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.

5/14-5/15 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

It’s mid-May and yet the Yankees and Orioles are about to play for the third time. New York swept a three-game set in Baltimore for their first three wins of the season back in early-April before the O’s took two of three at Yankee Stadium two weeks ago. After this quick little two-game series in Camden Yards, these two clubs won’t play again until after the All-Star break.

What Have They Done Lately?

Two weeks ago the Orioles held the Yankees to a total of three runs in a three-game series. They’ve won six of ten since including two of three from the Rays this weekend. Baltimore lost yesterday but still sits atop the AL East with a 22-13 record. Their +15 is third best in the division and fourth best in the league.

Offense

(Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

The Orioles are a top-eight offense based on runs per game (4.66) and they actually lead all of baseball with 56 homers. Only 20 of those 56 homers have come with men on base though, thanks to a below average team OBP (.311). At 104 wRC+, the O’s have the eighth best offense in the game and fifth best in the AL so far this year.

Buck Showalter’s lineup is anchored by Adam Jones (146 wRC+) and Matt Wieters (147 wRC+), who drive in a ton of runs as the four-five hitters behind J.J. Hardy (103 wRC+) and Nick Markakis (119 wRC+). With Nolan Reimold (164 wRC+) on the DL, leadoff duties have rotated between Robert Andino (97 wRC+), Endy Chavez (-30 wRC+ (!)), and Rule 5 Draft pick/utility man Ryan Flaherty (14 wRC+). First baseman/emergency pitcher Chris Davis (114 wRC+) has done damage further down in the order but has cooled off a bit of late.

Former Yankees Nick Johnson (82 wRC+) and Wilson Betemit (101 wRC+) platoon at the DH spot, and with Mark Reynolds (85 wRC+) on the DL, rookie Steve Tolleson (two hits in seven plate appearances so far) has been manning third base. Bill Hall (a homer in four plate appearances) was recalled this past weekend and we could see him at the hot corner at some point as well. Another rookie, outfielder Xavier Avery (hitless in four plate appearances), was just called up for depth.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jason Hammel
Hammel, a former Devil Ray, held the Yankees to two runs in six innings two weeks ago but missed his last start with a sore knee. The swelling subsided and the fluid drained, so he’s good to go tonight. The 29-year-old right-hander has completely re-invented himself this year and the results are staggering. Hammel is missing bats (8.84 K/9 and 25.5 K%), limiting walks (2.56 BB/9 and 7.4 BB%), and generating ground balls (61.0%). It’s a remarkable turn around that can be attributed to a slight uptick in velocity plus increased usage of both his low-to-mid-90s two-seamer and mid-80s slider. Hammel also mixes in a low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, an upper-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. The two fastballs and slider are his go-to weapons, the other two offerings just tag along for the ride. This isn’t necessarily a case of a pitcher having lots of success in a small sample, there are tangible reasons behind Hammel’s sudden and drastic improvement.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
The Taiwanese-born Chen is off to a strong start in MLB, pitching to a 2.68 ERA (3.19 FIP) in 37 IP across six starts. His strikeout (6.81 K/9 and 17.5 K%) and ground ball (32.2%) rates aren’t great, but he does limit walks (2.92 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%) and hits in general (.282 BABIP). Chen sits right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seam fastballs, and his top offspeed pitch is a low-to-mid-80s splitter/changeup hybrid. He’ll also throw low-90s slider and on the rarest of occasions, a low-70s curveball. The Yankees hung four runs on Chen in his 5.2 IP season debut a few weeks ago, but he’s allowed more than two earned runs in just one of five starts since.

Bullpen Status
The Rays did the Yankees a favor by roughing up Baltimore’s bullpen this weekend. Jake Arrieta didn’t make it through four innings yesterday, forcing left-hander Troy Patton (4.39 FIP) to throw three innings and 52 pitches. He’s the only southpaw in their bullpen and chances are he won’t be available at all in this two-game set. Kevin Gregg (4.75 FIP) is their Freddy Garcia, meaning he’s so bad he only pitches when things look bleak. He threw 19 pitches yesterday after sitting in the bullpen for a week. Righty specialist Darren O’Day (3.36 FIP) threw eight pitches on Sunday and six on Friday, so he’s good to go.

Closer Jim Johnson (3.40 FIP) and setup man Pedro Strop (2.90 FIP) had each appeared in three straight games before getting yesterday off. Chances are both will be available tonight and tomorrow, but their recent workload has been intense. Former Yankee Luis Ayala (2.55 FIP) and the recently promoted Stu Pomeranz (no runs in four innings) are both fresh and ready to go. Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is pretty well-rested and I suspect everyone is available tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact recent usage. Camden Crazies is my Orioles blog of choice, so check it out.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 14th, 2012

Record Last Week: 5-2 (25 RS, 20 RA)
Season Record: 19-15 (166 RS, 149 RA, 19-15 pythag. record), 2.5 games back in AL East
Opponents This Week: @ Orioles (two games, Mon. to Tues.), @ Blue Jays (two games, Weds. to Thurs.), vs. Reds (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

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