Warren strong in Empire State loss

Got some notes…

  • Slade Heathcott played in his first Extended Spring Training game this afternoon. He’s scheduled to re-join High-A Tampa early next month following his latest left shoulder injury.
  • Shane Greene has been sent to Extended Spring Training from High-A Tampa. He got annihilated last time out and his Twitter feed makes it sound like the demotion is performance (not injury or discipline) related, which is kinda weird. Super-sleeper Matt Tracy is taking his place on the roster though, and that’s fun. Adam Miller was sent from Triple-A to Double-A.
  • Both Manny Banuelos and Angelo Gumbs made this week’s Ten Pack. You need a Baseball Prospectus subscription to read the entire thing, but both the Banuelos and Gumbs capsules are above the paywall. In other words, you don’t need a subscription for those two so check it out.
  • Gumbs and Steve Pearce were named the Offensive Players of the Week for the Low-A South Atlantic League and Triple-A International League, respectively. Gumbs stole 11 bases in 12 tries last week.
  • Jim Callis wrote about Cody Johnson briefly in this week’s Ask BA. He’s arguably the club’s best left-handed power prospect, but Johnson has struggled to make contact since turning pro and led the minors with 195 strikeouts last season.

Triple-A Scranton (1-0 loss to Durham)
SS Eduardo Nunez: 1-5, 1 CS — first game since being sent down … he led off the ninth with a single before getting thrown out trying to steal second
LF Kevin Russo, DH Jack Cust & 2B Ramiro Pena: all 0-3 — Russo walked twice, stole a base, and struck out once … Cust walked twice and struck out thrice … Pena walked once
1B Steve Pearce & RF Cole Garner: both 0-4, 2 K — Pearce got hit by a pitch
RF Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 2 K, 1 SB — 11 hits in ten games since the promotion
3B Brandon Laird: 2-3, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) — had been in a 2-for-27 rut (7.4%)
C Frankie Cervelli: 1-2, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 PB
RHP Adam Warren: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 10/4 GB/FB — 62 of 97 pitches were strikes (63.9%) … his best start of the season, good to see him get off the schneid
RHP Cody Eppley: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 11 of 17 pitches were strikes (64.7%)
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — 11 of 16 pitches were strikes (68.8%) … I wonder if he could pitch his way onto the big league roster, not that I want to see it happen

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Update: Clay Rapada leaves game with viral infection

10:09pm: The Yankees say Rapada has a viral infection, which sounds pretty open-ended. If he needs to go on the DL, the recently claimed Justin Thomas could easily take his spot as the second lefty. Just get Rapada away from the rest of the team, please.

9:41pm: Clay Rapada was helped to the clubhouse for an unknown reason in the sixth inning of tonight’s game. He faced two batters and was removed for matchup purposes, then was shown being helped out of the dugout. Very odd. Stay tuned for updates.

Update: Nova leaves game with contusion and sprain of the right foot and ankle

10:07pm: Nova has a contusion and sprain of his right foot and ankle, the team announced. X-rays were negative, but it’s unclear how long he’ll be out. If he needed to spend time on the DL, David Phelps could step right back into the rotation without a hitch.

9:30pm: Ivan Nova left tonight’s game with an apparent ankle/foot injury after fielding a ball in the sixth inning. He’d been hit by a comebacker in the right ankle/foot a few innings earlier but remained in the game. Stay tuned for updates.

Game 35: Raining In B’more

One of two things will happen tonight, and I’m not talking about the Yankees either winning or losing. Tonight’s game will either be rained out or played in sloppy conditions and possibly through a series of delays. It’s been raining on and off all day in Baltimore and the heaviest stuff is supposed to come later tonight, and I don’t mean midnight or early tomorrow morning. I’m talking eight or nine o’clock. As of right now, the game is scheduled to start at 7:15pm ET. We’ll see. Here’s the lineup…

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

RHP Ivan Nova

If they do end up playing tonight, you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Pettitte will receive entire $2.5M salary this year

Via the AP, we have the details of the minor league contract Andy Pettitte signed with the Yankees in Spring Training. His base salary is $2M but the pro-rated portion is just a hair over $1.57M. He’ll receive $500k bonuses for making one start and spending five days on the active roster and $250k bonuses for his second start, his third start, and for spending ten days on the roster. The contract value is capped is $2.5M though, and that’s what Andy will receive come Thursday. Got it? Good.

While on the subject, make sure you check out my FanGraphs post on Pettitte’s return. He had trouble getting his cut-fastball in the righties and I’m hopefully that’s just a product of rust. Busting righties with the cutter has been a Pettitte trademark for more than a decade.

RISP: Where Yanks big guns go to die

Where would the Yankees be right now without Raul Ibanez? The guy so many people wanted gone after a painfully unproductive spring has pulled his weight and then some. His .273/.330/.568 line translates to a 136 OPS+, which ranks behind only Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson among Yankees with more than 50 PA. Yet Ibanez’s overall production is only part of the story. It’s when he puts up those numbers that has made the greatest impact.

With runners in scoring position Ibanez is 7 for 18 with three doubles and a homer. He has worked four of his eight walks on the season in those situations. That all works out to 8 RBI, and it feels as though all eight of them have come at crucial points in games. On a team that has struggled to hit safely with men in scoring position, Ibanez stands out from the crowd. He, along with Eduardo Nunez (4 for 7) and Chris Stewart (4 for 13), are the only Yankees with a .300 or better batting average with RISP (minimum 10 PA).

After those three the most productive Yankees’ hitter with runners in scoring position is Mark Teixeira. He has drive in 12 runs when given the opportunity, tied for the team lead with Nick Swisher. Teixeira has gone 8 for 31 in those situations; it’s quite sad that his .258 BA with RISP bests anyone hitting one through six in the lineup. After that comes Derek Jeter (.238), Curtis Granderson (.217), Swisher (.192), A-Rod (.192), Cano (.172), and finally Russell Martin (.154). That’s a sad state of affairs when the opportunity to score runs is highest.

Both Granderson (.357) and A-Rod (.417) have gotten on base at a quality clip, but walks aren’t quite as valuable with runners in scoring position. Power can be valuable, though, and Nick Swisher has brought that with a .270 ISO. Teixeira (.226) and Ibanez (.333) have also hit for power with ducks on the pond. But beyond those few exceptions, the Yankees haven’t gotten much at all done when they put men on base. They rank ninth in the AL with a .247 BA with RISP, which is 14 points lower than the league average. Their only saving grace is power; their .416 SLG ranks fourth in the AL.

Overall, the Yankees have fared much better in terms of offense. Their .274 BA ranks third in the league, while their .343 OBP ranks second as does their .465 SLG and 115 OPS+. Yet their overall OPS is 51 points higher than their OPS with RISP. That’s quite the reverse of other OPS leaders Texas and Boston, both of which feature quite higher OPSs with runners in scoring position. Both, in fact, feature significantly better numbers with runners in scoring position. That’s a big reason why, obviously, they lead the AL in runs per game.

We can take some solace in the knowledge that the Yankees will get better in this department. Remember last year when we complained of the Yankees RISP woes, particularly early in the season? They finished hitting .273 in those situations, which ranked fifth in the AL; the leaders, Texas, hit .284 as a team in those situations. The Yankees also led the league in SLG with RISP. Given their superior overall numbers, it’s a near certainty that things will turn around in crucial situations; they almost always do.

On the other hand, it’s a bit troubling that the biggest bats have failed when runs were there for the taking. Derek Jeter, who leads the team in so many categories, is just 5 for 21 with no extra base hits with RISP. Robinson Cano and A-Rod have only five hits as well, and they’ve seen quite a few more situations with RISP; they have three extra base hits between them. Swisher, productive as he’s been with those 12 RBI, also has only five hits. At least three of his, including two homers, have gone for extra bases.

If the Yankees start hitting just to the league average rate with runners in scoring position, we could see a dramatic spike in runs scored. They put more men on base than any team other than Texas. Once they start to cash in those runs, we should see them jump in the standings. That does little to curb our collective frustration when they do fail with RISP, but that won’t last forever. It never does.

Finding a role for David Phelps

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

With Andy Pettitte officially back in the rotation, the Yankees finally have a full pitching staff. We’re no longer waiting around for someone to come back from injury — Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma are still a long ways off — or for Pettitte to arrive, the staff is as complete as can be right now. What you see is what you’re going to get, the five starters are in place and the seven-man bullpen is unfortunately settled in the wake of Mariano Rivera‘s injury.

Of those seven relievers, six have clearly defined roles. David Robertson and Rafael Soriano are the late-inning duo, Boone Logan and Clay Rapada are the lefty matchup guys, Cory Wade the do-everything middle reliever, and Freddy Garcia the break glass in case of emergency guy. That leaves David Phelps in a peculiar spot, stretched out as a starter but not needed as a true mop-up type with Freddy still around. That’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity. An opportunity for the Yankees to use the young right-hander in some more important spots rather than save him for extra innings or short starts.

Phelps, 25, has pitched to a solid 3.08 ERA but an unsightly 5.12 FIP in his first 26.1 big league innings because the Red Sox and Rangers tagged him for some homers a few weeks ago. The strikeout (7.52 K/9 and 20.0 K%) and ground ball (45.9%) rates are fine, but the homers (1.74 HR/9) and walks (3.76 BB/9 and 10.0 BB%) have been a bit of an issue. Giving up homers to the Sox and Rangers isn’t anything to be ashamed of and young pitchers always have trouble with walks. For what it’s worth, two of his eleven free passes were intentional, and that will skew his rate performance given the relatively small sample size.

Anyway, with Freddy in the bullpen for long relief, I’d like to see the Yankees employ Phelps as more of a multi-inning middle relief type. He’s already stretched out and doesn’t have to pitch in high-leverage spots, but there’s a need in middle relief. With Soriano and Robertson married to the eighth and ninth innings, Wade is the only right-handed middle guy. Logan isn’t totally awful against righties but Rapada certainly is, something we saw just yesterday. Phelps could essentially take over Wade’s pre-Mo injury role with the added benefit of being able to throw multiple innings. D.J. Mitchell and Adam Warren provide enough rotation depth that keeping Phelps stretched out to 80+ pitches isn’t much of a concern. I think he’s shown enough to take on a little more responsibility in a bullpen that is still trying to adjust to life without Rivera.

Based on the weather forecast, there’s a very real chance tonight’s game will get rained out. If it does and they end up playing a doubleheader tomorrow, Phelps could easily start one of the two games and allow everyone else to stay on schedule. That seems like a better option than throwing both Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia on the same day and having to dig up a spot starter later in the week, but I digress. With Sweaty Freddy in the bullpen and able to serve as the mop-up guy, there’s no reason Phelps can’t take on a greater role and see some leveraged shorter relief work in the coming weeks. Wade can’t do it all himself.