The implications of Cervelli’s latest concussion

(Steve Ruark/Getty Images)

Thanks to various injuries, the Yankees used four different catchers in a span of 24 hours this weekend. On Saturday night, it was Russell Martin starting before Jorge Posada came in as an injury replacement. Sunday afternoon it was Jesus Montero with the starting assignment and Austin Romine doing the defensive replacement thing. Four catchers in two days, and not a single one of them was Frankie Cervelli.

The Yankees regular backup backstop is in New York, where tests confirmed a concussion as the result of a pair of home plate collisions on Thursday. The first collision with Nick Markakis was clearly the more devastating of the two; he led with the shoulder and caught Frankie right in the head. The picture above tells the entire story. Brain injuries and concussions are no joke, especially when we’re talking about multiple occurrences. Cervelli had at least three concussions from 2005-2010, the last one coming when he was hit in the head by pitch in Spring Training last season. This latest incident makes it at least four concussions in seven seasons.

With just 16 games left in the season, there’s a non-zero chance that we won’t see Frankie again until 2012. Head injuries are serious business and the Yankees will take every precaution, just like they have with Cervelli (and Posada) in the past. That leaves the team in a little bit of a bind, because they don’t have an obvious backup catcher to replace the King of the Fist Pumps. Posada caught his first game in almost a year this weekend, and it was only because it was an emergency. Montero was pulled for a defensive replacement, not exactly a ringing endorsement of his catching skills. Romine has fewer than 50 innings of catching experience above Double-A. None are ideal fits.

Thankfully, the schedule kinda helps the Yankees here, because they have such a big lead on a postseason spot and only a handful of games left to play. Montero and Romine can split catching duties for the next week or two and it won’t be that big of a deal, assuming Martin makes it back from his bruised thumb in a somewhat timely fashion. The Yankees shouldn’t rush him back, obviously, but as far as we know, it’s not anything more serious than a bruise and a cracked nail. Going into the postseason, you’d count on Martin catching every inning of every game, no doubt about it. There’s fewer off days this year but still enough to make catching everyday possible. That leaves Cervelli’s now vacant roster spot up in the air.

Barring something unforeseen, Montero figures to make the postseason roster at this point. He’d step right into Frankie’s roster spot, meaning that Cervelli’s latest concussion may have saved Posada’s playoff job. For all intents and purposes, the Yankees have been phasing Jorge out in the second half, but he could still serve as a pinch-hitter against right-handers and an emergency catcher in October. Montero would be the other emergency catcher, even if means losing the DH in a given game. I don’t think it’s out of the question that the Yankees could go into the postseason without a true backup catcher on the roster, which would be kinda neat and unconventional.

The x-factor here is Joe Girardi, who seems to love having a defense-first backup catcher (not that Cervelli was a Gold Glover back there). That could open the door for Romine to win a spot on the postseason bench, meaning the Yankees may end up taking only one of Montero or Posada. That is unless they decide against a pinch-running specialist like Chris Dickerson or Greg Golson. Or perhaps they go with a ten-man pitching staff, which would be a minor miracle. There’s a lot of variables in play here, and there are 16 games left to sort them all out. The key is Martin, if that thumb heals well and he can catch a full workload in October, it opens a lot of roster construction doors for the postseason.

Yanks increase division lead with win over M’s

Nothing gets the bitter taste of a four-game losing streak out of your mouth like a winning streak, and the Yankees are officially on a winning streak after topping the Mariners on Monday. Sure, it’s only a little two-gamer, but a winning streak is a winning streak.

Next time you wonder why a random offseason transaction was made, this is why. Depth matters. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Getting To The King

Coming into this game, the Yankees had scored a total of eight runs in their last 49 innings against Felix Hernandez. They scored six runs in six innings off him tonight. The driving force behind the offense? How about Chris Dickerson. In his third big league start of the season, Dickerson singled Brett Gardner to third before he came around to score on Derek Jeter‘s groundout, then an inning later he capped killed a five-run rally with a long two-run homer to right. It was no cheapie, there was no doubt it was gone, and it even looked like it had a chance at the second deck. Chris Dickerson, of course.

Before that, the Yankees scored three runs on a Mark Teixeira solo homer, an Eric Chavez sacrifice fly, and a Gardner double. At one point between the third and fourth innings, the Yankees had seven hits in the span of eleven batters (four extra base hits) against Felix. Two of the four outs scored runs as well. We saw some signs of life from the offense on Sunday, and the bats continued to wake up against arguably the best pitcher in the world. Sometimes it takes a bit piece like Dickerson having a huge game off the bench to get things going, baseball’s weird like that. Six runs and nine hits off Hernandez is pretty much the best of best case scenarios.

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Typical Phil

It was a pretty typical start for Phil Hughes, meaning quite a bit of baserunners (eight), a ton of foul balls (25 out of 99 pitches) … and a quality start. Believe it or not, seven of his eleven starts since coming off the DL have qualified for the ol’ quality start, meaning six innings or more and three runs or less. Don’t ask me how, but it’s true. Quality starts aren’t a good predictor of future success, but they are games the Yankees can win, I know that much. Chances are Phil’s line would look quite a bit worse against a better team, but I feel like I say that after each one of his starts.

All the stuff we’ve talked about all season still stands, Hughes needs to get his command right, he needs to be more efficient, and he needs to fully incorporate a third pitch. A show-me changeup won’t cut it. It did tonight, luckily.

Leftovers

The Yankees really blew things open in the seventh, when Robinson Cano shot an opposite field double over the left fielder’s head with the bases loaded. It came on the tenth pitch of the at-bat, after he fouled off balls four, five, six, and seven. You know Robbie though, it just works. The man is hitting .471/.429/1.235* this season with the bases loaded. That’ll work.

* Since I know several of you will ask, his OBP is lower than his AVG because of sacrifice flies. They count as plate appearances (and towards OBP) but not at-bats (and towards AVG). One of baseball’s many weird statistical quirks.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

In his first career start behind the plate, Austin Romine picked up his first career base hit, a legitimate line drove single to right off Danny Cortes. There’s a pretty decent chance that that will be the last first-hit ball Gene Monahan ever marks up. The longtime trainer is retiring after the season, and every other non-pitcher on the active roster has already picked up their first hit.

As for the rest of the offense … Jeter had one hit, Curtis Granderson had two hits (breaking out of his slump?), Tex had a single to go with the homer (breaking out of his slump?), Cano had three hits, Swisher one hit, Gardner two hits (breaking out of his slump?), Dickerson the two hits, and Romine the one hit. The Yankees did not draw a single walk, only the fourth time they’ve done that in 146 games this season. Boston has done it three times, the only club with fewer no walk games.

After teasing us by warming up both Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances, Joe Girardi went with Scott Proctor (two runs in two innings) and Luis Ayala (one inning) to run out the clock after Hughes exited. I don’t even know why they bother calling these kids up, Girardi never uses them. Did the same thing last year. They’re better off keeping them in the minors and saving the service time. Seriously. I suppose the good news is that Boone Logan warmed up at one point, so his dead arm must be a thing of the past.

Also, where were the replacements once the score got out of hand? I mean, Swisher’s been battling elbow tendinitis, couldn’t he have gotten a few innings off with an eight (eventually six) run lead? Granderson could use some time off his feet, no? Nothing wrong with giving Jeter a few innings off, right? Oh well, what’s done is done.

The Rays won again, this time beating the Orioles. They picked up half-a-game on the idle Red Sox, and are now just three back of Boston for the wildcard. The Yankees remain seven games up on Tampa for the wildcard, and they moved to four games ahead of the Sox for the AL East lead. That’s the largest lead they’ve had all season. If they go 8-8 in their final 16 games, Boston has to go 12-4 to tie (the Sox would win the division in that scenario by virtue of winning the season series). The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is just ten.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stuff, and ESPN the updated standings.

Up Next

Game two of this three-game series will be played on Tuesday night, when A.J. Burnett gives it a go against the lefty Charlie Furbush.

SI blows out Auburn in Game One of NYPL Finals

Short Season Staten Island (9-2 win over Auburn) SI leads the best-of-three Championship Series one game to none … game two is tomorrow in Staten Island
Mason Williams, CF: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – led the game off with a double, then came around to score on a ground ball and a sac fly
Cito Culver, SS: 1 for 6, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
Ben Gamel, RF: 1 for 3, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Tyler Austin, 3B: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 E (fielding)
Reymond Nunez, 1B: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
Casey Stevenson, DH: 3 for 5, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 K – broke it open with an RBI single in the ninth
Zach Wilson, LF: 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Angelo Gumbs, 2B: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 4 K – gave them a 2-1 lead with a solo homer in the fifth
Nick McCoy, C: 1 for 3, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K
Taylor Morton, RHP: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 3-6 GB/FB, 1 E (pickoff) – not the best Game One start, but it could have been worse
Wilton Rodriguez, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-0 GB/FB – stranded the two runners he inherited from Morton
Zach Arneson, RHP: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1-0 GB/FB
Phil Wetherell, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB
Branden Pinder, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – came out after they broke it open in the ninth, save some of those bullets for tomorrow
Ben Paullus, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K – nice and FIPy

Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, and Low-A Charleston all failed to qualify to the postseason. The Rookie GCL Yankees have already won their league title.

Game 146: Thrown to the wolves

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A week and a half ago, Jesus Montero made his big league debut. The Yankees didn’t exactly baby him; his first game was in Fenway Park with Jon Lester on the bump. Montero responded by scoring the game-winning run, and he’s gone on to play well in his limited action. Although we saw Austin Romine catch yesterday, he gets his first career start tonight. His assignment? Felix Hernandez, in a park that is unkind to right-handed hitters like himself. Welcome to the big leagues kid, here’s Felix. Fun fun fun. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, 1B – tested out his elbow before the game
Eric Chavez, 3B
Brett Gardner, LF
Chris Dickerson, RF
Austin Romine

Phil Hughes, RHP

The game is scheduled to start a little after 10pm ET, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

IFA: Yankees sign Alvaro Noriega for $175k

Via the Dominican Prospect League, the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Colombia catcher Alvaro Noriega for $175k. He was supposedly the best catching prospect in the league this season, showing “major improvement in blocking, receiving and throwing accuracy behind the dish. ” At the plate, the 6-foot-1, 180 pounder is said to make good contact from gap-to-gap with occasional power. The Yankees have been hoarding catching prospects for years now, which isn’t a bad thing given the position scarcity.

Open Thread: Looking back at 1998

(Photo Credit: SF Weekly)

The Yankees have had a very successful season so far, sporting the second best record in baseball at 88-57. One of my favorite things to do each year is compare the current team’s progress to the 1998 Yankees at the same point of the season. It’s always fun to see that no matter how good you think the Yankees are at any given moment, the 1998 squad will always be better. For example, after 145 games in ’98, the same number they’ve played so far this year, the Yanks were 103-42. If you took that team and stuck them in the AL East right now, the 2011 Yankees would be 15 games out. Fifteen! The 1998 Red Sox went 92-70, a great season, but they finished 22 (!!!) games out of first place. That blows my mind.

Here’s the Baseball-Reference page for the 1998 Yankees. It always neat to see that aside from Bernie Williams, no one really had a monster season. Just about everyone was solidly above-average and they had depth, 1-9 in the order and 1-5 in the rotation. They could play any kind of game too, a slugfest, a pitchers duel, a bullpen battle, that team could do it all, and quite often they did. We’re never going to see another team like that, but I’m glad I got to see them.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night, as we wait for the game to start a little after 10pm ET. The Mets are playing the Nationals (Dickey vs. Detwiler), and the Monday Night Football doubleheader has the Patriots at the Dolphins (7pm ET) and the Raiders at the Broncos (10pm ET). The game thread will be along in a little while, but talk about whatever you want here.

David Robertson named finalist for Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award

Via the man himself, David Robertson has been named a finalist for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, which is given annually “for outstanding on-field performance and off-field contributions to [the player’s] community and is one of the awards given during the Players Choice Awards banquet annually.” Robertson was elected as one of six finalists (one per division) for his work with High Socks For Hope, helping those effected by tornadoes in his hometown of Tuscaloosa.

The winner will be announced after the season. Curtis Granderson won the award in 2009, when he was with the Tigers.