a new two-seamer, so there might be some tangible evidence for that success. Miller is said to be working on a new slider as well, so the same applies to him.
Actions speak louder than words and the Yankees used have Daley differently than their other bullpen candidates. To be fair, Nuno has not had a chance to work like a normal reliever because he’s been been competing for a rotation spot, but compared to guys like Herndon and Leroux, Daley is getting preferential treatment. He’s worked back-to-back games and he’s seen more action against big league caliber competition according to Baseball Reference’s opponent quality numbers. That’s how a team handles a pitcher they are leaning towards carrying when the regular season begins.
Girardi said the final bullpen announcement will come either today or tomorrow at the latest — “These guys do have to pack for a road trip on Saturday. Probably help them if we could make it by Friday,” he said to Chad Jennings — so we’ll have an answer soon enough. Robertson, Kelley, Thornton, Phelps, Warren, and Betances are locked into place and I would be surprised if someone other than Daley or Nuno got the final spot. Since Nuno is stretched out, he could wind up in Triple-A as the sixth starter. Either way, that last bullpen spot figures to be a revolving door this summer. It always is. For now, the Opening Day relief unit appears to be set.
Update: Lewis. Leroux, Claiborne, Miller, Herndon, Tateyama, and Danny Burawa were all sent to minor league camp this morning, the team announced. The competition for the final two bullpen spots is officially down to Betances, Nuno, Daley, Shane Greene, and Cesar Cabral.