The Forgotten Yankee

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The season is just nine games old, but so far Joe Girardi has gotten every player on the 25-man Opening Day roster into at least one game, most more than one. Except one guy: Gustavo Molina, who has yet to take the field and play. The backup catcher by default, Molina is only with the team because Frankie Cervelli had a foul ball break his foot and Jesus Montero underwhelmed in camp. A career .235/.295/.348 hitter in the minors, it’s easy to see why Girardi has hesitated to use him in a game.

It’s not all on Gus* though. His name was penciled into the starting lineup last Wednesday, but Mother Nature intervened and rained the game out. That allowed the team to skip Molina’s start just like Freddy Garcia’s, keeping Russell Martin in the lineup. And it’s not like Martin has been overworked either. He’s started no more than four consecutive games at any point in the season so far, and it’s not like the sun has been beating down on him at this time of year. With the way he’s hitting, why would they want him out of the lineup anyway?

With the weather expected to clear up today and hopefully through the weekend, it looks like Molina’s first start is imminent. The Yankees will play in each of the next five days before Monday’s off-day, and I would be surprised if Girardi used his starting backstop in all five games. He knows all about the position, and four starts in five days seems to be the accepted limit for a catcher. Martin is playing well, but you don’t want to run him into the ground like Joe Torre did over the last few years and have him turn into a pumpkin come June.

Unfortunately for Gus, his time with the Yankees figures to be short lived. He might start this weekend, but he’s only keeping the job warm for Cervelli, who recently shed the boot and has resumed non-baseball workouts. Early-May sounds like a reasonable expectation for his return, but even if it’s not, Montero is hitting the snot out of the ball in Triple-A and could be called up at any moment. All of that means Molina is down to what is likely the last three weeks of his Yankees career.

But you know what? Gus will be able to tell his grand kids that he once played for the Yankees, and that alone is pretty cool. If things break right the rest of the season, he might even be able to show them his World Series ring. Now that would be cool.

* Yeah, I’m calling him Gus from now on. It’s an old-timey kind of New York name, and the Yankees could use a Gus.

Plotting the rotation going forward

No one likes a rainout. Even the eventual payoff — a doubleheader or a day of baseball where there otherwise wouldn’t have been — doesn’t compensate for the disappointment. After all, those games are in the future. We’ve been deprived of baseball now. One thing we can do, though, is look at how the rotation might play out in the next week or so.

The Yankees play for the next five days before hitting another off-day on Monday. They then have off on Thursday, which allows them to set up the rotation pretty much however they want. It will provide the further benefit of helping them prepare for their 17-game stretch that follows. Which order gives them the optimal setup?

Ideally, the Yankees would want their top four going as frequently as possible, with Garcia getting skipped whenever possible. They can’t just skip him outright, since he’ll need to pitch eventually and has to get some work. But I’m sure they’d prefer to line him up so he basically gets four starts between now and May 8. That appears to be the bare minimum. There’s also the possibility that Hughes tanks his next start and the Yankees skip him. I don’t think they’ll skip him for a full turn, since it would involve giving Garcia five starts instead of four. But they can still give him an eight-day break while keeping Garcia to the minimum four games.

There might be some small tweaks in there, but these iterations serve the Yankees best. It allows them to keep their guys mostly on turn, while using their fifth starter minimally. It also allows them enough flexibility to skip Hughes, if they think that can be a step towards his recovery.

Rainouts are the bane of a baseball fan’s existence. Yet they’re not all bad. They might cause scheduling problems down the road, but that’s for the future us’s to dissect. The two rainouts the Yankees have experienced this season have provided them with a great deal of flexibility in the rotation. Used optimally, it could aid them greatly in the next three weeks.

The David Purcey Band-Aid

The Yankees were dealt a double bullpen whammy yesterday, as Pedro Feliciano suffered a setback with his strained rotator cuff and Luis Ayala hit the disabled list with a strained lat. It appears as though Hector Noesi will get the call for now primarily because the Yankees aren’t exactly brimming with call-up candidates at the moment. Both Andrew Brackman and Steve Garrison made minor league starts last night, and so they’ll be unavailable for a few days. Ryan Pope is on the minor league disabled list himself. That leaves Andy Sisco and George Kontos along with the rehabbing Mark Prior. This is where David Purcey comes into play.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette)

Purcey, an out-of-options lefty reliever, was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays yesterday, effectively ending a six-plus year relationship. They selected him in the first round of the 2004 draft out of Oklahoma (a year after the Yankees took him as a draft-eligible sophomore in the 17th round), but Purcey climbed the ladder slowly because of various minor injuries. He made his big league debut as a starter in 2008, but has since moved to the bullpen full-time. Toronto expects to trade Purcey, and they should be able to find a taker since he’s left-handed and on the right side of 30 (he turns 29 in about a week). Given the Yankees’ bullpen situation at the moment, he does make sense for them.

Purcey passes the eye test; he’s a 6-foot-4, 240 lb. left-hander that sits around 93 mph with his fastball and occasionally touches 95. Just about three out of every four pitches he throws is a fastball, and he’s since scrapped the curveball he used as a starter and replaced it with a sweepy slider. That pitch has helped him rack up just about eight strikeouts for every nine innings pitches as a big leaguer. He’s done well against lefties since moving to the bullpen, striking out more than one out of every five batters with a ground ball rate close to 50%, limiting them to a .287 wOBA. That’s not great, but we’re talking about the 25th man on the roster remember, the low-leverage lefty specialist.

The problem with Purcey has been and always will be throwing strikes. He’s unintentionally walked 4.58 batters per nine innings his career, 4.46 as a reliever, and 5.61 against lefties. If he was perfect, the Jays wouldn’t have cut him. The Yankees would obviously be banking on Larry Rothschild and Mike Harkey ironing enough things out so that Purcey becomes usable in a game that’s remotely close, something Ayala really isn’t. The Yankees and Blue Jays haven’t made a trade in a long time (last one was Raul Mondesi), but we’re not exactly talking about a Roy Halladay here. Trade talks for a spare part between division opponents shouldn’t be that difficult, especially since Toronto has no leverage because they have to move Purcey within the next week or lose him on waivers for nothing. Whatever they get is a bonus, and that bonus will likely be some Single-A prospect no one will miss.

Remember, not everyone on the roster has to be here for the long haul. I’m looking at Purcey as a short-term solution that will eventually be displaced by Feliciano or whoever comes back next, just a guy to fill a spot and eat some unimportant inning from time to time. Think Billy Traber or Jim Brower or Brett Tomko. He’s just a band-aid in my eyes, a big, hard-throwing, left-handed band-aid that could even surprise us and prove useful in one of the most insignificant roles imaginable.

Report: Noesi up to replace Ayala

The Yankees will add Hector Noesi to the 25-man roster to replace the injured Luis Ayala, ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas reported this morning. Noesi, 24, had been slated to start for AAA Scranton tomorrow night, but with Ayala out for a week or two, the Yanks had to go with, as our own Mike Axisa said, the best of a few limited options. Andrew Brackman and Steve Garrison both had started last night, and few other viable arms on the 40-man roster right now. Noesi will serve as the club’s de facto 25th man right now, pitching in mop-up or emergency long relief, but the Yanks could see him as a potential rotation option depending upon how Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia look over the new few outings.

Fun With ESPN Player Headshots

The Yankees were rained out tonight, and I don’t think anyone is the mood for in-depth analysis and what not at this hour of the night/early in the morning, so instead I give you this: The 25 Most Terribly Awesome ESPN Head Shots. That one of Henry Blanco is called the “your wife just filed for divorce and wants half your sh!t.” Fitting, ain’t it?

It’s not exactly the most politically correct or safe for work link, so click at your own risk. All 25 are equally hilarious though, just in case you need a laugh on this Yankees baseball-less night.

(h/t BtB)

It’s the Jesus & Jorge show in Scranton

Triple-A Scranton (5-3 win over Rochester)
Greg Golson, RF: 0 for 3, 2 BB – on base 13 times in five games
Chris Dickerson, CF: 1 for 5, 1 R
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 5, 2 R, 2 2B –11 for his last 21 (.529)
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 4 for 5, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 K – couldn’t make it three straight games with a homer, but this will do
Brandon Laird, 3B: 0 for 5, 1 K – just 3 for 22 (.136) on the season
Jordan Parraz, DH: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K – can you quietly hit .455?
Justin Maxwell, LF: 1 for 4, 1 3B, , 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K – threw a runner out at the plate
Kevin Russo, 2B: 1 for 5, 1 K
Ramiro Pena, SS: 1 for 5, 1 E (fielding) – dude’s hitting .348
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 6-2 GB/FB – 46 of 80 pitches were strikes (57.5%) … another underwhelming start from one of the Triple-A guys … George King reported in Baseball America that Brackman is making $1M this season as part of his ML deal (subs. req’d) … with Kei Igawa in AA, does this make Brackman the highest paid pitcher in Triple-A?
Lance Pendleton, RHP: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 1-2 GB/FB – 26 of 41 pitches were strikes (63.4%) … sadly, this was the best pitching performance of the night
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 1-1 GB/FB – 15 of 18 pitches were strikes (83.3%)

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Feliciano has setback, Ayala to disabled list

Via Jon Heyman and Marc Carig, Pedro Feliciano suffered a setback to his strained rotator cuff during today’s throwing session and will have an MRI tomorrow. I wouldn’t wait around for him, there’s a decent chance he won’t be pitching for the Yankees anytime soon. For shame. In other news, Luis Ayala is hurt as well, and he’s headed to the disabled list with a strained lat. Not sure who will be replacing him on the roster, but it’s unlikely to be Andrew Brackman, Steve Garrison, or Ryan Pope. The first two are making minor league starts tonight, and Pope’s on the minor league DL himself. Could it be … Mark Prior time?