Christian sets a record among several pro debuts

Fourth rounder Mason Williams, who received the largest signing bonus given out by the Yankees this year, will make his pro debut with the GCL Yanks tomorrow. Meanwhile, 15-year-old righty Luis Heredia signed with the Pirates for big bucks, so the Yanks lost out on him. Oh well, not the end of the world. Remember Michael Ynoa?

Oh, and both Corban Joseph and Austin Romine are headed to the Arizona Fall League.

  • Triple-A Scranton won. Jorge Vazquez, Brandon Laird, and Colin Curtis each doubled, but the really star of he offense was Chad Huffman. Dude picked up three hits including a homer. David Phelps was rather ordinary, allowing seven hits and five runs in six innings of work.
  • Double-A Trenton won. Justin Christian reached base three times and stole three bases, setting the franchise’s all time record with his 103rd steal. Congrats to him. Dan Brewer and Austin Romine went hitless in a combined eight at-bats, but both Marcos Vechionacci and Luis Nunez went deep. D.J. Mitchell continued his strong pitching, allowing two runs while striking out a half-dozen in 6.1 IP.
  • High-A Tampa won. Jose Pirela, the man with three total homeruns since 2007, went deep twice in this one. What’s that thing they always say? Bradley Suttle, Zoilo Almonte, and Myron Leslie also went yard. Dellin Betances struck out six in just four innings, and was sitting 94-95.
  • Low-A Charleston lost. Slade Heathcott singled once, J.R. Murphy twice. And that’s all the team got on offense. Not exciting on the pitching side, though Jose Quintana is up from the GCL and started.
  • Short Season Staten Island lost. Casey Stevenson doubled and homered. Cito Culver did not play, but Rob Segedin picked up a pair of hits including a double. Gary Sanchez DH’d and singled in five at-bats. 12th rounder Dan Burawa made his pro debut, walking one in an otherwise scoreless inning.
  • Rookie GCL Yanks won. Second rounder Angelo Gumbs made his pro debut at shortstop and as a leadoff hitter, going hitless in three at-bats with a strikeout. There are questions about his ability to play short long-term, but it’s worth trying. Tenth rounder Ben Gamel also made his pro debut, picking up a single in three trips to the plate while playing right. Ramon Flores had three hits while Fu-Lin Kuo and Anderson Feliz each went deep. Some guy named George Isabel, a 6-foot-6 20-year-old righty from NYC made his pro debut with a scoreless inning. He must have signed as an undrafted free agent.

Open Thread: Back in the saddle again

Now, that’s more like. Powered by a nine-run sixth innings, the Yankees confidently downed the Tigers this afternoon 11-5 to win their first series since downing Cleveland in late July. At the least, the Bombers will maintain their share of first place and could move into sole possession of the AL East lead if the Rays lose against the A’s tonight.

We’ll have more on the game later tonight, but for now, let’s bask in the glow of an offensive explosion. Before we jump into the fun of the Open Thread, I’d like to take care of a few housekeeping items. First, please note the addition to the commenting guidelines. We are respectfully requesting that game threads and open threads remain somewhat focused on baseball and that political discussion of the kind that inspires rancorous and often bitter debate on the Internet remain in the Off Topic Thread.

Second, we had a busy news day as the Yanks were going about their business this afternoon. Roger Clemens is facing an indictment alleging that he perjured himself when he testified to Congress in 2008 on his use of PEDs. On the field, Alfredo Aceves is almost ready to return to the Bronx.

Finally, allow me to plug our social networking. You can follow River Ave. Blues and its three writers on Twitter at the following accounts: @RiverAveBlues, @bkabak, @joepawl and @mikeaxisa. Find us also on Facebook where we send photos, videos and pithy Yankee-related status messages to your News Feed.

Das it. The Red Sox, 9-0 against Los Angeles this year, play the Angels, and the game should air on MLB Network this evening. The alternate in some areas is the Phillies/Giants NL Wild Card showdown. San Francisco starters haven’t won a game in 15 tries. The Patriots and Falcons square off in some pre-season football action at 8 p.m. on FOX; the Rays play the A’s tonight at 10:10 p.m.; and of course, Jersey Shore, the pinnacle of American culture, is new this evening as well.

The photo of Derek Jeter awkwardly congratulating Robinson Cano on the latter’s two-run home run comes to us via the Kathy Willens of the Associated Press.

Aceves not yet ready to rejoin the Yankees

Shortly before the game, work leaked out that Alfredo Aceves was alive and well and in the Yankee clubhouse. I had fleeting thoughts that he would be activated after a lengthy stint on the DL due to back problems, and we would be saved more appearances by Chad Gaudin (or Sergio Mitre). The Yankees, however, have different plans. As MLB.com’s Tim Britton reported, Brian Cashman is not quite ready to activate Aceves yet, and the team hopes to have him make at least one more rehab start and possibly two. “He’s a guy that’s just knocking out the rust,” Cashman said before the game. “The belief is he’d benefit and therefore we’d benefit from him getting a few more outings.”

So far, in 5 innings for AAA Scranton and AA Trenton, Aceves, who may still need surgery this winter, has looked sharp. He’s allowed a run on one hit while striking out six. Although Aceves may be ready to go, the Yankees are probably trying to stretch out his rehab to maintain some roster flexibility. By holding him back until September 1, the Yankees can activate Aceves without having to sacrifice Gaudin’s or Mitre’s spot on the Major League. Since Aceves’ back appears to be a ticking time bomb, keeping those two sacrificial lambs around gives the Yanks some depth during the pennant drive.

Roger Clemens under indictment perjury

Clemens testifies in front of Congress on February 13, 2008. The indictment stems from his testimony that day. Credit: AP Photo, Pablo Martinez

Update (5:25 p.m.): A federal grand jury has filed an indictment against former Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens facing a federal indictment for perjury in connection with his 2008 testiomy to the U.S. Senate. The 19-page indictment, unveiled today, charges the disgraced hurler with three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury. While the Department of Justice will not seek to arrest Clemens, the Rocket’s legal troubles are just beginning.

Michael S. Schmidt of The Times has more details on the incidents out of which the indictment arises:

Clemens’s allegedly false testimony came in a public hearing in which Clemens and his former trainer Brian McNamee, testifying under oath, directly contradicted each other about whether Clemens had used the banned substances.

“Americans have a right to expect that witnesses who testify under oath before Congress will tell the truth,” United States Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement announcing the indictment. “Our government can not function if witnesses are not held accountable for false statements made before Congress. Today the message is clear: if a witness makes a choice to ignore his or her obligation to testify honestly, there will be consequences.”

The congressional hearing at the heart of the indictment came just two months after McNamee first tied Clemens to the use of the substances in George J. Mitchell’s report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. After Mitchell released the report, Clemens claimed McNamee made up the allegations.

Clemens joins Barry Bonds as the two most prominent former players to face perjury charges in connection with statements concerning PED use. Bonds is scheduled to go to trial in March, and the two will appear together on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot.

The Feds, as Schmidt reports, investigated Clemens after Congressional leaders raised concerns over his testimony. Still, there are elements of a witch hunt here as Congress and the Justice Department have gone after only the two biggest names to be accused of drug use. If convicted, Clemens could face a sentence of 15-21 months, but my guess is that this case doesn’t get that far. Because Clemens allegedly never failed a drug test, the government’s evidence rests on the testimony of Brian McNamee, a former Clemens confidante who turned informant to avoid federal drug charges. McNamee claims to have old syringes that reportedly tested positive for both steroids and Clemens’ DNA.

The Rocket this afternoon issued a statement via Twitter denying the charges. “I never took HGH or Steroids,” he said. “And I did not lie to Congress. I look forward to challenging the Governments accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. I am happy to finally have my day in court.”

Click through for an embedded copy of the indictment, courtesy of Maury Brown’s Biz of Baseball. The unnamed Strength Coach #1 is widely believed to be Brian McNamee. [Read more…]

Game 121: Three out of four is always nice

It’s a getaway day for the visiting team, which means we’ll play a matinee. I suppose this means lots of Gameday and radio followers. That’s always fun.

There’s not much to say before this one that we haven’t already said. Eduardo Nunez is with the team, replacing the injured Lance Berkman. A-Rod remains on the shelf, though the move to bring up Nunez, I would think, means he’ll be back and at DH in a day or so.

Lineup:

1. Brett Gardner, LF — seems he’s comfortable in this spot
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Robinson Cano, 2B
5. Nick Swisher, RF
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Austin Kearns, DH
9. Ramiro Pena, 3B

And on the mound, number sixty-five, Phil Hughes.

Eduardo Nunez is in New York

Chad Jennings hit us with a surprise this morning: Eduardo Nunez is in the clubhouse. That undoubtedly means he’ll be activated before the game. That brings into question the corresponding roster move. By all appearances Lance Berkman is headed to the disabled list. He hasn’t played since he hurt his ankle on Sunday, and his name is not listed on the lineup card as a bench player. Nunez gives the Yanks a bit more flexibility in the infield as A-Rod heals.

The good news, then, is that it’s not A-Rod to the DL. While I don’t think that putting A-Rod on the shelf for two weeks would be the worst thing, a DL move itself would be troubling considering the circumstances. At first his calf injury was not serious and that no tests were scheduled. No tests scheduled, of course, means tests were scheduled. That revealed a Grade 1 strain, which is not serious. But if they placed him on the DL it would indicate that A-Rod’s injury is a bit more severe than they’ve let on.

Berkman’s DL trip will be retroactive to Monday, so he’ll be eligible to come off the DL just as rosters expand. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yanks give him the extra two days and activate him on the first.

With Pettitte out until Sept., a pitching problem

Andy Pettitte, 11-2 on the season with a 2.88 ERA in 18 starts, last pitched on July 18 after ten days of rest due to the All Star break. During that game against the Rays, Pettitte strained his groin, and although the team had hoped he would return within six weeks, the southpaw has been slow to heal. After a setback last week, the Yankees do not expect Pettitte to return until early September, and the Yanks have the makings of a pitching problem.

Pettitte and the Yanks unveiled the bad news about Andy’s groin last night. The lefty had gone for an MRI Tuesday night as he still felt pain in his legs, and the results were discouraging. The imaging scan revealed what the Yanks called a “small, persistent strain of the left groin, and Pettitte will rest for a week. Once he ramps up his rehab again, he’ll need to make two Minor League starts, and the Yankees do not see him returning until around September 10. “It’s going to end up, right now, at least seven weeks, and that’s longer than we anticipated,” Joe Girardi said to reporters.

Pettitte worries that he, at age 38, may not pitch again, but he seems to blame himself for the extended absence. He says he pushed too hard early on to get back into pitching shape. “To say I’m frustrated, that’s an understatement,” Pettitte said. “I’m trying to stay as positive as I can, but I want to pitch. I just want to get back and I want to pitch and I want to be healthy.”

The Yankees know that readying Pettitte for the playoffs is their primary concern, but getting there might become an issue. The club is locked in a battle with the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL East while the Red Sox just won’t die. Boston is sitting 5.5 games out of first — six on the loss side — with 12 games left against the Rays and Yankees. The Bombers have their work cut out for them, but do they have the pitching pieces they need?

After last night’s game, Dustin Moseley’s immediate role on the team is hazy at best. He threw what I would call an adequate five innings against the Detroit Tigers. I’m willing to forgive him the two home runs to Miguel Cabrera, but after a reasonably strong start, Moseley faded by the fifth. He threw a bunch of change-ups, sinkers and curveballs, but with only a four-mile-per-hour separation between the change and fastball. He hit 90 only a few times and topped it just once. His stuff is mediocre at best.

For Moseley, his biggest problem is that he doesn’t miss bats. Tigers’ hitters swung and missed at just eight of his 84 pitches last night, and despite a 3-2 record, he has an ERA of 4.76 and an unimpressive 19:14 K:BB ratio in 39.2 innings. He’s also allowed a whopping nine home runs and now has a FIP of 6.15. I know he pitched a gem against the Red Sox, but would anyone really trust him in a key spot right now?

And of course the Bombers still have their Phil Hughes problem. The youngster takes the mound this afternoon with 134.2 innings under his belt and a season limit believed to be around 175. As Larry Brooks of The Post notes, Pettitte’s injury is impinging on the Yanks’ plans for Hughes. The team doesn’t expect to pull Hughes from the rotation and certainly won’t do so with Pettitte out. But they could be risking a big jump in Phil’s innings if the Red Sox continue to put pressure on the AL East leaders and Pettitte’s injury lingers.

At this point in the season, the Yankees have few options. Shadowing Moseley at AAA, Ivan Nova gave up a run on five hits in 6.2 innings. He struck out seven but walked four, and with a 12-3 ERA with a 2.86 ERA, he could be in line for a few Bronx starts. His Minor League equivalences before last night show a FIP of 4.78 and an unimpressive 1.6 K:BB rate.

For now, then, the Yanks will move ahead with a hole in their rotation. They’re probably rely on the bullpen to get 12 outs if Phil Hughes is pitching in some blowouts, and they’re cross their fingers that Andy gets well soon and that his replacement can keep a lid on the runs. After all, as Brian Cashman said after last night’s win, “You can’t replace Andy Pettitte.”