Heathcott ignites offense in Charleston win

Keith Law posted his review of each American League team’s draft today (sub. req’d), and he says he was “surprised that the Yanks didn’t go for more ceiling, without a single player in this draft who was seen as a first-rounder by the industry,” and openly wonders if ownership isn’t giving scouting director Damon Oppenheimer and Co. enough cash to worth with. My rough calculation has it at approximately $7M for the 29 signed players this year, maybe a touch less, which is on par with what they spent on the 2006-2009 draft hauls ($6.85M average in those years).

Meanwhile, The Windsor Star had a little piece on new Yankee prospect Evan Rutckyj. In addition to his $500,000 signing bonus, he got an education package worth another $150,000. Paying for college is pretty standard in these deals, but I didn’t think they gave them that much. Damn.

And finally, Jason Hirsh has been placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. That’s always good. Kevin Whelan takes his place.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 loss to Columbus)
Kevin Russo, LF & Jorge Vazquez, DH: both 0 for 4 – Russo K’ed once, JoVa twice … Russo also committed a fielding error
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Jesus Montero, C: both 1 for 4 – Montero K’ed twice
Juan Miranda, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 R
Colin Curtis, RF: 0 for 2, 1 RBI
Brandon Laird, 3B & Eric Bruntlett, 2B: both 0 for 3, 2 K
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 3, 1 2B, 1 K – 11 for his last 37 (.297) with five doubled and a pair of homers
Zach McAllister: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 5-6 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) – 59 of 96 pitches were strikes (61.5%) … well, at least he didn’t give up any homers
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-3 GB/FB – a whopping 17 of his 21 pitches were strikes (81%)
Amaury Sanit: 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-0 GB/FB – 11 of his 17 pitches were strikes (64.7%)

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MRI reveals A-Rod has low grade strain of left calf

After leaving last night’s game with a tight left calf, Alex Rodriguez underwent an MRI today that revealed a “low grade strain” of the muscle. He’s still day-to-day, but it’s good that they got it checked out to make sure it was nothing more serious. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got another day off tomorrow, and I can’t say I’d be opposed to it either. He’s one guy they absolutely need to be healthy down the stretch.

Pettitte MRI reveals small strain in groin

Update (8:43pm): The MRI revealed a “small persistent strain” of the left groin, and Andy will not throw off a mound for another week. He will continue to throw off flat ground, however.

6:17pm: Via Marc Carig, Andy Pettitte is going for an MRI on his injured groin, saying he still feels a “pull” when he tries to pitch at game intensity. Even if the MRI comes back clean, I can’t say I’m optimistic that he’ll be back before mid-September. Perhaps his rehab was too aggressive, too early, but we can’t say for sure.

Game 119: Ace vs. Ace

No CC, you're the man. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

With a struggling offense, it would stand to reason that the last thing the Yankees want to see tonight is a pitcher as great as Justin Verlander. Guys like that, guys who throw absurdly hard all game long with a breaking ball that starts at your head and ends up at the knees in the zone are never fun to face, but if nothing else, at least take solace in the fact that the Yanks have faced him before. They’ve run into a few pitchers they had never seen before in the last few games, so it’ll be nice to break up that monotony.

It’s a good thing the Yanks are countering with CC Sabathia, because they really need someone to go out and put an end to this losing streak. There’s few better at that than Sabathia. Here’s tonight’s starting nine, which is missing a few key players due to nagging injuries …

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robbie Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, C – happy 39th birthday to Georgie
Marcus Thames, DH
Curtis Granderson, CF
Ramiro Pena, 3B

And on the bump, CC Sabathia.

First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET tonight and the game can be seen on My9. Try and enjoy it.

The greatness of Rivera, the greatness of Jeter

It is no secret that Mariano Rivera is the best at what he does. We’ve watched him ply his craft with precision for the past 15 years, and it has been nothing short of a revelation. Closers come and closers go, but Mo has outlasted almost all of them. This morning at Baseball Prospectus, Tommy Bennett wrote about Mo’s greatness. He not only has the rare ability to consistently prevent hits on balls in play, but he also keeps baseballs in the park at a better rate than his peers. The takeaway line: “A pitcher like Rivera, who is extreme in almost every way possible, simply doesn’t rate properly if you use the same metrics used to measure other guys.”

Yesterday Joe Posnanski wrote about Mo, but pitted him against Jeter as the most important Yankee since 1996. You might get frustrated while reading — the post really does ramble a bit — but the conclusion comes down to heart vs. head. Well, for some at least. It’s Jeter for me without question. Mo is Mo and is the greatest ever at what he did. But I think what Jeter has done is more important overall.

Yankees sign Dominican shortstop Christopher Tamarez

Via Ben Badler, the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Christopher Tamarez for $650,000. Ranked the 29th best prospect on the market by Baseball America, Tamarez stands 6-foot-1, 175 lbs., and is said to be one of the better athletes available this season with a chance to remain at shortstop long-term. A righthanded hitter, he projects to have average pop down the road. Click the link for video.

This is the Yanks first significant international signing of the year, though the entire market is developing slowly. MLB’s age and identify verification process, as well as PED testing, is slowing things down.

Consider Craig Counsell

(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

While the Yankees boasted baseball’s best record in late July, we all knew they had a few flaws. The bench looked a bit out of order, with players like Ramiro Pena and Colin Curtis taking up roster spots. The bullpen was also in need of a reinforcement or two. Brian Cashman acted at the deadline, acquiring Lance Berkman to be the DH, Kerry Wood to shore up the pen, and Austin Kearns to fortify the bench. Still, that left a few positions as a weakness, most notably utility infielder.

Ramiro Pena is a good story. Throughout his pro career he made a name with his glove, but wasn’t able to hit a lick. Then, one spring, he demonstrated some bat skills and ended up breaking camp with the team, because the regular utility infielder was pressed into regular duty. Pena provided some highlight moments early in the season, including a game-changing double that led a comeback against Anaheim. Later in the season he returned as the utility infielder, and heading into spring training it was assumed that he’d again fill that role in 2010.

This year hasn’t gone nearly as well as his rookie campaign, in which he produced a .312 wOBA in 121 PA. This year he has 112 PA already and has a puny .219 wOBA. The problem isn’t the production, in that this is probably more in line with what the Yankees can expect from Pena. He still has the glove, but his bat just isn’t going to play at the major league level. If the Yankees had an infield composed of young, healthy players this might not be a problem. But with the left side aging and, in A-Rod‘s case, not completely healthy, the Yanks could use a better utility infielder.

A few such players are likely to pass through waivers this month, whether because of contract size or general disinterest. There probably won’t be a stellar multi-position player available, but there will be options that will produce better than Pena. Two have reportedly cleared waivers already. While neither Geoff Blum nor Craig Counsell will change the Yankees’ season, either could step right in and fill Pena’s shoes while providing at least some semblance of offensive value. The best part is that neither will likely cost much in a trade.

Counsell, who will turn 40 later this month, has seen his numbers drop off a bit this year. That could be a combination of his age and his reduced playing time, neither of which will get better with a move to New York. But even in a down year he has produced a .284 wOBA. He can play anywhere in the infield, and has even played 185 innings at shortstop this year. As far as the currently available options go he’s among the best.

Astros utility man Geoff Blum, 37, has also cleared waivers. While he has played all infield positions this year he has spent the most time at SS and 3B, which fits the Yankees’ needs well. Looking at the past few years of his defensive data he’s been about average at third and below average at shortstop, which doesn’t bode well for a utility player. His bat this year is also about equal to Counsell’s, though he has a far worse career track record. In other words, if you’re going to gamble on a currently available veteran, Counsell is your guy. Taking defense into account, Blum might not even be that big an upgrade.

Two more weeks remain in the waiver trade period, so acquiring a player like Counsell is probably not high on the team’s priority list at the moment. But if the opportunity arises to add him on the cheap, I don’t see why the Yankees would pass. It would be one thing of A-Rod and Jeter were healthy and productive. With A-Rod’s health a lingering question, the Yanks could use an upgrade on the bench. If he’s the best available, so be it. He’ll at least be more productive than Pena.