Looking ahead to September call-ups

Coke was a September call-up that won himself a job for the following year. (AP)

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.

Yanks drop another to the A’s

The A’s have one of the better pitching staffs in the league, so it’s not entirely surprising that they’ve held the Yankees to eight runs in the first two games of the series. What’s surprising is that they’ve scored 12 themselves. (Even more surprisingly, A.J. Burnett has yet to pitch in this series.) This sort of thing happens during the course of a 162-game season, so there’s no reason to get worked up about it. That doesn’t make the loss any less frustrating, but hey, they play one again today — during the day, even, so we hardly have to wait until they have their next chance at a W.

  • Coco Crisp and Scott Sizemore went nuts in this one, combining to go 8 for 8 with a walk, a double, and two homers. Crisp had both homers, tagging CC for a solo homer in the first and then getting Soriano for the decisive three-run shot in the 10th. Any time you have two players hit like that, especially when they’re just one batter apart in the order, you’re probably going to have a big day on offense.
  • Nick Swisher has been demolishing baseballs lately. He homered twice in the game after hitting a three-run shot yesterday and barely missing a walk-off shot. He’s been one of the few run producers in the series.
  • How does the team get 11 hits and draw two walks, yet score only three runs? They went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position, making them 3 for 23 in the series. Again, that’ll happen from time to time. At least this current slump comes when the Yankees already have a large lead on a playoff spot.
  • CC Sabathia looked shaky at times, but still pitched very well through seven, allowing just one run. In the seventh he ran into some trouble, but, since it was CC, Girardi let him try to pitch out of it. That backfired, and the A’s tied the game and then eventually took the lead when David Robertson entered the game. It’s tough to assign any blame there. CC was under 100 pitches and, again, had pitched generally well. Sometimes baseball’ll do that to ya.
  • As for Soriano, again, that’s going to happen from time to time. He’s pitched exceptionally well since coming off the DL. It’s agitating, yes, but that’s about it.
  • Mark Teixeira was again all or nothing, going 1 for 5 with a long home run into the right field bleachers. It tied the game, so go Mark. Of course, he also hit a humpback liner that turned into a double play with a man on second in the first inning.

Again, they’ll be back on the field at 1 p.m., so at least this one gets put behind them, and us, pretty quickly. Phil Hughes gets the ball.

DotF: Tampa wins two to stay in the playoff hunt

Some quick notes: Raul Valdes was sent to the Thunder, and Tampa two wins today brought them within one game of Dunedin. Thanks again to mbonzo for the assist.

Triple-A Scranton (David Phelps, RHP: 6.1 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K’s, 1 HR, 7-7 GO/FO – 57 of his 83 pitches were strikes. Nice rebound from two terrible starts since coming back from his shoulder injury.
George Kontos, RHP: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K’s – 21 of his 27 pitches were strikes. He’s given up 8 ER in his last 27.2 IP. (2.60 ERA)

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Game 127: No A-Rod again, again

The Yankee third baseman, who made a cameo appearance on Sunday, is again out of the lineup with a sore thumb. He says it’s starting to feel better, but he won’t be taking the field today. His fleeting 0-fer over the weekend seems like just a dream. Perhaps he’ll return tomorrow and spare us more of Eduardo Nuñez’s helmet flying off.

Meanwhile, it’s CC day. The Yankee ace is going for his 18th win, but August has not been the kindest month. He’s 2-2 with a 5.28 ERA this month and has allowed 39 hits over his last 29 innings. Hopefully, the A’s are the cure what ails him. Backing him up will be:

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Francisco Cervelli C

Yankees put a waiver claim on Carlos Peña

The Yankees have claimed Carlos Peña on waivers from the Cubs, according to Jon Heyman. Peña, working on a one-year, $10-million, is hitting .223/.342/.450 with 23 home runs and a .343 wOBA. Against righties, however, he has an .865 OPS and a .374 wOBA and would give the Yankees a power bat to platoon with Andruw Jones at DH and an option to spell Mark Teixeira at first base. Peña, who provides more power and defensive versatility, than Jorge Posada would be an intriguing waiver pickup for the Yanks, but odds are slim that the Cubs simply let him go or work out a deal with the Yanks. Ken Rosenthal says a a deal is unlikely and that the Cubs are “reluctant to make a move.” Chicago has until 1 p.m. on Friday to make a decision, and we’ll have more as this story develops.

Where have you gone, Bartolo Colon?

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

When Joe Girardi yanked Bartolo Colon from last night’s game, he did so shortly after the right-hander had racked up inning 130 for the season. Somehow, the Yanks’ big gamble has paid off. Colon, making just $900,000 this year, has made 20 starts for the Yanks, has won eight games and was a stud throughout May and into June. The wheels though might be coming loose.

Colon’s outing last night was one I’d characterize as good enough. Usually, allowing three runs to another team over six innings would be enough to allow the Yanks’ offense to take over. Colon threw a few bad sliders to Brandon Allen and Eric Sogard, but before the 7th, he had been effective even if not efficient. His final line — 6.1 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 5 K — isn’t pretty, particularly against the A’s, but that’s also due to Boone Logan‘s failures.

For Colon, though, his outing was his second straight in which he struggled, and since coming off the disabled list with a hamstring injury, he hasn’t been nearly as good as he once was. Before he hurt himself covering first, he appeared in 13 games and made 10 starts, eight of which were quality starts. In 78.1 innings, he had a 3.10 ERA/3.44 FIP and allowed 66 hits, 18 walks and nine home runs while striking out 72. Opponents hit .227/.272/.375 with a .268 BABIP, and he averaged just over 14 pitches per inning.

His last ten starts have not been nearly as effective. Since his return, he sports a 4.61 ERA/4.48 FIP in 52.2 innings and has allowed 65 hits and eight home runs while walking 14 and striking out just 40. Just four of his ten outings have been quality starts. Opponents have hit .302/.352/.507 off of him with a .339 BABIP, and he is now averaging over 17 pitches per inning.

Clearly, something has changed for Big Bart since his early season success. Colon, who hasn’t reached this lofty level of innings since 2005 and threw over the winter as well, denies being tired, but his approach has changed. Prior to his injury, 86 percent of his pitches were fastballs. Of those, 48 percent were four-seamers and 38 percent were two-seamers. Since his return, 55.7 percent of pitches were four-seamers while just 24 percent were two-seamers. Sliders and change-ups now account for over 20 percent of his pitch selection.

To make matters worse, his pitches haven’t been moving as much. His fastballs and sliders have seen less vertical movement over the past ten starts, and his slider has seen more horizontal movement than before. It has become a bit flatter, and as Allen’s monster shot showed last night, Major League hitters have no problems with flat, fat 83 mph sliders. That ball reached the upper deck above right field.

Today, Joe Girardi expressed his concern about Colon’s disappearing two-seamer. The skipper said to Jack Curry that the two-seam fastball has “been a very important pitch for him and we need to get it going.” That much, at least, is obvious.

In an ideal world, the Yankees would figure out a way to give Colon some extended rest over the next few weeks because they will need him at his best for the playoffs. If A.J. Burnett were pitching even adequately, the club could afford to tinker with the rotation, but unless they’re willing to give Hector Noesi or Adam Warren a spot start or two, Colon will get the ball every few days. Even as it gets late in the season, it’s too early, meanwhile, to say that the wheels have come off completely for Colon, but he’s not the pitcher — both stuff- and results-wise — that he was earlier this year.

Triple-A Scranton to play all home games on the road in 2012

Via Josh Leventhal and Everett Merrill, the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees will have to play all of their home games on the road next year while PNC Field undergoes a $40M renovation project. The International League has tentatively approved the team’s plans to play at an alternate location in 2012, and they has until Sept. 20th to submit a final proposal.

At the moment, the club is considering six alternate locations, but league president Randy Mobley decline to name them. “Generally speaking, we are considering existing league facilities and others outside the league,” he said. Lehigh Valley, about an hour south, of Scranton is one possibility, as is Ottawa. The league had a team in Canada’s capitol until 2007. Another interesting possibility: Staten Island. The Yankees would love the proximity to the big league team, and since Short Season Staten Island doesn’t begin play until late-June, there would be less scheduling conflicts. Now that would be conveniently awesome.