Yankees recall David Phelps, send Ryota Igarashi to Triple-A

The Yankees have recalled right-hander David Phelps from High-A Tampa, giving the club a long-man with Adam Warren scheduled to start tonight and Freddy Garcia slated for Monday. Ryota Igarashi was sent back to Triple-A in a corresponding move.

Phelps threw 55 pitches on Monday and should be good for 60-70 tonight if needed. The Yankees sent him down a few weeks ago to stretch him out so he could start, and I’m not a big fan of abandoning that plan with both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the shelf. Hopefully they can keep him stretched out to 50 pitches or so before sending him back down when Sabathia comes off the DL.

Thinking about minor league promotions

(Matt Burton/MiLB.com)

The minor league season is a little more than halfway complete, with the four full-season affiliates having already played at least 74 games out of their 144-game schedules. That means promotions should be upon us, and in fact this week’s Dellin Betances demotion might represent the start of a wave of player moves. Josh Norris recently spoke to someone who said to expect some movement in about a week, and last night the Yankees bumped righty reliever Nick Goody up from Short Season Staten Island to Low-A Charleston. He’ll be the first 2012 draftee to appear in a full-season league.

The Yankees have already made some very minor promotions, like Mikey O’Brien to Double-A Trenton and Chase Whitley to Triple-A Empire State, but the most notable moves should come very soon. Here’s a preview of what could be in store in the next week or two…

C Gary Sanchez to High-A Tampa
This one seems like a total no-brainer. Sanchez is repeating Low-A Charleston and doing so in a big way — .304/.357/.534 with 13 homers and 11 steals (!) in 277 plate appearances. He’s also played ten fewer games behind the plate than last year and has 16 fewer passed balls. A move up to Tampa would force Sanchez to split catcher and DH duties with J.R. Murphy, which they did for the first few weeks of last season. Murphy is having a great June — .316/.354/.494 with three homers — but his overall performance (.260/.324/.374) has been underwhelming. Splitting catching duties is not ideal, but Sanchez needs the promotion and it will help keep both guys from wearing down in August and September. As an added bonus, Francisco Arcia and his .305/.393/.495 batting line would get a chance as the full-time catcher for the River Dogs once Sanchez is promoted.

OF Tyler Austin to High-A Tampa, OF Rob Segedin to Double-A Trenton
Moving Austin up is another no-brainer. He’s been the best hitter in the farm system this year, with a .328/.408/.621 batting line to go with 14 homers and 17 steals in 292 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston. It’s pretty clear that he isn’t being challenged enough at the level, so move him on up. In a corresponding move to clear an outfield spot, Segedin can move up to Trenton. He’s hitting .291/.359/.446 in 312 plate appearances this year after finishing last season in Tampa. The Thunder outfield is pretty packed with the Almontes (Abe and Zoilo) and Melky Mesa, but Cody Johnson’s injury and Neil Medchill’s general non-prospectness free up the DH spot. Segedin can also play third on occasion.

RHRP Phil Wetherell to High-A Tampa, RHRP Mark Montgomery to Double-A Trenton
Wetherell’s numbers are not eye-popping — 5.05 ERA with 38 hits allowed in 35.2 innings — but he’s missing bats (9.3 K/9 and 23.3 K%), limiting walks (3.3 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%), and keeping the ball in the park (just one homer allowed). As a 22-year-old college reliever, there’s only so much to be gained from facing Low-A hitters. Montgomery, on the other hand, has the huge numbers — 1.54 ERA with 53 strikeouts (13.6 K/9 and 38.1 K%) and 12 walks (3.1 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%) in 35 innings — and the wipeout slider to back them up. A short reliever with a breaking ball that good should overwhelm Single-A competition like Montgomery has, and now it’s time to get him up to the next level.

(Beverly Schaefer/The Times of Trenton)

LHSP Vidal Nuno to Triple-A Empire State
The Betances demotion as well as the Adam Warren recall thinned out the Triple-A rotation in a hurry. They still have D.J. Mitchell, Ramon Ortiz, and John Maine in their regular spots and could pull Nelson Figueroa and Mike O’Connor out of the bullpen, but moving Nuno up should also be a serious consideration. He’s an older guy (25 next month) the Yankees plucked out of an independent league last season and he’s done nothing but dominate since joining the organization: 154 strikeouts (8.1 K/9 and 22.8 K%) and just 32 walks (1.7 BB/9 and 4.7 BB%) in 171 innings. Nuno has been stellar since moving into the Double-A rotation last month, allowing just four earned runs in 40.1 innings across seven starts. The Yankees lack left-handers in the system and moving Nuno up gives them a chance to evaluate him at the highest possible level.

* * *

Last month I wrote about the idea of promoting Mason Williams based mostly on his insane contact rates, though I could see it going either way. I would understand if they bumped him up to Tampa or kept him in Charleston, there are viable reasons to do both. Sanchez and Austin are the definite promotions though, ditto Montgomery. The four (really six) moves listed above seem like the most logical ones to make this July.

The RAB Radio Show: June 29th, 2012

Heartbreaking loss last night, but overall it was a good week for the Yankees. Since we last broadcast they went 5-2, with one of the losses coming in the ninth. In the other they had the go-ahead run on base in the ninth.

Clearly we’re talking about the rotation issues and what they mean for the immediate future. It’s Garcia and Warren for now, but expect to see a few changes between now and the end of July. Tis the season.

We’re onto some reader questions, and then an outlook for the next week, which nearly takes us to the All-Star break.

Podcast run time 48:24

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow062912.mp3]

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

Adam Warren’s Big Chance

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Right-hander Adam Warren will make his big league debut against the White Sox tonight, but he’s really Plan C for this start. Obviously the Yankees would prefer CC Sabathia to be healthy and able to make his regular turn, but when he hit the DL the plan was to pull Freddy Garcia out of the bullpen and let him start. When Garcia was needed in long relief of Andy Pettitte on Wednesday, the Bombers had little choice but to give the ball to Warren on regular rest.

The team’s fourth round pick back in 2009, the 24-year-old former North Carolina Tar Heel has steadily climbed the minor league ladder and came into this season as the ninth best prospect in the organization (in my opinion). Warren’s performance in Triple-A since the start of last season hasn’t been anything special — 3.70 ERA (3.84 FIP), 6.51 K/9 (16.6 K%), 3.02 BB/9 (7.8 BB%), and 41.6% grounders in 238.2 IP — but his last six starts have been pretty strong. He’s allowed zero runs in three of the six starts and two earned runs in another to go with a 24/11 K/BB in 37.1 IP. Warren thrice complete seven innings of work during the stretch.

“[Warren] came out with a lot of intensity,” said Triple-A Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor to Mark Hale, referring to his team’s loss to Warren this past Sunday. “Just the way he went about it. I was very impressed with that. He attacked us.”

When I wrote my Prospect Profile prior to 2010, I mentioned that Warren saw his velocity jump into the mid-90s after turning pro and that his best secondary pitch was a changeup. More than two years have passed though, so that info is a bit outdated. Warren now sits in the 89-93 range with his fastball and will still bump 95 on occasion, but his top offspeed pitch has become his slider according to Baseball America and their 2012 Prospect Handbook. Warren’s curveball and changeup lag behind the fastball-slider combination, but he will use four pitches. It’s a classic back-end starter repertoire, which has been his profile since his days at Chapel Hill.

The Yankees are probably hoping to get six solid innings out of Warren tonight, modest expectations for a kid making his big league debut. This is obviously a massive opportunity for him as he has a chance to pitch his way into the long-term mix with Pettitte shelved until September. Sabathia is scheduled to come back immediately after the All-Star break, but Warren can’t look at this as “I just have to out-pitch Garcia to keep the job.” The Yankees have D.J. Mitchell waiting in Triple-A and David Phelps getting stretched back out in High-A, and they won’t hesitate to stick one of them in the rotation if Warren isn’t getting the job done.

Competition is a great thing, especially when you’re talking about young players. These guys theoretically push each other to be better, and the odds are in favor of at least one of them proving to be a serviceable starter for the next two months. That’s the great thing about depth, you don’t have to rely on one guy. Whoever is the best out of Warren, Phelps, and Mitchell will get the chance to replace Pettitte and establish himself as a long-term pitching option, and Warren is getting the first chance simply because he lines up perfectly to pitch tonight. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.

Mailbag: Athletics, Ortiz, Youkilis, Lowrie, Bourn

Five questions this week and three of them involve Red Sox players, either current or former. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Travis asks: If Oakland is out of the running, which they may be now, would it be smart to look at possible moves for a NYY-OAK trade? Josh Reddick and Kurt Suzuki could be interesting for NY going forward.

Reddick, 25, is having a real big year (136 wRC+ and 17 homers) in Oakland though he has slowed down a bit in recent weeks. He’s always had power and so far he’s handled left-handers fine (136 wRC+), but it’s going to take an awful lot more than 98 plate appearances for him to prove that a career-long platoon issue is behind him. Obviously the Yankees need a young corner outfielder long-term so they should have interest in Reddick, but he’s not without his faults (he doesn’t walk, hasn’t hit lefties, and has a lengthy injury history). Billy Beane always seems to ask for way too much for his guys and I suspect this would be no different.

Suzuki, on the other hand, is just awful. The 28-year-old has hit .234/.292/.353 in nearly 1,300 plate appearances over the last three seasons and is down to .210/.249/.260 this year. The Athletics recently called up Derek Norris and he’s basically taken over as the starter even though Suzuki is owed more than $8M through the end of next season. Perhaps he’s just worn down after playing so many games behind the plate at such a young age — started 516 of 648 games from 2008-2011 (79.9%) — and his body just can’t handle it. Suzuki is owed way too much money and is just so impossibly bad at the plate that I don’t want him anywhere near the Yankees. I’d rather go with Frankie Cervelli and Chris Stewart next year if Russell Martin walks. Seriously.

Preston asks: What should the Yankees do at DH next season? David Ortiz seems like an obvious target, although that would clog up the DH spot. Another target might be Kevin Youkilis; he might be in line for a bounce back year and he could back up the corner infields keeping the DH a little bit more flexible.

Youkilis can do all of that and he’d be perfectly fine in that role. The only problem is that some team somewhere is going to offer him a starting job. He’s not going to come to New York to be a backup or even a half-time player when another team would pay him more money to start. Youkilis doesn’t want to stick it to the Red Sox, he doesn’t hold enough of a grudge to take a discount — both in salary and playing time — to wear pinstripes. It’s not gonna happen.

The issue with Ortiz is clogging up the DH spot that the Yankees use to rotate their regulars. With Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter getting even older, it’s that much more important to give them regular rest. Raul Ibanez is a guy you could sit for those two no problem, but Ortiz? I doubt it. He sure would look great in pinstripes and with that short porch, but I would be really surprised if the Yankees spent that much money on a player who is a true DH.

Daniel asks: This may be a bit off the wall, but what about going after Jed Lowrie? He’s hit very well since leaving Boston, and could be used as a super-sub with an eye towards taking over for Jeter in a few years.

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

Lowrie is actually second among all shortstops in fWAR this season thanks to his 14 homers and 132 wRC+. The Astros have used him at shortstop exclusively but he has experience at all four infield spots. As a switch-hitter with that kind of versatility, he’s an ideal bench target. The only problem is that he’s actually a starter and you’re going to have to pay a starter’s price to acquire him. Houston isn’t trading a bench player, they’re trading a legitimate starting shortstop — with two years of team control remaining — who the Yankees would choose to use as a bench player. That’s not the Astros problem.

Starting shortstops don’t come cheap, especially really good ones. Lowrie has slowed down in recent weeks and he is really injury prone — hasn’t had 500 total plate appearances in a season since 2008 — but he’s definitely a useful player, especially when batting against lefties. I have a hard time thinking that trading several prospects for a would-be bench player would be a net upgrade for the Yankees.

Mark asks: Should the Yanks consider pursuing Michael Bourn this off-season assuming they cannot come to terms with Nick Swisher?

I don’t think so. Bourn is really good, but he’s likely to command a larger contract that Swisher because he’s a better player even though they have very different styles. He does it with speed and defense while Swisher gets on-base and hits the ball over the fence. Plus playing two no-power guys in Bourn and Brett Gardner in the same outfield is really tough to do. They have to replace Swisher with someone capable of hitting the hitting for power; adding another leadoff type to a lineup that already has two of them isn’t the answer. That said, Bourn’s contract should make him a non-option for New York anyway.

Shai asks: In 1996, Mariano Duncan hit .340 and as a kid I felt that it was a weak .340, like he really wasn’t as good (in 1996) as that number. Did he have a high BABIP that year etc?

Andy Fox started nearly 40 games at second base in 1996, though Duncan was the everyday guy at that position for the most part. He hit .340/.352/.500 with eight homers that year, easily the best season of his career at the plate. This is a guy with a career 87 wRC+ suddenly posting a 113 one year. Like I always say, if you want to win a championship (in any sport), you need to get big contributions from unexpected placed. Duncan’s production that season was quite unexpected.

Anyway, that gaudy batting line was propped up by a .400 BABIP (.313 career), the fourth highest single-season BABIP of the last 25 years (min. 400 PA). Duncan didn’t walk at all (nine walks in 417 PA and one of them was intentional) and most of his power came in the form of doubles (34 two-baggers, three triples, eight homers). Does that qualify as an empty .340? Yeah I think so. I can’t imagine someone hitting for that high an average without getting on base 36% of the time, it seems impossible to do. That said, .340 is .340, and it helped the Yankees win the World Series.

Yankees grab defeat from jaws of victory in loss to White Sox

Blowing leads in the ninth inning is never a fun way to lose a game, especially when a pitcher throws away what would have been a double play ball. What is it with pitchers and throwing to second? They’re usually okay when going to first but I feel like the success rate when they go to second is like, 50%. Maybe less. Anyway, the five-game winning streak is over.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Mix & Matched

I didn’t particularly care for Joe Girardi‘s explanation about why David Robertson did not start the ninth inning — he was trying to stay away from him as long as possible after he pitched on Wednesday — but the bottom line is that Clay Rapada got a tailor made 1-6-3 double play ball and he threw it into center field. The pitching part of Girardi’s mixing and matching worked fine there, but the fielding part failed. It happens. It’s annoying, but what can you do.

Anyway, Robertson ended up recording three outs and throwing 15 pitches anyway, but not before he missed out and over the plate with a fastball that Dayan Viciedo hit for a go-ahead three-run homer. Girardi’s strength as a manager is his bullpen management, but there were just some weird decisions made in this one. If Robertson was available then use him to start the inning so he has a clean slate. He’s been off the DL for two weeks now, if they still have reservations about using him on back-to-back days then they should probably ask themselves if they rushed him back before he was ready.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Hard Contact

Ivan Nova‘s pitching line — 7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 6/9 GB/FB — looks an awful lot better than how he actually pitched. The White Sox made a ton of hard contact against him, especially early in the game. Nova escaped a first and third with no outs situation in the fourth because A.J. Pierzynski scorched a line drive right at Robinson Cano for a double play, Mark Teixeira made a diving stop to end the third, and Derek Jeter made a nice leaping catch in the fifth. If you watched the game on television, you saw an awful lot of 14 because Curtis Granderson had his back turned and was running down balls hit to deep center all night.

That said, sometimes a starting pitcher won’t have his best stuff and he has to fight through it. This was one of those games for Nova and he got some serious help from his defense. You need that sometimes during a 162-game season. Outside of Alejandro De Aza, who went 4-for-4 with a solo homer off Nova, Ivan kept the Yankees in the game and made pitches when he had too. Not everything needs to be micro-analyzed, Nova got lucky a number of times and that’s that.

Leftovers

Almost. (AP/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees scored their first two runs on back-to-back doubles by Alex Rodriguez and Cano in the fifth before Teixeira plated an insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth. It wasn’t enough insurance, unfortunately. Scoring two runs in seven innings off some guy named Dylan Axelrod is quite annoying.

The top five hitters in the lineup went a combined 6-for-20 with three doubles and a homer while the other four hitters mustered just two singles and two walks in 16 trips to the plate. Granderson stole a base early in the game but I through Dewayne Wise waited to long to steal in the ninth. When you lead off the inning with a single down a run, you have to get to second as soon as possible so everyone else has as many chances to drive you in as possible.

Robertson and Rapada really blew it in the ninth, but Boone Logan — three-pitch strikeout of Adam Dunn — and Cody Eppley — four-pitch strikeout of Paul Konerko — really took care of business with the tying run in scoring position in the eighth. Eppley did allow a leadoff single to Alex Rios in the ninth, but Rapada muffed the double play ball.

The video isn’t up on MLB.com yet, but the Yankees visited a nursing home with Glamour Gals for Thursday’s HOPE Week event. Glamour Gals is an organization of volunteers who visit and spend time with seniors in nursing homes, building relationships with people who are easily neglected. Here’s the HOPE Week video archive, I’m sure the clip will be posted sometime overnight.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. The good news is that every AL East team other than the Red Sox lost on Thursday, so the Yankees didn’t see their lead in the division shrink. Boston is playing the Mariners out on the West Coast and is six back in the loss column anyway.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Game two of this four-game set will feature two pitchers who spent last season in the Yankees’ farm system. Adam Warren will make his big league debut for New York against the left-handed Jose Quintana, who signed with the ChiSox as a minor league free agent this past offseason. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to head up to the Stadium on Friday night.