Joba strikes out two in first minor league rehab appearance

Update (10:55 a.m.): Thirteen months after blowing out his elbow and four months after dislocating his ankle, right-hander Joba Chamberlain appeared in his first minor league rehab game this morning. Pitching for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees, he allowed an unearned run while striking out two in a hitless and walkless inning of work. Two errors by the third baseman and a passed ball allowed the run to score. Hooray, rookie ball defense. According to reports, he threw 23 pitches and topped out at 97 with the fastball.

The appearance officially kicks off Chamberlain’s 30-day rehab clock, meaning the latest he can be activated off the DL is August 9th. That’s assuming everything goes as planned, which is hardly a safe bet. Joba will probably take the next two or three days off before making his next appearance, which could last two innings.

Getting our hopes up for Rivera’s return in 2012

The headline of Joel Sherman’s latest column says it all. “Doc: Rivera could pitch in 2012.” Surely this is just the NY Post headline writers making too much of an innocuous quote, right? After all, not only did Rivera tear his ACL, but he also had to wait a month before undergoing surgery to repair it. How could he possibly pitch this year?

As it turns out, delaying the surgery might have actually accelerated Rivera’s recovery time. His rehab doctor, Dr. Keith Pyne, says that the work Rivera put in prior to the surgery has made a difference. That preparation has put him in a better position during his rehab.

Another revelation: Rivera didn’t fully tear his ACL. He’ll have a shorter recovery time from a partial tear than a full one, so it’s tough to make comparisons to others who have experienced full tears. And, apparently, Rivera tore the ACL on the “correct” knee. Since there’s more torque on the landing leg in a pitching delivery, recovery can be quicker for push leg injuries.

At this point I have little original to add. The idea of Mo coming back to pitch in 2012 was unfathomable just yesterday. But now we have Rivera’s rehab doctor extensively on the record talking about his advanced recovery and how he could actually throw a baseball for the Yankees this year. It certainly feels like a tease, but with Rivera you never know.

As Pyne himself says: “I would put my money on Mo.”

Phelps strikes out 11 in return to Double-A

RHP John Brebbia was named the Low-A South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week after throwing six scoreless innings of relief.

Double-A Trenton (3-0 win over Portland)
LF Jose Pirela: 3-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 1 CS, 1 HBP — seven homers in 49 games this year after hitting just eight in 128 games last year … he’s up to .324/.395/.511 with nearly as many walks (17) as strikeouts (24) on the season
2B David Adams, RF Zoilo Almonte & CF Melky Mesa: all 1-4 — Zoilo doubled, stole two bases, and struck out … Mesa whiffed twice
1B Luke Murton, DH Neil Medchill & SS Yadil Mujica: all 0-3 — Murton walked and whiffed … Mujica struck out
C J.R. Murphy: 0-4, 2 K — still hitless with Trenton, though it’s only been four games
3B Rob Segedin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — the solo homer was his first hit for the Thunder
RHP David Phelps: 6.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 7/1 GB/FB — 62 of 94 pitches were strikes (66%) … that’s what happens when you stick a big leaguer in Double-A … the most important thing is the pitch count, he’s fully stretched out now and ready to start whenever the team needs him
RHP Danny Farquhar: 2.1 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 20 of 31 pitches were strikes (65%) … pretty stellar relief work right there

[Read more…]

2012 Homerun Derby Open Thread

Is the Homerun Derby getting stale? Yeah, it has been for years. It’s just too long, that’s all really. It’s not boring though. It’s still fun to watch, especially when you’ve got a horse in the race.

Robinson Cano, captain of the AL Squad, will defend his crown after walking off with last year’s Derby win against Adrian Gonzalez. He has a chance to become the first player since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999 to repeat as champ. Robbie selected his three teammates — David Ortiz reportedly declined an invitation — and brought his father Jose to Kansas City to pitch to him again. Here are the participants in no particular order, I have no idea who is hitting when tonight…

American League
Robinson Cano¬† (20 HR) — captain
Mark Trumbo (22)
Prince Fielder (15)
Jose Bautista (27)

National League
Matt Kemp (12 HR) — captain, just off the DL
Andrew McCutchen (18) — replaced the injured Giancarlo Stanton
Carlos Beltran (20)
Carlos Gonzalez (17)

As for my official prediction, I’m going with Cano to repeat. It’s not about raw power, it’s about endurance. Between the screen drill with Kevin Long and his daily batting practice sessions, I feel like Robbie could stand at home plate and hit dingers for hours in a setting like this. Either way, the Derby starts at 8pm ET and can be seen on ESPN. Feel free to talk about that or anything else you want right here. Have at it.

Yankees tell Reggie Jackson to stay away from team indefinitely

Via Buster Olney, the Yankees have told Reggie Jackson to stay away from the team until informed otherwise. Reggie made some disparaging comments about Alex Rodriguez and his past PED use — as well as others like the late Gary Carter and Kirby Puckett — to Sports Illustrated last week. He has spoken to A-Rod and apologized, but the team still asked him to stay away. Jackson, 66, is a special advisor for the Yankees and hangs around the team all the time, though for now he’ll have to sit on the sidelines.

This isn’t rocket science. The Yankees employ Reggie and when an employee makes comments like that, you have to take action. Normal schmucks like you and I would have been fired. It’s all damage control, they’re just avoiding a potential distraction. Olney says Jackson’s return to the organization at some point has not been ruled out, but I would be surprised if he’s back anytime soon.

2012 Draft: Negotiations between Yankees and Hensley are complete

Via K. Levine-Flandrup, contract talks between the Yankees and first round pick Ty Hensley are complete. Now they’re just waiting on Hensley to decide whether he wants to turn pro for millions of dollars or follow through on his commitment to Ole Miss. The deadline to sign draft picks is 5pm ET this Friday.

Hensley, the 30th overall selection, is slotted for $1.6M but the Yankees can afford to pay him up to $1,815,910 without surrendering a pick in next year’s draft. That would represent the fifth largest bonus New York has ever given to a drafted player. Hensley has reportedly taken his physical already, which must be completed before the deadline. He said he hoped to sign quickly soon after the draft, but I’m guessing his agent/advisor got a hold of him and told him to wait it out. You can see all of the team’s picks at Baseball America and keep tabs on the draft pool situation with our Draft Pool page.

Scouting The Trade Market: George Kottaras

The Yankees have gotten no offense out of their catchers this season and it’s hard to think the glovework of Russell Martin and Chris Stewart have made up for the lack of production at the plate. An upgrade at the position should be on the trade deadline shopping list — though certainly not atop it — even though quality catching is hard to find. We’ve already looked at Ramon Hernandez of the Rockies, but now let’s look at the backstop of another non-contender: George Kottaras of the Brewers.

The 29-year-old Kottaras broke into the big leagues with the Red Sox back in 2008 — they acquired him from the Padres in 2006 in exchange for David Wells (!) — but moved on to Milwaukee via waivers a few days after the Yankees won the 2009 World Series. He’s been the club’s backup since then, first behind Gregg Zaun and now behind the (injured) Jonathan Lucroy. Youngster Martin Maldonado has done a solid job during Lucroy’s absence, meaning Kottaras could become trade bait if the 40-45 Brewers decided to sell in the coming weeks. Let’s see if he’s a fit for the Yankees…

The Pros

  • For one, Kottaras is a left-handed hitter and that’s rare for a catcher. He’s a .239/.330/.436 career hitter against right-handers in 460 big league plate appearances against them.
  • Kottaras excels at drawing walks, earning a free pass in 13.8% of his career plate appearances in the show. Over the last three seasons it’s a 14.8% walk rate. Kottaras doesn’t strikeout a ton despite all the deep counts, owning a 19.3% strikeout rate over the last three years.
  • It’s tough to quantify catcher defense, but Beyond The Box Score’s catcher defense rankings rated Kottaras as an above-average defender last season. Click through the full analysis.
  • Kottaras will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, he remains under team control through 2015. He’s making six figures this season after missing the Super Two cutoff by a few weeks.

The Cons

  • Kottaras struggles against lefties, with a career .178/.326/.308 line against southpaws in 133 plate appearances. It’s a small sample, but his minor league history backs it up. He’s a platoon hitter.
  • Despite the solid defensive ranking last year, Kottaras can not throw. He’s gunned down just 21 (!) of 128 attempted base-stealers in his big league career, an unfathomably bad 16.4%. For what it’s worth, the 2010 catcher defense rankings rated him as below average.
  • Kottaras is out of minor league options and can not be send down to Triple-A without first clearing waivers.

As bad as his numbers are overall, Russell Martin has handled southpaws well — .275/.383/.549 this year and .230/.337/.424 as a Yankee — and it makes sense to seek a platoon partner. It’s hard not to love Kottaras’ on-base ability and you dream about the short Yankee Stadium porch unlocking some power, though the inability to control the running game is a major issue. I mean, Jorge Posada threw runners out at a 21.8% clip during his defensive disaster years from 2008-2010. Kottaras is at 16.4% during his peak years. It’s a major concern.

Obviously the years of team control is desirable because the Yankees don’t really have a catcher beyond this season. Kottaras would allow them to let Martin walk as a free agent this winter before stepping in as the heavy side of a platoon with a youngster like Austin Romine. But again, that throwing is a problem that will get exposed in steal-happy AL East. I’m not exactly one to be hard on players who play below average defense, but there is a minimum standard here and I don’t think Kottaras meets it. He’s an ideal pickup on the offensive side of the ball, but unfortunately the game extends beyond the batter’s box.