Sorry for the late OT. It’s been a long day. So have at it. We’ll have the recap up later.
After the Yanks and A’s wrap up their game this afternoon, the Bombers will head to Baltimore for a five-game set which includes a Saturday double header. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene is also heading to Baltimore, and it’s likely to arrive on Saturday with rains through Sunday. To ensure that the two clubs could get in as many games as possible, the Yankees asked the Orioles and Major League Baseball to switch the double header to tomorrow, but Baltimore and MLB both declined to do so.
According to Jack Curry, who spoke on the topic during the Yankee broadcast, the club and the Commissioner’s Office believe that Monday can be a “cushion.” If any games are rained out this weekend, the two teams can play a double header on Monday instead. In my opinion, that ignores the weather forecast. It’s possible that three games will be rained out this weekend. Had they rescheduled the DH for tomorrow, they could have gotten ensured four games with a potential DH on Monday. Now, if Irene hits as predicted, they may get only three games in. Silly Orioles.
Whoo-pee. The game isn’t going to start on time, because it’s raining. Which it will do all weekend. Also, apparently the Yankees talked to the Orioles about playing a doubleheader tomorrow, to get a bit ahead of the rain. The O’s reportedly refused. I get why they wouldn’t want to help the Yanks, but why not be a bit more accommodating when there is a known weather issue in the area? I guess you can be a dick when the games are meaningless to you.
(May the Orioles have many more meaningless games in their future.)
In good news, A-Rod is tentatively in the lineup, though he has to get through a pre-game workout. I haven’t seen anything that suggests he’s been removed, so it looks like he’ll actually play today.
And on the mound, number sixty-five, Phil Hughes.
In about 90 minutes Phil Hughes will deliver his first pitch of the afternoon to the A’s. It will be an important pitch; so will every pitch he throws for the rest of the season. Given the current state of the rotation, the Yankees absolutely need Hughes to step up down the stretch and play a prominent role in the playoff rotation.
As Ben wrote yesterday, Bartolo Colon has faded of late. He hasn’t been bad, per se, but he hasn’t been the model of efficiency that we saw from April through June. Who knows how much he has left in the tank at this point. Maybe the Yankees can get him some rest in the next month and have him ready again for the playoffs, but that’s no guarantee. Knowing what we do about his age and history, it’s tough to pencil him in at this point for a playoff rotation spot.
Then there’s A.J. Burnett, who needs no further description. He’ll have to pitch impeccable ball in the next month in order to even sniff the playoff rotation. The Yankees appear to be in the same position as last year, where they simply can’t afford to start him in the postseason unless absolutely necessary. If, in fact, they can’t start Colon, that would necessarily move Burnett up in the pecking order. This is why Hughes is so important.
Since his return from the DL Hughes has been generally effective, though not entirely convincing. He’s had one serious clunker, which coincidentally came against the A’s at home. He also looked shaky in his next start against Seattle, though due to their horrible offense he escaped relatively unharmed. All told he’s produced a 3.70 ERA in 41.1 innings since his July 6th return. The only issue is that in that time he has a 25:14 K/BB ratio, which is pretty terrible. The walks are OK, but the strikeouts are way down from the level we’ve come to expect from Hughes.
Things have gotten a bit better in August. Hughes has started three games and has thrown 19.2 innings, allowing just three runs while striking out 12 and walking four. Again, the strikeouts are a bit low, 5.49 per nine, though he’s kept his walk rate low enough to help mask that. He’s also allowed only two homers. This is important for Hughes, because he’s still recovering from his early season — I’m not even sure what to call it. But he had just a short rehab stint, and really had to spend his July starts getting back into shape. It doesn’t excuse his poor performances, but it does put them into better perspective.
Today he needs to build on what he’s been doing and continue to progress towards being the pitcher he was in the first half of 2010. It’s crucial for the Yankees now, as they need a few healthy and effective pitchers to help mask the foibles of Colon and the ineffectiveness of Burnett. But more importantly, they need Hughes to work his way into the playoff rotation. They need four men for that, and right now he’s on the brink. Making progress in his next few starts, which will include missing more bats, is crucial to the Yankees chances when they reach the postseason.
This brings up the all-important question: what will it take for the Yankees to fully trust Hughes? Clearly the results have been there lately, so that provides one level of assurance. But what else will it take? Will they be satisfied if he continues to produce results without missing bats? How many bad starts can he afford before they lose confidence? What will it take for him to solidify a spot in the postseason rotation? These are all big questions that he will have to answer down the stretch. It all starts today at 1 p.m.*
It’s kinda hard to believe that it’s already the last full week of August, but it is and the season is nearly at its end. September is right around the corner, meaning expanded rosters and non-stop talk about how the final month of the season is played with different rules than the first five. I really don’t have a problem with it, it gives non-contenders a chance to see what they have in the farm system and contenders more help for the stretch drive. As long as every team can do it, it’s fair in by book.
Based on what we’ve seen the last few years, the Yankees’ first wave of call-ups (the guys that come up right on the first) will be the bare essentials. Last year the Yanks recalled a pitcher (Jon Albaladejo), an outfielder (Greg Golson), and a catcher (Chad Moeller) on the 1st, though they also welcomed Lance Berkman back from the disabled list. Two years ago they summoned three arms (Mark Melancon, Mike Dunn, Edwar Ramirez), an infielder (Ramiro Pena), and a catcher (Frankie Cervelli). More pieces came later in the month, but that was it on the first day rosters expanded.
The guys that come up on September 1st are likely to be the guys we’ve seen already this season, meaning Lance Pendleton and Chris Dickerson. Brian Cashman‘s recent comments indicate that Raul Valdes and Aaron Laffey will also be called up, so that’s three arms right there. The fourth will be Hector Noesi, who I assume will go down for Freddy Garcia prior to Saturday’s doubleheader with the Orioles. Ramiro Pena may or may not be ready to return from his appendectomy, but if he’s not, then Brandon Laird is your extra infielder. Barring some funny business with the recently DFA’ed Gus Molina, Jesus Montero will be up as the third catcher as well. I’m guessing Justin Maxwell will be the 40-man roster casualty to accommodate Montero.
Triple-A Scranton is pretty much out of the playoff race barring a miracle comeback, and their season ends on September 5th. No postseason means more call-ups within the first week of the month, so expect to see Kevin Whelan and Greg Golson return. Steve Garrison is another possibility if Double-A Trenton fails to make the playoffs (which is very possible), though I think four lefties might be overkill. The wildcard is Andrew Brackman. He’s been awful this year but did get a call-up last year even though he didn’t pitch. I wouldn’t be surprised either way. Pena is going to return at some point, so all told that’s two infielders, two outfielders, a third catcher, and a bunch of arms. All except Montero are already on 40-man roster, so the moves are a piece of cake. The non-40-man guys are much more interesting though.
The most notable one (to me) is George Kontos, who’s having huge, strikeout heavy year in Triple-A, his first as a full-time reliever. Yeah, he’s made some spot starts and is pretty stretched out (good for 50-60 pitches or so at the moment), but then again all Triple-A arms are. Kontos will need to be added to the 40-man after the season to avoid exposure to the Rule 5 Draft, and he’s a definite add at this point. The Yankees got a little lucky when the Padres returned him last year, but I doubt they’ll roll the dice again. I have no idea what the 40-man roster move would be (Garrison? maybe even Pants Lendleton?), but I say give the kid a promotion and an inning or two next month, just to see what’s up.
The other Rule 5 guys are Austin Romine, David Phelps, and D.J. Mitchell, all of whom are locks to be added to the 40-man after the season. I don’t think any will be called up in September though, just because there aren’t that many innings to go around and those guys are better off heading to Instructional League. Plus the 40-man roster crunch will be very tight if Maxwell and Garrison are cut lose. Phelps is a prime candidate for the Arizona Fall League after his shoulder problem as well. Although they’re throwing bullpens down in Tampa, I would be stunned if either Damaso Marte or Pedro Feliciano returned next month.
So all told, I see 10-11 players being added to the roster at various points next month. The first wave of guys figures to be Laffey, Valdes, Pendleton, Montero, Laird, and Dickerson. Once the Triple-A season wraps up, I figure Golson and Whelan will come back to town, and Pena will rejoin whenever he’s healthy. Kontos is another late add, and who knows with Brackman. Like I said, I could see it either way. The important thing to remember is that these guys aren’t being brought up to put the Yankees over the top in the division race or anything, they’re just there to take the load off the regulars and keep the pitching staff fresh by soaking up garbage innings. September will be exciting because we’ll get to see some notable minor leaguers (Montero!), but the call-ups are always more exciting in our heads than in reality.